In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them.—Isa_63:9.
These words occur in the course of a most affecting and pathetic prayer which the prophet utters. In the course of his prayer he recalls the wonderful love of Jehovah for His people during their early afflictions, His patience with their waywardness, and His surpassing gentleness and care while on their way to Palestine. He is the same mighty Helper as of old, and His mercy is not restrained.
It is an argument from God’s own past, an argument which never fails to sustain His suffering saints, and it is no less cheering to us than to the captive Jews; nay, more so, all the records of His dealings with His ancient people are still witnesses to us, and from them we can gather with what manner of Saviour we have to do. We have had the clearer light of the Cross to illuminate the Christian story. We can make the use of the New Testament doubly precious when we can trace the connection between the God of the Old and New Testament. The mediatorial office of Christ did not begin in the manger. It travels back to the door of history, before the birth of human souls. It is one Person all along the line, one character of patient lovingkindness and mercy that is revealed to us in both Testaments—more obscurely in the prophecies of the Old, more abundantly in the fulfilment of the New.
“In all their affliction he was afflicted.” Wonderful are those words. The more carefully they are studied, the more surprising do they appear. It is only gradually that their meaning grows upon the mind, either filling it with increasing wonder or, where faith is strong enough to receive it, awakening overpowering feelings of gratitude and adoration. It must be understood at the outset that God’s suffering is sympathetic. He shares in our afflictions, inasmuch as He has sympathy with us therein. We are so dear to Him as His children that He feels both with and for us.
1. An afflicted God.—There is no ground for the objection that suffering is impossible to God, because of the perfection of His nature. To be unsympathetic is no proof of perfection in any being. The most perfect father is by no means he who is most heedless of the feelings, and unaffected by the sufferings, of his children; nor the most perfect king he who is indifferent to, and unmoved by, the state of his subjects. And certainly it is a most arbitrary and groundless view of the perfection of the Divine Being, which pronounces it impossible for Him to be painfully affected by the sufferings of His own. So far as we know anything of moral perfection, we see that it is sympathetic just in proportion as it rises in degree. Love is the glory of God, as it is the goodness of man, and love is essentially sympathetic.
May it not be that this suffering is essential to the very highest blessedness? Is it not manifestly far more consistent with it, to say the least, than indifference or insensibility? With Bushnell, we cannot help thinking that such suffering must be joy itself, the fullest, and profoundest, and sublimest joy conceivable. There was never a being on earth so deep in His peace and so essentially blessed as Jesus Christ. Even His agony itself is scarcely an exception. There is no joy so grand as that which has a form of tragedy. We are never so happy, so essentially blessed, as when we suffer well, wearing out our life in sympathies spent on the evil and undeserving, burdened heavily in our prayers, struggling on through secret Gethsemanes, and groaning before God, in groans audible to God alone, for those who have no mercy on themselves. What man of the race ever finds that in such love as this he has been made unhappy? Therefore, when we say that God suffers in sympathy with His people, we do not deny that He is the ever-blessed God; we do rather by implication affirm His infinite blessedness.
2. Afflicted in all our afflictions.—“In all their affliction he was afflicted.” Consider how many there are who suffer—and how varied their sufferings are. Think of the long procession of Zion’s pilgrims who have watered their course with tears, and left on the flinty rock or the burning sand the marks of their bleeding feet. Think of the sighing and groaning of the prisoners, the victims of human oppression, which have reached the Divine ear. Think of the noble army of martyrs, who after suffering inhuman tortures have sealed their testimony with their blood. Think of the sufferers in less public spheres who have had wearisome nights and troublesome days appointed to them. Think of the Christian homes which have been darkened by poverty and suffering and bereavement, and of the myriads of Christian hearts on which from time to time dark shadows have fallen. Think of the many afflictions of the righteous, and of God as sharing in them all. And then say what individual sufferer can know anything of the extent of His, who has shared in the aggregated sufferings of His people throughout all generations, taking upon Himself the individual sorrows of every one, so that, “In all their affliction he was afflicted.”
