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Great Christian Works:     Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life   By A. B. Simpson

A. B. Simpson

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Natural Emblems Of Spiritual Life
By A. B. Simpson

Spiritual Senses

"But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."   Hebrews 5:14

WE are to speak of the spiritual senses as they are typified by the bodily ones. Those five gate-ways of the soul are the sense of hearing, of sight, of touch, of taste, and of smell. God has made these, figures of our perception of the deeper world the world of spiritual things. It also has its portals through the organs of perception ; its senses of hearing, feeling, touching, tasting, and smelling; and it is the duty of the Christian to have these senses exercised. We should be able to hear the voice of God by the inner ear; to feel His presence, to catch the sweet taste of spiritual things.

He should be able to perceive in the finest and most delicate part of his being, through these inner senses, that God is communicating with him, and trying to implant within him His own image. Although we are surrounded by the grossest elements, and our very life is founded, to some extent, on the physical senses, yet there should be nothing wrong in all that. There is nothing wrong in the material world in itself, and God has made these senses, by which we touch it, types of something higher and holier. We have the same five senses in spiritual things as in physical ones.

I.

God has given us the sense of spiritual hearing, to enable us to understand the things of truth. As Christ says of His people, "The sheep follow Him, for they know His voice, and a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from, for they know not the voice of strangers." That is spiritual hearing. I asked a sister the other day, who came to me for some advice, if she had ever heard the voice of God. She had known of His will only by intelligent apprehension, but through her spiritual senses never. I advised her, instead of getting a word from me, to go alone before God, and to get still, and listen, and then to take what He should speak to her. The next time I saw her, she said that she had done so.

It was in the midst of terrible suffering, even of strong agony, but she handed it over to God, and asked Him what He had to say about this, asking also for some word to comfort her. It was the cry of her heart, "Speak to me, O Lord!" Then she was still for five minutes, and through her inner senses somehow, she could hardly tell how, the answer came, and she knew that it was from God. "Come unto Me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

She said the sweetness that this brought, and the comfort and rest, were indescribable; and the very fact that God had spoken, added much to the beauty of the message. She fell asleep, rested and refreshed, and awoke in gladness. Before twenty-four hours had passed, there came another voice; another difficulty had arisen, and she thought, "Cannot God speak to me again about this, as He did last night?" Clear and plain there came another verse into her mind, with a vivid sense of its being sent by God. The reason we do not hear this voice oftener, is because our sense of hearing has not been exercised by use. There will be other voices also, but we shall be able to know the difference between them, if we are patient and still, and good listeners.

We must have both ears open, the right one to God, and the left one to the devil, and we shall come to know them both by and by, and not be fooled by a voice that is not from God. We shall not be caught by every deceiver who would plausibly try to catch the ear. We shall detect that it is not the voice of God. We shall know it somehow, though friends may advice us to the contrary, and we may not be able to answer their reasonings. We shall know that it does not seem like the Master's voice, and God will keep us from following it. We may listen to a most eloquent sermon, and be obliged to say at its close, "That was not the voice of Jesus." It was beautiful, but there was nothing of Christ in it.

It was more full of beauty than of the wounds of Him who was "So marred more than any man, and His form than the sons of men." I have been astounded by that mixture of paganism and pantheism called Christian science, which is being read and followed all over our land today. There is very little Christianity in it, not enough to keep it afloat, and yet Christians everywhere are caught by it. They are the stupid followers of the Lord. They have listened to it with both ears open, and yet there is no Calvary in it, and no Atonement. There is no reality about it, yet people are gulled and fooled by it, because they do not listen to the voice of God alone. They have not got their ears quickened to distinguish that voice from the voice of the stranger.

