God's Still Voices.
By Rev. James Vaughan
"Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.'* -I Samuel iii. lo.
I THI K you will agree with me, that one use of a sermon is, that when the text meets us again anywhere afterwards, it may come with greater force, and with more intelligence. It is partly on this principle that I have chosen to preach, this morning, on a verse in the evening lesson. The subject which I wish to bring before you is God's voices, — how they may be heard, and when expected. I believe that the world is full of God's voices, but they are not heard; or I should express my meaning more accurately, if I were to say that God is always waiting to speak, but His voice is kept back, and there is no utterance, because minds are not in the posture really to listen. God will not speak to minds that are not set to the note to which His voice is pitched. We were considering last Sunday, that God denies answers to prayer when the life is not in unison with the prayer. In like manner, this morning, I want you to see that God withholds communications because the mind is not in a right state to entertain them. Four times the Lord called Samuel before He spoke to him. He waited till there was that frame of mind which
214 God's Still Voices. my tact conveys, — "Speak, for Thy servant heareth." You may have been hundreds of times on the eve of a message, but you missed it, and it passed away, because your heart was not ready.
Little Samuel had been working all day for God; — " The child ministered unto the Lord before Eli ; " — when lying down for rest, God gave him a wonderful communion with Himself. If I had to name what occasion, above all others, is the most likely for God's still voices, I should say the time of meditation after labor, — when we are very quiet after we have been very busy for God. I do not see any reason in the narrative for the popular idea that Samuel had gone to sleep. All that the history says is that " Samuel was laid down to sleep," and those two words "to sleep," as you will see, are in italics, and are not in the original ; we have only therefore " Samuel was laid down." If there be a moment favorable for holy influences, which God seems to select out of the four-and-twenty hours, for His own special pleadings and communings with the soul, — it is that. Let every mother remember it well with her child ; it is her vantage ground ; it is her golden opportunity for close, fond, holy talking. Samuel was just laid down, and Eli too, — for "his eye, dim with age," could not see in the twilight, and he kept the hours of a child, — "and the lamp," — not the chief candlestick, for that never ceased to bum, — but some lesser light in the temple, "was gone out," when the voice came. Many think that the voice came from the shechinah, — />., from the ark over the mercy-seat, and that herein is a great lesson, — that it passed by Eli, and came only to the child. But if it were so the three first times, it doe$ not
God's Still Voices. 215 appear to have been so the fourth, for then, " God came, and stood, and called as at other times." However this may be, whencesoever the voice came, it must have come in soft accents and human tenderness, and it must have been very fatherly, for Samuel took it for Eli's voice. Eli, better taught than his young- acolyte, was the first to read the true meaning of it all, and to see that God had something to say, but that He stayed His words till the hearer's mind was fit, and therefore he
instructed Samuel to say, — "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." He knew and he conveyed to the boy the argument, — a speaking God will have a hearing servant, and if so be the servant does hear, then the Lord will speak, — " Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." I do not know whether it is that there is less reverence in childhood than in age, — or whether it was Samuel's infantine affection, which would not apply to God a word which it was not his wont to use to the man he loved, — or whether it was purely accidental, — but he certainly omitted one part of what Eli taught him to say, and said only, " Speak, for Thy servant heareth." But now let us pass on to the words themselves, and see what is the state of mind which they represent ; — /.^., what is that state of mind which is a pre-requisite for that highest privilege given to man, — the privilege of being individually spoken to by God. First, I see in them a mind disengaged, — 2. mind at liberty, — the door is open, the conscience is free, there is room, and the heart bids welcome. ow this is a great matter. There are so many entanglements, — there are so many secret sins which give a consciousness which makes us afraid to hear a voice from heaven, lest that voice should
2i6 God's Still Voices. say something which we should not like to hear. It is that which stops the voice, — that our whole heart is not ready to come out to meet it. But there is a beautiful frankness and a good conscience about that simple " Speak, Lord/' It must be so if you would ever hear God indeed. God does not speak till there is the stillness of the calm of an easy conscience. You must not be pre-occupied, — there must be nothing in the way, — the word must have free course when it comes down into the affections, and through into the heart's deepest places ; for it is a penetrating voice, and unless you can recilly say, " I wish it to penetrate," it will not come. And this connects itself with another necessary feature, — the mind was unbiassed, — let God speak what He will ; — there was a simple desire to hear only truth. This is
