STILLNESS IN GOD.
6 There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?
Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. | 7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart,
More than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. 8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:
For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.—Psalm IV.
The hindrances and discouragements with which God's people meet, either in their heavenly career or in their labours and undertakings for Christ, are manifold and various. Never did a pilgrim set out on his way to the heavenly Jerusalem, but it seemed as if it were impossible to reach its pearly gates. Never has anything been attempted for the glory of God, but the difficulties appeared insuperable. In all such cases we must look to the end, not to the way. The way is not ours but the Lord's. Nor shall we be only once tried. At every step and stage, the flesh, the world, and the devil will suggest innumerable dangers. And yet our main danger lies rather in listening to their suggestions than in what is suggested. Let us remember that for every Caleb and Joshua there are always ten unbelieving spies; for every one who rendereth the grateful homage of heart and life, nine who return not to give thanks; and that it is not always the lying message of a servant of Baal by which even an old prophet is destroyed. Our danger here lies in taking counsel with flesh and blood. The world and worldly-minded believers judge of things as they appear, and according to their human probabilities. Ours it must be not to take that element at all into consideration. We set out on the way to Zion, not because we are likely to go on well, but because the Lord has called us by His grace. We engage in any work, not because we have human encouragement, but because we trust in the living God. Until there is such separation in heart and mind and life, we shall not know what real liberty or joy is. Our Christian course is not a balancing of probabilities, but the victory of our faith over the world. This may be stigmatized by those who know not the firmness of our foundation, as fanaticism. And such it would be, were it not for the promises and the presence of the living God. For enthusiasm is that which wants any other basis or support than our own feelings. But faith encompasses impossibilities in the strength of the living God (Heb. xi. 33-36). All is impossible to us—this is our knowledge of self; all is possible to Him—this is our knowledge of God. And we know what He has said, and what we have experienced. Every fresh hindrance can only be a fresh call to faith and prayer. And thus every obstacle will be converted into a fresh occasion for interposition. Most sweet and precious is what we get directly from God, and all the more so since our danger lies not so much in apostasy from God, as in becoming wearied, and then looking to man, to second causes, as instruments or symptoms of our deliver
ance: Who will show us any good?' And the temptation becomes all the greater when 'there be many that say' thus. Here we can find only one way of escape, if the heart, weaned from all other confidence, and clinging to Jesus, replies, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.' In the present instance, the conviction so expressed is framed in the form of precious prayer, which almost seems fragrant with the certainty of answer. Nor is it any good, or some good which is sought; but the Lord, and the Lord alone, and the Lord as surety for all good. What we primarily seek is not outward deliverance, but inward grace to cleave to Him. All the rest will He give in due time. 'Jehovah, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us ;' or, more literally, 'Lift Thou up upon us as a banner the light of Thy countenance.' Thus taking up the language of the Aaronic benediction (Num. vi. 24-27), this prayer looks up to Jehovah alone; asks for light from His countenance; seeks the dispelling of our darkness by shedding this light upon our path; and regards His manifestation in grace as our banner in warfare. The light of His countenance in Jesus our Saviour is our light, our joy, our strength, and our defence. Experience of His grace is all-sufficient comfort and all-efficient help. If we have Christ, we have all things; 'the joy of the Lord shall be your strength.' And this fountain once opened, how copiously do the healing streams issue! We have not merely 'good hope' through grace, but we are 'as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.' 'Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.' Truly our poverty forms a
noble contrast to their riches. This is to be content in God and still in God; this is the quiet life in God. When they have attained to the fullest all their desires, they are most poor; and that perhaps in proportion to their wealth. The treasure of ' gladness' in the believer's heart—the pearl of great price for which he willingly parts with everything else —is far better than the abundance which fills their barns and wine-presses. 'Thou fool!' neither hast thou present peace, nor is thy future provided for. Having thus not banished but lost care, and found joy because we have found Christ— sweetly, gently, calmly, whether on the evening of day, or of sorrow, or of life, 'I will both lay me down in peace and sleep ;' or, more accurately, 'In peace will I lay me down at once and sleep.' We toss not in unrest, nor does sleep flee from our fevered frame. Sleep, or at least rest of mind and heart, comes at once when we lie down in this peace. Jehovah has made our habitation; He compasseth us about ; and we dwell 'in safety.' And 'when I awake,' 'I shall be satisfied with Thy likeness.'
1. O my soul, here is the banner of thy strength, and the source of thy comfort. How often hast thou tormented thyself about the schemes of enemies and the doubts of friends! When shall I learn this: 'Say ye not, A confederacy, to all those to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread '? This is a sin to be greatly humbled for, and a source of weakness to be greatly deplored. If I really believe,—if I take God by His gracious word, and rest upon Jesus as my Saviour,—why or of what should I be afraid? And yet this is one of the sins which more easily beset us. Unbelief or non-belief, is unquietness. This holds true equally of the burden of our guilt and of every other burden. Faith hath peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Once more, then, let me come: realizing the facts of redemption, let me now cast myself upon Him, nor seek other source of rest, nor require other warrant for peace or joy, than God in Christ.
2. I can now perceive what will bring real and immediate relief. I must pray. I must apply all that I believe, and apply with it all unto God. Living faith breathes prayer; otherwise faith were a work. But faith is the ground and hath the warrant for prayer; and while faith obtains all, it obtains it from God, and as of grace. 'I believed, therefore have I spoken'—not only to man, but primarily to God. Faith lays hold on Christ, and Christ leads to the Father, and He speaks for us and with us, when we speak in Him and through Him. Of all the exercises, the sweetest is this converse with God. It is not only for what it receives (Heb. xi. 33, 34), but for what it is, that we so highly prize it. We soar up to Him; we have rest in Him ; we delight ourselves in God ; we have victory through Him. Oh, why art thou so languid in prayer, so weak in faith ; why still a beggar in rags, when all wealth is at thy disposal ?' Lord, teach us to pray.' 'Lord, increase our faith.' 'Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief
3. 'The heart knoweth its own bitterness.' But whatever sorrow it be which weighs me down, let me learn this twofold mystery—of Divine carelessness and of absolute security. Divine carelessness springs from faith and prayer (' watch and pray'), and absolute security flows from free and sovereign grace. Yet are these two always combined,—my application through grace, and His manifestation in grace. Teneo ct teneor—1 hold and am holden. And thus am I absolutely secure against whomsoever: ' For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
Jesu, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
Tongue never spake, ear never heard,
Nor e'er from heart o'erflowed
A dearer name, a sweeter word,
Than Jesus, Son of God.
O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the week,
To those who fall how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!
But what to those who find? Ah, this
No tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved can know.
Bernard Of Cla1rvaux.