3. The fulfilment in Christ.—Here we have one of the tenderest conceptions of God that the Old Testament can give us: the conception of God suffering for and with His people. It would not be correct to say that this was a prediction of Christ; but it would be true to say that, here as elsewhere, Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil; that, in His person, He did fulfil the highest and deepest conceptions of God as, shall we say, capable of feeling with men, of descending, as it were, to their level, of bearing their burdens, of fighting their battles—and in this sense is not this picture an anticipation, an unconscious anticipation, of the Incarnation and the Passion of God as exhibited in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord?
When Jesus came and lived among us the heart of God was laid bare, and every one can see in the Gospel that patient wistful love which inhabits the secret place of the universe. As the father sits upon the housetop, and watches the crest of the hill, that he may catch the first glimpse of the returning prodigal; as the householder makes ready his feast and sends for his ungrateful guests; as the vine master appeals to his disloyal tenants by his own son, we learn the expectation of God. As Jesus takes into His arms little children whom superior people have despised, and casts His charity over penitent women whom Pharisees cannot forgive, and mourns at the tomb of Lazarus over a friend whom He cannot afford to lose, one learns the graciousness of God. As Jesus turns sadly from Nazareth, the city of his youth, which had refused Him, and reproaches Capernaum, the city of His choice, which did not believe in Him, and weeps openly over Jerusalem, which knew not the day of her visitation, one learns the regret of God. And as Jesus appeals to the disciples, “Will ye also go away?” and prophesies with a sad heart that every one of His friends will forsake Him, and is cast into a deep gloom by the betrayal of Judas, we learn what is almost incredible, but most comfortable, the dependence of God. The Cross is not only in the heart of human life, it is also in the heart of God. He is the chief of all sufferers, because He is the chief of all lovers.
There are two great afflictions in which our Saviour may be said to have been afflicted.
(1) There is, in the first place, the affliction of sin. It is a wonderful and overwhelming truth that God in the person of Christ chose to learn by a personal experience the power of evil. This, surely, is the meaning of the temptation, and, perhaps, of the agony and the bloody sweat. It was not that Christ for one moment yielded in deed or thought to the Power of Darkness, to the temptations of evil, but, as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, “He suffered being tempted.” It was not a mere dramatic representation, the contest of Christ with Satan. It was real. The victory was real, but it was a victory gained not without pain and effort. Nor was it only by the forces of evil combined against His own life that Christ was afflicted in our affliction. He saw all around Him the evidence of the sin of man. When He beheld the city He wept over it. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” “He was afflicted in their affliction!” And so ever more and more He, the sinless One, bears the sins of men upon His own heart, feels them even as if they were His own, until at last they seem even to obscure the Father’s face.… What else is the meaning of the cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” … What does it mean except that, in that darkest hour, the Son of God had so completely identified Himself with His sinful brethren that “in all their affliction he was afflicted”?
It is this that gives Him His power to-day; the fact that He stooped to learn by a personal experience all the strength of evil, that He descended to enter into the common human struggle, and in issuing victorious to be the leader against the forces of evil everywhere. “For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” says the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
(2) The other great affliction is the affliction of suffering. Sin and suffering—of one kind and another—do not these two words comprehend and cover the whole range of human ills? Do we not feel the suffering of the world to be one of our great difficulties in the way of believing in the goodness of God—the undeserved suffering of the world? Are we not impatient at the pious commonplaces that are hurled at us, that “all is for the best,” that “God knows what is good for us”? “It is all very well,” we can imagine men saying—“it is all very well to say that God knows what is best for us, but what does God know of suffering? Is He not high above the suffering of the universe, incapable of feeling it? what can His perfection know of all this anguish? That is a natural thought. The mystery of pain is one which baffles us, but at least the great and awful truth of Passiontide saves us from supposing that God is above or beyond the sphere of our suffering. “In all their affliction He was afflicted.”
