If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
I. A UNIVERSAL WASTE. (Ver. 5.) Wisdom means the right use of knowledge. A man may know a very great deal, and yet not be a wise man. Wisdom classifies the materials of knowledge, and studies to use them so as to build up and beautify the life. It proposes right ends, and chooses the best means by which to reach them. It shows itself not so much in doing the right thing, as in doing it at the proper time. In the highest use of the word, "wisdom" is just another name for piety. It is that state of mind and heart which is produced by the believing reception of gospel truth. The one fool of the Bible is the sinner. The only wise man is he who regards the glory of God as the end of his life, and who makes his acts and habits means to that end. Now, we all naturally lack wisdom, and a thoughtful man realizes this lack most thoroughly in the time of trial. What a rare and difficult attainment is that holy discretion which can welcome even the contrary winds of calamity, and the driving storms of tribulation, because it can make them helpful in steering joyfully towards the desired haven!
II. AN ABUNDANT SOURCE OF SUPPLY. "God, who giveth to all" (ver. 5); literally, "the giving God." The living, loving Jehovah is the one Source and Fountain of wisdom. That is one of his essential attributes; and it is his prerogative to impart it to his creatures. He gives the Holy Spirit to work wisdom in the hearts of believers. Now, the God of wisdom is the Giver of all good things. His resources are infinite, and his gifts are universal and unceasing. In his common providence he imparts blessings to all his creatures - to the barnacle that clings to the rocks, and to the archangel that ministers before the throne. And he is "the giving God" in grace also. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?" So he is ready to bestow wisdom at all times, and especially in the day of trial; he waits to impart to every devout sufferer a wealth of holy patience and of spiritual joy. And the giving God gives liberally and unreproachingly. It is his characteristic habit to be exceedingly bountiful.
III. AS EASY METHOD OF OBTAINING. "Let him ask, and it shall be given him" (ver. 5). Holy wisdom is not the result merely of thought or speculation. No Aristotelian or Baconian method can produce it. No habit of sullen, dogged Stoicism reveals its presence. It is to be had from God, and for the asking. God is the living God, and he is very near us; and we, his children, have the freest access to him. He gives "simply" to those who pray simply. He bestows "liberally" upon those who petition liberally. It is his way "to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." When Solomon asked only for wisdom, God gave him riches and honor too. When the prodigal requests only the place of a hired servant, his Father assures him of the station and honor of a beloved son. The Lord always gives liberally; never with a grudge - never ungraciously. He always gives with his heart when he opens his hand. Does the consciousness of much personal guilt make any of us slow to "ask of God"? Does our past neglect or abuse of his gifts deprive us of childlike confidence in coming to him? Then let us remember that he "upbraideth not." What a sweet word is that! It limns for our comfort a most touching trait of the character of the giving God. How unlike he is to human benefactors! Instead of reproaching the returning prodigal, he welcomes him with kisses of love. God upbraids no one for his great ignorance, or for his enormous guilt, or for his repeated backslidings, or for his long delay, or for making himself a last resource, or for coming too often, or for asking too much. How easy this God-appointed method of obtaining wisdom! We have only to "ask, and it shall be given" us. And how great the encouragement! "God giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not."
IV. AN INDISPENSABLE REQUISITE TO SUCCESS. (Vers. 6-8.) Prayer is not real unless it be the expression of faith. It must issue "from a living source within the will," and be inspired by perfect confidence in God's readiness to help. How much unbelief prevails in our time on the subject of prayer! The scientific temper of the age merely allows a man to "pray to God, if there be a God - to save his soul, if he have a soul." And the forcible words of James, in these three verses, suggest that still, in the case of very many Christians, an imperfect faith in God's readiness to respond to their prayers is one of the greatest defects of their spiritual life. We are apt, even, to speak of evident answers to prayer as unusual, and - when they do occur - as remarkable. Now, the gift of wisdom is promised only to him who asks it with a steady faith, and who evinces the reality of his faith by a life of consistent purpose. God our Father demands the confidence of his children. "Nothing doubting" should be the Christian's motto in prayer. The petitioner must not shift backwards and forwards between faith and doubt, like a tumbling billow of the sea. He must not swing like a pendulum between cheerful confidence and dark suspicion. It must be his fixed persuasion that God is, and that he is the Hearer of prayer. He must expect an answer to his supplications, and be ready to mark the time and mode of it; else he may rest assured that no answer will come. Transient emotions are not religion. It is the men and women within whom faith is the dominant power who take the kingdom of heaven by force. God is all simplicity himself, and he gives with simplicity; so he can have no sympathy with an unstable, double-souled man. A mind that continually vacillates in its choice will be prone in the end to fail in both the purposes between which it has hesitated. Certainly it will not obtain that Divine wisdom which every human heart so greatly needs for the exigencies of adversity. Steadfast faith, and that alone, will give a man singleness of eye, make him strong to keep hold of the angel of the covenant, and draw down upon him the richest blessings of gospel grace. - C.J.
If any of you lack wisdom.I. THE CASE SUPPOSED. "If any of you lack wisdom." Although the case, is stated hypothetically, it contains an exact description of the real situation of every human being.
1. There are those who are familiar with the history of nations, who can speak many languages, who can expatiate on the sublimest sciences, who can philosophise on the causes of natural appearances and on the principles of the human mind, who are versed in almost every department of human knowledge; and yet are strangers to those simple truths, an acquaintance with which is necessary to their final happiness. Hear how expresses himself when addressing God, in reference to his applauded acquisitions, but real blindness in early life. "I was fond of learning, not indeed the first rudiments, but such as classical masters teach." But "I attended to the wanderings of AEneas, while I forgot my own. Of what use was it to deplore the self-murdering Dido, while yet I could bear unmoved the death of my own soul, alienated from Thee during the course of these pursuits — from Thee, my God, my life? I loved Thee not, and (such the spirit of the world) I was applauded with, 'Well done,' on all sides. Alas! the torrent of human custom! who shall resist thee? How long will it be ere thou be dried up? "Let it not be supposed that this is to undervalue a learned education. Augustine had no such intention, as is clear from what he subjoins, "That literature which they wished me to acquire, with whatever intention, was yet capable of being applied to a good use. O my King, and my God, may whatever useful thing I acquired serve Thee. Still, O Lord, in my youth I have much to praise Thee for. Many, many were Thy gifts; the sin was mine that I sought pleasure, truth and happiness, not in Thee, but in the creature." But let us not overlook the far greater number who can make no pretension to a learned education, and yet fancy they have no lack of wisdom.
2. There are your men of prudence, who escape the difficulties which perplex others, and whose well-laid schemes for worldly prosperity succeed to their most sanguine expectation. Every such person is commonly reckoned wise; but surely his wisdom, if thus limited, will not stand the test.
3. There are, again, in every class of society, men of ability, good sense and natural shrewdness, who are often in danger of forgetting the necessity of a higher species of wisdom. Nay, who at all acquainted with the scriptural view of human nature, does not perceive that fallen as we are, darkened as is our reason, and corrupted as are our affections, mere natural ability, if left to its own unrestrained influence, will certainly lead men astray from the path of truth?
