By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
What is the moral value of a biography? There is nothing more likely to make the narrative impressive to us than to close the book and spend some time in meditating on the means by which the subject of the life became great. Here, we say, is a man who has attained; how did he attain? what was the mental method by which he became strong and successful? what were the steps by which he reached that elevated seat of power? I am not going to review the life of Moses, but to point to the great principle of his actions, in the life, passed in the loving presence of the unseen God.
I. And first, the word "INVISIBLE." Consider the power of invisible facts. Why should it be thought "a thing incredible" to any mind that the Invisible should exercise imperial dominion over us? The sceptic, who refuses his credence to the great realities of faith, is a most unreasonable man. Why, the Invisible rules us all. You cannot but have noticed how small a portion of the universe the eye of the senses sees. If we only believed in the world of the Materialist, how little we should behold! But there is a power by which I am able to live in or with the absent, the distant, and the dead; and even in the unknown. If the sceptic replies to me, that all this is the mere vividness of the cultured and informed fancy, I should stilt ask him again, what is fancy itself but the lowest form of moral sympathy, of which imagination and affection are the highest regions and noblest moods? But it is so in all things. The Invisible is our life. As Turgot said of Columbus," He was not so great because he discovered America, as because he set sail in the faith that there was such a continent to discover." His faith made him great: "he went out, not knowing whither he went." Light, which makes all things clear, is to us invisible. And whether colour is a quality in bodies, or merely an appearance imparted to bodies, is, and must remain to me a matter of doubt. We breathe air; it is to us a life-giving existence; but who ever saw it?
II. Thus, from the consideration of that which is invisible, we come to "HIM who is invisible"; and I remark now that this is the great foundation of moral character, and that God is the sustainer of all great minds; that all great minds are powerful to perform as they are absorbed by the idea of God. I say the idea of God; but I do not mean by that the mere cold abstraction of the metaphysical law, but that vast thought which is embodied in the text as a real apprehension of an infinite personality — "the enduring as seeing Him who is invisible." There is a world of invisible beings around me; the presence of such invisible beings has been recognised by illustrious and open souls in all ages, as a grand motive to action and to emulation. The invisible dead salute us and inspire us in all our selectest hours; they walk by us in the twilight, in solitude; they come to us in moods of that holy sorrow which calms and chastens, when the grief ceases to be a passion, and becomes a quiet power; they animate — they sustain. Invisible beings tempt us. It is awful when we are brought into their centre. But, ah! how the thought rises and intensifies when it is no longer merely the image of the invisible dead, but the invisible God! Ah! what a state of heart and mind is that in which God is beheld everywhere "stilling the noise of the waves, and the tumults of the people"; making " the outgoings of the morning and the evening to rejoice"; when the pomp and the majesty of the rolling clouds and the swell and deep organ-tone of the winds are Something more than the mere phantasmal gleams and tones playing round some central law; when they all are beheld as what in truth they are — ideas of the infinite but invisible God; and when the spirit passes through them all, as through the curtain spread round His pavilion, it bows before the innermost glory of the Shekinah, not content to realise merely "the clouds which are the dust of His feet," without the burst of praise to our common Father — "the Lord, the Lord of Hosts is His name."
III. Now I will ask you if yon think it possible that this state of existence, in the presence of the Eternal Reality of the universe, can be WITHOUT IMPARTING TO THE WHOLE CHARACTER AND BEARING OF THE BELIEVERS AN ERECTNESS AND DIGNITY UNKNOWN TO THOSE TO WHOM SUCH POWER IS NOT PRESENT. Man is only great as he stands humbly but most believingly in the presence of God; and then he becomes great indeed. Oh I what grandeur invests human action — what royalty impels and crowns human passion — what sublimity wings the human conception — what a Divine fire burns through the human world, where, in everything, the acting, speaking man beholds "Him who is invisible" standing in his path! And oh, how mean, too, is everything divorced from God! "There is nothing great," said the greatest preacher of France, "there is nothing great but God!" True; but relationship to Him imparts something of His greatness to the relationship, and hallows it with the grandeur and benignant beauty of His own character. And God, who knows so well the necessities of our human nature, and that even faith itself needs some help from sight to intensify and foca-lise its vision, has condescended to make Christ the voice and the shape of that which must have been, but for Him, an eternal silence. Hence, since Christ came to the world, there has been given a dignity, a freedom, an elasticity and spring to the attemptings and efforts of the human mind unknown before. It is my belief that all things languish as they are removed from the sensible presence of "Him who is invisible." This is greatness — residence beneath the conscious love and smile of the Invisible. This makes prayer a reality and a power. This it is that sheds a sanctity and a charm over the homeliness and commonplace of daily life. I walk with "Him who is invisible." He is with me in Cheapside and on the Exchange; He is with me in the field, and in the chamber; He is with me in the library and the garden. "Thou God seest me." "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"
IV. "HE ENDURED as seeing Him who is invisible!" That which I have set before you as the true crown of character — that life in the presence of an invisible God and Saviour — has been the life, and power, and lustre of the Church in all ages, and of all the men of the Church. Wonderful in all ages has been the missionary's intrepidity and zeal, the martyr's abandonment, and the hero's energy. But they " endured as seeing Him who is invisible." "He endured as seeing Him who is invisible! Here is greatness I here is heroism! And yet this is the idea so ridiculed. "What do you believe?" a celebrated writer makes one of his heroes inquire; and the reply was, "I believe in that," stamping his foot on the solid earth. Oh, it is a sorry world if man can only believe in that, only in that which is beneath him; for then all must be dead — the whole world may go in mourning; no chivalry, no honour, no trust between man and man; and none between man and God. Nay, you will have no fact and no science if you attempt to blot the Invisible from life. Oh, take care of the Invisible! oh, cleave to the Invisible! it sits at either extreme of our character; both holy and unholy passions are far removed from the calm world of prudence.
(E. P . Hood.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.