“When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”—Psalm 27:8.
THIS ready response to a divine call may be looked at in three ways. It may be said of it, first, that it is the natural duty of man to God, such as his responsibility to his Creator demands. I should not like to think it necessary to prove that statement in this assembly. Surely, when God creates a man, it is but a matter of right that the man created should answer to the call of his Maker. When the Creator saith, “Seek ye my face,” it is the natural duty of the creature to reply, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” And the more is this so, because our Creator renew news our obligations hourly, by exercising his sustaining power, and maintaining our existence. In a certain sense we are “created” every day, because the creature would go back to its native nothingness, our bodies would return to the dust, and our spirits would expire, if it were not for a continued action of divine omnipotence, by which we are retained in being. Being, therefore, every day, dependent upon the Preserver of men, it is but an every-day obligation that when God saith, “Seek ye my face,” the daily debtor should cheerfully reply, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” If any should say that this is not a duty on such grounds, I would reply that the commands of God are always so good, and so reasonable, that it must be the duty of man to obey them. If it were possible for the Most High to command anything unrighteous, or unreasonable, the question of his claims might be raised; but since what the word of God commands is always most to our interest, at once the wisest and the best thing that we could possibly do, it becomes the duty of a rational and an intelligent being to follow the wise, loving, and tender counsels of the great God; and when his heavenly Father bids him seek his face, he should readily answer, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”
But, while I am quite sure that this is the case, and dare never say otherwise, yet, although prompt obedience be a duty, wherever it exists, it is a work of the Holy Spirit. There never was a mere man in this world, since the days of Adam, who ever did heartily make the reply mentioned in the text unless the Holy Ghost made him willing so to do in the day of God's power. We do not excuse those who are disobedient; but if any be obedient, the glory of their obedience must be given to the Holy Spirit, who worketh all our works in us, and maketh us both to will and to do of the Lord's good pleasure. We are quite certain that in our own case this was so, for the Lord said unto us, “Seek ye my face,” hundreds and thousands of times, in our infancy, in his own word, both when we read it, and when we heard it preached, but we would not reply to the demand of God, but set our faces, like a flint, and went on after our own devices; but when he spoke effectually, with that still small voice of the Holy Spirit, which penetrates the soul, enlightens the understanding, sweetly bows the will, constrains the affections, and changes the nature, then it was, but never till then, that we said “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” We heartily join in Mr. Bonar's sweet verses—
"All that I was, my sin, my guilt,
My death, was all mine own;
All that I am, I owe to thee,
My gracious God, alone.
The evil of my former state
Was mine, and only mine;
The good in which I now rejoice
Is thine, and only thine.
The darkness of my former state,
The bondage—all was mine;
The light of life in which I walk,
The liberty—is thine."
And, therefore, in the third place, we may always view such a spirit as our text indicates as being an evidence of election, an evidence of a saving interest in divine grace. How can we tell the Lord's people? They are discovered by the Lord’s call. The call is general, and put in the plural, “Seek ye my face;” but the response to it is personal, put in the singular, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” This becomes, sooner or later, the answer of every chosen soul. Every one ordained unto eternal life receives, in due time, the new nature, and this living and incorruptible seed, hearing the gospel of its great Author, responds to it as an echo to the voice.
There is a very excellent image which is sometimes used to illustrate this truth. When our brave King Richard was shut up in prison, far away in Germany, you know how he was found out by Blondel, a troubadour. The king and the minstrel had composed a song between them. First the minstrel sang one verse, and then the king sang one, and no other man the whole world over knew what the verses were except the king and the minstrel. So the minstrel wandered through many realms, and sang the first verse of his song, sang it at all kinds of castle gates and dungeon doors, but there came no response, for the king was not within; but at the last, as providence would have it, he sang it in the right place, and faintly from within he heard from the deep dungeon the voice which knew, and could sing, the second verse, and as he sang the third, and the fourth came through the iron bars, he knew that the king was there, for the verses could have been sung by no other than he. I am sometimes occupied in preaching the gospel, and I preach it to thousands who give no response: there is no evidence of the Lord's having chosen them. But another time there is a heart that saith, “Thou sayest, ‘Seek ye my face;’ my reply is, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek.’” Then I have found out the hidden ones, discovered as many as were ordained unto eternal life, for their believing is the response to God's gospel, and the evidence of their being the favourites of heaven. They, and they alone, thus believe. As for those who believe not, they perish in their sins; “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
Look, then, at the text, in these three ways. I should be happy if I felt that you would all accept it in these lights, for I find too much of chopping and choosing among Christians between this truth and that, and, by the Lord's help, I am determined, so far as I know it, to pander to no man or set of men, but to hold myself ever free to preach every truth that I find in my Master's book. You may call it Arminianism, or Calvinism, or whatever ism you like, yet, if it be in this book, you shall have to account for it at the last great day, whether you receive it or not. I say, again, then, that the obedience of the text is but the natural duty of man, but wherever it is carried out, it is by the work of the Spirit alone, and wherever it exists, it is an evidence of election, a proof of the indwelling of the grace of God in the soul.
