By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.
I. THAT GOD IS ESSENTIALLY INVISIBLE TO THE SENSES. He is the invisible One. "God is a Spirit;" and the physical eye cannot behold pure spirit. Organs of sense have no fitness for immediate dealing with the great verities of the spiritual realm. Truth, holiness, love, cannot be perceived by the senses; for they have neither material form nor visible color, Neither can the Infinite Spirit be seen by our finite sense. When he is represented as manifesting himself to man (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:1; Genesis 18:1), it does not mean that the essence or substance of God was seen by human eye, but that he assumed some visible form in which he communicated with man. When Jacob is said to "have seen God face to face" (Genesis 32:30), and a statement of similar import is made of Moses (Exodus 33:11), we must understand thereby that he drew near to them in a very remarkable theophany, that he granted to them some full and clear manifestation of the Divine, and at the same time admitted them to intimate spiritual communion with him. To Moses himself the Lord said," Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live" (Exodus 33:20). "No man hath seen God at any time," etc. (John 1:18). He is" the King eternal, immortal, invisible;' "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:16). We infer the unlawfulness of any attempt to represent God to the senses. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image," etc. (Exodus 20:4, 5); "To whom will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?" (Isaiah 40:18).
II. THAT GOD MAY BE PERCEIVED BY THE SOUL. Moses "endured as seeing him who is invisible." The Infinite Spirit cannot be sensuously apprehended, but he may be spiritually apprehended. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." The pure heart is the organ by which the invisible One may be seen. "There is another vision beside the vision of the body; faith itself is sight; and where faith is complete, there is a consciousness of God's presence throughout our life and service which amounts to a distinct vision of God's personal presence and government." Thus may we blessedly realize his presence in our hearts and lives. Thus did Enoch, as he "walked with God." And David, "I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." "I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." And Paul, "The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me."
III. THAT THE VISION OF GOD SUPPLIES THE SOUL WITH ITS STRONGEST AND SUBLIMEST INSPIRATIONS. "He endured, as seeing him who is invisible." This realization of the Divine presence:
1. Raises the soul above the fear of man. By faith Moses did "not fear the wrath of the king; for he endured," etc. This enabled the psalmist to utter the triumphant challenge, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear; what can man do unto me?" (see also Daniel 3:13-18; Acts 4:18-20; Acts 5:27-29).
2. Inspires the soul with patience in the trials of life. It enables the Christian to say even of severe sufferings, "Our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen," etc. (2 Corinthians 4:17, 18).
3. Inspires the soul with energy and perseverance for the difficult duties of life. Sometimes the sympathetic presence of a friend is very encouraging and helpful in arduous and dispiriting labor. But the consciousness of God's presence and approbation always imparts courage to the heart, resolution to the will, and energy to the arm of his faithful servants.
4. Exalts the tone and spirit of the entire life. "Seeing him who is invisible," a life of unworthy aims or sinful practices will be impossible. Realizing his presence, both character and conduct must grow in purity and power, in piety and usefulness. - W.J.
He forsook Egypt.I. HE FORSOOK EGYPT. Two several times.
1. When he fled into the land of Midian, where he was a stranger and a shepherd for many years.
2. When he brought Israel out of Egypt, Whether of these is here intended? Some think the former; some the latter; some both. Yet, whether it be one or both, it is certain both that he did leave Egypt and that he did leave it in this manner. In the former departure he fled to avoid danger: in the latter he marched out like a prince and general with a mighty host.
II. THE REASON OF THIS BOLDNESS WAS HIS FAITH, WHEREBY HE ENDURED AS SEEING HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE, WHICH IS THE SECOND PROPOSITION.
2. The act of his faith was that whereby he, as it were, and in some manner, saw this invisible God, he saw Him, not by his senses, nor by the natural light of reason, but by a diviner and more excellent visive faculty, to which He did represent Himself in His wisdom, almighty power, promise, and fidelity, with all which He was engaged in this act. This sight of Him made Pharaoh, though a king of mighty power, as contemptible in his eyes. So glorious did He appear that all the power and princes of the world were nothing to him.
3. The immediate effect was that he so seeing Him as though He were present, marching in the van, bringing up the rear, and guarding Israel on every side, did endure, not only with a patient but a constant and undaunted mind, the wrath of the king, whom he feared. He strengthened and hardened himself, and resolved to carry Israel out of Egypt, and rescue them from the Egyptian bondage and tyranny. This was an act of faith, of strong faith; and this instance doth teach to fortify and embolden our hearts by faith in God against all fears of the greatest, most cruel, and enraged enemies.
(G. Lawson.)I. In all duties, especially such as are attended with great difficulties and dangers, it is the wisdom of believers to take care, not only that the works of them be good in themselves, BUT THAT THEY HAVE A JUST AND DUE CALL TO THEIR PERFORMANCE. When they have so, and are satisfied therein, there is nothing that faith will not conflict withal and conquer. But if they are weak in this foundation of duty, they will find that faith will not be engaged to their assistance.
