Master Sermon List
How God Purges Us
By A. B. Simpson
Originally published sometime before 1937.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: und see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalms 139:23-24.
This is God's great searchlight shining from above with ineffable and awful light, and revealing the inmost depths of every human heart. No wonder that every natural instinct shrinks from its penetrating and consuming blaze, and cries out. "Whither shall I go from thy presence? Such knowledge is too strange for me. It is high, I cannot, attain unto it."
That ceaseless eye follows us into the recesses of our secret thoughts, into the darkness of the night, and into the very depths of the tomb, into the remotest confines of space, into the minutest shades of motive, feeling and intention, and leaves everything within and about us naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
But the true and holy heart does not shrink from that awful light, but invites it, and cries, "Search me, of God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
This is the very test and evidence of a true heart, to be willing to be searched and known. "He that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved; but he that doeth the truth cometh to the light that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God." "If our heart condemn us. God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things; but if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God."
If you are hiding away from this All-Seeing Eye, you may be quite sure that down in your heart there is a purpose and consciousness of evil; but if, notwithstanding all your failures, you are still going back to Him against whom you have erred, and are open to His inspection of your heart, and longing to have Him know all and sanctify all, this alone is the best evidence that your heart is at least sincere and your purpose and will is to be true to Him.
Shall we therefore go into the full rays of this great searchlight, and open every chamber and channel of our being to its penetrating blaze, until every shadow shall flee away and we shall walk in the light as he is in the light? This is the wise attitude of the hart, for God knows us no matter whether we consent to it or not, and God is going to search us and prove us some day.
The question is, when shall we have Him examine us; now, in the day of grace, and cleanse us from all that is wrong before the Day of Judgment comes? Or, shall we wait until we stand before His Great Tribunal, and receive that inspection when it will be too late to undo the result and to escape the irreversible sentence of His judgment? Shall we have the detective examine us, or the physician and the friend? He comes to us now, with the lamp in one hand but the blood in the other; and as fast as the light reveals a sin or a wrong, his cleansing grace is there to wash it all away. But there is no way in which god can sanctify us without first showing us our sin. In all His processes of grace, He takes us into intelligent partnership with Himself. The first step is to reveal, the second is to heal.
And so he comes to the heart in its first conviction of sin and shows it its past misdeeds and then forgives them through intelligent faith in the atoning blood. Then He comes a second time in the deeper conviction of sinfulness and show us all that is evil and wrong, and then he leads us to claim and receive the deeper deliverance of his sanctifying grace.
And yet even after this He comes again and again to lead us into deeper and higher experiences, saving us not only from the sinful, but the earthly, the selfish, the natural, the transitory, the human, and leading us into the divine and everlasting way.
As we read the records of geology we find the strata of our globe successively formed. Away down in the depths of earth's crust we find the first strata in certain regularity and order, we see evidences of certain forms of animal life and vegetation. But then we see a sudden break, a mass of conglomerate rock, the evidence of convulsions and conflagrations, and the breaking up of the previous order. But there comes a second and a higher period in which different plants and animals again live. All this goes on for awhile, and then there comes a second breaking up, and so on, stratum after stratum, until the human period and the perfection of the natural creation. So in our spiritual life, God gives us experiences and then He comes and breaks them up to lead us into higher experiences.
There may be few of us who read these lines who are conscious of living in any sinful way, but we may be in other ways that God wishes to lift us above and place us on a higher and more enduring plane. Shall we let Him show us the places that are weak and soft, susceptible of suffering, and liable to change and fail, and lead us into the way everlasting? In order to do this, He must first show us the failure and the fault, and then He must test us in a practical way.
The Psalmist's prayer is first, "Search me." This has reference to the light that God gives through His word and His Holy Spirit. "The entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple." "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
"The word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." When God speaks to us through His word, divinely illuminated by the Holy Ghost, we see ourselves as we never did before, and things that we could tolerate without a pain become intolerable. Our selfishness, our earthliness, our disloyalty, our unbelief, our lack of love, all stand out in great and awful shadows, and we cry, "I have heard of thee by hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: and I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Even our best things are full of flaws, like the finest needle under the microscope, which looks like a great club; and with humble, contrite spirit we turn form ourselves and our imperfect works and we take the Lord Jesus for His perfect will wand working in us. We accept the light, we believe in the light, we step out intending to walk in the light. God has searched our hearts and we have entered into His will.