But I intend to handle the text in another way, and shall endeavour to speak of the spirit of loving obedience to God's word which this text breathes. I shall first say something upon the absence of that spirit; then upon the cultivation of that spirit; then upon a special outlet for that spirit; and, lastly, upon a reward for that spirit.
I. First, then, let me make a few remarks upon THE ABSENCE OF THIS SPIRIT IN SO MANY PERSONS.
Ah! my dear friends, it is mournful to think how few there are who can say, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek,” for the great mass of men, if they spoke honestly, would have to confess, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I be obedient unto him.” With some of you now present this has mournfully been the case. There has been in your heart a total absence of every response to the divine word. It has come to you in all sorts of ways, till it might be asked, “What further can be done to you?” You heard it from a mother's tender lips, and she spake it as no one else ever could have done. You had it after that in your own flesh, when through sickness you tossed on your bed. You had it afterwards from kind teachers, from earnest ministers. Some of you get a good word almost every day. The very glance of your wife is a loving, constant sermon. Some of you are not without sharp prickings of conscience—the stabbings of that sharp little dagger within your soul that would fain slay your sins. But, for all this, there has been no answer to God's call. You have lived for vanity, if not for sin. You are neglecting the great salvation. He saith, “Seek ye my face.” It is the cry of all these houses of prayer which are open every Sabbath, “Seek ye my face;” but your answer has been, “I will seek anything but the face of God.
And this has been continued with some of you. Oh! that I should have to put this so seriously l You have done this, not a week—a week is a long time for a sinful creature to hold out against God—but you have done this, not for a week, but for months, ay, and—even for years. A year is a long time for a child to hold out against its father. How few monarchs can keep their patience with a besieged city for twelve or fourteen years: “No,” say they, “we will drag each stone from its place, and hang every burgess in the city by the neck.” Their patience soon grows cold, and their wrath waxes hot. But God has laid siege to some of you by the instrumentality of the gospel, for thirty, forty, fifty, sixty—did the little bird say seventy years?—and all the time you have continued to give God the negative. And while the demands of friends, and the requests of kindred, have been complied with, that wonderful word, “Seek ye my face,” has received from you nothing but the cold reply, “With God I will have nothing to do.” “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me! The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Oh! wonder of deep ingratitude—man, year after year turns a deaf ear to the sweet commands of grace!
