THE MINISTRY OF HOME
Expository Lectures on Divine Truth"
by Octavius Winslow
"Before I was aware, my soul became like the chariots of
Amminadab." Song of Solomon 6:12
It is not one of the least conclusive evidences of the
truth of the Bible, that a Book written centuries ago should accurately
delineate all the delicate lights and shadows of Christian experience,
mental and spiritual, through which God's people pass in all future times.
So that in reading the recorded experience of the Church when David, and
Solomon, and Job, and Nehemiah flourished, we read, as it were, our own at
the present moment. The only logical deduction we can draw from it is- that,
the same Divine Spirit has been the Teacher of the saints in every age, and
that the hand that recorded their spiritual history upon the sacred page,
was guided by an Intelligence higher and Diviner than its own.
The passage under consideration, presents a confirmation of this truth.
It illustrates a singular but precious chapter of experimental religion- the
surprisals of grace, or, those sovereign, manifestations and dealings of the
Lord, which so often take His saints by a sudden and unexpected surprise.
"Before I was aware, my soul became like the chariots of Amminadab." Many of
the Lord's people can set their seals to the truth of this gracious
The first thing which arrests our attention, is, the surprise- "Before I
was aware." Our whole life may in truth be said to be a surprise. To God
alone it is known from the end to the beginning. To Him who has
predestinated all events; mapped and arranged our entire history; who in the
well ordered covenant of grace has anticipated the minutest incident of our
life, it is no surprise. Great truth! Mighty thought! "The council of the
Lord that shall stand, and His thoughts to all generations." Amid the
mysteries and perplexities, the dark and bewildering events of His
providence in your personal experience, my reader, let this assurance be as
fragrant oil upon the gloomy, broken waters of your pathway- that, all is
known to our God, for all is wisely, lovingly, and righteously ordained and
overruled by Him.
But to us, all is surprise. What individual can forecast the coming
events of his history? Who can predict with foresight and accuracy, what may
hang upon the next breath he draws, or follow upon the next step he takes?
God has wisely and benevolently veiled all our future, that we might learn
that we are not masters of our position, but are dependent each moment upon
Him. Happy life is this to the child of God, because it is a life of
reliance upon a Father who loves him. He is not afraid of evil tidings, for
his heart trusts in the Lord.
Thus, in, a sense, our whole life is a surprise. Events transpire in our
history, revolutions occur in our thoughts and feelings, of which no
foreshadowings cross our path, and we are "very amazed," and are made to
"drink the cup of astonishment." O how should this fact teach us to walk
humbly, watchfully, and prayerfully! How should it check in us all worldly
aspirings, all curious peering into our future, and keep us living by the
day, by the hour, yes, by the moment, upon out covenant God, accepting in
cheerful acquiescence and meek submission, every lesson of His love.
But it is less of the surprisals of providence than of grace, that we at
present would speak. Conversion is often a gracious surprise. In how many
cases is it scarcely less so than it was with Saul of Tarsus. With him it
may have been a more instantaneous, but not a more sudden and unexpected
event. The Lord is found by those that sought Him not. When we were the
least anticipating so great a change; when, perhaps, we were at the time
apparently at the farthest remove from converting grace- surrounded by
circumstances, and in a state of mind the most unlikely to lead to a result
so blessed, the Lord in the sovereignty of His grace, and as if to
demonstrate the truth that conversion is not of man but of God, has
surprised us with the effectual call of the Spirit, and we responded- "Lord,
what will You have me to do?"
O sweet surprise! O blissful moment! O never to be forgotten hour, when
we heard the call of Jesus, before we were aware found ourselves weeping in
penitence at His feet- all our rebellion gone, all our hatred annihilated,
our weapons of hostility against God and Christ and the Gospel grounded
before the all conquering power of the cross- grace, free and sovereign
grace, triumphant! What a precious surprise, when Jesus drew near, and in
all the sweet benignity of His favor, and in all the winning power of His
love, spoke words of pardon and of peace to our sin distressed soul. When He
revealed Himself to us as willing to receive and able to save us just as we
were, and assured us that He was ours, and that we were His. What a gracious
surprise was this!
Was it not so to Zaccheus, when he climbed the sycamore tree? And to
Matthew, as he sat at the receipt of custom? And to Nathaniel, as he prayed
beneath the fig tree? And to the malefactor, hanging upon the cross? O yes
grace, Divine and sovereign grace, delights to surprise its objects, and to
call them "before they are aware," with that effectual call that triumphs
over all opposition, overcomes all impediment, leads them captive at its
sovereign will, and demonstrates the truth that salvation is of the Lord.
"That was a time of wondrous love,
When Christ my Lord was passing by;
He felt His tender pity move,
And brought His great salvation near.
"Guilty and self-condemned, I stood,
Nor thought His mercy was so near;
When He my stubborn heart subdued,
And planted all His graces there.
"When on the verge of endless pain,
He gently whispered- 'I am thine;'
I lost my fears and dropped my chain,
And felt a transport all Divine."
