I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
The ‘Nevers’ of the Gospel
May I never fail to come to the knowledge
of the truth,
never rest in a system of doctrine, however
scriptural, that does not bring or further
or teach me to deny ungodliness and
or help me live soberly, righteously, godly;
never rely on my own convictions and resolutions,
but be strong in thee and in thy might;
never cease to find thy grace sufficient
in all my duties, trials, and conflicts;
never forget to repair to thee
in all my spiritual distresses and outward
in all the dissatisfactions experienced in
never fail to retreat to him who is full of grace
and truth, the friend that loveth at all times,
who is touched with feelings of my infirmities,
and can do exceedingly abundantly for me;
never confine my religion to extraordinary
occasions, but acknowledge thee in all my ways;
never limit my devotions to particular seasons
but be in they fear all the day long;
never be godly only on the Sabbath,
or in thy house, but on every day abroad
and at home;
never make piety a dress but a habit,
not only a habit but a nature,
not only a nature but a life.
Do good to me in all thy dispensations,
by all means of grace,
by worship, prayers, praises,
And at last let me enter that world where is
no temple, but only thy glory
and the Lamb’s.
—The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002).
Christ’s Authority from the Father
But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. 15 The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
19 Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
We learn first in this passage, that honest obedience to God’s will is one way to obtain clear spiritual knowledge. Our Lord says, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
The difficulty of finding out “what is truth” in religion is a common subject of complaint among men. They point to the many differences which prevail among Christians on matters of doctrine, and profess to be unable to decide who is right. In thousands of cases this professed inability to find out truth becomes an excuse for living without any religion at all.
The saying of our Lord before us is one that demands the serious attention of people in this state of mind. It supplies an argument whose edge and point they will find it hard to evade. It teaches that one secret of getting the key of knowledge is to practice honestly what we know, and that if we conscientiously use the light that we now have, we shall soon find more light coming down into our minds.—In short, there is a sense in which it is true, that by doing we shall come to knowing.
There is a mine of truth in this principle. Well would it be for men if they would act upon it. Instead of saying, as some do,—“I must first know everything clearly, and then I will act,”—we should say,—“I will diligently use such knowledge as I possess, and believe that in the using fresh knowledge will be given to me.” How many mysteries this simple plan would solve! How many hard things would soon become plain if men would honestly live up to their light, and “follow on to know the Lord!” (Hosea vi. 3.)
It should never be forgotten that God deals with us as moral beings, and not as beasts or stones. He loves to encourage us to self-exertion and diligent use of such means as we have in our hands. The plain things in religion are undeniably very many. Let a man honestly attend to them, and he shall be taught the deep things of God.
Whatever some may say about their inability to find out truth, you will rarely find one of them who does not know better than he practices. Then if he is sincere, let him begin here at once. Let him humbly use what little knowledge he has got, and God will soon give him more.—“If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” (Matt. vi. 22.)
We learn, secondly, in this passage, that a self-exalting spirit in ministers of religion is entirely opposed to the mind of Christ. Our Lord says, “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh His glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”
The wisdom and truth of this sentence will be evident at once to any reflecting mind. The minister truly called of God will be deeply sensible of his Master’s majesty and his own infirmity, and will see in himself nothing but unworthiness. He, on the other hand, who knows that he is not “inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost,” will try to cover over his defects by magnifying himself and his office. The very desire to exalt ourselves is a bad symptom. It is a sure sign of something wrong within.
Does any one ask illustrations of the truth before us? He will find them, on the one side, in the Scribes and Pharisees of our Lord’s times. If one thing more than another distinguished these unhappy men, it was their desire to get praise for themselves.—He will find them, on the other side, in the character of the Apostle St. Paul. The keynote that runs through all his Epistles is personal humility and zeal for Christ’s glory:—”I am less than the least of all saints—I am not fit to be called an Apostle—I am chief of sinners—we preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (Ephes. iii. 8; 1 Cor. xv. 9; 1 Tim. i. 15; 2 Cor. iv. 5.)
Does any one ask for a test by which he may discern the real man of God from the false shepherd in the present day? Let him remember our Lord’s weighty words, and notice carefully what is the main object that a minister loves to exalt. Not he who is ever crying,—“Behold the Church! behold the Sacraments! behold the ministry!” but he who says,—“Behold the Lamb!”—is the pastor after God’s own heart. Happy indeed is that minister who forgets self in his pulpit, and desires to be hid behind the cross. This man shall be blessed in his work, and be a blessing.
We learn, lastly, in this passage, the danger of forming a hasty judgment. The Jews at Jerusalem were ready to condemn our Lord as a sinner against the law of Moses, because He had done a miracle of healing on the Sabbath-day. They forgot in their blind enmity that the fourth commandment was not meant to prevent works of necessity or works of mercy. A work on the Sabbath our Lord had done, no doubt, but not a work forbidden by the law. And hence they drew down on themselves the rebuke, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
The practical value of the lesson before us is very great. We shall do well to remember it as we travel through life, and to correct our estimate of people and things by the light which it supplies.
We are often too ready to be deceived by an appearance of good. We are in danger of rating some men as very good Christians, because of a little outward profession of religion, and a decent Sunday formality,—because, in short, they talk the language of Canaan, and wear the garb of pilgrims. We forget that all is not good that appears good, even as all is not gold that glitters, and that daily practice, choice, tastes, habits, conduct, private character, are the true evidence of what a man is.—In a word, we forget our Lord’s saying,—”Judge not according to the appearance.”
We are too ready, on the other hand, to be deceived by the appearance of evil. We are in danger of setting down some men as not true Christians, because of a few faults or inconsistencies, and “making them offenders because of a word.” (Isa. xxix. 21.) We must remember that the best of men are but men at their very best, and that the most eminent saints may be overtaken by temptation, and yet be saints at heart after all. We must not hastily suppose that all is evil, where there is an occasional appearance of evil. The holiest man may fall sadly for a time, and yet the grace within him may finally get a victory. Is a man’s general character godly?—Then let us suspend our judgment when he falls, and hope on. Let us “judge righteous judgment.”
In any case let us take care that we pass fair judgment on ourselves. Whatever we think of others, let us beware of making mistakes about our own character. There, at any rate, let us be just, honest, and fair. Let us not flatter ourselves that all is right, because all is apparently right before men. “The Lord,” we must remember, “looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. xvi. 7.) Then let us judge ourselves with righteous judgment, and condemn ourselves while we live, lest we be judged of the Lord and condemned forever at the last day. (1 Cor. xi. 31.)