as rare as it is fine, — to see through no medium, — to give no coloring from pur own preferences,— to be only an enquirer, only a learner, — to use the intellect passively, — to take, and take, as it comes, — unwarped, — in its true, simplest meaning, — whatever God says ; — if it be very plain, not to think that we may make it difficult, — if it cross our wishes, and be very severe, not to qualify it, and take the severity out of it, — if it be very pleasant and very kind, not to be afraid to take it in all its full and abounding love, — to raise no questions, and to throw no shadow upon its brightness, — if it be very deep, and difficult, and awful, and incomprehensible, to believe that the mystery is itself the lesson, — and this is the only audience we can ever give to God. And there was, thirdly, evident expectation. God had something definite to say, and the heart longed to hear it ; — it was in a deliberate but an intent mood : — the ear Weis bent, — the neck was outstretched, — the message from God
God's Still Voices. 217 was an Advent, — an Advent looked for, — and there was a "now" in it, an eager "now," — that presses and cannot bear delay, — an importunity of strong*, earnest desire, — Speak, for Thy servant heareth;" as though it said. Speak now, Lord, for now I am listening, but if Thou delay, I may cease to listen." Do you understand that haste of the jealous impetuosity of the affections of a highstrurig heart ? But it was thus, because fourthly, there was a sense of personality. Observe, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth," — how close the speaker and the hearer come together, and all besides as though they were not ; it is a matter of intimacy. This is the secret of heavenly intercourse, — individuality. The heart is a little sanctuary, — a solitude, but for God, — and a whisper comes into the ear, and it is confidential, and it is endearing, and it is assuring ; God nevpr speaks to generalities ; if you do not expect it personally, it will be no voice at all.
And once more, it is as practical as it is personal, and as humble as it is holy, — "Thy servant," — "Thy servant heareth." He is the servant, only the servant, — and when the servant hears, he hears to serve. There are no two rules more absolute; — he that would hear God must be very little in his own eyes, — God must be in His glory, — " Lord," — and you must be down in your nothingness, — your relationship to God all your honor and all your life, — " Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." There must be nothing theoretical, there must be nothing abstract about it, — if- you are speculative, if you are going to make a system, God will not open his lips to you. There must be a willingness to know your duty, — to learn God's will, — to do something for God, — to knock
2i8 God's Still Voices. at wisdom's gate. For you remember how opposite Christ dealt with those who asked anything* with, and those who asked anything without, a real purpose, affecting the life. that every one who looks for those inner voices of truth was in that David-like posture of a servant waiting, delighting to do his lesson I — how sure would be the guiding ! how frequent the intercourse ! how distinct the teaching ! how deep the peace ! If, brethren, if with a mind disengaged, — unbiassed, — expectant, — individualising, — very humble, — and very practical, — you stand to hear those voices, you will hear them. 1 do not hesitate to say they will come soon, — they will come sensibly, — they will come satisfyingly, — all in Christ, and in Christ everywhere ; and you will walk about hearing voices. Let me name one or two occasions when you may especially use the words, and confidently await the issue. When you are listening to a sermon, — do not criticise, — do not see the man, — but sit and feel, — "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." When you open your Bible— before you open it — feel,
"I am come to an oracle to get an answer," — and say, " Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." When you are alone, take occasion of the solitude; — when you go to your room, feel, as you shut the door, — " ow I am alone for this very purpose, — that God may say something to me." If you take a walk among God's handiworks, begin your walk with that expectation, — May the voice of nature speak! — "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." When you lie down on your bed, remember that the day may require some voice from God to close it, and do not shut your eyes till you have asked it. And when you
God's Still Voices, 219 wake in the morning to a new life, vocal with God's presence, and all eloquent with His will, make it a first thought,— " Speak, Lord, for Thy servcuit heareth.'* If your mind is perplexed about any matter, — if you have some hard judgment before you, — recognise exquisitely, and cast yourself absolutely upon that attribute of Christ, — hush yourself into a silent listening for a guiding whisper, — believe in it, — " Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." ever let an affliction fall but you feel it, — nor a joy, but you sing it. For every joy and every affliction is an angel that brings a message. Let each fulfil its mission, — " Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth." And then, when that short night comes, that you will lay down in the consecrated bed where "the Holy Child Jesus" lay, you will not have to fear what voice it will be which will meet your waking. But you ask, — " What will God say to me, if from time to time I bid Him speak ? " Who am I to answer it ? I do not know; I only know this, that "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him," — I know that He will reveal to you, as He did to Samuel, His own. mind, — He will show you what He does not show to the world, — you will be admitted into the deeper sanctities of truth, — you
will be conversant with the great things of God. O marvel of God's grace! — O wonder of all wonders I — that God should speak to such a babe ! But therefore it is, because you are a babe, and in proportion as you are a babe, that He does speak; it needs nothing but to be a babe. "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so. Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
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