SEEING THE UNSEEN By John O'Brien Eust, D. D., LL. D.

,

"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; bnt the things which are not seen are eternal."— II. Cor. 4 : 18. DOTHAN was a city set on a Mil, whose sloping sides were brocaded with waving fields andj fringed with green groves. One morning the villagers awoke to discover that the city was surrounded by Syrian soldiers. Benhadad had come to capture Elisha. The prophet's servant runs to him with the alarming news and exclaims : "Alas, my master, how shall we do ?" The old man saw something which the young man did not see, and answers with composure : "Fear not, for they that are with us are more than they that are with them." Then he prayed and the young man's eyes were opened on the spiritual world. Standing between Elisha and his enemies on the hillsides about that city were "horses and chariots of fire," battalions of armored angels with shields uplifted and swords aflame, ready to move upon that human army at the clarion call of the prophet's prayer. Hear four preliminary remarks, viz. : {a) There are two worlds. The seen is this present, visible, tangible, material world addressing the mind of man through the broad avenues of the bodily senses; apprehended by the cunning intellectuality of the eye, the exquisite emotionality of the ear, the subtle chemistry of taste and smell, and the sensitive mechanism of touch. The unseen is the present, invisible, intangible, spiritual world, addressing the mind of man through his spiritual faculties ; discovered by the fine perceptions of faith, apprehended by the deep

292 THE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. intuitions of the soul, and gazed upon through the clear, glorifying

vision of Christian hope. These two worlds, the seen and the unseen, are intertwined like the strands of a rope, cohorts of Syrians there, legions of angels here; the seen, visible like this audience; the unseen, invisible like that celestial company which has come from the courts of glory to worship with us to-day. {!)) Both of these worlds are real. God, and angels, and the unseen universe are vast realities. Because you cannot see a thing is no reason why it does not exist. Faith is the conviction of the reality of the invisible. And this world, and the people, and things in it are realities. The idealist who says that matter is a m3^th is as foolish as the materialist who says that there is nothing but matter. Christianity is the champion of reality; it plants its feet on facts and proclaims the existence of two real worlds, the one seen, the other unseen. (c) AVhile both worlds are real, the unseen is the more important. Angels are of more consequence than Syrians. Those soldiers are long since sleeping in the sod beneath the shadow of their shields, but the angels have lived on in undiminished power. When rocky, sea-girt Patmos shall have crumbled into dust, the white-towered city which John saw from those lone heights will be enduring in its glory. God is more sovereign than man. Soul is more important than body, xily eternal life in the skies is of immensely more consequence than my temporary tent-life on earth. To admit the reality of these two worlds is to concede superiority to the unseen. (d) It is a sad fact, however, that the seen, though less important, has more of a mastery over us than the unseen. The visible, tangible, and material influence us more than the invisible, intangible, and spiritual. The here and now are more potent than the tliere and then. We are more obsequious to soldiers than to angels. In our lone exiles we look more confidently to some Eome of power for help than to that Holy City of grace above the blue dome of the visible. In our natural state we are the slaves of the inferior. And now the text with trumpet peal calls on us to reverence the superior: "Look not at the things which are seen, but

SEEING THE UXSEEX. 293 at the thin^ which are not seen^'' (II. Cor. 4: 18). This is God's voice commanding ns to renounce the mastery of the temporal, and to swear allegiance to the eternal. \ I. TTHAT AEE SEEX THIXGS Seen things are things which you can see. Bnt this is not the exact description of our text; it says that seen things are temporary. All those things that are ephemeral, which pass away, which perish, belong to the seen world. Whatever is visible perishes. These things are real and potent while they last; their one conspicuous, characteristic mark is they do not endnre. If we will search the Scriptures, we wiU find that seen things fall into two classes, viz. : 1. The world, for we read, ^'The world passes awar' (1 John 2 : 17). We fearfully reduce the meaning of this term in its Bible uses. What is the world? There is crowded into this little word all there is of this present vast visible order of things. (1). What we call nature is only a part of the world. The valley mist lifted by the hands of the morning light, and torn and tossed up into fleecy, vanishing nothingness ; the velvet violet that sleeps on the warm breast of some sweet summer day: the aurora's flush, the insubstantial clouds, and the solid mountains — aU these are bom to die; they will pass away, and so they belong to the seen. (2). And then we apply the term world to a certain class of human actions; we call such conduct worldly and such people worldlings. In its familiar usage there is a miserable narrowing of the meaning of this term. We commonly apply it to a few unpopular vices. To some people worldliness is restricted to a revolver, rum, a deck of cards, a ball-room, and the theatre. These are bad, desperately bad, but there is other, and perhaps worse, worldliness for us to consider. Some people too cold and close for these degrading pleasures prate about the wickedness of the abandoned, while they themselves are in closer touch with common clay than

