The Artificial and the Spiritual

2 Corinthians 3:18.

It is very clear and distinct, feeble though the measure be in which the soul apprehends it, that it is only as we are occupied with Christ where He is that we are like Him in our ways. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

But, I may ask, have we grasped in soul, or rather, have we been possessed by, all that is implied in these wondrous words? Do we not often detect in ourselves a lack of that spring and power of life which impart quietness and ease and restfulness of heart? And in the absence of these, yet knowing they ought to be there, are not many forced into what I must call an artificial state of soul, which carries on its very bearing the opposite of life and the Spirit?

There is something refreshing and beautiful in the spring and freshness of life and it matters not how diligently or carefully formed anything resembling life may be, the difference between what is artificial and what is real is at once apparent.

Light and heat are neither of them, nor both together, the tree, most invaluable though they be as the soil and atmosphere, as it were, in which it is planted. A Christian is, as such, in the light, and he is moreover the object of the Father's love, even as Jesus was loved — "hast loved them as thou hast loved me." (John 17:23.)

Now, is there not a great difference between a soul held and governed in divine power and reality by these things, and one who, because painfully sensible of the mere outside owning of them, is seeking to hold them? It is just the difference between my heart keeping the peace of God, and the peace of God keeping as in a garrison my heart. But there is more than this difference, for there is the practical effect. If the soul be not held, but be seeking to hold, there is ever prominent in its state, the unrest that invariably accompanies effort; disquiet and fear about almost everything, as well as uncertainty even where most was expected from God. The contrary to all this is Christianity. Unseen realities are the governing power acting on the soul, absorbing and commanding it, the affections of the new man, formed, sustained, and satisfied by Christ, their only object: and, as a consequence, rest, quietness, and ease in the most untoward circumstances, walking in that path which "the vulture's eye hath not seen."

There ought not to be anything forced about us as Christians; effort of any kind betrays the absence of power. The presence of Christ not only imparts to us, but secures through us, all that is suitable to His presence; effort tells the tale of our being out of His presence, and is invariably resorted to for the purpose of acquiring that which is the simple result of being in His presence, and of being acted upon by Himself. I do not for a moment wish to excuse anything like sloth, or ease, or self-indulgence of any kind, in anything, much less so in these things which have to do with man in the Spirit and not in the flesh: but I do feel it is a great and solemn reality to press upon the people of God that the presence of Christ can alone command the heart. What a blessed thing for a poor worm to be held by the presence of the Lord of glory! Oh, I cannot but speak of it! such glories as are indeed to be found here: to be the subject on which His presence acts, instead of our poor hearts and thoughts acting on Him; to be the subjects of light and heat, such light and love, too!

What was it formed John? Was it not that he leaned on the bosom of Jesus? John lay there because he knew it pleased his Lord and Master; and may we not do the same? How much effort was there about John when he lay there? Did he find it difficult to say, "Lord, who is it?" Peter may have felt it difficult, and was glad to use John's nearness; but as to John, the question came forth as the simple and natural result of being where he was. That bosom was everything to John: he was not thinking of being there, or of the results to him of being there; he was there for its own sake; hence he was not restless or unnatural. That blessed Person on whose bosom he reclined was to John "all." Oh, to have the sceptre of Christ swaying its dominion of life and liberty from pole to pole in our poor hearts! Our looks would then tell of Him, our words speak of Him, our thoughts rise and set in Him, and all so easily and naturally, that is in spiritual power; in a word, Christ would be our life practically, as He is our life truly and really; the glory of the Lord would thus transform us into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The Lord alone knows what searchings of heart this leads to. The heart that has passed through it alone knows what it is to rise and walk apart from all that once governed and influenced it often, too, beyond what we suspected even; but so it is. Yet Christ is worthy. May we know what it is to be in some more full measure the subjects of His power and presence before Himself, formed by Him alone, long enough in the mount, as it were, to catch the pattern of the glory, not because of the good of it, nor even in the first instance that we may be a testimony to others, or enriched ourselves, but because of what He is in His own intrinsic blessedness and preciousness.

It is a great cheer to the soul to know that the whole power of God, by the Spirit, is for us in the maintenance of this blessed walk on earth; only as Christ alone fills our eyes and hearts are we enriched ourselves, or any testimony to others; thus it is we are at rest, having reached the haven of quiet. Another has blessedly said, "Heaven is the metropolis of Christianity;" may we know it so in deep blessedness. If a Jerusalem or Rome were enough to divert for a moment such a one as Paul, surely much less prevails with us who have so little of that divine energy and power which characterised him in so remarkable a degree.

May He by His own Spirit so attract, win, and satisfy the hearts of His beloved people, presenting to them Him who alone can secure this in them, that they, finding their all in Christ, may be like "a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."