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me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure; this is all my salvation, and all my desire;” it is all right within. It is as standing within that Habakkuk looks abroad; but the mournful desolation he beholds is all without,-no blooming figtree, no fruit in the vine, the labour of the olive failed, the fields yielding no meat, the flock cut off from the fold, and no herd in the stall. But turning inwards, with his life hid in God, and safe, he can cry, “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation.” This gives peace, this gives courage. “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident; for in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me."
II. But the hidden life is secluded, as well as safe. It is a secret life. Of its ongoings, no stranger is cognizant; with its joys, no stranger intermeddleth.
The believer, indeed, is not to keep his spiritual life a secret. He is not to hide his light under a bushel. His life, in that sense, is not to be secluded or stealthily secreted from human knowledge. Rather must he let his light shine,--and so shine that men, seeing his good works, may glorify his Father which is in heaven. In this respect, by patient continuance in well-doing, his life will be manifested, even as ointment in the hand bewrayeth itself. Yea, the life, also, of Jesus ought to be made manifest in our mortal body. But in its spring and source, and chiefest ongoings, it is essentially a life of seclusion, in which the soul is alone with God. Perfect seclusion with God, perfect confidential intercourse with God, not only with none to make him afraid, but with none to witness the intercourse, none to mar the perfect stillness of its repose,—this is the heritage of him whose life is hid with Christ in God. He has not only a retreat of safety, a rock, a fortress, a high tower; but he has a retreat of seclusion,-he has a life in God, and with Christ in God, on which no creature may intrude, which no power anywhere may interrupt. “This is the rest, and this is the refreshing wherewith He causeth the weary to rest.” He takes them alone with Himself. He composeth their souls into peace. They sit under his shadow with great delight. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” No more does such an one need to long for “a lodge in some vast wilderness, somo boundless contiguity of shade." Nor does he need to adopt the cry, “O that I had wings like a dove; for then would I fly away and be at rest : lo, then would I wander far off and remain in the wilderness; I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” Nor is he in danger any more of seeking to throw aside all the cares and duties of this life, or to abandon his post in the world, because of the many besetting harassments that may encompass it. Amidst bustle and business, he has a life which no din of business, no tumult of affairs, may invade. The true life that he lives in the flesh is not in worldly interests and business. In that case he might be fretted hopelessly, and irritated and annoyed habitually, worried and wearied out of his very life by the adverse circumstances, the failures of hope and effort, the disappointment of cherished desires, which, even in most flourishing worldly concerns, are continually occurring. But his real and very life is not in that sphere at all, that he could be fretted and worried out of it. He has a life whose seclusion cannot be violated; a life that hath its dwelling in another sphere, and that a sphere so distinct, so high, so separate, so secret, that the shocks of worldly disappointment do not reach it to effect continual collisions there, and even the echo of them cannot enter. The secret presence-chamber of the Eternal Majesty is the dwelling-place of the life of faith. The eternal peace of the heavenly places belongs to the life in which the believer is raised up together with Christ, and made to sit together with Him. He enters there by faith ; and therefore he may enter at all times, in all places. And he may go forth into the world still dwelling in the secret home of his hidden life; he may bear it about with him in the body. The pride of man may be passing painfully before him, in its thousand-fold forms and pretensions ; the strife of tongues may be going on around, with its thousand-fold arrows, that cut like spears ;—but the presence of the Lord he can set over against the pride of man, and the pavilion of the Lord against the strife of tongues. And though his Lord's presence and pavilion both be secret, this does not mar, but make for, his quiet: “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Ps. xxvii. 5).
