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Bible Study and Wisdom
E J Waggoner
Coloured emphasis added
Studies in the Book of Hebrews. - No. 15.
1897 General Conference Daily Bulletin
Friday Afternoon, Feb. 26, 1897.
WE may begin here as though we were leaving off at the close of the hour. If any one has any questions to ask, perhaps it would be better for them to be given now. So if there are any practical questions upon any of these points we have been considering - practical questions, not speculations - we should be glad to consider them.
Elder Lane - "I was asked yesterday if I thought you were teaching that although we lived very near to God, and had much of his blessing, we would ever come to understand the minds and very motives as Christ did. This was a question which resulted from the statement you made that Christ had no more than we may have. It says in regard to him that he knew what was in man. So if we have enough faith, can we reach that same point?"
[Read the] Twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians. I do not know anything, I have no opinion whatever, except what I read; and all can know what is written just as well as I.
"Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
But to every one the Spirit is given to profit withal. Therefore when the people of God come to be the people of God indeed, - come to give up their own way, their own devices, their own schemes, for the Lord himself to be their wisdom, God himself to be in them by his Spirit, in his fullness, - then the gifts of the Spirit will be in the church because every living soul will have some gift of the Spirit. The Spirit divides to every man severally as he will. Discerning of spirits is one of these.
I know of but one man in the world since the time of Christ, who had all the gifts of the Spirit at one time. That was the apostle Paul; he had the whole series, an apostle, a teacher, an evangelist, a prophet, a discerner of spirits, talking with tongues, interpretation of tongues, the gift of miracles, the gift of healing - all found in that one man. I never read of another man who had such an abundance of gifts. But God takes everybody, every individual, and gives to every one his work.
He gives to every man according to his several ability, according to the work God designs he shall do. The fullness of the Spirit in him will make him competent for that work. God will give to every soul just the gifts that are needed for every occasion.
We do not need to explain as to the operation of the Spirit.
The essential thing for us is the acceptance of the Spirit.
Then whatever the Spirit is pleased to work in us, we will give God the glory. But we will not choose. We have the statement, "As he is, so are we in this world." "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." He has put into us that same word of reconciliation. "So then we are ambassadors for God, as though God did beseech you by us," in his stead. The same work, you see, the very same work is given to us, that was given to Christ: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." To fit him for his work, "in him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead." So the inspired prayer of the disciple for us is, -
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory,
to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith: that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
There is no difference; the same things are given to us, that were given to
Jesus, for we are joint heirs with him. That is not
It is not depreciating Christ, but it is the Spirit endeavoring to give us a conception of the wonderful height to which God lifts man. The Spirit desires that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. He wants us to see and know these things. Is there another question?
(A voice) - "How could Jesus trust in God when he was a very small child, if all the wisdom he had was acquired?"
I cannot explain it; it is enough for me to know that he did. Of course the question hinges on that word if - if all the wisdom he has was acquired.
Elder Fifield - "It seems to me that some of the most perfect trust there is, is that of the child. The Bible says, Except ye be converted, and become as little children."
Of course children trust. But we get the idea that because children are small, and do not bother themselves about things as we do, they do not trust, when they have a great deal more than we do. Men build up doubt by their vain reasonings and philosophies only to knock it down again; but the child is not so foolish as to build up a great pile of stuff that he has to knock down again.
But to return to that point, as to Jesus' acquiring knowledge. It is a vital one, just as any other. On that depends whether we are going to get all the benefit of Christ, or whether we are going to dig a ditch and make a separation. Now, if he was such a monstrosity that as a child he had enough knowledge to fit out a full-grown man, what likeness is there between him and us? What benefit can we get from his experience? What a big advantage he had over us then. Could I get any benefit from his experience in such a case? - No; it would simply be discouraging. But it says that he was tempted in all points like as we are. "It behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren." There is the benefit, the advantage.
Elder Jones suggests that the words in Ps.22:9, 10, make it plain.
The Lord kept him as a child, as a youth, and as a man; and he will do the same thing for us, if we put our trust in him.
Now take the case of Solomon, who, according to the Bible, was the wisest man that the world ever saw. There was none like him before or after, and all the world came to see the wisdom of Solomon. How did he get his wisdom? - God gave it to him? Did he go to bed one night, and wake up the next morning a wise man? He himself has told us how he got his wisdom, and how we may get it. It is true that he sought the Lord. The Lord said, What will you have? He said, I will have wisdom. The Lord says to us, What will you have?
We desire wisdom, too.
We are in continual need of wisdom about something or other.
How shall we get it? - "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." But let him be watchful about one thing. Let him ask in faith.
