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HIS UNSUSPECTED PURPOSES
“I have girded thee, though thou hast not known me."
YRUS, the great king of Persia, stands after twenty-five hundred years as one of the
most glorious characters in history. Born an unknown boy, in an unimportant section of the Mesopotamian country, he rose with his people to political eminence. When he became the undisputed ruler of the vast Persian empire, he changed oriental despotism into a splendid beneficence. He had much of the Roman gift for organization and justice. He crowned this with breadth of mind, sweetness, patience, genius, for managing men. It is no wonder that Herodotus delights to dwell upon him and that Xenophon makes him the hero of his Cyropedia. He was the King Arthur of his time, the Chevalier Bayard of his day, and this in spite of the fact that fortune always smiled upon him. Xenophon makes the dying king say: "I have always seemed to feel my strength increase with the advance of time, so that I have not found myself weaker in my old age than in my youth, nor do I know that I have attempted or desired anything in which I have not been successful.” To Cyrus belongs the unique distinction of being the favourite of the three diverse peoples of his day. The Persians hailed him as the great king, the Greeks exalted him as being the ideal character. Stranger yet, the Hebrews saw in him the saviour of their national existence.
There is something entrancing about the imagination of the old Greeks, who could think of Hermes as the messenger of the gods, and of the gods and goddesses themselves as the messengers and dealers of fate among men. But how infinitely more majestic the conception that could picture the very Spirit of the universe saying to all men and things: “Ye are my servants, working my will, whether ye will or no." That was the daring conception of the old Hebrew prophet in the time of Israel's exile. Seeing the all-powerful Cyrus establish a new kingdom, he saw in him the unwitting instrument of God in restoring his people who were so fitted by temperament and training for religious revelation, to their native land. These significant words does he address to him, speaking the message of Jehovah: “I have girded thee, though thou hast not known me.” Cyrus might have thought that the great end of his life was the building of a mighty empire. The prophet suggests that all unconsciously he was fulfilling a far deeper purpose. The message is a reminder of the fact that there are unsuspected purposes of God running through all nature, history and biography
One summer I was tramping through picturesque
Marin County, just across the bay from San Francisco. The heights of Tamalpais show the glories of the Golden Gate of California's imperial city, of many a wooded slope and projecting point of land, bathed by the blue waters of the Pacific. Many an inland canyon there discloses marvellous secrets of beauty. Through Redwood Canyon in Mill Valley, the sweet shade of huge Sequoia Sempervirens seems to bear the footprints of the past ages. By the side of the quiet stream here, all at once, was borne upon the air an odour of such sweetness as far surpassed the customary redolent aroma of the woods. “What is that sweet perfume?” said I. “ It is the sure sign of the azalea. Keep your eyes open and you will see it before long," replied my friend. A turn in the pathway displayed a glorious spray of blossoms. The delicious atmosphere was the sure evidence of unexpected beauty not far away. So the pathway of the universe and of life is filled with evidence of the unsuspected presence and purpose of God. These tokens, like the silken strand running through every genuine greenback, testify unseen purposes of life from God's standpoint that we never dreamed of. As the Damascus blade bears its maker's name inwrought in its very metal, so God's directorship is witnessed in many an unsuspected turn of life and fortune.
1. Witness the unsuspected purpose of God in Nature. In the dawn of creation the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy because there was such recognition of the presence of God in His Universe.
Take God from Nature and what would this universe be but conglomerations of matter, accidentally thrown together, exhibiting its highest forms of life as fighting, snarling, struggling creatures soon to pass into their original dust; blind worlds flying from the origin of an unknown past to the sure destruction of an unknown future.
With God there, how Nature is glorified! And He is there. Wherever is beauty or power or the working forward to a common end, there is God.
Conscience and law,” says Dr. G. A. Gordon,
are not the whole of God; God is power, thought, beauty, the terrestrial and cosmic disposition that on the whole favours life in this world.” Every infinitesimal and tremendous exhibition of power in nature, every delicate tinting of an autumn is the echo of God's footsteps and the tracing of His brush. Every upward pointing leaf spells God. He is in the blowing of the winds and the light of the setting suns. In the flower, in the tree, in the bird, in the beast of the field, and the fish of the sea there seems to be the persistent struggle upward toward completeness. All individuals, all groups of individuals, seem to be pursuing ends, and these ends seem to be bedded in the order and structure of their being. “There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will."
Not only is God stamped on everything in nature, but how constantly His unseen purposes reveal themselves on later pages as we read the book of Nature. The countless billions of little animals secreting the shells that shall be their homes and clinging together only to die eventually, find their dwelling-place, later their tombs, rising above the bosom of the ocean as the very foundation of the coral islands; when birds in their unthinking flight and the winds in their thoughtless sweep have deposited rubbish and seeds, these become the fit dwelling-place for man. We have heard much in recent years of the necessity of guarding the coal deposits of Alaska. In prehistoric ages, the frigid north basked in the sunshine of torrid heat and trees grew in tropic luxury where now only is found the icy dwelling of glaciers. What but the omniscience of a good God could have preserved all the stored up heat of the sun in the vegetable matter of those fat ages for the blessing of man in the far distant time of the future, when the face of the sun should not be so genial? Gold and silver and lead and iron, in the fiery days of earth's formation, little knew of their service in the generation of man in the distant ages of the future. But the great God girded them, though they knew Him not. Herodotus said: “Egypt is the gift of the Nile