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5. The Wisdom Of God

The next attribute is God's wisdom, which is one of the brightest beams of the Godhead. ‘He is wise in heart.' Job 9:9. The heart is the seat of wisdom. Cor in Hebraeo sumitur pro judicio. Pineda. ‘Among the Hebrews, the heart is put for wisdom.' ‘Let men of understanding tell me:' Job 34:44: in the Hebrew, ‘Let men of heart tell me.' God is wise in heart, that is, he is most wise. God only is wise; he solely and wholly possesses all wisdom; therefore he is called, ‘the only wise God.' I Tim 1:17. All the treasures of wisdom are locked up in him, and no creature can have any wisdom but as God is pleased to give it out of his treasury. God is perfectly wise; there is no defect in his wisdom. Men may be wise in some things, but in other things may betray imprudence and weakness. But God is the exemplar and pattern of wisdom, and the pattern must be perfect. Matt 5:58. God's wisdom appears in two things. I. His infinite intelligence. II. His exact working.

I. His infinite intelligence. He knows the most profound secrets. Dan 2:28. He knows the thoughts, which are the most intricate subtle things. Amos 4:43. ‘He declareth to man what is his thought.' Let sin be contrived ever so politically, God will pull off all masks and disguises, and make a heartanatomy. He knows all future contingencies, et ante intuita [and, already foreseen], all things are before him in one clear prospect.

II. His exact curious working. He is wise in heart; his wisdom lies in his works. These works of God are bound up in three great volumes, where we may read his wisdom.

[1] The work of creation. The creation is both a monument of God's power, and a looking-glass in which we may see his wisdom. None but a wise God could so curiously contrive the world. Behold the earth decked with variety of flowers, which are both for beauty and fragrance. Behold the heaven bespangled with lights. We may see the glorious wisdom of God blazing in the sun, twinkling in the stars. His wisdom is seen in marshalling and ordering everything in its proper place and sphere. If the sun had been set lower, it would have burnt us; if higher, it would not have warmed us with its beams. God's wisdom is seen in appointing the seasons of the year. ‘Thou hast made summer and winter.' Psa 74:17. If it had been all summer, the heat would have scorched us; if all winter, the cold would have killed us. The wisdom of God is seen in chequering the dark and the light. If it had been all night, there had been no labour; if all day, there had been no rest. Wisdom is seen in mixing the elements, as the earth with the sea. If it had been all sea, we had wanted bread; if it had been all earth, we had wanted water. The wisdom of God is seen in preparing and ripening the fruits of the earth, in the wind and frost that prepare the fruits, and in the sun and rain that ripen the fruits. God's wisdom is seen in setting bounds to the sea, and so wisely contriving it, that though the sea be higher than many parts of the earth, yet it should not overflow the earth; so that we may cry out with the Psalmist, ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.' Psa 104:24. There is nothing to be seen but miracles of wisdom. God's wisdom is seen in ordering things in the body politic, that one shall have need of another. The poor need the rich man's money, and the rich need the poor man's labour. God makes one trade depend upon another, that one may be helpful to another, and that mutual love may be preserved.

[2] The second work wherein God's wisdom shines forth is the work of redemption. (1.) Here was the masterpiece of divine wisdom, to contrive a way to happiness between the sin of man and the justice of God. We may cry out with the apostle, ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.' Rom 11:13. This astonished men and angels. If God had put us to find out a way of salvation when we were lost, we could neither have had a head to devise, nor a heart to desire, what God's infinite wisdom had found out for us. Mercy had a mind to save sinners, and was loath that the justice of God should be wronged. It is a pity, says Mercy, that such a noble creature as man should be made to be undone; and yet God's justice must not be a loser. What way then shall be found out? Angels cannot satisfy for the wrong done to God's justice, nor is it fit that one nature should sin, and another nature suffer. What then? Shall man be for ever lost? Now, while Mercy was thus debating with itself, what to do for the recovery of fallen man, the Wisdom of God stepped in; and thus the oracle spake: - Let God become man; let the Second Person in the Trinity be incarnate, and suffer; and so for fitness he shall be man, and for ability he shall be God; thus justice may be satisfied, and man saved. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom of God, thus to make justice and mercy to kiss each other! Great is this mystery, ‘God manifest in the flesh.' 1 Tim 3:36. What wisdom was this, that Christ should be made sin, yet know no sin; that God should condemn the sin, yet save the sinner! Here was wisdom, to find out the way of salvation. (2.) The means by which salvation is applied sets forth God's wisdom; that salvation should be by faith, not by works. Faith is a humble grace, it gives all to Christ; it is an adorer of free grace; and free grace being advanced here, God has his glory; and it is his highest wisdom to exalt his own glory. (3.) The way of working faith declares God's wisdom. It is wrought by the word preached. ‘Faith comes by hearing.' Rom 10:17. What is the weak breath of a man to convert a soul? It is like whispering in the ears of a dead man. This is foolishness in the eye of the world; but the Lord loves to show his wisdom by that which seems folly. ‘He has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.' I Cor 1:17. Why so? verse 29. ‘That no flesh should glory in his presence.' Should God convert by the ministry of angels, then we should be ready to glory in angels, and give that honour to them which is due to God; but when God works by weak tools, makes use of men who are of like passions with ourselves, and by them converts, then the power is plainly seen to be of God. ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.' 2 Cor 4:4. Herein is God's wisdom seen, that no flesh may glory in his Presence.

