“He that goeth aside out of the busy round of his daily task Into The Quiet Corner, to sit down with the Most High, he will find the Most High coming over so close that this man will find himself lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). — A paraphrase, putting the real meaning of the words underneath into simple homely English.
“I sat down under His shadow with great delight” (Song of Solomon 2:3).
“Come ye yourselves apart into a quiet corner [i.e., a solitary place, shut away from the crowd, where you can be alone]” (Mark 6:31).
“When He giveth quietness who then can make trouble” (Job 34:29).
“I will go off, and take my stand upon my look-out corner, and will set me upon the lone elevated watching place, and will look forth to see what He will speak” (Habakkuk 2:1).
Was the traffic ever quite so thick, and so tensely on the move! Wherever you go, in the city street, or country road, it’s the same, with occasional breathing spaces in between.
The most experienced man is put on duty where the traffic is thickest. There he stands quite alone, very quiet, very decided.
His very value lies in his quietness, trained quietness, strong deliberate quietness. Alert, nervously tense, keenly alive to the possible danger lurking at every angle and turn, he is so quiet. That is his strength.
The seasoned driver at the wheel sits very quiet, but sharply alert. Nothing escapes his quiet eye. His grip on the wheel must be firm, the decision breathlessly quick, and must be right. His nerves are tense, but they must be quiet, all the quieter because so tense.
The huge ocean liner is out on the high seas battling some terrific gale. Hammered and battered by wind and wave, merciless whirlwind and mountain wave, it keeps steadily on.
Day and night the Captain sticks to the bridge. All alone, in a quietness painfully tense at times he keeps the sharp lookout. His quick, quiet, steady hand on a brass knob gives a signal.
The engineer down in the bowels of the boat instantly, quietly, blindly, obeys the signal. Its significance he is quite ignorant of. His one task is to be quiet, so as to get the signal true, and to obey it implicitly, unquestioningly, unfalteringly.
Inner quiet is the essential thing with both captain and engineer. Only so can the boat be kept steady, and outride the tempest.
Our Lord Jesus, as a Man down here, knew all about congested traffic and traffic jams, both kinds, actual, and in the spirit world.
Those crowded, crooked, narrow Jerusalem streets He threaded. He knew the thing by sight and feel, by sound and quick move.
And the terrific drive and push, subtle drive and stormy push, of the unseen spirit atmosphere He clearly knew, too, by the feel of His keenly alert, inner, spirit sensitiveness. And, of the two, this latter was the tenser and subtler, by far.
To-day’s spirit traffic intensifies tremendously the need of the Quiet Corner. The key to its door needs polishing with the friction of constant use. The hinges of its door must be kept in good condition by the steady rhythmic awing.
There are three sorts of Quiet Corners, of place, of time, and of spirit. The quiet place, even though it changes, and the reserved bit of time, help to preserve the Quiet Corner inner spirit, out in the thick of things.
One needs to use all three for inner peace, and outer power, and keen discernment, and steady footing.
— S.D.G. New York City, March, 1932
1. Comrades of The Quiet Corner
An Echo Hunger
God is hungry. He has a hungry heart. He is hungry for us, for you and me. He is hungry that we would let Him be friendly with us, really friendly. He is hungry that we would be really friendly with Him. The word commonly used for this is fellowship. The other is what it really means.
There is a very natural reluctance on our part about saying that God is hungry for fellowship with us. There is an inner instinctive drawing back from saying anything of that sort.
We know that we are hungry for Him. Every one is hungry for God, though most people don’t know who it is they are hungry for.
But the simple fact here is this. That inner hunger of spirit, that yearning within, that eager wistful reaching out and up, it is an echo, only an echo. And the echo is always less than the original. It is an echo of the longing, the yearning, in the heart of God for us, for each one of us.
When a man finds out, by the inner touch of his spirit, about that hunger in the heart of God, and the answering hunger of his own heart, it always starts a song in his heart.
And it is most striking and significant to find that there is just such a song in this precious old Book of God.
It is the one marked off in our English Bible as the Ninety-first Psalm. Let us turn now for a little to that Psalm. I think of it as the psalm of the hungry heart of God.
Do you recall just how it begins? Here is the old familiar reading of its opening sentence. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
Now, please, let us read it over again, a little differently. And yet, let me say boldly, strictly true to what this man is thinking and saying, in his own mother-tongue underneath our English words.
It is really a picture and one must look, as well as listen, to get the meaning vividly clear in his mind, clear to both eyes and ears.
Listen then: “He that goeth aside, out of the busy round of his daily task, into some quiet corner to sit down with the Most High, he will find the Most High coming over so close that this man shall be lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty.”
The Human Touch
I do not know who wrote this Ninety-first Psalm. No one knows, that is no one of those now living on the earth. There is no inscription given.
But I think, I do not know you understand, but I think it was most likely written by the same man that wrote the Ninetieth. That psalm is entitled “a prayer of Moses the man of God”. The old-time Hebrew Rabbi scholars insisted that Moses was the writer of a group of psalms.
They are quite clear that this group of psalms, Ninety to One Hundred, both inclusive, came from Moses’ pen. And that would seem like an entirely trustworthy scholarly source.
And I think you can go back to the place in Moses’ experience where this Ninety-first Psalm actually grew up.
It is helpful to call to mind just how these psalms came to be written. It would not be that David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, would set out to write a psalm. That he would think a bit, brood thoughtfully, and pray, and so write a psalm; not that. No. There would be some unusual experience of difficulty and danger, or something of this sort. There would come some very real touch of God’s love and power, meeting his need in a way that took hold of his heart, and stirred him to the depths of his nature.
And then in the rare flush of that experience, when he could somewhat steady his hand to the mechanical task of writing, under the gracious touch of the Holy Spirit, he would put down a bit (you can never tell all!) of what had come to him. In some such way as this many of these precious heart-throbbing psalms were written.
It was in some such fashion that these other pages, the great prophetic messages, came and were written down. A single instance may help a little to make this a bit clearer.
Here are two men in Jerusalem, one morning, walking up to attend the proper service of worship in the Temple.
One of the two is a city man having his home there in Jerusalem. The other is a man from the country, a kinsman or friend, visiting in the home of the other.
As they walk along the man from the country is all eyes and ears for the city sights and happenings. He notices a small knot of people gathered out in the open, at the corner of the Temple area perhaps. In the centre is a man talking, quietly, earnestly, to the assembled group. And they are listening most intently.
The man from out in the provinces turns to his companion, and pointing, says “What’s that?”
The city man at his side looks intently a moment, and then makes reply.
“Oh! that’s only Isaiah, talking to the crowd again. He’s a good man, Isaiah is, a very godly, saintly man. We all hold him in the highest regard. He is just a bit unconventional. He talks to the crowd that gathers in the open like that.”
And the two men continue on their way up to the proper temple service of worship. And bye and bye Isaiah quits talking. The little knot scatters. And Isaiah goes down to his home. And there, under the gracious inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he writes down part of that which has been burning in his heart, and pouring out of his lips.
It is in some such fashion, with endless variations, that these prophetic pages were written. This is one explanation, on the human side, of how this sacred old Book of God has taken such hold on men’s hearts. It goes into men’s hearts because it grew up out of men’s experiences.
The Book is like the Man, Christ Jesus, in certain regards. No draughtsman’s pencil has ever yet drawn the line between the God-part of Jesus and the human. God and the Man were joined and blended in a way that quite eludes our human analysis.
And so it is with the Book. It is so intensely… human. Every experience of human life is vividly portrayed here in a way that takes hold of one’s heart indescribably.
And there is the distinctive inspiration of the Holy Spirit throughout, from first page to last, and all between. Under His controlling touch, and subtle power the moral issues are dealt with. And yet there is an absolute accuracy to historical fact, and to the findings of true science, when the true translation is got.
The Story of this Psalm
Now all this finds a simple illustration in this Ninety-first Psalm. Let us go back to the experiences out of which this rare psalm grew, likely.
The story is back in that Thirty-third of Exodus, and very briefly and simply I want to recall that story to mind.
A huge multitude, maybe as many as three or four million people, were on the move. They had come out of long decades of slavery. It had been an indescribably cruel slavery, to the last degree of human endurance, and even beyond that.
They were just the common everyday sort of people you find everywhere in the world to-day, with the added touch of intensity, dourness, characteristic of Orientals.
There was a big mixed multitude with them, thousands likely of half-Hebrew, half-Egyptian stock. And that didn’t make any easier their hard task of making a new home in the Wilderness.
They were living in tents, and out in the open. Their new life naturally bristled with difficulties and questions, some big, some really little that seemed big.
The truck gardens of Goshen were behind them, but not forgot. The luscious fragrance and taste of leeks and garlic, melons and onions, were remembered contrasts with the windswept sands on every side here in the Wilderness. The onions are named last as a sort of superlative degree of missed lusciousness. One day a man comes, with anxious face and voice, to their leader, Moses. He himself was a leader down in his corner of the huge encamped nation.
He says to Moses, “We’re having some trouble, sir, down in our neighbourhood. What shall we do about this?” And he would state his difficulty.
It likely was not what we would call a religious or spiritual question. Not about faith or prayer or that sort of thing. No; far more likely it was a very commonplace sort of difficulty, and maybe the more real for that reason.
Maybe two men were quarrelling; or a bit of property in dispute. You may have heard of that sort of thing, possibly. Or, maybe, there was a case of severe illness. All life is so much alike, the earth around, back through the years.
He would say, anxiously, “What shall we do about this, sir?” And Moses would listen patiently, ask a question or two, and then he would say, “I don’t know what to tell you to do about that. God hasn’t told me. And I really don’t feel as if I know just what to do.”
“You wait, and I’ll ask God. He’ll tell me. And I’ll tell you. And then you go back and get the thing straightened out, for this is an important matter. We must get it settled right.”
He might, quite likely, add, “We didn’t come here. We were brought here.God has our life all planned out. He’ll tell me what should be done.”
And then Moses would wend his way out the aisle of the tents, to a little peaked-top tent called the “Tent of Meeting,” or “God’s Tent”. This was before the Tabernacle had been put up. That was in the very centre of the encampment. This little Tent of Meeting was out on the edge of the encampment, quite distinct from all the other common tents.
And as he went out the word spread throughout the encampment, by the swift wireless grapevine telegraphy, “Moses is going out to talk with God”. And there would come a hush over the multitude.
They would come out, and stand in the open flaps of their tents, with bowed, reverent heads, and look eagerly out after Moses as he went out toward the little God-tent.
And as they stood looking, this is what they saw. The Pillar of Cloud began to move. Do you recall about that Pillar of Cloud? When they were leaving Egypt, strangers to a strange land, God had said, “I’ll send an angel. He’ll show you the way”.
And Moses had said, in effect, “Please, this is not satisfactory. An angel is very good. But, please, we want you to come, yourself, and show us the way.” That does sound very bold, does it not? But then Moses knew God better than some of us folk do.
And God said in effect, “Very well. I’ll come”. It was just like Him. And one day every eye was caught with a pile of fleecy white that appeared in the sky.
It was in the shape of a column or pillar. It looked like a cloud, a beautiful white fleecy cloud; not a rain cloud, a bright glory-cloud.
