By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
I. CAN THE FINITE COMPREHEND THE INFINITE? Can the arm of man embrace the image of Divinity. Nay. But we know that if the arm of man cannot embrace the image of God, it can at least put its hand into His palm. We know that if the heart of God is larger and kinder than the heart of man, that the throbs of human emotion are, at least, suggestions of the great love which beats for man, as the crimson flushing of the dawn is a token of the meridian glory. "Where is the air?" might sing the bird to his mate. "Where is the water?" might ask the fish in his school. Where is God? "In Him we live and move and have our being."
1. This sense of the presence of God is made known to us in nature,
2. So, too, in the deep experiences of human life do we become conscious of the presence of God.
II. How EASY IT IS TO DISTURB AND TO DESTROY THIS SENSE OF THE NEAR PRESENCE OF GOD. The sense of the Divine presence as it is reflected in the soul of man, may by a single gust of passion, by a habit of self-indulgence, by a thought of impurity moving lightly over its surface, be either distorted into cruel ugliness or shivered into a useless ruin.
III. We now pass to consider more definitely THE RESULTS OF THE HAVING OF THIS SENSE OF GOD.
1. This sense of God elevates life. The man having it lives a life higher and nobler. He gains a wider prospect. He rises nearer heaven. He breathes a purer and more bracing atmosphere. The Waldenses had as their watchword "In His name." It was their greeting and their farewell. They spoke it at the wedding altar, at the bier, and at the baptismal font. They thought it as they ploughed the fields and plucked the purple clusters in their vineyards. It ennobled and gave dignity to their life; it strengthened them to endure persecution for the truths which they loved, and to lay down their lives on the "Alpine mountains cold." Thus the sense of the near presence of God transforms and ennobles life. It hushes life's jarring, clashing notes into music. It puts the cipher of our individual existence on the right side of the figure of life and gives to life a tenfold value.
2. This sense of God is a shield from sin. It repels evil. Dannecker, the German sculptor, who died a generation ago, left statues of Ariadne and Sappho and a colossal figure of Christ. His early fame he won for works connected with Greek and Roman mythology. When he had laboured two years upon his statue of Christ, the marble was apparently finished. He called a little girl into his studio. Pointing to the form of the Christ he asked, "Who is that?" "A great man," was her reply. He was for a time hopeless. He had failed. Only a great man. Again he commenced labour. For six years he cut and carved the marble. Again he called a child and put her before the finished piece. "Who is that?" he asked. Her reply was, "Suffer little children to come unto Me." It was the belief of the sculptor that for the execution of his task he had seen a special vision of Christ. At one time he attracted the eye of Napoleon. "Come to Paris," said the Frenchman, "make me a statue of Venus for the Louvre." "No," he replied, "a man who has seen Christ would commit sacrilege if he should employ his art in the carving of a pagan goddess. My art is henceforth a consecrated thing." So for the man who feels the near presence of God to commit sin would be more than a sacrilege. He cannot commit sin. It is an armour which no arrow of temptation can pierce.
3. This sense of God is a spur to grand moral and spiritual endeavour. It is an inspiration to work for God and for man. Would that various movements for the reformation of humanity were more worthy of confidence. Free religious associations and ethical societies cherish a noble purpose. They write upon their flag, "Man." They fasten their colours to the staff of their conscience. But the canvas is so heavy their arms cannot raise it; their feet cannot bear it forward; their hands cannot unfurl it to the breeze. Only as God strengthens man for his work for man can man lift up and carry forward the symbols of that work. There is an old legend that " when the Empress Helena went to the Holy Land in search of the true cross, excavations and great researches were made, and at last three crosses were discovered; but how were they to decide which was the true cross? They approached a dead body and laid one cross after another on it, and when the cross of Jesus touched the cold, lifeless form, it at once sprang up in new life and vigour." Upon the dead body of modern society you may lay the cross of moral reform and it does not lift a finger; upon it lay the cross of human purity, and not an eyelash quivereth; upon it lay the cross of Christ, and it springeth to its feet, vigorous and strong. Thus fill man with the sense of the near presence of God, let him see Him who is invisible, and he becomes a crusader of the nineteenth century. So let any one of us, who holds a command of God for the deliverance of any soul from the pursuers of fiery and maddened passions, from its own blind and blinding sin, to the gateway of a perfect life, let each one of us so command, and each is so commissioned, possess a sense of God's presence as did he who saw Him who was invisible: thus we may lead that soul to the gateway of a perfect life.
(C. F. Thwing.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.