“Seeing the Invisible” American Sentinel 9, 42, pp. 329-331.

THE Christian is to see, and does see, the invisible. He is to “look at the things that are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:18), and he is to see—he can see—the things that he looks at.

“The things that are not seen are eternal:” and the things that are eternal are the things of God; for he is “the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God,” and “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen” (Romans 1:20), though not with the natural eyes—the eyes of this world.

There are things even of the natural order, which are invisible to the natural eyes unaided. There are innumerable worlds that cannot be seen at all—that are invisible—without the telescope; there are the countless forms of life in this world of ours that are invisible without the microscope. And all men are eager, and delighted, to use either the telescope or the microscope whenever it is possible, in order that they may see these things that are otherwise invisible. And the invisible things even of the natural order awake more interest, and engage more profound study than do the visible things.

Why should not then the invisible things of the spiritual order awake interest and arouse study as well as the invisible things
of the natural order? It may be answered that they do. Yes, that is true; but the interest shown, and the study carried on, in this line, is so largely done in a defective way, that, practically, the effort amounts to very little, and brings no benefit to the greater part of mankind.

The one grand defect, and, indeed, a fatal one, in the efforts of the greatest part of mankind to see the invisible things of the spiritual order, the invisible things of God, has always been that it is attempted to be done in the natural way and with the natural faculties. Because of this the gods of the heathen have always been but the reflection of the natural character of the worshipers, and even then must needs be represented before the devotee in some shape visible to the natural eye, whether it be in the form of the heavenly bodies, or of sticks or stones, or of graven or molten images, or of pictures. So that all false worship—all idolatry—is but the result of effort to grasp the spiritual in the natural way, to comprehend spiritual things with the natural faculties.

But it is eternally true that “spiritual things are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-14. The truly spiritual things—the things of God—it is impossible truly to discern in any other than the truly spiritual way. For “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24. It is only by the Spirit of God that the things of God can be discerned. For, as it is written: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things; yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10.

Thus it is evident that God has put within the reach of man the means by which he can see “the invisible things of him.” And the Spirit of God and the revelation which he by that Spirit has given, are the means by which men may know the things of God and may see the [330] invisible things of him. For, again it is written: “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11, 12.

Although it be eternally true that spiritual things are only spiritually discerned; and although it be evident that it is by the Spirit of God alone that the things of God are known; yet it is also true that even this good Spirit men desire to see—they desire that it shall be visible—before they will receive it, even as it is written: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” John 14:16, 17. Thus the sole means by which the things of God can be made known to the world—even this the world insists shall be discerned and known in the worldly way. But this will never do. This the Lord could never, by any means, allow in any degree.

God can never accommodate himself nor his ways to the ways of this world. This world is wrong, and all its ways are wrong ways. And for the Lord to accommodate himself in anything to the ways of this world, would be only to confirm the world in its wrong ways. If the world could see God, or the things of God, with worldly eyes, and could know God or the things of God with worldly knowledge, this would at once reduce God to the level of this world, and all the things of God to the level of the things of this world. And this would be only to confirm, by the sanction of God, this world forever in its own ways as they are, making the ways of this world the ways of God, and making iniquity and transgression and sin eternal.

But God wants to turn this world from its own ways unto himself, that it may know him as he is. He wants to lift this world up to himself and to his ways, instead of allowing the world to bring him down to its own level and to confirm it in its own wickedness. And in order that this may be accomplished, he must, in the very nature of things, require that the world shall see with other than worldly eyes, and know with other than worldly knowledge. The world must forsake all worldly elements and all worldly methods, and accept and use exclusively the means which God has supplied, or else it can never see God as he is in truth. And whosoever will do this will see him as he is, and everywhere, and to all eternity. He who would refuse the use of the telescope and the microscope, the means by which alone he can see the invisible things of the natural order, might strain his eyes till the faculty of sight should be lost, in an effort to see those things, and all in vain; for without these instruments he simply cannot see the things which he would see. Even so the things of God can no man see, who refuses to use the means which God has supplied for this purpose. Without the instruments which God has supplied, man may strain all his powers to the breaking point in the effort to see God as he is in truth and all in vain; without these he simply cannot see him. And this, not because God has arbitrarily fixed it so that he shall not see him if he does not do so, and so, and simply and only because that if he will not use the instruments by which alone the invisible things of God may be seen, literally he cannot see them. “Except a man be born again [born from above, margin] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3.

What, then, are the instruments by which men may see the invisible things of God? We have read that “the Comforter,” “the Spirit of Truth,” “which is the Holy Ghost,” the world cannot receive “because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” And further, on this it is written that “we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:14. That is to say, therefore, not only that the world cannot receive the Spirit of God because it seeth him not, but that the world sees him not because it does not believe. Instead of believing, in order that it may see, the world wants to see in order that it may believe. But to those who believe and therefore do receive him, Jesus says, “Ye know him, for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you;” and, “Ye see me;” and “I will manifest myself to him.” So that it is literally true that by faith we know God and the things of God, and see the invisible things of God.