Now, in some of you, this cold negative has been disturbed a little, but not broken. Perhaps, from this very pulpit, some of you have heard appeals which have considerably shaken you. Many of us, before conversion, were frequently the subjects of impressions, and some of you unconverted ones are not long without them. Christ has knocked at your door, and you have heard his voice again and again. You are not long without such knocks. Christ has often knocked. He stands at the door and knocks, as the Scripture says. He does not knock and walk on, but he stands at the door and knocks. The knocks have been repeated and continued, and you have frequently but falsely said, “I will open.” You have vowed that you would change and turn. Shall all those vows be registered against you, and those resolutions help to increase your doom, being evidence of your trifling with God, and attempting to deceive the omniscient One? O sinner, how much has been done for thee? What more can be done for thee, vain man? What more shall be done for thee, careless woman? It is useless that you should be stricken any more—you will revolt more and more. You have suffered and you have smarted, till your whole head is sick and your whole heart faint, and God's rod has made you to smart till you are full of wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; but still you do not turn. I have this much to say to you, and then I shall have to leave you to go to another part of the text. There is in this Book a very terrible passage, which I commend to you who have hitherto declined to accede to the divine word: you will find it in the first chapter of the Proverbs, at the twenty-fourth verse, “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.” That is the voice of God to you, sinner, you who have said, “I will not serve the Lord.” Take that bitter morsel and masticate it. Roll it over again and again, till you have got the very quassia and bitterness out of it. O may God make your sins as bitter as the judgment upon your sins! May the blessed Spirit lead you to the cross of Christ, for you never will yield to the cross of Christ unless the Holy Ghost constrains you. O that you may “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way”—the worst place to perish in—to perish in the way and from the way, “when his wrath is kindled but a little.” Now, I will read the text again, and if any of you feel that its ready obedience is not found in you, that its joyful conformity to God does not in any way describe you, you need not listen to the rest of the sermon, but just cover your faces, and may God help you to pray, and then, I trust, before the sermon is done, you will get an answer to your prayer. “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Lord, if I cannot say that, break my heart now with thy great hammer, and help me to yield myself up to thy will, that I may be thine now and thine eternally.
II. Now, leaving that—not forgetting it in our hearts though, for I trust we shall continue praying God to bless that short word to the Unconverted—I now come to talk to the believer about THE CULTIVATION OF A CONSTANT SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE TO THE LORD’S WILL.
My dear friends and brethren in Christ, will you please to notice in the text two or three points which I want you to attend to, and will you labour, by the help of God's Spirit, to get your spirits up to them? The first point is, notice the universality of this spirit of obedience in the text David says, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face.” He does not mention any time. Notice, “When thou saidst.” If it was early in the morning, his heart said, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek; I want thee, for I have the day before me.” If it was at midday, and the Spirit of God said, " Seek ye my face,” David’s heart said, “O Lord, I will seek thee; I want thee now that the sun is scorching.” If it was towards evening, and the voice said, “Seek ye my face,” he said, “Ah! Lord, the day is far spent; I may well seek thy face now.” And if it were in the dead of night, when he awoke, his heart was still with God, and still ready to hear the divine word. “When thou saidst, then I said; when thou commandedst, I obeyed; when thou calledst effectually, I yielded cheerfully.” Oh! what a mercy it would be if every believer's heart were in this state, so that we should not be sometimes obedient, and sometimes have our own way—sometimes respond to the divine voice, and at other times put our fingers in our ears; but to be in so sanctified a frame of mind that whenever the Master comes to us, whether at cock-crowing, or at the evening-watch, he may find us with our loins girt about, willing to go forth in his service. The text, you see, breathes the true spirit of service. It shows a mind that was constantly under divine influences, perpetually subject to the divine will. The magnetic needle always desires the pole: the Christian's heart should always desire communion with God. The rivers run into the sea—their water continually flow into the mighty ocean; so let our souls, by the stress of their new nature, continually be seeking conformity to the divine will. Oh! it is easy to say it, but it is hard to do it, when it comes to the pinch. To say, “Thy will be done," on the top of Tabor, is as easy as possible, but to say it in the gloom of Gethsemane, is so difficult, that none but God himself can enable us to say it. And yet, it may be attained: entire resignation is within reach—for all things are possible to him that believeth. Let us seek it with the fulness of intense desire.
“Jesus, spotless Lamb of God,
Thou hast bought me with Thy blood,
I would value nought beside
I am thine, and thine alone,
This I gladly, fully own;
And, in all my works and ways,
Only now would seek Thy praise.”