Their senses have not been exercised by reason of use. They have not become detectives to know the voice of God, to hearken unto it, and to listen ready to obey. One of the first directions that God gave to ancient Israel was to diligently hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God, and they had the promise that they should be quiet from fear of evil. God is willing to educate our ears. If we take him for that, He will give us quick, ready ears, with a readiness to obey His word. There are many people who do not want God to speak to them at all times, for they might have to change their plan of life, and they do not want to do that. Are you willing to hear that voice this morning, beloved, in everything? Are you hungry to know His will? Are you reserving your judgment, your opinion, and your choice, until you do know it? If so, He will not have to pull up plants by the roots, which you have allowed to grow in your hearts ; but your lives will go on, happily for yourselves, because they are pleasing to Him.

II.

Another spiritual sense is that by which we receive illumination. God does not say of His dear children, "Having eyes they see not," but He says, "Blessed are your eyes for they see." Christ has come to "Open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house." Paul's earnest prayer for the Ephesian Church was, "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe according to the working of His mighty power."

That is one of the things we are to see. We are to know "The love of Christ that passeth knowledge." There are infinite depths to this spiritual vision. We are not only to recognize the truths of God, to believe that they are to become true in the future, and are to be brought out in our own lives in some measure, but we are to see the glory of the coming of Jesus. "Our eyes shall see the King in His beauty, they shall behold the land that is very far off." God would have us take in the great things of His Gospel, the spiritual as well as the worldly ones. Our eyes have to be exercised.

When the blind man was healed, he at first saw men as trees walking. That was because he was looking down. But when Christ "Put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up, he was restored, and saw every man clearly." We need to get the habit of looking up before we can see plainly, and even then this spiritual faculty has to be wrought out. Things grow gradually clearer and clearer to us. The vision becomes lighter and lighter. We see more and more until we get upon the heights with Abraham, and look abroad upon the land, north and east, and south and west, and are conscious that the promise given to him is ours also. "All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever."

We know that the promise is to us and to our children, but it is also clearly ours for the future of the race, the coming of the Lord, and the glory of the coming ages. This vision, however, is not given to us, until we have our senses exercised. There must be a habit of seeing spiritual things. God wants us to see these things. He would have divine things become clear to us. They are too often shadowy, like figures in the moonlight. He wants them to stand out in their full beauty and magnitude, in distinctness of detail, and all the richness of their coloring. God will lead us to this, beloved. He will enable us to see in yonder world more then many see over there, whose senses have not been exercised here by reason of use.

I believe there will be multitudes of Christians in heaven, who will scarcely see its highest glory. They have not the visual organs to perceive it. They see a little of its beauty, and are satisfied. If a little mouse should pass through this church this morning, it would only see the crumbs that lay upon the carpet; it would not see the windows, nor the organ, nor the glory in the faces of the Christians. So the swindled soul that gets into heaven will be able to see that it has got out of hell, and that's about all. It will not perceive all that other raptured souls do, because it has not got the organs to see them.

I suppose if you should take me into Theodore Thomas's concert tomorrow I should not be able to understand all the little tricks of music that might be noticed there, because I have not been educated in that respect. But God is educating his children every day to perceive the things that He is preparing for them that love Him. How is this done? They are revealed by his Spirit. "For the Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God." I would invite you this morning to go out into this beautiful world of vision. It is not sentimental nonsense we are talking. It is the clear teaching of the Holy Ghost, and, as following that guidance we go forth, the vision will become clear to us. We shall have the light spoken of here, and will be able to understand a little of the glory that shall be revealed to us more fully hereafter.

III.

God would have us learn also the spiritual sense of touch. Our Saviour understood this perfectly. He knew when the woman touched him in the midst of the throng, and asked instantly, "Who touched me?" The disciples did not know it so clearly, and marveled that He could ask this question when the multitude was thronging so closely about Him. Ah they only touched His flesh; she had touched His spirit, His very life. We know the human touch of friendship ; when some dear one clasps our hand the touch has a meaning in it. There is a life and power there that is so different from the others. It will illustrate a little this contact with Christ. When some poor, weary heart drops into the everlasting arms, there is real rest and refreshment.

