Teach Me What I Do Not See
George Mylne, 1871
"Teach me what I do not see [in regard to how I have sinned]; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more!" Job 34:32
My sorrowing friend, observe, I beg you, the words that form the heading of this chapter. They were spoken on occasion of a chastening from the Lord (Job 34:30-32). They are suited to all afflicted ones. In your bereavement, are they not suitable to You? If a friend touches you in the street, you turn instinctively and say, "What do you want?" Now, the Lord has touched you, laid His hand upon you, and is there not some purpose in His touch? Does He not intend to teach you something that you know not, or to impress some lesson learned imperfectly? Turn to Him who chastens you. Ask Him to teach you what you know not. Ask Him to give you a mind to apprehend, a heart to receive what He teaches you.
Have you "the hearing ear and seeing eye"? "The Lord has made even both of them" (Proverbs 20:12). Therefore from Him we seek them, and with the Psalmist say, "Lead me in Your truth, and teach me — on You I wait all the day" (Psalm 25:5). Then bear with me while I question you a little. Think me not rude in my inquiries. I make them because I wish you well. Besides, all awkwardness is spared you, for, after all, you answer to yourself and not to me, and thus become your own inquisitor.
I ask you, then: Do you know your native sin — how deeply it is ingrained in you — how it has poisoned the source of innocency, its fatal influences flowing in your veins with deadly circulation? I ask you if you know it, for "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). And though the fact is clear — unless you are enlightened from above, you cannot see it. I met with one who knew it not. So blind was she that she denied her sinfulness altogether! She would not believe that she had broken the least of God's commandments. Stoutly, yet quietly, she repelled the charge against her innocence. Well, what was I to do? I said, "My friend, we differ. Who is to decide the matter? Clearly none but God. He knows how matters stand better than you or I. Ask Him, and He will show you. Tell Him of our conversation. Say to Him, 'O God, am I a sinner, or am I not?' Ask it in sincerity, and He will surely make it known."
On my next visit I inquired, "And now, what do you think of yourself, my friend?" "Oh, sir, I find that I am not so good as I have thought myself to be." "What!" I replied, "have you found out that you are a sinner?" "Yes, sir, and a great one too." "How did you come to this knowledge?" I inquired. "Oh, sir, I asked God to make it plain, and He has done so of a truth. I am indeed a sinner." She was a woman meek by nature — singularly meek. She said she had never been out of temper in her life, and I believed her, she was so very placid, and outwardly, I doubt not, in all things well behaved. Yet she found, in spite of this, that in many things she had sinned, even as we all (James 3:2). Her case I mention, that you may follow her example (whether your case quite resembles hers or not), and simply ask the Lord to show you your true condition.
If you allow that you are a sinner, I would ask another question. Can you say, "I am chief of sinners!" The great apostle said it of himself (1 Timothy 1:15) — can You? You may reply, "How can I think so? Are there not others worse, much worse than I — men who have disgraced themselves before God and man, as I have never done?" So used I to reason of myself, but God has taught me to see it otherwise. Do you ask me how?
He led me thus to consider it: "Is there a moment since my birth that I have done my perfect duty either to God or man?" "Not one!" I was compelled to own. Then said I to myself, "Can there be a greater sinner than one who has been imperfect, one who has been a sinner, every moment of his life?" And when I thought how grace and Scripture knowledge had enhanced my sin, I found it easy then to say (and feel it too), "I am the chief of sinners!"
What do you think, reader? If you went to ask a servant's character, and you were told, "He does nothing thoroughly — nothing as I tell him," would you think it a good character? Would you engage him as your servant? And what has God to say of you and I? Could He give us a better character? Could He call us other than "unprofitable servants"? Could He say that we had done "all our duty to do"? (Luke 17:10). Then tell me, reader, can there be greater sinners than you or I — and by our own confession?
The reason of this very chastening, this sore bereavement, may be that you should learn to see it thus; and, touching this very matter, that you should say, "That which I see not — teach me!"
You have sustained a bitter loss. But if thereby you gain the knowledge of yourself, your gain will far exceed your loss, and then shall you discern its only consolation.
Let me ask you another question, closely connected with the former one — Do You see the Savior in His proper light? Have you learned to see Him as He is? You say, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe that He came into the world to save sinners. I believe His death upon the Cross. I own the power of His blood to cleanse from sin. I believe that, as He died, so He rose again, ascended into Heaven, and that He will come again to judge the world. What more do you require?"
If this is your belief — then your Creed is right. But let me ask you, is this head knowledge only, or does it affect the heart? Have you acted on your creed? The Scripture says, "With the heart man believes unto righteousness" (Romans 10:10). With the heart we sorrow — with the heart we rejoice — and with the heart we feel. Apply this to your profession. Is your heart engaged in it? Does your repentance tell of heart-work? Are you really sorry for your sins? Have they ever cost you a moment's sleep, a moment's pain? Are you anxious about your soul — so anxious, that nothing will satisfy you but to have your sin put away? Is there heart work in your faith? Can nothing please you but to have Jesus for your own? Is your heart melted when you think of Him, when you consider His love in dying for you? Are you accustomed to say, "Give me Jesus — or I die! Oh, give me Jesus — or I perish in my sins!" Now, this is heart work, and this you need to prove yourself in earnest and really in the way.