You know their sky there in the desert was not like our sky. It was blue, beyond what we can take in unless we have seen it. The dryness of the desert air, the lack of moisture in the atmosphere, made a tinting of exquisite blue to be found nowhere else. You remember Kingsley speaks repeatedly in Hypatia of the “rainless blue” of the desert.
And to have a bit of cloud appear caught every eye. Every boy was looking. Every baby was held up to see. The vast tented multitude was all eyes, intently gazing, absorbed with that Cloud.
And they came to know that God was in the Cloud. He used the Cloud for the sake of their eyes, so they wouldn’t go sheer stone-blind at the sight of the glory of His mere presence so close.
It was a Pillar of Cloud in the day time, and an awe-inspiring Pillar of Fire, soft, clear, steady, unfailing, fire, all through from twilight to the dawn. It came as they were leaving Egypt, and remained until they reached the Plains of Moab across the Jordan.
God spoke to them out of the Cloud. He spoke in homely simple words everybody understood. He talked in their mother-tongue, with the vocal intonation so familiar in their common talk.
He went ahead to point out the way. He came behind as a protection from their enemies. Sometimes he chided them plainly when they did wrong. Always he was there.
This is the outstanding illustration of the meaning of that word our Lord Jesus used that betrayal night, the word “comforter”.
The actual word, used that evening, means one alongside devoting himself to you. It means some one, strong, able, powerful. And that he has come to be your friend, your companion, your real unfailing friend.
It is one of the most outstanding illustrations of the fact that this old Book of God is self-explanatory. It contains in itself an answer to every question its pages may stir up. This is most striking.
The two parts of the Book fit together in an intensely interesting way. Each needs the other. Each fills out the story of the other.
Characteristically, the Old Testament is the picture book, the New the teaching Book. There is, of course, teaching in the Old, and there are pictures or illustrations in the New.
Now here is one of the most illuminating of these pictured illustrations. Our Lord spoke of the Holy Spirit coming as the Comforter.
And this Pillar-of-Cloud presence of God in the Wilderness gives us its practical meaning. God Himself was there in their very midst. He was there because they were there. He was always at hand for any need that might arise.
1. Comrades of The Quiet Corner
Under the Shadow
Now as Moses starts out toward the little peaked-top tent that Cloud moved. There were two movements, man Moses and, and, reverently, the Man (capital M.) in the Cloud. And the movement of the One in the Cloud was an answering movement. It answered Moses’ move out toward the Tent.
And, as Moses drew near the Tent, the Cloud came near and nearer and yet more near, until as Moses entered the Tent, and, I suppose, kneeled down to ask his question the Cloud rested on the ground at the side of the Tent.
And many a time, depending on where the sun was at that hour, there was a shadow cast aslant over the top of the Tent. And so the man inside was under the shadow of the Almighty, actually, literally.
Then Moses would ask his question. In simple talk he would tell of the difficulty, and ask what he should do. And that long seventh chapter of Numbers tells us, clear at the end, that God answered with a voice.
It was what we would call a human voice. In Moses’ mother-tongue, likely with the vocal intonation Moses knew and used, the voice came.
That quiet human voice, in simple language easily understood, would talk with Moses about that thing, and explain just what should be done.
And if the answer was not quite clear in detail to Moses’ understanding he would say, what one would naturally say under such circumstances, “Yes, but what about this, and this?” And back would come the Voice talking quietly, patiently, as a mother with child, a teacher with scholar.
And this didn’t happen once. It happened repeatedly. Indeed I am able to tell you just how many times it happened. Now, I don’t use statistics in speaking, or very, very rarely. They are valuable in a book Where you can consult them. But it is usually wearisome to be obliged to listen to a long statement of statistics.
But I have the exact statistics here. And they will not bother or tire you a bit.How many times did this thing, we’re talking about, happen?
Listen, just as many times, running through almost if not quite forty years, as Moses went out to ask God a question. God never failed him once.
And can you feel, as I know I cannot put into words, just how Moses felt about God ? He knew that any time he would go out to that Tent with a question God would come down nearer, and talk the thing out with him. He knew it by experience, long repeated blessed experience.
And so when Moses got to be an old man he said to himself, “I must write that down. People don’t know what a wonderful, real God, God is.” And so he wrote this Ninety-first Psalm.
Will you listen again to that free reading of its first verse? And I am making bold to say that though it is free, and in very simple, homely English, it is strictly accurate to what Moses is thinking, and is saying in his own mother-tongue underneath our English translation.
Listen then, with hushed heart, and look as you listen: “He that goeth aside out of the busy round of his daily life into some quiet corner, to sit down with the Most High, he will find the Most High coming over so close that this man shall be lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty.”
And this is still true. God doesn’t change. There is no variableness in God. He never changes. Everything else changes. Every one else changes. God is the one dependable quantity (if I may put it that way with utmost reverence), the one dependable quantity in all life.
By the time you get a four in your age at the beginning of the figures you find every plan ever you made slipped a bit somewhere.
You find every one ever you leaned on failed you somewhere, for lack of strength when not for lack of devotion. But God! He is the one unchanging, unchangeable Person in all life.
And I have put over that first verse of this Ninety-first Psalm three words, for present day use, for every day help.
Act — He Comes
The first word is act. That simply means this: When a man “goeth aside” out of the old life, away from the old habit of things, and comes over to Jesus as Saviour, something happens.
Some One (with a capital 0) comes over and moves inside that man. What does it mean to be a Christian? Does it mean to believe the Bible? Oh! no. It’s far simpler than that. It’s far more radical than that.
Does it mean believing a list of things called a creed, called Christianity? Oh! no. It’s far more radical than that, far simpler.
It means this: you open the door of your life to Jesus the Saviour. He is all the time standing, with the toe of boot at the door of every man’s life.
And the moment you open your door to Him in He comes. In the person of His Other Self, the Holy Spirit, He comes in.
Then, you listen to Him, you keep in touch with Him. You do as He wishes. This is what it means to be a Christian.
Then you will believe the Bible from cover to cover because you have Jesus in your heart. When you have Him you’ve no bother about it. He is the key to it.
Jesus is the simple Master-key to the Bible, opening every door into its pages and truths. When you are in touch of heart with Jesus you believe it. You love it. And you begin to understand it.
And then you believe Christianity, the real thing of Christianity. For Christ is Christianity. He is, not the thing commonly labelled Christianity, but the real simon-pure thing. When you have Him you believe it.
That’s the first word, act. When we come He comes. We come to Him for cleansing and saving. He comes to us as Saviour. He enters into us by His Holy Spirit.
That wondrous Holy Spirit does in us, as we yield habitually and intelligently to Him, He does in us what Jesus did for us, and is doing all the time for us. He makes real in our lives, daily, the salvation Jesus worked out for us.
The Day-by-Day Habit
Then there is the second word, and that leads us straight, by the shortest way, to the particular thing we are talking about just now.
That second word is habit. And that simply means this: When you go off alone, with the door shut, and the Book open, and the knee bent, and the will bending anew to the higher will, there is Some One else there.
He comes. In a distinctive way, with the added emphasis of his own Personal Presence, He comes to open the Book.
He comes to open your mind to its simple clear practical meaning. He comes to pull you up wherein you haven’t been quite true, perhaps.
He comes to teach your conscience, to answer your questions, to steady your feet, to gentle your spirit, to guide your petitions, to start the song anew in your heart, to tune your voice to joyous praise.
The daily habit of getting alone with the Book opens the door for Him to come. And He does. When you’re alone you’re not alone.
You are alone so far as other humans are concerned, you are not alone so far as He, the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ Other Self, is concerned. We go, He comes. We go aside into the Quiet Corner. He comes over to meet with us.
And the great blessedness of the Quiet Time in the Quiet Corner, is this: not that we read in the Book, though we will. Not that we pray, though there will be the fresh impulse to do that, and simpler praying too, and praise.
But this: He is there! And to thank Him for His presence, to praise Him for dying for you, this, this is the great blessing of the Quiet Corner.
You sing a bit of song, a song of praise, praise to Him for what He is, and for what He did when He died, and for what He is now that He lives. This will start the joy bells ringing in your heart. It will lighten your feet, and the way, and the cloudy sky overhead.
Then the third word you will discover for yourself, the word atmosphere. You will come to recognize a gracious presence all the time.
You may not always realize His presence ; that’s apt to be a matter of mood, of bodily condition, sometimes. But you can come to recognize His presence.
Realizing is blessed, but sometimes like the thermometer, subject to the outside temperature. Recognizing is yet more blessed. It reckons on Him, not on our feelings.
The North Star is always up there in spite of clouds and fogs. He is like that. Even if we are faithless, He abides faithful. He cannot deny Himself.
Realizing is a matter of your feelings ; recognizing is a matter of fact, the fact about Him, His unfailing faithfulness.
Now this Quiet Talk is called Comrades of the Quiet Corner. And that Word comrade contains in itself the very thing we are talking about.
For, of course, that word comes from the old tongue of the Latins. And it means literally simply this: One Who is in the same place, in the same chamber, or shut-away room with you.
It has come to mean a close companion, an intimate associate. It means now one who shares the common experiences of life with you.
And it gives one a solemn hush to recall that comrade is the accurate word here, in the first and finest meaning of the Quiet Corner. It brings to us at once the heart meaning, the original meaning.
One hushes his heart as he remembers that the first meaning here is this: Our Lord Jesus Himself is our Comrade in the Quiet Corner. And so we are comrades with Him.
This is the way He Himself puts it. In that betrayal night talk He gives us that word comforter. Comforter and comrade are close kin. Comrade means one with you, sharing the same place. Comforter means one Who is at your side, devoting himself to you.
In that talk Jesus says, “I will send you another Comforter”. He Himself was one ; this other One coming, the Holy Spirit, is to be to them, and to us, all that Jesus Himself was those human years of closest fellowship.
And He is to be yet more. For Jesus is now more, up in glory at the Father’s right hand. And this Comforter, the Holy Spirit, is the Other Self of the glorified, enthroned Jesus.
And then to make this yet clearer to them, and to us, Jesus adds a further bit. He says, speaking of the Holy Spirit, “I come to you.”
And yet further emphasis is given in the other word spoken, “My Father… and we will come unto him (who keeps His Word) and make Our abiding place with him”. That word “abode,” abiding place, has in it the whole meaning of the word comrade.
And if this seem overbold for us to be talking this way, we remember that it is Jesus’ own way of putting the thing.
It surely is a tremendous pull up for us in our lives. We will want to be, we will quietly, steadily aim to be like Him, pure and holy and unselfish. So we shall be real comrades with Him.
And then one quickly thinks back to the Eden ideal, and the Eden habit, before man’s wrong choice broke in. God and the man walked and worked together in the Garden.
And again one swings forward in thinking to the other end of the Book. There the garden of the Eden days has become a garden city.
All the rare natural beauty of God’s own garden, and all the rare human culture of the city, ideally, are blended.
The Calvary Man has enriched the early garden life. That same One who made the garden, and walked in it with the man in his own image, He has been in action to mend man’s bad Eden break.
He gave His breath in Eden, creatively. He gave His blood on Calvary, redemptively. He gives His breath again, His Holy Spirit, with us now for our daily life. Under His gracious touch the rarest human culture grows, and enriches, and matures, and mellows.
