In Secret

Acres upon acres of peach trees stretched themselves upon the hillsides of a fertile valley through which we were speeding in the Sydney — Melbourne express. A beautiful sight were those trees, clothed in pink and white blossom from the topmost branches of them to the lowest, and standing as a fair bride to receive the smiles and kisses of the sun which looked upon them from a cloudless sky like a radiant bridegroom. Full of promise were those acres of delicious fruit for the multitudes in the crowded cities in the months yet to be, it was kindly nature, under God's supervision, preparing her stores of solace and refreshment against the day when the summer time would test the strength and mettle of the people with heat and drought and dust.

As my eyes feasted upon that lovely valley I held a silent communion with it. "Tell me," said my heart, "tell me, peach trees, the secret of your beauty and your usefulness — why are you able to stretch out your charms before the sun today, and to promise hands and arms laden with fruit for the hot months that lie ahead of us?" And I got my answer definite and clear. "We should have neither beauty today nor usefulness tomorrow were it not for a process and power that the eye of man does not see. Our roots strike downwards, and hidden away from all interference we draw from the soil continually the stimulants nourishment that give and maintain the vigour of our inward life; thus it is that we are benefactors in the world. Our life within, sustained in secret, shows itself in its season as you see it. If this secret life of ours failed, or if it were interrupted by any intrusion from without, we should wither and die."

And as our train sped onward I considered the peach trees, how they grew, and took out my Bible and read, "Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which sees in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matt. 6:6). Are any of us mourning our lack of fruitfulness? Do we feel how little we are manifesting that Divine life which is in us in blessing to others? We may be sure that the whole cause of it is the neglect, more or less, of the secret life with God, and every one of us knows that it is so.

This parable of the peach trees enforced its lesson upon me from another side. I thought again of the testing time of the year for this southern land, when the sun blazes from the heavens in his summer strength scorching and withering almost everything of lesser growth. Yet that same sun does but serve to bring the fruit of those trees to perfection, imparting to them a sweetness and bloom that they could not possess without it. So, too, it is with every test and trial of life they all have their sure effect upon us. We are either scorched and withered by them like the corn on the rocky ground that perishes when the sun is up, or they bring our Christian life and fruit to maturity; and which of these two effects is to be realized in our case is determined by our secret life with God. If we are much with Him, striking our roots downward in the knowledge of Himself, and drawing our refreshment and strength from the hidden springs that are in Him, we need not dread the trial; we may glory in tribulation, for it will but serve the will of God and work for our good, and enable us to stretch forth hands laden with sweeter fruit to the weary and distressed.

The time passed quickly as we, a few Christian brethren, talked together upon happy themes, when a glance at my watch warned me that my time was gone and I must leave the pleasant circle. As I walked to the railway station for my train I said to myself, "This watch of mine, the gift of a dear friend to me, has been my very faithful monitor and friend for ten years. It has never failed me, except when I have failed it by forgetting to wind it up. What is it that makes it so reliable, fulfilling its mission every day without noise, weariness or complaint? It is not the highly-polished case, or the neat figures upon its face, or the graceful hands that indicate the hours, not one of nor all those things together make it what every watch ought to be. The secret lies not in these, but in the works, hidden away from view; upon these depend the constant witness of my watch to me. The outward witness is the result entirely of the inward works." And as I considered my watch, how it worked, the importance of the secret hidden life pressed itself afresh upon me. If the inner parts of my watch were exposed to the dust of the day it would soon become a failure; and even so, if we Christians live more before the world than before God, we soon become unfaithful in our witnessing. Our secret life with God must be maintained, and the measure of our intercourse with Him in secret is the measure of our faithfulness in public. The Scriptures are so full of this, and our own consciences and spiritual sense tell us that it is so, that nothing more needs to be said.

And now for a paragraph or two from wise old Bunyan. "I saw in my dream that Interpreter took Christian by the hand and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it always, casting much water upon it to quench it: yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.

"Then said Christian, 'What means this?' The Interpreter answered, 'This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil; but in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that.' So he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a Man with a vessel of oil in His hand, of which He did also continually cast, but secretly, into the fire. Then said Christian, 'What means this?' The Interpreter answered, 'This is Christ, who continually, with the oil of grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart, by the means of which, notwithstanding what the Devil can do, the souls of His people prove gracious still.'"

Yes, so it is, but do we realize the necessity of our side of this matter? Lukewarm Christians are the devil's delight, and the Lord's grief. Fervency of spirit is above all things to be desired. But if our hearts are to flame in this cold world the oil of grace must flow into them; and for this we must cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart, and the secret supplies from His own inexhaustible stores will be more than enough to meet every public demand and that in spite of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

The Lord's own words, as given us by the prophet centuries before He came into the world, shall clinch for us the lesson of this brief paper. "The Lord, Jehovah, has given to me the tongue of the instructed that I should know how to succour by a word him that is weary. He wakeneth morning by morning. He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the instructed" (Isa. 50:4, N.Tr.).