The Difference between Rules and Conscience

There is often confusion between obedience to rule and conscience: in fact one is the opposite of the other.

When we have rules there is an obligation to obey, without any consideration of right and wrong. On the other hand, conscience gives us a instinctive sense of right and wrong, following some inscrutable law

There is often confusion between obedience to rule and conscience:  in fact one is the opposite of the other.

When we have rules there is an obligation to obey, without any consideration of right and wrong.  On the other hand, conscience gives us a instinctive sense of right and wrong, following some inscrutable law

Man acquired the judgment of right and wrong following the fall. He became, as God put it, ‘as one of us knowing good and evil’ (Gen 3:22).  Prior from that he was not as God.   He was not holy for he could not abhor sin.  Sin was not in him, so he was unable to judge it.  He was under a law ‘do not eat’ which he had only to obey.

But grace has bought us out of the law, but put us under the authority of Christ as Lord.  Our obedience to Him is therefore not a matter of conscience.  But conscience does come in as we distinguish between what is right and wrong: looking to Christ as a model

In summary there are three things:

  1. Our responsibility to obey God – that is law.
  2. Our sense of good and evil – that is conscience,
  3. Our self-judgment, or repulsion of heart, when an evil act is contemplated – that is holiness.

Based on J. N. Darby: ‘Conscience’ – Notes and Comments Vol. 1, p 104

Sosthenes

August 2016

Divine Guidance

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8)
The Lord sometimes guides, or rather controls, by providential circumstances, so that I do not go wrong, and I should be thankful that He does so. But I am like a horse or mule without understanding. If, like a stubborn mule, I am insubject to the Lord’s will, I must be controlled with bit and bridle. Providence does sometimes control, but it never guides persons; it guides things. Suppose that I am going to a place to preach, and my train is delayed and I miss a connection and hence fail to give my sermon. God has ordered things, but God has not guided me. It was my will to go, and I would have gone had the train not been delayed. This is not being guided by the ‘eye’, but controlled by the “bit” of God. Though providence overrules, it does not, properly speaking, guide.

Based on J. N. Darby‘s

I will guide thee with mine eye

eyeRead the following portions from the Psalms.

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8)

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD (Psalm 119:1).
Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word (Psalm 119:67).
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes
 (Psalm 119:71).
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments 
(Psalm 119:176).

We need to see how the Spirit of God deals with the insubject soul. Before David confessed he said, ‘When I kept silence my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long’, and ‘Thy hand was heavy upon me‘ (Psalm 32:3-4).    The Lord’s hand is heavy upon a man until he confesses his sin (all sin, not just a particular sin) before God: then there is forgiveness of the iniquity.  Until then there is no forgiveness – that is the government of God.  When he said ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me‘ (Psalm 51:5), he recognised the root principle of sin.  When there is confession of that,  there is then positive restoration of soul.

Freed from the bondage of things that hinder intercourse with God, the soul learns to lean upon God, rather than those things which take the place of God.  It understands deliverance, and is confident in times of trouble.  In Psalm 32:9, we are told not to be like a horse or mule.  A mule is stubborn.  When our wills are at work, there is not free intercourse in our hearts and affections with God – consequently we are not being led simply by God.  When the heart is in a right state, the whole body is ‘full of light‘ (Luke 11:34), quickly perceiving the will of God by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We are ‘of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD’ (Isa 11:3):,” without any object but the will and glory of God.  Just as the Lord delighted in His Father’s will (See Psalm 40:8), so we will be guided by the Father’s eye, and therefore full of joy.

Before I embark on anything, I should seek God’s mind, judging my hearts as to what may be hindering. If I have not done so, and later meet with difficulties, I will be uncertain as to whether it was God’s mind or not, and be discouraged.   But on the other hand, I have God’s mind and am in communion with Him, I shall be ‘more than a conqueror’ (Rom 8:37).  The power of faith removes mountains: as I am obedient, the Lord gives me to find out His way.

Many speak of providence as a guide. The Lord sometimes guides, or rather controls, by providential circumstances, so that I do not go wrong, and I should be thankful that He does so.  But I am like a horse or mule without understanding.  If, like a stubborn mule, I am insubject to the Lord’s will, I must be controlled with bit and bridle.  Providence does sometimes control, but it never guides persons; it guides things.  Suppose that I am going to a place to preach, and my train is delayed and I miss a connection and hence fail to give my sermon. God has ordered things, but God has not guided me.  It was my will to go, and I would have gone had the train not been delayed.  This is not being guided by the ‘eye’,  but controlled by the “bit” of God. Though providence overrules, it does not, properly speaking, guide.