Bright February days have a stronger charm of hope about them than any other days in the year. One likes to pause in the mild rays of the sun, and look over the gates at the patient plough-horses turning at the end of the furrow, and think that the beautiful year is all before one. The birds seem to feel just the same; their notes are as clear as the clear air. There are no leaves on the trees and hedgerows, but how green all the grassy fields are! and the dark purplish brown of the ploughed earth and of the bare branches is beautiful too. What a glad world this looks like as one drives or rides along the valleys or over the hills! I have often thought so when, in foreign countries, where the fields and woods have looked to me like our English Loam shire—the rich land tilled with just as much care, the woods rolling down the gentle slopes to the green meadows—I have come on something by the roadside which has reminded me that I am not in Loamshire: an image of a great agony—the agony of the Cross. It has stood perhaps by the clustering apple blossoms, or in the broad sunshine by the cornfield, or at a turning by the wood where a clear brook was gurgling below; and surely, if there came a traveller to this world who knew nothing of the story of man’s life upon it, this image of agony would seem to him strangely out of place in the midst of this joyous nature. He would not know that hidden behind the apple-blossoms, or among the golden corn, or under the shrouding boughs of the woods, there might be a human heart beating heavily with anguish; perhaps a young blooming girl, not knowing where to turn for refuge from swift-advancing shame.… Such things are sometimes hidden among the sunny fields, and behind the blossoming orchards, and the sound of the gurgling brook, if you came close to one spot behind a small bush, would be mingled for your ear with a despairing human sob. No wonder man’s religion has much sorrow in it; no wonder he needs a suffering God.1 [Note: George Eliot, Adam Bede.]
Believing in Jesus, we can travel on, through one wild parish after another, upon English soil, and see, as I have done, the labourer who tills the land worse housed than the horse he drives, worse clothed than the sheep he shears, worse nourished than the hog he feeds—and yet not despair; for the Prince of sufferers is the labourer’s Saviour; He has tasted hunger, and thirst, and weariness, poverty, oppression, and neglect; the very tramp who wanders houseless on the moorside is His brother; in his sufferings the Saviour of the world has shared, when the foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, while the Son of God had not where to lay His head.
Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.
Oh, He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.1 [Note: W. Blake, On Another’s Sorrow.]
Outside holy Scripture there has not been a more intimate apprehension of the fellow-suffering of God than these words of Blake—
He doth sit by us and moan.
He might have built a palace at a word,
Who sometime had not where to lay His head.
Time was, and He who nourished crowds with bread,
Would not one meal unto Himself afford;
Twelve legions girded with angelic sword
Were at His beck—the scorned, the buffeted.
He healed another’s scratch, His own side bled,
Side, feet, and hands with cruel piercings gored!
Oh! wonderful the wonders left undone!
And scarce less wonderful than those He wrought!
Oh! self-restraint, passing all human thought
To have all power and He as having none!
Oh! self-denying love, which felt alone
For needs of others—never for its own.2 [Note: R. C. Trench.]
His Personal Presence
“And the angel of his presence saved them.” This must be understood, not as an angel of the Presence, who went out from the Presence to save the people, but, as it is in other Scriptures, God’s own Presence, God Himself; and so interpreted, the phrase falls into line with the rest of the verse, which is one of the most vivid expressions that the Bible contains of the personality of God.3 [Note: G. A. Smith, The Book of Isaiah, ii. p. 450.]
The Semites had a horror of painting the Deity in any form. But when God had to be imagined or described, they chose the form of a man and attributed to Him human features. Chiefly they thought of His face. To see His face, to come into the light of His countenance, was the way their hearts expressed longing for the living God. (Exo_33:14; Psa_31:16; Psa_34:16; Psa_80:7). But among the heathen Semites, God’s face was separated from God Himself, and worshipped as a separate god. In heathen Semitic religions there are a number of deities who are the faces of others. But the Hebrew writers, with every temptation to do the same, maintained their monotheism, and went no further than to speak of the angel of God’s face. And in all the beautiful narratives of Genesis, Exodus, and Judges, about the glorious Presence that led Israel against their enemies, the angel of God’s face is the equivalent of God Himself. Jacob said, the “God which hath fed me, and the angel which hath redeemed me, bless the lads.” In Judges this angel’s word is God’s Word.
1. The angel of His Presence.—This singularly beautiful expression carries with it associations which must be dear to every heart. “The angel of his presence”—how the mind loves to linger on the music of those words, and how near they seem to bring us to high and holy things, things unspeakably precious and helpful to our souls! No one can stand in much doubt as to what they mean, strange and unaccustomed though the phrase may be. The “angel of the Lord” is an expression often used in the Old Testament to denote a special manifestation of God Himself; it does not denote a messenger coming from God; it frequently signifies a coming of God into human affairs. The still stronger phrase, “the angel of his presence” certainly denotes any form under which God chooses to make His immediate presence felt by His children. The form chosen may, or may not, be that of an angelic being or a human instrument, but it is always a means whereby God Himself comes right into human experience to help and heal and save.
