subtlety of the serpent. The other wisdom is the child of truth, a descent from heaven, the fruit of the Spirit.

James describes the false wisdom in the context, that the beauty and excellence of the true wisdom might more conspicuously appear (iii. 14-17). Of the one we have an image in the turgid river, whose swollen current carries devastation in its course. The other finds a fitting symbol in that “ pure river of water of life, clear as crystal (which John saw), proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb." It is of this latter, even the true wisdom, that we propose now to treat, and I have to request that the reader will not think the picture overdrawn, because he sees no one in whom it is perfectly realised. We shall view it not as reflected froin the mirror of human imperfection, but as described by St. James. For in only one instance has it shone forth in its own divine and perfect excellence,-in one only has man beheld its bright, but healing beams-in Jesus Christ, in whose spirit all its rays converge, and in whose life all its beams shine forth.

But while we stand before the threshold of our subject, it seems proper to premise that the sacred writer does not profess to describe wisdom in all its properties. He does not speak of it, in any of its affections toward God, as being, for example, full of gratitude for his benefits, and of zeal for his glory. Nor was it necessary; the writer's design being, as the context clearly shows, to assuage the bitterness of feeling which some of the Christians of his day cherished, to prevail on them to lay aside those invectives and mutual recriminations with which they disfigured their discourse, and to show how contrary to religion it was to cherish a revengeful spirit. He therefore describes wisdom, not as it influences man in all his relations, but as it is intended to regulate his state of mind and conduct toward his fellow-creatures, And he insisted on this the more earnestly, because, hateful as envy and ill-will are among men in general, they are doubly so when they influence the disciples of Jesus.

We will now proceed to notice these characters of true wisdom, praying that we may discern its beauty, and that the Lord the Spirit may restore its lovely image in our hearts.

1. The primary character of this wisdom is pureness.

This is fundamental and unvarying. The wisdom that is from above can have no fellowship with sin. When the Christian stoops to sin, wisdom lifts her voice against it, and can never be compelled to debase her heavenly birth by any unhallowed concessions. “Whoso is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John

iii. 9). To do wrong that good may come is the dictate of earthly wisdom, -- but in the estimation of the true wisdom sin is ever the quintessence of folly. Light and darkness may as soon accord as wickedness and wisdom. Therefore all the objects which the wisdom from above approves and adopts, and all the means which she sanctions, must be pure. Not a shadow of evil may fall on her fair form. Some have, indeed, conceived the monstrous notion, that a worthy object will sanctify any means employed to advance it, and crimes of the basest character have been committed in the service of religion,-a proceeding which is calculated to confound all distinctions of virtue and vice, and to import into the Church wickedness at which the world might blush.

2. We pass on from the primary quality of true wisdom to other qualities. “Wisdom is peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.” I group these, because they seem to be of one family, negative rather than positive qualities, passive rather than active in their nature.

The wisdom that is from above is peaceable. She loves to witness peace in others. As the dew of heaven on pleasant flowers is peace in the domestic circle. The sweetness of friendship cannot be maintained without it; and it 18 necessary at least to borrow her aspect if we would assure our neighbour in

our intercourse with him. And when sorrow dwells in the heart, the peace that is there looks with smiles through a countenance which would otherwise be overhung with clouds of discontent. In the Church especially this peace abides as a sweet fragrance full of refreshment. Everything points out the Church as the sanctuary of peace. It is there that Jesus reigns, who has “made peace by the blood of his cross." There, too, the Holy Spirit, whose emblem is the peaceful dove, exerts his influence; while the name given to the Church in the Old and New Testaments shows us how essentially this quality enters into the divine idea of the ransomed people. The name referred to, Jerusalem, it is scarcely necessary to say, means the abode of peace.