How does faith come? - By hearing. Hearing what? - The Word of God. Let him ask, then, according to the Word of God. If he asks according to the Word of God, there is no doubt about his getting wisdom. Solomon asked for wisdom, and he got it. Turn to the second chapter of Proverbs, and we shall find out how he got it. There is only one way. The old proverb used to be that there is no royal way to knowledge. But there is. That is the only way there is to learn. Solomon was a king and he has given us the royal way to wisdom. And this is not simply Solomon's opinion. It is the Spirit of God speaking through Solomon, and what the Spirit of God spoke to Solomon, he speaks to us. Let us read it:-
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea every good path.
How did Solomon get his understanding? - He dug for it. He cried for it day and night. That is the way men seek silver and gold. That is the way the millionaires get their money. They put their minds on that one thing to the exclusion of every other thing day and night, because they would rather have money than anything else. Now, we would rather have wisdom than anything else, because the wisdom of God is salvation, and the salvation of God is everything. We have the key to the whole universe then. Solomon studied. He asked the Lord, and then studied, and the Lord gave him light. He studied God's Word, "for the Lord giveth wisdom, out of his mouth cometh understanding."
So Solomon got his wisdom from the Word of God, and he did not have nearly so
much of the written word as we have. But there was not another thing that
Solomon had to make him the wisest man the world ever saw. Do you believe it? It
was just by the study of the Word of the Lord.
Some of you do not believe it, because you have read the Old Testament through, and you did not find very much in it. I have traveled across Nevada and Colorado, and I never saw any silver or gold in either State. Shall I say that I do not believe there is any gold or silver in these States because I never saw any there? But it is there nevertheless.
I was not looking for it when I was there, and did not dig for it. Other men have found lots of it there. Some men may say that they see wisdom in the Bible, but only in certain directions; it does not tell a man how he ought to do in a Conference. It does not tell a man how he ought to do in his own affairs. How do you know it does not? You may say you have not found it there. It is one thing to say it is not there, and another to say you have not found it; because it has been found. Solomon found it there. And the Lord found it there, because he was greater than Solomon. Jesus was wiser than Solomon, and we have access to the same source of instruction that Solomon had.
The question will come, How shall we know when we get the truth, that it is the truth? How shall we know we have the right way.
I will tell you how you cannot know: if you use your mind to speculate, and try to reason things out. You get hold of some subject, some idea, then take that and try to drive it through the Bible, and use one text here, and another text there, and another text elsewhere, that will fit, - while you may have a pretty good theory, you cannot know anything about whether you are right or not. Of course you cannot. You will always be in doubt.
The most you will be able to say is that according to your best judgment so and so is the truth. That is not studying the Bible at all.
That is studying yourself, and trying to get the Bible to agree with you.
It is another thing from studying the Bible.
The same doubt will also always be in your minds when you take truth at second hand. The Lord says, Dig, just as you would for treasure. Take the Word, and look at it, and delve into it, until its truths are imprinted in your mind. And let them be turning over and over and over, just keeping them until they are digested and assimilated, and we get the good that there is in them. And then the light comes. It is life and you see it. Now, from my own experience I tell you that is the only way to learn anything of the Bible.
Elder G. F. Watson - "Do you understand that we should not study by subjects?"
You cannot study the Bible that way.
Nobody ever studies the Bible by subjects.
That is not studying the Bible at all.
You study the Bible itself, without reference to subjects, and then when a man asks you a question on any subject you are ready, no matter where he strikes you; you fall upon your feet every time. It makes no difference where you start in, it is there, and you see it.
Now, when you take a portion of Scripture, read it and reread it, keeping your mind fixed upon it as though you would see to the bottom of it, - why, it is just wonderful. I can say for myself, that I do not deserve any credit for anything I know, because I have not obtained it by any shrewdness I have in studying things out. I simply take a scripture and look at it, and look at it. I want to know what it says, and that is all, without any speculation; and I will not allow myself to think, even myself by myself, one hair's breadth from what the Bible says. I have not any curiosity to speculate about the Bible; my curiosity is just all in abeyance.
The trouble is, we go a little way in the Word, and then start off on a speculation, going on nothing, wondering about this, and building up this theory and that theory; but we have no business to do that. It is not fair to treat ourselves or anybody else that way. I simply keep looking and looking, and it comes.
Now, can a man know a thing that he sees? If the window is open here, and we look out, can we tell what we see? We look out here, and we see the sun shining; and we look out on the other side, and we see the sun itself. Then do we call two or three of the brethren, and say, Now, I want to be sure that I am right on this? I see something there; is that light? or is it not light? I want to be sure. The window is open, and I ask, Is that light? or is that not light? What would you think was the matter with me? - You would think I was blind.