Scarcely has God made a new covenant than Jehovah, in the guise of a man, is found in Abraham’s tent, and the Judge of all the earth was there. From that day we grow familiar, as we read, with a form which seems, as it were, to haunt the world, and a form like unto the Son of Man—a form which comes and goes in fitful glimpses, speaks in Jehovah’s name, expects the worship due to the Most High, and yet calls Himself the angel of the presence of God. Especially during the Exodus this mysterious messenger appears to keep close company with His chosen flock as they march onward to their rest under His guidance. It was the “messenger of God” who went before Israel in the Red Sea, and spoke to Moses face to face. This was the visible Presence which commanded Moses to bring up the people, and to whom Moses said, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us?” And of whom we read, “Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.” In these wonderful words, which might have been obscure at the time, but the meaning of which it is not now difficult to see, it is not hard to discover Jesus Christ, who was faithful, like Moses, though not like a servant of Moses, but as the Son of God. In His life and body He redeemed His people, and He guided them and helped them in the days of old. Well might St. Paul see in the Church in the wilderness a parallel of the Church of the New Testament. Well might he see in the manna and the water of refreshment a symbol of the Messiah. That rock from whence the water sprung was Christ, the same great patient Saviour.
Our theories about God are our theology. It is well to value them, to be careful of them, to try our best to keep them pure and high. But the deeper question is, “What is our religion? What are our real thoughts of God? In that deep and secret place of our inmost consciousness, where all our desires and feelings and hopes and aspirations are born, what is God to us?” This is the great question, the searching question. And on the answer to it our peace, our happiness, our usefulness depend.
We say that God is perfect in wisdom. But do we feel that He is wise for us? Do we trust His wisdom to guide and direct us? Do we think of Him as the One who always knows what is best for us?
We say that God is perfect in righteousness. But do we know Him as “the Lord, our righteousness”? Do we trust assuredly in Him to cleanse us from guilt and deliver us from the power of sin? Do we yield ourselves to His will and purpose to purify and perfect us by the discipline of life?
We say that God is omnipresent:—
His dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.
It is a grand doctrine, an inspiring doctrine, this of the Divine omnipresence. But do we think of God as present with us personally in all the experiences of life? Such a thought of Him is infinitely more needful, infinitely more precious than any theory of His omnipresence.1 [Note: H. van Dyke, The Open Door, p. 127.]
But the angel of His Presence cannot mean anything to us unless we realise what kind of a presence it is of which the prophet speaks. And surely this ought not to be hard to discover and understand. He looks backward over the tribulations and distresses of Israel, this man of God, himself a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as he surveys the long story of troubles and suffering he sees God’s presence shining through it all, like the face of a friend.
(1) A friendly presence.—It means, first of all, a gracious, friendly, loving, sympathising presence. God is with us in our troubles, not merely because He has to be there, since He is everywhere. He is there because He wants to be. Just as truly as you desire to be near your friends, your children, when they suffer, just so truly does God desire and choose to be near us in our afflictions. He would not be away from us even if He could. He is not present as a mere spectator, looking at us curiously while we suffer. That cold and distant conception of Him as the great onlooker,—
Who sees with equal eyes as God of all
A hero perish or a sparrow fall,
is not the thought of the Bible. He is with us as one who has the deepest interest in it all, feels all that happens to us, cares infinitely for us through it all. Nor is He present merely as the author of our pains and sorrows, who could have spared us from them if He would, but who insists upon inflicting them on us, whatever it may cost us to bear them. It costs Him as much as it costs us. “He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” There is a wondrous power in the precise words in which the prophet voices this profound truth. They may be translated, “In all their adversity He was no adversary.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ has become to the world in which we live the angel of the Presence, the Presence that saves. In Him God has laid bare His own heart and shown us the Divine that indwells. Never again can we think of God except in terms of Jesus. This is really the most tremendous thing that has ever happened in the long, slow, toilsome, painful unfolding of the spiritual consciousness of the human race. Time was when men could think of God as strong but not as kind, but they cannot do that now. It is a God of love or none.