II. EVEN THE WRATH OF THE GREATEST KINGS IS TO BE DISREGARDED IF IT LIE AGAINST OUR DUTY TOWARDS GOD (Daniel 3:13-18).
III. THERE IS AN HEROIC FRAME OF MIND AND SPIRITUAL FORTITUDE REQUIRED TO THE DUE DISCHARGE OF OUR CALLINGS IN TIMES OF DANGER, WHICH FAITH IN EXERCISE WILL PRODUCE (1 Corinthians 16:13).
IV. THERE IS NOTHING INSUPERABLE TO FAITH WHILE IT CAN KEEP A CLEAR VIEW OF THE POWER OF GOD AND HIS FAITHFULNESS IN HIS PROMISES. And unless we are constant in this exercise of faith we shall fail in great trials and difficult duties. From hence we may fetch revivings, renewals of strength, and consolations on all occasions, as the Scripture everywhere testifieth (Psalm 73:25, 26; Isaiah 40:28-30).
(John Owen, D. D.)
I. You MUST FORSAKE EGYPT. There we have all been born. Just as Canaan represents the state of rest and liberty which we enter and enjoy when we become the people of God, so Egypt stands, in Scriptural symbolism, for carnality and spiritual bondage. This is the two-fold thought which "Egypt" expresses.
1. First, a mere fleshly or animal existence. Living for the gratification of our lower nature. Asking, "What shall we eat?" and "What shall we drink?" and "What clothes shall we wear?" and "What worldly delights shall we enjoy? "The food of Egypt was not only plentiful, but it was gross and stimulating. It pampered the body. It inflamed the passions. To young men, Egypt, in this sense, often presents special charms. The power of sin lies in its pleasure. But then, remember, the pleasures of the sensualist are the preludes of a misery that words cannot paint. There was a young medical student who went out to prosecute his studies in Paris. He caught the moral infection of its licentiousness and infidelity. There was an inward struggle between the conscience and the flesh. "Shall I forsake Egypt?" was the question. The flesh prevailed, and he said "No." Here are his very words: "I know that I can enjoy life in my own way about so many years. I shall parcel out my money to last so long a time, and no longer. When my time is up my revolver shall end all." His prediction was but too true; and when, within but a few years, his pale and breathless form was one day found lying in his own blood, one could almost have believed that a voice was whispering, "The way of transgressors is hard." The great thing which a young man needs in a crisis of temptation is instant decision for the right. If you tamper and hesitate the game is half lost. Leave no time for temptation to accumulate. "Forsake Egypt." You must surely have noticed that, in relation to all sins of this character — sins of the flesh — St. Paul's counsel is, "Flee!" It may seem like cowardice, but it is true heroism. "Flee youthful lusts." Like Joseph, hasten instantly out of the way of the tempter; saying, as Moses did to Pharaoh, "Thou shalt see my face no more!"
2. But, secondly, it is also a state of bondage. It is slavery of the worst kind. There are fetters of the soul, moral chains, forged of such material, and riveted with such strength, that he who wears them, though his comrades call him a free lance, and a dashing blade, is unspeakably more a bondman than the convict in his cell. There is no greater slavery than that of the man over whom his own passions and vile habits domineer. Can he be called his own master who is always at the bidding of some imperious lust, or ungovernable appetite? Do you call that man free, for example, who lately came to my door, and in desperation asked me what was to be done, because no power on earth could keep him back from drink? It is idle to talk of liberty whilst you are the servants of the devil. If you spare sin it will not spare you.
II. You MUST DEFY THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS. There are thousands of young persons who are more than half-inclined to become Christians, but are kept back from a full decision by certain fears that stand in their way. How many, for example, are in mortal dread of being laughed at, ridiculed by their ungodly associates? Old John Trapp has a quaint remark somewhere, to the effect that if we can bear taunts and jeers for Christ's sake, it argues we mean to stick to Him; just as among the Jews, by Moses' law, the servant that was content to be "bored in the ear with an awl," signified that nothing would tempt him away from his master. Whenever you are chaffed or ridiculed for your religion, then, just think that if you can endure such "boring," it speaks well for your attachment to Christ. Then some are deterred from a decided Christian life by the dread of the inward conflict they will have, as they think, to undergo; the bitterness of true repentance; by the thought of the sinful pleasures they must forego, the giddy company they must abandon, and the responsibilities they must assume. Not a few are frightened away from personal religion by the idea that if they become Christians they must give up all kinds of social enjoyment. Others have frankly told me that the reason they keep aloof is that it is now impossible for them to shake themselves loose from certain habits that would be inconsistent with a life of piety. "I forsake Egypt! I become a devout believer, and live a holy life! The thing is impossible. My habits are too confirmed, my feelings too blunted; the enemy has got too strong a hold upon me for that." These are a few of the bugbears with which the devil seeks to frighten you! Oh, my friend! come away out of Egypt at once, and do not "fear the wrath of the king." Ninety-nine reasons out of every hundred that frighten people against religion are utterly false and baseless. Christ's is not a hard hand, nor a sour and gloomy face. To become a believer is to come into the land of gladsome sunshine and of glorious liberty. If you have served the devil for twenty years, don't serve him a day longer. God's grace is all-sufficient.
