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Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life
By A. B. Simpson
The Secrets Of The Lord
"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant." Psalms 25:14
NATURE is full of secrets. She is a treasure-house of mysteries, of which man knows but little. Science is discovering more every day, but they are the ordinary ones that can be picked up like shells upon the sea-shore. Most of the precious things in the natural world are hidden away; they are not upon the surface, but must be patiently sought for and slowly found. The treasures of the mines are hidden down deep under the surface of earth, and the rocks must be struck, and blasted, and crushed to atoms, yes, even burned with fire before their precious treasures can be discovered, and brought to the surface.
If these hidden metals are found, they must be extracted with great care and patience from the rocky ore that contains them. They are not found loose upon the soil, to be the sport of every idler that passes. The diamond is found at great depths; and the pearl is taken out of fathoms of water, where it lies hidden within the rough oyster shell. Then, too, their beauty is brought out polishing. Some of the most valuable pearls are covered by a film, and it takes the skill of experts to discover their value and remove the film. The beauty of the diamond can only be brought out by cutting and shaping its sides, and polishing its many facets. Their beauty is nearly always hidden. So, too, in the vegetable world.
The delicate kernel of nuts lie hidden within rough shells which have to be broken; and with bitter rinds which must be removed. The more precious they are, the more they are hidden away, that they may not be despoiled by the plunderer's hand, and that the most deserving may win the prize. So, there are secrets of science, and of art, of industry, and invention in these days. The world is full of these things which have only been found out recently. The most important things in practical life today are of recent discovery. The electric light in our streets, the gas with which our houses are warmed and lighted, the currents which carry our telegraphic messages, all these are secrets which men toiled to discover.
And there are yet secrets to reward the seeker, as great as that which sent Archimedes out naked into the streets, forgetting to dress in the joy of his discovery, and shouting, "I have found it!" The great art of painting on pottery Pallissey toiled half a century to discover, and thought no toil or hardship too great in his search, bearing patiently his wife's curses upon his folly. At last he won the crown. So, also, the patience of Watt has given us the steam-engine, and the toil of Stevenson the railroad. We owe the telegraph to Morse, the telephone to Edison. And so these discoveries will go on in finer and more delicate forms until God rolls up the scroll, or, probably, takes it in His own hand, and brings these things to greater perfection in the millennial age, showing us then what we have never thought of in the physical as well as the spiritual world.
These are all types of the spiritual life; they are wheels within wheels; and they teach us that, though the spiritual is higher than the natural, yet it corresponds to it in all respects. They are types of the higher life of the soul in its relation to God, and so, in his Word we read of secrets. There are secrets of faith, and secrets of love, and secrets of experience, and secrets of the Holy Ghost. It is, the work of the sorrows, and trials, and discipline of life, to bring these to light, and bless them to the individual soul. Besides God's great secrets, there are also little ones; secrets of friendship, and confidence, and trust, which are bonds between God and the heart that is devoted to Him. They are pledges of intimacy with the Lord.
The superstition of mediŠval times taught the peop1e to believe that there was great virtue in talismans, which gave peculiar power to some word or some relic of departed one. It was all imagination, and strong superstition, but it gathered about it all the power of faith; it influenced the hearts of people, and they believed that it could remove difficulties, and open and shut gates. These talismans were thought to carry people through perplexities and difficulties. God, too, has his secrets in this direction, which are not imaginary but real. They give his servants power to open gates, to level mountains, and to secure victory and blessing.
The force of this text is greatly increased by the connection in which it is placed "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant." The verse is like a precious gem hidden away in a costly cabinet. The psalm is a Hebrew acrostic. The first paragraph begins with first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and it continues through the whole alphabet. The text itself is a jewel in the midst of jewels, sparkling with beauty.
We will dwell, for our comfort this morning, on some of God's secrets with His dear children.
We will look first at His secrets of knowledge. This term would be familiar to an oriental mind. Knowledge was not as ordinary a thing in the east as it is with us today. It was the possession of the sages. Common education was a very uncommon thing. The few dwelt apart, as the favorites of wisdom. It was a gift to enter into the arcana of philosophy-to go into the veiled chambers inside the curtains, and join the inner circle of the wise. There was an outer and an inner circle in oriental philosophy which divided the learned from the common people. The mysteries of knowledge belonged only to the few, and they blended together false religion and philosophy. It was the wisdom that Paul speaks of in his epistle to the Corinthians; the sophia which was their glory he called foolishness. The true wisdom God only could reveal. It was only known as it was made known by Him.
