The Perpetual Presence
‘Lo, I am with you alway.’—Matt, xxviii. 20.
SOME of us think and say a good deal about ‘a sense of His presence;’ sometimes rejoicing in it, sometimes going mourning all the day long because we have it not; praying for it, and not always seeming to receive what we ask; measuring our own position, and sometimes even that of others, by it; now on the heights, now in the depths about it. And all this April-like gleam and gloom instead of steady summer glow, because we are turning our attention upon the sense of His presence, instead of the changeless reality of it!
All our trouble and disappointment about it is met by His own simple word, and vanishes in the simple faith that grasps it. For if Jesus says simply and absolutely, ‘Lo, I am with you alway,’ what have we to do with feeling or’sense’ about it? We have only to believe it, and to recollect it. And it is only by thus believing and recollecting that we can realize it.
It comes practically to this: Are you a disciple of the Lord Jesus at all? If so, He says to you, *I am with you alway.’ That overflows all the regrets of the past and all the possibilities of the future, and most certainly includes the present. Therefore, at this very moment, as surely as your eyes rest on this page, so surely is the Lord Jesus with you. ‘I am,’ is neither ‘ I was,’ nor ‘ I will be.’ It is always abreast of our lives, always encompassing us with salvation. It is a splendid perpetual ‘Now.’ It always means ‘I am with you now,’ or it would cease to be ‘ I am’ and ‘ alway.’
Is it not too bad to turn round upon that gracious presence, the Lord Jesus Christ’s own personal presence here and now, and, without one note of faith or whisper of thanksgiving, say, ‘Yes, but I don’t realize it!’ Then it is, after all, not the presence, but the realization that you are seeking— the shadow, not the substance! Honestly, it is so! For you have such absolute assurance of the reality, put into the very plainest words of promise that divine love could devise, that you dare not make Him a liar and say, ‘ No! He is not with me!’ All you can say is, ‘I don’t feel a sense of His presence.’ Well, then, be ashamed of doubting your beloved Master’s faithfulness, and ‘ never open thy mouth any more” in His presence about it. For those doubting, desponding words were said in His presence. He was there, with you, while you said or thought them. What must He have thought of them!
As the first hindrance to realization is not believing His promise, so the second is not recollecting it, not ‘keeping it in memory.’2 If we were always recollecting, we should be always realizing.
1 Ezek. xvi. 63, 2 x Cor. xv. 2.
But we go forth from faith to forgetfulness, and there seems no help for it. Neither is there, in ourselves. But ‘ in Me is thine help.’1 Jesus Himself had provided against this before He gave the promise. He said that the Holy Spirit should bring all things to our remembrance.’ It is no use laying the blame on our poor memories, when the Almighty Spirit is sent that He may strengthen them. Let us make real use of this promise, and we shall certainly find it sufficient for the need it meets. He can, and He will, give us that holy and blessed recollectedness, which can make us dwell in an atmosphere of remembrance of His presence and promises, through which all other things may pass and move without removing it.
Unbelief and forgetfulness are the only shadows which can come between us and His presence; though, when they have once made the separation, there is room for all others. Otherwise, though all the shadows of earth fell around, none could fall between; and their very darkness could only intensify the brightness of the pavilion in which we dwell, the Secret of His Presence. They could not touch what one has called ‘ the unutterable joy of shadowless communion.’
What shall we say to our Lord to-night? He says, ‘I am with you alway.’ Shall we not put away all the captious contradictoriness of quotations of our imperfect and double-fettered experience, and say to Him, lovingly, confidingly, and gratefully, ‘Thou art with me!”
1 Hos. xiii. 9. 2 John xiv. 26. 8 Ps. xxiii. 4.
‘I am with thee!’ He hath said it,
In His truth and tender grace!
Sealed the promise, grandly spoken,
With how many a mighty token
Of His love and faithfulness!
* I am with thee!’ With thee always
All the nights and ‘ all the days;’
Never failing, never frowning,
With His loving-kindness crowning,
Tuning all thy life to praise.