Removing the Veil
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. —Heb. 10:19
Among the famous sayings of the Church fathers none is better known than Augustine’s, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
The great saint states here in few words the origin and interior history of the human race. God made us for Himself: that is the only explanation that satisfies the heart of a thinking man, whatever his wild reason may say. Should faulty education and perverse reasoning lead a man to conclude otherwise, there is little that any Christian can do for him. For such a man I have no message. My appeal is addressed to those who have been previously taught in secret by the wisdom of God; I speak to thirsty hearts whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them, and such as they need no reasoned proof. Their restless hearts furnish all the proof they need.
God formed us for Himself. The Shorter Catechism, “Agreed upon by the Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster,” as the old New-England Primer has it, asks the ancient questions what and why and answers them in one short sentence hardly matched in any uninspired work. “Question: What is the chief End of Man? Answer: Man’s chief End is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” With this agree the four and twenty elders who fall on their faces to worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
God formed us for His pleasure, and so formed us that we as well as He can in divine communion enjoy the sweet and mysterious mingling of kindred personalities. He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile. But we have been guilty of that “foul revolt” of which Milton speaks when describing the rebellion of Satan and his hosts. We have broken with God. We have ceased to obey Him or love Him and in guilt and fear have fled as far as possible from His Presence.
Yet who can flee from His Presence when the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? when as the wisdom of Solomon testifies, “the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world?” The omnipresence of the Lord is one thing, and is a solemn fact necessary to His perfection; the manifest Presence is another thing altogether, and from that Presence we have fled, like Adam, to hide among the trees of the garden, or like Peter to shrink away crying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
So the life of man upon the earth is a life away from the Presence, wrenched loose from that “blissful center” which is our right and proper dwelling place, our first estate which we kept not, the loss of which is the cause of our unceasing restlessness.