4. Again, there are your minute reasoners, who either profess themselves to be already wise, or, if they allow their ignorance, expect light only from their own minds: these form another class who with many pass for wise men, but who are altogether destitute of the wisdom of salvation. Far be it from our intention to express any disrespect for the right use of reason; we speak of those who expect more from it than it can give. Pride is one very general cause of the rejection of salvation. This works in a variety of ways; but the two most striking are the pride of self-righteousness, and the pride of intellect. Alas! for those, who, thus walking in the light of their own fire, and compassing themselves about with sparks of their own kindling, carefully shut out the beams of the Sun of Righteousness! All these descriptions of persons, then, lack wisdom; but they are not all sensible of it. A great point is gained when men are brought to a knowledge of their own blindness, for those who know this are already in part taught of God.
5. But, are those who truly know, love, and serve the Lord, to be exempted from the list of those who lack wisdom? The more enlightened any man is, the more humble he invariably becomes. We are all included, then, in this description, either as being entirely destitute of any true wisdom, or as having still much to learn.
II. THE DIRECTION GIVEN, "Let him ask of God." Man's natural ignorance of all true religion being ascertained, the inquiry suggests itself, To whom shall he apply for instruction? Have there been no uncommonly able and enlightened men whose discoveries suffice to lead to safety and true goodness? In vain has it ever been to apply to philosophers, or to the priests of heathen temples. They did not so much as know the true God; how then could they lead others to His knowledge? "The world by wisdom knew not God." As to any way of restoration to the Divine favour, they were totally in the dark. As to any change of heart, they knew not their need of it. And would there be more success in applying to sceptical writers of modern date? Not the least. Whom can the sick cure? whom can the blind direct? Hither, then, let all of us who regard wisdom betake ourselves. Shall we wait till Socrates know something, or Anaxagoras find out light in darkness, or Democritus draw up truth from the bottom of his well? Lo! a voice from heaven teaching the truth, and showing us a light brighter than the very sun. Why are we so unjust to ourselves as to hesitate to adopt this wisdom? — a wisdom which learned men have wasted their lives in seeking, but never could discover. If we lack wisdom, we must apply to God Himself; how then are we to know that His will is? He speaks to us in His Word. Yet this is not to be understood as if the mere perusal of Scripture would of itself bring to true practical wisdom, or even necessarily lead to the formation of correct theoretical opinions. Human teaching and the reading of the Scriptures in a spirit of self-dependence, may lead to orthodox notions; but they may lead far astray from them. Divine teaching is the only certain way of leading even to a correct line of thinking. This revelation is not a miraculous discovery of new truths, for in that sense they are all already revealed in Scripture; but it is the enabling of humbled persons to understand, to believe, to love, to obey, and to take a personal and lively interest in these truths. It is a work on the mind itself. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." If, then, we allow the necessity of this teaching, we ought next to inquire how it is to be obtained. To this inquiry the answer is direct — "Ask of God." Prayer is the grand means of attaining this wisdom.
1. Comply with this direction in order to obtain just views of doctrine.
2. This suggests the use of this method to ascertain your religious state. You are enjoined to examine yourselves. But your hearts are deceitful. Ask, then, of God that He would be pleased to guide you to the right conclusion.
3. Ask wisdom of God to know and to avoid whatever is wrong.
4. Attend to this direction, too, that you may be led to the practical knowledge of positive duties.
5. In a state of uncertainty, as to the steps you should take in the important pursuits and changes of life, implore providential direction. "I will instruct thee." saith the Lord, "and teach thee in the way that thou shouldest go; I will guide thee with Mine eye."
6. If blessed with prosperity and affluence, you have the utmost need to pray that you may not forget God, but may attain wisdom to render your salvation certain, which would otherwise be impossible.
7. If pressed with severe afflictions, it is only when they are accompanied with Divine teaching, that you can so bear and so improve them as to reap any benefit from them. Nay, the direction itself cannot be properly complied with, unless we obtain, in the very attempt, wisdom to comply with it; for we cannot pray aright of ourselves. Let us, therefore, say with the disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray."
III. The encouraging PROMISE held forth to every one who will comply with the direction, God "giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." God is here represented as "the hearer of prayer"; yet with a particular reference to His answering of prayers for saving wisdom. In short, there is an express promise that whoever applies to God in cases of doctrine, or duty, shall be guided aright. But some will be disposed to say, "Is not this to set aside common sense and rational argument, and to open up the floodgates of fanaticism? or, if it must be so, how can these things be? Tell us precisely in what way this overruling influence is exerted." This promise disclaims all regard to extraordinary voices, visions, impressions, and, in short, everything apart from the written Word. It calls on men to be found in the use of the ordinary means, and, sensible of their own liability to error, to implore that God would guide them. Now, how God's directing the mind should be considered as impossible, or involving any. absurdity, we are at a loss to conceive. We pretend not, indeed, to explain the precise manner of His operations; nay, we readily confess our inability to do so; but we ask whether this difficulty be not common to almost every inquiry of a similar nature. It meets, with equal force, all who allow a Providence, but who are obliged to confess that they cannot unravel its mysteries. What more irrational than to exclude the eternal Spirit Himself from all access to those spirits which owe their very being to His will?
1. That God has made this promise, should of itself convince us of its certainty; yet, perhaps, the best illustration of it which can be given is to show its fulfilment in fact. And here it may be remarked, that many of the most celebrated characters in Scripture have left evidence of its being fulfilled in their cases. "O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth." "I have not departed from Thy judgments, for Thou hast taught me" (Psalm 71:17; Psalm 119:102). A most striking instance is furnished in the history of Solomon (1 Kings 3.). When the Apostle Peter uttered the believing declaration, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," our Lord answered and said unto him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed is unto thee, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things" (1 John 2:20). Nor has this teaching, in so far as it relates to a personal apprehension of Divine truth, been confined to the ages of inspiration.
2. Another proof of the fulfilment of this promise is exhibited in the uniformity of sentiment, of practice, and of heart, among truly humble, praying persons of every name. It is evident that those scholars who follow any one master who understands the science he professes to teach, will resemble each other in their ideas of that science, But, let it be observed, that we do not say that this promise extends to those who continue merely nominal Christians; nor ought any one to expect that it will be fulfilled in those who neglect the distinctly marked and the absolutely necessary prerequisites. It requires humility, a disposition of implicit submission to the dictates of Scripture, and dependence on Divine instruction. I have said there is a remarkable harmony of views among truly humble, praying persons. Do not oppose to this the differences of various denominations. As in the scholars of the same master we expect only a general agreement, and not a complete identity of sentiment; as in the children of the same family we expect to see only a general likeness, and not an absolute sameness of features; so is is among the disciples of the Lord Jesus — among the children of God. But there are some peculiarities of expression in this promise well deserving of attention, as directly calculated to remove every sentiment which would discourage you from applying to God. One may be ready to say, "It is true that the Lord thus instructs those who serve and honour Him; but it would be vain presumption, in so unworthy and sinful a creature as I am, to make application." In reply to this, none are excluded but those who think themselves too wise to need His aid; but you are sensible of your need, therefore you are by no means excluded, for God "giveth to all men" — or all who ask. A second may be ready to say, "Were there only a few things in which I needed guidance, I could expect to be heard; but I am so very ignorant, there are so many questions which I need to ask, that I fear God would be offended with my importunity." Hear, however, the encouraging declaration: God giveth "liberally." All His communications are on a scale of liberality worthy of Himself, David testified that the Lord had "dealt bountifully" with his soul. And, finally, there are some who, if they do not speak out their minds, yet feel in this way; conscious of their ignorance, they are kept back from availing themselves of instruction by a fear that, in the very application, their ignorance will be detected, and that they themselves will be exposed to ridicule and contempt. There may be reason to apprehend such treatment from some of their fellow-creatures; but there is no reason to fear such treatment from their heavenly Teacher, for God "up-braideth not."To sum up the whole in a few practical exhortations.