(2) A promised presence.—God’s presence is promised and promised for ever, for all time and in every experience. The text teaches us this. The angel of His face is none other than the angel of the covenant in whom God’s pledge to be with His people for ever is redeemed. Turn back to the ancient Scriptures and hear Him give this pledge to Jacob: “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, … for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” Hear His promise to Joshua: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Hear His promise through Isaiah: “I the Lord will hear thee; I the God of Israel will not forsake thee. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. And even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” And then hear the pledge of Jesus Christ: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
2. The angel of His Presence saved them. The power of such a thought of God always with us, and most of all in our times of weakness and trial and trouble, must be a redeeming delivering, upbearing power.
Some time ago a friend took me to his country house, where, amidst other interesting things, he showed me the method by which his household and other households near it were supplied with water. He had located an inexhaustible supply, pure and good, at a great depth underground. How far it extended he did not know, but beyond his property, at any rate. He had sunk a shaft, and had placed above it an iron reservoir which would open for inspection at any time, a conspicuous object on his particular piece of property. It stood on a raised platform so that any one could easily see it and gaze upon its contents. From that reservoir pipes were led under the turf to all the rooms where water was fitted, though there were fields between, and there it gushed forth freely at any level the moment the taps were turned on. It is not an inappropriate symbol to me of our relationship to our blessed Lord and Master. The life of God is like that water supply underlying all our being, nourishing and sustaining it as the underground springs nourishing my friend’s fields and gardens, without which they would be neither fields nor gardens, but only deserts. Without God there would be no humanity to go wrong; without God not for one moment could you draw your breath in the thinking of a thought, good or ill. There it was all the time, only hidden underground. Jesus Christ has drawn it from the depths and made it immediate. He is like the visible reservoir from which the pipes are laid that convey the Water of Life to every heart.1 [Note: R. J. Campbell.]
A little boy of mine came home one day bearing the marks of battle. Of course it was very wrong, but let me tell you fathers and mothers, the boy who does not sometimes get into a scrimmage and come out on the right side is not likely to do much in this world! My boy came home, and, of course, I rebuked him—only officially. I found he had been in conflict with a boy much bigger than himself. I said, “Were you frightened, Arthur?” He said, “No.” I said, “You ought to have been. The boy was bigger than you.” “I wasn‘t, dad,” he replied. “You see, Norman (his big brother) was only just round the corner!” It is a grand thing to have a brother in reserve! Oh, my brothers, reverently I can tell the poorest, vilest, weakest man in London that if only he will set his face toward the light, though all the powers of hell give him battle, he has a big omnipotent redeeming Brother, not round the corner, but in the heart!2 [Note: A. T. Guttery.]
(1) His Presence must save us, first of all, from the sense of meanness, littleness, unworthiness which embitters life and makes sorrow doubly hard to bear. The Presence of God must bring a sense of dignity, of elevation into our existence. It was a great king who once said, “Where I sleep, there is the palace.” The life that has the Presence of God in it can be neither trivial nor unworthy.
(2) The angel of God’s face saves also from that feeling of reckless indifference, dumb carelessness, which sometimes tempts us to let our lives go blundering and stumbling along on the lower levels. It brings a new conscience into our thoughts, desires, and efforts, awakens a noble dissatisfaction with our halfhearted work, quickens within us a longing to be more fit for the Divine companionship.
It is one mark of a good friend that he makes you wish to be at your best while you are with him. The blessed persons who have this influence are made in the likeness of that heavenly Friend whose Presence is at once a stimulus and a help to purity of heart and nobleness of demeanour. A man’s reputation is what his fellow-men think of him. A man’s character is what God knows of him. When we feel that the angel of His face is with us, a careless life, a superficial life no longer satisfies us. We long to be pure in heart, strong in purpose, clean in deed, because we know that nothing else will satisfy Him.
(3) The angel of God’s face saves us from the sense of weakness, ignorance, incompetence, which overwhelms us in the afflictions of life. We feel not only that we are powerless to protect ourselves against trouble, but that we are not able to get the good out of it that ought to come to us. We cannot interpret our sorrows aright. We cannot see the real meaning of them. We cannot reach our hand through the years to catch “the far-off interest of tears.” We say to ourselves in despair, “God only knows what it means.” And if we do not believe that God is with us, then that thought shuts us up in the darkness, puts the interpretation of the mystery far away from us, locks us up in the prison house of sorrow and leaves the key in heaven. But if we believe that God is with us, then the word of despair becomes a word of hope.