“And they see His face. And His name (His character, His likeness) is in their faces”. The comradeship at last is rhythmically completed and complete.
And, then, one recalls quickly other fellow-comrades of the Quiet Corner. This sort of thing was the dominant trait in those two outstanding men, Enoch and Noah.
The first man had gone away. These two men, seven generations after, and ten, went back and picked up the walk step. They returned to that blessed comradeship with Jehovah.
And time would fail me to tell of princely Abraham, of Isaac the giant of gentleness, and David the sweet Psalmist-King. And Isaiah the counsellor of Kings, and of Ezekiel and Daniel, the twin Johns of the Old Testament-Revelation-pages.
These, with countless others, have kept the light shining through the fog and storm of the long years. They have sent out the sweet fragrance of the Quiet Corner, and its rare blessed comradeship.
Let us join their goodly fellowship.
2. Things Seen in One Quiet Corner
In a Garden
He was a young fellow, a Jew. That is, he was of the old Hebrew stock commonly known to-day as Jews (Ezekiel 1).
He was about thirty, in his early thirties, likely. He was an exile, a forced exile, far from his home and homeland. And he felt it keenly.
Everything in his surroundings was so new and strange. And so much of it was repulsive to him, morally repulsive, to an acute, hurting degree.
He was one of a colony of exiles. And that made things so much worse. The depressing circumstances and atmosphere were intensified by mere numbers.
There were so many of them. The very atmosphere was both contagious and infectious, both the touch and the air breathed. The group atmosphere tended to intensify the depression of each one.
And this was all their own doing. It was the traitory of his people that had beaten down the road for their feet into this forced exile. This young fellow felt this very keenly.
They had been clear, dead wrong, these kinsfolk of his, his fellow exiles, in being untrue to Jehovah, and the true Jehovah worship. And all this bitter exile was the direct outcome of it. It was the logical sequence of their conduct, their obdurate, traitory. He felt it all into the very marrow of his spirit. It hurt into the quivering quick.
He was brooding now over all this, as he had been doing so much. Maybe he was in the bit of garden back of the house where he had his lodgings. The Jews were given to gardening, to the outdoor life, and the cultivation of the soil.
It would be a good garden so far as the soil went. Very likely good Euphratean loam, in this rich lowland area, fertilized his garden patch, and gave good return for his digging and ploughing and pruning.
Gardens have ever been favourite Quiet Corners with choice folk. The first trysting place with God was in a garden. That was before that tragic break. The garden back of that whitewashed stone cottage in Nazareth was likely one of Jesus’ favourite Quiet Corner spots.
A Garden is a lovesome thing, God wot;
Fern’d grot —
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not —
Not God! In gardens! When the eve is cool!
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.
(Thomas Edwin Brown)
So one day this young fellow was in his garden, brooding, digging; brooding in spirit, digging in the rich soil. His spirit reached out and up to God. He yearned to understand. He yearned that these things, dead wrong, should be set right.
He was really praying, wordlessly praying. His spirit reached out to God, yearningly, pleadingly, reverently, insistently, hungrily. Quite likely he had been conning over one of the old sacred rolls, maybe Exodus, that told of deliverance from an earlier forced exile. Maybe it was the bit that told of the sacred Mount where God Himself had spoken.
Deep in thought, he was breathing in the spirit of the written Word. He was meditating, chewing the cud, absorbing the fine meat and juice of it, when something happened. His eyes were opened. He saw “visions of God,” really visions of the Unseen, given him by God.
It was really that his spirit eyes were opened. He saw some things unseen before. They were there all the while. Now his eyes are opened to see them.
The Storm-Swept Earth
The first thing his eyes were opened to see was that the earth was being swept and swamped by a great storm.
The earth was the centre of the storm. This is most striking, the earth is the central point of interest in what his eyes are opened to see.
At the present hour the attention of the scientific world is centred on the earth, and on the universe of which the earth is a part.
The earth may not be the material centre of the Universe. The Bible says nothing about this. Outstanding scientists have split even on that point.
Alfred Wallace was the co-author with Darwin of the revival of the age-old teaching of organic evolution to explain the origin of human life.
He said that the recurrent movement of the starry heavens made it clear to him that the earth was the centre of the Universe, materially.
The globular shape of the earth is constantly referred to in Scripture. But it is always done in a most casual way as though a bit of commonplace knowledge.
The common Authorized Version of the English Bible indicates this on the first page of Genesis. It is pointed out in telling about that first day. Part of the earth was dark. There it was called night-time.
And part was light, and that was called day time. This, of course, is the familiar commonplace that the daily revolution of the earth on its axis makes night-time on one half, and day time on the opposite half, with the twilight zone between.
But while the Scripture says nothing about the earth as the material centre of the universe it constantly assumes that it is the moral centre. The eyes of all intelligences, of the upper and the lower worlds, are glued intently on events taking place here.
The first thing this young exile is conscious of is the earth itself. This is the simple and natural thing, and yet of intensest interest in the light of the whole story he tells.
Then it becomes of tense interest to note that, is his spirit vision, the earth is a storm centre. It is a great storm, a wind and lightning storm. The wind has the intensity of whirlwind, cyclonic, a great whirling maelstrom of wind. The lightning. is flashing continuously.
There is a central point to the fire. The fire is so intense, and great in extent, that there is a brilliant glow of light dominating the whole scene. It’s a great whirlwind-lightning storm, enveloping the whole earth, as Ezekiel looks on with awe-stricken gaze.
This storm seems to be of tense significance in this spirit vision. A storm is produced by two areas of temperature coming into contact. The two areas are of sharply different temperatures, and so the contact at once makes a conflict.
Really the storm is an equalizing process. It’s a struggle for the upper hand. The two areas of temperature can’t exist together in touch. One must give in. The other gets the control of the area affected. So it comes to dominate.
And so the storm clears. And the rainbow comes. The rainbow is the result of the sunlight shining through the thinning out, vaporous moisture of the storm-beclouded area.
The rainbow means two things, a recent storm, and the storm now clearing, and practically quite cleared.
There is really a key to these storms of the Book of God. The Book contains its own keys. It’s a matter of finding, and then fitting them into locks to be opened.
That storm key is back in the remarkable Book of Exodus, the “way-out” Book. That Book tells of the getting out of the Egyptian prison into the new life of freedom.
It’s back in the bit marked off in our English Bibles as chapter nineteen of Exodus. There God Himself comes into direct intimate touch with these freed people.
He Himself draws nearer to them. He lets them see Himself, that is, so far as they can, without being clean stone-blinded by the dazzling glory of His mere presence.
His coming down into this intimate touch causes a storm on the earth, centring in the Mount. There were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud.
That is to say, the immediate presence of God, coming thus down into the moral atmosphere surrounding the earth produced these outer physical evidences of a storm.
It is most striking, merely as a bit of side study, to note the storms of John’s Revelation. That climax Book is really a revealing of our Lord Jesus in action some day.
It is a description of Him as He intervenes to salvage the race, and the earth, at some future time. That Exodus storm bit becomes a key to the storms of this end book. There are four mentions here of the storm, and each is intenser than the one before.
This is the second bit in what this young Jew saw as his spirit eyes were opened. The earth was shrouded deep in a great storm.
The Crystal Clear Above
The third bit becomes of tensest interest. There is a distinct limit to the storm area. Above the storm area it is clear.
The English word “firmament” is used in our common versions. The word underneath really means an expanse, a cleared space.
That is, there is a clear space above the storm, and beyond it. The storm has distinct limits. It is characteristically an earth storm.
The words used to describe this clear area are striking. It is so clear that it inspires a deep sense of awe.
A clear space above, and a tense quiet there, is in such sharp contrast with the stormy earth that young Ezekiel is hushed into a deep reverent awe.
For us folk to-day, living down on the stormswept, storm-engulfed earth, this becomes most significant. There is a boundary line to the storm. It stops at a certain limit. It doesn’t go beyond that invisible limiting fence. It cannot. This is the third bit to note, the clear above the storm.
Then note closely, in this clear expanse there is a throne. This is most significant. A throne is a seat of control, absolute, autocratic control. Characteristically, back through history, a throne is the centre and source of power, actual power, autocratic authority.
A flood of soft, clear, clearing light comes to one’s spirit eyes in tracking out the throne bits in this old Book, in their setting each time.
Back through history, there is no higher power nor authority than is expressed by that word “throne”. Characteristically the throne is supreme.
There is no appeal from its decision. It stands for the very highest, the utmost power.
And if that power is swayed by love, actually the conception fairly staggers one’s imagination. In the thick of to-day’s common run of things, down on this old earth, this is indeed staggering, a blessed staggering.
Yet — yet, this is the common teaching in this old Book of God, about Him that “sitteth on the throne”. This is the fourth bit seen, by the spirit-opened eyes, down by the little canalized Chebar.
A Man on the Throne
And then the next bit seen takes hold of one’s heart in a very tender way. There is a man on the throne.
We humans have that word “throne” commonly associated in our thinking with dazzling glory, with dignity, and distance, a halo of splendour, and the like. Our eyes stare half-blinded or droop abashed. Recent years have changed that some in the western world, still it’s yet there with most of us.
But “a man!” Ah, that takes hold of one’s heart at once in a peculiar, warm, tender way. A man? That sounds human, appealing. That means one of ourselves, bone of our bone, experience of our experience, aye, heart of our own heart. There’s a Man on this throne.
It’s quite true that the look at this enthroned Man does affect Ezekiel’s eyes. He is plainly dazzled. This is clear in the words used. He says he sees a likeness as the appearance of a man.
Clearly there’s a flood of soft, intense, glowing, rather-overpowering light, in, and over, and around, and out of this Man.
But it is quite clear that it is indeed a man on the throne. Humanity is enthroned. “Man” stands for humanity. Here is humanity, man, the true Man, the one true, full Man, ideally, enthroned.
Plainly this takes great hold of the heart of this young exile in the little Chebar-fertilized garden. It takes great hold of one’s heart to-day.
And there are the simple touches of the human in this man. He begins talking. There is a voice. One can think of a quiet, clear, human voice talking.
And the young fellow, listening, understands at once just what is said. So the Man was talking in this young man’s cradle tongue, learned from his mother, likely with the vocal intonation so intimately familiar.
And the mere fact that the Man on the throne, up there in the clear, is talking with this young man down in the storm, is immensely suggestive. He was apparently sitting on the edge of the throne, bending over, with eager eyes intent on the things happening down on the storm-befogged earth.
There’s an overpowering sense of the glory of this Man. And yet, through it all, there is heard quite distinctly the voice talking. In simple language instanty and easily understood, he begins talking.
There is an errand to be done. And the Man makes quite clear just what he needs to have this young man down in the storm, just what he needs to have him do. This is the fifth bit in the spirit vision, the man.
Then there’s a sixth bit. There’s a rainbow. This is of intense significance. The rainbow is mentioned three times in this Book of God, near the beginning, clear over at the end, and here in Ezekiel, in what is practically about the middle of the Book, as it falls evenly open.
Near the beginning it is after the flood. That terrible catastrophe had swept away the rare civilization of seventeen centuries.
It is striking in our day, when this event is so discredited, to note that the surface of the entire earth tells, in geological language, a story identical with the Book’s account.