But now another stage begins. The second prayer comes into play: "Try me and know my thoughts." We enter upon the actual tests of life. The opportunity comes to trust God in some trying place, or to love in some uncongenial situation, or to endure under some hardship, or to be brave and strong in some pressure; and under strong assaults of temptation we find ourselves giving way, and we come out of the conflict not defeated, but baffled, perplexed, weakened, and wondering where our resolutions and covenants are gone, and tempted to think that God has failed us. Nothing of the kind. God is simply trying us to see how much of the blessing we took was really divine and permanent, and all that was will remain; but much was superficial, partial, impulsive, perhaps sentimental, and all that God has to burn up in the fiery trial.
And so, under the search-light we see the flaws and failures, and patiently learn the very place where we are weak, find the joint of the harness through which the dart came, and start again. The battle is renewed and we come out more victorious, less humiliated, and wiser for the experience, having learned in it where we were weak, and how more instantly and perfectly to trust our Lord and use our spiritual armor.
And so the battle is renewed again and again. He does try us over and over perhaps on the same lines until at last we can say, "The prince of this world cometh and findeth nothing in me." "When He hath tried me I shall come for as gold."
It is like the process of the mineral painting. The colors are drawn on the porcelain, and they are very brilliant under the artist's brush. But now they must be fired; and so the beautiful potter is put into the fiery flame, and when it comes out you can scarcely find a trace of the picture. It has nearly all been burned away; but what is left is thoroughly burned in. And so it is touched up again with the brush, and the acids are allowed to penetrate the pores, and the picture is renewed, and then the fire once more does its work. This time the colors are a little stronger; and by-and-by after several firings, the picture is fixed, the tints are permanent; the figure is part of the very substance of the plate, and cannot be effaced without destroying the piece altogether.
So God tries us, and proves us, and establishes us. It is not by a quick process. "He shall sit, as a Refiner and Purifier of silver." He sits down to His work, He takes plenty of time. He will wait years with you over a single lesson, if you make Him do so, or He will get you through it at once, if you are willing to take the quicker process and the hotter fire.
How touching is the love that will take so much trouble with us! How patient the infinite grace that will be troubled with all these little matters! No wonder that Job should say, "Lord, what is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning and try him every moment?"
Yes, every moment the great Refiner is waiting to add some new touch to our strength and beauty and fit us for a higher place in His eternal life. We are so prone to think that these things that come to us are accidents, incidents, or mishaps, but, after awhile, we learn that His hand is above every other hand, and His love above every hateful blow. You get up in the morning and find everything wrong in the kitchen and in the dining room, and you say, "Oh, it is that cook. It is that wretched old stove." Oh, no; it is the Lord trying you and proving you. You come down to business, you find things are wrong in your store, and you say, "Oh, it is that careless porter." No; it is the Lord trying and proving you. You open your mail, you expect a check according to promise from some person; it is not there. You say, "Oh, it is this dishonest or unprincipled man." No, it is the Lord trying and proving your faith. You meet with a friend, the very one that you look to for help and comfort, and something happens to try you more keenly, and everything in your life seems to become a source of annoyance. You say, "Oh, it is the inconsiderateness or unkindness of others." No, it is the Lord showing you something in you that should not be tried, and that he wants to have burned away.
And so He comes to you every moment, as Job says, and from morning to night, if you would but understand life as He does, you would see nothing but God; and as you meet Him in everything, you would see nothing but God's ever presence, and every unfriendly blow would be warded off, and against every fiery dart you would have a shield of faith that nothing can pierce, and out of every storm you would shout with the great Apostle, "None of these things move me." Beloved, they will come until they don't move you.
Notice the double expression, "My heart, my thoughts." The first means our nature, our spirit, or perhaps more precisely our will. For, as the heart is the seat of life and power for the body the engine that impels, the seat of our physical forces, so in the spiritual life it is the will which gives impulse to our whole being. And so the first thing that God searches is our will. He wants to know if our choice is single, our purpose perfect, our consecration entire, our decision absolute to please, obey and glorify Him, and Him only and always.