Next to the universality, I would draw your attention to the promptness of the spirit of obedience expressed in the text. “When thou saidst, then I said.” He did not ask questions. He did not stop to say, “Lord, when shall I do it? How shall I do it? Where shall 1 do it?” No, but “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Beware of a questioning spirit in plain matters of duty—to delay to fulfil a conviction is to abide in sin; the Lord’s command is not to be caviled at, but to be obeyed at once. We find not cavilling here, much less do we find any objection. There are no objections about himself, the work, or its difficulties, but at once, and on the spot, he acts as with the prompt movement of a soldier when commanded by his officer. The word is no sooner heard than the mind is swayed by it, when the mind is under the sweet influences of divine love. The gospel according to Mark is regarded by some students as being peculiarly the gospel of service. It is said that in the early church, the emblem for Mark was an ox, to signify service; and it is very singular, whether that be so or not, that the evangelist Mark uses the word eutheos, or “straightway,” more frequently than any of the other evangelists when he is speaking of Christ. If you will notice, Mark always says, “Straightway,” or “immediately;” as, for instance, in the very first chapter, “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: and immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. . . . And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them.” This is the very mark of the true servant— when he knows his Lord's will, he gives himself to it at once. As the centurion said, “I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it,” so should it be with us. There should be a prompt response at once to the divine will. Do you always find it so? Does not God have to speak to some of us many times, and to put a bit into our mouth, and a very sharp and cutting one too, and tug at the reins a long while? ay, and take to the whip, too, before he can get us to be as we should be? “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit an bridle;” but seek, my brethren—this is what I am driving at—seek to cultivate a spirit of prompt obedience to the Lord’s will. Take the advice of Mary, which she gave to the guests at Cana’s feast, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Whatever be the word, follow it in the strength of God at once, and without delay. There is a little story told of an infant class being examined by its teacher. The text to be thought about was, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and the teacher said to one little girl, “How is that, my dear? How do they do God's will in heaven?” One said, “They do God’s will in heaven always, sir.” “That is well, but what next?” “They all do it; they all do it cheerfully, sir.” The next one said, “Please sir, they do it directly,” and the next, “They do it without asking any questions.” Good answers certainly, and that is how we should do the Lord's will; and so make a heaven of this poor earth. O that our lagging feet were winged with sanctified alacrity, our obstinate necks made pliant with hallowed submission, our wavering hearts confirmed in constant holiness 1 This is one of the noblest works of the Spirit of holiness—may he make our nature the seat of so transcendent a miracle, so glorious a change!
Observe, that next to universality and promptness, we are bound to note the personality of David's reply. “Thou saidst, Seek ye my face;” that was the command to all thy people, but, “Thy face Lord will I seek,” was the personal reply of the waiting servant of God. Egotism is, no doubt, a very bad thing when it means self-conceit, self-seeking, self-confidence, self-laudation; but egoism in the sense of realising one's own individual responsibility is a most desirable virture. We need two words—egotism to signify that vice which admires and loves itself, and is thoroughly detestable; and then egoism, which determines that self shall be obedient, and pure, and firm, whatever others may be: this to be cultivated daily. Look at good old Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Oh! it is a grand thing to see a man forcing his way up the stream, struggling with manful vigour against the general current, swimming as live fish will do, against the stream, not floating down it as the dead fish does, but saying, “Let the world take its way; I take mine.” “I, Athanasius, against the world,” said that brave old confessor; and so must we say sometimes, “I, I will seek thy face, Lord—let others do as they will.” Let us not be so attentive to other people’s vineyards that our own vineyard is not kept. Whatever else we neglect, let our own personal godliness be the object of our sedulous care. Let our heart be sound in the statutes of Jehovah, let us see that our own garments are kept unspotted from the world, and that in our pilgrim life we keep the very centre of the road. True religion must begin at home. Unless we ourselves are in good condition, our Christian efforts cannot be healthily conducted. Depend upon it, the worm at the root of our usefulness is bred amidst the decay of our personal piety. When you and I lose power in the family, power in the church, power in the world, it is because we have lost power with God in private. The Lord give us the habit and spirit of close, consistent, careful, conscientious personal obedience