III. You MUST FIX YOUR EYE ON THE UNSEEN GOD. YOU must "endure as seeing Him who is invisible." Your minds are entirely occupied with the visible and the concrete; with matters of the shop, the office, or the household; with your stock-in-trade; with buying and selling, lending and borrowing, bargaining and investing; with pounds, shillings, and pence; with bonds, and shares, and debentures; with pound weights and pint measures; with webs of cloth, and reams of paper, and hags of rice, and boxes of tea, and casks of sugar, and waggons of coal; with accounts and invoices; from day to day, from week to week, looking only to what is "seen and temporal," devoting the powers of an immortal soul to the interests of a dying world, with the almost certainty of continuing so to do till fever or paralysis throw you on your back, and you wake up, too late, to discover that your soul has never pierced through the veil of flesh, and gazed on "Him who is invisible"! Ah! you will never "endure" with a life like that! "Can thine heart endure, saith the Lord, or can thine hands be strong, in the day that I shall deal with thee?" Thank God, some of you have had your eyes opened to a new world altogether. Even the simplest mind is raised and expanded, by converse with eternity, and fellowship with God. But your contemplation of the invisible must not be a mere abstract dreamy devotion, a waiting afar off on Heaven's eternal glorious King. There must be a personal surrender of yourselves to God, founded upon a living and intelligent faith. A man whose business affairs are all in a muddle will never be a successful man; and it is just as true, that if the interests of your soul are all in a muddle, there is little hope of your wearing the eternal crown. Oh, clear up the whole matter now; come and get salvation on God's terms. Turn your back on Egypt, and your face toward Canaan; and keep your eye fixed on Him who is invisible. So shall you endure to the end, and, enduring to the end, shall be saved.
(J. T. Davidson, D. D.)
(S. Cox, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Endured as seeing Him who is invisible.Hear with what proud and mocking accents it speaks of supernatural doctrines which, according to it, have for a long time led humanity astray and paralysed its progress. If it supports religion it is entirely for a utilitarian end, with an eye to weak minds and disinherited classes who may find some consolation therein, and, moreover, it wishes to accept the practical side only; willingly would it reduce the Church to no more than a vast association of philanthropy. All that goes beyond that plane is, in its eyes, only reverie and sterile additions. It seems that, relieved of this heavy burden, humanity henceforth would walk more proudly to the conquest of the future. Well, we must say boldly, we must unfalteringly repeat, that if some eternal principle, some consolation, some strong hope is preserved on our poor earth, we owe it to those who, like Moses, have walked by faith and not by sight.
(E. Bersier, D. D.)I. CAN THE FINITE COMPREHEND THE INFINITE? Can the arm of man embrace the image of Divinity. Nay. But we know that if the arm of man cannot embrace the image of God, it can at least put its hand into His palm. We know that if the heart of God is larger and kinder than the heart of man, that the throbs of human emotion are, at least, suggestions of the great love which beats for man, as the crimson flushing of the dawn is a token of the meridian glory. "Where is the air?" might sing the bird to his mate. "Where is the water?" might ask the fish in his school. Where is God? "In Him we live and move and have our being."
1. This sense of the presence of God is made known to us in nature,
2. So, too, in the deep experiences of human life do we become conscious of the presence of God.
II. How EASY IT IS TO DISTURB AND TO DESTROY THIS SENSE OF THE NEAR PRESENCE OF GOD. The sense of the Divine presence as it is reflected in the soul of man, may by a single gust of passion, by a habit of self-indulgence, by a thought of impurity moving lightly over its surface, be either distorted into cruel ugliness or shivered into a useless ruin.
III. We now pass to consider more definitely THE RESULTS OF THE HAVING OF THIS SENSE OF GOD.
1. This sense of God elevates life. The man having it lives a life higher and nobler. He gains a wider prospect. He rises nearer heaven. He breathes a purer and more bracing atmosphere. The Waldenses had as their watchword "In His name." It was their greeting and their farewell. They spoke it at the wedding altar, at the bier, and at the baptismal font. They thought it as they ploughed the fields and plucked the purple clusters in their vineyards. It ennobled and gave dignity to their life; it strengthened them to endure persecution for the truths which they loved, and to lay down their lives on the "Alpine mountains cold." Thus the sense of the near presence of God transforms and ennobles life. It hushes life's jarring, clashing notes into music. It puts the cipher of our individual existence on the right side of the figure of life and gives to life a tenfold value.