those whom they abuse. Cold cupidity, hoarding its gold; cruel ambition, climbing to its throne on the ruin of others; polished moraUty, catering to a depraved sestheticism ; supercilious culture.

294 THE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. doing court to voluptuous vanity, all these are desperately worldly and sometimes viciously wicked. I have seen some gloomy by nature, or embittered by the disappointments of life, hate the chaste Joys of hale and hearty piety v/ith envenomed malice. That sour severity which would curse a rose and crucify a smile is worldliness gone into satanism. (3) . And this word world is not yet empty of its meaning. Many of the dominant sentiments and tastes of life are ephemeral; they pass away. All that we can group under ^^the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2: 16) is of the world. All the vast accumulation of error in ethics and aesthetics; the mis-educations and false tastes of art; the vagaries of philosophy; the fallacies of statecraft; the huge blunderings of common sense — all these which are of the world and for the world are as mortal as the circumstances which gave them birth, and they will pass away. They may be beautiful as the tonic mist that rises from the trembling harp-strings, but as that vanishes into unfathomed silence, so these things will perish with their using. They liave no permanent existence outside of their reflex action on the immortal soul of man; they will exist, not in themselves, only in their effects. How very much will cease to be when the world passes away amazes us ; and all of this belongs to the seen. 2. The "outer man" (2 Cor. 4: 16) is the Scripture phrase that designates the second class of seen things, for we read "the outer man perishes." The "world" and the "outer man" exhaust the category of the seen. We cannot draw a clear line between these two groups, because the outer man describes man in his devotedness to the world, man in his carnal nature living as though there were no God, and loving this life as though there were no life beyond the grave. Scripture calls this life the "outer man," and says it will

perish. It refers not merely to man's body, for we see that is failing, but to man's soul in its devotedness to this world. This outer man, in his vices or his virtues, in his indulgences or restraints, in his follies or ambitions, in his failures or achievements, in his sorrows or joys, will pass away. The good goes with the bad. Divinest music goes arm in arm with

SEEING THE UNSEEN". 295 sad, discordant misery cloaked and hooded; art and aesthetics walk with evil all befouled and wretched; stately philosophy, withered and worn, is companion to enfeebled folly, sad for once; kingly dignity afoot o'ertakes ragged povert}^ on the way, and they go on together into the grave. All this present order is moving on into decay. All that is temporal and material and all the loves and lusts that rest on these will perish. The temporal world appeals only to the temporary in man, and both will pass away, and together they make up the seen world. The outer man has no permanent existence in himself. He will live only as he affects the immortal inner man. His life may mar the glory or make the gloom of the inner man, bnt he himself will perish. II. THE NATUKE OF SEEN THINGS Onr text has nothing to say about the moral quality of seen things; it simply remarks that they are perishing. It does not say whether they are good or bad. As a matter of fact, seen things, whether in the world or in the outer man, are both good and bad. But the bad of seen things is not the worst bad, nor is the good of seen things the best good. It is worse to sin against the unseen than against the seen; and it is more blessed to serve the unseen than the seen. Better doubt your eyes than your faith. Better listen to God than to men. Better love heaven than earth. Better wrong your temporal than your eternal interests. Better sacrifice your body than your soul. Better practice unpopular piety than fashionable moralit}^ Better pray than reason. Better give than hoard. Better love than hate. It is vastly better to train the immortal inner man in his divine aptitudes for the unseen and spirit-

ual than to grow the stalwart outer man strong in his loves for the seen and the material. And yet we must remember that there is good as well as bad in these seen things. The only charge our text brings against seen things is that they are temporary. The Bible nowhere charges the world with being bad; it simply says that it is perishing. Fix this thought in your mind. There is immense power in this idea.