1. See that you all use the external means of acquiring saving wisdom. It is a general rule that blessings are promised only when you are in the way of corresponding exertions. Let, then, the Word of God be your daily study. Attend on the preaching of the Gospel, because it is enjoined, and because experience proves it to be one great means of enlightening the mind.
2. Let me expostulate with you who have not followed the direction in the text. It is to be feared there are some of you who have never been brought to humble dependence on Divine teaching, but are under the lamentable deception of trust in your own minds.
3. Improve whatever light you already possess. But, more particularly, this subject speaks in encouraging language to those pious persons who are not possessed of human learning. Look up, then, thou taught of God, to Him who guides thee, lift up thy voice aloud and stag. The range of thy idea is limited, extending, perhaps, but a short way beyond the spot which gave thee birth; but, in much human wisdom there is often much sorrow; while the light that shall bless thee in heavenly mansions, already irradiates thy humble dwelling. Nor would it be the part of gratitude, or of benevolence, to keep all this precious wisdom to yourselves. Endeavour to diffuse it in your more immediate circle, on every side. And, to say no more, sensible of your remaining ignorance, continue in the same humble supplication for farther teaching, and abide all your lifetime in the school of Christ; so shall you, undoubtedly, obtain a clearer light — a light which will cheer you in the darkest night of sorrow, and turn even the shadow of death into the morning.
(J. Foote, M. A.)I. WHO IS TO ASK? "If any of you lack ' — evidently the lacking man. A man who is full does not feel the need of asking: he has no necessity for seeking. Now, we know as a matter of fact and of experience, that as long as we are living an even, prosperous life, even though we may be Christians, there is great danger lest we should fancy that we lack not. There is great danger lest we should be satisfied with our faith, with our Christian standing, with our conduct in the world, and with our general deportment. "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." But presently trial comes, and we know that trial very soon searches us out, and makes us feel that there is that in our faith which is lacking, that in our love which is lacking, that in our obedience which is lacking, that in our separation from the world which is lacking, that in many parts and phases of our Christian character and conduct, which comes far short of that to which it ought to have attained.
II. FOR WHAT? "If any of you lack" — now what are we to ask for? The case supposed is that of a Christian under trial. You will observe that the apostle does not direct us to pray for deliverance from the trial; he does not direct us to ask that the trial may be removed — this is a very common prayer; but it is rarely a wise or a safe prayer; and it is not often a successful prayer. St. Paul, when the thorn in the flesh was sent to him, sought the Lord thrice, that it might be taken from him; but it was not taken from him; his prayer was not answered as he had offered it. Neither, you will see, does the apostle direct us to pray for patience, for a stronger faith, for an entire submission; all that is most important. But what we want when the trial comes is, first and foremost, Divine wisdom, that we may be able first rightly to understand the true meaning of God in the discipline that we may be able to see what His purpose is in thus dealing with us. Then, having that wisdom, we shall receive the trial submissively and with resignation. I believe that one of the causes why men murmur so much against God's discipline is because they do not understand it. And thus we shall use it rightly; we shall make use of it for our sanctification, and the perfecting of the work of God in the soul.
III. OF WHOM IS this wisdom to be sought? Obviously of God; and very emphatically is the giving character of God brought out in this verse, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask" — literally it is," of the giving God"; "of the giver God, who giveth to all men." Our Lord has taught us that it is "more blessed to give than to receive," and it is one of the attributes of the Divine character that He delights in giving — He is God, the Giver. But the Christian under trial, feeling the impenitence and the hardness of his own heart, feeling how he has rebelled against God, feeling how little he deserves any blessing from God, may ask, "Is this for me? Have I any right to look for it?" Observe how large are the terms of the promise — "that giveth to all men" — there is no exception there. God gives, and He gives "simply." There is no complexity in His giving. When man gives, he gives from a variety of motives, and he very often makes the person who receives feel that he is receiving a favour, and to receive that which is given to him with very unpleasant feelings; but there is nothing of this kind in God's gifts. When He gives, He gives simply; as the word is further explained in what follows, "And upbraideth not." There are things for which God does upbraid us. He rebukes us for our sins and our shortcomings, that we do not come and ask simply, as He is willing to give simply; but God never upbraids us for asking for wisdom; He never finds fault with us for seeking this great blessing and gift at His hands.
IV. THE MANNER HOW are we to ask? The apostle does not say, "Let him ask with humility" — that is implied, I think. Every man who really feels his need will come to God in a humble spirit. Neither does he say, "Let him ask with reverence"; that, I think, is implied. Every man who feels his need and lifts up his thoughts to the great God must come before Him with more or less of reverence and abasement of self. That which is placed before us as the essential qualification of the prayer which is to receive air answer, is simply this," Let him ask in faith," with a full and certain persuasion that God can and that God will answer such petition. And it is this spirit of doubting which is condemned by the apostle, as that which absolutely disqualifies the person who prays for the reception of the promised grace. There are, I think, three reasons which are adduced in the verses which follow.
1. In the first place, the doubting man offers no firm heart, and no firm mind, for the reception of the Divine gift, and, therefore, God cannot deposit that gift, so to speak, upon that heart and mind. "He that wavereth, he that doubteth, is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed."
2. But secondly, the doubting man dishonours God. If God makes a distinct promise, God declares that if we come before Him and ask for the fulfilment of that promise, He will grant it, and we come before Him doubting whether He wilt fulfil the promise and carry out His Word or not, do we not dis-honour Him?
3. But then there is another and a third reason given, namely, that the doubting man is unable to retain and to profit by the gift even if it were granted. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." We know that double-mindedness is of the very essence of weakness.
(E. Bayley, B.D.)1. This wisdom may be said to consist in a knowledge of the truth of religion, at least of the principal and common proofs of it.
2. It consists in a knowledge of the things which a Christian ought to believe and to do.
3. And because to know our duty avails nothing, unless we practise it, religious wisdom consists in a lively sense of the possibility, reasonableness, obligation, and advantage of performing what God requires, which will excite us to persevere in the observation of it.
I. To WANT WISDOM, if we consider the words by themselves, MAY MEAN, EITHER TO HAVE NONE AT ALL, OR NOT TO HAVE A SUFFICIENT MEASURE OF IT. And here, if we consider the many frailties and defects which stick close to the best of men, and the violent assaults of some temptations, and the great faults into which the most religious have sometimes fallen, we may reasonably conclude that few, if any Christians, during this their state of probation, are so accomplished in this true wisdom as to need no further improvement.