2. This sense of God is a shield from sin. It repels evil. Dannecker, the German sculptor, who died a generation ago, left statues of Ariadne and Sappho and a colossal figure of Christ. His early fame he won for works connected with Greek and Roman mythology. When he had laboured two years upon his statue of Christ, the marble was apparently finished. He called a little girl into his studio. Pointing to the form of the Christ he asked, "Who is that?" "A great man," was her reply. He was for a time hopeless. He had failed. Only a great man. Again he commenced labour. For six years he cut and carved the marble. Again he called a child and put her before the finished piece. "Who is that?" he asked. Her reply was, "Suffer little children to come unto Me." It was the belief of the sculptor that for the execution of his task he had seen a special vision of Christ. At one time he attracted the eye of Napoleon. "Come to Paris," said the Frenchman, "make me a statue of Venus for the Louvre." "No," he replied, "a man who has seen Christ would commit sacrilege if he should employ his art in the carving of a pagan goddess. My art is henceforth a consecrated thing." So for the man who feels the near presence of God to commit sin would be more than a sacrilege. He cannot commit sin. It is an armour which no arrow of temptation can pierce.
3. This sense of God is a spur to grand moral and spiritual endeavour. It is an inspiration to work for God and for man. Would that various movements for the reformation of humanity were more worthy of confidence. Free religious associations and ethical societies cherish a noble purpose. They write upon their flag, "Man." They fasten their colours to the staff of their conscience. But the canvas is so heavy their arms cannot raise it; their feet cannot bear it forward; their hands cannot unfurl it to the breeze. Only as God strengthens man for his work for man can man lift up and carry forward the symbols of that work. There is an old legend that " when the Empress Helena went to the Holy Land in search of the true cross, excavations and great researches were made, and at last three crosses were discovered; but how were they to decide which was the true cross? They approached a dead body and laid one cross after another on it, and when the cross of Jesus touched the cold, lifeless form, it at once sprang up in new life and vigour." Upon the dead body of modern society you may lay the cross of moral reform and it does not lift a finger; upon it lay the cross of human purity, and not an eyelash quivereth; upon it lay the cross of Christ, and it springeth to its feet, vigorous and strong. Thus fill man with the sense of the near presence of God, let him see Him who is invisible, and he becomes a crusader of the nineteenth century. So let any one of us, who holds a command of God for the deliverance of any soul from the pursuers of fiery and maddened passions, from its own blind and blinding sin, to the gateway of a perfect life, let each one of us so command, and each is so commissioned, possess a sense of God's presence as did he who saw Him who was invisible: thus we may lead that soul to the gateway of a perfect life.
(C. F. Thwing.)I. THE INVISIBILITY OF GOD. This is one of the attributes of the Divine Being; it is usually called, and properly, one of the negative attributes of God. The averment is that He is not something. Unchaage-ableness, unsearchableness, irresistibleness, invisibility, are all negative attributes of God. God is invisible. We have not many Scriptures which teach this expressly and formally, but those which teach it are so clear and strong, and there are so many others which imply and involve it, that there cannot be the doubt of a moment what the doctrine of Scripture is (Job 23:8, 9; Deuteronomy 4:12, 15; 1 Timothy 6:16; John 1:18), The same truth is implied when our Saviour teaches that " God is a Spirit." He could not be a Spirit in the sense meant if He had dwelt from eternity in any material form, or if there were any material form necessary to His existence; and if God were not a Spirit, invisible, He would not be perfect. He is a portion so — He would not be a portion else! What I can see can never be a portion to my immortal soul; a spiritual substance requires a spiritual portion; the child-spirits need the Father of spirits. It is the grand discovery of the Scriptures, and the good message of salvation, that God only is enough for man, Spirit for spirit — Creator for creature — the Invisible for the invisible. We have never seen our own souls, we shall never see their portion. We feel, although we do not see ourselves, and in our best moments rejoice with great joy in our own existence! We feel in our spiritual sense — although we do not see — our God, and in our best moments we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, that He is our all-sufficient, unchanging, everlasting portion.
II. THE SEEING OR THE INVISIBLE GOD. When it is said of Moses that "he endured as seeing," the meaning is, not that he acted as if he could see Him, well knowing all the while that he could not, for that would be a mental fiction. The meaning is that he really did see God by soul sight, or, as we say, by faith. He believed in His actual presence in the world, in human life, in human affairs. In particular, he believed that He would be with him, according to His express promise, to cheer his heart, to guide his way, and to confirm his work to the end. The meaning is not only that he believed in God's presence with him, but that he relied on His strength. God's presence was to him an actual power on which he could lean. Thus he endured to the end. By just such seeing of the invisible God are we to endure through our life, and to triumph at last.
1. We shall endure when all that is visible threatens, None of us, perhaps, is so important as to have to hope for the smiles, or " fear the wrath " of a king; but wrath may be out against us for all that, and it may take many forms. It may take the form of strong injustice, or of petty annoyance; of irritating persecution, or of ungenerous rivalry; of bitterness and evil-speaking, or it may spring from honest misjudgments. When life thus assumes a threatening aspect, it is well to be able to flee to the shadow of this great rock.
