Dark Dispensations

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? Hope you in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 42:11

In all His dispensations—the severest and the darkest—have faith in God. This is, perhaps, one of the greatest achievements of faith. To believe in God when He smiles, to trust in Him when conscious of His nearness, to have faith in Him when the path is flowery and pleasant, were an easy task. But to have faith in Him when “He holds back the face of His throne, and spreads His cloud upon it; to love Him when He frowns; to follow Him when He withdraws; to cleave to Him when He would seem to shake us off; to trust in Him when His arm is raised to slay—this were faith indeed. And yet all this the faith of God’s elect can achieve. If not, of what value is it? Of what possible use to the mariner would be the compass which would only work in the day, and not in the night? which only served to steer the vessel in light winds, and not in rough gales? Faith is the believing soul’s compass, guiding it as truly and as certainly to the heavenly port through the wildest tempest as through the serenest calm. To change the figure, faith is that celestial telescope which can pierce the thickest haze or the darkest cloud, descrying suns and stars glowing and sparkling in the far distance. It can discern God’s smile under a frown; it can read His name to be “love” beneath the dark dispensation; it can behold the Sun of Righteousness beaming through the interstices of gloomy clouds; and now and then it can catch a glimpse of the harbor itself, with the towering turrets and golden spires of the “new Jerusalem” glittering in the distance. Oh, it is a wonderful grace, the precious faith of God’s elect!

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June 30: The Shadows Flee Away

“Until the clay break, and the shadows flee away.” Solomon’s Song 2:17

The Divine withdrawment is a shadow, often imparting an aspect of dreariness to the path we are treading to the Zion of God. “Why do You hide Yourself?” says Job. “For a small moment,” says God to the Church, “have I forsaken you. … In a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment.”

Ah! there are many who have the quenchless light of life in their souls, who yet, like Job, are constrained to take up the lamentation, “I went mourning without the sun.” There are no shadows darker to some of God’s saints than this. Many professing Christians dwell so perpetually in the region of shadows, they so seldom feel the sunshine of God’s presence in their souls, that they scarcely can discern when the light is withdrawn.

But there are others, wont to walk so near with God in the rich, personal enjoyment of their pardon, acceptance, and adoption, that if but a vapor floats between their soul and the sun, in an instant they are sensible of it. Oh, blessed are they whose walk is so close, so filial with God, whose home is so hard by the cross, who, like the Apocalyptic angel, dwell so entirely in the sun, as to feel the barometer of their soul affected by the slightest change in their spiritual atmosphere; in other words- who walk so much beneath the light of God’s reconciled countenance as to be sensible of His hidings even “for a small moment.”

Then there comes the last of our shadows, “the valley of the shadow of death.” There they terminate. This may be the focus where they all shall meet, but it is to meet only to be entirely and forever scattered. The sentiment is as true as the figure is poetic- “the shadow of death.” It is but a “shadow” to the believer; the body of that shadow Jesus, the “Captain of our salvation,” met on the cross, fought and overcame.

By dying He so completely destroyed death, and him that had the power of death, that the substance of death in the experience of the dying Christian dwindles into a mere shadow, and that shadow melts into eternal glory.