THE SECRET OF HIS PRESENCE.
we do not always realize it. We often pass hours, and days, and weeks. We
sometimes engage in seasons of prayer, we go to and fro from His house, where
the ladder of communication rests; and still He is a shadow, a name, a
tradition, a dream of days gone by.
that l knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat. Behold!
I go forward but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him: on
the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on
the right hand, that I cannot see Him."
different is this failure to realize the presence of God to the blessed
experience of His nearness realized by some.
Lawrence, the simple minded cook, tells us that for more than sixty years he
never lost the sense of the presence of God, but was as conscious of it while
performing the duties of his humble office, as when partaking of the Holy
Howe, on the blank page of his Bible, made this record in Latin: "This very
morning I awoke out of a most ravishing and delightful dream, when a wonderful
and copious stream of celestial rays, from the lofty throne of the Divine
Majesty, seemed to dart into my open and expanded breast. I have often since
reflected on that very signal pledge of special Divine favor, and have with
repeated fresh pleasure tasted the delights thereof."
not these experiences, so blessed and inspiring, similar to that of the author
of the longest, and, in some respects, the sublimest Psalm in the Psalter? He
had been beating out the golden ore of thought through the successive paragraphs
of marvellous power and beauty, when suddenly he seems to have become conscious
that He, of whom he had been speaking, had drawn near, and was bending over him.
The sense of the presence of God was borne in upon his inner consciousness. And,
lifting up a face on which reverence and ecstasy met and mingled, he cried, Thou
art near, 0 Lord!" (Psalm 119: 151.)
only such an experience of the nearness of God were always ours, enwrapping us
as air or light; if only we could feel, as the great Apostle put it on Mars'
Hill, that God is not far away, but the element in which we have our being, as
sea flowers in deep, still lagoons: then we should understand what David
meant when he spoke about dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of his
life, beholding His beauty, inquiring in His temple, and hidden in the secret of
His pavilion (Ps.27.). Then, too, we should acquire the blessed secret of peace,
purity and power.
the Secret of His Presence There is Peace. "In the world ye shall have
tribulation," our Master said, "but in Me ye shall have peace."
It is said that a certain insect has the power of surrounding itself with a film
of air, encompassed in which it drops into the midst of muddy, stagnant pools,
and remains unhurt. And the believer is also conscious that he is enclosed in
the invisible film of the Divine Presence, as a far travelled letter in the
envelope which protects it from hurt and soil.
draw near me that follow after mischief," but Thou art nearer than the
nearest, and I dwell in the inner ring of Thy presence. The mountains round
about me are filled with the horses and chariots of Thy protection. No weapon
that is formed against me can prosper, for it can only reach me through Thee,
and, touching Thee, will glance harmlessly aside. To be in God is to be in a
well fitted house when the storm has slipped from its leash; or in a sanctuary,
the doors of which shut out the pursuer.
the Secret of His Presence there is Purity. The mere vision of snow capped Alps,
seen from afar across Geneva's lake, so elevates and transfigures the rapt and
wistful soul as to abash all evil things which would thrust themselves upon the
inner life. The presence of a little child, with its guileless purity, has been
known to disarm passion, as a beam of light, falling in a reptile haunted cave,
scatters the slimy snakes. But what shall not Thy presence do for me, if I
acquire a perpetual sense of it, and live in its secret place? Surely, in the
heart of that fire, black cinder though I be, I shall be kept pure, and glowing,
the Secret of His Presence there is Power. My cry, day and night, is for power
spiritual power. Not the power of intellect, oratory, or human might. These
cannot avail to vanquish the serried ranks of evil. Thou sayest truly that it is
not by might or power. Yet human souls which touch Thee become magnetized,
charged with a spiritual force which the world can neither gainsay nor resist.
