Wisdom

Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he will not be crowned as the winner unless he competes according to the rules.

[2 Tim 2:5 NET]

In other words, it is not a bare striving, but a striving according to certain rules. But these rules are spiritual rules; and being spiritual rules, exclude everything of sense, reason, and nature. Now man, in an unregenerate condition, whether he be in a state of profanity, or in a state of profession, has no spiritual knowledge of the way by which to overcome. He may strive against his lusts; he may endeavor to overcome those things that conscience bears testimony against; but he is not crowned, because he strives not lawfully. He strives in his own strength; contends in his own wisdom; and trusts in his own righteousness. Such strugglers and such overcomers (if overcomers they ever are) are not crowned, because they strive not according to the rules laid down in God’s word. This at once excludes all creature righteousness, human wisdom, and natural strength. This takes the crown completely off the creature, and puts it on the head of the Redeemer.

There are certain rules then laid down in the Scripture, according to which we are to fight and to overcome. For instance, the Lord of life and glory is held out in the word as our pattern—“He has left us an example that we should follow his steps.” He fought the battle before us; and he gained the victory, not for himself only, but for his people; and he has left us here below to walk in his footsteps, and to overcome in the same way as he did; as we read, “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne; even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” All striving then, and all overcoming, which is not in the steps of Christ, and precisely (in a measure) in the same way in which Jesus strove and overcame, is not the overcoming which is crowned with God’s approbation.

Wisdom

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love! Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts!

[Ps 51:1 NET]

This psalm is very suitable to the needs and feelings of every sensible sinner, for it is not necessary to have committed David’s sin to have a measure of David’s repentance and confessions, and of David’s desires, breathings, and supplications. “Have mercy upon me, O God,” he says, “according to your loving-kindness.” To ask God to have mercy upon us is one of the first cries that a convinced sinner puts up to God. It was so with the tax-collector in the temple; and where it is sincere, God will certainly hear it “according to his loving-kindness,” for he is full of love and kindness to poor, mourning sinners.

How the psalmist also begs of the Lord to “blot out his transgressions according unto the multitude of his tender mercies.” As our sins in thought, word, and deed are a countless multitude, of which every one deserves hell, we need “the multitude of his most tender mercies” to blot them out. We may see the stars in the sky, the sands on the sea-shore, the drops of dew on the grass, the waves rolling in upon the beach; but both our sins and God’s tender mercies exceed them all. How he showed these tender mercies in giving his dear Son to suffer, bleed, and die for miserable sinners; and how we need all these tender mercies to pity and pardon us and our transgressions.

And how earnestly David begged, “Wash me throughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” It is only the washing of God himself that can wash us throughly. If we could shed an ocean of tears it would not wash away one sin; but the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. In order to make us know this, the Lord shows us and makes us feel the guilt and burden of sin, and that we can do nothing to put it away. Pardon must be his own free gift, and that every sensible sinner is made to feel.

Wisdom

For there are three that testify,

[1 John 5:7 NET]

A spiritual knowledge of the Trinity lies at the foundation of all vital godliness. To know Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by special teaching and divine revelation, is the sum and substance of spiritual religion, and is eternal life; according to the Lord’s own testimony, John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Thus, sooner or later, the Lord leads all his people into a feeling acquaintance with, and divine reception of this glorious mystery; and thus they come to know the Father’s electing love, the Son’s redeeming work, and the Spirit’s inward testimony; and that these Three are One.

But how opposed to nature, sense, and reason is this glorious mystery; and how they all rise up in rebellion against it! How can Three be One or One be Three? nature asks and reason argues. And yet the babes receive and believe it. For take away the doctrine of the Trinity, and all their hope is gone in a moment. How can we rest upon Christ’s atoning blood, if it is not the blood of the Son of God? or upon his justifying righteousness, if not the righteousness of God? Or how could we be kept, led, taught, and guided by the Holy Spirit, if he too was not a divine Person in the Godhead?

Thus we come to know the mystery of Three Persons in the Godhead, by feelingly receiving into our hearts the work of each with power; and yet we know that these Three are but one God. It is this inward reception of the truth in the love of it which holds up the soul in a storm. We are often tossed about, and ready to say, “How can these things be?” But we are brought up by this deep-rooted feeling, as the anchor brings up the ship in the gale, that we are undone without it. If this mystery be removed, our hope must be removed with it; for there is no pardon, peace, nor salvation, but what stands in, and flows out of, an experimental knowledge of the Three-One God.

Wisdom

For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.

[Rom 8:2 NET]

We by nature and practice are slaves to sin and Satan. We are the sport of the prince of the power of the air, who takes us captive at his will. We are held down also by many hurtful lusts; or, if free from gross sin, are slaves to pride, covetousness, or self-righteousness. Perhaps some idol is set up in the chambers of imagery which defiles all the inner man; or some snare of Satan entangles our feet, and we are slaves, without power to liberate ourselves from this cruel slavery. We groan under it, as the children of Israel under their burdens, but, like them, cannot deliver ourselves.