Those, too, are gracious surprisals, when the Lord draws near, and
"before we are aware " sweetly manifests Himself to our soul. It is like an
unexpected visit from a loved and absent friend. The very surprise lends to
it a peculiar sweetness and charm; and we exclaim, with the wondering
astonishment of the disciples of old- "Lord, how is it that You will
manifest Yourself unto us?" Are we sensible, beloved, of these gracious
visits? Do they form a large proportion of our Christian experience? Let us
not settle down upon our lees satisfied without these gracious, sensible
discoveries of Jesus to our souls.
Many religious professors are content to experience them very seldom;
while yet others are content to be without them altogether. He has promised
that, in union with His Father, He will come and manifest Himself to His
people. Do we honestly expect Him to fulfil this promise, and to fulfil it
in our personal experience? Do we seek it in earnest prayer, as evidencing
the experimental nature of our religion? Do we know what it is to have the
love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit?
How often, too, are our emancipations from trouble, and our deliverances
out of soul-distress and mental depressions, a secret and gracious surprise
of Jesus. "Before we are aware," some divine and precious promise is brought
home with the power of the Spirit to our hearts; or, a word fitly spoken by
a minister of the Gospel, or by a saint of God, has, in a moment, dissolved
the dark cloud into sunshine, unclasped the heavy burden from the mind, and
the bound and fettered spirit is free. The Lord will ordain deliverances for
Jacob, and He knows when to time their coming.
It is a sweet thought for the righteous when in their trials, that God is
acquainted with their existence- is thoughtfully cognizant of their
emergency; and when they can bear no more- when the last feather is about to
break the back, and the last drop overflows the cup- when the barrel of meal
and the cruise of oil are just come to the end- that His providence appears,
and surprises them with a timely and effectual aid. Watch God in every
thing, my reader. Overlook Him not in the small occurrences of life. See His
love, wisdom, and control in the minor as in the major events of your daily
history. Who then can harm you? If God is for you, who can be against you?
Stand still and see His salvation from all your enemies. "My heart is fixed,
O God, my- heart is fixed."
What additional worth will attach to the Divine interposition, how much
sweeter will be the promise, how much more glorious will be the Divine
faithfulness, how increasingly precious the loving kindness of the Lord,
when the devout and believing mind is enabled to say- "This is the finger of
God! This is a surprise of my Father's love! Before I was aware, from a
source and in a way which I could never have conceived, my God has come to
"Ill tidings never can surprise
His heart, that fixed on God relies,
Though waves and tempests roar around;
Safe on the Rock he sits, and sees
The shipwreck of his enemies,
And all their hope and glory drowned."
And now what are those "chariots" which seem to form an essential part of
these gracious surprisals, these opportune deliverances, of which the saints
are often the favored subjects? "Before I was aware, my soul became like the
chariots of Amminadab." These " chariots " constitute a remarkable symbol in
the Christian's experience. They are figurative of the means by which the
soul is brought near to God, and God near to the soul.
For example, PRAYER is one of the most essential and costly "chariots" of
the believer. It advances the soul in grace; it elevates, and brings us near
to God. When has the Christian not use for this Divine chariot? The Apostle
speaks of our coming to the mercy seat "in every time of need." When, in our
experience, is it not a time of need? Allow me, then, to remind you how
close and accessible is the chariot of prayer. There are moments when your
mind is perplexed with anxious thought- when your spirit is bowed with
deep-seated grief- when your heart is filled with forebodings of coming
trouble, domestic care, professional anxiety, commercial embarrassment- or,
the more spiritual exercises of the soul seem to prostrate you in the dust.
Behold, the chariot of prayer at your side! It waits to bring you near to
God. Arise, and give yourself to prayer, so shall you soar above all
external circumstance, into a region whose brightness shall be unshaded, and
whose serenity shall be unruffled by a single vapor, earth-born sorrow,
anxiety, or trouble. Hesitate not to get into this "chariot." Deem not your
trouble too great, or you yourself too unworthy. Nothing is too hard for
God; with Him all things are possible. Giving yourself to prayer in the name
of Jesus- pleading, not your righteousness, but His- not your merits and
deservings, but the Savior's worth and worthiness- you may, with a firm and
bold foot, step into this divine chariot, and in a moment it will lift you
into the presence of God.
FAITH is a marvellous "chariot" of the soul, by which it mounts
heavenward. The blessings flowing from simple faith in God are many and
precious. "If you believe, you shall eat of the fruit of the land." "I had
fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land
of the living." Faith has a wondrous power to uplift the soul, "couching
down," like Issachar, "between two burdens"- the burden of dark providence,
and the burden of sinful unbelief. "Have faith in God." Use this "chariot"
provided by Christ Himself, for all our burdens.