Oh ! let me touch Thee! Let me dwell in unbroken contact with Thee, that out of
Thee successive tides of Divine energy may pass into and through my emptied and
eager spirit, flowing, but never ebbing, and lifting me into a life of blessed
ministry, which shall make deserts below like the garden of the Lord.
how shall we get and keep this sense of God's nearness?
we go back to Bethel, with its pillar of stone, where even Jacob said,
"Surely God is in this place"? Ah, we might have stood beside him,
with unanointed eye, and seen no ladder, heard no voice; whilst the patriarch
would discover God in the bare moorlands of our lives, trodden by us without
reverence or joy.
we travel to the mouth of the cave in whose shadow Elijah stood, thrilled by the
music of the still small voice, sweeter by contrast with the thunder and the
storm? Alas! we might have stood beside him unconscious of that glorious
Presence; whilst Elijah, if living now, would discern it in the whisper of the
wind, the babbling of babes, the rhythm of heart throbs.
we had stationed ourselves in our present state beside the Apostle Paul when he
was caught into the third heaven, we should probably have seen nothing but a
tent maker's shop, or a dingy room in a hired lodging we in the dark, whilst he
was in transports; whilst he would discern, were he to live again, angels on our
steamships, visions in our temples, doors opening into heaven amid the tempered
glories of our more sombre skies.
point of fact, we carry everywhere our circumference of light or dark. God is as
much in the world as he was when Enoch walked with Him, and Moses communed with
Him face to face. He is as willing to be a living, bright, glorious Reality to
us as to them. But the fault is with us. Our eyes are unanointed because our
hearts are not right. The pure in heart still see God, and to those who love
Him, and do His commandments, He still manifests Himself as He does not to the
world. Let us cease to blame our times; let us blame ourselves. We are
degenerate, not they.
then, is that temper of soul which most readily perceives the presence and
nearness of God? Let us endeavour to learn the blessed secret of abiding ever in
the secret of His Presence and of being hidden in His Pavilion (Ps.31:20).
then, at the outset, that neither thou, nor any of our race, can have that glad
consciousness of the Presence of God except through Jesus. None knoweth the
Father but the Son and those to whom the Son reveals Him; and none cometh to the
Father but by Him. Apart from Jesus the Presence of God is an object of terror,
from which devils hide themselves in hell, and sinners weave aprons, or hide
among the trees. But in Him all barriers are broken down, all veils rent, all
clouds dispersed, and the weakest believer may live, where Moses sojourned, in
the midst of the fire, before whose consuming flames no impurity can stand.
part of the Lord's work is most closely connected with this blessed sense of the
Presence of God? "
is through the blood of His cross that sinners are made nigh. In His death He
not only revealed the tender love of God, but put away our sins, and wove for us
those garments of stainless beauty, in which we are gladly welcomed into the
inner Presence chamber of the King. Remember it is said, "I will commune
with thee from off the mercy seat." That golden slab on which Aaron
sprinkled blood whenever he entered the most Holy Place was a type of Jesus. He
is the true mercy seat. And it is when you enter into deepest fellowship with
Him in His death, and live most constantly in the spirit of His memorial supper,
that thou shall realize most deeply His nearness. Now, as at Emmaus, He loves to
make Himself known in the breaking of bread.
is this all? for I have heard this many times, and still fail to live in the
secret place as I would."
so; and therefore, to do for us what no effort of ours could do, our Lord has
received of His Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, that He should bring into
our hearts the very Presence of God. Understand that since thou art Christ's,
the blessed Comforter is thine. He is within thee as He was within thy Lord, and
in proportion as thou dost live in the Spirit, and walk in the spirit, and open
thine entire nature to Him, thou wilt find thyself becoming His Presence
chamber, irradiated with the light of His glory. And as thou dost realize that
He is in thee, thou shalt realize that thou art ever in Him. Thus the beloved
Apostle wrote, "Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because
He hath given us of His Spirit."
this I know, and yet I fall to realize this marvellous fact of the indwelling of
the Spirit in me; how then can I ever realize my indwelling in Him?"
is because thy life is so hurried. Thou dost not take time enough for meditation
and prayer. The Spirit of God within thee and the Presence of God without thee
cannot be discerned whilst the senses are occupied with pleasure, or the pulse
beats quickly, or the brain is filled with the tread of many hurrying thoughts.