As the new start was made on the earth, after the Flood, there was urgent need of some absolute assurance that such an event would never occur again.
The bare possibility would be a nightmare dread, stifling all human endeavour. A cloud appearing in the sky would naturally cause a dread of another flood.
And so God takes pains, at considerable length, in the record, to give this assurance. He makes a solemn covenant that there would never again be such a flood.
And the token of the covenant is given, an open token, plain before the eyes of all, the rainbow. Following every storm would be a rainbow. Always, whenever there is a storm clearing there is a rainbow, even though oftimes, most times, not seen by human eyes, but always seen by His eyes.
Clear at the end of the Book it is spoken of twice, in chapters four and ten of John’s Revelation. In the first of these the rainbow is mentioned in connection with the throne set in heaven.
The whole scene is in the upper world of God’s own immediate presence. The time is some day in the future, when our Lord Jesus is stepping into the direct action of the race again.
The purpose of His action is two-fold. It is to clear up the crisis heading up on the earth, endangering the very integrity, the existence of the race. And then it is to start things going on the earth in His own way.
The Creator-Jehovah is pictured in chapter four. He “was”, before the creation; He “is”, in His continued Creator touch on all life; and He is now about “to come”, into the direct immediate action of earth.
Then this same One is pictured, in chapter five, as Jehovah-Jesus, the Redeemer, the “Lamb” that “had been slain”. As He steps into action on the earth He is seen as “in the midst of the throne”.
This identifies Him with the One sitting upon the throne in chapter four. It is here that again, the rainbow is seen, “round about the throne”.
Then it is significant that, in the tenth chapter of Revelation, the rainbow is seen differently placed. There an “angel”, or messenger, is seen stepping into the action of earth.
The description leaves no question as to the personality of this One. He is “arrayed with a cloud, and the rainbow was upon His head, and His face was as the sun”.
The description here is of His stepping into a final decisive action. There is to be “delay” no longer. The purpose of God regarding things on earth is now at length to be actually carried through. It will now be as it has been revealed to, and by, the old prophetic writers.
Now, here, in Ezekiel, mid-way between these other two, the rainbow is seen again. Here the rainbow is described in rather full detail. It is round both the throne and the Man.
The brilliance of the rainbow is intense. It seems to be round about, and shining out of, the very person of the Man on the throne.
And the rare halo of it completely enveloped the throne on which He is sitting. It is the most full and brilliant description of the rainbow, in all these three places.
And the young Ezekiel attempts to describe the rainbow-enveloped enthroned Man, or the Man whose mere presence was as an indescribable rainbow, enveloping the throne, and dominating the whole scene. He says “this was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah”.
It is worth while noting just how the rainbow was caused in each instance. At the Flood time it appears as the natural phenomenon so familiar.
The air is full of moisture thinning out, becoming less, to the extent of the sun shining on innumerable drops of water held in the air.
These drops of water act as prisms. The sunlight shining on, and through, them is refracted, or broken up, or separated into the varying colors of which light is composed.
These are the three distinct original colors, red, and green and violet. These again blend in such a way that other colors are seen, orange and yellow and blue. These are what Newton arbitrarily called the “primary” colors.
The sunlight shining out, in an even circle, is separated into these colors, and so displays the colors in circular form called the rainbow.
This simple natural phenomenon, of course, had always been there in the atmosphere under these conditions. Now God takes a familiar thing in the heavens, and uses it as a token or sign of the Covenant He voluntarily enters into with man.
He says “I have set my bow in the Cloud, and I will look upon it and… I will remember my covenant”. And this is repeated in careful detail, over and over, that man might be comforted, and assured, and at rest in his future activity.
The Centre of The Rainbow
We shall see in a moment the significance to us men to-day, of the rainbow, the intense singular practical significance.
It will add to that significance to note how the rainbow is produced each time, that is, its source. At the Flood time it is seen as a simple, natural phenomenon in the sky. The sunlight shining through the thinning vapor causes the familiar sight.
In the Revelation description it is seen round about the throne and the One sitting there, as though caused by the light shining out from the throne.
Then it becomes most striking, that, in the second description in the Revelation (chapter ten), the rainbow is seen upon the head of the One there, whose face is as the sun. That is to say, the light shining out from His very presence, His person, is seen as the cause of the rainbow.
And here in Ezekiel’s vision, it is plainly the indescribable glory light, shining out from the person of the Man on the throne, that gives the effect of a rainbow, quite too much for description in common human language.
There is one unusual thing in the description of the rainbow round about the throne in the fourth of Revelation. It is like an emerald to look upon.
This seems strange at first. Emerald, of course, is green. The common rainbow has all the original colors and blends, variously seen, according to the degree of brilliance each time.
And some one, who had acquired some little knowledge of such things, might think, “what a blunder! This is scientifically inaccurate!” and so on.
It becomes most striking that, when all the facts are got regarding any one passage, this distinctive Book of God is found always to fit exactly into all the findings of both accurate history and true science.
It is written in the simple language of the common man, and yet it never runs counter to any ascertained facts of any careful research.
So here, the emerald coloration of the rainbow encircling the throne is both easily explained from the scientific point of view, and it comes to have most striking significance. Clearly there is a purpose in this apparently singular description.
It is a commonplace to-day that the different colors are a result of the varying wave-lengths of light as it passes through some refraction medium. One wave-length gives the effect to the eye of red, another different wave-length of green, and so on. Here from the science point of view, the emerald color of the rainbow is a mere detail of the wavelength of the light shining out from the throne and the One sitting there. And clearly there is a significance. It is a most striking significance just now, in the midst of the unrest and confusion everywhere in the world.
No one worth while, in the thick of things, need be reminded how the feverish unrest and uncertainties in all life to-day wears on one’s nerves.
Now green is the most restful of all colors. It has the least intense luminosity of any color, and so is most restful to both eye and nerves.
At once one thinks of the gracious, thoughtful touch in all the outer world of growing things. Everywhere the dominant coloration is green, in its varying shades.
The minor touches of blue and red and yellow and so on emphasize the dominant green. We shall see in a moment the peculiarly striking significance of this.
Now, here, the throne, and the Man on the throne, and the rainbow round about, are inseparably connected. The Man is the intense centre of the scene. The throne speaks of the limitless power of the Man sitting there.
The rainbow round about tells of the unspeakable, indescribable glory of the mere person, the presence of the man. The Man dominates all. The throne and the rainbow spell out His glory and power.
We will come back to this. For the whole meaning is here, for us, and for to-day, and for a near future, likely quite near.
That rare half arch of beauty in the misty air after a storm is prophetic. It tells of a coming clearing of earth’s racial storm, so rough, just now.
There are really two prophetic touches in all our common life. We may not recognize them, but they are there. One is in human life, the other in nature.
The Jew is God’s gracious prophetic touch everywhere in evidence among all the nations. Whether dealing in bonds or gathering bones, in rank unbelief in his Messiah, he yet is, even though unconsciously, God’s prophecy of the unfailing outcome of his love and plan. Even so the rainbow speaks to us of God’s unchanging purpose.
The Personal Touch
And, now, comes the touch in the story of intensest human interest. This Man on the throne actually reaches down in touch with this young Jew. From up in the crystalline clear above, he quietly reaches down into the thick of the wind storm.
This earnest young man, down in his Chebar garden, at the head of the Persian Gulf, has an experience that takes hold of both brain and heart. It is a simple experience, yet so distinctive, and so very real.
Awed with the intense sight of the Man in the centre of that rainbow, he had instinctively fallen to the ground. There he lay, prone on his face, his spirit most keenly alert to what was happening. And yet that deep unutterable sense of awe is mastering his whole being.
Then, to his keenly alert ear, a voice comes. That would mean of course, a human voice. That Man is speaking. He is speaking in a quiet, simple, clear, human voice.
There is the glory of deity in the sight. There is the simplicity and naturalness of the human in the voice. And plainly the voice speaks in this young man’s mother-tongue. As familiar as the intonation of his own mother’s speech, the simple words are spoken.
But yet, more than the voice, with the voice, there comes the distinct consciousness of a personal touch.
Repeatedly in the narrative the phrase is used “the hand of the Lord”. There was the intimate sense of a hand, an unseen hand, reaching down and touching him. It gave the peculiar sense of personal actual touch.
Every one knows how comforting such touch is with some one loved and venerated. It answers to that innate longing in every human for personal touch with another human in full warm sympathy.
With this was something else, something more. There was the distinct consciousness of a presence, a spirit presence, within, within himself. Twice, Ezekiel says “the Spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet”.
There was the sense of peace, of inner quiet, an exquisite stillness. It took away any sense of being afraid that may have been there when he fell upon his face.
And with that was the consciousness of power, strengthening him, so that now he was standing again upright on his feet.
This is all of great practical interest to us to-day. It calls to mind how our Lord Jesus habitually reached out his hand and touched those whom he healed and helped in various ways.
It brings to mind again the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and after. There was the sense of a gracious presence, an exquisite peace within, and a strengthening touch. Many a one of us has been conscious of such gracious experience through the Holy Spirit’s incoming.
And here is an experience, quite akin to this, away back in the midst of this old Hebrew story, in the Captivity time. Here is a bit of the personal experience that Calvary has made possible for every one of us to-day.
Then he is told about the errand he is being sent on. The Man on the throne wants something done down on the storm-swept earth. He needs a messenger, a man, to do something for Him, down in the thick of the befogging storm.
That personal touch, so intimate, so subtle, so real, is for a purpose. It is to qualify him for the errand. The bit of service he is to do grows out of this personal intimate touch with that Man on the glory-encircled throne. It is most significant.
The errand to be done would be a very hard one to do. The extreme difficulty is the thing stressed in a most marked way. Over and over again this is emphasized.
A message was to be given. It was to be given to leaders of this exiled nation. These leaders were strong mature men. Many of them old, practically all of them were this messenger’s senior in years.
They had all the racial intensity peculiar to the Jew and the Oriental. They were proud, egotistical, opinionated, dogmatic, unreasoning, and with it all, intensely bitter into the very marrow, over their forced exile.
All this is taken account of in the instructions being given this young messenger. From every human point of view his task was impossible, simply, absolutely impossible to the last degree.
Yet, yet, it was done! It was thoroughly done. Nothing could exceed the thoroughness, in fact and in spirit, with which this young messenger’s seemingly impossible task was actually done.
It meant the most vigorous self-discipline for this young, studious, scholarly, cultured, hesitant, Ezekiel, the God-strengthened man, as his name means.
The Cherubim Musical Obedience
But, but, before we come to that, we must take a bit of a thoughtful look at something else. It is a something else that has to do most intimately with his preparation for his humanly-impossible task.
It is a bit of realistic, intense, pictured preparation. He is made to look upon a swiftly moving scene, an absorbing, fascinating panorama, which floods his eyes and grips his very being.
And this pictured presentation comes both before, and after, the vision of the glorified throne-Man, and that unforgettable personal touch, and the description of the errand to be done.
It is regarding the Cherubim. Now the Cherubim have been an unexplained puzzle to most people, both scholars and us common folk. One reads about the wheels on this Ezekiel page, wheels within wheels.
