"Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart!" 1 Samuel 16:7.
In a sense, all life is hidden. The blood courses through the veins as the
heart keeps throbbing, throbbing, day and night. You can lay your finger on
your wrist and feel the pulsings. The lungs also continue breathing,
inhaling, exhaling, without pause, from infancy's first gasp until at last
watching friends say, "He is gone!" Pulsings, breathings—yes; but have you
found the life? What is it that keeps the heart throbbing and the
lungs respiring? "Life," you say. Yes—but what is life?
Take the mind. It is very active. One man thinks,
and writes beautiful poems or charming stories. Another thinks and puts
marvelous visions on canvas, or throws great bridges over rivers, or erects
a noble cathedral. But who ever saw the process of thought? Mental
life is hidden.
Take heart life—the life you lived yesterday, with
its hopes and fears, its joys and sorrows, its pleasures and pains, its
cares and its affections, its thousand varying experiences. Does the world
know what is going on in your heart today—or any day? People see the smile
or the shadow which flits across your face—but they do not see the
emotion which produced it. Even to your closest bosom friend your life
is unrevealed, cannot be revealed. Says Keble—
"Not even the tenderest heart next to our own
Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh."
Take spiritual life. We see the effects of the
Holy Spirit's work—new dispositions, new conduct, new character; but the
divine spark of spiritual life—we cannot see as it comes down from
above. It is secret, hidden. One day you are sad, disheartened; and, taking
up your Bible, you find a sweet word of promise, a revealing of God's
love—and into your heart there comes a strange peace. One day you are in
sorrow. A friend sits down beside you, and speaks a few words of strong
comfort. You are calmed and quieted. Yet no one sees any of these processes.
They are hidden, secret.
There is an inspired word which says, "Your life is
hidden with Christ in God." The thought is wonderfully bold and strong.
Christ is the source of the Christian life. Christ is in the heaven with
God, in God, wrapped up in the very glory of divinity. Hence the Christian's
life is with Christ in God. Its source is thus in the very heart of God.
Outside an old garden wall hung a great branch covered
with purple clusters of grapes. No root was visible anywhere; and those who
saw it wondered how the vine grew, how its life was nourished, where its
roots clung. It was then discovered that the great vine from which this
branch sprung, grew inside the garden. There it had an immense root, with a
stem like the trunk of a tree. This one branch had pushed out over the wall
and hung there, bearing in the mellow autumn its clusters of luscious fruit.
Likewise—every Christian life in this world is a branch
of a great vine which grows in heaven—a branch growing outside the wall.
"Your life is hidden with Christ in God. We have heaven's life in us in this
world. The fruits which grow upon our life are heavenly fruits. Jesus spoke
of giving his own peace to his disciples. He prayed that they might have his
joy fulfilled in themselves. We read too that love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, gentleness, meekness—are fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Thus in our human experience in this world—we are drawing our life and its
support from the hidden source of life which is in the heart of God. This
assures us of its security. It is beyond the reach of earthly harm.
Herein, too, lies the secret of the quiet peace which we
find so often in Christian sufferers. In all their pain they are sustained
by some hidden strength which the world cannot understand. They are
drawing their life from a source which no earthly experience can reach or
"Oh! There are some who, while on earth they dwell,
And seem to differ little from the throng,
Already to the heavenly choir belong,
And even hear the same sweet anthem swell.
They joy, at times, with joy unspeakable,
Pouring to him they love their heartfelt song;
While to behold him face to face they long,
As the parched traveler for the cooling well.
Ask you how such from other may be known?
Mark those whose look is calm, their brow serene,
Gentle their words, love breathing in each tone,
Scattering rich blessings all around unseen.
They draw each hour—from living founts above—
The streams they pour around of peace and joy and love."
One writes of watching an old tree in the autumn, as the
leaves were touched by the frosts and fell off when the rough wind blew. As
the tree at last became bare, he saw a bird's nest on one of the branches.
Through the summer days the nest had been hidden beneath the thick
foliage—but the blasts of winter which swept away the leaves uncovered this
home and shelter of the birds. So, ofttimes, is it in the history of God's
children. In their prosperity we see not their refuge, which is
hidden and secret—hidden beneath the leaves of worldly prosperity. But when
adversity comes, taking away earthly beauty, stripping off the bright
foliage—their true and eternal refuge in God is disclosed. The storms of
earth only drive them back into God's bosom.
