Page images
PDF
EPUB

feeble would the strongest temptations prove ; what a purity, nobility, loftiness, holiness, heavenliness, would be imparted to your whole bearing and conversation There would be a dignity in the humblest Christian's mien and looks, such as rank never wore, and courtly training never bred ; and we should guard our hearts with such a door as stands at the threshold of heaven, this written above it in the blood of Calvary, Here “there shall in no wise enter anything that defileth.”

II. The visible revelations of the Invisible, which are recorded in Old Testament history, were most probably manifestations of the Son of God.

Out of a number of cases where God is said to have been seen, let me select a few.

To-morrow Esau and Jacob are to meet. There was a quarrel of long standing between them, which had all the bitterness of a domestic feud. Jacob had foully deceived and deeply injured his brother. He had not seen Esau for many years, and, dreading his vengeance, he now heard of his approach at the head of four hundred men, with fear and trembling. Greatly alarmed, he cried, God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother; for I fear him, lest he will come and

Smite me, the mother with the children. Pattern to :

us when temptation threatens, or dark misfortunes lower, Jacob, having done all that man's wisdom could devise, or his power could do in the circumstances, flies for help to God. He will prepare for to-morrow's trial by a night of prayer. Sending off his wives and children across Jabbok's stream, to place them as far as possible out of danger, and leave these innocent ones to forget it in sleep's sweet oblivion, he secks

[ocr errors]

himself a solitary spot. With deepest silence all around him, and the bright stars above his head, he is on his knees alone with God. Suddenly, as if he had approached with the stealth of a creeping savage, or had sprung from out the ground, Some one grasps him. Folded in his arms, Jacob cannot cast him off. Now it becomes a struggle for the mastery. Locked together, they wrestle in the dark; they bend; they try each to throw the other; and, in some mysterious commingling of bodily and spiritual wrestling, the night passes, and the conflict lasts till break of day. Let me go, said the other, whose eye had caught the gleam of morning, for the day breaketh. Jacob but held him faster. He had found out the other wrestler; danger gave him boldness; faith gave him confidence; and, clinging to God with the grasp of a drowning man, he replied, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And when he had prevailed, and got the blessing, “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel; for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Again, Joshua and the host are lying before Jericho, about to commence the siege. To enjoy an hour of quiet devotion, undisturbed by the din and distraction of the camp, or, perhaps, like a wary general, under cover of the night, to reconnoitre the position of the enemy, and find where he might attack their defences with most success, Joshua goes forth alone. And as, advancing with bold yet cautious steps, he turns some corner of the road, some angle of the wall, he starts, finding himself face to face with an armed man. His bravery is not ruffled. He thinks not of retreat; but drawing, advancing, and, perhaps, pointing his sword to the breast of the unknown, he challenges with the question, Art thou for us or for our adversaries? He

was promptly answered. Nor could the sword of the
other, gleaming in the moonbeam and descending to
cleave his helmet and fell him to the ground, have
brought Joshua more suddenly to his knees than that
answer. Nay; was the reply, but as captain of the
host of the Lord am I now come. Captain of the host
of the Lord! No man; no, nor angel, this God
himself commands in the battle. The order, first is-
sued from amidst the flames of the burning bush, and
now repeated, Put thy shoes from off thy feet, for the
place whereon thou standest is holy ground, reveals
God's own presence. Joshua worships; and rises—
with what heart, and hopes, and holy confidence 1
And yet not higher than believers may venture to
cherish in their daily fight with the devil, the world,
and the flesh. The Captain of your salvation mingles
in that conflict ; he is on your side; and, as Joshua
might have said on his return to the host, you can say,
Our God shall fight for us.
Again, as God assumed a visible form to foretell the
fall of Jericho, he did the same to foretell the rise of
Samson—suiting his appearance, as he still does his
grace, to the varied circumstances of his people. He,
who met Joshua as a mailed warrior, presents himself
to Manoah's wife under a peaceful aspect; yet min-
gling strangely—as they were united in our Lord—
the characters of the human and divine, his form be-
longed to earth, but his face shone with a heavenly
glory. A man of God came unto me, she said to her
husband, and his countenance was like the countenance
of an angel of God, very terrible. His tidings were
strange enough to rouse a woman's curiosity, yet awe
struck her dumb, nor left her a word to say or a ques-
tion to ask; “I asked him not whence he was, neither

[ocr errors]

told he me his name.” Some days thereafter she sits alone in the field; and, as she is ruminating, perhaps, on an event that had deeply impressed her mind, Suddenly the same form appears. She hastens homeward; tells her husband ; returns with him ; and Manoah, less timid than the woman, solves the mystery by bluntly asking, What is thy name? Why askest thou thus after my name, was the significant reply, seeing it is secret? That answer revealed at once, to his great surprise and awe, that he stood in the august presence of God; nor could any doubt of that remain, when this Being of incommunicable name, calling fire from the rock to consume their sacrifice, leaped upon the altar, and ascended to heaven in its flames. The first to recover speech, so soon as his tongue was unbound, Manoah turns to his wife, and, pale with terror, exclaims—“We shall surely die, because we have seen God.” From many cases of the same character, let me select another, where, as I have seen, a dull leaden cloud suddenly changed by a flood of sunbeams into living gold, the divine glory shines with such bright effulgence, that the scene wears an aspect of heaven more than of earth. Within the holy temple Isaiah beholds one sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. His train fills the house. Not white-robed priests, but shining Seraphim are his attendants. Incense that never dropped from earthly trees, but such as you might fancy that angel hands gathered from the trees that dip their branches in the river of life, diffuses celestial odors; voices, such as they hear in heaven, and shepherds heard in the skies of Bethlehem, fill the courts with praise, singing, in anticipation of gospel days, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. Nature herself acknowledges the presence of God—the earth trembles, the door-posts shake, the fire of the altar burns dim through a cloud of smoke, and Isaiah, overpowered by the awful glory of the scene, falls prostrate to the ground, crying—Woe is me! for I am undone : because I am a man of unclean lips: and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts. By such visible manifestations of himself, a gracious God, from time to time, thus comforted and encouraged his people in the days of old. But on turning to another page of the Bible, what do we find 2 We find it averred that “no man hath seen God at any time.” How are we to reconcile that positive statement with these plain facts? There is but one way of doing so—namely, by regarding those appearances as manifestations of him “who is the image of the invisible God.” That it was Christ who appeared to Abraham, Christ who wrestled with Jacob, Christ who led Israel out of Egypt, and, by the hands of Moses and Aaron, conducted the people to the promised land; that it was he, who, before he came in the flesh, appeared in these early ages of the church as her guardian and her God, is a conclusion which Scripture warrants. Paul distinctly charges the host in the desert with having tempted Christ. Neither, says he, let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. This idea is in perfect harmony with other passages in the history of redemption. We know for certain that the fruit of our Lord's incarnation was anticipated. The benefits of his death were enjoyed before he died ; the legacies of the will were paid before the demise of

« PreviousContinue »