And it usually leaves a vague, confused, blurred impression. This is simply, of course, because we do not take time to prayerfully brood over what is here. There is very simple and significant teaching here for all of us.
The Cherubim are mentioned five times, under different names, at Eden, in connection with the Tabernacle, and again with the Solomon Temple, in Ezekiel, and at the end in John’s Revelation.
In the Tabernacle and the Temple representations of them are in the Holy of Holies, and in the weavings and carvings.
Three different words are used as names. The name used most times, Cherubim, means those set to guard or keep something safe.
The name Isaiah uses twice, Seraphim, seems to mean simply that they are of princely rank. The word used in Ezekiel and again in John’s Revelation, living creature or beast, means embodying fullness of life.
They are always associated with the presence of God. The frequent references to God, as sitting between the Cherubim, refer to the Tabernacle and Temple, in which centred the Hebrew worship.
Ezekiel gives a rather full description of them. In a brief word, they have each, the form of a man, with added features of a lion, an ox, and an eagle, and they have the general appearance or substance of fire, burning, flashing flames of fire, the general hues and indescribable brilliance of ceaseless flashing fire.
They move with incredible swiftness, and with utmost harmony, under the ceaseless control of the Spirit of God within, animating and inspiring them.
It seems quite clear that they simply represent God’s ideal for His living creation on the earth. That ideal includes all created life.
That ideal is ever in His presence, and suggests that He never loses sight of His gracious ideal for man and the whole living creation. He will not fail nor be discouraged until that ideal has become a blessed reality.
And, furthermore, these ideals of full life are ever serving as guardians down in the storm-swept earth. At the very beginning they are guarding the Tree of Fullness-of-Life in Eden, for man’s return there some glad day. They are ever guarding God’s ideal for man and for the whole living creation.
But, but, the thing that stands out most sharply and prominently in Ezekiel’s description is intensely practical. Ezekiel’s spirit-eyes are opened, for his own sake, for the sake of the errand he is sent on, to see them in action.
The almost impossible task he is given to do, humanly impossible, is the one explanation of this description of these rare living creatures.
The thing that stands out is this: the passion of their hearts is to please that Man on the throne, up there in the clear.
They are down in the thick of the storm that engulfs the earth. They represent fullness of life. The eyes, as described, indicate perfect intelligence. The wheels indicate swiftness of movement, and a perfect rhythm of movement.
The living Spirit animating them indicates the full perfect yielding of all their intelligence and power to the gracious mastery of the Man on the throne.
They are a rare illustration of the old fact that perfect freedom is in perfect obedience to a perfect will. They stand for full intelligence and full power in full ryhthmic obedience.
Now rhythm is a music word. And twice over in this exquisite description of their activity it is said that their movement makes perfect music.
Their very action is rarest symphony. The very air is vibrant with the rhythmic harmony of their every move.
So often a paraphrase is the only way of putting into English the rare meaning of the words underneath our common English version.
As these living creatures moved in their appointed task their very movements made a great volume of sweet rhythmic sound. And it was really like the voice of the Man on the throne making perfect music. This is -the real meaning of the language under chapter one, verses twenty-four and twenty-five.
And again this is the exquisite meaning of the almost indescribable music of action in chapter three, verses twelve and thirteen. No paraphrase could do it justice in its abundant description of the music of their action.
In the description it is vocalized into an exuberant outburst of praise. “Blessed, glorious, wondrous, is the glory of the very person of Jehovah, as we know Him who know Him most intimately of any.”
A Bitter Bit of Work
All this description of these living creatures, and the music of their perfect action or movements, in doing what the throne Man wants done, all this comes before, and then after, the telling to Ezekiel of the errand entrusted to him.
It becomes quite clear that this detailed Cherubim scene is for Ezekiel’s sake. His spirit eyes are open to see them in action. There is a most practical meaning in it for him.
It is this: in the thick of this wild befogging fire-wind storm enswamping the earth these Cherubim go steadily on, doing the errand entrusted to them.
The storm fights them. It would naturally stop them. Its befogging atmosphere would stifle their breathing, bitterly, stubbornly opposing them, speaking in a simple, natural way of the thing. And they would be quite conscious of this bitter, stubborn, opposition to them.
But, in it all, they are true to the errand entrusted to them, down on. the earth, by the Man on the throne. This is the one pictured meaning to this young Hebrew by the Chebar.
And there’s yet more : it tells us how stubborn, bitterly stubborn, would be the opposition to him among his people. The errand he was being sent on would mean sorest, bitterest fighting, by those dearest to him, and those of highest standing, and those in most intimate touch.
And this fact of bitterest opposition is seen in the mingled conflicting emotions frankly spoken of. After the whole vision is over, and Ezekiel is brooding over what it means for him, he says “I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit, and … I sat overwhelmed … seven days.”
The language used underneath simply means a mingling of bitterest grief and of vehement protest over the wrongs he was to rebuke, and the apparent hopelessness of the task given him.
It is most striking that at the end of that intense seven days of overwhelmed brooding, a further message came to him.
It intensifies his own personal responsibility to do as he was told. Failure on his part to do the errand would make him personally responsible for the outcome to his people, the exiled nation.
The doing of the errand entrusted to him involved his personal life in the most intimate way imaginable. It affected his food in a most repugnant way, even after the prescribed diet had been modified.
It affected his personal comfort in the most drastic sort of way, and even his personal appearance in a way offensive to a proper self-esteem.
It involved his reputation, and his personal touch with his loved ones, and with the inner intimate circle of friends, as well as in the widest exile circles.
There was to be a sort of mute pantomime, long continued, out in the open public gaze, day after day, with the ridicule and jeering, the scorn and contempt, the pointing of coarse jest, natural to such a situation.
Before the errand was accomplished it actually came to mean the personal loss of her who was dearest to him, his other self, the most intimate sharer of all his heart-life and personal life.
The Far-reaching Outcome
The outcome of Ezekiel’s life-long errand affected radically the whole future life of his nation clear up to the coming of the Messiah.
This gives utmost significance to his exceptional personal experiences. It was an exceptional preparation for an exceptional and outstanding mission. God’s plan for the re-nationalizing of the Jew, and for the coming of the Messiah, and for the redemption of the whole race, centres in this man.
One never knows how wide reaching may be his “yes” to God’s plan for his life. The plan always hinges on someone’s “yes” to God.
God always works on the human level, through the human channel. Ezekiel’s consent to God’s plan was an essential part of the whole racial plan being worked out.
Ezekiel’s mission was a link in a chain, a human chain of human links, being forged out in the tense fire of God’s great heart.
Jonah and Esther and Ezekiel were used to play a big part in God’s plan for the Jew during the long exile.
Earlier Jonah prepared Nineveh morally for the coming exile residence of the traitor Jew. Later Esther was used, dramatically and heroically, to preserve the Jew racially from complete violent extinction during the captivity period.
Ezekiel has the most difficult and yet most gracious task of preparing the Jew himself morally for the return to Palestine, and so for the coming of their Messiah, Jesus.
Ezekiel is the forerunner of Ezra and Nehemiah, the national leaders of the return movement to Palestine and Jerusalem. He ploughed the ground for the sowing of Haggai and Zechariah.
Because of Ezekiel’s faithful doing of his humanly impossible task the later Isaiah found a different moral tone among the captive people, as he made his pleading preaching journeys, back and forth between Palestine and the Euphrates.
Earlier links in the long chain were the earlier Isaiah with Amos and Hosea and Micah. The giant Jeremiah, with his rare heroism, and his sobbing, limping verse, exerted an inestimable influence through the ebbing flooding tide of events, national strength at ebb, national traitory at flood.
Intense Habakkuk and Zephaniah and Joel are minor but very intense links in the chain being forged. Obadiah, Nahum and Malachi are like cracks in the national fence.
They let us see through into the life of the returned exiles before the long silence that precedes the Messiah’s coming.
Really, Ezekiel is the first John-the-Baptist, preparing the way of the Lord, far, far in advance. He kept the Hebrew moral soil from hardening, and choking with weeds, quite beyond the edge of the plough.
And He really comes nearer us than that. For the Jew was re-nationalized that the Messiah might come. And when He did come He was rejected. And again they were scattered, and so remain until this day.
But love never faileth. The rejected Messiah became the world’s Saviour, and ours. The Cross of rejection became the blessed doorway into salvation and fullness of life for all of us who will accept Christ.
And there’s more yet beyond. For the Book plainly indicates that the scattered Jew will be re-nationalized again, for the second coming of their Messiah. And then will come the blessed New Order of Things on this old earth.
Ezekiel never dreamed how much his “yes” to God would mean. His imagination never took in how much the Quiet Corner would mean to himself and to the world. But then no one ever does.
If we will wear down the doorsill into the Quiet Corner, we will find there our Lord’s plan for our lives, each of them.
And we shall find out, some day, how much may grow out of that sacred simple Quiet Corner of daily comradeship with our Lord Jesus.
3. The Quiet Corner — God’s Soundingboard
In a Garden
God is talking to us men, and we can understand what He is saying. This is immensely suggestive. Talking means intelligence. It means thinking, and ability to put one’s thoughts into speech.
Man alone of all creation has the power of speech. In this he is like God. It is a bit of the creative image, part of God’s plan in creation, of His purpose, yes of His desire, His longing. He wanted a man with whom he could have fellowship.
Talking at once suggests companionship. The two talking together are companions, thus far. And companion itself is a very suggestive word. It really means, in its origin, eating together.
And that itself, characteristically, means the closest friendship, the most intimate fellowship. Eating together was regarded, in early times, as a covenant of friendship.
Now, it becomes of intensest interest to recall that this thing of companionship is the very beginning of the Quiet Corner.
That phrase really stands for the most intimate fellowship of two who are kin in mind, and heart, and spirit. There the two meet for exchange of intimacies, sometimes without words, as only real friends understand.
The first Quiet Corner was in Eden. It was in a garden. Indeed it made the real spirit garden in the actual outer garden.
The beauty and fragrance, the refreshment and restfulness, of the typical garden were in that spirit garden of companionship in the outer actual Eden garden.
Then the break came, a break in companionship, comradeship, in that first Quiet Corner, God’s Quiet Corner. Man made the break. And God was heart-broken over man’s break. It really meant a break in companionship, in the fellowship together of two intimates, alike in spirit.
And so, long after, God Himself came as one of ourselves. And we called His earth name Jesus. He came to mend that break, so we could be together again, He and we. He came amongst us through a lowly door, never used before nor since.
He gave His own heart’s blood to mend that break. Nothing else or less would do. For the break itself, that first break, was a heart-break. It was a break in the touch of heart there in the early days of Eden.
And His actual heartbreak on Calvary has broken our hearts with the love of it. It has broken down the stubbornness of our wills, and made us eager to yield our strong wills to his love-will for us.
“In a garden
Was a tree,
Rich with fruit, a token given;
Love’s free choice so soon abused;
Still closer fellowship refused
In a garden.
“In a garden
Was a shade,
There the heart of Christ was riven.
Clasped hands in agony,
Plead: Thy will be done by Me
In a garden.
“In a garden
Was a tomb,
In the Quiet Corner
Jesus sleeps, the Lord from Heaven
Pierced hands together laid
Prove the ransom wholly paid;
In a garden.
“In a garden
Was a stone,
Rolled away on Easter morning.