We want to be able to know light when we see it. And it certainly ought not to be a difficult thing for one to be able to do that. I would not give a farthing if every one in this house should go with me out into the street, and tell me the sun is shining. That would not help me one bit. You think I am wonderfully conceited, don't you, because I can tell when the sun is shining? Well, I have fairly good eyesight, and what I see I know.
Now, when we get acquainted with the Lord, we know the light, and we do not need to have somebody to tell us that it is light. Every one of us has to have that knowledge for himself, so that he can know it for himself; and he does. We have that statement in 1 John 2:20: "Ye have an unction from the Holy One." Have we? Settle that point.
"And know all things." How can that be? - Because just as it is told in the fourteenth chapter of John, "The Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things." He will not teach us anything wrong. He will lead us into all truth. How much will there be that we need to know that we cannot have, and cannot find out? Now 1 John 2:27 "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."
Whoever receives any truth, no matter how true it is, from a man, and recognizes that as coming from a man, has not the truth at all. Whoever will quote a man, when he is trying to teach somebody, - well he is not teaching with authority. He does not know what he is trying to teach, and cannot expect that the people will. The man who knows the truth teaches as though there was not another man on earth who believed it. He knows it so thoroughly that any number of men in this world denying it would not have the least effect upon him.
Elder Kauble - "Is it not just as possible for a man to be positive that he sees light when he does not see it, as for a man to be positive that he sees light when he does see it?"
No; it is impossible. A man cannot be sure of a thing that is not so.
A man may be deceived, but we have no business to be deceived. What in the world are we in the world for as teachers, if we do not see and know the truth? What business have we to go out and teach somebody else what we do not absolutely know? How dare we do it, and thus run the risk of leading him astray?
Question - "Was not Paul just as positive when he went about persecuting the disciples, that he was doing God's service, as he was after he was converted?"
No; he was kicking against the pricks.
Elder Kauble - "I read in the Testimonies that we ought not to teach new doctrines until after counseling with the leading brethren. The question comes, Are we to take our own individual judgment as to what is light?"
No; we are not to take our own individual judgment about anything. Cursed is the man that trusteth in man. There is nothing so accursed as for a man to trust in himself. We have the mind of the Spirit to depend on, instead of our own. That statement in the Testimonies is needed, but we need not be worried over it. Did you ever meet a man, and he would say, I have a new sermon, a new point, some new light. He tells you about it, and says, What do you think about this. He does not mean, of course, to ask your advice, but only to get your assent to his theory, so that he will feel more secure.
I will tell you that in all my experience I have never seen anything in that way. In all my experience in the truth I have never yet found a new point, or gone to any one and said, I have a new point; because I never tried to get out anything new. I have not the slightest sympathy with anybody that goes about to get out new theories. Such a one could be in better business than that.
Elder Ballenger - "Are we not commanded to get things new and old out of the storehouse?"
That is all right; I did not say that I do not get things new, for I am getting such things all the time. But we do not get new things by jerks. We are not studying to find something to unload on somebody else, or to arouse the anxiety of the congregation with the thought that they are going to get something that will tickle them, something that will create a sensation, that will be startlingly new, and that nobody ever thought of before. Such a man always does harm, even though there be some truth in that which he has.
Truth is always the same, the old, old story, and yet it is always new. It is life, new life; it is the old thing always brightening up. It is eternal life. We live in eternity, if we are the Lord's. He has given us eternal life, the power of the world to come. And the one characteristic, the chief characteristic of it is, that it is always fresh. The earth made new will be just as new after ten thousand years, as the first day.
The man who reads a text of scripture before a congregation, and does not every time he reads that text learn something new from it, has not his eyes upon God. It is not something that you can sit down and jot down with the pen and ink; it simply comes. The new things that come to me are not the things that I keep a memorandum of, so that I can go about and say, Here I have another new thought.
Indeed, the man that gets so little light that he can keep a memorandum of it, does not get enough to do him much good.
It just keeps coming, coming, coming, like the rising of the sun. You cannot mark it. You cannot make two successive marks indicating the rising sun's position in the heavens. When you make the second, it is not there. It is rising. It is higher, continually higher. So is the light from the Sun of Righteousness. Light is life, and life is growth, continual growth.
(A voice) - "Such a man is going on and on; he is growing. 'The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.'"