It was “by faith” that Moses endured “as seeing him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27. It is written that “the pure in heart shall see God;” and he purifies the heart “by faith” (Acts 15:9); and therefore it is by faith that men see him who is “the invisible God.” Colossians 1:15. And in order that all men may see “the invisible things of him,” and “him who is invisible,” “God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Romans 12:3. Faith is ‘the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8. It is not the gift of God in the sense that the natural faculties, as reason, night, hearing, etc., are the gifts of God, so that it should be of ourselves. It is the gift of God in the sense that it is from above and beyond ourselves, a supernatural faculty bestowed since sin entered, and acting only at the free choice of the individual himself. “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17); and the word of God is able to make things to be seen which before did not appear, and which indeed were not; so that faith, acting through the word of God, sees in very truth, and sees clearly, the invisible things of God.

True faith, the faith that is the gift of God, the faith of which Christ is the Author, the faith of which the word of God is the channel—this faith hears the word of God and depends upon the divine power of that word itself to accomplish the thing which that word says. For when the centurion came to Jesus asking that his servant should be healed, he said to the Lord, “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” Thus he expected the word of the Lord itself to accomplish that which it said when the Lord should but speak the word. And this the Lord pronounced not only “faith” but “great faith:” even such as he had not found in Israel. And this, too, in the face of the fact that the Scripture, upon the knowledge of which Israel was greatly priding itself, had long before plainly stated this very thing, in these words: “As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please.” Isaiah 55:10, 11.

To expect the word of God to do the thing which that word says, and to depend wholly upon that word itself to do it, this the Lord Jesus pronounces faith. This is true faith. This is the faith by which men can see the invisible thing of God as certainly and as easily as by the telescope and the microscope they can see the invisible things of the natural order. This is the faith which works by love purifies the heart, so that he who is thus “pure in heart shall see God,” invisible though he be. For this is the faith by which he who exercises it sees the invisible. This is the faith which, working through the word of God, accomplishes the new birth (1 Peter 1:23) by which a man is enabled to see the kingdom of God, which “except a man be born again he cannot see” at all.

This is why it is that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Faith is of God, and whatsoever it works is the work of God; while whatsoever is not of faith is not of God, but is of the world. And all that is in the world is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:16. Whatsoever is not of faith is of the world, is of the nature of the world, and is of the way of the world, and perverts the way of God to the ways of the world, and demands that God shall accommodate himself to the world and accept a worship that is altogether of the nature and spirit of this world.

No stronger proof, therefore, could possibly be given, of the absolute falsity, the sheer worldliness, and the utter naturalness, of any system of religion, than that it must needs avail itself of visible representations of the object of its worship. And of all the systems of religion that are in the world, there is no one which insists more upon the visible and upon seeing the visible than does the Roman Catholic system. It is essential to that system that it shall have “a visible head.” It must needs have a visible kingdom. It must have a visible sacrifice. Professing to worship the Crucified One, the Catholic Church must have visible “crucifix” by which to do it. Professing to glory in the cross of Christ, she must have a multitude of visible crosses of her own by which to do it. There must be a visible interpreter of the Scriptures. And for all the worshipers according to that system, there must be visible representations of the object worshiped, in the shape of images and pictures. Throughout the whole system the one chief essential is the seeing of the visible.

While this paragraph is being written, there comes to hand an encyclical of Leo XIII., pope, “On the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin,” in which, describing the purpose of the rosary, that is, of the beads which are used by Catholics in their prayers, he says: “The rosary is arranged not for the consideration of dogmas of faith and questions of doctrine, but rather for putting forth facts to be perceived by the eyes and treasured up in the memory.” Even though it be recognized that the invisible exists and is to be worshiped, yet it can be comprehended and worshiped only through, and by the aid of, the visible. This is the characteristic of all heathenism and of all idolatry. And this is only to say that by this characteristic the Catholic [331] system of religion is demonstrated to be essentially heathenish and idolatrous.

We know full well of the plea that is made in defense of the use of images, pictures, etc., in the worship of the Roman Catholic Church; that is, that “the honor which is given them is referred to the originals which they represent, so that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover our heads or kneel, we adore Christ and venerate his saints, whose likeness they represent;” and “the bowing before an image outside of us is no more to be reprehended than the worshiping before and internal image in our own minds; for the external image does but serve the purpose of expressing visibly that which is internals.”—Faith of Our Fathers, pp. 285, 287. But if they only saw Him whom they profess to worship, they would not need any image of him, either external or internal, nor any representation of him either visible or otherwise. They could then be true worshipers, worshiping him who is invisible, in spirit and in truth.

This plea that is made in justification of the use of images and of the visible, is in itself the greatest condemnation of the use of images and of the whole system of Roman Catholicism; for it is a confession of inability to see the invisible, and therefore a confession that the whole system is destitute of true faith and a stranger to the new birth, and altogether without God.

The Catholic system being confessedly unable to see the invisible, is clearly not of faith. And as whatsoever is not of faith is sin, it is perfectly clear that the whole Catholic system is a system of sin. And the professed Protestantism that panders to it, that compromises with it, that courts it, and that is “wheeling into line with it,” is simply like unto it. The one is “the man of sin,” “the son of perdition,” “the mystery of iniquity,” “the beast;” and the other is “the image” of it. [331]

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