Christ is risen, angels sing.
Sin and death have lost their sting,
In a garden.” — C.M.C. altered.
And ever since then, as before, God has been talking, calling, wooing, beckoning, insistently talking to us; and, where and when we come back into touch, talking with us. That’s the real meaning of the Quiet Corner.
He is talking to us men. He is talking to all men. He is talking in every man’s mother-tongue.
Five Voices of God
In His great eagerness He talks in five quite distinct ways. There are five voices of God. That is to say He talks in five different ways.
There is the outer voice of nature. The heavens are telling the glory of God, that is, His character, His love. For glory is the character of goodness, the shining light of love.
“The invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that have been made, even His everlasting power and deity” (Romans 1:20).
There is the inner voice of conscience. “That which is known of God is manifest in them, for God (Himself) manifested it unto them” (Romans 1:19).
And the striking thing is that all men this, we are told. “They show the teaching of God’s love written in their hearts, their consciences bearing witness therewith” (Romans 2:15).
John tells us plainly that our Lord Jesus was the real thing of light “which lighteth every man as he cometh into the world” (John 1:9).
There is the intimate voice of circumstances and happenings commonly called Providence. There is the tender voice of the babe. For every babe is a fresh creative act of God. And there is the definite distinctive voice of the Book.
And all men hear God talking. Every man hears the first four of these voices. About a third of men may, can, hear the fifth voice of the Book, if they choose to listen. It is within earshot and eyesight. It is at their finger tips, if they choose to tune in and listen.
All these voices agree, of course. God agrees with Himself. There is no variableness with God, neither shadow cast by His turning from His purpose or changing His mind (James 1:17; Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19).
Learning to Hear
But the bother is with our ears. There are so many untrained, unhearing ears. For the hinge of the ear is in the will. Stubbornness dulls and deafens the ears. You don’t hear if you won’t hear.
You hear only as much as you want to. And, if you are a bit set in your own way, then you don’t want to hear what you don’t like to hear.
And then, too, there is another voice; the evil one’s voice. It imitates God’s voice, in unctuous tone, and religious phraseology. And so there is greatest confusion because of our ears, our inaccurate hearing, our not wanting to hear what we don’t like.
This is the one adequate explanation of the endless isms, the almost endless list of religions, and religious systems and groups.
There are three sorts of ears, or three degrees of partial or inaccurate hearing. There is a most striking illustration of this in an incident that occurred during the last week of our Lord’s life on earth (John 12:28-30).
The Greeks came seeking an interview. The Father spoke out of the heavens in an audible voice. There were three distinct, differing impressions of what He said.
One set of ears listening said that it had thundered. That was all they heard. A second set of ears said that an angel spoke.They got more, and less; more than those first indicated, less than our Lord. He had trained ears. He was in tune with the Father. He heard a voice, clear, simple, plain. John tells us the words which Jesus heard.
And, so, because of men’s ears, there must be a standard by which to measure and judge these voices of God that come to us. It must be a fixed standard, invariable, unmistakable, dependable.
The Standard Voice
Of course, there must be a standard. In everything there must be a standard, commonly recognized and accepted. All life moves by standards, savage as well as civilized life.
In trade there is a standard, sixteen ounces to the pound; twelve inches to the foot, and so on. In traffic the hand of the traffic-policeman at the of roads, out, or up, or waving. And the man at the wheel of the automobile controls his movements by that standard. His driver’s licence, safety, maybe life, depend on going by the recognized standard.
In finance…! Well, things have been a bit wobbly of late. When the daily newspaper speaks of the dollar being now cheaper, now dearer, it gives a queer feeling to an American. He thought that was a fixture.
Yet after all there is really a fixed standard in finance. The exchanges of trade, of barter, of imports and exports, of supply and demand, make the real standard of value.
That’s the puzzle just now in all world-trade circles, to find just what that standard is. Some claim that the gold standard is an arbitrary thing; not a natural standard. That seems startling.
It is a matter of finding the standard. What is it? The price-index? The value of gold bullion? or silver? There is a standard. They’re all trying to find what it really is, just now.
In social intercourse there is a standard, very inflexible. In law there’s Blackstone and Coke, and back of both Moses, and at the present time the highest judicial tribunal.
And in morals there is a standard. And it is a fixed standard, commonly recognized, even where flouted and violated. This old Book of God is the commonly accepted standard of morals in Christendom, and even in non-Christendom, to a marked degree.
And, so, there is a standard voice by which to measure and test our hearing of these voices of God. It really becomes an ear test, by which to test our ears in hearing these voices.
That standard is this Book of God.It is in plain black ink on white paper. It is in one’s mother-tongue.
Even if you belong to any one of about seven hundred different peoples, each speaking a different language, yet it comes in one’s mother-tongue.
English scholarship and Christian enterprise see to that. It is in the simplest language, story language, understood by the child and by the simplest mentality.
Our common English Bible, commonly known as the King James or the Authorised Version, is, without doubt, the outstanding version of all.
It is really the world’s Bible. It can be read by more peoples, of different nationalities, around the world, than any other.
For the English language is to-day the one most commonly known and spoken by men of all nations and languages.
The two revisions have certain advantages, of later manuscripts, and of the manner of paragraph printing. But the common Authorised Version remains the one most used, and a most remarkable translation as to all the dominant characteristic teachings.
And, so, there is a standard by which to judge these other voices in which God speaks, this rare sacred old English Bible of ours.
Learning to Read
And, then, it becomes a matter of finding just what the Bible does say. If we may get what God is saying to us in this Book, we can train our ears to hear accurately what he is saying in these other four ways.
It is really a matter of learning to read the Book. There are three things in reading, just common reading. There must be eyes to see. There must be the print in the language you know.And you must know your letters, know how to read.
And there are three as simple things in reading this Book. Three things: the Book; the Holy Spirit giving light on the Book; and a man, a reader eager to do the love-will of God, recorded in the Book.
Not the Book alone without the Spirit, and the bended, eager will. That may lead to rankest superstition. Not to say the Holy Spirit alone without the Book, if that were possible. That may lead to rankest fanaticism. And not the man alone without the Book and the Holy Spirit. That may lead to rankest stubbornness.
For this Book of God is different from every book in this: it deals with morals, with conduct, with a man’s manner of life.
And so there must needs be a willingness, an eager willingness, to shape one’s conduct to what is here. One must be in sympathy with the Book to get its meaning. And that means changing one’s conduct to its standard.
The Book of God, under the clear light of the Holy Spirit, read by a man eagerly willing to shape his life to its teachings, this leads to accurate hearing.
This trains the judgment. And so you come to hear accurately what God is saying in these other four ways.
Jesus gives us a very simple word about this. If I may put what he says into very simple words, here it is. He that is eagerly willing to do the love-will of God, he shall know just what that will is (John 7:17).
These three things, the Book, the Holy Spirit, the willing man, this makes the three-sided prism through which the light will shine, clearly, and with rarest beauty.
The Man of the Book
For this Book is not alone. There are two. The Book and the Man. Take the Man, Jesus, out of the Book! You can’t! It would be taking the blood out of the heart, the air out of the lungs, the life out of life, the light out of the sun, the heat out of the fire. Take the Book without the Man! It becomes a meaningless bundle of paper. Even then it is full of the rarest wisdom, in trenchant sentences and paragraphs which men use.
But the simple essential meaning of the Book as one unified whole is quite lost. No wonder so many flounder around in its pages. They haven’t the key, Jesus!
Jesus is the hinge of the Book. It opens on Him. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. He made the New Testament, by His presence down here.
He is the throbbing heart of both, and makes them into one connected Book. When He returns to finish up the racial end of His earth task this will be clear, at once, to all.
Now, it is most striking and significant that from the earliest times the Quiet Corner had been God’s sounding-board. There He has spoken. He has spoken to the men that went into the Quiet Corner to meet Him. He has used the Quiet Corner to send His messages out into the ears of the race.
The Quiet Corner Book
It is most significant that God’s messages have come out of the inner chamber of sacred spirit comradeship with Himself.
Hebrew rabbi scholarship is quite clear that six of these books came from Moses’ pen. And it is distinctly Hebrew literature. So these men rank as competent authority on such a question.
The book of Job, the earliest of all, was written in the wind-swept sands of the Arabian Peninsula. It was written by an exile, suffering in heart over the sore problem of human suffering. He felt that problem. Its biting teeth cut into his own inner heart cockles.
The first five books come from his [Moses’] pen in that rare University of Arabia. They were a big part of the training of this missionary nation, for its racial mission.
And it is clear, practically to the point of certainty, that the writing and dictation were done in that little peaked-top tent. There Joshua, Moses’ right-hand man, amanuensis, secretary, abode, we are told. That precious Ninety-first Psalm seems quite conclusive here.
And so one could trace through the Old Testament, step by step. The evidence seems quite clear that the Quiet Corner of fellowship with God, was the sounding-board whence the messages went out to the very ends of the earth.
David’s psalms and the later ones, Solomon’s Song of his early tender spirit touch with God, and his Proverbs personifying God as Wisdom, and so on.
And pretty plainly the minor wail of Ecclesiastes was penned before the door of his Quiet Corner hung unhinged, and told of his badly unhinged moral character. Or was it after that unhinged door was hung true again, at the last?
The prophetic pages bear the Quiet Corner marks very, very plainly, page after page. The imprint is peculiarly in evidence at every turn.
So one could trace his way with hushed heart through the newer leaves. That loved man, who lived closest to Jesus and leaned on His bosom, lets us closest into the heart of our Lord. And his Patmos prison house became a rare sounding-board of events yet to come, likely rather soon now.
The touches of this in Paul’s letters are unmistakable. His tent-stitching shop was a study shop, too, and intercession room, as well as a rarely resonant sounding-board for the messages entrusted to him.
And if we may carpenter down smoother the door-sill into the Quiet Corner, we, too, the humblest of us, may be in our very lives, God’s sounding-boards, even though unconscious of it all, for the greater part.
Let us let our wondrous Jehovah-Jesus have the use of us, for His pleading, wooing messages.
4. How the Quiet Corner Has Changed Things
The Far Reaching Touch
Jesus touched men when He was down here. He touched them with His Hand. He touched them with His heart, and with His life.
And there was power in the touch of Jesus. Men were changed. Their bodies were healed. Their hearts were cleaned out. Their lives were straightened out.
But Jesus didn’t stop there. He was discontented with stopping there. He went one step further. He used the changed man in touching and changing other men.
And Jesus Himself hasn’t changed. He is still the same. He has always been the same. And He has always been looking for a man (sometimes a bit scarce!).
He has been looking, and is, for the man in whom He may make any change He chooses. Then He can make any change He chooses through that man in the whole circle of his life.
These Gospel pages are largely stories of this sort men touched and changed by our Lord Jesus, and then touching and changing others, under Jesus’ guiding, controlling touch.
And this blessed chain of influence has continued through all the years and centuries. Most times it cannot be traced. But it is there, like the gold hidden in the ground.
There is one very striking illustration of this I want to speak of here. It is a most significant illustration of the power of the Quiet Corner, and the wide reach of its power.
And it is, of course, simply an illustration of the fact that a close controlling touch of will and life with Jesus is the very centre and heart of all service. And this is what the Quiet Corner stands for, characteristically.
