Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the
blood of Jesus.
Among the famous sayings of the Church fathers none is better know than
Augustine's `Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are
restless till they find rest in Thee.'
The great saint states here in few words the origin and interior history
of the human race. God made us for Himself: that is the only explanation
that satisfies the heart of a thinking man, whatever his wild reason may
say. Should faulty education and perverse reasoning lead a man to
conclude otherwise, there is little that any Christian can do for him.
For such a man I have no message. My appeal is addressed to those who
have been previously taught in secret by the wisdom of God; I speak to
thirsty hearts whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God
within them,and such as they need no reasoned proof. Their restless
hearts furnish all the proof they need.
God formed us for Himself. The shorter catechism, `Agreed upon by the
Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminister,' as the old New-England
Primer has it, asks the ancient questions what and why and answers them
in one short sentence hardly matched in any uninspired work. `Question:
What is the chief End of Man? Answer: Man's chief End is to glorify God
and enjoy Him forever.' With this agree the four and twenty elders who
fall on their faces to worship Him that liveth for ever and ever,
saying, `Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power:
for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were
created.' (Rev 4:11)
God formed us for His pleasure, and so formed us that we as well as He
can in divine communion enjoy the sweet and mysterious mingling of
kindred personalities. He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw
our life from His smile. But we have been guilty of that `foul revolt'
of which Milton speaks when describing the rebellion of Satan and his
hosts. We have broken with God. We have ceased to obey Him or love Him
and in guilt and fear have fled as far as possible from His Presence.
Yet who can flee from His Presence when the heaven of heavens cannot
contain Him? when as the wisdom of Solomon testifies, `the Spirit of the
Lord filleth the world'? The omnipresence of the Lord is one thing, and
is a solemn fact necessary to His perfection; the manifest Presence is
another thing altogether, and from that Presence we have fled, like
Adam, to hide among the trees of the garden, or like Peter to shrink
away crying, `Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.' So the
life of man upon the earth is a life away from the Presence, wrenched
loose from that `blissful center' which is our right and proper dwelling
place, our first state which we kept not, the loss of which is the cause
of our unceasing restlessness.
The whole work of God in redemption is to undo the tragic effects of
that foul revolt, and to bring us back again into right and eternal
relationship with Himself.This required that our sins be disposed of
satisfactorily, that a full reconciliation be effected and the way
opened for us to return again into conscious communion with God and to
live again in the Presence as before. Then by His prevenient working
within us He moves us to return. This first comes to our notice when our
restless hearts feel a yearning for the Presence of God and we say
within ourselves, `I will arise and go to my Father.' That is the first
step, and as the Chinese sage Lao-tze has said, `The journey of a
thousand miles begins with a first step.'
The interior journey of the soul from the wilds of sin into the enjoyed
Presence of God is beautifully illustrated in the Old Testament
tabernacle. The returning sinner first entered the outer court where he
offered a blood sacrifice on the brazen altar and washed himself in the
laver that stood near it. Then through a veil he passed into the holy
place where no natural light could come, but the golden candlestick
which spoke of Jesus the Light of the World threw its soft glow over
all. There also was the shew bread to tell of Jesus, the Bread of Life,
and the altar of incense, a figure of unceasing prayer.
Though the worshipper had enjoyed so much, still he had not yet entered
the Presence of God. Another veil separated from the Holy of Holies
where above the mercy seat dwelt the very God Himself in awful and
glorious manifestation. While the tabernacle stood, only the high priest
could enter there, and that but once a year, with blood which he offered
for his sins and the sins of the people. It was this last veil which was
rent when our Lord gave up the ghost on Calvary, and the sacred writer
explains that this rending of the veil opened the way for every
worshipper in the world to come by the new and living way straight into
the divine Presence.
Everything in the New Testament accords with this Old Testament picture.
Ransomed men need no longer pause in fear to enter the Holy of Holies.
God wills that we should push on into His Presence and live our whole
life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is
more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment
of every day. This Flame of the Presence was the beating heart of the
Levitical order. Without it all the appointments of the tabernacle were
characters of some unknown language; they had no meaning for Israel or
for us. The greatest fact of the tabernacle was that Jehovah was there;
a Presence was waiting within the veil. Similarly the Presence of God is
the central fact of Christianity. At the heart of the Christian message
is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious
awareness of His Presence. That type of Christianity which happens now
to be the vogue knows this Presence only in theory. It fails to stress
the Christian's privilege of present realization.
According to its teachings we are in the Presence of God positionally,
and nothing is said about the need to experience that Presence actually.
