Pittsburgh Gazette -January 2, 1905


Pastor C T Russell was with his home congregation yesterday afternoon at 3 p. m. at Bible House Chapel, Allegheny, and preached from the words of King Solomon, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom." (Prov. 4:7.) A large congregation gave closest attention to his discourse, which follows:

Wisdom is defined to be (1) the power of discerning what is true and right, what is conducive to the highest interests. (2) Conformity, so far as one's own conduct is concerned, to the course of action dictated by such a discernment. The world-famed Gough summed up wisdom in these words: "Wisdom is knowledge made our own and properly applied."

The best-intentioned people find continually, under the pressure of their own weaknesses and the temptations which surround mankind, that they are inclined to slip away from the noble standards and sentiments of their hearts. Experience demonstrates, too, that all need frequently to look about them and to compare present attainments with the past to find their bearings, to note whether or not they are making progress or retrograding. Our advice to all consecrated Christians is that such introspection be taken nightly before we retire to rest that each day's progress be noted and that fresh resolutions be presented evening and morning at the throne of grace to be practiced to the extent of our ability daily. We advise, also, a special examination of our accounts with the Lord and of our conditions weekly. But, notwithstanding these close examinations and reckonings, we believe that the majority of Christians, as also of worldly people, will receive a blessing in connection with the turning of the leaf at each New Year. It is a favorable opportunity for the summing up of the past year's progress. As bankers and merchants not only keep daily accounts of their business, but at this season of the year balance their accounts, more particularly ascertaining profits and losses, so should the Lord's people take advantage of the closing of one year and the opening of another to strike a balance in their spiritual accounts and ascertain definitely the exact amount of their spiritual gains. I sincerely hope that none of those whom I address will, under the most rigid examination, find spiritual loss. But whether the results show for loss or for gain it will be to our advantage to strike the balance and to know exactly where we stand and the net results of the course we have pursued during the year just ended.


Business men do not strike the balances of their accounts for the purpose of discouraging themselves in business, but to the intent that if profit has been made they may be encouraged and if losses have been incurred they may ascertain the point of weakness and loss and remedy the defect, so that the coming year shall be the more satisfactory, and this should specially be the case with the Lord's people. Indeed, under the special arrangement which the Lord has made with those who are His in Christ Jesus absolute discouragements are impossible, wrong, unjustified, no matter how poor the showing of the past may be, unless it be found that the little progress or retrogression was the result of willfulness either in wrong doing or in neglect of privileges or opportunities for well doing and growth in grace and knowledge. Of course, full, deliberate, willful, intentional wrong doing on the part of the Lord's people must be regarded as carrying with it divine displeasure and chastisement of some kind.

On the other hand, however, I trust that none of us, looking backward over the past year, finds willful shortcomings. If he shall find that his failures and little progress were the result of the lack of fortitude, lack of character, he may well feel grieved; but, resolving that henceforth he will be more careful to add to his faith fortitude, he may go to the great Mediator, whose sacrifice is the basis of our reconciliation with the Father and the forgiveness of all our sins, and, acknowledging his frailties, he may obtain mercy and find grace to help for future times [HGL290] of need. (Heb. 4:16.) None who are in the right attitude of mind on this subject will be perfectly satisfied with the attainment of the past year. For however good may have been our intentions, however pure, noble, just, true nevertheless, because we are members of the fallen race, because we have the treasure of the new mind, the new heart, in earthen vessels which are imperfect, we discern in ourselves much that is not to our own pleasement, and we may be sure, therefore, we are far from the perfection standard set before us in the scriptures.


But while, the eyes of our understanding opening wider daily and hourly, we discern the divine character in clearer lines and discern our own blemishes more perspicuously, nevertheless the eye of faith sees with the greater clearness also that a fair atonement was made by our Redeemer, not only for our share in the original sin, but also for our unintentional weaknesses, which result from our relationship to Adam and the fall. Thus the Lord's people may have a hope and joy and confidence toward him which others cannot realize which is not applicable to others which they can only obtain by coming to the heavenly Father in the appointed way, through faith in the redemption work of the Son.