Then, too, the heartiness of David's obedience demands our attention. “My heart said,” not my lips only, but my very heart said it; my soul was stirred to its depths, and moved to its centre by the voice of God. Men who have great hearts are the men for power; they are fall of force, because their inmost nature is on fire. There have been some men in this world who have had little else to recommend them except that by which they have attracted their fellow men to yield them homage—like Napoleon Buonaparte, for instance, when he said to his soldiers at Austerlitz, “Soldiers, this battle must be a thunder-clap; we must hear no more of the foe.” And the men, filled with eagerness by his passionate energy, did his bidding, and made it such a thunder-clap lap that all Europe shook beneath the march of those men-at-arms t arms. He had the power, somehow or other, of making men yield to him, as if they were all machines, impelled by the force of his personal will. They were not dragged into battle, but rushed with enthusiasm to the fight, longing to win glory or death. Now, the voice of God should be to the Christian a voice that speaks to all his soul, wakes up his dormant faculties, and stirs the enthusiasm of his noblest nature, so that his heart says, “I will indeed seek thy face.” As the British sailor, when Nelson said to him, “Ready?” replied, “Ready, ay, ready,” and fired red-hot shot at the foe, so should our hearts respond to God, “Seek ye my face.” “Lord, blessed be thy name for telling me to do that, for thou and I are of one mind here; thou lovest me to seek thy face, and I love to seek thee; my heart responds—not my lip, not my body, dragged slavishly into the form of obedience—but my heart says, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek.’” Dear friends, do get, do hold, do live out a hearty religion. Depend upon it, that the religion which has not your heart in it, is best left alone. I scarce can recommend you to go through religious performances if you look upon them as a dull routine. Do let your souls be in the ways of God. If ever you have happy feast, let it be on the Sabbath; if ever there is a delightful walk, let it lead up to God's house if ever there is a sweet song, let it be one of the songs of Zion; if ever there is a choice, retired, happy moment, let it be the moment which you spend in your closet in communion with God. O for more heart-work k in our devotions!
Once more, cultivate the spirit of resolution in this matter. “Lord, thy face will I seek;” not “I hope I shall; I trust I may; I desire to; I sometimes think that one day I shall.” No, but “My heart said, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Men do not grow much better in this world by hoping that they will. If a man does not get so far as resolution, he may reckon that he has not started upon his journey. The Christian man resolves in his soul—
“Through floods and flames, if Jesus leads,
I’ll follow where he goes.”
And if he cannot always carry out his resolution as he would, yet often-time times his Master accepts the will for the deed. To use John Bunyan's homely metaphor, “You send your servant for a doctor, and put him on the horse: the horse is but a sorry jade, and cannot go fast; but if the man tugs at the bridle, and uses the spur, and kicks and strains aa if he would go if he could, you set the pace down as what the man would have it to be. You do not blame him for not going faster, because you clearly perceive that he would go fast if he could. So the Lord often looketh upon his servants, and regardeth them.” But what shall I say to those who would not go if they could, who do not say, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek; ” but who hope, and who trust, and so on? which means that they will give God the go-by with mere hopes and fears, and trusts, instead of the strong resolution—“Thy face, Lord, will I seek;” in the teeth of all my natural sluggishness, in the face of all my business cares, I am resolved and set on this, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Cultivate, then, a spirit of universal response to the divine word—prompt, personal, hearty, and resolved.
Before I leave this point—and then I will not detain you long with the rest—I cannot help thinking on an image which keeps starting up to my mind while I am speaking. In the usual route which everybody takes in going through Switzerland, there is a long tract of country where there are innumerable beggars and people trying in various ways to get money from the traveller; and one way which generally succeeds, is that of blowing an enormous horn just opposite to certain rocks. As soon as this horn is blown, the rocks resound on either side, repeat the note exactly, and then again, and again, and again; sometimes, perhaps, twelve or twenty times the echoes take up the notes and prolong them, producing some of the sweetest effects that ever charmed the human ear—“Linked sweetnesses long drawn out.” You want the boy to blow again; and as he blows another blast, and give intonations and notes to it, the rocks begin to sing again. Those rocks reminded me, as I stood and listened to their sweet notes, of God's people. Ah! I thought, you could not sing if it were not for the horn; you could not make any of these sweet notes if it were not for the living breath that is here; but you are so placed by God in his arrangements, that so soon as the sound is made by the living mouth, it is taken up and repeated, sweet, and sweet, and sweeter still each time. Thus should all the people of God be, so that when the Lord speaks, all the Lord's people should take up the echo, and repeat it again and again by practical obedience to the divine command. As the echo to the voice, so should your heart and mine be to the voice of God.
III. But, now, thirdly. We have spoken of the absence of this spirit, and the cultivation of this spirit, and now a word or two upon THE SPECIAL OUTLET FOR THIS SPIRIT SUGGESTED IN THE TEXT.
