The Visible and the Invisible

Psalm 73

There is kind of instinct in man which leads him to take account of another sphere and order of existence outside the things which prevail in human life upon earth. I say instinct, for it is not the result of testimony, or experience, or education, but seems to be inherent in man’s very nature. To know these things, one must have faith, that is, there must be testimony borne to them, for they themselves are invisible, although their operations may be seen upon earth, but faith is not necessary to know that a spiritual world exists. It is one thing to know that these things are, but quite another thing to know their character and nature.

In men there seems to be, in greater or lesser degree, a strong desire to become acquainted with these things. The apostle speaks of some who were intruding into those things which they had not seen (Col. 2:18), and there were always in the world those who exercised a power over the minds of others, by their professed or real contact with that which lay outside of man’s natural vision. Witchcraft, I suppose, has been practised since the flood, and though there may have been a great deal of deception used by such, they were evidently in contact with beings, between whom and men, God in His wisdom and goodness had been pleased to place a barrier. That barrier had been transgressed by the enemies of God, and men had forced their way into territory forbidden to them, and had brought themselves into contact with beings utterly unknown to them, and under whose evil cunning and influence they fell, and became in this dark world a terrible power for wickedness. Theosophy and spiritualism and the visions and miracles of Romanism are forms of the same evil at work today. My object in speaking of them is to prove that, apart altogether from testimony, the holy scriptures, or faith, men instinctively feel that not far from them there are spiritual things and beings whose power and influence is greater than man’s, and which may be utilized by him; but always to turn men away from God, direct attention to the creature and in the end accomplish the utter and eternal destruction of the only race to which the blessed God has manifested kindness and love.

Now I believe one great object of God in the gospel is to bring men under the influence of another and completely different order of things from that which prevails upon earth, and not the things under whose influence they would most certainly fall if left to the imaginations of their own minds, but under the influence of those things which are established in Christ risen from the dead and glorified. If we are not influenced by heavenly things, we must be by earthly, and if influenced by the earthly we are controlled by the forces of evil, for this world is under the authority of the powers of darkness. Naturally every man comes under the power of things visible, and the world is a dreadful snare to us, and even where the heart seeks to be true to Him we are apt to judge Him by the things which transpire before our eyes, and all this is used by the adversary to draw our souls away from the living God, and to cast us down to destruction. We are kept by the power of God through faith, and hence the important thing for us is that our faith fail not. Faith lays hold upon that which is invisible, but reported to us by them that have preached the gospel to us with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. But we are apt, if not very watchful, to turn to sight, and lose the enjoyment of those things which are established in Christ inside the veil.

In this Psalm 73, we get an illustration of how far a saint may get away from God, and how infidel a mind may become when the eye is allowed to rest upon things visible, and if we judge of him by the way things seem to be ordered upon earth, we will get into darkness, become greatly perplexed, and be in danger of attributing unrighteousness to God. The Psalmist sees the wicked prospering, full of pride and violence, exempted from the hardships and afflictions which are the portion of the people of God, while all the day long he is plagued, and chastened every morning, and in his bewilderment he says he has purified his heart in vain. He is like Job, whom Elihu charged with going in company with workers of iniquity and walking with wicked men, for he had said that it did not profit a man to delight himself in God, he might just as well have been a sinner. Elihu’s answer to him is this: he asks him who it does profit—“if thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him?” “If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him?” “Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man” (Job 35:6-8). Though a man may cause his neighbour to suffer through his sin, or cause him to benefit by his righteousness, the chief sufferer on account of sin is the one who commits it, and the one who gains most from righteousness is the one who practices it. But in this world this is not easily seen, for the ways of God in His government are not traceable. Christ has been rejected from earth, and in this world what is of God is in motion. If we judge God by what we see taking place around us here below, we will be found on the verge of justifying the wicked, speaking against God, and offending against the generation of His children. And to find out God and follow Him in His path through the world, so as to come to an understanding of all that which is so bewildering, is more than we are up to; we will have to confess, “When I thought to know this it was too painful for me.”