But it will not have escaped my hearers that the apostle so describes these attributes of wisdom as to indicate the greater importance of purity. He says, First pure, then peaceable.” The meaning is, that while this wisdom is invari. ably pure, she is sometimes compelled to postpone peace to purity. Circumstances may arise which render peace with a good conscience impossible. What then ? Must a good conscience be sacrificed to peace? Must pureness abdicate for it ? Not so, my brethren. Peace would then cease to be the peace of wisdom. It would then become the bandmaid of folly, and play into the hands of Satan. To this St. Paul's words point-“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” And the still stronger language of our Lord indicates that his own most peaceful religion will give rise to contention ere the victories of his love prevail-" Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I am not come to send peace but a sword.”

But on the other hand, must peace be sacrificed for every trifle ? No, my friends ; true wisdom never lays aside the garment of peace unless purity demand it. “First pure, then peaceable." Petty, personal offences are unworthy the notice of a Christian mind. If they arise, the Christian will gladly accept any reasonable overtures of peace. Revenge is sweet only to a wicked man. It is when the interests of truth are invaded, and the purity of the Church assailed by corrupt practices, that heavenly wisdom, having tried persuasion, lays aside the habiliments of peace, and denounces the ways of the transgressor. Then, if peace fly away, she follows it with regret, and mourns until it return. But never will the wisdom from above compromise her purity in order to effect the most desired object.

And when peace is gone, gentleness remains. As in Jesus Christ, when his holiness forbade him to be at peace with men's sins, he was still gentle toward the sinner, and in the sternness of severest rebukes he still maintained that gentleness of spirit which could weep over the transgressors. There is indeed a gentleness which belongs to nature, as well as that which is a fruit of the grace of God. They may, however, be distinguished without difficulty. The former is selfish, but the latter is the offshoot of love. The gentleness of nature breaks down under personal wrong, but the gentleness which belongs to wisdom shines most conspicuously under injuries. The gentleness of nature is generally associated with inertness of disposition, but the true wisdom is independent of the natural temperament, and is found in all sorts of persons whom the Spirit of God has renewed. In this, however, they resemble each other they both infuse a sweetness into the life, and an amiableness into the general deportment. The gentleness of nature repays the gift by clothing nature with loveliness in return; the gentleness of wisdom invests with beauty the acts of the religious life, such as deeds of benevolence, the exercise of authority, and even the utterance of reproof.

This wisdom is declared to be easy to be entreated.In this it stands directly opposed to self-will; it is the opposite of obstinacy. Some, confounding obstinacy with decision of character, pride themselves on their firmness ; and having once made up their mind, and declared it, they glory in never altering. But how contrary is this to the wisdom described by James ! We ought, indeed, to be unalterably resolved where the interests of holiness and truth demand it. When sinners would entice to evil, whatever advantages they proffer, reason no less than revelation utters its remonstrances. True wisdom will not consent, because its leading character is pureness. But in regard to all matters in which duty is not imperative, a wise man is “easy to be entreated." Plainly so, because it is always a property of wisdom to be swayed by the greatest reason; therefore a wise man will give his attention to the reasons which wise men offer, and, though mortifying to his pride, he will always change when reason and religion persuade.

3. But let us pass to the positive qualities of heavenly wisdom; the writer describes it as “full of mercy and good fruits.” Here mercy is the principle, and good fruits the outward manifestation. We will include both under the one term, mercy. Mercy may be regarded under three aspects. It feels for the woes of others, and then it is compassion. It forgives the offences of others, and thus viewed is opposed to revenge. It relieves the wants of the destitute, and in this stands opposed to the niggardliness which hoards all, and will not give, and to the sumptuousness which spends all, and cannot give. And of such mercy, and all its beneficent fruits, is this wisdom full. Mercy enters into the thoughts, desires, words, and actions, and so becomes the current of the Christian's life. It sits regent on the throne of the heart, and the Christian obeys her voice, and finds happiness in her smile. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” This is the character of the wisdom which is from above, nor is there anything more solemnly enjoined on us in the word of God than this. It is preferred to all the costly sacrifices of the law. “I will have mercy (saith God), and not sacrifice." And he that never does her bidding will long in vain for her favours. Says James, “ He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy." Nor is there anything in which we may more resemble the blessed God than in this. The balances of justice are indeed by his throne, yet so that “he delighteth in mercy.”