The outlet suggested is seeking God's face, which I shall interpret to mean meditation, and especially the private and public worship of God. Now, you who love the Lord, you are all day long hearing God say, “Seek ye my face.” When the morning light awakens you, it is God saying, “Up, my child; the light natural streams from the sun: come and seek the light spiritual; seek my face.” If you wake to abundant mercies, why, all the provisions on the table ought to say to you, “I am God’s gift to you; seek the face of the Giver;” go to him with a note of praise; be not ungrateful, and suppose that you are in want, and have to say, “What shall I eat, and what shall I drink,” while all your wants say to you, “Seek the Lord's face; he has provision, go to him.” Your abundance or your necessity may equally be a sign-post to point you on the road to God. Suppose your child comes and asks you for something: it is God teaching you to do the same—to go like a child to your heavenly Father. If you are full of joy, should not your joy be like the chariots of Amminadib, to bear you to Jesus’ feet? And if you are full of grief, should not your sorrow be as a swift ship that is blown by the winds? Should you not get nearer to God thereby? During the day, perhaps you hear of the fall of some professor: what does that say to you? “Seek God's face, that you may be held up.” Perhaps you hear a sinner swear: what does that say to you, but “Pray for that sinner”? All the sins we see other men commit, ought to be so many jogs to our memory to pray for the coming of Christ, and for the salvation of souls. In this way you may go through the world; and the very stones in the street will say to you, “Seek ye the Lord's face” If you meet a funeral, what does that say? “You will soon be dying; seek the Lord's face now.” And when the Sabbath comes, what a call is that—“Seek ye my face!” Brethren and sisters, I wish that we responded to each one of these invitations of our heavenly Father. His likeness is stamped in some of its lineaments on all his works. By the visible things of God the invisible things are to be discovered. Go forth, like Isaac, and meditate at eventide, and you will find the heavens declaring his glory, and the firmament showing forth his handiwork. The lilies of the field will tell you of one who has hidden his wisdom in the raiment which decks them more brilliantly than Solomon in all his glory. As the Master himself often retired for meditation and prayer to the mountain side and the garden's shade, that alone with his Father he might seek the face of his God, so let us leave awhile the busy scenes of life and the haunts of men, to spend a still hour in quiet meditation over the works of God's hands, and in pouring out our hearts into his ever-loving ng breast. How much we lose by not noticing a God in nature, and the presence of our Father besetting us behind and before! I would we were more in prayer. I long for it for myself—I desire it for you also. I wish we were more in praise too. Well would it be for us if the blessings of God, poured out upon us so lavishly, excited in us true gratitude at all times. Happy would that man be who responded to each touch of God's beneficent hand, like a well-made de instrument answers to the fingers of the player. If our whole life were thus vocal with praise, the music of our grateful souls would come up with acceptance before God, and we should find in our joyful spirits a continual feast; this joy of the Lord would be our strength—we should have a meat to eat which the world knoweth not of. O that our days were more filled up with what will be our heavenly occupation, namely, adoring love, grateful wonder, thankful praise. As God is so continually saying to us, “Seek ye my face,” let our spirit find vent for itself in this, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”