Bat one day, with his heart agitated by these conflicting elements, he went into the sanctuary. Ah! That was the turning point in his history. There within the veil lay the elucidation of all that had heretofore perplexed his heart and mind. “Then understood I their end.” His thoughts are altogether altered. Those whom he had thought well established in the earth, he sees set in slippery places, cast down into destruction, made desolate as in a moment, consumed with terrors. Now, what did he see there in the sanctuary, that threw such a brilliant light upon all that which his eye had rested on outside in the world? He saw what God had set up in Christ. Inside the sanctuary he saw another Man in the presence of God, and another order of things established in that Man, and he knew that a day was coming in which the veil would be rent in twain, and that which was inside the veil would come forth into display, to take the place of that which was outside in the earth, and that what was outside must disappear before the glory of that which was inside, and that the visible would have to give place to the invisible.

“As a dream when one awaketh.” Inside he had seen all that was abiding, and eternal; outside was all a dream, a horrible nightmare. A dream seems very real while it lasts, but once one awakes not one in a hundred remains for a moment in the mind. In the Psalms God is looked at as asleep, and the cry is, “Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Jehovah?” That is, He is not publicly interfering in the earth.

It seems to run its course without Him, and the dream goes on, but one of these days He will awake, and when He awakes it will be to the judgment, which He has commanded, and then the dream will pass away, and that which has substance, and is eternal, will take the place of the dream, and “as a dream when one awaketh, so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise their image.” Not one moral principle which prevails in the world today will exist when that which is within the veil is manifested. God is not setting anything up upon earth under the man after the flesh. Christ is exalted to the right hand of God, and in Him everything is established and secured. It is of little importance in one way what transpires in the world. Self-will, corruption, and violence hold sway; kingdoms rise and fall, good is trodden underfoot, and evil is triumphant; but this will not go on forever. This is but the dream, and men are completely under the power of it, but we await the Son of God out of heaven. He has gone within the veil, and we have boldness to enter, and the apostle exhorts us to draw near. If we draw near we come under the influence of eternal things, was become delivered from the influence of this horrible nightmare, and come under the power of all that is secured in Christ. We are come unto Mount Zion, but Mount Zion is in ruins today. Yes, but it is found in Christ risen. It is inside the veil. You must not look for it in Canaan. You will find it in Christ risen, and nowhere else. The heavenly Jerusalem is there also. The millennium will not be brought about by the education of the world, and the development of the fleshly mind of man, but by the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will be no triumph of science or civilization, but it will be the triumph of God over the power of evil, displayed in the Man of His counsels. He is now within the veil, the Man of God’s right hand and the hope of every true believer. If we see what is set up in Him, and we will learn it if we draw near, we will not be deceived by the apparent prosperity of a world in rebellion against the authority of God.

When the psalmist drew near he saw the end of the ungodly. He learned that “the world passeth away,” that the triumph of the wicked was but for a moment, a little while and he would not be. He learned also in spite of appearances in the world, which seemed to say it was not so, that “God is good to Israel, to such as are of a clean heart;” and he also saw the danger to which he had exposed himself by allowing himself to be influenced by the things which were present before his eyes on earth, and by judging of God by the way the world seemed to be governed.

As for me, he says, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped. He feels he has had a narrow escape. He is foolish and ignorant as a beast. Man reasons upon what he sees, draws his conclusions, and thinks himself wonderfully clever, but in the light of God what a fool he is! How utterly stupid! If God is to be known, He must be known in the sanctuary, not in His pathway through the world.

But He does not allow His poor erring servant to fall beyond recovery. “Thou hast holden me by my right hand.” While he was drawing nearer and nearer to the brink of that awful precipice over which many a mighty man has fallen to rise no more, his hand was in the grasp of the omnipotent God, who was determined that not a hair of his head would perish. His right hand was held by divine power, until he had, by the infidelity of his carnal mind, reached the brink of destruction, and then the blessed God, who held him in the grasp of love, drew him near to Himself in the sanctuary, where in a moment he learned the awful distance to which unbelief had carried him, and the terrible danger, to which he had exposed himself. He is now amazed at his ignorance, blindness, and stupidity, but he has learned his lesson, and God is enough for him He says, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” God becomes the rock of his heart and HIS PORTION FOREVER.

Well, surely we may say, “It is good for us to draw near to God.” If we desire to be set free from things here, we must get some knowledge of that which God has secured for Himself in Christ in heaven. The Spirit can lead us in even now, and if we know what is inside the veil, what is outside will not have much power over us. May it be true of both reader and writer that we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are unseen.