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The Voice that for ever Speaks.
Thus to the ear that listens for the One beloved Voice, come from those old times the familiar tones, the household words of the family of God. These souls, so misled, so darkened by the mists of evil teaching, yet by the power of the Holy Ghost saw the Son and believed on Him, and had everlasting life. His sheep followed Him, for they knew His voice, and their souls were filled with love and praise.
Did they not often mistake for His voice the imaginations of their own hearts? Yes, often they did so, and perhaps we do it less often, because less often do we listen for His voice. He speaks and we are deaf, and we go on our way expecting no word from His lips, and therefore there is nothing which we suppose to be that Voice, and our delusions are altogether of another nature.
Our delusion in these days is that there is no immediate, daily, hourly communication between the soul and God. We do not mistake by regarding false coin as true; our mistake is that the true coin has ceased to exist since the days when John and Paul spoke to the Lord 152 and He answered them, and the Holy Spirit spoke, and they listened.
Yet still as of old there are those whose eyes have been anointed with eye-salve and they see Him, and their ears unstopped and they hear Him, and they can bear witness to the truth that the Comforter abides with us for ever, and takes still of the things of Jesus and shows them unto us; and these can recognise in the old histories of the saints of God the same voice and the same teaching, and can trace it back to the written Word, to which it answers as the stamp to the seal.
It is well for us also to bear in mind the delusions, and, to us, inconceivable errors which were mistaken in past ages for the voice of God. That the chief work of Satan has been from the beginning to counterfeit the work of God, we know from revelation. Nor have we to be on our guard against Satanic power alone. The tremendous force of early education, of the general opinion of the world around us, do not act less powerfully upon us than upon those in former days.
It is true that the course of this age is “according to the prince of the power of the 153 air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” The course of each age since Adam sinned has been thus shaped. But mere natural tendency to receive what we call truths, without taking the trouble to think, and to form opinions, as well as courses of action, by habit simply and only, can lead us far enough astray without any other misleading force.
The convent of Hellfde is a remarkable proof of the power of Satan, and of the distortion of our nature, acting upon those who were true-hearted believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, true children of God, and truly taught by Him in the midst of many delusions. Had they applied the test of Holy Scripture to all which they believed to be the voice of God, a very small part of it would have stood the test, in the case of the sister, for example, who wrote four of the five parts of the Gertrude Book. The remarkable difference of the second book written by Gertrude herself from the four others, remains as a proof of the fact that the “entrance of the Lord’s Word giveth light and understanding to the simple.”
But in the case of communications regarded as the voice of God, and not standing in 154 opposition to His Word, must not a further distinction be made? Even then the mind may possibly be exercised in simply recalling passages of Scripture, and may be influenced by them as in the case of ordinary writings. Is there nothing more than this which is meant by the statements of the Lord Jesus Christ when speaking of the intercourse between the soul and Himself?
“Why do ye not understand My speech? even because ye cannot hear My word.” There is, then, a hearing of which the unbelieving man is incapable. “He that is of God heareth God’s words. Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” Thus there are those who “hear indeed and understand not, and see indeed but perceive not.” On the other hand, there are the sheep of Christ, “who follow Him, for they know His voice.” “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
How, then, was it that the true sheep of Christ in the convent of Hellfde followed at times the voice of strangers, and mistook it for His own?1212In general no doubt their delusions arose from the fact that the falsehood presented itself in the form of authorised teaching. They were not on their guard against those whom they had learnt from their cradles to reverence—who represented to them the Apostles of Christ. And these delusions, acting upon over-strained and ill-taught minds and half-starved bodies, kept up a state of mental disease, in which clear and reasonable thought was at times obliterated. It was a spiritual alcohol or opium that was constantly measured out by the accredited teachers of the Church. Should we therefore conclude 155 that all they received as His was but the working of their own minds, or a snare of the evil one?
If so, the Lord Himself is no longer the Truth. He has solemnly declared to us, that for ever He would hold intercourse with His saints by the power of the Holy Ghost. He has given us the plain assurance, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (the age).” The saints of all ages have claimed these promises, and have found them true.
But the world cannot receive the Spirit of Truth, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him. Nevertheless “Ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you. Yet a little while the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.” 156 And again, “He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.”
Thus in spite of delusions caused by the false teaching of the corrupted Church, in spite of the hallucinations caused by unnatural bodily conditions, the Lord was true to His word, and made to His servants that revelation of His love that passeth knowledge, which marks their testimony.
And because it passeth knowledge, and all that it is possible for the heart of man to conceive, we recognise it as His revelation to the soul. The God of Catholicism was a Judge, awful and terrible. Even the thought that the righteous anger of the Father needed to be appeased by the merciful intervention of the Son, gave place in time to the thought that the Son also was but a righteous Judge, in whom was justice without mercy. Therefore it was necessary that His mother should be the hope and refuge of sinners, and that her intercession should incline His heart to pity. And there followed in due time a host of other mediators between God and man, to whom the sinful and the suffering should turn rather than to the great and dreadful God.157
And it was in the face of this teaching that those who knew His voice had the absolute assurance of His immeasurable and unspeakable love. They passed, as it were, through the host of mediators and intercessors to cast themselves at His feet, and to wash them with their tears, and anoint them with the love which the Holy Spirit of God had shed abroad in their hearts.
Nor had they, as some Protestants in our days, the strange delusion that there is a something called “religion” to which, if they turn in their last days, they may perhaps be fit for heaven. They knew, and we know, if we will look into our hearts, that this is not the answer to our need.
Can “religion” love us? We need love. We need a living heart who can love us with a love utterly unchangeable and eternal. And we find it in Him whose name is Love; in Him who is absolutely just, but who is also the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. “The Just God and the Saviour”—well may it be added, “there is none besides Me.” No God has ever been invented by the thoughts of man who can be at once the Just One and the Saviour, in whom “Mercy and Truth are 158 met together, in whom Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other.”
We find this revelation of Himself all through the ages, and it is thus that He is now revealed to every soul whose eyes have been opened to see Him, whose ears have been unstopped to hear that marvellous Voice, which is as clear and distinct to the soul now, as will be the shout, and the voice of the Archangel, and the trumpet of God in the day that is to be.
Is it not by the teaching of God Himself, through His Word and Spirit, that we find the solid path upon which to walk, day by day, in all circumstances of our ordinary life? He thus becomes wisdom to the foolish, and strength to the weak. He directs the path of those who in all their ways acknowledge Him. We find a safer guide than our own understanding, than the “common-sense” of the natural heart, which may mislead, and will mislead, those who have no better teacher, as dreams and visions misled the true-hearted servants of God in former days.
The guidance and teaching of Him who is the Wisdom of God, and who hears and answers the prayers of those who seek Him, will assuredly not lead us to commit acts of 159 folly; but the common-sense will be more fully exercised, because all existing facts will then be taken into account.
The greatest and most universal failure in common-sense must be the leaving out of God in all our thoughts; and therefore is it written of the natural man, not only “there is none that doeth good, no not one,” but also, “there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”
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