2. We shall endure when all that is visible allures. Moses defied the wrath of the king, but I do not know if that was his greatest trial and his greatest triumph. Egypt had its allurements as well as its terrors. Honour! Wealth! Pleasure! Those were the three chief sirens who wished to sing the man away from his best convictions; away from the high, although hard, path of duty. They sang, and he listened — and went away while he listened — from Egypt where they were singing, to the wilderness where he was safe, and where they could be heard no more. Those old sirens are singing still! Like Jezebel they paint their faces so as to seem young. They look out of the windows of palaces, and shops, and pleasure-houses, and sing to the guests, and travellers, and passers-by! Are you listening to the song? Are you running into the net? You will unless you can " endure us seeing Him who is invisible." That will change all! That will reveal something of the haggard misery which lies underneath the paint and glitter of the siren faces! That will make the lust of the flesh — pleasure, the lust of the eyes — wealth, and the pride of life — honour, seem as poor as they are. Then the allurement of evil things is strong sometimes just in proportion to the smallness of the evil that is in them. If the evil were more, the allurement would be less. As of old, the border line between different countries was the scene of frequent strife; the battle raging now here, now there, but never far from the border; so the border line between the right and wrong of actual life is the place where consciences are tested, where wills are put to the strain, where hearts long, and sigh, and tremble; where the battle of the good and evil powers is hottest, and where victory easily sways from side to side! But victory never passes from the soldier who endures and fights as seeing Him who is invisible; and, on the other hand, never sits on the plume of any one who does not see Him.
3. We shall endure when everything visible decays, changes, passes away. With Him if we live, with Him we shall die, and to Him in His fuller presence ascend; for "when flesh and heart fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever."
(A. Raleigh, D. D.): —
1. It furnishes the necessary antidote and correction of sense. Ten to one the beggar who was at your door last winter begging for bread will be there again this winter. And yet, between these two winters, there have been many possibilities within the reach of the humblest. These possibilities came with the spring, with the May-flowers in these shapes: first, of reduced necessities; secondly, of opportunity for working. Why, then, will the beggar of last winter be the beggar of this winter? What causes this continuity of incapableness? The answer is, "These poor creatures live without forethought." Through the long summer months they lie in the sun as though there never was to be another winter. But we need not stay in this low region of illustration. Up above the truth is still the same. Nothing differentiates men so much as this power to see the invisible. Call it what you will, genius, long-headedness, foresight, there is such a quality in human nature; and there is its opposite, shortsightedness, and inability to pierce the future by a single shaft of thought or purpose. And men lose through this latter, and they win by the former. And as it is in the material, so is it in the moral realm. Here, also, the absorbing power of sense, the inability or the failure to take hold on the future, is man's greatest danger. Thousands all around us are living altogether forgetful, just as though there was no such thing as death or judgment or heaven or hell; and for no other reason than because these things are in the future. And this, which is the ruin of so many, is the danger of us all. The tendency of each one of us is to forget the great future in the little present, to live for this world alone. Hence it happens that we so often succumb to temptation. Such being our danger, from whence shall come our safety? With this dangerous tendency, whither shall we look for a corrective as strong and as constant as is our perilous inertia? The text says, To the Invisible. The record of those who have conquered says, To the Invisible. Reason says, To the Invisible. We must come to take hold of unseen reality. We must come to walk by faith, to steer our lives by the polestar of God's infinite throne. And this will save us. Thinking of coming death, we shall prepare to meet it. Living as before God, we shall live unto God. In a word, seeing Him who is invisible, we shall endure as Moses endured, and conquer as Moses conquered. But we need more than remembrance, more than forethought here.
2. We need besides knowledge, motive; besides light, we must have incentive. And this, again, comes from seeing the Invisible. The same paradox here is the law. I suppose the strongest of all cases. Proffered success as brilliant as may be, abundant wealth, the ambition of your manhood, honour so great that the sight of it dazzles, pleasure so sweet that it sets the blood on fire. And all this yours, if only you are willing to lay aside your integrity. What is your safety in such a crisis? It is a glance upward to the invisible God. It is to hear Him as He says unto you, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" This will save you. It will make you strong to endure. But the human life needs more than knowledge, more than motive even.
3. It also needs encouragement, that encouragement which brings peace and makes duty a joy. This also comes from seeing Him who is invisible. In the hour of its danger the human heart needs to hear a voice saying unto it, "Be of good cheer: victory waits for you, and the crown is ready." I know that men perish for lack of understanding. I remember that human lives perish for lack of motive. But even more perish for lack of sympathy in the hours which make up the crisis of their immortality. Over many a one who has thus gone down in this world might be written this epitaph, "I looked around me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul." But if, at such a time, the endangered ones could only have looked upon the Invisible. If they could have looked into a realm of purity. If they could have seen the invisible God, and by His side the Son who overcame through the Cross. This sight would have saved them. Sympathetic chords would have reached from the Eternal Throne to their failing faith and weakening hope, and along these would have flashed these words of encouragement and strength, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne."