This chain of events and influences runs through several hundred years. Yet the touch is quite clear. It reveals the truly remarkable reaction or interplay of events.
It begins in old England, runs out to the Continent of Europe, back again to England, and thence out to the very ends of the earth.
And it is all an illustration of this: that Jesus touches a man, changes him through that touch, and then uses him in touching and changing other men. And the Quiet Corner is the throbbing heart-beat of all.
It is a simple chain of quite clear links, connecting the Reformation movement with to-day, and with the common familiar civilization of to-day.
And it reveals in a most striking way the inter-action between England and Europe, and the farthest reaches of the race.
The Reformation stands out in history as a religious movement. But it had most marked and remarkable intellectual, political, social, industrial, and humanitarian phases.
It was the greatest event in the history of the civilization of the Western Hemisphere. It is the connecting stage between the “Dark Ages,” so-called, and modern times. It ends the “middle-ages,” and is the beginning of modern Europe.
The Wyckliffe Link
This fascinating chain has seven links, John Wyckliffe of England, John Huss of Bohemia, Zinzendorf and the Moravians, the Evangelical Revival of the Eighteenth Century in England, Peter Boehler of Germany, and John Wesley. Spurgeon and Moody, and the University world are in close spirit-touch. And at every step you feel the heart-beat of the Quiet Corner, clear, distinct and warm.
John Wyckliffe has been called the “morning star of the Reformation”. It is a most apt description. The morning star appears in the sky while it is still night. Darkness broods over all nature.
But its appearance is prophetic. It tells the student of the heavens that though it is still night there’s a new day coming, and its dawn is just at hand.
It was surely dark night, back there in the fourteenth century when Wyckliffe came into the action of the religious, political, intellectual life of England.
The political claims of the ecclesiastical system of the day in all Europe combined, mixed, the two phases inextricably. And both affected the intellectual life.
Wyckliffe’s early life is shrouded in obscurity, even his date of birth being uncertain. He was at various times principal of Balliol College (one of the oldest colleges at Oxford), a rector in several important churches, a royal ambassador at Church conferences, a popular preacher in London, a tireless writer against the Church system of the day, and bitterly fought by the Church high officials.
The last ten years of his life were spent in little quaint picturesque Lutterworth, where, in addition to his Church work, he made the first complete, translation of the Bible into the English language.
His translation was done from the Latin. For the fall of Constantinople had not yet driven the Greek scholars into the West to begin the historic renaissance. Greek was as yet an unknown tongue in England.
Wyckliffe was not only a classical scholar, but he had rare mastery of English. He wrote small tracts in the language of the common people, rare, vigorous, idiomatic, biting, homely English.
It is with a deepening sense of awe that one visits the Lutterworth Church, dating back to the twelfth century, where he ministered, with the restored rectory where the epochal translation was worked out.
It is surely a sacred shrine. Here the light of the English Bible, and of the Reformation first began its bright shining out to all the earth. Here is the sounding-board whose blessed echoes have reached to the farthest rim of the horizon.
And it becomes quite plain, and then yet clearer and more emphatic, that the Quiet Corner in Wyckliffe’s life was the very heart of all he was, and did, and dared. The ear marks are all there in plain sight. The tell-tale echoes are distinct to every listening ear.
The Quiet Corner touches are unmistakable, and in open evidence, in all Wyckliffe’s writings, and preachings, and actions. What are these?.
The sole authority of the Book of God, standing alone above every other source of authority, this comes first always.
Loyalty to Jesus Christ as Saviour through whose blood alone is there salvation and cleansing and peace, this is practically a twin with that first.
And the warm, tender, ever fresh personal devotion to the Saviour, this is the answering heart-throb to the Book and the Saviour.
Wyckliffe clearly knew well the rare intimacies of the Quiet Corner, with the Book and the gracious presence of the Holy Spirit, and long unclocked intercourse.
His spare, emaciated form told of the long hours of study, and the scholar’s habits of asceticism. His piercing, very gentle eye told of the intensity of rain and heart, and will and spirit passion.
John Wyckliffe’s active personal leadership ran through a quarter of a century, and dominated all England, both in the intelligent, earnest following, and the bitter criticism and hatred and enmity aroused.
The Huss Link
Wyckliffe touched another great scholar and preacher and outstanding leader, John Huss, of Prague in Bohemia. They didn’t touch personally but most intimately in every other way.
Huss was forty-odd years younger than Wyckliffe. The relationship was like that of the eager student-pupil to the revered, loved, professor.
Wyckliffe kindled the fires in John Huss. The inflammable kindling was carried by Jerome, also of Prague, a fellow student and fellow worker with Huss.
He had been one of Wyckliffe’s group of foreign students at Balliol, Oxford. The fires caught quickly, and burned fiercely and tenderly in Huss.
Huss was a graduate of the University of Prague, a young man of rare charm of manner, eloquent, with striking abilities, sincerity of faith, scholarly instincts, and an honest steadiness of conviction.
He early began lecturing on Wyckliffe’s teachings at the University of Prague to large numbers, became dean of the philosophical faculty, then rector of the University. He became confessor or chaplain to the Queen of Bohemia, and preacher in the common tongue to the people to great crowds in a famous chapel in Prague.
But while Huss is the leader of the great Reformation movement in Bohemia, the ground had been well prepared for his remarkable ministry both in Court circles and among the populace.
Wandering Oxford scholars eagerly carried the Wyckliffe message everywhere. The first Queen of Richard the Second of England was Anne of Bohemia. She was called “Anne the Good.” She became an ardent disciple of Wyckliffe’s.
She read the Gospels in her native Bohemian tongue. Through her influence the writings of Wyckliffe and his Bible were introduced into Bohemia.
After her death some of the Bohemian nobles and ladies, who had formed her inner circle, brought back to Prague copies of Wyckliffe’s Bible and writings.
These were eagerly read and discussed and accepted. The famous Bethlehem Chapel in Prague was so crowded that Huss preached in the open square to the crowd gathered there.
And Huss himself revealed all the Quiet Corner traits. The Wyckliffe fires burned true as rekindled on the Huss hearth, and in the Huss life.
Absolute loyalty to the Bible itself as the highest source of authoritative teaching, a warm personal allegiance to the Saviour Himself, these were the unmistakable marks.
There was in Huss the earnestness of speech and spirit, the modesty of manner, the gracious mildness and affability, the rare poise of judgment, and the utter unselfishness.
And there was the heroism, even at the last to imprisonment and want and martyrdom. These are plainly the Quiet Corner traits. The Wyckliffe touch on Huss was unmistakable. Shall we not better say the Jesus touch on both.
Within a few years from the beginning of Huss’s preaching to the populace in Bethlehem Chapel, the bulk of Bohemia had embraced his teachings. Preaching in the common Czech language spread.
The first Christianizing of Bohemia had been by Greek Church missionaries. The aggressiveness of the Western Church, centering at Rome, had been resented.
There was an intense opposition to the customs being introduced, clerical celibacy, observing the Lord’s supper with the use of bread only among the congregation without the wine, and the service of worship conducted in the unknown Latin language.
By the thirteenth century, protests, conscious and unconscious, against the system centering in the Pope at Rome, had become common everywhere throughout Bohemia, and indeed all Europe.
This itself was a preparation for the Evangelical teachings of Wyckliffe and Huss. There was a natural preparation among the populace.
The simplicity and earnestness and Bible-quality of the Wyckliffe-Huss teaching fitted into the longings of the common people thus prepared.
The Moravian Link
Then there’s a third link in this remarkable chain. That is the Huss touch on the people, commonly known later and to-day, as Moravians. They called themselves the United Brethren, Unitas Fratrum, and still do.
The Moravians are a distinct, strong link in this chain of contacts that leads us straight back again to old England.
They are, relatively, small in numbers, but they stand out peculiarly in Church history, for their dominant traits. Historically, characteristically, they have all the Quiet Corner traits.
There was a passion for the Bible, for the Saviour, and for making the Saviour known to the very ends of the earth. Modern missions date back to the Moravians’ activity as the earliest beginning.
And with this go the personal traits of sacrificial heroism, and the deep, tender, warm spirit of devotion to Jesus.
The connection between John Huss and the Moravians is quite distinct. After Huss was burned at the stake in Constance his teachings really overspread all Europe. The actual fire that burned Huss to death kindled sacred, hot spirit fires everywhere.
His followers became commonly known as Hussites. Hussite literature and representatives flooded all Europe, and even reached out to Scotland, Spain, the Netherlands, and into East Russia.
The movement reached forward to Luther’s time. It became the strong, popular movement which headed up in the Luther leadership.
The Moravians trace their Church back to the ancient Church of the Bohemian Brethren, instituted in Prague, in the middle of the Fifteenth Century.
Remnants of these Hussites had settled in the borders of Moravia and Silesia, driven by persecution. Bitter persecution, and then quiet, alternated in their experience. Finally their organization was completely wiped out, and the Moravians individual members were scattered.
Later, roused by the intense preaching of one of their number, a carpenter-preacher (interesting reminiscent touch of Nazareth and Galilee!), they emigrated, and at last, found refuge on the estate of young Count Zinzendorf.
They expressed their faith in God’s watchful care over them in the name they gave their new settlement “Hernhut”, “the Lord’s watch”. It had previously been known as Hutberg, the Watch Hill.
And here, with their numbers greatly increased by the coming of others of like faith and zeal, the Moravian Church was literally born again of the Spirit.
There was a truly outstanding Pentecostal Baptism of the Holy Spirit upon them. August 13th, 1727, was their spiritual birthday, when the remarkable effusion of the Holy Spirit was experienced, as they were gathered about the Lord’s table.
They were filled with an unquenchable passion for Christ, and for making His Cross known to all men. And this became their controlling passion. All this was under the leadership of young Count Zinzendorf.
The Zinzendorf Link
Count Louis von Zinzendorf came of an old noble Austrian family. He was a man of wide natural gifts, great capacity for work, extensive learning, a genius for organization, a veritable born leader.
And with all this from his early years, there was a deep piety, and intense rare devotion to the person of Christ. Learning of the hardships of these Moravian fugitives he had invited them to settle on his estate in Saxony. Mingling freely among them, he became their leader, composing the differences between these earnest but undisciplined men.
Hernhut became a world centre. And from its simple homes and place of worship, men and women went out to the farthest places, to proclaim the Saviour, crucified, risen, and coming again.
Here, then, in this little but intense Moravian Church group is the unmistakable imprint. Huss had the Wyckliffe imprint, plainly made by the same Piercéed Hand that touched and moulded the Englishman of Oxford and Lutterworth.
And these early Moravians under saintly Zinzendorf, had the Huss imprint. It traces clearly back to the Prague preaching, and it traces as clearly up to that same Piercéed Hand that dominated the Jerusalem Pentecostal Church.
It is plainly the Quiet Corner imprint, the passion for the Bible, for Jesus, His distinctive personality and sacrificial death, and His living again.
And with these is the tender, warm, personal devotion to Jesus, and the passion for making Him known, regardless of any sacrificial effort involved.
The Quiet Corner imprint, aye, the imprint of the Piercéed Hand, is the unvarying, unmistakable touch and link throughout. The Moravians and Zinzendorf are the third and fourth links in this fascinating chain we are tracing out afresh.
