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Thou God Seest Me
Sketch of a Sermon by Rev. H.M. Turner, LL.D., Delivered in St. James’ Tabernacle, 11 o’clock AM. Nov. 28, 1875
Savannah Colored Tribune-December 4, 1875
*Reported by ALC
“Thou God Seest Me.” GEN. 16:13
The words of my text as you all see are inscribed upon the front of our pulpit, and they seem to be highly appropriate for our consideration upon our first attempt to speak a word for our Maker after the consecration of this edifice.
“Thou God seest me.” These words were uttered by Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, while she was a fugitive in the wilderness trying to escape from the jealous displeasure of Sarah. You are likely too acquainted with the narrative for me to expand your time in reviewing it; should there be any who are not, however, I would recommend them to read and study this chapter as it very aptly pictures God’s dealings with us in a manner too significant to ever be forgotten afterward.
In this age of skepticism, and what is worse, pantheism—all Godism, if you choose—when men are trying to overturn the truth of revelation and make the Bible a myth and the religion of the ages a mere passion of fanaticism or superstitious frenzy, we cannot examine this question too closely. The times are evil, and doctrines are put forth incessantly, fraught with danger though robed in the finest fabric…of religious philosophy. “Thou God seest me.” That there is a God, the He is omnipresent, almighty and possesses those qualities accorded to Him by protestant Christianity…..In this sacred edifice and upon that presumption, we proceed to notice—
1st. That God is everywhere present and nowhere absent. Says the Psalmist: “Whither shall I go from Thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence. If I shall ascend up into the heaven, Thou are there, if I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there.” Again, “if I say surely the darkness shall cover me, yea the darkness hideth not from Thee, but the night shineth as the day. The darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.” That God the sovereign of the universe fills all space and comprehends all the conditions of His creatures would, it appears to me, only be questioned by those who cannot reason: yet there are many people in this world who were born and raised under Christian influence that dared to do it. Their theory is that things move on by a fortuitous concourse of circumstances with no definite or centralized power but that men are under a watchful and protecting providence from the cradles to the graves, is too evident for discussion at this day; were it not so what a doleful state of existence would life be. Think for a moment my friends of being in a world of so much adversity, misfortune, and crime as this and no arm to lean upon….Let us think of the injustice we are too frequently subjected to; the proscriptions we have to endure, and the poverty that many of us have to encounter and of all the disappointments and ills this life is heir to; and yet no friend, no watching eye, no loving heart caring for us…..
Hagar’s God watched over her in the wilderness, with her eyes turned toward heaven and her heart overflowing with joy, she exclaimed—“Thou God seest me.” It is the same God that saw Moses at the foot of Horeb, the Isrealities in Egypt, Daniel in the lion den, Paul and Silas in prison, Luther in his tatters and all who have been delivered from their sorrows and degradation. Yes, his sleepless eye scans from the tall archangel to the sparrow, down to the creeping insect. He saw the world of mankind groaning beneath the tyrant tread of Satan and his hellish crew and gave Jesus Christ His only son to ransom us from his power and through His blood to make us sons of God.
2d. God is acquainted with all our actions and motives. Men see but a small part of what we do and hear but a small part of what we say. But God looks into the deep secrets of the heart and the motives that prompt them. Well says the Psalmist, “Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.” One of the Prophets exclaims, “For the Lord is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed. He sees our conduct from our beginning to our end; He numbers the hairs of our heads.
What solemn awe these declarations should produce! How useful should we live! And yet, how careless do we live. What a host of people throughout this city are frittering away their precious moments this very morning, who ought to be at the church of God. If there is one evil that is more detestable than another, certainly it is the crime of willfully wasting the Sabbath day. I look upon a man or woman who neglects the church, who spends their Sabbaths sleeping, babbling, and lounging around, but an inch above a brute. I care not how rich a man may be, how well educated, literally, he is nevertheless wanting in thorough civilization, the most that can be said for him is that he is a semi-barbarian. I never neglected to go to church once every Sabbath when I used to curse and swear. This very moment I venture to say there are ten thousand people in Savannah at no church at all and there is not a colored church in this city half filled. But God sees them---wrath is coming—hell is moving—and in a very short time the reward of their hands will be given unto them. Oh my friends, think and tremble, hear this and quake.
3d. God sees and takes cognizance of our behaviour: that He hears our words, watches us on the highway sees us in the family circle, inspects us when buying and selling all notes, frauds, all falsehoods, all evasions, prevarications and everything that is unholy. And that on the other hand, He sees and fully comprehends the strength of our faith, patience, self-denials, religious zeal and all that builds up Christian character.
4th. People are too much disposed to look upon God as being far off in the mighty distance and not as ever present in his immediate power. What a mistake they make. It is just to the contrary. Of all things He is the nearest; nearer than you mother, nearer than your wife, nearer than your husband, yes, nearer than the shoes on your feet and the hat upon your head…..
“Thou God seest me,” me individually, not my nation, my State, my city, my neighborhood, my family circle, but me as a personal entity. Take this text home with you. Study and digest it and do not forget it, and you who disregard the law of morally, weigh these words, and remember that this God who sees you will soon judge you at His bar, that He will be judge, jury, and witness combined. Oh that heaven may sanctify these remarks for eternal salvation is my prayer.