Why, brethren, if we had to meet together to decide upon every ray of light that God gives, we should have to be in General Conference all the year around. Light is coming all the time. A man cannot put his hand out and mark it. You cannot, no man in this world can write out a synopsis of faith, and tell the truth. You cannot get at it in that way. Truth is from God, and must be drank in as he has given it. A man is not to go around conscious of how much he knows. There is only one help to Bible study, and that is the Spirit of God.
Question - "Do we understand that receiving the Word of God is receiving the Spirit of God?"
Yes, if you receive the Word of God indeed, because it is a living thing; it is the bread of life. If you take it as written by some other man, it is not Spirit at all. But if you take it as the living Word, spoken by God himself, then it is life.
But, as I was saying, we are not to go around burdened with a sense of what we know. Why, brethren, when the apostles received the Spirit of God, do you suppose they went around all the time burdened with the consciousness of power? Christ said to them, Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; but do you suppose they went about conscious of that power? - No; they were simply ordinary men the same as before, without any consciousness of power; but when the occasion for a certain thing arose, being always yielded to the Spirit, they were ready for the occasion.
Brethren, we need to study the Bible; stop fooling with
it; stop using it as a plaything; begin to study it, and believe there is
something in it. There is more in it than you have any idea of. There is
everything in it.
We are studying the question, "I will put my trust in him." We have seen justification by faith is the bottom and the substance of everything. See here, as we saw in what we read the other day, the failure to receive - not simply to assent to, but to receive - righteousness by faith is the cause of all these complications and these difficulties that have arisen.
Do you see the point? Does that teach you anything? Does that not teach this, that if we all accepted righteousness by faith, and all that is in it, - because that means eternity of progress, - if we received it into our lives, we should know just how to do in everything? because it would open up the whole Bible to us, and then we would be saved all these difficulties, and all the snarls that we get into, and not have to spend so much time getting out.
The trouble with many people is, trusting in the Lord makes them think, and it is hard work to think, and so they would rather trust in themselves. Now, that seems like a paradox. A great many people think that the worker who trusts in the Lord, and who preaches by faith, is the man who doesn't think. How many times, as I have tried to impress upon the ministers that they should depend upon the Lord for their preaching just as much as they do for their living right, have I heard the objection raised, "We must not be haphazard; we must not go at random; we must not depend upon the spur of the moment, and go and give whatever we happen to have in our minds."
The testimonies say all that. But who said that depending upon the Lord was going at haphazard? You might as well say that the man who trusts in the Lord, to be kept from sin, is going in an utterly reckless, foolish way.
It does look foolish to the man who doesn't know anything about it. And I know how foolish it used to seem to me, how absurd, to think that man, by believing, could be protected from doing a wrong thing. But I know it now, and there is no foolishness in it. There is no going at random about it, for it holds a man right to the Rock all the time; and the man who throws himself into the hands of the Lord, that he will preach by faith - do you suppose he isn't going to think and study?
The reason why so many people do not trust the Lord is because it requires so much thinking; when instead of that they can just take a little time, when they feel well, and think for an hour or two, and work out a subject to their satisfaction, and they are forever free from thinking on that subject. Then when they get ready to preach, they can get out their notes, and all the time they know exactly how much they know, because they have it in their pocket.
But, brethren, you cannot carry the Word of God in that way. You cannot carry the Word of God in your pocket. You have to carry it inside of your own heart. It has got to be a part of yourself.
And as you go along, you may be unconscious that you know anything about a certain thing - the whole thing is gone from your mind, because you don't need to use it then, and some brother comes along and says, "What is your opinion about this thing?" I don't know anything about it; I haven't any opinion. But if somebody comes along who needs light, somebody who wants help for his soul's salvation, and that very thing is a thing that is going to help him out, the Spirit of the Lord will bring it, and it will be as clear as daylight, and you will see it, and all you have to do is just simply to read off to that man, or that congregation, just what you see by the Spirit of the Lord, - what the Spirit brings to your remembrance.
But it does not bring that which we have not been giving our minds to; and that throws upon us a responsibility of keeping our minds upon the Word of God, of giving ourselves to the Word of God and to prayer, so that we may be ready for every good work; so that whatever condition a man may be in, whatever need, whatever distress of mind, we will have so studied the Word of God that although we may never have seen that man, we have the Word that meets his case exactly.
Now, we do not have to go around burdened with a sense of how much we know, and with everything parceled, and each one of these things labeled in our minds; this subject is here, and that subject is there. We cannot get at truth in that way. But it is all there as light, and when the Spirit of God shows the occasion and the person, they all meet together; we are ready for every good work. It is not we, but the Spirit of God; and we can put ourselves into the channel and be used by the Spirit of the Lord.
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