The secret of the Lord, even as far as knowledge goes, is with them that fear Him. "Can'st thou by searching find out God?" "Where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?" How helplessly men grope after it. It has often touched me to see their flounderings, and out-reachings, and probings into their poor hearts, and their gropings in the darkness to find out God by intellectual reasonings and philosophical tests. They cannot do it. The Lord makes Himself known. "No man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal Him." "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." God has ordained that in Christ should dwell all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We cannot know God without having Him revealed by Jesus Christ, and, as long as we proudly resist him we must be in darkness without the knowledge of God.
The first step toward this is divine revelation. I have talked with many men of brilliant minds, with men who have been accustomed to reason about law, and the deepest regions of human knowledge, but who when I talked and pleaded with them about Christ and the plan of salvation, could not understand it. They could not get it into their hearts. They needed vision as well as light. The blind man had light around him, but needed the word, "Receive thy sight." Light and sight both must be given. It was not enough for Christ to say, "I am the light of the world," He had to touch the blind man's eyes before he could see. The men and women who are trying to get Christianity before they come to Christ can only flounder and blunder along until they are willing to fall at His feet and let Him teach them.
Jesus Christ will show us not only ourselves, but the Father also. And, standing in that central place, every thing is clear. There is no other point of vision in the Bible or in the human heart, but the cross of Jesus Christ. It is like the one place in the Vatican from which alone we can see the wonderful frescoes of Rel on the ceiling. When I was there, I tried for hours to make anything out of them, and at last I let the guide lead me to the place from which only the correct view could be obtained, and he said to me, "Why did you not come to me before? I would have taken you there hours ago." So we often try to look at things in our own self-confidence, and fail, but when we once come to God and to the Holy Spirit, and to the Divine Word, and to Jesus Christ, everything is clear and plain and simple, and we can only wonder why we did not come there before. "I am the light of the world. Whosoever followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Jesus will give the secret of God's great Gospel to those only who take Him as their Saviour. Then they are admitted into all these secrets of knowledge, not as His servants but as His friends. He says that He will not keep back anything from us. We shall know as much as He does some day, and we shall learn as fast as we come to Him. "I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now." "He shall glorify me, for He shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you." All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I , that He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." We read in that wonderful book, the first epistle to the Corinthians, that book so full of human knowledge and the beauty of true wisdom, something also of the beauty of the Divine mind.
Paul says to them that they are yet babes, and so he has to stick to the alphabet, but he will talk to them of the deeper mysteries as they become mature and are able to bear it. "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory." "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." They are shown to those who are entirely abandoned to Him. Their eyes are opened to a world of light, and they are able to see and to feel, and to touch, the things of God. They know God now, more really than the natural things around them.
You remember the dear Lord used to preach in parables, and He explained the reason why this was, because He would not spread the secrets of profound wisdom before the foolish or the profane. It is the principle of God's kingdom to hide things. His treasures we not put upon the surface; they are found by searching. This is the cause of the failure of so many Christians, and the success of others. "Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive." It is the same thing that we were speaking of in the natural world a moment ago. The kernel of the walnut is enclosed in a hard case, and the exquisite milk of the cocoa-nut is hidden within an ugly rind and a hard shell. So, the teaching of our Lord is put in parables. It is encrusted within a hard case, so that the careless shall not get them, but the earnest hearted shall.
The others would only abuse them and add to their sin. The sincere ones use them to His glory, and will have their diligence stimulated by the search that would disappoint the frivolous. These treasures are not to be got by lying upon the back, or by floating on the river of chance, drifting, and hoping that they will come to us. They must be obtained as they are in the natural world. We shall find them only by yielding, and letting God with His strong hand of love break the hard shell. They are the reward of earnest striving. The prize is won by the diligent in the things of grace, as well as everywhere else.