II. If any of you lack wisdom, LET HIM ASK OF GOD. This must have seemed strange advice to those who ascribed too much to their own reason and relied too much on their own understanding. Men are often slow to give, and glad of any plausible excuse for witholding their hand: they often accompany their acts of kindness, when they condescend to per. form them, with reluctance, haughtiness, and insolence, and upbraid at the same time that they relieve; they set too high a value upon the good offices which they have done: they expect most unreasonable submissions and compliances; and upon any failure this way, they make loud complaints of the ingratitude of the obliged person: they often bestow their favours, not according to the wants or to the deserts of those whom they assist, but either with a view to some return, or as mere unthinking capricious fancy directs. They will give to those who humour and flatter them, to the bold and importunate, against their inclination, purely to purchase repose, and with slights and forbidding coldness they will receive the person who hath everything that ought to recommend him to their esteem. A state of dependence upon God is liable to none of these inconveniences. If we lay open our wants to men, perhaps they will not believe us, or will charge them to our own fault; but the things of which we stand in need are known to God before we ask Him. Such encouragement we have to ask wisdom of God. One condition indeed there is, from which we cannot be excused, and that is a belief that we shall obtain our requests. Let him ask of God, and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. It ought to be observed that, in the gospel, a firm persuasion of God's good will towards us is perpetually represented as absolutely necessary to make us capable of obtaining any favours from Him. In the case of miracles, faith, that is a belief that the miracle should be performed, was often required both of the person who wrought the miracle, and of the person on whom it was wrought. When any came to our Saviour to be cured by Him, and declared their belief of His power, He always healed them, and usually added these words, "As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee"; "Thy faith hath made thee whole"; "According to your faith be it unto you"; "Thy faith hath saved thee." In prayer, also, the same condition is required, and without it we must not expect to obtain our petitions. Upon which it is natural to make these two inquiries: Why doth God so strictly require this faith? and, Why is it so acceptable to Him, that He rewards it with conferring upon us all that we ask?
1. God requires of us a belief that we shall obtain our petitions, because He hath given us abundant reason to believe it.
2. Another reason why God demands such faith is, because upon a belief of His paternal care and kindness all religion is founded.The other question is, Why is this faith so acceptable to God that He rewards it with granting our petitions? If it be asked, Why so? the answer is, because it produceth many good moral effects; because it is the greatest honour which we can pay to God; and because it is one of the best proofs of a well-disposed mind.
1. A firm faith in God is the guardian of all other virtues, and suffers us not to be seduced by worldly hopes, or deterred by worldly fears from the performance of our duty; and as it is stronger or weaker, such will be its influence on our practice.
2. We cannot honour any man more than by placing an entire confidence in him.
3. A steady faith is also a victory over many doubts which the world and the flesh usually raise in vicious minds.
(J. Jortin, . D. D.)I. THE WANT SUPPOSED. Wisdom is far more than knowledge or understanding. We may have vast stores of information, we may even have high powers of mind, and after all be little if any better than the merest simpletons. It is a peculiar combination of the intellectual and the moral. It dictates the choice of worthy ends, and the employment of the most suitable means for the accomplishment of these ends. As a gracious thing, a spiritual gift, it is an enlarged acquaintance with the Divine revelations and dispensations, an insight into the meaning of the Word and the plan of Providence, especially as they bear on character and conduct, with a state of feeling and a course of action in harmony with their teaching. It consists in seeing what is the mind of God, what He would have us believe and do, and in yielding ourselves up to His will as thus ascertained, in the face of all opposition from without and from within, in defiance alike of frowns and flatteries fitted to turn us aside. He says here, "If any of you lack wisdom." The present exhortation is closely connected with what precedes, and is to be viewed accordingly. Believers are to count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations; but how is that possible? Under these trials they are to let patience have its perfect work; they are to endure without fretting or fainting, without grasping at questionable expedients or premature deliverances, seeking through all and above all the attainment of a spiritual maturity, a Christian completeness, in which nothing shall be wanting. We can well imagine them saying, "Who is sufficient for these things?" How are we to pierce the darkness of the Divine dispensations and get at the meaning of His dealings? How can we thread our way through the perplexities of these manifold temptations? Wisdom, what wisdom, is needed for every part of it — for the regulation alike of our views, feelings, words, and actions in seasons of trial! "Well," says the apostle, "if any of you realise this in your own cases, if you are sensible of your want of wisdom, if you feel unable to cope with these divers temptations, to solve such problems, escape from such snares, then here is the remedy — go and have your lack supplied, go and be Divinely fitted for the fiery ordeal."
II. THE REMEDY PRESCRIBED.
1. It is asking of God (ver. 5). It is not let him study, let him speculate, let him search human systems, let him ransack the recesses of his own being, let him cultivate and strain his intellectual powers to the utmost. It is thus men left to themselves have engaged in the pursuit of wisdom. Far simpler and more effective is the Scriptural method — "Let him ask"; that is all, only ask. But of whom? Is it of philosophers and sages so called, of the Aristotles and Platos of antiquity, or of their applauded successors in modern times, whether home or foreign? No; however wonderful the attainments of some of these have been — and we are far from depreciating them in their own place — they cannot bestow this gift, for they have not had it in any high and holy sense themselves. Is it of priests and prophets, of those holding sacred offices and possessing special spiritual speculations? No; they cannot effectually impart it, however much of it they may have received and manifested in their teaching. It is "of God" — the omniscient, all-wise, "only wise God." He has it as one of His infinite perfections; it is an essential attribute of His nature. He can communicate it to creatures truly, efficaciously, savingly, by His inspired Word and His Holy Spirit; and He is not less willing than able to do it, as His promises testify and His dealings demonstrate. "God that giveth." It is literally "the giving God" — that God of whom this is characteristic, to whom giving specially, distinctively belongs. He is infinitely full, all-sufficient of and for Himself. He neither needs nor can receive anything, properly speaking. With Him there is only imparting, constant, unwearied communicating; and where there is a rendering back to Him, it can only be of what He has previously bestowed, both as regards the disposition and the offering. He "giveth to all men." The term "men" is supplied by the translators. The statement, wide as it is in this form, admits of extension. His goodness reaches far beyond human beings (Psalm 145:15, 16). But while we are not the only, we are the chief objects of His care and recipients of His bounty. How manifold the blessings which are showered down on men of every country, condition, and character — men without any distinction or exception whatever! But while thus true in the largest, most absolute sense of the expression, still we are most probably to regard the statement as limited to genuine suppliants, the giving in question being conditioned by the asking. His ear and hand are open to all who come in the manner here set forth. His grace is dispensed without partiality or distinction. He listens not merely to favoured classes or particular individuals, but to as many as call on His name in spirit and in truth. The one requisite is asking. Where there is that, the giving is never wanting. No real seeker is sent empty away. And now mark His mode or style of giving. He does it "liberally"; more literally and exactly, He does it "simply." God confers blessing really and purely, without stint and without condition. There is nothing partial or hesitating about it, as there often is when performed by men. Theirs is generally a mixed and modified giving, a giving and a withholding — the one with the hand, the other with the heart — a giving and a taking; that is, doing it from a regard to certain returns to be made, certain benefits to be received in consequence — a giving accompanied by terms that detract from the graciousness of the act and impose no light burden on those who accept the favour. God does it not thus; no, it is a free, single, simple thing in His case: it is giving, and that without mixture, that entire and alone — giving from the pure native love of giving. He says, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it." Nor does He confine Himself to what is asked. Often He far exceeds His people s requests (1 Kings 3:11-18). And upbraideth not. He indulges in no reproaches. He connects His bestowal of gifts with no recriminations. He might point to the past, and ask, "How much have I given you already, and what use have you made of these My former favours?" or, keeping to the present, He might say, "Think of your weakness and unworthiness — how unfit you are to appear before Me, how ill-prepared to receive any such blessing"; or, directing the view forward, He might chill our hearts and shut our mouths by declaring, "I know the miserable improvement you are sure to make of whatever I bestow — how you will break all these promises, falsify all these professions." He does indeed seem at times thus to chide suppliants, as witness our Lord's language to and His treatment of the Syro-Phoenician woman; but He does it only to stir up desire, try faith, and prepare the soul for appreciating more highly and receiving more gratefully what for the moment He appears to withhold. He does it to furnish new arguments, which the heaven-taught petitioner takes up and urges with irresistible effect. The apostle adds, "And it shall be given him." There is here no peradventure, no mere chance or probability of success. There is absolute certainty. Many dig for treasure, and never find it; but in this field there is no possibility of failure. James may have had before his mind, when thus writing, that most precious passage (Matthew 7:7-11). What encouragement is there here for those who lack wisdom, or indeed any blessing, to have recourse to this quarter for the needed supply I