III. The third characteristic of the hidden life is, that its manifestation is delayed. It is not always to be hidden. But the revelation of its full excellence and glories tarries for the revelation of Christ Himself. His own life, in the days of his flesh, was concealed from the world. He was despised, and we esteemed him not. There was no beauty in Him, no dazzling splendour, to draw the carnal eye. The infinitely blessed life which He led, of peace and favour with God, was never rendered palpable to the world. The world knew Him not. The glory which the Father had given Him was a spiritual and hidden glory, perceptible alone to the eye of faith; and even when He tabernacled with men upon the earth, Christ's spiritual, glorious life was as much concealed, even then, from the carnal men of that generation, as His person has been concealed from all generations since, at the right hand of the Father within the veil. The afflictions that pressed upon Him, the humiliations He endured, the death of shame in which, to carnal understanding, He and His cause seemed to expire together, constituted a continual obscuring cloud, through which no force of human wisdom could pierce, to see the hidden glories of His soul's life in God. And as it was with Christ, so with Christ's members. The called of the Father are predestinated in this, as in other respects, “to be conformed to the Son, that He may be the firstborn among many brethren." A continual cross buries out of sight the life everlasting into which they have by faith been infefted. A lowly condition, replete with many a trial, spiritual and bodily, militates against the supposition of their high rank and dignity, and seems altogether inconsistent with the claims and pretensions made on their behalf, as the sons of God. The apparent antagonism between their possession of an everlasting glorious life in the love of God, and their subjection to many a wasting, lasting humiliation, is a trial of their faith which has often staggered them. Asaph's memorable seventy-third Psalm turns wholly on this palpable and painful incongruity. The whole agony which the prophet endured arose from overlooking the fact that the believer's life is a hidden one; from expecting that it should not be hidden, but palpable and manifest; and from disappointment at finding it stamped with no obvious and undeniable seal, to distinguish in outward dispensation the righteous from the wicked. The want of this made him, for a moment, in his infirmity, exclaim: “I have cleansed my heart in vain, I have washed my hands in innocence.” And his restoration to tranquillity of mind,—was it not achieved simply by his recognising the believer's life once more as a hidden life ;-by retreating in faith into its secluded, secure abode in God ;—by leaving all trials, as it were, behind him, as pertaining to the things of the outer court or ante-chamber, and retreating into the holy refuge—the sanctuary, where the life is hid in God (“till I went into the sanctuary,” Ps. lxxiii. 17); for in comparison with the inwardness and secrecy of that hidden life, one's own very flesh, yea, throbbing heart itself, are things that be without. For“ though my flesh and my heart faileth, yet God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever” (ver. 26). This is the continual and true relief from all doubts, from all apparent contradictions, from all that a present state of manifold trial and much corruption would seem to argue against the believer's present possession of eternal life and exalted rank with God. Let him retreat by faith to a life confessedly hidden. When he can see no evidence of his high estate and dignity, let him remember that the very supposition is, that he does not and cannot see it. Let him know that he is to hold to it by faith,—by faith in his Father's word, even when all things that he can see appear to go against it. Let him grow strong in the knowledge that this is faith’s very office—to penetrate to a life which is hidden, buried under the weight of the earthly tabernacle, oppressed by a remaining body of sin and death, obscured by countless clouds of darkness, which oftentimes return after the rain. The hidden life is a glorious Alpine summit—itself bathed in sunlight's utmost splendours, but utterly concealed from the inhabitants of the plain beneath by seas of mountain mists, that roll their ceaseless fleecy waves in mid-ascent. Command these mists aside,” says sense; and weeps, and groans, and toils to obey its own command,-ever craving for its own devices, and leaning to its own understanding. But all the armies of all the monarchs would retire baffled from the effort to expel the fleecy clouds, and reveal the glorious scene beyond them and above. “Let me rise through them," says faith, “as on eagle's wings; let me ascend above them ; be it mine to live in the realm to which they cannot come.” And what all earth's armaments and enginery never could effect, the eagle can: it can procure a prospect of the sun-lit scene beyond. For what is it that faith really achieves, when against hope it believes in hope, but the very prerogative of the eagle,-to transcend the realms where obscuration rests, and rise to the elevation where the mists, and the tempests, and the lightnings cannot come ? But all obscuring clouds are one day to be swept aside for
Till then, the believer must expect nothing but the discipline of a state in which, confessedly, it is not designed to bring his hidden life out to the gaze of others, or himself, as in his impatience and infirmity he might oftentimes desire. Till then, the clouds of trial that intervene between him and his very life are not by any effort whatsoever to be rolled away; neither by impatience are they to be murmured at, as if some strange thing happened to him. It might be comfortable and delightful to see and enjoy here the unbroken felicity of eternal life. One may even ask, in agony, Why should it not be so,—why, if I am a child of God, -why, if I am alive for evermore,—why, if I am not only a prospective heir, but a present possessor of eternal life? Why are so many things, if not all these things, against me ? Why is it with me thus ? Why cannot I do the things that I would ? Why cannot I compel the acknowledgment of my high estate, my heavenly credit and renown? Why should I be in heaviness through manifold temptation? Why should I have to groan within myself, oppressed continually, with anomalous and seemingly unreconcileable conditions ?
It is a state of feeling of which thousands of Christians have been conscious; an agony that multitudes have never spoken of, but suffered from most intensely. More apostles than one respond to it, and soothe it. Evidently Paul has this very state of mind in view when he says, “ Yes,” we are saved, but it is “in hope." We have eternal life, but as yet it is a hidden life. “We are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope ; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Rom. viii. 24, 25). John also answers this difficulty with striking exactness, when he says, “ Beloved, now are we the sons of God"; and if our outward estate seems to argue against our claim, it is granted that "it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” The glory that pertains to our relationship and rank is not yet manifest. Yet we only share in this with the Eternal Son Himself: “ The world knoweth us not, just because it knew Him not. But when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John iii. 2, 3). And thus also Paul testifies in our text: “When He shall appear”—when He shall no more tarry with the veil, but shall come forth and be manifested to the world, and every eye shall see Him—then our life shall no more be hidden. It also shall appear. How indeed, could it be otherwise ? Christ Himself “is our life,” and when He who is our life is hidden from the world, our life must be hidden also. But when He who is our life is no more hidden, but shall appear,