‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’ James 1:5
Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 8:16–22
When a man is really under concern of soul, he is in a condition of considerable danger. Then it is that an artful false teacher may get hold of him, and beguile him into heresy. Hence the text does not say, ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask his priest;’ that is about the worst thing he can do; for he who sets himself up for a priest, is either a deceiver or deceived. ‘Let him ask of God;’ that is the advice of the Scripture. We are all so ready to go to books, to go to men, to go to ceremonies, to anything except to God. Man will worship God with his eyes, and his arms, and his knees, and his mouth—with anything but his heart—and we are all of us anxious, more or less, until we are renewed by grace, to get off the heart-worship of God. Juan de Valdes says that, ‘Just as an ignorant man takes a crucifix and says, “This crucifix will help me to think of Christ”, so he bows before it and never does think of Christ at all, but stops short at the crucifix; so,’ says he, ‘the learned man takes his book and says, “This book will teach me the mysteries of the kingdom”, but instead of giving his thoughts to the mysteries of godliness, he reads his book mechanically and stops at the book, instead of meditating and diving into the truth.’ It is the action of the mind that God accepts; it is the thought communing with him; it is the soul coming into contact with the soul of God; it is spirit-worship which the Lord accepts. Consequently, the text does not say, ‘Let him ask books,’ nor ‘ask priests,’ but, ‘let him ask of God.’ 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.’
For meditation: Whom or what do you see as your go-between in your dealings with God? The only mediator he will accept between you and him is the one he has appointed himself—the second Person of the Godhead, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). In his name we can ‘ask of God’ directly (John 14:13–14; 15:16; 16:23–24).
Sermon no. 735
17 February (1867)