IV. And, now, the last thing is, WHAT WILL BE THE REWARD OF SUCH A SPIRIT?
Have you a marginal Bible with you? If so, kindly read the margin. It runs thus, “My heart said unto thee, Let my face seek thy face.” Ah! there is a new meaning there, and a blessed meaning too. Let me read it again, “My heart said unto thee, Let my face seek thy face.” I suppose that is the more literal, probably the more accurate rendering; and I gathered from that, the thought of the reward of those whose spirits yield to the will of God, that is to say, they enjoy communion with God. It is the long-lost -lost blessedness of Eden restored to us, with greater sweetness added to it. In paradise God came and talked with Adam as a man talketh with his friend. Our first parents had communion with God, which they lost by sin, but it is now more than restored to us in grace. Heaven will be the place of perfect fellowship; but we may antidate much of the bliss of the future world, and eat of the grapes of Eshcol, before ever we tread the green fields of the better land. Yes, it means lost blessings restored, and future ones realised, when we can set ourselves face to face with God, and hold blest communion with him. Now, is this the life we are leading? Many Christians contrive to live without getting into the heart of Christianity at all. In the wilderness the children of Israel dwelt round the tabernacle, each tribe marching or resting in its appointed place. Now, they were all under the protection of the cloud, and followed the guiding pillar, and enjoyed the divine blessing; but this was not enough—they might enter, and were bound to do so, the precincts of the tabernacle, and there witness the worship of God, and, bringing their sacrifice, take part also in the homage paid to their God and King. Beyond the outer court of the people, was that of the priests, and there the favoured few might go, and present the incense before God on the altar of gold, spread before him the shewbread, and light the seven-branched lamp. These enjoyed nearer fellowship with God: emphatically they were called the “servants of the Lord.” There was, however, an inner place, shut out from eye of priest and people alike, where once a year the high priest entered alone, with blood, and he of all men living, drew nigh to God who dwelt between the cherubim in the holy place. Now, we are a royal priesthood, and through the rent vail we have boldness of access to the very mercy-seat in the holiest of holies, and we ought to realise and enjoy daily our high privilege. Far be it from us to remain in the camp outside the tabernacle. It is true we may be safe there, and enjoy many mercies, but it is not living up to our blessings. Go into the court and present your offering of prayer and praise; go as a priest and enter the inner place, and stay not till you have trodden the secret place of the Most High, and lace to face with God upon the mercy-seat at, had real dealings with him himself. This is your right, and to neglect it is to despise one of the choicest blessings conferred by God on fallen, but now in Christ redeemed ones. Let your hearts ever cry:—
“Lord, let me see thy beauteous face!
It yields a heaven below;
And angels round the throne will say,
’Tis all the heaven they know.
“A glimpse—a single glimpse of thee,
Would more delight my soul
Than this vain world, with all its joys,
Could I possess the whole.”
But we find in the text another thought of blessedness. On our face is reflected the likeness of God, so that men see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven. We by communion with God may become manifestly like him, partakers of the divine nature. As men, we were made in God's likeness: we fell and lost it; but by grace we are restored. How shall I illustrate this? Why, there is Moses. Moses on the Mount for forty days sees God, and when he comes down, the result, as shown in his face, is, that his face shines. How could it be otherwise? God had been shining right into his face, and he could not but reflect that delightful glory. That is the meaning, I suppose, of the passage, “Being changed from glory to glory, as by the image of the Lord.” It is our looking upon God, producing sanctification—the light of God shining into our faces till our faces also shine with the reflected glory. “Let my face seek thy face.”
Ah! beloved, I could say some things I scarcely like to say about that text; for it looks not only as if the saints said to God, “Lord, look at me, and let me look at thee; show me thy face, and do thou look at my face; Lord, let us spend our time and our eternity in lovingly looking at each other;” but I wish the saint to understand that there is another way in which our face seeks Christ's face. It is thus expressed by the spouse, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine”—when the soul of the saint and the heart of the well-beloved fall into such visible union with each other that the conjugal kiss is given, and they come into the fullest, nearest, ripest, richest, and most celestial fellowship that can be known this side heaven.
“Like some bright dream that comes unsought,
When slumbers o'er me roll,
Thine image ever fills my thought,
And charms my ravish'd soul.”
And again, as Dr. Watts has well put it,
“The smilings of Thy face,
How amiable they are!
’Tis heaven to rest in Thine embrace,
And nowhere else but there.
“Thou art the sea of love,
Where all my pleasures roll;
The circle where my passions move,
And centre of my soul.”
May you and I often have in our hearts that panting, that longing, that sighing, that crying after fulness of fellowship with Jesus, our hearts always saying, “Lord, let my face seek thy face; let my face never be satisfied till it sees thy face; let my love never be satisfied till it is lost in the ocean of thy love; let myself never be content till self is wholly lost in the all-absorbing -absorbing love of divine Immanuel.” O so may it be! Then so shall it be, if your heart now says, in answer to God's voice, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”
I hope you have not forgotten the first point, however, and what I said about the unconverted. Let them take their portion. God grant that by getting their portion to-night, they may not get their portion in the flames of hell. Then you believers get your portion also. Remember, the Lord's portion is his people; and, on the other hand, “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I trust in him.”
The Lord bless you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.