2. It is asking in faith. Not only go to the right quarter, but also go in the right manner. Faith is absolutely essential in all our religious exercises (Hebrews 11:6). It is specially insisted on as requisite to the success of our approaches to the mercy-seat (Matthew 21:22; James 5:15). We must draw near, confiding in the ability and willingness of God to grant our requests, resting in the truth of His Word, the certainty of His promises, and pleading for all through the infinite merits of the adorable Redeemer, having respect to His finished work, and it alone, as the ground of our acceptance and our expectations. "Nothing wavering." We are to ask without doubting, fluctuating, vacillating — not carried hither and thither by conflicting influences. It refers first and chiefly to prayer. It is not to be irregular, inconstant, fitful — urgent to-day, formal, perhaps neglected altogether, to-morrow, it is not to be for this and the other thing by turns — now for one blessing, then for a different, as if we knew not what we lacked or desired, as if neither our wants nor wishes had any fixed, definite character, had any real and deep hold of our spirits. Above all, we are not to oscillate, like a pendulum, between faith and unbelief, distrust and confidence, at one time pleading with boldness, filling our mouths with arguments, bringing forth our strong reasons, and anon, it may be, saying or thinking there is no use of asking; we are too unworthy to be heard — we have been, and still will be sent empty away. "For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed." What more unstable, restless, changeable! Such a wave is now carried toward the shore, then hurled back from it; now it mounts to heaven, then it goes down into the depths. It is in ceaseless motion, and yet, with all its rising and falling, there is in reality no progress. So it is with many persons. Borne along by strong feelings at certain seasons, you would think them decidedly, even ardently, religious. But while their emotions have been deeply stirred, their principles have not been thoroughly changed. The world retains its old hold of their hearts, and soon you may find them as eagerly devoted to its interests and as entirely conformed to its ways as those who made little or no profession. Believers have their fluctuations also. They have many ups and downs in their condition and their experience. Often are they in the midst of tumult; and the confusion around may be little in comparison with the confusion within. But still faith is the ruling, predominant power in them; it guides them through these tempestuous tossings, and under its influence the storm is changed into a calm. Having told us what wavering is like, the apostle now explains and enforces the warning against it by declaring that it must be fatal to success in prayer — "For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord" (ver. 7). In point of fact he does receive from Him many a thing. He is constantly cared for and supported by that Lord whom he distrusts, He is fed, clothed, protected, blessed with countless temporal and not less with high spiritual privileges. But he need expect nothing in answer to prayer, as the fruit of his asking. He has no good reason to look for the least portion or any kind of favour by coming to the footstool of mercy. Why? His wavering hinders God from giving. Such a suppliant dishonours, insults God to His face, by doubting the truth of His Word, by treating Him as unworthy of confidence, by not drawing near in the way He has prescribed as that in which alone access can be had and benefits obtained. It unfits us for receiving, as well as hinders the Lord from giving. What use could we make of the blessing sought if it were granted? The unsteady hand cannot hold the full cup, but spills its contents. Those who have no stability, no fixed principles and plans, are little the better for anything they obtain. We often see this in temporal matters. Some persons are so changeable, irresolute, unreliable, that any help you give them is of little service. It is practically very much the same whether they have or want, for whatever they may get soon disappears. This feature of the ease is brought out strongly in what is added — "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (ver. 8); or, continuing the account of the waverer who is to receive nothing, James says of him, "He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." Double-minded — that is, he has a divided spirit; he is drawn in two opposite directions — now heavenward, then earthward; now he goes forward, then backward; now to the one side, then to the other. It is not only in prayer that his divided mind appears; that is but a manifestation of what comes out in every department of his conduct. It is only an index of his character generally. He is unsteady, uncertain, not to be depended on in his whole course of action. He wants the resolute will, the fixed purpose; he wants strength of mind and deep religious principle.
1. Let us realise our need of wisdom. Without it we will not discern the hand or the purpose of God in our divers temptations. Without it we will not see either the source of support under them or the door of deliverance from them. Without it we will flee to false refuges, and perhaps adopt means of cure worse a great deal than the disease itself. And we need it not only for the bearing and improvement of trial, but for the whole of our Christian work and warfare. We require the wisdom of the serpent amidst the snares and perils by which at every step we are surrounded. Not restrained and regulated by it, zeal often defeats its own ends, and injures the cause which it seeks to advance.
2. Let us see how this and every want is to be supplied. We must go out of ourselves, and rise far above all creatures. We must repair to the only good, the only wise God. Ask of Him — ask largely. We please not Him by coming with narrow and poor requests. Ask boldly. Not in a presumptuous or self-sufficient, but in a hopeful, confiding, filial manner. Be humble, but not timid; be lowly, but not fearful, desponding in spirit. Lay hold of the exceeding great and precious promises which are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus.
(John Adam.)any of you," is so wide that whatever may be our necessity, whatever the dilemma, this text consoles us. This text might be peculiarly comforting to some of you who are working for God. You cannot work long for your heavenly Lord without perceiving that you need a greater wisdom than your own. To every honest Christian worker this text speaks with all the soft melody of an angel's whisper. Thy lips shall overflow with knowledge, and thy tongue shall drop with words of wisdom, if thou wilt but wait on God and hear Him before thou speakest to thy fellow-men. Thou shalt be made wise to win souls if thou wilt learn to sit at the Master's feet, that He may teach thee the art which He followed when on earth and follows still. But the class of persons who just now win my heart's warmest sympathies are those who are seeking the Saviour; and, as the text says, "If any of you," I thought I should be quite right in giving seekers a share of it.
I. THE GREAT LACK OF MANY SEEKERS, NAMELY, WISDOM. This lack occurs from divers reasons.
1. Sometimes it is their pride which makes them fools. Like Naaman, they would do some great thing if the prophet had bidden them, but they will not wash and be clean. If this be thy difficulty — and I believe in nine cases out of ten a proud heart is at the root of all difficulty about the sinner's coming to Christ — then go to God about it, and seek wisdom from Him. He will show you the folly of this pride of yours, and teach you that simply to trust in Jesus is at once the safest and most suitable way of salvation.
2. Many persons also are made foolish, so that they lack wisdom through their despair. Probably nothing makes a man seem so much like a maniac as the loss of hope. When the mariner feels that the vessel is sinking, that the proud waves must soon overwhelm her, then he reels to and fro, and staggers like a drunken man, because he is at his wits' end. Ah! poor heart, when thou seest the blackness of sin, I do not wonder that thou art driven to despair! You lack wisdom because you are in such a worry and turmoil. As John Bunyan used to say, you are much troubled up and down in your thoughts. I pray you, then, ask wisdom of God, and even out of the depths, if you cry unto Him, He will be pleased to instruct you and bring you out into a safe way.