This is the secret of a holy life and when you can say, "My heart is fixed, my purpose is single: I am the Lord's, I choose the Lord only, always and under all conditions and circumstances," then you have that which Christ calls purity of heart, which literally means, singleness of heart.
But we have another expression, "My thoughts." This is a very significant word. It is used in Ezekiel with respect to the branches and ramifications that come out of our heart, the minutiae of character. It is all very well in a wholesale way to choose the Lord and the Lord's will, but God insists on coming down to the particulars and asking, "Do you choose my will, in this, and in this, and in this?" Of course, there is a place here where we must be careful and not play into the hands of the enemy. God does not require us to submit ourselves to all that the devil may ask of us, but He does require us to accept all that He actually brings into our life, as a test. We are not to make an imaginary test and answer all the enemy's questions, but as things really come to us we are to meet them sweetly, victoriously, divinely, and say, "Not my will, but thine be done;" or better still, "Blessed be the name of the Lord," until every little thing within us, every motive, every intention, every feeling, every shade of thought, be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
The word is used in the 94th Psalm, 19th verse, to denote anxious thought "" a whirlwind of troubled thoughts that so distress us all. "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul." We all know what it is at times to have this multitude of thoughts within us. "They compassed me about like bees," the Psalmist says. Every second we get a sting from some fiery shaft, some imagination, some memory, some foreboding, some fear, some care, and God lets us get them in order that they may be destroyed, and we so armed against them that they can never hurt us any more, and the only way to be armed against them is to refuse them and the source from which they come.
There is a great world of truth here that most Christians have entirely overlooked. They give their spirit and heart to the Lord and they keep their head to themselves. Our intellect must be sanctified as much as our heart, and it must be sanctified by being slain and replaced by the mind of Christ.
The only remedy for bad thoughts is to stop thinking all our own thoughts, to be spiritually decapitated, and to be delivered entirely from the natural mind as well as the natural heart. God, therefore, will put us to school in the difficult task of stopping our thinking. We will not only try to think right, but we will stop our thoughts and wait for Him to give us His mind. Sometimes He has to make it so hard and hot that we cannot endure it, and the only peace we can find is by the absolute suspension of all mental processes, and the hiding away in the secret place of the heart and within the veil of His Holy Presence, where our spiritual nature alone is exercised and every kind of thought is utterly suspended.
Some of you, beloved, do not understand this yet. It seems to you almost like annihilation; but you will come to it if you are going to enter into the deepest, sweetest, strongest life, until you shall be afraid to think at all until God first thinks in you. Sometimes the hand of His love will make your thoughts hurt you so much that you shall find no rest except in giving up all thinking and falling utterly into His silence, and waiting to hear His voice, alone.
Beloved, have you given your thoughts to God? Have you learned the meaning of that cry of David's, ''I hate thoughts, but thy law do I love."
Now all these tests and disciplines are designed to take something out of us, which the Psalmist expressed here by the words. Any wicked way, "See if there be in me any wicked way."
This expression has three meanings. First, as we read in the margin, "Any way of pain;" secondly, as we read in one of the versions, "Any idol way or earthly;" third, "Any false way." Each of these has in it a very precious and definite lesson for us.
1. "Any way of pain." God wants to test us until He takes out of us the things that do hurt us. Some of us have taken, what they call electric treatment, and we remember how the operator tested our body to find out the seat of disease, by passing the electric sponge over every part and when he came to the weak or the suffering place it was immediately detected by the pain we felt. The keen current found its way to the sensitive nerve and the sharp pang was the tell tale that revealed the hidden hurt.
And so God, in the divine process of grace, has His infallible tests. One of them is this very thing of pain. The very fact that anything hurts us proves that there was something in us to be hurt, or that we were not fully armed against the hurt by the shield of faith or the breast plate of love.
And so God lets things hurt until we get so armed and fortified that they do not hurt any more. He wants to put in us a joy that will be abiding and such a trust as nothing can change. He is beating something out of us by these cruel blows because He wants it to die and be replaced by something that cannot die. It is the corruptible and earthly that is perishing in order to give place to the incorruptible and divine which cannot perish or pass away.