4. I must also add, that this sight of the invisible One must be the true inspiration, because of the immortality of human life. It isn't here that we reap any more than the first-fruits of our harvest. No! Ours is the endowment of an endless life, and the stake with us is not time, but eternity. It must be, therefore, that we need, that we cannot do without, the inspiration which comes from the unseen realm — from the invisible God. We, who are going unto God, cannot safely guide our lives save by the sight of God. Inferential truths.(1) A warning to the life of sense. While God lives and rules no creature life can afford to ignore Him. While human life continues to be assaulted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, it is not possible to endure, save by a sight of Him who is invisible. While shoals and rocks threaten, no man can steer safely over the sea of life, unless he daily takes his observation in the light which falls from the throne of the invisible God.(2) How reasonable is that life of which faith is the dominant principle! Is it not true that death is to confer upon us citizenship in the invisible world? What, then, more reasonable than that we should anticipate and prepare for this our sublime majority? Is there not a living and reigning God upon the infinite throne? And shall we not look upward?
(S. S. Mitchell, D. D.)
I. And first, the word "INVISIBLE." Consider the power of invisible facts. Why should it be thought "a thing incredible" to any mind that the Invisible should exercise imperial dominion over us? The sceptic, who refuses his credence to the great realities of faith, is a most unreasonable man. Why, the Invisible rules us all. You cannot but have noticed how small a portion of the universe the eye of the senses sees. If we only believed in the world of the Materialist, how little we should behold! But there is a power by which I am able to live in or with the absent, the distant, and the dead; and even in the unknown. If the sceptic replies to me, that all this is the mere vividness of the cultured and informed fancy, I should stilt ask him again, what is fancy itself but the lowest form of moral sympathy, of which imagination and affection are the highest regions and noblest moods? But it is so in all things. The Invisible is our life. As Turgot said of Columbus," He was not so great because he discovered America, as because he set sail in the faith that there was such a continent to discover." His faith made him great: "he went out, not knowing whither he went." Light, which makes all things clear, is to us invisible. And whether colour is a quality in bodies, or merely an appearance imparted to bodies, is, and must remain to me a matter of doubt. We breathe air; it is to us a life-giving existence; but who ever saw it?
II. Thus, from the consideration of that which is invisible, we come to "HIM who is invisible"; and I remark now that this is the great foundation of moral character, and that God is the sustainer of all great minds; that all great minds are powerful to perform as they are absorbed by the idea of God. I say the idea of God; but I do not mean by that the mere cold abstraction of the metaphysical law, but that vast thought which is embodied in the text as a real apprehension of an infinite personality — "the enduring as seeing Him who is invisible." There is a world of invisible beings around me; the presence of such invisible beings has been recognised by illustrious and open souls in all ages, as a grand motive to action and to emulation. The invisible dead salute us and inspire us in all our selectest hours; they walk by us in the twilight, in solitude; they come to us in moods of that holy sorrow which calms and chastens, when the grief ceases to be a passion, and becomes a quiet power; they animate — they sustain. Invisible beings tempt us. It is awful when we are brought into their centre. But, ah! how the thought rises and intensifies when it is no longer merely the image of the invisible dead, but the invisible God! Ah! what a state of heart and mind is that in which God is beheld everywhere "stilling the noise of the waves, and the tumults of the people"; making " the outgoings of the morning and the evening to rejoice"; when the pomp and the majesty of the rolling clouds and the swell and deep organ-tone of the winds are Something more than the mere phantasmal gleams and tones playing round some central law; when they all are beheld as what in truth they are — ideas of the infinite but invisible God; and when the spirit passes through them all, as through the curtain spread round His pavilion, it bows before the innermost glory of the Shekinah, not content to realise merely "the clouds which are the dust of His feet," without the burst of praise to our common Father — "the Lord, the Lord of Hosts is His name."