3. No doubt many other persons lack wisdom because they are not instructed in gospel doctrine. The window of the understanding is blocked up with ignorance; if we could but clean away the cobwebs and filth, then might the light of the knowledge of Christ come streaming in, and they might rejoice in His salvation. Well, if you are be-mired and be-puzzled with difficult doctrine, the text comes to you and says, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God."
4. Ignorance also of Christian experience is another cause for the lack of wisdom. The way of life is a new road to you, poor seeking soul, and therefore you lack wisdom in it and make many mistakes about it. The text lovingly advises, "Ask of God"; "Ask of God."
5. Very likely, in addition to all this. which may well enough make you lack wisdom, there are certain singularities in the action of Providence towards you which fill you with dismay. It is not at all an uncommon thing for the Lord to add to the inward scourgings of conscience the outward lashings of affliction. These double scourgings are meant for proud, stubborn hearts, that they may be humbly brought to Jesus's feet. Then it is that eternal mercy will take advantage of your dire extremity, and your deep distress shall bring you to Christ, who never would have been brought by any other means.
6. Many lack wisdom because, in addition to all their fears and their ignorance, they are fiercely attacked by Satan. He it is who digs that Slough of Despond right in front of the wicket-gate and keeps the big dog to howl before the door so that poor trembling Mercy may go into a fainting fit and find herself too weak to knock at the door. Now, in such a plight as that, with your foolish heart, and the wicked world, and the evil one, and your sins in dreadful alliance to destroy you, what could such a poor timid one as you do if it were not for this precious word? "If any of you" — that must mean you — "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not."
II. THE PROPER PLACE OF A SEEKER'S RESORT — "Let him ask of God." Now you perceive that the man is directed at once to God without any intermediate object or ceremony or person. Above all, do not let the seeker ask of himself and follow his own imaginings and feelings. All human guides are bad, but you yourself will be your own worst guide. "Let him ask of God." When a man can honestly say, "I have bowed the knee unto the Lord God of Israel, and asked Him, for Jesus's sake, to guide me by His Spirit, and then I turned to the Book of God, asking God to be my guide into the book," I cannot believe but what such a man will soon obtain saving wisdom.
III. THE RIGHT MODE IN WHICH TO GO TO GOD.
1. The text says, "Let him ask," which is a method implying that ignorance is confessed. No man will ask wisdom till he knows that he is ignorant. Make a full confession, and this shall be a good beginning for prayer.
2. Asking has also in it the fact that God is believed in. We cannot ask of a person of whose existence we have any doubt, and we will not ask of a person of whose hearing us we have serious suspicions.
3. There is in this method of approaching God by asking also a clear sight that salvation is by grace. It does not say, "Let him buy of God, let him demand of God, let him earn from God." Oh, no! — "let him ask of God." It is the beggar's word.
4. Observe here what an acknowledgment of dependence there is. The man sees that he cannot find wisdom anywhere else, but that it must come from God. He turns his eye to the only fountain, and leaves the broken cisterns.
IV. The text has in it ABUNDANT ENCOURAGEMENT for such a seeker. There are four encouragements here.
1. "Let him ask of God, who giveth to all men." What a wide statement — who "giveth to all men"! I will take it in its broadest extent. In natural things God does give to all men life, health, food, raiment. Now, if God hath gifts for all men, how much more will He have gifts for that man who earnestly turns his tearful eye to heaven and cries, "My Father, give me wisdom, that I may be reconciled to Thee through the death of Thy Son"! Why, the grass, as Herbert says, never asked for the dew, and yet every blade has its own drop; and shall you daily cry for the dew of grace and there be no drop of Heaven's grace for you? Impossible. Fancy your own child saying, "My father, my father, I want to be obedient, I want to be holy"; and suppose that you have power to make your child so, could you find it in your heart to refuse? No; it would be a greater joy to you to give than it could be to the child to accept. But it has been said the text ought not to be understood in that broad sense. I conceive that there is implied the limitation that God giveth to all who seek. There are some men who live and die without the liberal favours of grace, because they wickedly refuse them; but He gives to all true seekers liberally.
2. The next comfort is, He gives to all men liberally. God does not give as we do, a mere trifle to the beggar, but He bestows His wealth by handfuls.
3. It is added as a third comfort, "and upbraideth not." That is a sweet word.
4. Then comes the last encouragement: "It shall be given him." Looking through my text, I asked the question, "Is that last sentence wanted?" "Let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." Now, if the Lord gives to all men, He will certainly give to the seeker. Is that last promise wanted? And I came to this conclusion, that it would not have been there if it was not required. There are some sinners who cannot be contented to draw obvious inferences; they must have it in black and white. Such is the fearfulness of their nature, they must have the promise in so many express words. Here they have it — "it shall be given him." But to whom shall it be given? "If any of you lack wisdom." "Well," says one, "I am quite out of all catalogues; I am one by myself." Well, but you are surely contained in this "any of you." "Ah!" says one, "but I have a private fault, a sin, an offence which I would not dare to mention, which I believe has damned me for ever." Yet the text says, "If any of you." "Let him ask of God, and it shall be given him." "But," says one, "suppose my sins should prove to be too great!" I cannot, will not, suppose anything which can come in conflict with the positive Word of God.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)1. What this wisdom is. It is the doctrine of the Cross here specified, namely, to endure patiently whatsoever God layeth upon us, and to know that God in singular love correcteth all those with the rod of affliction whom He purposeth to make heirs of His eternal glory. This to know is wisdom far greater than the wisdom of men. This wisdom standeth in two things —(1) In knowledge, that we wisely understand the causes for which we are thus afflicted of God as that partly for the punishment of our sins, partly for the more manifestation and plain trial of our faith, partly for the advancement of God's greater glory, that thereby in the deliverance of men from their calamities He might be more glorified; finally, that hereby we being touched might repent, lest we perish with the world. Hereof to have true understanding is a great point of wisdom.(2) As the wisdom how to bear the cross consisteth in knowledge of the ends wherefore it is inflicted, so also it consisteth in an inward feeling and judgment when in our hearts and consciences we have sense of the comfort of the Spirit which in afflictions of this life supporteth us and with assured hope of safe deliverance in due season under-proppeth us.
2. This wisdom is not a quality in nature, but a grace and an excellent girt of God; therefore of Him only is this wisdom to be sought, which the apostle to intimate willeth that if any man lack this wisdom he should ask it of God. To bear the cross patiently, to know the use of afflictions truly, to feel the comfort of the Spirit inwardly — this is wisdom not of man, but of God, not of ourselves, but from His heavenly goodness, from whom all wisdom floweth as from a fountain.
3. Patiently to bear the cross, wisely and well to behave ourselves in our afflictions, being a gift from God, what hope have we to obtain it by asking of Him? Three ways are we here to conceive hope of obtaining this wisdom from God.(1) From the promise we have from God that He will hear when we call, open when we knock, give when we ask it of Him. Almighty God assureth us of this hope by His prophet, by whom He willeth us in the days of tribulation to call upon Him, with promise that He will hear us. In fine, He protesteth that He is more ready to hear us than we to call upon Him, and more willing to supply our need than we desirous to ask it at His hands.(2) As from the promise that is made us that we shall obtain, so from the liberality of God we must conceive hope of obtaining the thing we pray for. God giveth to every man liberally. Shall He not give us wisdom who is liberal to all men? Shall we distrust His goodness who is rich to all that call upon Him? Shall we suspect His bountifulness which poureth out plentifully His blessings upon all flesh?(3) We have hope to obtain this wisdom at the hands of God from the goodness of His nature. He giveth His gifts liberally to all men, and He upbraideth none, neither casteth any man in the teeth either with His benefits so plentifully poured upon us or with our beggarliness and miserable want whereunto we are subject; therefore is there great hope of obtaining the wisdom we pray for.
