By J. C. Ryle, (From “The Real Presence”)
“Where is your God, my boy?” said an infidel to a child whom he saw coming out of a church. “Where is your God, about whom you have been reading? Show Him to me, and I will give you a treat!”
“Show me where He is not,” was the answer, “and I will give you two! My God is everywhere!”
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good!” (Proverbs 15:3)
The teaching of the Bible on this pointóis clear, plain, and unmistakable. God is everywhere! There is no place in heaven or earth, where He is not. There is no place in air or land or sea, no place above ground or under ground, no place in town or country, no place in Europe, Asia, Africa, or Americaówhere God is not always present.
Enter into your room and lock the dooróGod is there. Climb to the top of the highest mountain, where not even an insect movesóGod is there. Sail to the most remote island in the Pacific Ocean, where the foot of man never trodóGod is there. He is always near us—seeing, hearing, observing; knowing every action, and deed, and word, and whisper, and look, and thought, and motive, and secret of everyone of usówherever we are.
“His eyes watch over a man’s ways, and He observes all his steps. There is no darkness, no deep darkness, where evildoers can hide themselves!” (Job 34:21, 22)
One half the sin committed by mankind, arises from wrong views of their Maker and Judge! Men are reckless and wicked, because they do not think that God sees them! They do things they would never doóif they really believed that they were under the eyes of the Almighty God! “They say, ‘The Lord doesn’t see it! The God of Jacob doesn’t pay attention!’ Is the One who made your ears deaf? Is the One who formed your eyes blind? He punishes the nations—won’t he also punish you? He knows everything; doesn’t He also know what you are doing?” (Psalm 94:7-10)
However hard it is to comprehend this doctrineóit is one which is most useful and wholesome for our souls. To keep continually in mindóthat God is always present with us; to live always as in God’s sight; to act and speak and think as always under His eye—all this is eminently calculated to have a good effect upon our souls. Wide, and deep, and searching, and piercingóis the influence of that one thought, “You are the God who sees me!” (Genesis 16:13)
(1) The thought of God’s presenceóis a loud call to humility. How much which is evil and defective, must the all-seeing eyeósee in everyone of us! How small a part of our character is really known by man! “Man looks on the outward appearanceóbut the Lord looks on the heart!” (1 Sam. 16:7). Man does not always see usóbut the Lord is always looking at usómorning, noon, and night! Who has not need to say, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”
(2) The thought of God’s presenceóis a crushing proof of our need of Jesus Christ. What hope of salvation could we have, if there was not a Mediator between God and man? Before the eye of the ever-present Godóour best righteousness is filthy ragsóand our best doings are full of imperfection! Where would we beóif there was not a fountain open for all sinóeven the blood of Christ! Without Christóthe prospect of death, judgment, and eternity would drive us to despair!
(3) The thought of God’s presenceóteaches the folly of hypocrisy in religion. What can be more silly and childishóthan to wear a mere cloak of Christianity, while we inwardly cleave to sin, when God is ever looking at us and sees us through and through! It is easy to deceive ministers and fellow-Christians, because they often see us only upon Sundays. But God sees us morning, noon, and nightóand cannot be deceived. Oh, whatever we are in religionólet us be real and true!
(4) The thought of God’s presenceóis a check and curb on the inclination to sin. The recollection that there is One who is always near us and observing us, who will one day have a reckoning with all mankindómay well keep us back from evil! Happy are those sons and daughters who, when they leave the family home, and launch forth into the world, carry with them the abiding remembrance of God’s eye. “My father and mother do not see meóbut God does!” This was the feeling which preserved Joseph when tempted in a foreign land: “How can I do this great wickednessóand sin against God!” (Gen. 39:9)
(5) The thought of God’s presenceóis a spur to the pursuit of true holiness. The highest standard of sanctification is to “walk with God” as Enoch did, and to “walk before God” as Abraham did. Where is the man who would not strive to live so as to please Godóif he realized that God was always standing at his elbow! To get away from Godóis the secret aim of the sinner. To get nearer to Godóis the longing desire of the saint. The real servants of the Lord are “a people near unto Him.” (Psalm 148:14)
(6) The thought of God’s presenceóis a comfort in time of public calamity. When war and famine and pestilence break in upon a land; when the nations are torn by inward divisions, and all order seems in perilóit is cheering to reflect that God sees and knows and is close at hand—that the King of kings is near, and is not asleep.
(7) The thought of God’s presenceóis a strong consolation in private trial. We may be driven from home and native landóand placed at the other side of the world; we may be bereaved of wife and children and friendsóand left alone, like the last tree in a forest. But we can never go to any place where God is not; and under no circumstances can we be left entirely alone.
Such thoughts as these, are useful and profitable for us all. That man must be in a poor state of soul, who does not feel them to be so. Let it be a settled principle in our religionónever to forget that in every condition and placeóthat we are under the eye of God! It need not frighten usóif we are true believers. The sins of all believers are cast behind God’s backóand even the all-seeing God sees no spot in them! It ought to cheer usóif our Christianity is genuine and sincere. We can then appeal to God with confidence, like David, and say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends Youóand lead me along the path of everlasting life!” (Psalm 139:23, 24). Great is the mystery of God’s omnipresence; but the true man of God can look at it without fear.