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.

Blessings

Yet, Lord, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the product of your labor.

[Isa 64:8 NET]

Until free-will, self-righteousness, creature exertions, and human merit are dried up and withered away, until they all die, we can never come into that spot where we are the clay, and God is the Potter. Can the clay make itself into a vessel? Can it mold itself into shape and form? Can it start from its bed, and work itself up into a vessel for use or ornament? No more can we make ourselves fit for glory, or mold ourselves into vessels of honor. If the Lord does but give us the feeling in our souls, our sweetest privilege, our dearest enjoyment, is to be the clay.

Free-will, self-righteousness, human wisdom, and creature strength—we give them all to the pharisees; let them make the most of them. But when the Lord indulges our souls with some measure of access to himself, and brings us in all humility and brokenness to lie low before his throne, we feel that we are nothing but what he makes us, have nothing but what he gives us, experience nothing but what he works in us, and do nothing but what he does in and for us. To be here, and to lie here, is to be the clay; and to find the Lord working in us holy desires, fervent breathings, secret cries, and the actings of faith, hope, and love; and to feel these things freely given, graciously communicated, and divinely wrought, and to know the Lord is doing all this for us and in us, is to find him the Potter, and is to be brought to the sweetest, lowliest, and happiest spot that a soul can come into.

Blessings

They will come back shedding tears of contrition. I will bring them back praying prayers of repentance. I will lead them besides streams of water, along smooth paths where they will never stumble. I will do this because I am Israel’s father; Ephraim is my firstborn son.’”

[Jer 31:9 NET]

Oh how much is needed to bring the soul to its only rest and center! What trials and afflictions; what furnaces, floods, rods, and strokes, as well as smiles, promises, and gracious drawings! What pride and self to be brought out of! What love and blood to be brought unto! What lessons to learn of the dreadful evil of sin! What lessons to learn of the freeness and fullness of salvation! What sinkings in self! What risings in Christ! What guilt and condemnation on account of sin; what self-loathing and self-abasement; what distrust of self; what fears of falling; what prayers and desires to be kept; what clinging to Christ; what looking up and unto his divine Majesty, as faith views him at the right hand of the Father; what desires never more to sin against him, but to live, move, and act in the holy fear of God, do we find, more or less daily, in a living soul!

And whence springs all this inward experience but from the fellowship and communion which there is between Christ and the soul? “We are members,” says the Apostle, “of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” As such there is a mutual participation in sorrow and joy. “He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He can, therefore, “be touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” can pity and sympathize; and thus, as we may cast upon him our sins and sorrows, when faith enables, so can he supply, out of his own fullness, that grace and strength which can bring us off eventually more than conquerors.

Blessings

In the darkness a light shines for the godly, for each one who is merciful, compassionate, and just.

[Ps 112:4 NET]

We often get into such dark paths, that we seem altogether out of the ways of God, and feel as if there were no more grace in our souls, than in one altogether dead in trespasses and sins. And whether we look back at the past, or view the present, or turn our eyes to the future, one dark cloud seems to rest upon the whole; nor can we, with all our searching, find to our satisfaction that we have one spark of true religion, or one atom of grace, or one grain of vital godliness, or any trace that the Spirit of God has touched our consciences with his finger.

Now, when we are in this dark, benighted state, we need light; we need the blessed Sun of righteousness to arise; we need the south wind to blow a heavenly gale, and drive the mists away; we need the clouds to part, and the light of God’s countenance to shine into our souls, so as to show us where we are, and what we are, and make it clear, that base and vile as we are, yet that we have a saving interest in the love of the Father, the blood of the Son, and the teachings of the Holy Spirit. And when his word begins to distill like the rain and to drop like the dew, when the Lord himself is pleased to speak home one sweet testimony, one little word, one kind intimation—what a change it makes! The clouds break away, the fog clears off, the mists dissolve, and the soul becomes sweetly persuaded of its saving interest in the blood and love of the Lamb.

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.

Blessings

And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

[1 Pet 5:10 NET]

There is no Christian perfection, no divine establishment, no spiritual strength, no solid settlement, except by suffering. But after the soul has suffered, after it has felt God’s chastising hand, the effect is to perfect, to establish, to strengthen, and to settle it. By suffering, a man becomes settled into a solemn conviction of the character of Jehovah as revealed in the Scripture, and in a measure made experimentally manifest in his conscience. He is settled in the belief of an “everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure;” in the persuasion that “all things work together for good to those who love God, and are the called according to his purpose;” in the firm conviction that everything comes to pass according to God’s eternal purpose; and are all tending to the good of the Church, and to God’s eternal glory.

His soul, also, is settled down into a deep persuasion of the misery, wretchedness, and emptiness of the creature; into the conviction that the world is but a shadow, and that the things of time and sense are but bubbles that burst the moment they are grasped; that of all things sin is most to be dreaded, and the favor of God above all things most to be coveted; that nothing is really worth knowing except Jesus Christ and him crucified; that all things are passing away, and that he himself is rapidly hurrying down the stream of life, and into the boundless ocean of eternity. Thus he becomes settled in a knowledge of the truth, and his soul remains at anchor, looking to the Lord to preserve him here, and bring him in peace and safety to his eternal home.