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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 56 - Hebrews 11:1 - Unseen Things and Their Influence Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




Unseen Things And Their Influence.


"Things not seen."-Hebrews 11:1.



     In writing to the Corinthians, the apostle says, 'We walk by faith, not by sight;' meaning that it is the things which we believe, not the things which we see, regulate and influence our Christian course, our daily walk; making us, like Enoch and like Noah, to 'walk with God.'

     Elsewhere, says the same apostle, 'He endured as seeing Him who is invisible;' showing us, in the case of Moses, the influence of an unseen God upon a believing man, in respect of holiness and courage and power.

     Let us, then, 'look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.' Let us ask how faith operates upon us,-faith, which is 'the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.' What is the exact influence of the unseen upon us?

     I.  It is in and by the things unseen that our Christian course has its origin and commencement.-Our mere natural is a life of sight and sense; in which everything is influenced by what we see, and hear and touch, and taste; for beyond these the natural man does not go, save when he gives his intellect scope to speculate, or dream, or fancy. This part of our course ends and a new one begins, by the opening of unseen things to the eye. These separate us from former objects, and deliver us from a present evil world. It is the sight of an unseen law that makes us tremble; the sight of an unseen judgment in the distance that rouses us up to feel that this is not our rest. So it is the sight of an unseen Christ, an unseen cross, that detaches us from the world, and forms the commencement of our new career. Our soul lets go its hold of the seen and grasps the unseen. Thus the new course begins. It begins with joy and peace in believing.

     II. The things unseen keep us separate from the world.-It is not merely a rending asunder at the outset; but a keeping asunder all the days of our life; a walk of separation from the world every day; even in those things which we have outwardly in common with the world, such as business and recreation; even in such things we walk by faith and not by sight. Our business, our amusements, our conversation, our reading, our employments, our family life, our private life, our public life, all are regulated by the things unseen. In all of these we manifest nonconformity with the world.

     III. The things unseen sanctify us and lift our affections above.-We need to be drawn upward, and the things unseen are all above; so that their influence is all upward. The unseen Christ, the unseen glory, the unseen inheritance, are all above: in realizing them we are lifted upward. And as we are lifted upward, so are we sanctified by the heavenly vision. Sin is made hateful; lusts and carnal feelings are more loosened from us and fall off. We become more unlike the men of earth, more like the citizens of heaven. The clearer that these heavenly objects appear, the more influential, the more sanctifying, and the more elevating they are. In beholding them we are made like them; purified, changed into the same image from glory to glory.

     IV. The things unseen strengthen us.-The feebleness, fadingness, vanity, poverty of things which we do see here, are very enfeebling and disheartening; whereas the greatness, enduringness, glory, excellence of the things which we do not see, strengthen, nerve, animate, invigorate us. These glorious invisibilities quicken our steps, kindle zeal and love, make us willing to endure hardness,-to count labour, privation, suffering, poverty, as nothing. Thus we walk in strength, with erect heads, zealous, earnest, untiring, because of what faith shows us, the things within the veil.

     V. The things unseen comfort us.-Our walk here is not all smoothness and sunshine. Tribulation, weariness, pain, sickness, bereavement, throw their thick clouds over us. We take refuge in the future from the present. Our prospects, ever bright, ever glorious, cheer, sustain, and console us. Life is so brief; its sorrows will so soon be done; Christ will so soon be here; resurrection and glory and, gladness will so soon dawn on us! We need not be over-burdened or over-sorrowful because of the present. Faith shows us the light beyond the darkness, and that comforts us. The eternal kingdom will make up for all!

     Whatever may lie before us here, our eternal future is that to which we look. We weigh everything by that; regulate, judge everything by that. 'It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him.'

     The translation of Enoch, referred to in the 5th verse, was the first open proclamation of the truth, of which after ages are full, that redeemed man is to have a home above,-an inheritance in the heavens,-something better and more glorious than paradise. Hitherto he had looked up from earth to heaven; but he was taught that ere long he should look down on earth from heaven. Hitherto earth had been his kingdom and his home; now he was made to see that though when renewed it might be his kingdom, yet heaven above was to be his palace and his abode. His connection with things terrestrial was not to be broken, but only to be carried out on a far higher footing, himself a dweller amid the things celestial.

     Enoch's translation gave intimation of this purpose of God,-a purpose which connects itself with His elect Church of every age,-a purpose which shall be fully brought out into manifestation in that day when they who are alive and remain, along with those who have fallen asleep, shall be caught up, as Enoch was, into the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.

     Enoch's translation reminds us not simply of that truth taught us in the death of Jared and Methuselah before the flood came, viz, that the righteous are taken away from the evil to come; but it points to the translation of the living saints which are on the earth, when the Lord comes, by which they are caught up out of the last great day of terror, to be with the Lord, far above the reach of the deluge of lire that is covering earth beneath them,-not, like Noah, carried through the flood, but taken out of it, and beyond it altogether, caught up into the cloud of glory to be with the Lord for ever. Are you ready for translation? I do not ask, Are you ready for death? I ask, Are you ready for translation? Ready to put off this vile body, and put on the glorified body,-ready to go up into these heavens, like Enoch and Elijah, to meet and welcome your returning Lord? For He will come suddenly,-who knows how soon! Oh, let not that day overtake you unawares!

     In the circumstance of Enoch's translation there was nothing visibly striking or terrible to the world. No token was given. No signs of terror,-the earthquake, or the tempest, or the darkening of the heavens,-no signs gave notice of his hour being come, or heralded him up into the sky with pomp and outward glory. 'He was not,'-'he was not found;' this is all we learn. He disappeared from among the children of men! He walked with God, and in the midst of this calm and blessed walk, he passed upwards, as by an invisible ladder, into the presence of his God. How sweet, how blessed, how calm, how congenial, this termination of a holy, heavenly walk! So natural the transition from the fellowship below to the communion above! He was not, for God took him! As in the case of Elijah, they might seek him, but he was not found! Without a sick-bed, or a death-bed, without the pains or weaknesses of decaying age,-in the full maturity of primeval manhood he went up to the inheritance above. Such will be the translation of the saints when the Lord comes; though not with the same secrecy. Two shall be in the field,-a believer and an unbeliever,-one shall be 'taken,' that is, caught up, and the other left. Two shall be grinding at the mill,-a believer and an unbeliever,-one shall be taken, and the other left. Two shall be in one bed,-a believer and an unbeliever,-one shall be taken, and the other left. Then the vengeance of the Lord shall be poured out, according to Enoch's awful words, 'Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all.'

     O sinner, are you ready for these days of darkness that are even now gathering over us? Can you brave the wrath or bribe the justice of the great Avenger? Your mirth will then be dumb; your songs will then be silent; your gaiety will be exchanged for wailing, and your security for terror; your cup of pleasure will be turned into a cup of trembling; the devouring fire, and the blackness of darkness, and the second death, shall be your only prospect then. You might have had love for your portion, but you have chosen wrath; you might have had life, but you have chosen death; and as you have sown, so shall you reap, in that awful harvest day for which the world is fast ripening now.[8]