The fiery urge that drove men like McCheyne is wholly missing. And the
present generation of Christians measures itself by this imperfect rule.
Ignoble contentment takes the place of burning zeal. We are satisfied to
rest in our JUDICIAL possessions and for the most part we bother
ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience.
Who is this within the veil who dwells in fiery manifestations? It is
none other than God Himself, `One God the Father Almighty, Maker of
heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible,' and `One
Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God; begotten of His Father
before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God;
begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father,' and `the
Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father
and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and
glorified.' Yet this holy Trinity is One God, for `we worship one God in
Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor
dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another
of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the
Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal
and the majesty co- eternal.' So in part run the ancient creeds, and so
the inspired Word declares. Behind the veil is God, that God after Whom
the world, with strange inconsistency, has felt, `if haply they might
find Him.' He has discovered Himself to some extent in nature, but more
perfectly in the Incarnation; now He waits to show Himself in ravishing
fullness to the humble of soul and the pure in heart.
The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church
is famishing for want of His Presence. The instant cure of most of our
religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience,
to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us. This
would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be
enlarged. This would burn away the impurities from our lives as the bugs
and fungi were burned away by the fire that dwelt in the bush.
What a broad world to roam in, what a sea to swim in is this God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is eternal, which means that He
antedates time and is wholly independent of it. Time began in Him and
will end in Him. To it He pays no tribute and from it He suffers no
He is immutable, which means that He has never changed and can never
change in any smallest measure. To change He would need to go from
better to worse or from worse to better. He cannot do either, for being
perfect He cannot become more perfect, and if He were to become less
perfect He would be less than God.
He is omniscient, which means that He knows in one free and effortless
act all matter, all spirit, all relationships, all events. He has no
past and He has no future. He is, and none of the limiting and
qualifying terms used of creatures can apply to Him.
love and mercy and rightousness are His, and holiness so ineffable that
no comparisons or figures will avail to express it. Only fire can give
even a remote conception of it. In fire He appeared at the burning bush;
in the pillar of fire He dwelt through all the long wilderness journey.
The fire that glowed between the wings of the cherubim int he holy place
was called the `shekinah,' the Presence, through the years of Israel's
glory, and when the Old had given place to the New, He came at Pentecost
as a fiery flame and rested upon each disciple.
Spinoza wrote of the intellectual love of God, and he had a measure of
truth there; but the highest love of God is not intellectual, it is
spiritual. God is spirit and only the spirit of man can know Him really.
In the deep spirit of a man the fire must glow or his love is not the
true love of God. The great of the Kingdom have been those who loved God
more than others did. We all know who they have been and gladly pay
tribute to the depths and sincerity of their devotion. We have but to
pause for a moment and their names come trooping past us smelling of
myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces.
Fredrick Faber was one whose soul panted after God as the roe pants
after the water brook, and the measure in which God revealed Himself to
his seeking heart set the good man's whole life afire with a burning
adoration rivaling that of the seraphim before the throne. His love for
God extended to the three Persons of the Godhead equally, yet he seemed
to feel for each One a special kind of love reserved for Him alone. Of
God the Father he sings:
Only to sit and think of God,
Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breathe the Name;
Earth has no higher bliss.
Father of Jesus, love's reward!
What rapture will it be,
Prostrate before Thy throne to lie,
And gaze and gaze on Thee!
His love for the Person of Christ was so intense that it threatened to
consume him; it burned within him as a sweet and holy madness and flowed
from his lips like molten gold. In one of his sermons he says, `Wherever
we turn in the church of God, there is Jesus. He is the beginning,
middle and end of everything to us. ...There is nothing good, nothing
holy, nothing beautiful, nothing joyous which He is not to His servants.
No one need be poor, because, if he chooses, he can have Jesus for his
own property and possession. No one need be downcast, for Jesus is the
joy of heaven, and it is His joy to enter into sorrowful hearts. We can
exaggerate about many things; but we can never exaggerate our obligation
to Jesus, or the compassionate abundance of the love of Jesus to us. All
our lives long we might talk of Jesus, and yet we should never come to
an end of the sweet things that might be said of Him. Eternity will not
be long enough to learn all He is, or to praise Him for all He has done,
but then, that matters not; for we shall be always with Him, and we
desire nothing more.'
And addressing our Lord directly he says to Him:
I love Thee so, I know not how
My transports to control;
Thy love is like a burning
fire Within my very soul.
