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variableness, neither shadow of turning e." The Spirit of God, whose office it is to impart it unto men, is called "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord":" and to him are we directed to open the eyes of our understanding," and to "guide us into all truth":" since it is only by the unction derived from him, that we can possibly attain a spiritual discernment'.] To him must we look for it in earnest prayer
[Study, doubtless, even a study of the Holy Scriptures, is necessary; because it is only by the written word that we are to regulate our course. But to study we must add humble and fervent supplication ; according to that direction of Solomon, “ If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding ; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God: for the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understandingk." Accordingly we find the Apostle Paul crying to God in behalf of the Ephesian Church, that “ God the Father would give unto them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ';" and, for the Colossians he prayed, that they also might by the same Spirit “ be filled with the knowledge of God's will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding."
And to seek it in this way we are all encouraged, both from a general view of God's goodness, and from a particular and express promise.
“ God giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not:" "he opens his hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness;" he “ gives alike to the evil and the good, to the just and to the unjust.” If then he give so abundantly to those who seek him not, " will he refuse his Holy Spirit unto them that ask him?" True, they are unworthy of so rich a blessing: and, as Jephthah upbraided those who requested his assistance against the Ammonites, saying to them, “Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father's house? and why are ye come unto me, now ye are in distress ?" so might God reply to them; “Ye have resisted my Spirit, and rebelled against the light, times without number; and how can you expect that I should aid you any more?” But he will not so treat the weeping suppliant; but will surely impart unto him the blessing he desires. Of this he assures us by an express promise : “Let him ask of God; and it shall be given him." This promise may
e ver. 17. with Matt. xvi. 17.
f Isai. xi. 2. 8 Eph. i. 18.
h John xvi. 13. il John ii. 20, 27. and v. 20. with 1 Cor. ii. 14. k Proy. ii. 2–6. 1 Eph. i. 16, 17. m Col. i. 9.
be relied on, as may many others which he has given us to the same effect n
The time, and the manner, and the measure in which it shall be fulfilled, must be left to God: but fulfilled it shall be to all who rest upon it. Not that a man shall be rendered infallible, or have such wisdom imparted to him as shall keep him from every degree of error; but so much as his necessities require, God will assuredly vouchsafe to all who seek it of him in sincerity and truth.]
That no man shall seek wisdom in vain, St. James adds a caution, from which we learn, II. How to secure the attainment of it
“We must ask in faith, nothing wavering." Here it will be proper for me to shew,
1. What is that faith which we are called to exercise
[It has not respect to that individual thing which we may chance to ask; for we may possibly be asking for something which God sees would be injurious to us, or, if not injurious, yet inconsistent with the ends which he has determined to accomplish. When our blessed Lord prayed for the removal of the bitter cup, and Paul for the removal of the thorn in his flesh, neither the one prayer nor the other was granted literally; though both were answered in the way most satisfactory to the suppliants, and most conducive to God's honour. So the specific thing which we ask, may be withheld: but we shall be sure of receiving something better in its stead: and it is with this latitude only that our faith must be exercised, except where there is an express promise for us to plead : and then we may assuredly expect that very thing to be granted to us.
Now respecting such a measure of wisdom as shall ultimately guide us through all our difficulties, we may ask with the fullest possible assurance: and in asking it, we should have no more doubt of its being given to us, than of our own existence: we should " ask in faith, nothing wavering.” If we doubt at all, our doubt must arise, either from not being fully persuaded of the power of God to help us, or from some suspicion of his willingness. But to limit his power is sinful in the extreme : and to doubt his willingness is, as St. John expresses it, “ to make God a liar:" for the promise in the text is to every creature under heaven who asks in faith. I
n Jobn xiv. 13, 14. and xv. 7. and xvi. 23, 24.