296 THE AMEBIC AN BAPTIST PULPIT. Men do not care if the world is bad; they think it is so valuable they want it anyhow., If you can convince them that the world is no account, they will give it up, and this is what the Bible is after in telling us that the world is perishable instead of bad. The man who wants the earth is not so v/icked as foolish. If there is any bad, it is in him, and not in the earth. Hell will be to such a man more an asylum than a penitentiary. ISTone of us have ever yet realized how insane sin is. If the world is going to perish, we don^t want it; it is not worth having, and we will begin to seek a world that will last. That is what the Scripture says. "The world passes away"; "the outer man perishes." A triumphal procession was entering Kome. The conqueror rode at the head of his army amidst the shouts of his devoted people. Some one asked him if there was anything lacking. "Yes," he answered, "continuance." That is what this world lacks, continuance. "The pageant of this world passeth av/ay," and carries down in the wreck the dearest loves of our hearts, which we have given to it. III. HOW TO TREAT SEEN THINGS Our text says "Look not." This means not to take aim like a gunner, or an archer, sights at his target. We are not forbidden to look at these things at all, but not to look at them too much. We must bestow a proper regard upon this world, but not to give consuming attention to it. 1. We must not underestimate the seen; it is real, and of some

value. Jesus does not wish his people to become sour sescetics. One time I visited Gethsemane, the monastery of the Trappist monks, the silent brotherhood, in Nelson county, Ky. It is an old gridiron building on a mound in a grove of English elms in the centre of a saucer-shaped valley midst a circling coronal of hills., It was autumn. It was carnival week in the woods, and the trees were aflame in crimson, scarlet, and gold. The sky was clear, and the little valley was flooded to the brim with the glorious sunlight. I asked the monk who conducted me through the building if the scene was not beautiful ? "Ah ! no," he said, "there is nothing beautiful

SEEING THE UNSEEN. 297 in this world/^ That was a lie. God rose early that morning and clothed the earth in all the gorgeous beauty of his glory to delight his children, and they should see it and rejoice in it. Eevelation returns no indictment against the lily or the sunbeam. We should not despise the rose of dawn, the noon-day's splendor, the tremulous glory of the gloaming, the evening star, nor the calm majesty of the night. All these belong to the seen, and they are to be loved. The fact is, if we look closer at seen things sometimes, we get a great blessing. We can look through nature up to nature's God; and sometimes even human nature can tell us of divinity. For thirty years I heard Beethoven's sonatas as a stupid jumble of sounds, until one day a friend opened those rh}i;lmiic philosophies to me. Her fair hands followed the dip and toss of the ivory waves of that bright melodic sea until I saw the vision and heard the message of these great song-sermons. Was I wrong to listen to this teacher? All that is good in the deeds and thoughts of men we should justly regard. The great virtues and pure ideas of the world tell us of God, and they will bless us if we practice them. And so it is not wrong for us to follow our occupations in this world. Eeligion never was intended to make us hate sweat. There is nothing unreligious in honorable secular labor. It is our duty to work and to have in order that we may give Therefore we should go into the fields and marts, not into a cave. We are to be separate

from the world, but that does not mean for us to quit work and to exclude ourselves from society. Our peculiarity should be to have a bigness above our holdings. Live among men and do a man's part as the child of your heavenly Father, and God will bless you. 2. We should not overestimate the seen. Where there is one who gives too little attention to seen things, there are ten thousand who give too much attention to them. This generation is in no danger of turning into monks. The habitual pleasure-seeker is worse than the sour-faced sescetic. The young lady who gives all her time to fashions and society, and the young man who is a moral, greedy, money-maker is as much overestimating the world as the abandoned and debauched. There is no use to make comparisons, for the ISTew Testament puts these two groups into one class and declares that the