2. "The way of earthliness." You have seen a beautiful skeletonized leaf in which all that was green and soft had been destroyed and there was nothing left but the fibre and frame. How lovely that fern looked with every stem and branch as white as snow; and as you gazed on the beautiful cluster of spotless feathery plumes as though they had dropped from an angel's wing, you said, "How pure, how beautiful!" When you came back next year they were the same. Half a century later they are still there unchanged. The summer flowers had withered, the green ferns were dead, but these were still living. They had been clarified; the earthly part had been taken out of them by some simple process. They had been soaked in water or in chemicals until all that was soft and natural had passed away and only that remained that could not pass away.
And so there is in each of us something that is earthly and transitory, and God wants to take it out of us so that there shall be left in us nothing but the spiritual and the divine, yet on the framework of the human and the natural. There is a place for human love, but God wants it crystallized and clarified and transformed. There is a place for human energy, but God wants it crucified, and then raised up in His strength and linked with His person so that it is no longer independent, but subordinate to God and ever coordinate with Him. There is a place for everything that God has given us in our natural constitution, but there is something that must be taken out of it. There is a Mount Moriah for every Isaac; there is a resurrection life for every follower of the risen Christ; there is a sense, in which we should say, "I know no man after the flesh henceforth. Yea, though I have known Christ after the flesh, yet henceforth know I Him no more."
God wants everything taken out of us that can perish. If there is that in us that will consume under the flame, He wants it taken away before the last fire. Put a piece of tissue paper in the blaze and it will go to ashes; put a piece of gold and it will come out brighter than it went in. You cannot destroy it. Everything that could dissolve has already perished.
And so God is taking out of us the earthly as fast as we will let Him, and building in place of it the eternal and the divine.
3. The word means "the false," and the prayer is a prayer to be delivered from every false, unreal and unchangeable thing. There are things in our Christian life and character which are not real or permanent, and God wants, even here, to make us so fixed and stable that we shall be lifted above the mutations of life and the vicissitudes of circumstances, and our minds be stayed upon Him and our hearts established in His life and love.
Shall we take this as our prayer also, which is his prayer for us? "The God of all grace who hath called us unto His eternal glory, by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, establish, strengthen and settle you. To Him be the glory for ever and ever, Amen."
"Lead me in the way everlasting." This is the climax of the whole prayer. It means substantially to take out of me all that is transitory, and give me that which will last, because it is divine and therefore immutable. God is seeking to transform us from the earthly to the heavenly, from the changeable to the eternal. They say that if a branch of a tree is left for a time in a certain stream, the limestone water gradually penetrates and deposits its substance into the pores of the wood and destroys and takes away all that is perishable, and the fibre that is left lasts forever. So God is pouring through us day by day, making room for Himself by displacing all that is sinful and earthly.
Jesus Christ Himself is our life, and He wants to get into every part of our being until we shall be displaced and He shall be perfected in us. It is said that in a New England town there is a grave in which they found a man's skeleton perfectly reproduced in the roots of an apple tree. The tree had been planted upon the grave of this man, one of the early founders of New England, and the roots had penetrated to the casket, and passed through the corruptible flesh and entered the very bones, and there they found them twined together preserving the body in the life of the tree.
And Jesus Christ will so grow in us, that while the outward man perishes and the earthly passes away, the inward man shall be renewed day by day, the things not seen, and eternal will take place of the things that are seen and temporal in our whole being. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever." With Him is no variableness, nor even the shadow of turning. And if Jesus Christ is living in us, we shall be without change or turning. Everything in our life that is changeable, unstable, fitful, is earthly, and everything that is divine will be ever the same. This is God's great test, and He will meet it and give us that which is unchangeable and lasting, if we are willing.
1. He will give us the holiness that is unchanging. He has required this of us, and He has said of Himself, "I do always those things that pleases Him." And we find the Psalmist exclaiming, "I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way." He bids us to be "Steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." He says, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.'' He says of the righteous, "The law of his God is in his heart: none of his steps shall slide."
Human resolutions, purposes, impulses all change, but "He that doeth the will of God abideth forever." If Christ is our holiness and our righteousness, we, like Him, will change not, but from day to day will abide in His holy will, and advance like the shining light to a perfect day. "He that abideth in me sinneth not." Whenever you disobey you have left that sanctuary, and go back into yourself.
2. Our faith may be everlasting and immutable. He tells us to "have the faith of God," and that is ever the same. If we are trusting Him divinely we will trust when the hour is darkest, when all appearances are against us, and when we walk in the darkness and have no light. That is the very "time to trust," and it is in these hours that faith reaches its highest achievements and victories.
You may be quite sure that the variation of your confidence is permitted to show you wherein your confidence is not divine, or that you are leaning on some encouragement less than God's Word. The trust that rests alone in Him and comes from Him alone is an everlasting trust. True to His own word, "Trust ye in the Lord forever, for the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of Ages."
3. Our love may be the same. Love that is based on the merits and attractions of others will come and go as the seasons change, but the love that is divine loves because of something within it and not its object. God loves us because it is in Him to love us. His love creates an ideal and lifts us up to it. If we have the love of God, we, too, shall love like that, and it will be true of us, love never faileth. Even when our object is undeserving we should feel the more reason why we should stand firmly and hold them to that place of blessing that our love claims for them, even as He has loved us with an everlasting love.
You may be sure that those phases of your love that are fitful and fickle, - at one time wildly passionate, at another deeply wounded and even vindictive, - are not divine but of earthly growth, which He would prune and just leave that which is unchanging to become an amaranthine plant and bloom and bear its precious fruits in the Paradise above.
Beloved, are you willing to have this divine, everlasting holiness, faith and love? He has it for you in Himself, and you may have it if you will be brave enough to choose the right kind and sign the death warrant of all others, not only once for all in your life, but every time the test comes.
4. Your joy will be everlasting if it is the joy of the Lord. The joy that arises from natural constitution, circumstances, youthful exuberance will ebb and flow, but the joy of the Lord has its sources within itself and within His breast, and like the deep artesian spring it flows summer and winter, night and day, in youth and in old age, in joy and in sorrow, ''a well of water springing up into everlasting life." You may be quite sure then that if there is depression and gloom it is not from God, but disappointment, melancholy, morbid feeling, heaviness and heart sorrow, are "ways of pain" that come from the ground, and out of which God has transformed you and translated you into His everlasting life. Will you have the joy everlasting? You may if you will always choose the right kind, and refuse to let any earthly thing be a necessity to your life or able to cause you pain. Go forth expecting trials, disappointments, annoyances, and always count on the worse and he ready for it. If it does come you will not be disconcerted; but in all seasons you will be able to say, "I have learned the secret, I know both how to be abased and how to abound, how to be full and how to be hungry, how to abound and to suffer need. I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
5. Your health will be everlasting. If you derive your physical strength from your natural constitution, good food, moderate rest, favorable circumstances, it will be full of ebb and flow, but if Christ be your strength that increases when the work increases, that rises when occasion requires it above the natural conditions, and even without full natural rest, favorable climate, or pleasant surroundings, we can meet double work with double resources, and when age would naturally decay the freshness of youth, He will renew it like the eagle's, and enable you to sing like old Caleb, "I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me," until life's limit is reached, and life's work is done and we pass through the gate and pass up to meet Him in the air.
6. Your work will be everlasting. There is a kind of work that is but scaffolding, and will be torn down when the eternal tempest comes. There is another kind of work that is like wood, hay, stubble and will be consumed. There is a house that is built upon the sand, and whose ruin will be a great and awful catastrophe, but there is a house that is built for eternity, and constructed of precious stones, gold and silver, and will come through the fires of judgment, and shall be our everlasting recompense. Everything of human origin will perish, and any work we do from natural impulse, earthly wisdom, or for our own popularity and power, will pass away and leave us amid its ruins disappointed and uncrowned, but the work we do in the Holy Ghost, and from love to God will never fail, but will be waiting us beyond as our eternal recompense.
Some one once dreamed that he saw his work weighed or measured out in the divine laboratory, as a chemist would divide a substance into its constituent elements. When the record was handed him he found there were about fifty parts of human ambition, twenty or thirty parts of selfish love for human friends, for which much of the work was done to please, a dozen parts of forms of other selfishness, and about one-tenth part of a grain of real genuine love to God, and, to his consternation, his whole life-work left but a fraction of permanent reality. Oh, let us be spared from waking from such a dream to find it true on the eternal morning, but let us pray concerning all our work, ''Lead me in the way everlasting."
7. Our treasures may be everlasting. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal." (Matt. 6:19-20).
There are treasures of gold that we can lay up in heaven, and we can make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, so that when these fail they may receive us in eternal habitation.
We can put our money into blocks of stone, if we like, or we can put it into imperishable souls. I am always sorry when I see a great pile of buildings that somebody must leave behind, for I know that it will all go in a crash sometime, and I know there are houses on the other side that will never fall. Let us send our money on in foreign exchange that will await us in the other country. There are treasures of affection and friendship that may be earth-bound and evanescent, but there is a way of turning them all into everlasting ties. It is possible to anticipate here the very friendships and fellowships of the skies, and have only in our lives the loves which even death cannot rupture, and we can look above the tomb and say, "I am alive forevermore."
When they told Cyprian of Carthage that they would confiscate his property, he said they could not, for his treasures were all in heaven, and when they told him they would banish him he told them they could not, for his home was in the Lord, and when they said they would take his life, he said they could not, for his life was hid with Christ in God. It is blessed to have a fortune that we cannot lose, to have a friendship that can never be severed, to have a portion that can never pass away.
I am letting go the pleasures
And the treasures worldlings prize;
I am laying up my treasures
And ambitions in the skies;
I am setting my affection
Where there are no broken ties.
God has given us even here an earnest of the life above. Faith may foredate the heavenly day, and live in the life of the eternal. This is really the meaning of everlasting life. Eternity is not a time, it is a state, and we may live in it now. This is the meaning of that beautiful verse in Ecclesiastes, "He hath set eternity in their heart." There are some people who have set their alarm clocks by the scale of earthly hours, but there is another generation who have set it by the eternal years. God's great clock does not measure by our little moments, but by cycles and ages, and we may live in His eternal years by having the eternal One living in our hearts. This will give a grandeur and infinite breadth to our lives that will lift us above the earthly and transitory, the mean and sinful, and make our lives indeed sublime.
Finally, the way everlasting suggests the old way which so many feet have traversed, and so many pilgrims passed along, and left their testimonies and records to inspire us and lead us on. It is the way your saintly mother passed. It is the way of John and Paul, and of Jesus, and of all the holy. It has been tried and proved, and not found wanting. It was good enough for them, it is good enough for you and for me.
Let us turn from every other way, and as we put our feet on the first moments of this Sabbatic year, let us take it as our New Year message and our year long prayer, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any way of pain, of earth, of change in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
MOODS AND IMPRESSIONS.
It is blessed to be sanctified, and even more blessed to intelligently sanctified. Happy is the man who enjoys the blessing of perfect love in connection with an informed mind, experienced head and sound judgment.
He who reads, thinks and compares has had always an advantage over the thoughtless man or the creature of mere impulse. Especially is this seen in the sanctified life, Mr. Wesley says that great grace does not always mean great light, and so we see very excellent people being betrayed into grave mistakes and doing some very silly and reprehensible things.
If Satan can not keep the locomotive from leaving the depot, he tries to jump aboard and run it. If he can not keep us from taking in the heavenly fire, he endeavors to introduce false fire. In various ways he tries to derail, deflect, sidetrack and upset the purified whom God would bring through lives of great usefulness into heaven.
After getting the heart filled with the Holy Ghost it is well to get the head filled with the very facts and truth that should be there. The Bible speaks of grace and knowledge. They go well together.
We ought to understand the experience we possess. There are curious cords and connections running through our complex mental and physical being like so many bell wires. Sometimes God rings them, sometimes Satan touches the cord, and sometimes it may be only the weather affecting us. It is well to understand the different touches; it would save many a mistake and many a heartache.
Among these fleeting, puzzling feelings are Moods. To the recently regenerated and sanctified, nothing is so startling and terrifying at times. They are ready to give up hope and surrender their confidence without a reason save that they feel that certain puzzling and contradictory frames of mind and conditions of heart have taken possession of them, and they think therefore, that they can not be all right.
It is hard at times to account for moods. Bright ones may come from an exhilarating breeze and good digestion, while dark spells may spring from causes far removed from moral agencies, and where the soul has been and still is perfectly loyal to God.