4. James closes this beautiful description of wisdom with two negatives wisdom is "without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

Partiality and hypocrisy are qualities which render hateful the wisdom of this world. It “judges according to the flesh.” It has respect to “private advantage, and knows neither how to pronounce an opinion, nor shape its conduct, till it has ascertained the worldly position of the man whose conduct may be in question.

Out of partiality of course springs hypocrisy. For every one would be deemed impartial." So partiality itself feigns impartiality, and from the vain attempt springs every evil thing; the integrity of the heart is impaired, selfdeception supervenes, and the issue of the whole is, that a man "receives his portion with the hypocrites.”

It is, therefore, not without need, that St. James adds these warning words, for as such we may regard them. As soon as the excellence of any quality of the mind appears, we naturally desire the reputation of it. We love to be in good esteem. Hence we seek to appear thus and thus. But as Cyrus, when he asked, “ Which is the shortest way to appear to be a good general ?” received as a reply, “ To be one,” so I may say to my reader, the shortest way to appear to be truly wise, is to be so. He that aims at appearance only, will lose his labour. Men will soon see through the disguise. But he that aims to be wise, will gain more than he seeks. He will become so, and when the excitements of ill-will have died away, men will acknowledge it; or if pertinacity of ill-will refuse him the due meed of praise while living, his enemies will relent, when standing at his grave-side ; and if this be denied him, and bigotry pursue his name after death, and persecution his bones, then God will vindicate his injured name, and,

beyond the reach of malice, and to make all aspersion impotent, will place him as a star in the firmament of his glory for ever.

Thus we have gone over these characters of wisdom as it relates to the conduct and spirit which it inspires toward men. Oh, heaven-born wisdom, how lovely is thy picture! Purer art thou than snow on Alpine heights, gentle as descending dews or fanning zephyrs, prolific in deeds of mercy as ever-teeming earth in bounteous fruit! What wouldst thou appear if seen in the activities of life divested of human imperfection!

Wisdom has thus appeared. Have we had no glimpse of our Saviour whilst pursuing this theme? Have we not seen him in the spotless purity of his walk, the gentleness of his spirit, and the beneficence of his acts. In him at least theory and fact are one.

But he came not only to teach what wisdom is, he came to lead us into the way. Do you wish to follow? If so accept the following counsels.

1. Recognise its supreme value. Regard it not as a mere adornment, deem it indispensable. For as there is a worldly wisdom by which men succeed in schemes of worldly ambition, so the wisdom described is that without which there is no meetness for the heavenly kingdom. There is a morality which passes current in the world, and without which no man can be respected in it; but this is a morality of a higher order, without which we can have no footing in the kingdom of God.

2. Seek to become profoundly acquainted with your defects in this regard. Be severe with yourself. Be deaf to flatterers without and flatterers within. Judge yourself with respect to each of the qualities which James attributes to wisdom. Be not satisfied to find some; demand all. Nor be satisfied to have them. Seek to have them in maturity, that God who giveth wisdom may be glorified in you.

3. Seek it of God by prayer. He is "the giver of every good gift and every perfect gift.” To this the apostle most explicitly calls us. “If (says he) any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God" (Jas. i. 5). The delight God has in giving is in proportion to the value of the gift. There is none can enrich you more that this. Let the fervour of your prayers prove the truth of your desire.

4. Let your effort second your prayers. Daily aim to cultivate it. Watch over the passions of your heart, and the demeanour of your life. Mark well the imperfections of the day, and set them in your memory for confession and humiliation at its close. Let success encourage labour, and occasional failure induce greater watchfulness. If the prize at last be great, the way is not without solace. Even in this life “her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”