Reader, have you closed with Jesus as your Savior from sin? Have you laid hold upon Him — determined not to let Him go until He pronounces you clean? (Matthew 8:2). What does your creed matter, except you see Him thus? To see Him merely in His doctrine, in the externals of belief — is much the same as not seeing Him at all. You require to see His loveliness — the beauty of His person, as the sinner's friend. It is to see Him as the true Physician, to seek His remedies, and hang upon His power to heal. It is to know Him personally, to hold communion with Him, to lay before Him all that concerns your soul. Perhaps, He took your friend that you might know Him thus — that you might say, "Lord, why did you touch me? Teach me what I do not see!"
But, reader, you may have learned thus to see Jesus long ago. If so, you feel your need to see Him more and more, to discern His loveliness more clearly, to drink more deeply of the river of His pleasures, to have a growing sense of all your spiritual privileges, of all you have in Him.
Eternity will not suffice to learn His glory. Much more do we require here below to make fresh discoveries of our glorious Friend. And thus your praises will abound, in this bereavement, that He has thought you worthy to be chastened, worthy to receive a fresh disclosure of His beauty. The looking-glass of faith, the telescope of heavenly perceptions, becomes obscured, dimmed by the dusty influence of earthly things, the tendency of daily life to depress experience and hurt the soul. And thus you set your seal to this affliction, and thank God for His faithful hand.
And if you know what objects hitherto have hid Him from your view, the more will you be grateful for His kind chastening, which sweeps the obstacles away. And so, with a growing sense of your necessities, and an ever-opening aspect of His loveliness — how much you have still to learn — even now will you meekly say, "That Which I See Not, Teach You Me." But, beside these main inquiries, there are other questions to be raised, fresh objects to be discerned, ever recurring need of chastening, new occasions to exclaim, "Teach me what I do not see!"
How many lessons have we still to learn, even those among us the most advanced in light and knowledge! Were our days on earth ten thousand, or twice ten thousand years — still learners we would be, still requiring to sit at the feet of Jesus to learn fresh lessons day by day.
How imperfect, at the best, our knowledge of the truth! What a slight perception of our duties! What a shallow view of our shortcomings! The right estimate of our own character, how dim! How many corners of our hearts unventilated! How many hiding places of sin left undisturbed! How many spots of darkness!
And thus, what a scope is opened for inquiry, what a field for close investigation, when we are chastened by the Lord! For whenever we say, "Teach me what I do not see!" we must take heed that earnest search attends the prayer. "Who can understand his errors?" the Psalmist says; and he adds the prayer, "Cleanse me from secret (that is, unconscious) faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them have no dominion over me" (Psalm 19:12, 13). If we make this our prayer, herein we do well.
But what says the Lord to such as utter it? "Catch the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes" (Canticles 2:15). Thus every one is set to watch his portion of the vineyard for the Lord — with his own hand to catch the foxes, and destroy the vermin which infest it. In other words, to keep his heart (Proverbs 4:23), to investigate its secret places, to read his own character, to discern his faults, to discover his shortcomings, and spare them not.
Grace was never meant to render men automatons, to paralyze exertion, and, because strength proceeds from God, that we should do nothing ourselves. Quite the reverse. He who does most himself through faith and grace — shall receive the most of God (Philippians 2:12, 13); and he who sifts his motives most inquiringly — shall receive the plainest revelation of what requires to be corrected and overcome.
Do not nurse your sorrow, then, my mourning friend. I know it disinclines you to make an effort. You gladly would slumber on in visions of the past, and dreaming aspects of your present pain. Awake, I beg you, to your duty — and leave it not uncertain what lesson He would have you to learn. Survey your conduct in the family, whether you are there "as the light of the morning when the sun arises, even a morning without clouds " (2 Sam. 23:4). Examine well your principles, how you conduct the affairs of life — remembering the divine Eye which is upon you — the divine Ear which hears all you say.
Look and see — have you kept your heart with diligence — have you brought into captivity every thought unto the obedience of Christ? Have you confessed the Lord in word and deed, as not ashamed to own His name? Have you been diligent in study of the Word, and prayer, according to your opportunities? In how many things may you require to say, "Teach me what I do not see!" How solemn, then, the visitation that suggests the word! What deep responsibility bereavement brings with it! What business to be transacted between us and ourselves — between us and the Lord!
Mourner, I will not trouble you with further arguments or multiplied appeals. I leave you to the Lord. I beg you to receive my words with due allowance for infirmity, and counsel imperfectly conveyed. With all my heart I wish you well. In your bereavement, may you be sanctified, strengthened, and consoled! If I should never see you in the flesh, may God grant that we may meet in Heaven! May you and I have reason to be thankful for our troubles, even for sore bereavements, and for every painful visitation which makes us say, "Teach me what I do not see [in regard to how I have sinned]; if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more!" Job 34:32.