It feels it is not fording the waters alone, but it has got upon the rock; it has touched God; its spirit has become linked with Him; it is resting upon the Rock of Ages, which is as immutable as eternity itself. Every need has become supplied through this contact with God. His touch has invigorated the body and strengthened the spirit. Have you come so near to God as that, dear friends? When John saw the vision of Christ at Patmos, he fell at his feet as dead, but Jesus came and touched Him; He lifted him up, and that contact strengthened him to go on with the vision.

Jesus has still a hand beloved, which reaches deeper than our flesh, even to the very extremes of our being, and holds us firmly, saying to us, "Fear not." Let us reach out our hands and clasp Him, and be able truly not to fear, knowing that He is near that justifieth. So, let us set our faces like a flint, and go on in fearless courage. God will educate this sense within us also, and will enable us to go on through life and death, with our hands locked in the clasp of Him, who gives us all needful strength through that conscious touch.

IV.

There is also a spiritual sense of taste, which it is our privilege to exercise, and which enables us to distinguish between the bitter and the sweet in the spiritual life. This taste also needs to be educated, that we may be able to discern the infinite fine flavors of spiritual things. There are men who know the taste of wines so well that they can detect every grade of it, and almost every year of its age. It is a poor kind of education, but it is a type of how our spiritual taste may be educated. God says that we may taste of Him. "Come, taste and see that the Lord is good." We are not to eat, and drink, and get good only, but we are to know the taste of spiritual things, and get sweetness and enjoyment from them.

They can be partaken of with zest, for there is a variety of taste in them as well as strength to be derived from them. There should be a variety of spiritual tastes as well as in our physical tastes at the table. When we partake of sour things they should sicken us, as when a lover of mushrooms eats toadstools. Mr. Kimball told us at Old Orchard that his colored boy brought in some mushrooms one day, which he was a little fearful were toadstools, but the boy was not afraid of them. He said he would know if they were mushrooms, when he ate them. He knew them by the taste. He had an educated taste for the rooms.

Have you got an educated taste in spiritual matters, beloved? I remember well when God stopped me from reading novels. I was a broken-down minister at the time, and did not know God very well, and I took up one by way of diversion. But God sickened me so of it before I had finished it, so that I had to throw it away, and I have not read one since. Sometimes we have to learn the nature of poison by tasting it a little; enough to make us know it when we meet it. There are many people who are omnivorous in their habits of reading. They read God's Word, and everything else almost that comes in their way, apparently making no difference between them. You can know them by their restless, unhappy lives.

If we would keep our lives pure, beloved, we must be guarded at this point also. "Doth the fountain send forth at the same time, both sweet and bitter waters? "We should have our sense of taste so educated, that the moment a pleasure comes we shall know whether it is safe or not. We shall not have to reason about it. We shall not enjoy this or that society, because God is not in it. Some of it will partake of the world, and some of the bitterness of the devil. We should learn the taste of it enough to escape from it. We should be educated for God, and so lose taste for every thing else. And we shall thus become so satisfied in Him, so filled with His love, and so happy in it, that we shall not want anything else.

V.

The last spiritual sense we speak of this morning is the sense of smell. There is a great deal said in the Bible about this. It is prophesied about our Saviour: "The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears, but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth." The thought that is brought out here is that of quick smell. It means that Jesus does not need to look at things closely to recognize them, but he is able to know them at a distance by the odor.

So we should be able to understand spiritual things by a kind of spiritual intuition. We can know in this way the Master's will for us, His thoughts concerning us, and all the exquisite meaning of His love. There are many things in Nature that appeal to this sense, and show us how we can understand the finer creations of God. The exquisite odor of flowers is something that no chemist could evolve; but Nature has given them freely, and they speak to us of that inner world, of sweetness which we can catch in this way. In the temple there was not only the sound of God's voice speaking from between the cherubim; the taste of the bread for the strengthening of God's people; but above all else there was the sweet smell of incense rising from the golden altar and filling the entire tabernacle.

