This was admittedly a tough chapter to crack. As a matter of fact, I had to re-read it a few times just to make sure I was able to take away from the chapter what I think Winslow was trying to convey.
Let’s start by letting him open for us:
The subject on which this chapter engages our thoughts presents another path heavenward of the Christian. And as this path is frequently, and by many, trodden, we desire to present it in such an aspect as shall help onward those who are walking in darkness having no light, or around whose way the dense dark clouds of Divine dispensations are gathering, filling the soul with fear and trembling. “He maketh the clouds His chariot;” and soothed with this assurance, the beclouded, benighted traveller may “be still, and know that He is God.” Let us view some of those clouds of the Christian pilgrimage which Christ makes His chariot.
So to summarize, God will bring his “clouded dealings” with us that we may trust Him and love Him all the more. Sickness, depression, pain, death, anxiety, and doubtings may all be viewed as providential clouds sent by our Lord to drive us to our knees in dependence and form in us a childlike faith that calls out to our Father for rescue and deliverance.
He then goes on to provide a few illustrations of past clouded chariots which the Lord employed in times past:
Our Lord has many chariots. It is recorded of Solomon that his “chariots were fourteen hundred;” but “the chariots of God are twenty thousand:” and every cloud in the history of the Church and in the experience of the saints is a Divine chariot, and every chariot is, like the King of Israel’s, “paved in the midst with love.” We may illustrate this by a reference to Christ’s state-chariot, or, in other words, the Lord’s appearance to His people in the cloud of His essential and divine glory. It was in this cloud He entered and filled the tabernacle, “so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord,” (1 Kings 8:11.) In this same cloud, too, He descended upon the Mount Sinai: “And a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode on Sinai,” (Exod. 24:15, 16.) The same glorious chariot was seen descending and lighting upon the Mount Tabor, in that sublime and expressive scene of our Lord’s transfiguration, when “He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The same chariot of state waited His ascension and bore Him back to heaven, reinvested with the glory which He had with the Father before the world was; for as He went up, and His lessening form disappeared from the gaze of His disciples, “a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
But as I said before, these chariots are sent to teach us something or strengthen something within us, namely our often times weak and small faith. Using the gospel itself as a clouded chariot, God will come to us in many a mystery and clouded view:
If, then, my reader, your mind is perplexed, agitated, and distressed respecting these clouds which vail much connected with the revealed truths of the gospel, learn you this lesson—that Christ maketh these very clouds His chariot. In each and all of these profound yet glorious verities of our faith, these great and precious doctrines of the gospel, Christ is revealed, Christ is embodied, Christ travelleth. The gospel is the vehicle in which Christ makes his constant advent to our souls; and if our reason may not be able perfectly to comprehend all the parts of the vehicle, let it content our faith that Jesus, the revelation, the substance, and glory of all Divine truth, occupies it; and that ere long the cloud of mystery, into which we entered with trembling will, as in the transfiguration, dissolve into light and splendour—pure and soothing— and we shall see Jesus only.
What an odd thought! The same mysteries that we simply cannot comprehend and wrestle mightily with concerning the glorious depth of the gospel is sent and is adorned by He who loves us! It is almost like standing in a field covered in dense fog and mist where nothing may be seen. But as you begin to focus your gaze and hone your eyes to a fixed point beyond, a muddled shape begins to appear of that of a tree or a fence. In the dense darkness and confusion of the clouded chariot we currently find ourselves enveloped in, we need but fix our eyes beyond the cloud itself to see He who it is that controls and drives it! It is He who loves us. Our Lord.
Not less are the clouds of His providential government the chariot of God. “Clouds and darkness are round about Him,” and in these dispensations of His government He moves among men, and especially His saints.
Are cloudy dispensations gathering around you? Are God’s ways such as fill you with fear and foreboding agitation and alarm? Does sickness threaten, resources fail, friendships chill, changes in the relations or social position of life approach? Is separation feared, death anticipated, followed in its gloomy wake by weakened dependencies, closed channels, sundered ties, the sad farewell to a parent’s society, the home of childhood, and the dearest, sweetest ties of earth? Oh, these gathering clouds are but the Lord’s chariot, in which He rides to thee in all the wisdom of His dealings, the faithfulness of His covenant, the tenderness of His love, and the righteousness of His procedure.
His providential government may be seen as His overarching governing of your life. Perhaps not so much as the smaller providences He sends, but the larger clouds such as death, frailty of frame, or sickness. Again, all of these are clouded chariots are sent by God to cause us draw closer to Him in love and yes, even godly fear. It is the Creator of all things who does this, who sends these trials and clouds to you this very hour and there is not one mis-spent purpose in any minute of it. We must, says Winslow, look beyond them to the One who drives them. Then, and only then, will a deep worship and adoration of our King begin to blossom in the hearts of His saints.
Again, he drives home this “looking unto Jesus” thought:
The Lord, too, is equally in all the providential clouds which unfold His government and trace our pilgrimage heavenward. It is our wisdom and our happiness to know that there is not an event or circumstance, a cloud or a sunbeam, in our personal history and experience, that is not a vehicle of Christ.
Look not, I beseech you, at the sombre hue of the chariot, but rather at the love and loveliness and graciousness of Him who sits within it. It is your beloved Lord!
Lastly, there is the clouded chariot of death for the blessed believer in Jesus. To that end, I think I will let Winslow finish off this post:
Ere long another chariot will appear at your door—the chariot sent to bear you home to God, to Christ, to heaven. We know not what form this messenger will assume—whether it will be Christ’s state-chariot, which shall convey Him in person to us, or whether it shall be Christ’s chariot of death, which will convey us to Him; but this we believe, and are assured of, that in a very little while and we shall see the Lord, and be with Him forever. The chariot is preparing for us, let us be preparing for the chariot. Let us so live detached from, and above, the world, and creatures, and earthly delights; let us so live in fellowship with God, and in communion with Divine and eternal things, that when the Lord’s chariot gently knocks at our door, we may have nothing to do but to step into it and away to heaven! Aged saint! art thou looking through the window and the lattice of thy frail tabernacle, exclaiming, “Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariot?” Be patient and trustful; the Lord’s time is best, and ere long thou shalt exclaim, “It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh! the Master is come and calleth for me. Earth, farewell! friends, farewell! parents, kindred, wife, children, home, farewell! Sorrow, suffering, trial, sin, farewell! I go to be with Jesus for ever!” And then a cloud of glory shall receive you out of their sight, and so shall you ever be with the Lord.
Whoever signs up for the Christian walk and thinks it will be easy and joy at all times is deceived. I would probably argue that there are just as many clouds and their are green pastures, if not more. But we can know and be assured that the One who orchestrates and sends the clouds and chariots is at all times for us…never against us. We must learn in humility to see past and through the clouds to the One who rides upon them.
Please read Chapter 5: Bonds Loosed. It will be due on February 14!