4. But how shall we ask this wisdom? How shall we pray for the gift of patience that we may obtain it? Ask it in faith, and waver not! Faith in all the prayers of God's saints is necessary, neither is there anything which more hindereth the grants of God towards man than when they doubt or waver in their prayers, distrusting either the power of God, as not able, or His goodness, as not willing to hear us in the days of our necessities, which distrustfulness is no small evil in the sight of God; neither is it a light matter to doubt of obtaining that thou desirest, whereby thy double heart and wavering mind is descried. Who in asking pretendest hope, in wavering distrustest either the power or promptness or readiness of God to give thee the desire of thy heart and to doubt either of His power or promptness and readiness of mind is great impiety, disloyalty, and ungodliness.
(R. Turnbull.)1. All men are concluded under an estate of lacking. Dependence begetteth observance. If we were not forced to hang upon Heaven, and live upon the continued supplies of God, we would not care for Him.
2. Want and indigence put us upon prayer, and our addresses to Heaven begin at the sense of our own needs.
3. There is need of great wisdom for the right managing of afflictions.(1) To discern of God's end in it, to pick out the language and meaning of the dispensation (Micah 6:9). Our spirits are most satisfied when we discern God's aim in everything.(2) To know the nature of the affliction, whether it be to fan or to destroy; how it is intended for our good; and what uses and benefits we may make of it (Psalm 94:12). The rod is a blessing when instruction goeth along with it.(3) To find out your own duty; to know the things of obedience in the day of them (Luke 19:41). There are seasonable duties which become every providence; it is wisdom to find them out — to know what to do in every circumstance.(4) To moderate the violences of our own passions. He that liveth by sense, will, and passion is not wise. Skill is required of us to apply apt counsels and comforts, that our hearts may be above the misery that our flesh is under. The Lord "giveth counsel in the reins," and that calmeth the heart. Well, then —(a) Get wisdom if you would get patience. Men of understanding have the greatest command of their affections.(b) To confute the world's censure; they count patience simplicity and meekness under injuries to be but blockishness and folly. No; it is a calmness of mind upon holy and wise grounds; but it is no new thing with the world to call good evil and to baptize graces with a name of their own fancying. As the astronomers call the glorious stars bulls, snakes, dragons, &c., so they miscall the most shining and glorious graces. Zeal is fury; strictness, nicety; and patience, folly! And yet James saith, "If any lack wisdom" — meaning patience.(c) Would ye be accounted wise? Show it by the patience and calmness of your spirits. We naturally desire to be thought sinful rather than weak. "Are we blind also?" (John 9:40).
4. In all our wants we must immediately repair to God.
5. More particularly observe, wisdom must be sought of God. He is wise, the fountain of wisdom, an unexhausted fountain. His stock is not spent by misgiving (Job 32:8). Men have the faculty, but God gives the light, as the dial is capable of showing the time of day when the sun shines on it.
6. God will have everything fetched out by prayer (Ezekiel 36:37). Prayer coming between our desires and the bounty of God is a means to beget a due respect between Him and us; every audience increaseth love, thanks, and trust (Psalm 116:1, 2). We usually wear with thanks what we win by prayer; and those comforts are best improved which we receive upon our knees.
7. Asking yieldeth a remedy for the greatest wants. Men sit down groaning under their discouragements because they do not look further than themselves. Oh! you do not know how you may speed in asking. God humbleth us with much weakness that He may put us upon prayer. That is easy to the Spirit which is hard to nature.
8. God's dispensations to the creatures are carried in the way of a gift. Usually God bestoweth most upon those who, in the eye of the world, are of least desert and least able to requite Him. Both not He invite the worst freely? (Isaiah 55:1).
9. "To all men." The proposals of God's grace are very general and universal. It is a great encouragement that in the offer none are excluded. Why should we, then, exclude ourselves? (Matthew 11:28).
10. God's gifts are free and liberal. Many times He giveth more than we ask, and our prayers come far short of what grace doth for us.(1) Do not straiten God in your thoughts (Psalm 81:10). When God's bounty is not only ever-flowing, but overflowing, we should make our thoughts and hopes as large and comprehensive as possibly they can be.(2) Let us imitate our heavenly Father, and give liberally — with a free and a native bounty; give simply, not with a double mind.
11. Men are apt to upbraid, but not God.(1) God gives quite in another manner than man doth. It is our fault to measure infiniteness by our last, and to muse of God according as we use ourselves. Let us learn not to do so. Whatever God doth He will do as a God, above the measure of the creatures, something befitting the infiniteness and eternity of His own essence.(2) God does not reproach His people with the frequency of their addresses to Him for mercy, and is never weary doing them good.
13. One asking will prevail with God.
(T. Manton.)I. FOR WHAT THE WISDOM IS NEEDED. TO achieve Christian perfection. Materials for building a house are nothing without the requisite constructive ability. Recollect what abundant material the willing-hearted people brought for the making of the tabernacle; they had even to be stayed at last; but all the willing-heartedness would have done nothing without Bezaleel and Aholiab to make use of the materials.
II. THE WISDOM TO BE SOUGHT OF GOD. Thus there is relief from all need to attempt definitions of wisdom. The Father of Jesus knows what is needed toward perfection.
III. We are helped in asking by recollecting THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN GOD AND MEN IN RESPECT OF GIVING.
1. God is the giving God. That can be set forth as an element in His character. He is not part of the energy of life, which has to receive before it can give.
2. He is the God giving liberally. His giving is pure giving, giving for the need, giving uncomplicated by considerations of whether it will pay to give.
3. The God giving without reproach. God's giving is ever gladsome giving. The more we ask for, of the right sort, the more He has to give and the better He is pleased.
(D. Young, B. A.)
(M. F. Sadler, M. A.)wise man of business. An actual case of the kind is not very common, for the interests of this world keep men from such outrageous folly; but, alas! it is by no means rare to see a man of much worldly sagacity, heedless of the great ends of his being — diligent in the twisting of a certain thread, or the preparation of a certain dye, for the web of life, whilst yet the web itself, looked at in the light of the Lord, is worthless. True wisdom lies in the subjection of all our capacities and energies and affections to the control of high moral principles, and the consequent faithful application of them all to noble moral uses; and the fear of God is the beginning — the foundation — of this wisdom.