Faber's blazing love extended also to the Holy Spirit. Not only in his
theology did he acknowledge His deity and full equality with the Father
and the Son, but he celebrated it constantly in his songs and in his
prayers. He literally pressed his forehead to the ground in his eager
fervid worship of the Third Person of the Godhead. In one of his great
hymns to the Holy Spirit he sums up his burning devotion thus:
O Spirit, beautiful and dread!
My heart is fit to break
With love of all Thy tenderness
For us poor sinners' sake.
I have risked the tedium of quotation that I might show by pointed
example what I have set out to say, viz., that God is so vastly
wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without
anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of
our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is. Such worship as
Faber knew (and he is but one of a great company which no man can
number) can never come from a mere doctrinal knowledge of God.
Hearts that are `fit to break' with love for the Godhead are those who
have been in the Presence and have looked with opened eye upon the
majesty of Deity. Men of the breaking hearts had a quality about them
not known or understood by common men. They habitually spoke with
spiritual authority. They had been in the Presence of God and they
reported what they saw there. They were prophets, not scribes, for the
scribe tells us what he has read, and the prophet tells us what he has
The distinction is not an imaginary one. Between the scribe who has read
and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea.
We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are
they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the
Church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the
veil and has gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God. And yet,
thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy
Presence, is a privilege open to every child of God.
With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus' flesh, with nothing on
God's side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? Why do
we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and
never enter at all to look upon God? We hear the Bridegroom say, `Let me
see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice and
thy countenance is comely.' (Song of Sol 2:14) We sense that the call is
for us, but still we fail to draw near, and the years pass and we grow
old and tired in the outer courts of the tabernacle. What doth hinder
The answer usually given, simply that we are `cold,' will not explain
all the facts. There is something more serious than coldness of heart,
something that may be back of that coldness and be the cause of its
existence. What is it? What but the presence of a veil in out hearts? a
veil not taken away as the first veil was, but which remains there still
shutting out the light and hiding the face of God from us. It is the
veil of our fleshly fallen nature living on, unjudged within us,
uncrucified and unrepudiated. It is the close- woven veil of the
self-life which we have never truly acknowledged, of which we have been
secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we have never brought to
the judgment of the cross. It is not too mysterious, this opaque veil,
nor is it hard to identify. We have but to look in our own hearts and we
shall see it there, sewn and patched and repaired it may be, but there
nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our
This veil is not a beautiful thing and it is not a thing about which we
commonly care to talk, but I am addressing the thirsting souls who are
determined to follow God, and I know they will not turn back because the
way leads temporarily through the blackened hills. The urge of God
within them will assure their continuing the pursuit. They will face the
facts however unpleasant and endure the cross for the joy set before
them. So I am bold to mane the threads out of which this inner veil is
woven. It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the hyphenated
sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do, they are
something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power.
To be specific, the self-sins are these: self-righteousness, self-pity,
self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host
of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a
part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is
focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins, egotism,
exhibitionism, self-promotion, are strangely tolerated in Christian
leaders even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in
evidence as actually, form any people, to become identified with the
gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear
these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the
Church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is
currently so common as to excite little notice.
One should suppose that proper instruction in the doctrines of man's
depravity and the necessity for justification through the righteousness
of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self-sins; but it
does not work out that way. Self can live unrebuked at the very altar.
It can watch the bleeding Victim die and not be in the least affected by
what it sees. It can fight for the faith of the Reformers and preach
eloquently the creed of salvation by grace, and gain strength by its
efforts. To tell all the truth, it seems actually to feed upon orthodoxy
and is more at home in a Bible Conference than in a tavern. Our very
state of longing after God may afford it an excellent condition under
which to thrive and grow.
Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be
removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. As well
try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God
in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its
deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for
judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some
measure like that through which our Saviour passed when He suffered
under Pontius Pilate.
Let us remember: when we talk of the rending of the veil we are speaking
in a figure, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in
actuality there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience that
veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the sentient,
quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to
touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us
and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and
death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear
and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply
painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the
cross would do to every man to set him free.
Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life in hope ourselves to rend
the veil. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust.
We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it
crucified. But we must be careful to distinguish lazy `acceptance' from
the real work of God. We must insist upon the work being done. We dare
not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixion. That is to
imitate Saul and spare the best of the sheep and the oxen.
Insist that the work be done in very truth and it will be done. The
cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep
its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is
finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory
and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away
and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the Presence of the
living God. Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark
are the ways of man. Show us how to die, that we may rise again to
newness of life. Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as
Thou didst rend the veil of the Temple. We would draw near in full
assurance of faith. We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on
this earth so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy
heaven to dwell with Thee there. In Jesus' name, Amen.