III. Now I will ask you if yon think it possible that this state of existence, in the presence of the Eternal Reality of the universe, can be WITHOUT IMPARTING TO THE WHOLE CHARACTER AND BEARING OF THE BELIEVERS AN ERECTNESS AND DIGNITY UNKNOWN TO THOSE TO WHOM SUCH POWER IS NOT PRESENT. Man is only great as he stands humbly but most believingly in the presence of God; and then he becomes great indeed. Oh I what grandeur invests human action — what royalty impels and crowns human passion — what sublimity wings the human conception — what a Divine fire burns through the human world, where, in everything, the acting, speaking man beholds "Him who is invisible" standing in his path! And oh, how mean, too, is everything divorced from God! "There is nothing great," said the greatest preacher of France, "there is nothing great but God!" True; but relationship to Him imparts something of His greatness to the relationship, and hallows it with the grandeur and benignant beauty of His own character. And God, who knows so well the necessities of our human nature, and that even faith itself needs some help from sight to intensify and foca-lise its vision, has condescended to make Christ the voice and the shape of that which must have been, but for Him, an eternal silence. Hence, since Christ came to the world, there has been given a dignity, a freedom, an elasticity and spring to the attemptings and efforts of the human mind unknown before. It is my belief that all things languish as they are removed from the sensible presence of "Him who is invisible." This is greatness — residence beneath the conscious love and smile of the Invisible. This makes prayer a reality and a power. This it is that sheds a sanctity and a charm over the homeliness and commonplace of daily life. I walk with "Him who is invisible." He is with me in Cheapside and on the Exchange; He is with me in the field, and in the chamber; He is with me in the library and the garden. "Thou God seest me." "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"
IV. "HE ENDURED as seeing Him who is invisible!" That which I have set before you as the true crown of character — that life in the presence of an invisible God and Saviour — has been the life, and power, and lustre of the Church in all ages, and of all the men of the Church. Wonderful in all ages has been the missionary's intrepidity and zeal, the martyr's abandonment, and the hero's energy. But they " endured as seeing Him who is invisible." "He endured as seeing Him who is invisible! Here is greatness I here is heroism! And yet this is the idea so ridiculed. "What do you believe?" a celebrated writer makes one of his heroes inquire; and the reply was, "I believe in that," stamping his foot on the solid earth. Oh, it is a sorry world if man can only believe in that, only in that which is beneath him; for then all must be dead — the whole world may go in mourning; no chivalry, no honour, no trust between man and man; and none between man and God. Nay, you will have no fact and no science if you attempt to blot the Invisible from life. Oh, take care of the Invisible! oh, cleave to the Invisible! it sits at either extreme of our character; both holy and unholy passions are far removed from the calm world of prudence.
(E. P . Hood.)
(H. W. Beecher.)I. WHAT IS THIS VIRTUAL SEEING OF HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE? Jesus says of him that loveth Him, "I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him." How? asks Thomas. "If a man love Me, he will keep My words," is the reply. So, while the world sees Me no more, ye see Me; the Holy Ghost teaching you all things, and bringing all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you; all My sayings which you lovingly keep. May not this conversation throw some light upon the inquiry — What is this seeing? Moses seeing, as it were, or feeling as if he saw, Him who is invisible? One thing, at all events, is very clear. The object of it is a real and living person. And it is a person who has entered into personal dealing with Moses: a person whom Moses personally knows; whose personal acquaintance Moses has made. Of course, it is but few of those who walk with God who have been thus favoured. They were necessarily few from the first. The general body of the Lord's people must be content to take what He says at second hand, from the reports of patriarchs and prophets; or by hereditary tradition; by psalms and songs; or ultimately by the surer method of transmission in written documents and printed books. If that is my position, how am I to be as one seeing Him who is invisible? Nay, there is really no practical difference here. It is the same exercise of faith in both cases. In both cases alike and equally there is an "as if," or "as it were"; not literal seeing, but "as" seeing. But the "as if," or "as it were," is not pure fiction or fancy in either case. A real fact underlies and upholds it. The actual, present personality apprehended and identified through speech, is not ideal, but real. It is altogether matter of faith to both of us. It is faith coming by hearing, and growing into a sort of sight. The incarnation, issuing in the resurrection and ascension, facilitates this exercise of faith. It must have done so in the case of those who saw the Lord in the body. They might well feel, and live ever after, as if still seeing Him who had become invisible. But Paul had no such advantage, any more than Moses had. He saw the risen Lord; but only according to the ancient fashion, in the blaze of the Shechinah glory, and in visions by night. Even that amount of actual seeing you have not. There are, however, considerations which may counterbalance this disadvantage; such as these three —
1. Was ever man portrayed so graphically as Jesus is in those wonderful biographies of the four Gospels; the joint productions of the Holy Ghost and the evangelists; Divinely inspired, and yet so intensely and livingly human? His frame and features, what He was like as to His outer man, His gait and carriage, you have no means of guessing. But otherwise you have Him all before you.
2. You have the full benefit of sharing with them in that better seeing of their Master which they obtained when His own promise was fulfilled, and on His departure the other Comforter came. They themselves impart to you all that they were then taught as to the high and deep meanings, and the manifold bearings on the character and government of God, of that human history, that human experience, which, while they were eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses of it, was in many particulars so incomprehensible.
3. For it is not to be overlooked that the same Spirit who taught and moved them to realise the Lord's presence as if they still both heard and saw Him, is dwelling and working in you. To you, as to them, He testifies of Christ, taking of what is His and showing it to you. You gaze on His face, you lean on His bosom, you whisper in His ear, as John the beloved did at the supper. You rest and rejoice, as seeing Him who is invisible.