(R. Johnstone, LL. B.)Psalm 32:9; Psalm 48:13). This is a part of the endowment of Pentecost. This is that gift of right estimate and practical wisdom which we need so much, and seek so little; and for the want of which all our lives through we make most lamentable and hurtful mistakes. Surely it was not Joshua only who erred when he made peace with the Gibeonites without seeking counsel from God. It was not David only who erred, when following his own opinion against the remonstrances of such a man as Joab, he numbered the people; but Christians who have received the Spirit, and who may always have larger and larger gifts of wisdom only for the asking; and amongst those foolish Christians, ourselves also, are continually falling into grievous errors for want of a right judgment. How happy would that country be, how peaceful and prosperous, if the citizens used a right judgment in all things. Far more would this possession be to them than rich mines, or fertile fields — a much greater endowment. Would parents indulge their children, to those children's future misery, if they exercised a sound judgment? Now, they spoil their children, and too late use that most sad lament, "The more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved." Would parents place their children in places of temptation, in which, whilst their bodies perhaps grow, their souls shrink up and die, if by an exercise of right judgment they perceived that this world is not their children's best prospect, nay, that it is their worst, if by misuse it mars the everlasting future? How about the parents' own souls? Would it be possible for Christians with any real judgment, any show of wisdom and understanding, to value things temporal more than the unseen and the eternal? Knowing what they do of the value of education, of practising the powers of the mind and the body, could they dream that their present scanty devotions, stinted worship in the sanctuary, communions, if any, rare and ill-prepared for; few and hurried readings of Scripture, could they dream, I say, that their souls can thus be prepared for the presence of God? There is such a thing as a natural judgment, part of that endowment of reason which remains to us after the Fall, although often clouded and overpowered by passions. And even this we are often not at the trouble to use. We speak upon impulse, and act upon impulse; speak unadvisedly with our lips, and act hastily and unwisely. How few go to God, and ask for His guidance in their difficulties, and in every perplexing turn of their lives! How few pray earnestly for "right judgment in all things." Few, few indeed. Oh what a privilege it is, what a happiness, to be able to commit our way to the Lord! What a comfort to be able to repair to Him and lay our burden down at His feet! When we cannot decide for ourselves, and when we cannot trust any man to decide for us, we can resort to the Ear which is ever open to our cry, the Eye ever watchful to guide us. And observe that the answer to our prayers is not simply good advice, or good influence. It is nothing less than the gift of the Holy Sprat Himself, which God bestows upon those that ask Him; nothing less than God the Holy Ghost, the Third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity, living wisdom, light, truth, holiness; disposing as well as directing, enabling as well as suggesting.
(W. E. Heygate M. A.)James 3:17) as produced by the wisdom which cometh down from above. Or it may be that same religiousness which is named in Scripture as "the fear of the Lord," which fear the Psalmist (Psalm 111:10) calls "the beginning of wisdom," and (Psalm 112:1) describes as great delight in the commandments of the Lord (see also Job 18:28).
(C. F. Deems, D. D.)
(S. Cox, D. D.)
(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
"Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in Thee I find."
Bengel's Life.Bengel having observed, respecting the ways of Providence, how much often depends upon a single minute circumstance; look, for instance, he said, "how frequently all the events relating to a young clergyman's marriage and future condition in life, and perhaps the destinies of many hundreds of souls, may be traced up to the apparent accident of a vacancy in some pastoral charge." Here a friend replied, "This is what renders it so serious a matter to decide for one's self; that one is perplexed to know whether one ought to proceed according to one's best judgment immediately, or take more time to wait." "This," said Bengel, "is the very thing which makes it so desirable to pray without ceasing."
Bengel's Life.It belongs to true wisdom to meditate, hit upon, and mind whatever is to the purpose at the right time.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Giveth to all men liberally.
Homilist.I. IN HIS BESTOWMENT OF THE HIGHEST SPIRITUAL GIFT. "Wisdom "consists in choosing those ends which are Worthy of our nature, which are the highest within the reach of our faculties, and in the employment of the best means in the best way for the attainment of those ends. It stands, in one word, for moral excellence or religion — the chief good.
II. In His bestowment of the highest spiritual gift ON THE SIMPLEST CONDITION. "Let him ask." This means soul-asking, an earnest, importunate, persistent yearning.
1. The man who does not intensely desire this "wisdom," or religion, will never have it.
2. The man who does intensely desire it is sure to have it.
III. In His bestowment of the highest spiritual gift, on the simplest condition, IN A SPIRIT OF SUBLIME GENEROSITY. He gives in a spirit of —
2. Genuine liberality;
3. Unreproaching affection.
(Homilist.)God who is accustomed to give, who is known amongst men and ages as "The Giver"! And that there may be the utmost encouragement, James gives three characteristics of His giving: It is universal, abundant, unselfish. One may say, "I am so insignificant"; another, "I am so sinful"; another, "I have so little faith"; another, "I am so hard." But you are a human being, and He gives to all. "But I am so fearfully lacking, my need of wisdom is so great. If I had any sense whatever, I might apply to Him." But He "giveth liberally." He longs to have great things asked of Him. Go to little men for little things. It is as easy for a great man to do a great thing, as for a small man to do a small thing. God, the Father, King of the world, may be asked for the largest gifts, since no giving can possibly render Him poorer. A humane monarch once said, "The greatest advantage of being a king is, that the king has the power to make so many happy." The advantage which God has over all His children — even earthly monarchs — is that He has more power to make mere people happy. The unselfishness of the Divine Giver is seen in that He never "upbraids." Human givers are so interested in their part of any giving transaction that a much-solicited person is apt to do or say something which shall remind the receiver of his obligation, and to make former gifts a reason for withholding that which is now sought; and, more especially, if good use has not been made of former benefactions, to upbraid the ungrateful or thriftless receivers. Even human parents sometimes do this. It requires the greatest nobility to rise above such inclinations. Our Father never upbraids. He never prints to the misuse we have made of any former gifts. He never tires of giving. He is so delighted to have us ask, that He Would have us more ashamed of not coming to Him for needed wisdom than for any other fault or sin.
(C. F. Deems, D. D.)1 Kings 3:11-14). The prodigal thinks of the position of "an hired servant," and his father says (Luke 15:22-24). Sweet and beautiful, however, as this word "liberally" is, the apostle's own word is something even more comprehensive and encouraging. It is the adverbial form of the term employed in Romans 12:8, and Ephesians 6:5. The exact meaning here is, that God gives "with simplicity," "with singleness of spirit": He does not as men often do, give and yet in effect not give; He does not give, and yet by an unkind manner, or by subsequent ungenerous exactions, neutralise the benefit of His giving; His kindness in giving does not, as so often with men, fold in upon another motive of a selfish nature; His giving is without any duplicity, with singleness of aim to bless the recipient, to reveal the love of His own nature for the happiness of His creatures. "And upbraideth not" is pretty nearly an expansion, in a negative form, for the sake of clearness and emphasis, of the thought already giver in "liberally," "with simplicity." We may easily weary human benefactors. Those who have often shown no kindness are apt to feel continuing it a burden; and even if they do continue it, there is much chance of our hearing painful references to the frequency and largeness of our applications. Under these circumstances a suppliant may well enter the house even of one whom he has good cause to acknowledge as friend with hesitation and fear. But God, in His giving, "upbraideth not." He makes no mention of our past folly and abuse of His kindness. He always employs His past kindness as an argument to induce us, through trust in His love, to ask for more and greater blessings (Psalm 81:10).
(R. Johnstone, LL. B.)know the Father will answer. There is no "perchance" here. There are no conditions in asking God for wisdom. He that seeks it shall find. The petitioner may present his prayer as a claim, and demand the answer of this special prayer as the fulfilment of God's special promise. All the more may he do so, because this wisdom is something no man can have by inheritance, and no man can acquire by any study under the best teachers and amidst the best circumstances, and no man can impart to his fellowman. For this wisdom we must "ask of God."
(C. F. Deems, D. D.)&c.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
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