well know that persons pretend to found their doubts on their own unworthiness : but this is a mere fallacy: for every man is unworthy: and, if unworthiness be such a disqualification as deprives a man of all right to expect the blessing in answer to his prayers, then no man living has any right to expect the blessing; and the promise of God is a mere nullity. Our need of wisdom is supposed in the very petition that is offered for it: and the more deeply we feel our need of it, the more willingly and more largely will God confer it upon us. In praying for it therefore, we are to ask, not on the ground of any fancied worthiness in us, but on the sole ground of its having been freely promised to us : and, in that view, we must lift up our hands," as without wrath, so also without doubtingo."] 2. Its certain efficiency to the desired end
[In some circumstances, the fulfilment of the promise seems to exceed all reasonable hope, if not the limits of possibility itself. But in proportion as it seems to exceed hope, we are to “ believe in hope," just as Abraham did, when the promise was given to him of a posterity as numerous as the stars of heaven P. Our blessed Lord has taught us this in a very striking manner. To his disciples, who expressed their surprise that the fig-tree, which he had cursed, should wither away in one single night, he said, “ Have faith in God: for verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass ; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto, “ What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." The truth is, that God, if I may so say, feels his own honour implicated in fulfilling his own word : and therefore, if not for our sakes, yet for his own name's sake," he will accomplish the thing which hath gone out of his mouth.” Yet not for his own sake only will he do it, but for our sakes also: for, “them that honour him he will honour."] ADDRESS
1. Those who are unconscious of their need of wisdom
[Though men are sensible enough of their ignorance in relation to human sciences, they almost universally fancy themselves competent to decide every thing relating to their faith or practice. But very pointed is that declaration of Solomon, “ He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” Respecting spiritual things we are all by nature blind, and need, the learned as well as the unlearned, to have our understandings opened to understand them”. We all “ lack wisdom” exceedingly: and to all equally would I address those words of Solomon, “ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding: in all thy ways acknowledge him; and he shall direct thy pathst” —-'-]
0 1 Tim. ji. 8.
p Rom. iv. 18—20.
2. Those who are discouraged by their want of wisdom
[If you look either to the greatness of your difficulties, or your own insufficiency to meet them, you may well faint and fail : but if you look to God, there is no ground for discouragement at all. For, can he not " ordain strength in the mouths of babes and sucklings u?" And “ does he not put his treasure into earthen vessels on purpose that the excellency of the power may be seen to be of Him*?" See how he reproved Jeremiah for his desponding thoughts': and be content to be “ weak, that his strength may be perfected in your weakness"
See how he reproved Peter also a; and be careful how
admit a doubt. If you are doubting, he warns you plainly, that "you must not expect to receive any thing of the Lordo:" but, if you will believe, according to your faith it shall be unto you ----]
s Rev. iii. 17, 18. Luke xxiv. 45. u Ps. viii. 2.
x 2 Cor. iv. 7. z 2 Cor. xii. 9. a Matt. xiv. 30, 31. c Matt. ix. 29.
t Prov. iii. 5, 6. y Jer. i. 6, 7.
THE DOUBLE-MINDED MAN EXPOSED.
Jam. i. 8. A double-minded man is unstable in all his
ways. IT is a generally-acknowledged truth, that the mind constitutes the man. In human friendships, an insincere profession of regard will not stand a severe trial; but will fail us, when we most need a firm support. In religion too, if the heart be not right with God, we shall never persevere amidst the difficulties and dangers with which we shall be encompassed. That our faith will be tried, is certain ; and that we shall need support from above, is certain : I may add too, that, if we be “ strong in faith, giving glory to God,” we shall derive such aid from above, as shall carry us through all our temptations, how great soever they may be, and make us more than conquerors” over all our enemies. But, if we are of a doubtful mind, we shall never finally maintain our steadfastness; but shall draw back when dangers threaten us, and faint when trials come upon us; for “the double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."
Let us endeavour,
The Apostle is speaking solely respecting confidence in God: to that therefore we shall confine our observations. Were we to enter at large into the character of a “double-minded man,” we should have a vast field before us, sufficient to occupy our attention through many discourses : but by adhering simply to the view proposed to us in the text, we shall best consult the scope of the Apostle's argument, and the edification of your minds.
“ The double-minded man” then is one,
[There is in every man a proneness to self-dependence : and, in matters of ordinary occurrence, no man, except the truly pious, will look higher than to himself for wisdom to guide him, or for strength to succour him. Even when obstacles arise which call for the intervention of a superior power, he will cry unto his God for help: but he will not faith,” because he still “ leans to his own understanding,” and is unable to “commit his way entirely to the Lord.” As there were in the days of old those who “swore by Jehovah and by Malcham too," and those who“ feared the Lord and yet
served other gods" at the same time, so the double-minded man will rely on the Lord, but will rely on himself also; and make God and himself successively or conjointly the objects of his hope, as the variations of his mind, or the urgency of his necessities, may seem to require.
We must however distinguish between a prudent use of means, and a divided ground of hope: for confidence in God is on no account to supersede the use of prudent means. Jacob
a Zeph. i. 5.
• 2 Kings xvii. 33, 41.