The deep things of the heart of Christ are obtained by those who let everything else go; who sell all that they have, and who seek for this one treasure. They shall not seek in vain; they shall find the secret which has been hidden from the ages. If, with the hunger of fainting hearts, and all the earnestness of their being they sit waiting at His gates, watching at the posts of His doors, they shall find the deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ. But, even then, they have only reached the antechamber; they have only passed through the gates into the citadel of knowledge; there are deeper teachings beyond; there are greater secrets inside.
But the doors will open to the earnest disciple as he goes on; he can advance within yonder mysterious curtain into the holy of holies. He need not remain in the court of the Tabernacle, he may enter the innermost shrine, whither Jesus has gone. His dear ones may go in there also, and not carry with them the light of the outer world, nor that which is given by the golden candlestick of the holy place; but they may have a better light than either in the person of Christ. There is something better than knowing the Gospel, or even than knowing the deep things of God as they are revealed by the Holy Ghost.
It was Paul's great desire, "That I may know Him," not about Him; not the mysteries of the wonderful world, of the deeper and higher teachings of God, but to enter into the holy of holies where Christ is, where the Shekinah is shining and making the place glorious with the holiness of God, and then to enter into the secret of the Lord Himself. It was what Jacob strove for at Peniel when he pleaded with God, "Tell me Thy name." He has told us His name, giving us "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." That is the secret. It is the Lord Himself, and nothing else; it is acquaintance with God; it is knowing Jesus Christ as we know no one else; it is being able to say; not only "I believe Him," but, ''I know Him;" not about Him, but I know Him. That is the secret above all others that God wants us to have; it is His provision for glory and power, and it is given freely to the single hearted seeker.
God has not only secrets of knowledge, but secrets of faith also. There are things which God lets us believe, which others know nothing about, nor could they perceive them. Such was the secret which was buried deep in the heart of Abraham of old, who lived with it for a quarter of a century, while the people around thought him a fool. Such a secret God whispered in the heart of Hannah, and it enabled her to bear cheerfully the taunts of her sad home. Such a secret brightened the heart of David, and enabled him not to fear the javelin of Saul, who hunted him like a partridge upon the mountains. This whisper of God lay hidden in his heart during the long years of exile and suffering, and found its fulfillment in the years of royal prosperity, when he sat on Israel's throne.
So God is whispering secrets of faith which enable His children today to bear up against much that seems to be against them, and to overcome great difficulties that are in their way, even though they seem like carrying the mountains into the midst of the seas. Reason may say "This cannot be done," but the matter has been committed to God, and faith says, "I have heard the secret that He has whispered, and it must be true." Paul understood this secret, when, as he lay in the dungeon, the Lord said to him, "Thou must see Rome." He knew that word would be fulfilled, although men banded themselves together not to eat until they had slain him; although he was cast into a prison in Caesarea; although, when he was upon the vessel, the fierce storm of the Adriatic, the Euroclydon, tried to destroy him; and later the viper tried to sting him to death.
He never lost confidence for one moment in the secret of faith which God had spoken to him. There stood by him that night, in the midst of the storm, the angel of God, saying, "Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar." It is this which has made weak women like lions in courage, and which has sent martyrs rejoicing to the stake. These secrets are whispered to the consecrated heart that is willing to live only for Him, and that, with an irrevocable grasp, will hold whatever He gives. If God gives His secret of faith to you, He does not expect you to throw it away; He will not trust you with it, unless He knows that you will hold it to the death, saying with His servant Job, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." If this is the attitude of your heart before Him, you may be sure that He will give you the secret of the Lord.
There are also secrets of providence which God's dear children may learn. His dealing with them often seems, to the outward eye, dark and terrible. Faith looks deeper, and says: "This is God's secret. You look only on the outside; I can look deeper and see the hidden meaning." Sometimes diamonds are done up in rough packages, so that their value cannot be seen. When the tabernacle was built in the wilderness there was nothing rich in its outside appearance. The costly things were all within, and its outward covering of rough badger skin gave no hint of the valuable things which it contained. God may send you, dear friends, some costly packages. Do not worry if they are done up in rough wrappings.
You may be sure there are treasures of love, and kindness, and wisdom hidden within. Do not be so foolish as to throw away a nugget of gold because there is some quartz in it. He has brought to you and me many things which we have shrunk from. They have not been what we thought a loving Father would send, but they have proved in the end to be sweeter than honey to the taste; and if we take what He sends, and trust Him for the goodness in it, even in the dark, we shall learn the meaning of the secrets of His providence.