It is when water stands that it becomes pellucid, and reveals the pebbly beach
below. Be still, and know that God is within thee and around! In the hush of the
soul the unseen becomes visible, and the eternal real. The eye dazzled by the
sun cannot detect the beauties of its pavilion till it has had time to rid
itself of the glare. Let no day pass without its season of silent waiting before
there any other conditions which I should fulfil, so that I may abide in the
secret of His Presence?
pure in heart. Every permitted sin encrusts the windows of the soul with thicker
layers of grime, obscuring the vision of God. But every victory over impurity
and selfishness clears the spiritual vision, and there fall from the eyes, as it
had been, scales. In the power of the Holy Ghost deny self, give no quarter to
sin, resist the devil, and thou shalt see God.
unholy soul could not see God even though it were set down in the midst of
heaven. But holy souls see God amid the ordinary commonplaces of earth, and find
everywhere an open vision. Such could not be nearer God though they stood by the
sea of glass. Their only advantage there would be that the veil of their mortal
and sinful natures having been rent, the vision would be director and more
His commandments. Let there be not one jot or tittle unrecognised and unkept. He
that hath My commandments and keepeth Them, he it is that loveth Me, and he that
loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest
Myself to him. Moses the faithful servant was also the seer, and spake with God
face to face as a man speaketh with his friend.
in the spirit of prayer. Sometimes the vision will tarry to test the earnestness
and steadfastness of thy desire. At other times it will come as the dawn steals
over the sky, and, or ever thou art aware, thou wilt find thyself conscious that
He is near. He was ever wont to glide, unheralded, into the midst of His
disciples through unopened doors. "Thy footsteps are not known."
such times we may truly say with St. Bernard: "He entered not by the eyes,
for His presence was not marked by colour; nor by the ears, for there was no
sound; nor by the breath, for He mingled not with the air; nor by the touch, for
He was impalpable. You ask, then, how I knew that He was present. Because He was
a quickening power. As soon as He entered, He awoke my slumbering soul. He moved
and pierced my heart, which before was strange, stony, hard and sick, so that my
soul could bless the Lord, and all that is within me praised His Holy Name.
the habit of speaking aloud to God. Not perhaps always, because our desires are
often too sacred or deep to be put into words. But it is well to acquire the
habit of speaking to God as to a present friend whilst sitting in the house or
walking by the way. Seek the habit of talking things over with God
thy letters, thy plans, thy hopes, thy mistakes, thy sorrows and sins.
Things look very differently when brought into the calm light of His presence.
One cannot talk long with God aloud without feeling that He is near.
much upon the word. This is the garden where the Lord God walks, the temple
where He dwells, the presence chamber where He holds court, and is found by
those who seek Him. It is through the word that we feed upon the Word. And He
said, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I
diligent in Christian work. The place of prayer is indeed the place of His
manifested presence, but that presence would fade from it were we to linger
there after the bell of duty had rung for us below. We shall ever meet it as we
go about our necessary work: "Thou meetest him that worketh
righteousness." As we go forth to our daily tasks the angel of His presence
comes to greet us, and turns to go at our side. "Go ye," said the
Master; "Lo, I am with you all the days." Not only in temple courts,
or in sequestered glens, or in sick rooms, but in the round of daily duty, in
the common places of life, on the dead levels of existence, we may be ever in
the secret of His presence, and shall be able to say with Elijah before Ahab,
and Gabriel to Zecharias, "I stand in the presence of God " (I Kings17:1;
the habit of recognizing the Presence of God. "Blessed is the man whom Thou
choosest, and causest to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy
courts." There is no life like this. To feel that God is with us; that He
never leads us through a place too narrow for Him to pass as well; that we can
never be lonely again, never for a single moment; that we are beset by Him
behind and before, and covered by His hand; that He could not be nearer to us,
even if we were in heaven itself. To have Him as Friend, and Referee, and
Counsellor, and Guide. To realize that there is never to be a Jericho in our
lives without the presence of the Captain of the Lord's host, with those
invisible but mighty legions, before whose charge all walls must fall down. What
wonder that the saints of old waxed valiant in fight as they heard Him say,
"I am with thee; I will never leave nor forsake thee."
fear and sorrow and dread of the dark valley! "Thou shalt hide me in the
secret of Thy presence from the pride of man; Thou shalt keep me secretly in a
pavilion from the strife of tongues."