(4) The angel of God’s face saves us from the sense of loneliness, which is unbearable. Companionship is essential to happiness. A solitary Eden would have been no Paradise. The deepest of all miseries is the sense of absolute isolation. There are moments in the experience of most of us when the mysterious consciousness of the law which made all human souls separate, like islands—
And bade betwixt their shores to be
The unplumb’d, salt, estranging sea,
fills us with heaviness of heart. In this painful solitude the present friendship of God is the only sure consolation. Nothing can divide us from Him—not misunderstanding, nor coldness, nor selfishness, nor scorn—for none of these things are possible to Him. Nothing can divide us from Him except our own sin, and that He has forgiven and taken away and blotted out by His great mercy in Christ.
A few years ago a man of great talent, famous for his eloquence, but even better known for the entire unbelief in God which he proclaimed, was called to deliver a funeral address over the grave of his brother. In words of sombre pathos he compared this life to a narrow, green valley between the cold peaks of two eternities. We walk here for a little while in company with those whom we love. Then our hands are loosed and our companions vanish. We can see but a little way. Beyond the encircling hills all is gloom and nothingness. How different is the voice of one whose heart has known and trusted the angel of the face of God! “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”1 [Note: H. van Dyke, The Open Door, p. 143.]
Strange that men should be saved by a Presence; it is such a quiet thing. Salvation might be thought to require something strong, potent, compelling; we are surprised at an influence so gentle. Yet, I think, the most potent thing in the world is just a Presence. What is it that determines the rank in society? It is the answer to the question, “Who are there?” What is it that brings condolence to an hour of bereavement? It is just the saying of one to another, “I am with you.” It is not what is spoken; it is not what is done; it is the sense that some one is there. So is it with my Father. I am not anxious to know the why, but only the where, of God. It matters little to me for what purpose He walks upon the storm, nor is it of deadly consequence whether or not He shall say, “Peace, be still.” The all-important thing is that the feet upon the sea should be His feet—His, and not another’s. Tell me that, and I ask no more. There is all the difference in the world between a silent room and an empty room. There is a companionship where there is no voice. Is it not written, “In thy presence is fulness of joy”? In the very sense that my Father is there, though He speak not, though He whisper not, though He write not His message in a book, there comes to my heart a great calm.1 [Note: G. Matheson, Searchings in the Silence, p. 132.]
In his book called The Kingdom of Heaven, which is a detailed statement of the writer’s own personal faith, Peter Rosegger tells us of a Styrian farmer who was known to his neighbours by the nickname of “The Pair.” He was always engaged in converse with some unseen friend. If he came to a part of the road where there was a rough path and a smooth, he took the rough path and left the other for his unseen companion. When he came to an inn he always ordered two glasses of wine, one for himself and one for his friend who was with him, and the friend’s glass of wine had always to be served on the best utensil the inn could provide. And when paying his bill he would give directions that the friend’s glass of wine, left behind, should be given to the first poor man who came that way. In his own home, at every meal, he always reserved the seat of honour at his right hand for this unseen friend, and before this vacant chair there was placed the best that his home could provide. And so he lived a most peaceful and cheerful life. At last he came to lie down on what proved to be the bed of his last sickness; and while lying there he had a vacant chair placed by him, and kept his right hand out, holding the hand of his unseen friend, and maintained with him low-toned converse. Men asked him who was there, and he said, “Don‘t you know? He is there;” and they came to understand that he believed, that he knew, that Jesus Christ was there. And so he died; and on the day of his funeral, Rosegger tells us, in his own beautiful and touching way, the grave was opened near a large marble figure of the Good Shepherd. It was a lovely day; the sun was shining brightly upon the marble figure, and a white shaft of light shot from the marble figure into the heart of the grave, and this Styrian farmer, who had lived this life of faith in the unseen, but very real, Son of God, was laid in that grave with the white light of heaven illuminating his darkness, a fitting termination to a life so pure and trustful.2 [Note: G. Hanson in The Free Church Year Book for 1908, p. 137.]
The Angel of His Presence
Church (R. W.), Village Sermons, ii. 84.
Dyke (H. van), The Open Door, 125.
Forsyth (P. T.), Pulpit Parables for Young Hearers, 126.