Here is the grand secret of being delivered from the pressure of a heavy
heart "They looked unto Him, and were lightened." Cruel unbelief that
dishonors God, and robs us! Wicked doubt that makes God a liar, and us
atheists! But "precious faith," under sin's conviction, looks to Jesus and
is saved: trusts God's veracity, power, and love, and so brings comfort to
the soul, and glory to God. "Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to
O be often in this "chariot." "Before you are aware," it will raise you
above the loftiest mountain of difficulty and the darkest cloud of woe. It
will anchor the soul; tempest-tossed as from billow to billow of doubt and
fear-upon God's faithfulness, and the changeless love of Jesus--keeping it
in perfect peace, stayed upon God.
LOVE is one of the choicest chariots of the Christian. "The love of
Christ constrains us;" that is, impels us, presses us on, bears us forward
and upward, by its irresistible and all-commanding influence. Love to Christ
is the great exciting motive in the obedience, labor, and suffering of the
believer. When love is in the ascendant, the wheels of obedience will run
freely, the Cross will be sweet, and self-denial pleasant. It will sweetly
soothe the soul in suffering- not by the removal of all sense of pain, but
by overcovering it with a sense of love. It will so robe the dankest
providences, that you shall see nothing but itself nothing but love.
How kind, then, and condescending of our Lord, to send this lovely
chariot, when we need so much the Divine power of a heavenly affection to
overcome our slothfulness, expel our selfishness, raise us to loftiness of
thought, and to incite us to noble deeds for man, for God, and for Christ.
Celestial are the flights that the believing soul takes in the chariot of
love. Heaven and earth seem to embrace each other.
Heaven is love- the source and home of love. And when the love of God
makes its advent to the soul, it assimilates it to heaven by assimilating it
with love. Thus when the Holy Spirit brings down this Divine affection, and
makes a place for it in our sin-loving, creature-idolizing, earth-clinging
hearts, we are conscious of the rapture of love, and before we are aware,
our soul becomes like the chariot of Amminadab.
MEDITATION is a powerful promoter of this gracious and heavenly
experience of the believing soul. "While I was musing the fire burned."
Thus, while I was retracing all the way the Lord had led me- while I was
meditating upon the fulness and preciousness of His Word- and while I was
musing upon the great love with which He had loved me, the fire in my soul
was enkindled; my lips were unsealed, and I spoke with my tongue. There are
few more powerful aids to growth in grace, to progress in sanctification of
heart, and humbleness of mind, than devout meditation. Once in this chariot,
and before we are aware, we are caught up as to the third heaven, and lose
ourselves in God. "Isaac went out to meditate in the field at evening." "I
meditate on You in the night-watches." Cultivate, my reader, this holy and
useful habit. In a world of incessant action, and in an age of restless
excitement, we have great need to imitate these holy examples, and to retire
to the "calm retreat, the silent shade," and there abandon ourselves to
devout meditation upon Divine, heavenly, and eternal things.
But we wait the solemn approach of the last chariot, and the final
surprise- our departure out of this life to go unto the Father. The Lord
will, before long, send for us the chariot of death, and it may be in a
place and at a time that will fill the soul with solemn and sweet surprise.
This chariot, like Solomon's royal equipage, is "paved with love." There is
nothing but love in the departure of the Lord's people. "Precious in the
sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." In love He takes them from
us: in love He translates them to Himself: and in love to them He translates
them to the eternal home of love, into which He most lovingly welcomes them-
taken from the evil that now is, and from the evil that is to come.
Often does this heaven descending chariot appear at a time when the
saints are not looking for it, and at an hour when they are not aware. It,
perhaps, finds him with harness and armor on, with active brain, and willing
hands, and loving heart, all engaged in the Master's work: when lo! Before
he is aware, his soul is made like the chariot of Amminadab.
O, the wondering surprise! O, the overpowering amazement! O, the
unspeakable joy of the soul when it finds itself in heaven! It saw not
death, suffered no pang, felt no fear, experienced no dread, was not
conscious even of dying; but, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, was
in glory- mingling with the "glorious company of the Apostles," with the
"noble army of martyrs," with an innumerable company of angels, and with
"the spirits of just men made perfect." "Before I was aware, my soul became
as the chariot of Amminadab."
My dear unconverted reader, see that the chariot of death does not overtake
you unawares, in other words, unprepared. I was on one occasion summoned to
the dying bed of a gentleman whose early life had been absorbed in the
accumulation of wealth, and his later life in its selfish and worldly
enjoyment. The attack was sudden, and the illness fatal. No skill could
arrest the disease, no wealth could bribe the stern messenger. "Sir," said
he, as he fastened upon me his dying gaze, "I am taken by surprise!" Alas,
he had lived in the neglect of the great salvation: he had sought to gain
the world, and when summoned to leave it forever, found to his overwhelming
astonishment and alarm, that in so doing he had lost his own soul! O, see
that death does not surprise you, in finding you unprepared to obey its
stern, inexorable summons. Your only preparation is, as a penitent,
believing sinner, in receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. Place
your soul in the hands of Jesus, and it is safe. Make its salvation, its
safety for eternity, the first and chief object- all else is as
unsubstantial and fleeting as a dream.