God is whispering also to His dear children secrets of love and confidence, which are tokens of His love to His favorites. They are like the white stone which is given, with a name written in it that others do not know, and which, perhaps, if they did, they could not understand. God would have His dear children like John upon the Redeemer's breast, partaking of His confidence and love; or like Mary, breaking a costly vase of ointment for which, perhaps, she had sold everything that she might pour it upon His feet. Then she was taken to His heart and made to understand Him as few others did. So we can partake of the secrets of Christ's personal love, and receive the tokens of His most precious favor and blessing.
There are also secrets of power which we may learn. In the common world man has power over nature and is able to make it serve him, as we can see from the steam-engine and the telegraph. God, too, has His secrets of real power. Men often struggle on in their pride and wisdom, year after year, and accomplish nothing; but, by coming in simple obedience to God, more has been accomplished than in all their life before. I have seen them in their strength and loftiness go down discouraged in the struggle. Then I have seen them back at it again gaining glorious victories, because they have learned the secret of the Lord, which was worth a lifetime of their own struggling.
Before that time, temptations overcame them, sin met and baffled them, and difficulties conquered them. But when they were brought down at His feet, there were glorious results in their lives. That is the secret that He is wanting to give us today - the secret of Christ within us. "This is the secret which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints; to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." It is the very secret of Christian life to have Jesus Christ dwelling within the heart and conquering things that we could never overcome. It is the only secret of power in your life and mine, beloved.
Men cannot understand it, nor will the world believe it; but it is true, that God will come to dwell within us, and be the power, and the purity, and the victory, and the joy of our life. It is no longer now, "What is the best that I can do?" but the question is: "What is the best that Christ can do?" It enables us to say with Paul, in that beautiful passage in Philippians, "I know both how to be abased, and I know to abound; everywhere, and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
With this knowledge I go forth to meet my own heart, and the secret stands me there. It keeps me pure and sweet, as I could never keep myself. Christ has met the adversary and defeated him for me. It is the secret that Paul learned when, after bitter conflict, he cried out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" The next verse gives the story of his victory: "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." So, too, in Christian work, He accomplishes that which I could never do. The secret is good in the midst of adversity and trials; it is as good in the darkness as in the day; on the mountaintops as in the valleys. It will bring joy and gladness to the dying hour.
It is good for all things: whether depths, or heights, or lengths, or breadths; whether encountering trials or entering into the eternal world. It is enough for each and all of Christ's followers. It is Jesus in me, Jesus for me, Jesus with me, one with me forever. It is the only secret of power not my power, but God's power. It is Omnipotence residing in me and working through me. Dear friends, if you want power today, take His power. When we came over from England a few years ago, our vessel struck upon a sandbar in the harbor. I was a little anxious about it, for I wanted to reach the city that night; but it was of no use.
All the struggles of the engine would only result in tearing the ship to pieces. I will tell you what we did: we waited five hours, and then God's power came. The moon touched the waves and lifted them up, and soon there were ten feet more of water over the sandbar, and our vessel could easily cross. It was the secret of the Lord in nature. So, beloved, I have often imagined that this is true in Christian life. We often find ourselves inadequate for the things which come against us. Our difficulties are too great for us to meet. But God has got a secret which will be enough for them. Let Him have command of the vessel.
Hand it entirely over to God, and He will lift it above the trouble. He will put such power in the life as never was there before. He will carry us through all difficulties, and we shall give Him all the glory. May God whisper to us and teach us His secrets of knowledge, and of faith, of providence, of love, and of power! I am sure He will if we will only trust Him; but He will only give His secrets to those who do trust Him. But we should not only ask, "Can we trust Him"? but the question that is resting most deeply on my heart is, "Can He trust me today"? If He gives me these secrets, will I run off the track, or will I keep upon the rails? Ah! it is better to let Him guide, as well as well as to ride in the train.
If we can honestly say to Him that we desire to know these secrets, that we desire to have Him thus dwelling within us, and being almighty there, it shall be so. He will come in and will control us entirely. Let the language of our heart be, this morning, "Lord, take me, and make me Thine for evermore."