We say a certain person's beauty has been wasted
by sickness. One came to me whom I had not seen before for five years. A
dark tragedy had just darkened her home, and I went to try to give a little
comfort. Until that day, her face had been beautiful with all the freshness
of youth. But these five years since, had been like twenty years in her
life. The beauty was now faded; how could it have been otherwise, with the
broken heart she brought out of those terrible days? Yet a few minutes
conversation showed me that in all the wasting of physical beauty—that her
spiritual loveliness had not been marred. She had kept near the heart of
Christ in all the bitter anguish—and the joy and peace of her inner life had
not failed. Beauty of the face is only external, and is
transient. Any accident may mar it. But beauty of the soul is
spiritual and imperishable. It abides even in the destruction of the body.
There is mystery in this hidden life—which is in
every Christian. It has a strange power of recognition. When two Christians
meet, though utter strangers heretofore, there is something which reveals
them to each other. The same life pulses in their hearts. They have the same
hopes, the same joys, the same Christ, the same purpose in living, the same
heaven. The world has nothing in common with Christians—but all who love
Christ are members of one family.
The Christian's life is hidden also—in the sense that its
true and full glory is concealed in this world, and will not appear until it
enters the heavenly life. Only the bud is seen as yet; by and by the
flower will burst into rich bloom. The best of every
Christian's life remains unrevealed on the earth. We fail to realize even
our own best intentions. You did not live yesterday as you meant to live
when you went out in the morning. No artist ever puts on his
canvas—all the beauty of his mental vision. No singer ever gets into
the song he sings—all the music of his soul. No saintly Christian ever
translates into disposition and conduct—all the spiritual loveliness which
glows in his ideal. Our hands are too clumsy and unskillful to express the
best things of our mind and heart in word or act
or character. We see the good—but cannot do it, in more than a mere
fragmentary way. Yet the visions of beauty which we have in mere flashes and
glimmerings, are hints of divine revealings which are yet to be made, and of
the wondrous possibilities which lie in the hidden depths of our nature,
some day to be brought out.
The sea covers great fields of concealed splendors. Now
and then a storm stirs its depths, and washes up a few brilliant shells or
pebbles, which shine like fragments broken from heaven's walls. Yet these
few stones or shells are only specimens of millions more—even more
brilliant—which are buried in the ocean depths. Likewise—there come out here
and there, in a Christian's life, in times of special exaltation, glimpses
of something rarely beautiful—an act, a word, a self denial, a disposition,
the revealing of some noble quality or some marvelous power or measure of
love; and we say as we see it, "That is like Christ! That is a gleam of
heavenly life! That is a fragment of divinity!" But that flashing gleam of
character, that glimmering of Christ-likeness, that act which seems too pure
for earth—is only a hint of the infinite possibilities of each human soul.
Hidden in the depths of the nature, under all its faults and imperfections,
is a life which far surpasses the highest things which are reached in this
world. The love, joy, peace, unselfishness, purity, holiness, attained in
the saintliest experience of earthly Christian life—are but divine
intimations of what we shall be when the limiting conditions of earth
shall have been left behind.
There will be a time, when all this hidden life
shall be revealed. The bud shall burst into the rich flower.
The gem shall break through its rough imprisoning crust, and shine in
lustrous splendor. The dull character which here shows only gleams and
flashes of spiritual beauty—amid manifold defects, flaws, and
infirmities—shall yet show in its every feature—the beauty of Christ. The
holy thoughts, desires, longings, and the hunger after righteousness,
which here are hindered, restrained, limited, and which fail to take full
form in life and character—shall yet be wrought out in deeds as
beautiful and holy as themselves. We shall see Christ, and we shall be like
him—when we shall see him as he is.
Some day we shall slip away from things that are familiar
to our eyes and hearts here, and shall enter into what we call the other
life. Really, however, it is not another life—but only a fuller, deeper
unveiling of the life which we have been living in Christ, since he first
saved us. The mystery of the Christian's life of faith, is that it is
"hidden with Christ in God." Here we touch but the outer edge of it; in what
we call dying—we shall press farther into its blessedness. Here our
little barks move only along the shore; by and by we shall sail out into the
infinite expanse. There will be nothing to dread in the experience. We call
it death, and we shudder at its mention; but really it is life—fullness
of life. To those who watch us in departing, we shall disappear; but to us
the path will be only one of increasing brightness, as we go on until we
enter into the presence of Christ.
So will it be when we leave this world. It will not grow
dark to our eyes, as we imagine it will do, when we enter the valley of
shadows. We shall pass into fuller light, until we, too, are hidden with
Christ in God, in the glory of eternal life!