There is guidance with knowledge, and guidance without knowledge. The former is our blessed privilege; but we may need the latter to humble us. In Christ everything was exactly according to God. In a certain sense He had no character. When I look at Him, what do I see?  Constant, never-failing, perfect obedience. There is great diversity of character amongst men – one tender and soft, another decisive and domineering.  You do not see that in Christ: there is no unevenness – every faculty in His humanity was obedient, and subject to the impulse of God’s divine will.

In Colossians 1:9-11, we find the individual to be ‘filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding‘  The Holy Spirit guides us as to the divine will, and there is no need even to pray about it.  If I have spiritual understanding and have prayed a lot in general, I will have enjoyed such communion so as to know God’s will.  The way is full of stumbling blocks. As children of light we miss them.  If we walk in the night we have to look out for the stones and it is easy to stumble over them.  Jesus said, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.’  (John 11:8).

May our hearts be led to desire to know and to do God’s will. It will then be not so much a question of what that will is, but of knowing and doing God’s will. And then we shall have the certain and blessed knowledge of being guided by His ‘eye’.

Sosthenes

June 2015

For original see   I will guide thee with mine eye

Darby on Romans 6 – Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Walking in the path of obedience to Him, the soul is delivered evil – will and lust – which is not obedience. We grow in the knowledge of God and in intimacy with Him. We cannot do this in our own will. But we live more in His things, and that is holiness: that is more than obedience. But that is the gift of God. The path to it is the path of obedience and holiness, but itself is the gift of God. Death is the wages of sin; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The gift of God is nothing less than eternal life. God gives it to us.

RomeIn Romans 6 we have the practical consequence of deliverance from sin. in the first part of the epistle (Rom. 1:18; to 5:11) we read nothing as to practical conduct. The guilty sinner is cleared, but nothing is said as to our consequential conduct. The conclusion of Romans 5 is that by one Man’s obedience we have been made righteous, and that, by having part in Christ’s death, we have part in this righteousness.

But having part in death (that is, dying) is, of course, not the way to live. How shall we who are dead to sin live in it any longer?  By our profession of Christianity, we are baptised unto His death, the old man being judged and crucified. Now as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father (God’s power), so our life is to be a new resurrected one.

Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin’ (v.6). This means that sin as a whole is annulled or rendered powerless: it has closed its existence. ‘He that is dead is justified from sin’ (v.7). Here it is not here sins or guilt: a dead man may have to answer for his sins, but he cannot sin: he does not have evil lusts nor a perverse will. However for us, the power of death has been destroyed by the resurrection of Christ. He came to take our place as sinners and deal with the question of sin: He died to sin, once for all. On the cross sin was the question – He was made sin. Now He is risen; He dies no more; death does not have dominion any longer. Now He lives and lives to God, sin having been done with for ever, to the glory of God

In His life down here Jesus served God perfectly. He lived by the Father, having Him always before His mind. Before He died on the cross, He had to do with sin – though He was sinless.   Sin was all around Him: it grieved Him; He was a Man of sorrows because of it, and He had to be made sin for us. In love He manifested God; as Man come to do God’s will, when fully proved to be the sinless One Himself – who knew no sin, he hath made sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). But now He has done with it for ever. Now He is risen into a new state as Man: in thought, object, and life, He lives to God. Now everything serves God’s glory. Though the flesh is always the same, the life of Jesus is manifested in our bodies (see 2 Cor 4:10). This is what the true Christian state is.

So we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God through Him, our old man being crucified with Him. We are not physically dead, but have a new and free life, alive to God, not through Adam, but through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is not that we never sin or lust; but we do not let sin obey its lust: we walk in the power of a new life. Instead of being slaves to sin, we hold the reins, and yield our members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Sin does not have dominion over us any longer, because we are not under law, but under grace. Being under law leaves us under the dominion of sin. What we need is freedom from the bondage of sin; for the law forbids sins, but gives us neither the life nor power to obey it. But under grace we have the power, sin having no dominion over us. The power comes from on high, so we are set really free, and can give ourselves to God willingly and freely. Shall we sin because we are not under a law which forbids it, and which curses us if I do it? God forbid!

Now Paul returns to the Gentile condition. If we yield ourselves to sin, we are its slaves. Even without law, death and the consequent judgment of God, were the appointed wages of sin.   But now we are alive to God, and that must involve obedience. Christ was the obedient Man: His Father’s will was the motive of everything He did. He lived by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. (See Deut 8:3). His path was practical righteousness, and He was the pattern of it. So the apostle thanks God that, whereas they had been slaves of sin, they had obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine that had been delivered to them (v.17).

It is the obedience of faith. As we receive the word of God into our hearts, we are linked with the life-giving God. It is the true life of Christ, the obedient Man. As free from sin, we yield ourselves to obey, becoming ‘slaves’ to righteousness. [Note that JND uses the word ‘slave’ here, whereas in the Darby Bible he uses the word ‘bondman’. A ‘slave’ is someone bought and owned by another. A ‘bondman’ on the other hand, is someone who was a slave, been given the opportunity for freedom, and has decided to remain for life in the service of their Master.]* Hence it is true liberty: we were fruitlessly wasting our members as slaves to uncleanness and lawlessness. Now we freely yield our members to be slaves to righteousness. The blessed result is holiness, our hearts separated to God, knowing Him, the soul brought into His image. ‘And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him’ (Col 3:10).

This is the general doctrine: Christ having died, we reckon ourselves dead as if we had died. We have died – we have been crucified with Him, and, as Christians, we do not consider the flesh to be alive any more. I speak of all that has happened to Christ as if it had happened to me, because He is become my life, and I live by Him. I am a son whose father had not only paid his debts, but made him a partner in a business. He speaks of ‘our capital, our connections,’ though the son brought nothing into the business, everything having been done and acquired beforehand. We have therefore a living association with the Lord. It is neither ascension, nor union, nor resurrection with Him, but the death of the old man, and a new life in Christ with freedom from being slaves to sin. This is the full answer to the allegation that, having righteousness in Him, we have license to sin. Instead of sin reigning in our mortal bodies, having dominion over us, we enjoy subsisting power.

Walking in the path of obedience to Him, the soul is delivered evil – will and lust – which is not obedience. We grow in the knowledge of God and in intimacy with Him. We cannot do this in our own will. But we live more in His things, and that is holiness: that is more than obedience. But that is the gift of God. The path to it is the path of obedience and holiness, but itself is the gift of God. Death is the wages of sin; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The gift of God is nothing less than eternal life. God gives it to us.

A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans

* Acknowledgments to ‘Underground Theologian’ http://theologicalmuse.christianblogsites.com/blog/post/2009/04/24/slave-or-bond-servant

J N Darby – Love Divine – Father, Thy sovereign Love has sought Captives to Sin, gone far from Thee

FATHER, Thy sovereign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee

Hymn by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

L.M. 

FATHER, Thy sovereign love has sought
Captives to sin, gone far from Thee;
The work that Thine own Son hath wrought
Has brought us back in peace and free.

And now, as sons before Thy face,
With joyful steps the path we tread,
Which leads us on to that blest place
Prepared for us by Christ, our Head.

Thou gav’st us, in eternal love,
To Him to bring us home to Thee,
Suited to Thine own thoughts above,
As sons, like Him, with Him to be

In Thine own house. There Love divine
Fills the bright courts with cloudless joy;
But ’tis the love that made us Thine
Fills all that house without alloy.

Oh, boundless grace! What fills with joy
Unmingled all that enter there,
God’s nature, Love without alloy,
Our hearts are given e’en now to share.

God’s righteousness with glory bright,
Which with its radiance fills that sphere –
E’en Christ, of God the power and light –
Our title is that light to share.

O Mind divine! so must it be,
That glory all belongs to God.
O Love divine! that did decree
We should be part, through Jesus’ blood.

Oh, keep us, Love divine, near Thee,
That we our nothingness may know;
And ever to Thy glory be –
Walking in faith while here below.

J N Darby 1880

Edited version in Little Flock Hymn Book  (1962, 1973) – No 87, 88

Edited version in Hymns for the Little Flock 1962 and 1973 Nos 87 and 88 and in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1978 – No 331

 

J N Darby – The Father’s Grace – Father, in Thine Eternal Power,

FATHER, in Thine eternal power,
Thy grace and majesty divine,
No soul, in this weak mortal hour,
Can grasp the glory that is Thine!

Hymn by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)

8.8.8.8.

FATHER, in Thine eternal power,
Thy grace and majesty divine,
No soul, in this weak mortal hour,
Can grasp the glory that is Thine!

E’en in its thoughts of sovereign grace
It leaves us all far, far behind;
The love that gives with Christ a place
Surpasses our poor feeble mind.

And yet that love is not unknown
To those who have the Saviour seen;
Nor strange to those He calls His own –
Pilgrims in scenes where He has been.

In Him Thy perfect love, revealed,
Has led our hearts that love to trace
Where nothing of that love’s concealed,
But meets us in our lowly place.

But grace, the source of all our hope,
From Thine eternal nature flows;
Could to our lost condition stoop,
And now through Christ no hindrance knows;

Has flowed in fullest streams below,
And opened to our hearts the place
Where, in its ripened fruits, we’ll know
The eternal blessings of that grace.

And here we walk, as sons through grace,
A Father’s love our present joy;
Sons, in the brightness of Thy face,
Find rest no sorrows can destroy.

Nor is the comfort of Thy love,
In which we “Abba, Father” cry,
The only blessing that we prove:
Because that love is ever nigh,

A holy Father’s constant care
Keeps watch, with an unwearying eye,
To see what fruits His children bear,
Fruits that may suit their calling high;

Takes ever knowledge of our state –
What dims communion with His love,
Might check our growth or separate
Our hearts from what’s revealed above.

Oh, wondrous Love, that ne’er forgets
The object of its tender care;
May chasten still, while sin besets,
To warn and guard them where they are;

But ne’er forgets, but feeds them still
With tokens of His tender love;
Will keep till, freed from every ill,
They find their rest with Him above.

Oh, wondrous, infinite, divine!
Keep near, my soul, to that blest place,
Where all those heavenly glories shine
Which suit the brightness of His face.

Oh, lowliness, how feebly known,
That meets the grace that gave the Son!
That waits, to serve Him as His own,
Till grace what grace began shall crown!

[1879]

Edited version in Little Flock Hymn Book  (1962, 1973) – No 120

How to Know the Father’s Will

Finally “the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps 25: 9).
I have given you all that comes to mind at this moment, and little satisfaction, I fear. But remember only that the wisdom of God conducts us in the way of God’s will. If our own will is in activity, God cannot be the servant of it; that is the first point to discover. It is the secret of the life of Christ. I know no other principle that God makes use of, however He may pardon and overrule all. You have asked me for direction: God leads the new man who has no other mind than Christ, and who mortifies the old man. He purifies us thus that we may bear fruit.

This was the subject of a letter, originally in French (JND French Letters No 436) and translated by myself.  The translation has been reviewed by another brother.  It is an alternative translation to that in JND’s Collected Writings.  How to Know the Will of the Father  vol  16 (Practical 1) p19
DJR Translation

436
Dear Brother

You could not suppose that a child who habitually neglected its father, and was always wholly indifferent to his mind and will, would not know what would please its parent when a difficult circumstance presented itself.   There are certain things which God intentionally leaves in generalities, in order that the state of a soul may be proved.  If, instead of the child, a wife was found there, there would probably be no hesitation in her mind; she would know immediately what would please her husband; even where he had expressed no positive will about the circumstance in question. Now you cannot escape this trial; God will not allow His children to escape it. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be fun of light.” (Matt 6: 22).  This easy and comfortable means of knowing God’s will does not exist without reference to the state of our own soul.
There is something else.  Very often we are of too much importance in our own eyes and we imagine, however wrongly, that God has some will for us in the circumstances in which one is working.  In fact, God has nothing to tell us thereon, and all the agitation provoked in us by the thing which concerns us is only evil. The will of God is that we should know to take our place quietly, an insignificant place.  At other times, we seek to know God would have us to act in circumstances in which His only will is that we should not be found there at all, and the first thing to which our conscience would lead us, if it were really in activity, would be to make us leave them.  Our own will has set us there, and we would like nevertheless to lean on the hand of God and to be directed by Him in the path of our own will. Such is a very common case.

Be assured that, if we kept ourselves near enough to God, He would not leaveus in ignorance of His mind.  In a long and active life, God, in His love, may make us feel our dependence when we have a tendency to act according to our own will, and does not immediately reveal His own; but the principle remains, whatever it is: “if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light”.  Whence it is certain that, if the whole body is not full of light, the eye is not single.  You will say to me, That is poor consolation.  No, it is sweet and precious consolation for those whose desire is to have the eye single and to walk with God – not only to delivered objectively, so to speak, by the knowledge of His will, but to walk with Him. “If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him” (John 11: 9-10).  It is always the same principle. “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8: 12).  You will seek in vain to exempt yourself from this moral law of Christianity: the thing is impossible.  “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing by the knowledge of God” (Col 1: 9-10).  The connection between these things is of incalculable value for the soul.  We need to know the Lord to walk in a way worthy of Him; and we grow in the knowledge of God.  “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Phil 1: 9-10).  Finally, “the spiritual discerns all things and he himself is discerned of no man” (1 Cor 2: 15).
It is then the will of God, and a will of grace, that men should be capable of discerning His will other than according to their own spiritual state, and, in general, when we think that we are carrying a judgment of the circumstances, it is God who is judging us, us and our state.  Our only business, I repeat, is to keep ourselves close to God.  It would not be the love of God to leave us to discover His will without that.  Such a thing might be convenient to a director of consciences; but the love of God cannot allow us to be spared the discovery and the chastisement of our own moral state.  Thus, if you seek how you may discover the will of God in the details, and apart from this state, you are seeking evil; and this is seen every day.  You will find a Christian in doubt and perplexity, where another, more spiritual, sees as clear as the day, surprised at what is making no difficulty, and understanding that it is quite simply the other’s state which hinders him from seeing it. “He that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off” (2 Pet 1: 9).

As regards circumstances, I believe that a person may be guided by them; and Scripture has pronounced on that, whatever it may be called: to be “held in with bit and bridle”; “I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Ps 32).  Such is the promise and privilege of faith which keeps near enough to God to know only His mind towards him; He being faithful to direct thus and promising to do so.  God exhorts us not to be as the horse and the mule which cannot receive intelligently from their master the communication of his mind and his desires; they need to be held in with bit and bridle, which is better than to stumble, to fall or to run counter to the one who leads; but this is after all a sad state.  That is therefore what it is to be guided by circumstances.  God is full of goodness in concerning himself thus with us but it is a sad on our part.
Here, however, we must distinguish between judging circumstances, and acting in the midst of them; he who is led by them always acts blind as to knowing the will of God.  There is absolutely nothing moral in that direction; it is an external force that exercises a control.  Now it is very possible that I may have no idea beforehand of what I shall do, and that: I do not know the circumstances in which I may be found, and cannot consequently make any resolution in advance; and yet,the instant they present themselves, I judge with the clearest divine judgment what is the path of God’s will, what is the mind and power of the Spirit in the midst of these circumstances, and this demands precisely the highest characterof spirituality; instead of being led by circumstances, on is led by God in them, being near enough to God to be able to judge what is suitable, as soon as it is presented.  ‘Impressions’ are not everything,  God can suggest them no doubt, and by His Spirit, He does suggest a thing to the mind; but when it is perceived, its moral character will be as clear as the sun at noon-day. In response to prayer, God can remove from our heart certain carnal influences, and so leave their power in the spirit to certain spiritual influences which give importance to a duty, which had been perhaps entirely obscured by preoccupation caused by some object of our desire.  This may be even be seen between two individuals: one may not have the spiritual discernment to discover what is right; but if another shews the good to him, he sees it clearly himself.  All are not highway engineers, but a waggoner knows well enough a good road when it is made. Thus the impressions which come from God do not always remain simple impressions, but they are usually clear at the same time as they are produced.  I do not doubt, however, that if we walk with Him, and if we listen to Him, God often produces this clarity in the soul.

If Satan, as you put it, raises obstacles, it only shows that they are only obstacles (allowed God) for a good reason, obstacles raised by the accumulation of evil in the circumstances which surround us by the power of evil over other people.

Your third question supposes a person acting in ignorance of God’s will, which should never be the case.  The only rule that can be given as to this is, never to act when we do not know this will.  If you act without knowing it, you will be at the mercy of circumstances.  God overrules all, for this is the case supposed by your question; But why act in such a way as would be if I were ignorant of the will of God?   He will stop me perhaps, because, if I do not walk sufficiently near to God in the sense of my nothingness, I will perhaps lack the faith to accomplish what we have faith enough to discern.

If we are doing our own will or are negligent in our walk, God in His grace may warn us by a hindrance if we pay attention to it, whilst “the simple pass on and are punished” Prov 22: 3).  God may permit, where there is much activity and labour, that Satan should raise up hindrances, in order that we may be kept in His dependence; but God never permits Satan to act otherwise than on the flesh.  He does evil, if we leave the door open between us and him, because we are away from God; but otherwise God uses it only as an instrument to test us to take us away or correct what would be a danger to us, or something that would tend to exalt us.  God allows Satan to cause suffering, and the flesh and the outward mind, in order that the inward man may be kept clean and safe.  If it is a question of anything else, we have only to take our “buts” and open the door to the enemy to trouble us by doubts and difficulties as if they were between God and us, because we no longer “see far”, for “he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not”.

Finally, the question is wholly moral. If any particular question is raised which at the first blush we cannot solve, we shall find very often that it would not have arisen, if our position were good, if spirituality had guarded and kept us instead of making us err.  In such a case, we have only one thing to do, which is to humble ourselves as to matter which it is about, then to examine whether Scripture does not present some principle suitable to direct us. Here evidently spirituality is everything.  Where it can be applied, the principle of looking at what Jesus would have done in such and such a case is excellent, but how often we are not in the circumstances in which He would be found.
It is often useful to ask ourselves whence comes such a desire with us, or the thought of doing this or that; I have found that this alone decides more than half of the difficulties in which men can be found.  The rest of those which remain are the result of haste, or of a former evil.  If the thought is of God and not from the flesh, then we have only to wait on God as to the manner and means by which we shall soon be directed.  There are cases we need direction without motives, as when we hesitate about whether to make one or another.  A life of more ardent charity, or a charity exercised in a more intelligent way, or set in activity in communion with God, will clear the motives of charity which were not but selfishness.  And if, you ask, charity or obedience are not in question?  Well!  Then it is for your first to give me a reason, a motive, for acting in whatever way it is.  If it is your own will that you are pressing, you cannot make the wisdom of God te servant of your will; this is another numerous class of difficulties that God will never solve.  In these cases, He will in grace teach us obedience, and will show us how much time we have lost in our own activity.

Finally “the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps 25: 9).

I have given you all that comes to mind at this moment, and little satisfaction, I fear.  But remember only that the wisdom of God conducts us in the way of God’s will.  If our own will is in activity, God cannot be the servant of it; that is the first point to discover.  It is the secret of the life of Christ.  I know no other principle that God makes use of, however He may pardon and overrule all.  You have asked me for direction: God leads the new man who has no other mind than Christ, and who mortifies the old man.  He purifies us thus that we may bear fruit.

The Man of Sorrows – John Nelson Darby

 

J N Darby
John Nelson Darby

O ever homeless Stranger,
Thus, dearest Friend to me;
An outcast in a manger,
That Thou might’st with us be!

How rightly rose the praises
Of heaven that wondrous night,
When shepherds hid their faces
In brightest angel-light!

More just those acclamations,
Than when the glorious band
Chanted earth’s deep foundations,
Just laid by God’s right hand.

Come now and view that manger–
The Lord of glory see,
A houseless, homeless Stranger
In this poor world for thee–

To God, in the highest, glory,
And peace on earth to find;
And learn that wondrous story,
Good pleasure in mankind.

How bless’d those heavenly spirits,
Who joy increasing find,
That spite of our demerits
God’s pleasure’s in mankind;

And chant the highest glory
Of Him they praise above,
In telling out the story
Of God come down in love!

Oh, strange yet fit beginning
Of all that life of woe,
In which Thy grace was winning
Poor man his God to know!

Bless’d Babe! who lowly liest
In manger-cradle there;
Descended from the highest,
Our sorrows all to share.

Oh, suited now in nature
For Love’s divinest ways,
To make the fallen creature
The vessel of Thy praise!

O Love, all thought surpassing!
That Thou should’st with us be,
Nor yet in triumph passing,
But human infancy!

We cling to Thee in weakness–
The manger and the cross;
We gaze upon Thy meekness,
Through suffering, pain, and loss;

There see the Godhead glory
Shine through that human veil,
And, willing, hear the story
Of Love that’s come to heal.

My soul in secret follows
The footsteps of His love;
I trace the Man of sorrows,
His boundless grace to prove.

A child in growth and stature,
Yet full of wisdom rare;
Sonship, in conscious nature,
His words and ways declare.

Yet still in meek submission
His patient path He trod,
To wait His heavenly mission,
Unknown to all but God.

But who, Thy path of service,
Thy steps removed from ill,
Thy patient love to serve us,
With human tongue can tell?

Midst sin and all corruption,
Where hatred did abound,
Thy path of true perfection
Was light on all around.

In scorn, neglect, reviling,
Thy patient grace stood fast;
Man’s malice unavailing
To move Thy heart to haste.

O’er all, Thy perfect goodness
Rose blessedly divine;
Poor hearts oppressed with sadness
Found ever rest in Thine.

The strong man in his armour
Thou mettest in Thy grace,
Did’st spoil the mighty charmer
Of our unhappy race.

The chains of man, his victim,
Were loosened by Thy hand;
No evils that afflict him
Before Thy power could stand.

Disease, and death, and demon,
All fled before Thy word,
As darkness the dominion
Of day’s returning lord!

The love that bore our burden
On the accursed tree,
Would give the heart its pardon,
And set the sinner free!

Love, that made Thee a mourner
In this sad world of woe,
Made wretched man a scorner
Of grace–that brought Thee low.

Still in Thee love’s sweet savour
Shone forth in every deed,
And showed God’s loving favour
To every soul in need.

I pause:–for in Thy vision
The day is hastening now,
When for our lost condition
Thy holy head shall bow;

When, deep to deep still calling,
The waters reach Thy soul,
And–death and wrath appalling–
Their waves shall o’er Thee roll.

O day of mightiest sorrow,
Day of unfathomed grief!
When Thou should’st taste the horror
Of wrath without relief.

O day of man’s dishonour!
When, for Thy love supreme,
He sought to mar Thine honour,
Thy glory turn to shame.

O day of our confusion!
When Satan’s darkness lay,
In hatred and delusion,
On ruined nature’s way.

Thou soughtest for compassion–
Some heart Thy grief to know,
To watch Thine hour of passion–
For comforters in woe.

No eye was found to pity,
No heart to bear Thy woe;
But shame, and scorn, and spitting–
None cared Thy name to know.

The pride of careless greatness
Could wash its hands of Thee;
Priests that should plead for weakness,
Must Thine accusers be!

Man’s boasting love disowns Thee;
Thine own Thy danger flee;
A Judas only owns Thee
That Thou may’st captive be.

O man! How hast thou proved
What in thy heart is found;
By grace divine unmoved,
By self in fetters bound.

Yet with all grief acquainted,
The Man of sorrows view,
Unmoved–by ill untainted–
The path of grace pursue.

In death, obedience yielding
To God His Father’s will,
Love still its power is wielding
To meet all human ill.

On him who had disowned Thee
Thine eye could look in love–
‘Midst threats and taunts around Thee–
To tears of grace to move.

What words of love and mercy
Flow from those lips of grace,
For followers that desert Thee,
For sinners in disgrace!

The robber learned beside Thee,
Upon the cross of shame–
While taunts and jeers deride Thee–
The savour of Thy name.

Then, finished all, in meekness
Thou to Thy Father’s hand
(Perfect Thy strength in weakness)
Thy spirit dost commend.

O Lord! Thy wondrous story
My inmost soul doth move;
I ponder o’er Thy glory–
Thy lonely path of love!

But, O divine Sojourner
‘Midst man’s unfathomed ill,
Love, that made Thee a mourner,
It is not man’s to tell!

We worship, when we see Thee
In all Thy sorrowing path;
We long soon to be with Thee
Who bore for us the wrath.

Come then, expected Saviour;
Thou Man of sorrows, come!
Almighty, blest Deliverer!
And take us to Thee–home.

From Spiritual Songs,

  • Selected verses form three hymns in the Little Flock Hymn Book – 1951, 1962 and 1973 –  Numbers 188, 189, 190
  • Part of the above is in Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1978 – Nos 400 and 452

 
J. N. Darby [1867]