Let us, then dear friends, at the opening of the new year, take Wisdom as our watch-word and daily at the throne of grace make fresh resolutions for wise endeavors which we will seek to put into practice daily in all the affairs of life. Let us see what a blessing we shall secure from thus giving heed to the divine Word, which informs us that "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace" (Prov. 3:17), and in our text declares, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom."

But the word wisdom takes on a variety of shades as it passes through the lenses of different minds and hence it behooves us as the Lord's people to make no mistake to get the right kind of wisdom to find the wisdom referred to in our text and to clearly distinguish between it and other wisdoms, which the Scriptures tell us are only foolishness. It is the Apostle Paul who explains that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God and that likewise the wisdom which God inculcates is often esteemed foolishness by the worldly wise.


To illustrate: One class of these worldly wise men say to us by their actions, which speak louder than words- "Money is the principal thing, therefore with all your getting get money, for with it you can have all things and without it you can have nothing." Of course, there is a certain amount of logic in this reasoning, else it would not appeal to so large a number of people as being the voice of wisdom directing to the proper course in life. Nevertheless, many of those thus taught after a few years have demonstrated by their own course the fallacy, the unwisdom of their proposition. There are things which money cannot buy and which the pursuit of money is almost sure to drive away. One of these is health, another peace of mind, another joy, another a restful conscience, another the knowledge of God, another growth in grace, another fellowship with the Father, the Lord Jesus and the brethren, another hope toward God in respect to the heavenly inheritance which he has promised to those who love him supremely better than they love houses or lands or money or any other thing or being.

Another class of the worldly wise, and these are usually the children of wealth though sometimes merely "spongers" who, like parasites, live off the energy of others tell us that true wisdom is the pursuit of pleasure, in field games, theatricals, cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, etc., or mental revelries in novel reading. The gratification found in these they tell us is their happiness, their joy, and that they know of no greater wisdom than to daily endeavor to gratify these tastes and appetites. We answer that they are making a mistake, that they are deceiving themselves; that if they will analyze their own feelings they will perceive that they are not really enjoying life, but are using their mental activities in the endeavor to find enjoyment in life. They engage their minds in stories so as to prevent their thoughts from dealing with more important matters; they are seeking to escape responsibilities, and to live as it were in a dream; their lives are neither profitable to themselves nor to others. They are surely not wise, for even supposing that their amusements and entertainments are absolutely devoid of bad influence upon others, amusements certainly do nothing to the betterment of themselves, for the present or future life, nor yet for the uplift and blessing of others.

Still another class of worldly wise tell us that from their viewpoint all the world is a stage and men and women are but actors on it, and that the play of life is a show and to a considerable degree a farce, a make-believe. Acting upon their theory of wisdom the principal thing in life is to make a good show in dress, in equipage, in the home everywhere to put on a gloss to the intent that their real heart condition and their real financial condition may not be discerned by their neighbors. This pride of life, this living for show, this stage life in which tinsel is worn as make-believe for gold, is not true wisdom. Not only will it end in bitter disappointment at the close of life, when all the masks will come off, but it is not a satisfying portion even when most successful. The heart requires something more than this. Man, made in the image and likeness of God has retained a measure of that likeness, notwithstanding the fall and the incidental degeneracy, so that shams, hypocrisies and make-believes cannot bring true happiness or contentment of heart.


Another class of worldly wise tell us that science and philosophy are the only things worthy of the noblest minds and intellects. They tell us that the word science signifies that which is true and that the special aim of scientists is to help their fellow men by uncovering the truth, by getting rid of all the ignorance and deceptions that surround various matters and things and thus bring truth to the fore. They tell us that thus the scientists are the real teachers of the world. They tell us that philosophy signifies the love of wisdom, which leads to search for it, and that in the last analysis they are really the wise men of the world who make it their business to help other men to wisdom along all [HGL291] the pathways of life, in matters financial and social, mental, moral and natural science.

At last we seem to find in this profession what we are seeking, true wisdom with noble objects before it. We commend their love of truth and their desire to rid themselves of all superstition and error and we pause to examine the practical working of this wisdom and to note the blessings it brings to these philosophers. Our examination disappoints us; the philosophers are not happy. Like some of the others they are seeking pleasure, seeking happiness in their pursuit of wisdom, and that pursuit is a more noble one, but they do not find happiness in it. They lack the joy, the peace, the heart experiences which are the essence of happiness. Along various paths these philosophers go and the methods of the geologists and biologists will represent all of this class.

The geologist with his hammer, his tubes, his glasses, etc., chips and examines the rocks and philosophizes as to how long ago they were formed, the method of their formation, the probable conditions of the earth at that time, etc., etc., etc. He reaches a fanciful conclusion and takes a measure of pleasure in presenting his deductions to fellow scientists, but they all know that he does not know, that he is merely guessing at findings that neither satisfy his own heart nor can give satisfaction on such a subject to his fellow scientists.

The biologist studies the human anatomy and the anatomy of the largest animals with a view of tracing how men came from a monkey, and how the monkey came from some lower order of creature, and what arguments can be set forth to demonstrate that the lowest form of living creature was originally the highest form and how all others had been evolved therefrom. As a Darwinian he presents his arguments and theories to his associates and to the world. He plumes himself on the logic of his theory, and for a few short years has a place amongst his worldly-wise associates, a little later on to be branded as a back number in the light of some other theories and facts which some other biologist shall have conceived and set forth.

When listening to each other these philosophers are incredulous; past failures, past errors convince them that in all probability their own and each other's theories are erroneous. They know that they do not know, but they fain would have the public believe that they do know, that theories are scientific true. Their experiences, their uncertainties, lead them to doubt along all lines; hence these philosophers are generally unbelievers as respects God and his revelation, the Bible. They usually acknowledge themselves to be agnostics, and many of them proudly boast of their agnosticism, which merely means, we do not know, we would like to know, we are not satisfied, we have never found anything which does satisfy either our heads or our hearts. Truly this is not the wisdom which the Lord's word in our text advises us by all means to secure.


Let us now turn from these worldly wise men and their instruction that we may hearken to the voice of the Lord our God, which tells us that true wisdom comes from above. And what is more reasonable than this? Knowing so little of ourselves, why should we not expect to be informed, to be taught, to be instructed in the true wisdom by our Creator. As the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, our Lord should be the foundation of wisdom, and we should anticipate that from this foundation alone should come the sweet satisfaction and blessing which all hearts crave.

The Bible has a very terse manner of presenting divine instruction on this subject; its information is given in no uncertain terms; it declares that much of the earthly wisdom is merely bitter jealousy and strife- "earthly, animal, devilish." If we apply these words to the various wisdoms set before us by the world we may know their appropriateness. For instance, the wisdom which commends wealth as the goal does it not involve its wise men in bitter jealousies, envyings, strife, along the lines of commercial conflict and piracy? And does not this in turn destroy for the money-hunter the pleasure which he anticipated in it and to a considerable degree have a depraving and demoralizing effect upon his heart?

Take the second class of wise men mentioned those who pursue pleasure: Is there not in their course that which continually tends toward jealousy and strife? Is not their wisdom at very most earthly and animal, and is not the tendency of it in many instances to the depraving of the mind and heart and thus to devilishness? Take the third class those who deem it wisdom to make of life a vain show without any other particular aim or object. Is not such a course demoralizing? Does not such love of display lead to envyings, bitterness and strife, and frequently to dishonorable means and methods for gratifying their pride? Are not their hearts empty of the good and likely to be filled with greater or lesser evils according to their circumstances, conditions and environments?

Take the fourth class, scientists and philosophers. We have already acknowledged that in many respects this class would be attractive to those who are well born and mentally well equipped, and that in many respects their aims are laudable. Let us apply the apostle's words to them. We find among them the very conditions he describes, bitter envyings, jealousy and strife. True, these are kept in considerable measure under cover, though frequently we can read these sentiments between the lines of polished language, and frequently the apostle's assurance that their wisdom is purely earthly is corroborated by themselves. As a rule, whatever respect they have had in youth for the Bible and its God is sure to be lost unless they go beyond the philosophies of earthly sciences. The Apostle Paul pays his respects to many of these gentlemen, saying that their presentations are science falsely so called and that their philosophies are "vain philosophies." (1 Tim. 6:20; Col. 2:8.)

It may be doubted by some if the apostle's word devilish could be applied to this class of earthly wisdom, but in our judgment these scientists have done more injury to the Lord's cause than any of the others. Usually well educated, their philosophies carry an underserved weight to the minds of the common people, including Christians. Their guesses are taken for scientific truths, and as these are frequently in conflict with the Bible it follows that they more than any others of the worldly wise, are opponents of the Lord and of His revelation, the Bible. Nor do they by [HGL292] such opposition gain any real blessing to their own hearts, for their philosophical errors blind and deceive themselves as well as others. Indeed, it has been a source of constant surprise to us to find that even scientists who turn their attention to astronomy are very generally infidels as respects the Bible being God's revelation, and many of them out-and-out atheists who deny there is any living and true God, holding that nature is her own creator, developer, evolutionizer, etc.

"The testimonies of the Lord are sure, making wise the humble." Psa. 19:7.

Having examined worldly wisdom and found it unsatisfactory to our hearts and heads the inquiry arises, where shall we seek the wisdom which God in our text declares is the principal thing? We reply that it is the wisdom of God, which to man is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23-25), but to us who believe is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This wisdom is found in God's great book and that in proportion as we are enabled by His grace to rightly divide it, to understand it. The better we understand it the more wisdom we see in all its precepts and regulations. It came from above in the sense that it is not earthly, that it is inspired by the Lord and that its influence upon all those who receive it is lasting comfort, sustaining, strengthening, happifying, transforming, glorifying.

The Apostle James sets forth in contrast the wisdom of this world and the wisdom from above. Explaining the latter he says:

"The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy of entreatment, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, without variance and without hypocrisy."

I want to suggest to you that we take this verse, which so particularly describes the wisdom from above, to be our year text for 1905, to be committed to memory thoroughly and repeated once each week throughout the year. And may the Lord bless His word to the honest-hearted that they may be able to appreciate the difference between heavenly and earthly wisdom and the difference between the fruitage of the two, that thus, growing wiser week by week, the closing of the year shall find us in still fuller accord with the words of Solomon: "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom." [Prov. 4:7]

Let us examine carefully this true wisdom from above which the Scriptures enjoin. It is first pure it sets purity as its highest standard, and the word pure takes in the thought of honesty, sincerity. Whatever questions arise respecting our dealings, our conduct, our thoughts, the first point to be decided would be, is it pure, is it honest, is it true? If this cannot be answered affirmatively that is enough, heavenly wisdom says, Have nothing to do with anything that is not pure, right, honest. Do not tamper with it, do not even turn it over nor think of what might be done with it, but immediately put it away.

If the question stands the first test the second one would be, is my motive a peaceable one? Would I thus be doing all that I properly could do to preserve peace, harmony, accord in my own heart and in my dealings with others, or would the course considered be likely to awaken strife? Only peaceable dispositions are approved by the Lord, and this thought should continually guide the Lord's people with a desire to be pleasing to him. This, however, does not mean a lack of firmness of character, nor the lack of a proper combativeness to oppose the wrong in the proper manner and on suitable occasions. It merely means that our conduct should be as peaceable as loyalty to righteousness will permit. "Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory."

Gentleness is given as the third mark of heavenly wisdom. The world in general has grown to appreciate the sentiment that gentleness is a propriety. Indeed, to declare that some people are not gentlemen would be one of the surest ways of so arousing their temper as to cause a display of feeling which would be anything but gentle. The gentleness of the world is largely on the outside, polish, good breeding, but the gentleness which the heavenly wisdom inculcates extends from the inside to the outside. The thoughts are gentle brought under control by the various injunctions and instructions of the Word of the Lord. The whole life of the regenerated Christian is brought under control to the spirit of holiness, which is on all proper occasions a spirit of gentleness, meekness, patience and long suffering.

There may be times when the direction of the Lord's Word might cause His people exercised by His Spirit to seem ungentle, to seem severe even, yet would be the result of their failure to rightly discriminate on the subject. For instance, it might become the duty of a parent to exercise discipline in his family, and the disciplined ones might consider no discipline as gentleness; whereas the Lord has directed that the parent should have his children in proper subjection, and that he who spareth the rod hateth the child. From the standpoint of the Scriptures all chastisement, however deserved, should be given in moderation, and with the gentlest of heart sentiments toward the transgressor, and with the utmost sympathy for his hereditary weaknesses and blemishes, which require such extreme correction; and no such discipline should be given except at a time that the mind is thus well poised and full of parental sympathy and love. Gentleness and firmness are not in conflict, though sometimes their combination is not rightly understood or appreciated by those who lack the wisdom from above.


The fourth point to be remembered in connection with the heavenly wisdom is that those who are exercised by it are easy of entreatment they are not hard hearted, cold, stony; they can be touched with sympathy, and will manifest their sympathy even though they may not always allow it to rule them nor always allow it to hinder them from exercising proper disciplines. There is a difference between being easily entreated and "soft," flabby, spineless. The wisdom from above has a firm texture of character, without coarseness, roughness, rudeness, hardness.

The fifth element of heavenly wisdom is to be full of mercy overflowing with mercy, with generous impulses, with kindly feelings, with compassion and sympathy for those in any trouble or distress. This, however, would not mean a mercy without gauges and conditions. Mercy may fill one full and yet be limited and restrained in its course of action, because sound judgment may dictate that in [HGL293] some cases the restraint of mercy would be for the benefit, advantage of the offender. In a word, where the spirit of the world would be that of vindictiveness, hatred and animosity because of some evil done, the Spirit of the Lord, the wisdom from above, would be full of mercy, compassion, sympathy, and would be restrained from full forgiveness and remission of all penalties only as sound judgment should indicate that such a generous course would be contrary to the best interests of the culprit.

Lastly, the wisdom from above is full of good fruits, and delights in whatsoever things are true, honest, pure, lovely and of good report. Cannot we see the philosophy connected with this wisdom? that the possessor of it is sure to be blessed in his heart experience, to have happiness, joy, peace and blessing himself, as well as sure to scatter blessings wherever he may go. This is the tendency of this heavenly wisdom; this is the wisdom from above. This is the wisdom, therefore, referred to in our text, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom," this wisdom with these characteristics.


We remark, however, that there is only one way to put ourselves into relationship with the Lord so as to be able to receive this wisdom from above. That way is Christ through faith in His blood as our sin atonement. Still more than this, it means a renunciation of our sins and endeavor to walk in the Lord's way, leading to a full consecration of heart and life to Him and the consequent begetting of the Spirit. Only from this last standpoint can any hope to receive the wisdom from above, the true wisdom.

I address chiefly, if not entirely, those who are the Lord's people by faith and consecration, and who are, therefore, among those begotten of the Holy Spirit and being guided thereby. It is for us, dear brethren and sisters, to so use our opportunities, to so practice the lessons coming to us through the Holy Spirit, that we may apply our hearts unto this heavenly wisdom. The more effort we put forth, we may be sure, under the Lord's guidance and favor, the greater will be our progress and blessing in this and in every good word and work throughout the year to come. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with us all as we seek faithfully to conform our thoughts and words and doings to the lines laid down in this wisdom from above.

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