II. This JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH. Not only at the communion table do you rest, but in the field of toil or of battle you endure, as seeing Him who is invisible. So Christ Himself, the man Christ Jesus, endured. The secret of His endurance was, that with the eye of faith He always saw the Father. And now He says to you, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," and is therefore in the very same position in which I was when I endured as seeing the unseen Father Far when the Holy Spirit opens the eye of your faith, it is not I alone who will manifest Myself to you, but the Father also. What a source of strength! There is a triple rope to hold you fast and firm! The Holy Ghost shows you Christ; Christ shows you the Father! The Holy Ghost strengthens you to endure as seeing the unseen Saviour, even as He strengthened Him to endure as seeing the unseen Father! It is in the felt and realised presence of a Divine person, unseen in one sense, but in another virtually and vividly seen, that your strength to endure lies. And He is to be seen by you, not merely as an object of contemplation in a leisure hour, but as, in the time of danger, standing beside you; at your right hand; holding you up; speaking to you; conversing with you; calling you by name, and bidding you be strong and of a good courage. The Lord would have you to endure, as seeing Him thus by faith, faith coming to be all but sight, in every aspect of His relation to you. As your Surety, to answer for you, He would have you to see Him, though invisible, at your right hand. Thus only you can endure, when you have to stand either before God or before man. You have to stand before God. A sense of sin unnerves you. But endure as seeing Him who is invisible. See him near you, sprinkling you with His own blood; clothing you with His own righteousness; strengthening you by His own Spirit; and assuring you that He is here to answer for you in the judgment. Standing again before your fellow-men, to testify and plead; to defend yourself, to commend Christ, to persuade them; you are disconcerted. How weak are you, and how vacillating! How slow of speech and full of misgivings! If they knew all, how might they turn upon you with the taunt, "Physician, heal thyself!" You feel as if you could not confront or face them. But still endure, as seeing beside you Him who is invisible. He knows all. And knowing all, He will not be ashamed of you before the angels, if you are not ashamed of Him before men. As your Lord and Master, your Guide and Example, He would have you to endure as seeing Him who is invisible. To endure — what? Whatever He may appoint; whatever trial of your faith or patience or love; whatever sacrifice of self for God or for man. To endure — how? As seeing Him who is invisible; for He tells you how He, in your circumstances, would have endured; and how He can and will make you endure, as He would have endured, in the like case, Himself.
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)I. THE GRACE OF SPIRITUAL ENDURANCE.
1. Endurance is strength.
2. Endurance contains the element of continuance.
3. Endurance implies the idea of passivity.
II. ENDURANCE POSSIBLE THROUGH SEEING HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE. Naturally Moses was timid; there are Scripture hints of that. What made the change? A realisation of God. When God is real to us we shall endure.
1. Loneliness is endurable by a sight of God's sympathy.
2. Opposition is endurable by a sight of God's presence.
3. Temptation is endurable by a sight of God's majesty.
4. Hardship is endurable by the sight of God's love.
III. HE WHO IS INVISIBLE SEEN BY FAITH.
1. Reverent contemplation of God creates faith.
2. Personal intercourse with God feeds faith.
3. A good conscience toward God keeps faith unveiled.
(J. Clifford, D. D.)
(F. W. Farrar, D.D.)
(A. J. Bengel.)
PeopleAbel, Barak, Cain, David, Egyptians, Enoch, Esau, Gedeon, Gideon, Hebrews, Isaac, Israelites, Jacob, Jephthae, Jephthah, Joseph, Noah, Pharaoh, Rahab, Samson, Samuel, Sara, Sarah
PlacesEgypt, Jericho, Jerusalem, Red Sea
TopicsAfraid, Anger, Behind, Course, Egypt, Endured, Faith, Fear, Fearing, Forsook, Frightened, Held, Invisible, Kept, King's, Persevered, Purpose, Seeing, Unseen, Wrath
Outline1. What faith is.
6. Without faith we cannot please God.
7. The examples of faithfulness in the fathers of old time.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesHebrews 11:27
LibraryOctober 15. "Faith is the Evidence of Things not Seen" (Heb. xi. 1).
"Faith is the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. xi. 1). True faith drops its letter in the post-office box, and lets it go. Distrust holds on to a corner of it, and wonders that the answer never comes. I have some letters in my desk that have been written for weeks, but there was some slight uncertainty about the address or the contents, so they are yet unmailed. They have not done either me or anybody else any good yet. They will never accomplish anything until I let them go out of my hands and …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
April 26. "Strangers and Pilgrims" (Heb. xi. 13).
February 3. "He Went Out, not Knowing Whither He Went" (Heb. xi. 8).
January the First the Unknown Journey
The Illusiveness of Life.
The Pilgrim's Longings
Noah's Faith, Fear, Obedience, and Salvation
The Best Strengthening Medicine
The Obedience of Faith
The Call of Abraham
Go Back? Never!
The Gaze of the Soul
The Christian Faith
The Voices of the Dead
The Practice of Piety; Directing a Christian How to Walk that He May Please God.
The Being of God
Abraham and Isaac. Genesis xxii.
Enoch, the Deathless
Faith an Assurance and a Proof.
A Cloud of Witnesses.
The Faith of Moses.
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