298 THE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. lustful and the miserly, the idler and' the covetous are all one. I saw a young woman in an insane asylum dressing from morning till night, parading her finery before the vacant eyes of those wretched inmates. Not more insane was she than those who give all their time and care to this earthly life and fail to prepare themselves for the life to come. It is almost as sad to give exclusive devotion to even the good in this fading world as to the bad. I had better stop my ears to Beethoven and never hear his songs again rather than that I should listen altogether to him and his companions and fail to hear the singing of those choirs invisible which praise God day and night before his throne. It were better that I should close my eyes forever to flowery vale and sun-crested mountains, if they are to hold my vision from seeing the holy city and the heavenly home. I should never again listen to men talk, it matters not how wise their message, if hearing them forbids me to listen to God's voice in his holy word. It is not enough to say a thing is harmless; if it is between you and the unseen world, it is your fatal enemy. If we are to neglect totally either world, let it be the world of the perishing seen things. Let us set our minds on things above, and use the

seen only to help us to the unseen. You overestimate the seen whenever you think more of it than you do of the unseen. 3. The way we should treat seen things is clearly stated in 1 Cor. 7 : 31 : "Use this world as not abusing it, for the fashion (pageant) of this world passeth away.^^ We should master this world and make it serve us as a slave to help us on to the world to come. If we do not conquer the world, it will conquer us. Either you must be master and the world slave, or the world will be master and you the slave. If you love this world, it will overcome you. The way to overcome it is to love the other world. Now, faith is "the victory that overcometh the world" (1 Jolin 5:4). The way to master seen things so you can make pure and profitable use of them is to have an abiding confidence in unseen things. And just here is the problem of life. It is hard to master this world. I begin life in this world, and in the outer man. First that which is natural. My human nature early learns to love the nature

SEEING THE UNSEEN. 299 of this world. The dominant sentiments about me educate me in the desires and ambitions for seen things, and I soon find my opinions and convictions formed in entire harmony with my carnal miad. Xow a text like this commanding me to lift up my soul and believe in and love the invisible and spiritual comes to me with a shock. It is revolutionary. It plunges me into a desperate struggle with myself, and the war is on between the weak powers of my soul and the stalwart passions of my flesh. Earth is so near and so necessary, and the outer man is so strong, while heaven is so distant and remote, and the inner man so feeble, that many a soul has said no to the high call of this text, and has gone marching on in the dying pageant of the world. Just here is the problem of life. No man will say yes to our text and set his heart on things above unless he first fixes a firm faith in God and has in his heart assurance of the sublime realities of the unseen universe. God wiU help you to that faith. Open your hearts to receive him and cry out for him to come in to abide with you. One time a lady went to

see an aged friend who was poor and blind and bed-ridden. They had not seen each other for a lons^ time. When she entered the room the old lady said: "Come here, my child; I cannot see you. Is that the old voice ? I do not know. Come here and let me feel your hair and brow and let me kiss jo\i" And the dear old woman began to weep as she kissed her, and exclaimed: "Oh! I see yon now; it is my sweet friend come to love me again." Her tears washed the windows of her eyes, and her soul could see her beloved again. Oh, brother! weep; weep over the idle, useless years yon have loved this failing world and neglected God and jout home on high. Through the lense of a penitent tear you can see God. One glimpse of his gracious love will redeem you, one look at heaven's glory will win you from earth's grossness. The moment you do this God will be your father, and your conqueror soul will have this servile world at its feet. Then you can "use it as not abusing it.'^ Then you can make its best things prosper you on your journey home, and as a master you can make its ^light afflictions" work out for you an "eternal weight of glory." Then the perishing of the outer man will day by day renew the inner man. Have faith in God and you have conquered the world.

300 THE AMEKICAIs^ BAPTIST PULPIT. God will help you in the spiritual life. All the Holy Trinity will come to your aid. One day Eubenstein played the ^'Erl King" in a New York concert hall. The pianist had just received welcome letters from his wife and children from far across the sea, and his soul had melted. He had a dual inspiration. Goethe wrote the poem, Schubert composed the melod}^, and Liszt transcribed it for the piano; and all three were now speaking through Eubenstein, and the voices of his absent loved ones were cheering him on. Just so, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will speak through a life consecrated to the unseen and make it a melody divine. Above this low roof of blue sky such a soul will see the city of God, and loved ones will shout their greetings through dim distances and make ready for the meeting when you come home at last. All the sacred loves and hopes of the heart teach us to believe in the vmseen. Blessed is the man who can see the invisible. Salvation is to love

God more than this world. " There's heaven above, and night by night I look right through its gorgeous roof; No suns and moons though e'er so bright Avail to stop me; splendor-proof I keep the broods of stars aloof; For I intend to get to God, For 'tis to God I speed so fast, For in God's breast, my own abode. Those shoals of dazzling glory passed, I lay my spirit down at last." 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful