Sermon 2795. The Double Drawing Near
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 1902.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, SEPTEMBER 22, 1878.
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." James 4:8.
As soon as man had disobeyed God, he ran away from Him. Our first parents hid themselves among the trees of the Garden whenthey heard the voice of the Lord God calling them. They did not come to Him at once, confess the wrong which they had committedand ask for mercy. The natural effect of their sin was to harden their hearts and not to lead them penitently to the greatFather-and it led them impertinently to run away from Him. So, when the Lord came walking in the Garden, in the cool of theday, Adam did not seek Him, to plead for mercy from Him, but the first words had to come from God-"the Lord God called untoAdam, and said unto him, Where are you?" It was God's voice speaking in mercy to His wandering child.
Our blessed Savior has set forth the result of sin in His parable of the lost sheep which has strayed from the fold and which,if left to itself, continues to go further and yet further away. We have, all of us, gone astray, as Dr. Watts says-
"EEach wandering in a different way, But all the downward road"
Our Lord Jesus has set forth this same Truth in that other parable in which He describes the prodigal son as gathering alltogether and taking his journey into a far country, away from his father. He could not live as he wished in his father's house.He could not, there, waste his substance with riotous living. His father's eyes would have been a check upon him at home,so, the only way for him to obtain that foolish and ruinous liberty for which he sought was to get as far off as he couldfrom his father. Alas, this is the condition of every unregenerate sinner-he has gone away from God and he tries continuallyto get further and further away from God. Why do men neglect to keep holy the Sabbath, unless it is that they do not wantto think of God? Why do they put religious books on one side? Why do they leave their Bibles unread but because God's name,God's Person, God's Law, God's Gospel-all about God-has become distasteful to them? Like the fool of whom David tells us,they say in their hearts, "No God!" They do not want Him and if there could be an official announcement made that there isno God, they would welcome it! God is not in all their thoughts, or if He is there at all, it is as an enemy, or as One forwhom they have no care, One whom they are not willing to have to reign over them. O heart of man, you have, indeed, gone astrayfrom your God when the distance at which you are from Him is loved by you and you even wish, in your unkindness and your folly,to make that distance greater! If you wish to return, you are already halfway back, but, alas, you do not wish to return!That thought comes not to you and, if you could, you would take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts ofthe earth in the hope that there you could be hidden from the eyes and the Presence of God!
Knowing this to be true, I am glad to be able to give the message of my text to those who are far off from God because theonly cure for such sinful wandering is for the sinner to come back to God. While the prodigal was in the far country, he couldnot be set right. The first step towards getting back into his right position was his resolve, "I will arise and go to myfather." If he could have filled his belly with husks or anything else-if he could have had his rags exchanged for robes-ifhe could have been made a nobleman in that far-off land, it would have been a mischief rather than a benefit to him, for theradical cure, in his case, must lie in his saying, "Father, I have sinned," and in receiving his fa-
ther's kiss of forgiveness and all the tokens of restoration to his father's favor. It must be the same with any of you whoare far off from God-if you would be right with Him, you must come back to Him.
Poor creatures, how can you be right till you love your Creator? Poor sheep, how can you be right till you are back underthe care of the Good Shepherd? O poor immortal, how can you hope for an eternity of blessedness till the Immortal God is reconciledto you and you are reconciled to Him? A creature remaining at enmity against God must expect to dwell forever with the devilsin Hell! Where can it dwell but where other rebels are confined in chains? You must come back to your God, Man, if you wouldhave eternal bliss, for if you could have one of the harps of Heaven, it would yield no music to you till you had yieldedyourself into submission to the God of Heaven! If you would have the street of gold, it would not enrich you until you hadthe God of Heaven to be your Friend! So I say again that the only remedy for sin- the only radical efficient cure for thegreat evil of iniquity-is for the sinner to come back to God! I want to impress this one point upon you and I pray that God,the Holy Spirit, will work effectually upon some who are here and draw them back to God while, in His name, I deliver thisgracious message to them, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
First, I shall ask you to consider this message with hope. When we have done that, we shall, secondly, learn how to put itinto practice. And then, thirdly, we shall think of how many ways it will help us if we do draw near to God.
I. First, then, let us CONSIDER THIS MESSAGE WITH HOPE-"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
We may consider it with hope, because, first, here is a sincere call to us to come back to God. When we preach from such atext as this, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you," somebody is sure to say, "But is not that the wrong order?Is it not a fact that God draws near to us and thenwe draw near to Him?" Yes, that is the right order and our text is in theright order, too, because there is understood here something which is manifest to every careful reader and which shows thatthe Grace of God is implied at the back of it all. The text itself is a call from God and no sinner ever comes back to theLord until the Lord calls him back. But in this text He does call him-by the mouth of the Apostle, He says, "Draw near toGod" and He bids us repeat this message in His name. To those who are the furthest off and who have wandered the greatestdistance from Him, God says, "Draw near to Me." If you had offended some friend and wished to make up, you would feel thatit was an easy matter if your friend, himself, invited you to come-if he took the initiative and asked you to come to him.Then, I think, you would feel great gratitude to him and say, "He has taken the first step towards our reconciliation. NowI will willingly and cheerfully take the second." It is thus that the Lord sends you this message to induce you to returnto Him, "Draw near to God."
"But may I come to Him?" someone asks. May you do what He bids you do? Of course you may! The text is not merely an invitation,it is a command! Obey it, I beseech you! You must have liberty to obey when God commands. You need not entertain any fearthat you will be an intruder when, in the exercise of His gracious Sovereignty, He says to you, "Come, come, come!" Surely,among those here who are still unconverted, there must be some who will say to Him, "O Lord, You have said to us, Seek youMy face, and our heart says to you, 'Your face, Lord, will we seek."
I have next to remind you that in addition to a sincere call from God, there is also an open road to Him. God says to you,"Draw near to Me," but He would not bid you come to Him if there were no road by which you could come. Once there was a greatgulf fixed between you and God. Your sin had dug a fathomless gulf which you could never have bridged-but Jesus bridged theawful chasm by throwing His Cross across it and now there is a plain and easy way by which the sinner may come back to God.As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses untothem; and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation."
When the Babe was born at Bethlehem, a multitude of the heavenly host praised God and said, "Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace, good will toward men." And when that Babe, after a life of perfect obedience to God's Law, offered upHimself on Calvary's Cross, He said, "It is finished"-and then every mountain was laid low and every valley was filled upthat there might be a magnificent causeway over which fallen and far-off sinners might draw near to God! The making of thatway cost the Savior His life, but He did make it. His heart bled out its life that He might make plain that way of expiationby which, alone, a sinner can come near to God. The road is made and there is now nothing in the way-no Divine anger, no righteouswrath, no avenging Law-to prevent your coming, O you who desire to return to your God! Christ has made the way and clearedit and "no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon,
it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there." So, draw near, for the road is open! Draw near, "withoutmoney, and without price," for the road is free to all who believe in Jesus! Christ has completed it. He has not merely madeit half way, but He has finished it all the way and He, Himself, has said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Oh, then,with what force does the command come, "Draw near to God," when there is an open road by which you may come to Him!
Consider the invitation of the text with great hopefulness, next, because there is an encouraging promise appended to it.You fear that if you were to try to get to God, you could not-and that if you did reach Him, He is so pure and holy that Hemust spurn you because of your impurity-and drive you from His Presence. But read the whole of the text- "Draw near to God,and He will draw near to you." There is nothing in it about casting out, or spurning, or rejecting! The promise is emphatic,"He will draw near to you." I have already referred to the parable of the prodigal son. I will refer to it again by remindingyou that, "when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissedhim." It is, after all, but little of the way that the sinner has to go in returning to his God. The greater part-no, I mightsay, all the way-God comes to the sinner who desires to return to Him! Only turn your face God-ward and your God is at oncewith you!
"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." That is the Inspired declaration! Do you believe it? Oh, I think if youdo, you will at once draw near to Him! Satan will perhaps whisper, "He does not mean you." But, indeed, He means any soulthat comes to Him, for His promise is, "Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out." And the "him that comes" means anysinner, all the world over, who trusts in Jesus! Yes, you shall be received graciously and loved freely if you will but comeback to your God through Jesus Christ His dear Son. "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." Our text ought to belike a hand to beckon you and to draw you back to your God-and you ought to run to Him as swiftly as the doves fly to theirwindows! You have seen the pigeons hastening home to their dove-cotes as if anxious to reach their nests-may the graciousSpirit thus move you to flee away to your resting place in the loving heart of your Lord!
There is one more thing that I want to say before I leave this first point in which I am urging you to a hopeful considerationof the text, and that is, draw near to God, O dear trembling ones, because He will help you to come to Him. Before our LordJesus Christ went up on high, He promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to His Church. And He had not long sat uponHis Throne before the Spirit descended-and that Spirit has never gone away, but He is still here to help our infirmities,to guide us in prayer, to convince us of sin, to reveal Christ to us, to create faith in us and to strengthen that faith whileit is yet weak! If you cannot come to God by yourself, here is One for you to lean upon, who will help you to come! If youfeel as if you could not move a foot, here is a sweet prayer for you to present to God, "Draw me, we will run after You,"and He will draw you! I hope He is drawing some of you now. Do you feel as if you wish you could come to Him? I think thatwish is a proof of His gentle drawing. Are you saying to yourself, "I will think this matter over. I will be careless no longer"?He is, as it were, putting out His finger to guide you, to help you, as a nurse does to a little child whose tottering footstepscan scarcely avoid a fall! Only be you willing to be helped and He will help you! Yield yourself up to Him and He will blessyou. Be like the mariners who spread the ship's sails, after which they can do no more-but when the sails are spread, thewind fills them and the vessel is driven onward to its desired haven. Be you like the needle of the mariner's compass andthe Spirit of God will be like the magnet to attract you. Be you willing to be cleansed from all defilement and He will sayto you, "Be you clean," and so you shall be, for, where the will has yielded itself to Him, the citadel of the town of Mansoulis won and Prince Immanuel takes the entire possession and control of
Listen to me, for a moment or two, while I put together these things of which I have been speaking. God says, "Draw near."There is His call-will you disobey it? It is implied, in that call, that He has made a way for you to come to Him-will younot avail yourself of it? He has added to His call an encouraging promise that you shall be welcomed if you come to Him-willyou suffer that promise to be made known to you, and yet not obtain the blessing that is promised? Then, beside all this,there is the Holy Spirit waiting to be gracious-will you resist the Spirit, as so many have done who have perished in theirsin? I can do no more than tell you these things with affectionate earnestness, but, dear Hearers who are far off from God,the day will come when, however poorly I have told you these things, if you despise or neglect them, you will have to answer,not to me, but to Him who sent me! Therefore, consider, I pray you, what answer
you will give to Him-to the question whether you will come to Him or not-while He says to you, "Draw near to Me, and I willdraw near to you."
II. The second part of our subject is very practical. It is this-LET US LEARN HOW TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD.
"How can a man draw near to God?" someone asks. Well, we must begin thus. Draw near to Him by thinking of Him. God is notfixed in any one place so that we need to go on a pilgrimage in order to reach Him. "God is a Spirit," and the way to drawnear to a spirit is, first of all, to think of Him in our own spirit. I shall begin to have hope of any man's salvation whenhe begins to seriously think about God and about his own relationship to God. Will you do so, dear Hearer? Take time to thinkabout your Creator, your Preserver, your Provider, your Guardian, your Friend, your Judge, your Savior. To help you to thinkof Him, read His Word, for Scripture will both give you the best subject for thought and assist you to understand and knowmore of God.
Seek, also, to hear the Gospel.If you know anyone who speaks to your heart about God, Christ and the Gospel, give him theopportunity of speaking to you as often as it is possible. Also try to talk with some of God's friends-with men who pray toHim, who have communion with Him-and get as far away as you can from those who deny Him and blaspheme Him. In this way, Ibelieve that it will not be long before He will begin to show Himself to you. You will be astonished to find how He is everywherepresent around you-in every flower, in every blade of grass, in every drop of dew you will see signs of His Presence. If youare willing to find Him, you will see traces of His skill and of His wisdom there. If you look at the workings of His Providence,expecting to find Him, you will not look long before you do find Him, for, as we have often been reminded, He who watchesProvidence will never be without a Providence to watch. And when you begin to say, "Wherever I go, I feel that God surroundsme. He is within me and I am in Him."-As such thoughts as those possess you, I shall begin to have bright hopes concerningyou!
Draw near to God, next, by trusting Him. Some of you will not be able to do that immediately-you will have to think a littleabout Him first. And when you have thought about Him and, especially when you have received what this Book tells you aboutHim, then draw near to Him by trusting Him! If you trust God, He will not deceive you. If you believe in Him that He willpardon your sin, He will pardon it. His rule still is, "According to your faith, be it done unto you." Whatever you can believeconcerning God, that is in accordance with what He has revealed in His Word and that is for His Glory, you shall find thatHe will do. He has been pleased to give His dear Son to be the Redeemer of men and He tells us that all those who trust inHim have everlasting life. Now draw near to Him by saying, "If these things are true, I will trust myself upon them. As Godhas revealed them, they are true and I will just cast myself upon Him. Jesus Christ has shed His precious blood to put awaysin and He promises to forgive all who confess their sin and trust Him. I will confess my sin and trust Him to forgive me."One is getting very near to God when he does that, so I bid you, in that sense, draw near to God by trusting Him. And if youdo, He will draw near to you by forgiving you. He will accept your trust and He will welcome you. He will be as good to youas your faith, and better still.
Next, draw near to God by repentance. You have done wrong. Do not stay away from Him and so do more wrong. Do not try to hideyour sin, or to make up a righteousness of your own, but go to God and tell Him that you have done wrong and plead for Hisforgiveness for Christ's sake. Tell Him that you have a tendency to do wrong and ask Him to change your heart. Tell Him thatyou seem to be wrong altogether and beg Him to make you "a new creature in Christ Jesus." Draw near to Him in a penitentialspirit! It is your sense of sin that keeps you back from Him, but, rightly considered, that sense of sin should drive youto Him rather than restrain you from going to Him! What would a man do, if he has offended another, but try to make mattersright between them? To my mind it is a beautiful thing to clear up difficulties and to settle disagreements-but it is thesweetest thing of all to get right with God-to tell Him that you have been all wrong, to plead the merit of His dear Son'sobedience and Sacrifice, and to ask Him to set you right both as to the past and as to the future, too! Draw near to God inthat way, by repentance.
Then draw near to Him in prayer Did I hear you say, "I do pray"? Yes, but do you reallypray? That is the question! You mayhave said certain words, morning and night, for many years, yet you may never once have prayed. Do you know that prayer isthe soul speaking to God? It is not the act of repeating something that you have learned, or heard, or read. The mere utteranceof any particular form of words is nothing. You might as well set up one of the prayer windmills, at which so many have smiled,as expect to pray by the mere repetition of good words! No, no-speak to God! Any true speech, straight from the heart, isaccepted by God. Mr. Rowland Hill stayed one night at an inn and he told the lan-
dlord that he must have family prayer there. "But, Sir," said the man, "we never had such a thing in our lives." "Then," saidMr. Hill, "order out my horses, for I will not stay in any house where I cannot get the people together to pray." "We shallall come in, Sir," said the landlord, hardly realizing the preacher's purpose. Then the Bible was read and Mr. Hill said,"Now, Sir, you pray. Every master should pray in his own house." "But I cannot pray," he said, "I wish I could." "Tell theLord that," said Mr. Hill, and the man said, "Lord, I cannot pray. I wish I could." Then Mr. Hill said, "You have begun topray already, so I will go on for you. Only tell the Lord, from your heart, anything that is true about yourself and you havebegun praying."
I pray you, dear Friends, to draw near to God in prayer! Make it your habit to ask of Him what you really need and He willdraw near to you and you will get what you have asked of Him. You will be surprised to find what gracious answers you willreceive to your supplications, for I have noticed that if the Lord delays His answers to the prayers of His saints when theygrow strong, He generally hears them very quickly, indeed, when they first begin to pray. I have often known the answer comewhile they have yet been speaking. Try it, dear Friend! In your own case draw near to God in prayer and see what answers Hewill give you! How I wish that those who doubt the existence of God had ever tried to speak to Him! If they once came intofamiliar acquaintance with Him from day to day, doubts of His existence would be no more possible to them than doubts of theirown existence, for they would say, "We have spoken to Him and He has heard us, and given us the desire of our heart." Drawnear to God in prayer, and He will draw near to you.
Then, dear Friend, try to draw near to God every day by laying all your affairs before Him and yielding up all your plansto His will. Begin the day by asking Him to be with You and to glorify Himself in you. Ask Him to stay near you and to letyou feel His Presence and you will have truly blessed times if you draw near to God in that way.
Sometimes, you will most appropriately draw near to God by praise-with sweet songs in your mouth and thankfulness in yourheart. You will feel it to be indeed a-
"Happy day, happy day,"
when you are thus brought near to God. You will do well to keep on at that praise till there will come a day-(you need notmind how soon it comes) when the Lord will say to you, in another sense, "Draw near to Me"-and you will go up to your chamberand gather up your feet in bed and He will draw near to you with such a glorious vision of His Presence that before you areever aware, you will find yourself at His right hand-your poor mortal body left behind to wait a little while for the resurrection-butyou, yourself, very near to Him in Heaven! Then, before long, there will sound out that blast of the archangel's trumpet thatshall wake even your body from its slumber among the dust into which it had moldered-and it shall rise again and then thereshall come One whom you have known in this life, and known still better in Heaven, who will say to you and to all the redeemed,"Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Then your body, souland spirit shall draw near to Him as He draws near to you and so shall you be "forever with the Lord!" That is what will comeof your drawing near to God-it will end in your being with Him where He is, that you may behold His Glory forever and forevermore!And therefore do I feel a deep stirring within my soul that every far-off sinner should hear this gracious invitation andobey it at once-"Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
III. Now I shall conclude by just a few words upon THE PRACTICAL EFFECT WHICH THIS DRAWING NEAR TO GOD WILL HAVE UPON OURLIVES.
Well, now, if we draw near to God, it will have an effect upon our common, everyday life. How? Why, first, if you will followthe run of the chapter, you will see that drawing near to God will help us to resist the devil. The injunction, and promise,"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," are immediately followed by the words of our text, "Draw near to God, and Hewill draw near to you." The devil is not quite everywhere, but it is difficult to tell where he is not to be found. He, andthe powers of darkness under his control, tempt us in all sorts of ways and all manner of places. And if any one of us wouldbe so armed as to be able to resist the great adversary of souls, the very best thing we can do is to draw near to God! Thesheep is never so safe as when it is close to the shepherd. And the prodigal son is never so safe and happy as when he issitting at his father's table and feasting on the good things provided by his father's love. Draw near to God and you willbe able to resist the tempter and drive him away from you!
In the next place, drawing near to God will help you to become pure. Read the whole verse from which our text is taken-"Drawnear to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you
double-minded." You do wish to be chaste, do you not? You wish to be sober. You wish to be honest. You wish to be pure inspeech and pure in action, do you not? Well, nothing purifies us like getting near to God in Christ! There is cleansing bywater as well as by blood-the blood that washes away the guiltof sin is accompanied by a cleansing flood that takes away thepowerof sin-so that hands are cleansed and hearts are purified when we draw near to God.
Further, drawing near to God will help us to sorrow for sin, for the next verse to our text says, "Be afflicted, and mourn,and weep." "Oh," says some thoughtless person, "I do not want to be helped to sorrow for sin." And yet-and yet-and yet, ifyou did but know it, one of the sweetest things in all the world is godly sorrow for sin! Often do I quote to myself thatverse-
"Lord, let me weep for nothing but sin, And after none but Thee! And then I would-oh, that I might!- A constant weeper be!"
"It is a bitter sweet," say some, but I say that it is a sweet bitter and that the sweetness predominates-the sweetness ofso feeling the evil of sin as to loathe and shun it! It is a miserable state of things to have a hard heart. Even a hard handmay be a burden. It happened to a poor blind woman, who read with her fingers, that, after a while, they lost the delicacyof touch so that she could not distinguish the letters. It was a great grief to her, but, putting up to her lips the preciousBible that she had been accustomed to read, she found that she could read with her lips. She was very glad to have tendernesssomewhere. A tender heart is necessary to the reading of the mind of God, so always try to keep your heart tender. A hardheart, or a stony heart, is an awful curse. When you feel your heart beginning to ossify or to petrify, pray God to plungeit in a bath of the Redeemer's blood to make it soft again! The Lord grant that we may so draw near to Him that our heartmay be kept soft, for hardness of heart can never come to the man who is kept near to God.
If you draw near to God, dear Friends, it will also help you to think well of other people. "Do not speak evil of one another,"says the Apostle in the 11th verse. When you know that the great Judge of all, Himself, is near, you will not be so quickas you sometimes are to take His work out of His hands, but you will let Hmjudge. I am sure that the man who lives near toGod gets to have a kindly feeling towards others. If ever you find a person saying that there is no life in the Church andfinding fault with everybody, you may be sure that that man has not seen Jesus Christ of late, for Jesus Christ speaks notso. He says of His people all He can that is good. Surely, if Christ loves His Church, you ought not to find so much faultwith it. "Do not speak evil of one another," Brothers and Sisters, else it will prove that you have not been anywhere nearyour Master of late!
And, last of all, if we live near to God, it will help us to think of eternal things. The Apostle warns us not to say, "Wewill go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain," and all that kind of talk. He who speakslike that has not seen God of late, for he who is much with God thinks of eternal things and he knows how near they are. Andhe says to himself, "I shall soon be gone. This world is not my rest-there is nothing here that is substantial and abiding."So he is waiting to hear the trumpet sound, "Boot and saddle! Up and away!" and he stands ready, at his Captain's call, tobe gone to another and a better world! If you dwell near to God, you will not be afraid of dying- you will rather dread toremain here than to be taken away! Remember, this is your place of exile, and your state of probation. O Lord, bring us nearto You! Really, Brothers and Sisters, I do not know anything that can do us so much good in our daily life as walking withGod. If you live near to God, the family worries and troubles will not vex your spirit as they now do. You will live abovethem and the outside world, with all its fault-finding, its anxieties and its ups and downs will seem very small and insignificantto you when you dwell on high and your place of defense is the munitions of rocks. Some of us know what it is not to careeven a snap of the fingers when the world seems enraged against us-if we can but get away into the secret chamber of communionwhere God is pleased to manifest Himself to us.
If you live down in the marshes, you will get the chills and fever. But if you live up on the mountaintop, you will rejoicein the sun's rays before your fellow creatures see them and you will bask in them long after those below have lost sight ofthem! You will also find the air up there to be fresh and bracing and, among the eagles, you will grow like an eagle, yourself,for you will mount up with wings as eagles, till, one of these days, you will mount so high that you will not come down again,for you will have gone to dwell forever near your Lord!
May the Lord bless you, Beloved, with all that this drawing near to Him is capable of giving to you, for His dear name andmercy's sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: JAMES4.
Verse 1. Where do wars and fights come from among you? Whether between nations, or parties or individuals-if there are warsand fights, where do they come from?
1. Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?Do they not arise from one desiring something,and another desiring the same thing? Is there not a competition or emulation of an evil kind in which each one prefers himselfand seeks not the good of his neighbor?
2. You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not This is nature'sway of trying to get by contention what it desires to possess-fighting, warring and killing-yet the result of all this isnil. After all is done, "yet you have not." There is a simpler and a surer way which men forget-they leave that Divine pathuntrod-"You have not,"
2. Because you ask not With all your efforts you do not succeed because you omit to pray to God! Prayer would have broughtyou every blessing that you need, but, instead of going to God and asking at His hands, you rush upon your neighbor and seekto take what you desire as spoil from him. Perhaps some say, "But we do ask." "Well, then," says the Apostle-
3. You ask, and receive not because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. The lusts of the flesh come inand put us upon the wrong track. Or if we take the right road, yet, if the lusts are there, God will not bless us because,in doing so, He would be helping us to gratify our lusts.
4. You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?The Apostle uses thisstrong language not concerning the actual sin of adultery as the term is commonly understood, but in relation to our not lovingGod with true chastity of heart, but lusting after something else. This is the very essence of spiritual adultery. We oughtto give God the whole affection of our being, but, instead of doing so, we allow at least some of it to wander to other objectsand, therefore, we are called, by the Holy Spirit Himself, "adulterers and adulteresses." These may seem to be hard words,but they are true ones. May they bring us to our spiritual senses and cause us to love our God with all our heart, mind, souland strength!
4. Whoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God. In one sense, Christians are the greatest friendsof the world, for they desire the good of all men and seek their salvation. But, in another sense, viewing the world as agreat conglomerate of evil, we are no friends of the world. There is a certain form of theology, popular nowadays, which teachesus that we ought to remove the line of demarcation between the Church and the world. This kind of teaching may be calledtheology,but it comes not of God-it is a gross lie which we ought to abhor in the very depth of our spirit!
5, 6. Do you think that the Scripture says in vain, The Spirit that dwells in us yearns jealously? But He gives more Grace.There is a spirit, resident in the naturalman, the human nature of man, which is always inclined toward hate and envy, alwayswanting to get something from other men and always grieved if other men seem to be or to have more than the person himselfhas. How is this spirit to be met? This verse supplies the answer, "He gives more Grace." "More Grace"-this is the great remedyfor hate and envy! "More Grace"-this is the balm for sorrow. "More Grace"-this is our greatest help out of all difficulties."More Grace"-this is the universal recipe for all that we need-"He gives more
6, 7. Therefore, He says, God resists the proud, but gives Grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Layaside that fighting spirit-that effort to pull others down so as to raise yourself up-and bow before God! Yield yourself whollyto His blessed will. This is the way of peace and the way of joy, too!
7. Resist the devil. Who will seek to stir you up to rebellion! Give no place to him. "Resist the devil."
7, 8. And he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Hear this command and practice it. Get nearto God in Christ Jesus and you shall soon find Him come to your help in every hour of need.
8. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. For, if you are double-minded, your hands andyour hearts must both be cleansed. The Apostle does not say, "Concentrate your thoughts," but he does say,
"Cleanse your hearts," for, to have two objectives in life is a kind of spiritual adultery from which we need to be purged,so the command is, "Purify your hearts, you double-minded."
9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. If the previousverses have rightly accused you of sin, confess your guilt with shame and sorrow-and so come to Christ imploring pardon.
10. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up. If you exalt yourself, He will pull you down. Ifyou lie down in the dust before Him, He will lift you up. It is according to God's usual way of acting to practice these reversals.Mary truly sang, "He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He has filled the hungry withgood things; and the rich He has sent away empty."
11. Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He that speaks evil of his brother and judges his brother, speaks evil ofthe Law and judges the Law: but if you judge the Law, you are not a doer of the Law, but a judge. If you cease to think ofthat which is evil, you will also cease to speak evil. If I speak evil of my brother, I have condemned the Law which bidsme love him as I love myself. I have practically said that it is an absurd Law and an unrighteous Law-and this is a greatevil in God's sight.
12-15. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who are you that judges another? Come now, you who say,Today or tomorrow we willgo into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy andsell, andgetgain: whereas you do not knownot what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishesaway. For that you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we shall live, and do this, or that We are all too apt to say what wewill do and where we will go, forgetting to add, "If the Lord wills, we shall live, and do this, or that."
16, 17. But now you rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil Therefore to him that knows to do good, and doesit not, to him it is sin. There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission! May the Lord graciously keep us from bothforms of the evil, for His dear Son's sake! Amen.