A Wise Course
James Smith, 1860
The gracious presence of the Lord is a privilege enjoyed only by the Lord's people. They know what it is, and therefore prize it — but they alone prize it. To represent it, or make a carnal person understand what it is — is impossible; for the natural man understands not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. A present God makes a happy Christian; but an absent God makes a believer wretched. In all ages, the Lord has visited his people, manifested himself to them, and conferred special privileges upon them; and in all ages the saints have had to mourn on account of the hiding of his face. Therefore said the prophet, "I will wait upon the Lord, who hides his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him." Isaiah 8:17.
Here is a Cause of Grief.The Lord hiding his face. From whom does he hide? From the house of Jacob. What, from that favored race? Yes. They had the promises, made to Abraham and his seed — they had the covenants, made with their forefathers — and they had the ordinances, which brought them near to God, and brought God near to them — yet from them the Lord hid his face.
Just so, the most honored, the most favored of the Lord's people have at times to suffer from this privation. But what a mercy it is, that it does not affect our relation to God, or deprive us of our saving interest in the promises, covenants, and ordinances of God. We are still the Lord's. The glorious promises still belong to us. The covenant of grace, ordered in all things and sure, still secures our salvation. The ordinances of the gospel, are still means of grace to our souls.
What then was the cause of grief? The Lord hiding his face.
He does so at times in providence, in reference to temporal things, and then nothing appears to succeed with us. This is apt to awaken doubts in the mind, and we question our interest in his love. Temptations are presented or suggested by Satan, to induce us to take rash steps, or to turn aside from the right ways of the Lord. Suspicions, as to our past experience, or our standing before God, are produced, and gloom and distress troubles the soul.
The Lord hides his face in grace too. Then we cannot find him in his Word, in his house, or in our closets. We go forward — but he is not there; backward — but we cannot perceive him. And then we utter the impassioned cry, "O that I knew where I might find him!" Fears are awakened. Darkness broods over us. Dissatisfaction is felt by us. We are unhappy; for the sun that makes our day, is eclipsed; the prospects that cheered our hearts, are beclouded; and life has lost its value and its joy. With the presence of the Lord — we could be happy anywhere; but without his presence — no place, no circumstances, no privileges can give us joy.
Here is a Course of Conduct Marked Out."I will wait upon the Lord." Not complain of him. Not murmur against him. Not doubt his love. Not question his veracity. Not listen to his foes. Not yield to unbelief. But, "I will wait upon him."
"I will wait upon him" . . .
In his house, where he meets his people;
at his throne, where he has before manifested himself to me;
in the company of his people, where he loves to be;
in the ordinances of his own appointment, where be has promised to meet his people.
"I will wait upon him" . . .
in hope, expecting his presence;
in faith, believing his word;
in prayer, imploring him to appear;
with perseverance, determined never to give up until I find him.
"I will look for him." I will . . .
not sit alone in sullen gloom;
not write bitter things against myself;
not charge God foolishly;
not bring up a bad report of the good land.
"I will look for him," where I have found him before — in his Word, in the closet, in the dispensations of his providence. I will expect him to make the clouds his chariots, and to come flying on the wings of the wind.
"I will look for him," for . . .
he alone can satisfy my heart,
he alone can meet my case, and he cannot be unkind,
he alone can make me happy, and he will do so in his own time. Yes, he will turn again, he will have compassion upon me, for he will cast all my sins into the depths of the sea!
It is nothing new for the Lord to hide himself from his people, nor does he do so without a cause, or without a gracious design. It becomes, therefore, our duty, not to fret, complain, doubt, or give way to suspicions of his love — but to wait upon him, hopefully; and to look for him in faith, resting upon his promises, and believing his love.
The lost sinner knows nothing of the Lord's presence, and therefore he never mourns his absence — only the Lord's children are thus indulged, therefore they alone are thus tried.