BY THE REV.J. P. BARNETT. It is but little that we know of the passion; and the prodigious ardour with apostle Thomas ; but that little is sufficient " which he cherished that passion, in a mind to afford us considerable insight into his not sufficiently emancipated from the character, and to supply us with valuable slavery of the senses, developed in his instruction. Speaking of him generally, he those peculiar tendencies which have pa was a man of extremely strong, and some cured for him, perhaps somewhat unfam, times even of morbid feeling. His attach | the title of " unbelieving Thomas." ment to Christ may be fitly described as a l To verify this estimate, we have only"

are only to! advert to the two or three scenes in which Again. Jesus takes occasion to inform this apostle comes distinctively before us. his friends of his approaching departure Take the first of these. Jesus, with a few from the world, and to speak such words of his more intimate disciples, has escaped as might be calculated to allay the anguish

to Bethabara, beyond Jordan, from the with which the disclosure could not fail to i vengeance of the Jews, who had sought to afflict them. “Let not your heart be

stone him on account of what they deemed troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in the blasphemous doctrines which he had me. In my Father's house are many manembodied in his teaching. While there, he sions ; if it were not so, I would have told receives intelligence of the illness of his you. I go to prepare a place for you. friend Lazarus, at Bethany, and proposes, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I on account of it, to return to Judea. The will come again, and receive you unto mydisciples generally shrink from a repetition, self; that where I am, there ye may be of the scenes which had already driven their also. And whither I go ye know, and the Master and themselves from Jerusalem ; way ye know." Thomas arrests the blessed but Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we words as they fall from the lips of the great may die with him.” This is not the lan comforting Friend. The comfort is too guage of an ordinary doubter. It shows shadowy, too spiritual, for a mind like his. that his unbelief had assumed a paradoxical In this new and awful sorrow, he craves form. Why did he not say, “No! it is not something more positive, more palpable , safe to go back to Jerusalem. Let us more sensuous. Jesus was there -visib .y remain beyond the reach of those cruel -in the flesh-to be seen, and heard, and persecutors. At any rate, you may go, but touched ; and he was going away! It was I will be no party to such presumption; | a crushing revelation to one whose faith and you must go without me, if you go at depended so greatly upon the evidence of all” Thomas refrained from expressing the senses. The words of Jesus were, for himself thus, because his unbelief was the most part, meaningless to him, and, struggling with his love to the person of his therefore, insufficient to quell his grief. Master, and neither the unbelief nor the Thomas had never seen the Father. He did love would yield. “That we may die with not know where the Father's house was ; him." But why that? Jesus had escaped he had never seen it. He knew nothing of with his disciples once; why not again ? the “ many mansions” which adorn it ;Had he wrought no miracles? He had he had never seen them. There was no wrought many, and Thomas had witnessed comfort in such intimations as those which them; why, then, should it be taken for Jesus had given, inasmuch as the senses of granted that a return to Jerusalem would the man had never laid hold of anything De death? Was Christ's miracle-working which could help him to realise what it was power exhausted ? No; for he had inti that Jesus meant to convey. “Lord, we nated his intention of raising Lazarus from know not whither thou goest, and how can he dead. Was that power, then, limited ? we know the way?" The heart of the To; being superior to death, it need not poor sceptic was still true to his Master, uail before a number of Jews seeking the but his feelings worked unwisely. There fe of him who wielded it. Why did not was nothing before him but the unutterable Thomas argue with his foolish fears after loss, and forlornness, and gloom of his his manner? The answer is, that to a man Lord's absence; that was the one, single,

his morbid temperament such consider vast, morbid thought which banished every Fions as these would be just the consider other. We can almost imagine him saying, ions least likely to occur. The whole “If thou wilt take me with thee to the eld of his vision was suddenly occupied by Father--if thou wilt show me these many e thought of the new peril into which mansions in thy Father's house_if thou sus was about to plunge. Nevertheless, wilt let me see thee prepare a place for me, e heart of the man continued to beat true where I can be at home with thee for ever his Master. He, for one, did not recoil -then I will believe and be satisfied.” om the peril, when Jesus had resolved to Thomas did not say this in so many words, nfront it. Though the whole prospect but he implied it when he rejected the esented nothing to his view but disaster comfort which was offered to him, exclaim. d destruction, he clung to his Lord with | ing, “Lord, we know not whither thou ove that was stronger than death, and said, goest, and how can we know the way ?” , Let us also go, that we may die with him.” The third scene in which Thomas appears

« VorigeDoorgaan »