But sooner or later the truth comes to our aid; the truth as it is in Jesus flies to the rescue of God’s oppressed family; the blessed Spirit opens it up and seals it upon the heart with a divine power. As, then, under his gracious influences they believe the truth, and feel its power and savor in their heart, a liberating influence is communicated; their fetters and shackles are loosened; the bondage of sin and Satan, and the power and strength of evil are sensibly broken, and a measure of holy freedom is enjoyed. There is no other way of getting from under the bondage of the law but by the application of the gospel, and by believing what the gospel reveals. As the truth, then, comes to the heart as the very word of the living God, power comes with it to believe; faith is raised up to credit the testimony; and as faith begins to credit the truth of God and receive it in hope and love, there is a sensible loosening of the bonds; and then the chains and fetters drop off of themselves. It is with the soul as it was with Peter in prison—when the angel came, and a light shined in the prison, and the angel’s words fell upon his ears, “the chains fell from off his hands.” There remained nothing then to bar his exit; for “the iron gate that leads unto the city opened to them of its own accord.” So whatever chains or fetters may hold the soul, let the angel of mercy come; let the message of salvation be revealed, the chains of unbelief drop off, the iron gate of hardness gives way, and the truth makes the soul blessedly free (John 8:32).

Wisdom

“What are you, you great mountain? Because of Zerubbabel you will become a level plain! And he will bring forth the temple capstone with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace!’ because of this.”

[Zech 4:7 NET]

If the literal temple had been built up without any trouble whatever; if all had gone on smooth and easy, there would not have been any shouting of “Grace, grace,” when it was finished. But when it was seen how the Lord had brought a few feeble exiles from Babylon; how he had supported them amid and carried them through all their troubles; and how he that laid the foundation had brought forth the head-stone, all that stood by could say, “Grace, grace unto it.” It was these very perplexities and trials that made them join so cheerily in the shout, and made the heart and soul to leap with the lips, when they burst forth with “Grace, grace unto it.” And who will shout the loudest hereafter?

He that has known and felt the most of the aboundings of sin to sink his soul down into grief and sorrow, and most of the super-aboundings of grace over sin to make him triumph and rejoice. Who will have most reason to sing, “Grace, grace?” The lost and ruined wretch, who has feared that he would go to hell a thousand times over, and yet has been delivered thence by sovereign grace, and brought to the glory and joy of heaven. No other person is fit to join in that song; and I am sure no other will join in it but he who has known painfully and experimentally the bitterness of sin and the evil of a depraved heart; and yet has seen and felt that grace has triumphed over all, in spite of the devil, in spite of the world, and in spite of himself, and brought him to that blessed place where many times he was afraid he would never come.

Wisdom

“O afflicted one, driven away, and unconsoled! Look, I am about to set your stones in antimony and I lay your foundation with lapis-lazuli.

[Isa 54:11 NET]

Before we can stand firmly in the things of God we must have a good foundation, something solid for our faith, our hope, our love, our all, to rest upon. This God promises to lay for his afflicted Zion—“I will lay your foundations with sapphires.” “A gift,” we read, “is a precious stone in the eyes of him that has it.” Every testimony, then, that God gives to the soul, every promise brought into the heart, every manifestation of mercy, every visit of love, or application of truth, we may call, in a spiritual sense, a sapphire; for it is indeed a precious stone, radiant with heaven’s own hue. When God thus lays his sapphires in the soul, they afford a solid foundation for faith. And as they are laid by the hand of God himself, they must be firm; as they are sapphires, they must be indestructible. These sapphires, it is true, may every one of them be buried in the dust of carnality and worldly-mindedness; the filth and sewage, the mud and slush, of our fallen nature may roll over them flood after flood. But are they injured thereby? is their nature changed, their value impaired, their hue tarnished, their luster faded and gone? They may be hidden from view, their setting be obscured, and their faces for a while be dimmed, but one ray from the Sun of righteousness will bring them again to light; one touch of the Polisher’s hand will restore all their beauty. Grace has no more communion with sin than a diamond with an ash-heap.

Wisdom

The Lord shows his faithful followers the way they should live.

[Ps 25:12 NET]

In all the multiplicity and variety of circumstances that have distressed the children of God, has the Lord ever taken a wrong step? Though he has baffled nature, though he has disconcerted reason, though he has turned our plans upside down, though perhaps he has done the thing that we most feared, and thwarted every natural purpose and inclination of our heart—can we say that he has erred? that he has made a mistake? that he has acted unwisely? that he has not done that which is for our spiritual good?

Murmuring, rebellious, unbelieving heart, hold your peace! Shall man, foolish man, a worm of the earth, a creature of a day, lift up his puny voice and say that God can mistake? Your path is very dark, very intricate, very perplexed; you cannot see the hand of God in the trial that is now resting upon you; you cannot believe that it will work together for your good. I admit it. I have felt it. I have known it. But the time will come, when this dark path in which you are now walking, shall be seen full of radiancy and light, when you will prove the truth of these words, “He brought the blind by a way that they knew not.”

When we know God to be infinitely wise, that he cannot err, that all his dealings must be stamped with his own eternal wisdom, we are silenced, we hold our peace, we have nothing to say, we are where Aaron was. When Nadab and Abihu were smitten by the Lord, Aaron knew that God could not err; he held his peace (Lev. 10:3). This is our right spot. If we know anything of the folly of the creature—if we know anything of the wisdom of God—this is our spot. When our dear Nadabs and Abihus are smitten before our face, our spot is to hold our peace, to put our mouth in the dust; for God is still accomplishing his object, in the face, and in spite of nature, sense, and reason.