by G. H. MorrisonBehind Our Wall, the Beloved
George Herbert Morrison (1866-1928), commonly known as "Morrison of Wellington," was one of Glasgow's most prominent pastors. While working on his theological studies, he took time out to assist in the creation of the Oxford New English Dictionary, under the supervision of Sir James Murray, and this undoubtedly influenced the eloquent, rich vocabulary he used in preaching and writing.
After completing his education, Morrison assisted the famed Alexander Whyte in Edinburgh, then led his own churches in Thurso and Dundee for a short time before accepting a call from Wellington United Free (Presbyterian) Church in Glasgow. There, for 26 years, he preached to thousands and wrote numerous volumes of sermons and meditations. Intently focused on his call to preach the Word, he refused many offers to serve on committees and in leadership positions that might have distracted him from his preaching and writing.
Some of Morrison's numerous volumes include The Wing of the Morning, Floodtide: Sunday Evenings in a City Pulpit, The Gateway of the Stars, The Footsteps of the Flock, The Ever Open Door, The Return of the Angels, and The World-Wide Gospel.
"My beloved . . . standeth behind our wall" (Song 2: 9).
The thought that greets me in this little bit of poetry is that God stands behind our human life. A wall, just like our human life, suggests the thought of limitation. We are "hedged about and we cannot get out." But the great assurance of the believing soul is that the Beloved is standing just behind our wall. He stands at the back of life, and in the deeps of life, and amid all the springs of action and of thought. Nor must we forget how often in the Scripture this great and energising view is given us, of God standing behind our human life: "I heard a voice behind me," cries Isaiah, "saying this is the way, walk ye in it." So St. John in Patmos heard a great voice behind him, saying, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." And then the Psalmist catches up that thought and declares: "Thou hast beset me behind and before."
The difficulty of realising that largely comes from the littleness of things. Our days are all put together of little things. Great experiences come to us but seldom. But I know a little creek down by the Clyde: an insignificant and tiny pool. No fish save minnows could ever live in it. The children come and splash in it. Yet that little pool is ruled and regulated by the tides of the majestic ocean: behind it is the controlling of the sea. The fall of an apple is a very little thing. It happens a hundred times each autumn day. Yet to Newton, behind the falling apple, was the magnificent law of gravitation. And if the God of nature is the God of grace, and if He "formed the world to be inhabited," why should it not be so with human life? Life is built of common ordinary bricks: of lowly duties, and minute denials, and infinitesimal and unnoted victories. And the beautiful thing is how clearly we discern, as the days go by and life unfolds itself, that the Beloved stands behind our wall.
Again, when things seem quite the same, it is often what lies behind that makes the difference. For instance, I saw last summer, in beautiful Strathspey, two pools that looked like sisters. Both were hidden in the purple heather. Both had certain mountain-sedges round them. But the one was only the gathering of the rain, and the other was fed by a spring in the Cairngorms, and when the drought came, and the long sunny days, it was what lay behind that made the difference. Two people say to you, "I'm glad to see you"-the same words and even the same tones. But the one is only the greeting of formality and the other is the utterance of love. What takes these syllables, and differentiates them, is not anything that lies within them; it is rather everything that lies behind.
I suppose all lives are very much the same. Experience is strangely universal. God makes our lives, just as He makes a day, out of a few simple universal elements. The great distinction of experiences, determining their moral and spiritual meaning, lies in what we have eyes to see behind. When we can take our common task and cross, when we can take our bitter and disappointing cup, when we can take the sorrows that come to every heart, and say, "My Beloved stands behind the wall," that makes an extraordinary difference.
Often, too, it is what lies behind that determines and controls our spiritual peace. A simple illustration will suffice. A man in comfortable, easy circumstances finds he has only sixpence in his pocket. Leaving home in the morning, he has forgotten his money, and he finds he has only sixpence in his pocket. But that does not trouble him, in his familiar neighbourhood; he smiles at his folly, but is not the least uneasy. He never dreams of forfeiting his peace. But now think of the man who is in beggary. He has only sixpence in the world. He has to get his supper with it, and his bed, and then tomorrow morning he will have nothing. The coins have precisely the same value. It is what lies behind that makes the difference between anxiety and peace.
The point is, what lies behind our life? Is it chance? Is it fate? Is it the clash of forces? If so, then spiritual peace becomes impossible, and life is under the tyranny of fear. But if God is there, with all a father's love-if our Beloved stands behind the wall-that makes all the difference in the world.
And that is one of the wonderful things about the Bible. It always sees God behind the life. Read the life of Joseph, or Abraham, or Jacob, or David. Through sorrows, sins, journeyings, disappointments, does not the Beloved stand behind the wall? He may encourage, He may guide, He may extricate, He may chastise, but He is always there. What an upholding and inspiring thought it is, especially for all whose lives may be walled in, that "My beloved standeth behind our wall."