[3] The wisdom of God wonderfully appears in the works of his providence. Every providence has a mercy or a wonder wrapt up in it. The wisdom of God, in his works of providence, appears. (1.) By effecting great things by small contemptible means. He cured the stung Israelites by a brazen serpent. If some sovereign antidote had been used, if the balm of Gilead had been brought, there had been some likelihood of a cure; but what was there in a brazen serpent? It was a mere image, and not applied to him that was wounded, he was to look upon it only; yet this wrought a cure. The less probability in the instrument, the more is God's wisdom seen. (2.) The wisdom of God is seen in doing his work by that which to the eye of flesh seems quite contrary. God intended to advance Joseph, and to make all his brethren's sheaves bow to his sheaf. Now, what way does he take? First Joseph is thrown into the pit; then sold into Egypt; then after that put in prison. Gen 39:90. By his imprisonment God made way for his advancement. For God to save in an ordinary way would not so much display his wisdom. But when he goes strangely to work, and saves in that very way in which we think he will destroy, his wisdom shines forth in a most conspicuous manner. God would make Israel victorious, and what way does he take? He lessens Gideon's army. ‘The people that are with thee are too many.' Judg 7:7. He reduces the army of two and thirty thousand to three hundred; and by taking away the means of victory makes Israel victorious. God had a design to bring his people out of Egypt, and a strange course he takes to effect it. He stirred up the hearts of the Egyptians to hate them. ‘He turned their heart to hate his people.' Psa 105:55. The more they hated and oppressed Israel, the more God plagued the Egyptians, and the more glad they were to let Israel go. Exod 12:23. The Egyptians were urgent upon Israel, that they might send them out of the land in haste. God had a mind to save Jonah when he was cast into the sea, and he let the fish swallow him up, and so brought him to the shore. God would save Paul, and all that were in the ship with him, but the ship must break, and they all came safe to land upon the broken pieces of the ship. Acts 27:74. In reference to the church, God often goes by contrary means, and makes the enemy do his work. He can make a straight stroke with a crooked stick. He has often made his church grow and flourish by persecution. ‘The showers of blood have made her more fruitful,' says Julian. Exod 1:10. ‘Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply;' and the way they took to suppress them, made them multiply. Verse 12. ‘The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied;' like ground, the more it is harrowed, the better crop it bears. The apostles were scattered by reason of persecution, and their scattering was like the scattering of seed; they went up and down, and preached the gospel, and brought daily converts. Paul was put in prison, and his bonds were the means of spreading the gospel. Phil 1:12.

(3.) The wisdom of God is seen in making the most desperate evils turn to the good of his children. As several poisonable ingredients, wisely tempered by the skill of the artist, make a sovereign medicine, so God makes the most deadly afflictions co-operate for the good of his children. He purifies them, and prepares them for heaven. 2 Cor 4:17. These hard frosts hasten the spring flowers of glory. The wise God, by a divine chemistry, turns afflictions into cordials. He makes his people gainers by losses, and turns their crosses into blessings.

(4.) The wisdom of God is seen in this, that the sins of men shall carry on God's work; yet he should have no hand in their sin. The Lord permits sin, but does not approve it. He has a hand in the action in which sin is, but not in the sin of the action. As in the crucifying of Christ, so far as it was a natural action, God concurred; if he had not given the Jews life and breath, they could not have done it; but as it was a sinful action, so God abhorred it. A musician plays upon a viol out of tune; the musician is the cause of the sound, but the jarring and discord is from the viol itself; so men's natural motion is from God, but their sinful motion is from themselves. When a man rides on a lame horse, his riding is the cause why the horse goes, but the lameness is from the horse itself. Herein is God's wisdom, that the sins of men carry on his work, yet he has no hand in them.

(5.) The wisdom of God is seen in helping in desperate cases. God loves to show his wisdom when human help and wisdom fail. Exquisite lawyers love to wrestle with niceties and difficulties in the law, to show their skill the more. God's wisdom is never at a loss; but when providences are darkest, then the morning star of deliverance appears. ‘Who remembered us in our low estate.' Psa 136:63. Sometimes God melts away the spirits of his enemies. Josh 2:24. Sometimes he finds them other work to do, and sounds a retreat to them, as he did to Saul when he was pursuing David. ‘The Philistines are in the land.' ‘In the mount will God be seen.' When the church seems to be upon the altar, her peace and liberty ready to be sacrificed, then the angel comes.

(6.) God's wisdom is seen in befooling wise men, and in making their wisdom the means of their overthrow. Ahithophel had deep policy. 2 Sam 16:63. ‘The counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God;' but he consulted his own shame. ‘The Lord turned his counsel into foolishness.' 2 Sam 15:51. ‘God taketh the wise in their own craftiness;' Job 5:13; that is, when they think to deal wisely, he not only disappoints them, but ensnares them. The snares they lay for others catch themselves. ‘In the net which they hid is their own foot taken.' Psa 9:15. God loves to counterplot politicians; he makes use of their own wit to undo them, and hangs Haman upon his own gallows.

Use one: Adore the wisdom of God. It is an infinite deep; the angels cannot search into it. ‘His ways are past finding out.' Rom 11:13. As we should adore, so we should rest in the wisdom of God. God sees what condition is best for us. Did we believe the wisdom of God, it would keep us from murmuring. Rest in God's wisdom. (1.) In want of spiritual comfort. God is wise; he sees it good sometimes that we should be without comfort. Perhaps we should be lifted up with spiritual enlargements, as Paul, with his revelations. 2 Cor 12:2. It is hard to have the heart low when comfort is high. God sees humility to be better for us than joy. It is better to want comfort, and be humble, than to have it, and be proud. (2.) In want of bodily strength, rest in God's wisdom. He sees what is best. Perhaps the less health the more grace; weaker in body, the stronger in faith. ‘Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.' 2 Cor 4:16. At Rome there were two laurel trees; when the one withered, the other flourished. The inward man is renewed. When God shakes the tree of the body, he is gathering the fruits of righteousness. Heb 12:21. Sickness is God's lance, to let out the imposthume of sin. Isa 27:7. (3.) In case of God's providences to his church. When we wonder what God is doing with us, and are ready to kill ourselves with care; let us rest in God's wisdom. He knows best what he has to do. ‘His footsteps are not known.' Psa 77:19. Trust him where you cannot trace him. God is most in his way, when we think he is most out of the way. When we think God's church is, as it were, in the grave, and there is a tombstone laid upon her, his wisdom can roll away the stone from the sepulchre. ‘Christ cometh leaping over mountains.' Cant 2:2. Either his power can remove the mountain, or his wisdom knows how to leap over it. (4.) In case we are low in the world, or have but little oil in our cruse, let us rest in God's wisdom. He sees it best; it is to cure pride and wantonness. God knew if thy estate had not been lost, thy soul had been lost. God saw riches would be a snare unto thee. I Tim 6:6. Art thou troubled that God has prevented a snare? God will make thee rich in faith. What thou lackest in temporals shall be made up in spirituals. God will give thee more of his love. Thou art weak in estate, but God will make thee strong in assurance. Oh rest in God's wisdom! he will carve the best piece for thee. (5.) In case of the loss of dear friends, a wife, or child, or husband, let us rest satisfied in God's wisdom. God takes away these, because he would have more of our love; he breaks these crutches, that we may live more upon him by faith. God would have us learn to go without crutches.

Use two: If God be infinitely wise, let us go to him for wisdom, as Solomon did. ‘Give thy servant an understanding heart; and the speech pleased the Lord.' I Kings 3:3. Here is encouragement for us; ‘If any one lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth liberally, and upbraideth not.' James 1:1. Wisdom is in God, tanquam infonte, ‘as in the fountain'; his wisdom is imparted, not impaired; his stock is not spent by giving. Go then to God. Lord, do thou light my lamp; in thy light shall I see light; give me wisdom, to know the fallacy of my heart, the subtleties of the old serpent; to walk jealously towards myself, religiously towards thee, prudently towards others; guide me by thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.

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