Monday, July 13, 2009


" Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me."
—Mal. iii. 8.

Other things I withhold from Him besides the tithes and offerings that are His due.

Do I not rob Him of thought? He is a theme of study and meditation that need never become monotonous, wearisome, stale; He has so many sides and aspects. His existence, His holiness. His saving grace, His sympathy and friendship : here are worlds to roam over, which I cannot exhaust. But it is at rare intervals that I turn to Him, and then I am content with the briefest interview. Sometimes I find the recollection of Him troublesome and tormenting. I do not practise His presence in earnest thought.

Do I not rob Him of fear? My age has to a great degree lost the reverence that marked former generations, and I am too entirely the child of my age. I have forgotten the seemly habit of walking softly before the Lord. He has ceased to be so sacred, so awful, so glorious in majesty, as He used to be. I seldom feel myself in a shrine where I must tread quietly, and must shut my lips, and must lay myself in the dust. I am merry where I should be serious, and flippant when I should tremble. I do not fear enough.

Do I not rob Him of love ? It matters to Him, indeed it does, if I refuse Him the love of gratitude, and the love of trust, and the love of adoration and obedience and delight. He loses a man, a woman, created in His image, and for His glory. He forfeits an affection which He has been eager to encourage and to keep. The ever-blessed God is poorer, sadder, sorrowfuller, because of my rebelliousness and negligence. Have I considered the pain, the wound, the enfeeblement, the wrong I inflict on Him, when I do not love Him well?

Do I not rob Him of speech ? It is wonderful, a good Bishop of last century said, that " what is every man's chief concern should be no man's conversation ; " and that is hardly an exaggeration of the facts of the case. Amidst the crowding words that are continually crossing the threshold of my lips, how rarely do I interpose a sentence on behalf of God, or in praise of Him whom I call my Saviour and my Master, or in commendation of truth and righteousness! It is most sinful to be so tongue-tied.

And do I not rob Him of life? He requires the influence of my life; a character restful, fragrant, impressive—how much He can do with it! He requires the prayers of my life; petitions which are believing, reiterated, specific and particular, wide-reaching and catholic, wield an invincible power. He requires the endeavour of my life ; if only I am faithful in that which is least, I magnify His name and widen the bounds of His kingdom. But how little of my life is undeniably His!

What can I do but claim the mercy Christ gave to the robber on the Tree?



"The heaven was opened.—Luke iii. 21.

So it was for Jesus; and so it may be for me. Inhabiting eternity as God does, He bends to me; He would unite Himself with me, my Portion, my Satisfaction, my Father.

Are the skies obedient and pure ? But God repairs my disobedience and restores my purity. The thought of how it could be done transcends me, and the way in which the thought has become a reality ; they are better than anything human, for they are divine. But they are disclosed to me, as sun and moon and stars are disclosed, that I may believe and rejoice in them. My disobedience has been atoned for by Christ. My squandered and wasted purity is given back when His love and His Spirit rule the heart. The heavens are not unscalable after all. God and I are reconciled.

Do the skies oppress me by their strength and independence? But God puts their powers into the hands of my Redeemer and Lord. The sun's heat, the mists and fogs, light and dark and cloud and storm, are under His control, and are compelled to work together for my good. If death comes through any of them, it will but conduct me to the shining of His Face: I recollect how John Howe, sailing back to England from his exile in Antrim, cheered himself by the certainty that, let some tempest wreck the ship, the voyage intended to land him in Liverpool would land him in heaven. The strong skies are my friends, and their God is my Father, when I see them subject to the pierced hands of Jesus.

Are the skies discomposing because of their space and infinitude? But somewhere in the heavenly places God has fixed a dwelling for His people, and Christ is in it already as their Forerunner. This is what robs the upper world of its vagueness, its disconcerting immensity, its blinding glory. It ceases to be a wide wilderness of blazing suns. It has received a centre in Him Who is the bright and morning Star. I breathe my desires upward to Him. I have sent some of my dear ones as heralds of my own coming. He has my heart to-day, and He will have my presence soon.

Do the skies seem to rob me of God's living personality ? But in His Son I know Him and have seen Him. A God Who lives and loves. A God to Whom I have such worth that He does not count Calvary too great a sacrifice to win me. A God Who, so far from holding aloof, bows His heavens and conies down, and seeks me until He finds, and sings over me His song of redemption. Has He not Eyes of pity? Has He not a Heart of unsearchable grace ? Has He not a beating and tender Soul? He is a Person, and the Best of persons.

I rejoice that, though the heavens are high, the heavens are open too.


"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, ao are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
—Isa. Iv. 9.

God's world is wide apart from mine—wide apart, as the calm, lofty, imperishable, unattainable heavens, to which none of my ladders can climb.

I feel it difficult to discover a living Person in the skies. It is not hard to think of God, when I look on the homelier and gentler aspects of nature, or when I turn to the kindly relationships of human life, or when^I enter my soul with its cries and hopes and longings. But when I leave such missionaries of Him for the heavens, I am disappointed. They seem so far from humanity, and so oblivious to my sorrows and joys. Is there a Heart up there? I ask. Is there an Eye which takes in those constellations upon constellations ? Is there a Soul that plans for them? In the vastness I lose the personality of God.

I am overpowered by the infinitude of the skies. I can set limits to the earth, and can pierce to its origins, and can classify its forms, and can track its changes. But the midnight heavens confound and baffle me, and, looking up to them, I am oppressed by my insignificance. The remoteness of luminary and planet, their mass, their number : I shrink from contemplating these. I see more stars than I can count, and those are the nearest fringe of the universe; beyond them are worlds behind worlds. The God Who comprehends this mighty sum of things, and governs it, bewilders me. I must be valueless in His presence, I say; and the thunder of His majesty and power makes me afraid.

I realise my frailty in comparison with the strength and independence of the skies. Alps may be tunnelled by man's genius and patience ; the estuaries of the seas can be bridged; an agent so impalpable and so arbitrary as electricity is harnessed to a thousand uses. But the heavens teach me my limitations. I cannot keep the glory of the sunset. I cannot moderate the glare of the noonday heat. I cannot bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion, or lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season. And the God Who marshals them as a shepherd does his sheep : His mightiness abashes me.

I am rebuked by the obedience and purity of the skies. To my vision, there is nothing but order, nothing but brightness, nothing but the music of the spheres. Duty is not flouted in the celestial world. She " preserves the stars from wrong, and the most ancient heavens through her are fresh and strong." And God is still holier than the skies. Cherubim and seraphim veil their faces before His radiance, and the heavens are not clean in His sight. How He must abhor my evil ways and thoughts I I have not kept my orbit. I have not maintained my stainlessness. I have grieved and disavowed my Lord.

Am I not rebuked by the heavens which speak of Him?