It was God's heart poured out in sweetness, and man's heart meeting it in love. So God meets us in the inner sanctuary of the soul. He does see and speak with us merely, but He fills us with a precious sense of His presence, pouring it over us in fragrant clouds of love. As we bow before Him He meets us with sweetness, and we know that He is present by this delicate inner consciousness. If we wait before Him He will come to us in this way. We have not only the sound of His voice and the vision of His face, the touch of His hand and the taste of His love, but He makes us say, "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia." He is the chief among ten thousand." And we are filled with this perfume as we go out, bearing it abroad, like those spice ships from the shores of Mozambique and Arabia, spreading the odor of the gums and spices upon the air.

We have entered into the inner soul of spiritual things, and our hearts have been filled with their essence. The reason we do not catch these things quicker is because we live so much in the external world. There is so little quiet in our lives, and so much bustle and hurry. God wants something finer from us. He would have us go through our work every day, carrying the sweetness in our hearts which we have breathed in from heaven and so always breathing it out wherever we go. The reason we do not do this is because we are not keeping close to God. We do not find this fragrance in the land of snows. We must go to the South land to find it. And so we must go to Him for all the spirit needs: we must have Him touch the senses of the soul and satisfy them, and then we can carry this fragrance to others.

As it is in the outward life, so must it also be in the spiritual. God makes our physical life a type of the inner, which is exactly the same in details, but more real. Have you all these senses open to God's influences? or are you so diseased with spiritual catarrh and hay-fever that you cannot catch the sweet fragrance of those finer spiritual things which God would make known to you in this way? If you are not able to do this, give your spiritual senses to Him today, to quicken by His living touch: nay, let Him come within, to live as the resources of all the inner life. What are you going to do when you draw near to the valley of death and hear faintly the "good-bye" of wife and children? Will you be able to hear His voice, saying, "Fear not, for I am with thee"? The time will come when all these outward things will be withdrawn, and there will be nothing left but the inner senses by which to apprehend God.

A gentleman once tried to rouse his dying brother by leaning over him and shouting, "Do you know me, John?" But the sick man only shook his head. His wife came up and repeated the question, but met with the same response. Then they asked him, "Do you know Jesus?" that woke him out of his stupor : he threw up his hands, exclaiming, "He is with me now! Jesus of Nazareth, blessed Jesus!" And he went home to heaven in His arms. Have you got that precious consciousness of His presence that will go with you when the tide is swelling high around you, and carry you safely to the other shore? You have heard of the stage-driver in San Francisco, who, when he was dying, thought he was driving the stage-coach down a steep grade, and that he could not get his feet upon the brake. Do you know what it is to get your feet upon the solid ground? Have you got Him forever as an eternal possession? Can you say,

"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand?"

When the time comes that you will not be able to eat or drink, and they bring you all the stuff they are making now for sick people, can you say, as did the dying saint, "He has brought me into His banqueting house?" When everything around smells of the mold, will you be able to catch above it the odor of sweet flowers, and sing,

"A sweet perfume upon the breeze
Is borne from ever vernal trees."

Can you say, as another of God's dying saints exclaimed. "There is no dying here; there is no bitterness here. I smell the mold, but faith comes, and, blessed be God! I smell the rose above the mold." When all sight is gone for every earthly thing, will you be able to see those dearer visions opening upon the inner sight? I have sometimes thought, the more dear our earthly surroundings, the more bitter it makes the hour of parting. The more lovely are the things that are around us in this sensuous life, the more terrible do they make the dying hour.

I beseech you, dear friends, to keep this life here full of God. Keep the Master with you who goes through both worlds with you. There will be nothing in the golden streets up there but what will have had their beginnings down here. May God give us a little heaven here below, with Himself as its joy and its centre.

Chapter 21  

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