An overflow of animal spirits is not to be regarded as levity and so repented of. It is simply to be watched and quietly controlled and guided as it can be. But it is easy for the sanctified to control this freshet, and distribute what is really good in itself all over the Christian life in even, smooth, irrigating channels, and so turn what might have been a disaster into a benediction.
Sad moods are more puzzling to the sanctified. Having been told of the everlasting joy of the purified, they marvel at the pensiveness which steals over them at times and sinks them into meditative silence.
Again we say there need be no sin in this. Some melancholy does spring from having done wrong, but not every pensive spirit that comes over the sanctified heart originates fro transgression. On the contrary, the feeling we speak of is known to arise when the individual is living close to God and in perfect obedience to His will.
There are impressions that come directly from God. The Bible teaches this fact, and we are to look for them, and obey them when they come. Every spiritual person knows what it is to be led by the Spirit. Glances, touches, gentle movements and impulses from Him have been sufficient to stop us or lead forward, as the case may be, and we knew beyond all question that it was God's own hand on us, His voice within us, His Spirit impelling or restraining us that was leading us into all truth. How sweet it is to speak or be silent, to do or not to do as He inwardly bids us! Very close is such a walk, and very blessed is such a life thus abandoned to the Holy Ghost.
But there are "Impressions" not of God. They may come with heavenly garb and religious manner and even using the Word of God. Some of these are born in our own hearts, are nurtured by our own fancies, and are shaped by our own preferences. Others come directly from the infernal world. John warns us against them. He tells us we are to "try the spirits, whether they be of God."
So here is the distinct assertion in the Word, that different spirits come to the soul, not only the Spirit of God, but evil spirits from beneath. If possible, says the apostle, they would "deceive the very elect." And there is no question but they have deceived some of the elect.
The idea is, do not suppose every impression is from God even though it comes in the name of religion. Do not think every fancy is God's command; and that every rigid idea and extreme notion is God's desire. Many have so thought, and great has been the confusion in Israel, the trouble to the individual Christian, and the joy in hell.
We have known people under "impressions" to seek for new and strange experiences, when that apostolic man, John Wesley, says: "If we seek for anything but more love we are certain to land in error." Alas for it, we have witnessed such landings.
We have seen people under the plea "God told me" become intolerant, fault-finding, intermeddlers and busy-bodies. In striking at the "Pride of life"' they developed that most horrible of all forms, spiritual pride, and did not know it. In a plea for zeal, they presented us a Jehu cutting and slashing, instead of a Jesus healing and binding up.
We feel that we could not do a better thing than attach a quotation from Mr. Wesley, in regard to these very things:
1. "Watch and pray continually against pride. If God has cast it out, see that it enter no more; it is fully as dangerous as evil desire, and you may slide back into it unawares especially if you think there is no danger of it. 'Nay, but I ascribe all I have to God.' So you may and be proud nevertheless; for it is pride not only to ascribe anything we have to our-selves, but to think we have what we really have not. You ascribe all the knowledge you have to God, and in this you are humble? But if you think you have more than you really have, or if you think you are so taught of God as to no longer need man's teaching, pride lieth at the door. Do not, therefore, say to any that would advise or reprove you: "You are blind; you can not teach me.' Always remember, much grace does not imply much light. These do not always go together. To imagine none can teach you but those who are themselves saved from sin is a very great and dangerous mistake. Give not place to it for a moment. It will lead you into a thousand other mistakes and that irrevocably. Obey and regard them that are over you in the Lord, and do not think you know better than they; know their plan and your own: always remembering, "Much love does not imply much light'.
2. Beware of that daughter of pride, 'enthusiasmβ' (meaning fanaticism). Keep at the utmost distance from it; give no place to a heated imagination. Do no hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, and revelations to be from God. They may be from him, they may be from nature, they may be from the devil. Therefore "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God," Try all things by the written Word, and let all bow down before it. You are in danger of wild enthusiasm every hour if you depart ever so little fro Scripture; yea, from the plain literal meaning of any text taken in connection with the context.
Let us try the "impressions," whether they agree with the Word. If they can stand that test, if they breathe the Spirit of Christ, we can stand by them and for them. If the Word is against the, then the sooner we cast them away, the better it will be for mind, body and soul, for family, friends and church, and for our present happiness and usefulness, as well as salvation to come. "" B. Carradine.