The Wesley Link
Then the succeeding links are of peculiar interest, taking hold of the English heart anew, for they bring us back again to this rare old English land.
These Moravian missionaries came to England, on their way to other lands, and the Holy Spirit used them in England, and Scotland, and Ireland, and Wales, in a most remarkable way.
It was the real beginning, almost forgot now, of the Evangelical Revival of the Eighteenth Century which made such profound changes, continuing to this day.
This group of Moravians in England contained some most remarkable men. There were men of rank and position, like Count Zinzendorf, who had access to English court circles.
There were university men like Peter Boehler of the University of Jena, including some who had also taken Oxford degrees.
There were also men of rare distinctive evangelistic gifts like John Cennick, a name almost unknown now, though it can be found in old hymn books.
He was used in a most exceptional way in kindling the holy fires throughout all England and Ireland and Wales. His career is astonishing to read about to-day when he is almost forgot.
These men were used to leave, on the national life of these British Isles, an impress that can never be wiped out, though so unknown by the present generation.
They did a work wholly unplanned by themselves, and done amid the greatest difficulties and hardships. They spoke broken English, and were ignorant of idiomatic expressions. And they were foreigners, unacquainted with English customs and views.
Yet their simple intense preachings held the crowds spellbound, and had the most profound and widespread permanent moral results, of a most practical sort.
The outstanding link at this point in this most rare chain, is Peter Boehler, who touched John Wesley so intimately, with such deep and wide-reaching results.
Peter Boehler had joined the Moravian group at Hernhut through the personal influence of Zinzendorf. He was a graduate of the University of Jena, familiar with many languages even including Arabic, and was well versed in arts and sciences.
He was eloquent, and mighty in the Scriptures, and with an unusually warm, tender devotion to Christ and had a radiant Christly disposition.
He had stopped in London on his way as a voluntary missionary to the negroes of South Carolina. It seemed like a chance meeting between these two men, at the home of a Dutch merchant, down in the city of London.
Boehler, the young University man of the Continent, and Wesley the earnest young University man of Oxford, came together.
It was like two intense flames and two bits of dry tinder in contact. The fires, tender and tense, of an intimate friendship kindled at once.
Each represented a sort of Christianity quite new to the other. Each one enlarged the other’s mental outlook and understanding.
But Boehler had a spirit experience, a clearness of the Saviour’s sacrificial death, an assurance of his own acceptance and a joyous faith, quite new to Wesley.
And there was quite an unmistakable spirit power as Boehler preached of the redeeming Blood of Calvary, and the assurance of forgiveness through that Blood.
And John Wesley was a man of rare ability, scholar, saint, preacher, administrator, and statesman in his broad outlook and reach. He combined patience and moderation, cool judgment with an imperious intensity, and a tireless activity.
He is peculiarly the dominant spiritual personality and influence of the Eighteenth Century in all England, and thence out to the farthest horizon.
The Broad Influence
The profound moral influence of the Wesley-Methodist Movement has not simply gone out to the whole world, it has exerted a profound influence on the English National Church and the English nation.
Modern missions are commonly traced, and rightly so, to Carey’s cramped, scholarly, cobbler’s study in Leicester, the geographical centre of England. But Carey was part of a larger movement.
The beginnings of common education, the humanitarianism of Wilberforce and Elizabeth Fry and Howard, the new mental life revealed in the industrial revolution, all these outstanding features of that outstanding Eighteenth Century are but a piece of the new spirit, awakened by the gracious Evangelical Revival.
And that revival centred peculiarly in John Wesley and the Holy Spirit used the torch in Peter Boehler’s hand to kindle the holy fires in John Wesley.
There are other blessed links in this sacred chain. The influences of the Evangelical Revival of the Eighteenth Century in England, literally overspread the earth.
Finney in America and London, Spurgeon in London and, through the printed page, in all the world, Moody in America and England, the Studds, the Cambridge Seven, and the whole University world with its intense impact.
All these are but a bit of the same movings of the Holy Spirit. And they, all and each, trace back to the Quiet Corner.
Step by step as one digs into the sacred gold mine of each of these names, he comes across the same gold. In nuggets, in grains, and in connecting veins, the gold is there, the same precious gold.
The veins of actual gold in the earth are sometimes lost by the miner. They seem to lose themselves. Then the miner’s spade digs into a vein of gold that bears unmistakable evidence of being a bit of the lost vein cropping up again within reach and touch. Even so it is here. The unmistakable Quiet Corner imprint is unfailing. That Quiet Corner imprint itself is unfailing. It always runs true to form.
The distinctive Book of God, the one authoritative reliable source of authority, the distinctive personality of the Man Jesus, the one God-Man, His distinctive sacrificial death for others, the distinctive damnable badness of self-willed sin that necessitates such a death, the absolute certainty of cleansing and of personal salvation, the joyous assurance, the passion for Jesus, and for making Him known regardless of sacrifice involved — these, these, are the unfailing, unmistakable Quiet Corner imprint.
Another Chain of Links
There’s another chain of blessed personal links that connects with all this. The direct connection has not been traced. Perhaps it cannot be.
Yet the gold miner, turning up with pick and spade, a vein of rare rich gold, can quickly recognize the vein worked before, even though the connection is quite covered up far underneath the surface.
And here the impress is unmistakable. The earmarks are clear, and in full view. The same symphony rings its resonance out, loud and joyous. The connection is beyond question even though not directly traceable.
One day a tall, slender young man with fine, strongly marked face, went into a shoe shop in our American city of Boston.
He found a ruddy faced, sturdily built, country lad in the back end of the shop, wrapping up a pair of shoes.
The boy was in this young man’s Sunday-school class, a recent comer. And the teacher gently put his arm on the lad’s shoulder, and spoke a simple word.
“You know Jesus died for you as your Saviour, Dwight,” he said, with quiet earnestness, “and the manly thing is to thank Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, and live for Him. Won’t you do this, my boy?”
That was something new to the boy, to have the thing brought so close, and in such a warm, gentle way.
It touched his heart that somebody cared like that. And he blurted out that he would. And after a few words more the teacher left.
And that teacher has told me that he had quite forgot the incident. I suppose it was a commonplace incident in his habits, a blessed commonplace.
But I have heard the boy say he never could forget. He could still feel that hand on his shoulder years after. He could never lose the sound of that quiet earnest living voice talking to him all by himself.
He was changed through and through because of that gracious human touch. And, when he grew to manhood, he was used by our Lord to touch and change the lives of more men and woman than any other man.
I think that would be quite an accurate thing to say of old Dwight Moody. For he was the boy in the Boston Shoe Shop.
And Moody was used to touch a man in old London, one of the countless thousands, a man named Studd, and three of his four sons.
And they were changed blessedly through that touch. It seemed like a chance touch, but there was a purpose of God at work.
One of Studd’s horse trainers had been blest and had set himself to get his employer. His earnest effort brought the worldly sporting man to the huge crowded building in the north of London, and managed with difficulty to get him a good seat. The spirit of God did the blessed rest.
One of the Studd boys known familiarly in those days, among his fellow University men, as “J.E.K.,” came over to our American side of the salt water.
In the course of his touring among our Universities, he spoke one morning in one of our larger Eastern Universities.
Quite unconsciously he was used to touch a tall brown-eyed young fellow from one of our Western States.
The young fellow had come to this Eastern School to get away from the earnest Christian atmosphere that disturbed his ambitious plans for his life.
He had come into the hall rather late, idly curious to hear this English University man. A single sentence being spoken as he entered the hall aroused him at once.
He heard no more. That sentence was a winged arrow sped by the Holy Spirit. The upshot was that he was changed, through and through, by that so-called chance touch.
And, in our Lord’s gracious leading, he was used in the touching and changing of countless University students in all the six continents, and in organizing their efforts in Christian service.
And John Mott, that young man, was used in the touching and changing, among the thousands, of one young fellow in a little Pennsylvania College.
Hugh Beaver was the son of the one-time Governor of Pennsylvania, a Federal General in the American civil war of the northern and southern states.
He went up and down among the Colleges of his native State, and other States, burning like a tender intense flame for his Master. And that tense personal touch was graciously used in touching and changing untold numbers of young Collegians.
But there’s yet another trail leading out from that Moody-Studd contact. The sacred fires set a-burning in old England at that time reached their insistent tongues of flame into the English University world.
Another of those Studd boys, familiarly known as “C.T.” had caught fire at the Moody torch. He went with his intense earnestness to far China, and then to India, and after that into the heart of Africa.
Only the statistics kept at the Throne can tell of the vast numbers, in those three great lands, and also in America, blessedly touched and changed, and touching and changing yet others in an ever widening circle.
He was one of the famous Cambridge Seven that went into inland China, with the tender, tense story of a Christ crucified and risen and at work in men’s lives to-day.
And that band was but one group of the far larger number that went out under the holy impulse of the Moody movement, out to the ends of the race.
Moody, himself, of course, was not a University man, though rarely gifted. He was a diamond in the rough, that became rarely polished by grace, and by study of the Book, and in the experience of his most remarkable career.
Back in his native new England, for a breathing spell, he became the centre of one of the most remarkable movements among University men that has touched vitally the race to its farthest horizon.
At his invitation University men gathered at Mount Hermon, back in the 1880s. There the Student Volunteer Movement was born. It had been brooded over for long in the Quiet Corner of a young woman, born in India of missionary parents, then resident in the United States, Grace Wilder. Her brother, Robert Wilder, became one of the early leaders of the Movement.
The Student Volunteer Movement spread quickly into the Universities and Colleges of America, and overseas. It was graciously used in the revival of interest in the carrying of the Gospel message out to the farthest corners of the earth.
Thousands of missionaries went out under its inspiring spur. The home Churches knew a new intelligent zeal, for evangelizing the non-Christian world. The Layman’s Missionary Movement spread the fire and loosened out vast sums of gold.
All these gracious movements have later taken on much of the coloring of this so-called modernistic generation. But that’s another story.
The bit to mark just now is this: they were all conceived and born and grown lusty in the womb of the Quiet Corner.
In their beginnings, and fine flush of vigorous life, they had all the Quiet Corner traits. The One Book of God, the God-Man Saviour, His sacrificial death, His living again.
The warm heart-throb of devotion to Him, and the fine passion to make Him known as Redeemer, out to all men, these are the unfailing unmistakable marks of the Quiet Corner, and of the Quiet Corner trail running through all these movements.
Truly the Jesus passion burns in the Quiet Corner. The pulse beat of the race can be heard and felt in the Quiet Corner.
The heart-beat of God can be felt in the Quiet Corner. The human will is put into rhythmic swing with the love-will of God in the Quiet Corner.
The ear is attuned to the voice of God in the Quiet Corner. The vision is broadened, the judgment poised, the purpose stiffened, and the spirit gentled and made unselfish, in the Quiet Corner.
Let us carpenter down flatter the door-sill into the Quiet Corner with the daily friction of our feet.
This page Copyright © 2002 Peter Wade. The Bible text in this publication, except where otherwise indicated, is from the King James Version. This article appears on the site: https://www.peterwade.com/.
Would you like your own copy of books by Peter Wade and other authors? Go to our Catalog.