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'The legs of the lame are not equal:' so, says the wise man, 'is a parable in the mouth of fools'. That is to say, the parable in the mouth of fools is not equal; it fails of an all-round interpretation which will carry conviction concerning the truth which it seeks to emphasize and enforce.
I. Some very good people pride themselves on the open mind. They look upon any one who may, upon any subject, arrive at any definite conclusion, which will commit them to any definite opinion, as narrow minded. They are broad enough to receive anything. These people look upon this open mind as a virtue; consequently they have no settled conviction, they walk as a lame man. Their legs are not equal. Their actions are uneven and unstable.
This type of mind which, like the fool's parable is loose, disjointed, and unequal, should not be confounded with that willingness to entertain truth, come it from whatever source it may be, an essential of the healthy and growing mind.
II. As far as the Gospel is concerned, there is absolutely no need for a lame leg. Granted, as the book does, 'In the beginning God,' and the whole plan of salvation, the whole doctrine of the atonement with all that that doctrine involves, is so clear and demonstrable that the lame leg, the uneven foot, the undecided step, is surely inexcusable. If God is, then Sinai and Calvary are as natural as the daylight, and as orderly as the sun rising.
Consider the character which this Gospel has produced, and let the fruit bear witness of the life within. But first of all what is this Gospel? It is the proclaiming of a character. The Gospel is the glad news concerning Jesus Christ. We cannot say the Gospel produced the character of Jesus Christ; but we can most truly affirm that His character produced the Gospel. And what a character it was, so strong, so decisive. He certainly knew how to obtain a determination. There was no suggestion of a limp in His walk, no evidence of looseness in His parable.
III. But this Gospel does produce a character. It is the character of Jesus Christ which is produced in those who believe on His name. Christ is begotten in the heart of the believer. And when that is done the lame leg disappears, the loose, ill-considered, disjointed parable vanishes. There is obtained that determination, 'the first requisite and indication of a rationally decisive character'.
Look at this indispensable fact in the lives of some of that mighty host who have followed Him. Take the first disciples. They furnish a striking and remarkable contrast before and after the resurrection of Christ.
J. Gay, Common Truths from Queer Texts, p. 5.
References. XXVI. 11. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven far Life on Earth, p. 523. XXVI. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1670. XXVI. 23. F. B. Cowl, Straight Tracks, p. 88.
John Bunyan's Application of an Old Testament Text
I. What were the 'Seven Abominations' John Bunyan discovered in his heart?
The fatal list is before us in Grace Abounding.
1. 'Inclinings to unbelief.' Whether we define 'unbelief as failure to subscribe to a body of truth or as lack of personal trustfulness it is yet an 'abomination,' and 'inclinings' to one or other form of unbelief are an 'abomination' unfashionable though it be to avow it in these days.
2. 'Suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth.' Bunyan accurately depicts spiritual experience when he describes this process of forgetfulness as setting in 'suddenly'. In a trice we fall into this error. Or ever we were aware we forgot Christ's 'love and mercy'. Beware of despondency which springs from lapse of memory! Despondency is a murderer of souls.
3. 'A leaning to the works of the law.' Bunyan refers in this phrase to a disposition to trust in his own good deeds as the ground of acceptance with God. We must all lean to 'the works of the Law' as moral directions, but never as the condition of eternal salvation.
4. 'Wanderings and coldness in prayer.' 'Wanderings.' The heart plays truant whilst the body is being schooled to prayer. Memory is a traitor despite the loyalty of the lips. How prayer loses its potency by being degraded into a formality! 'Coldness' perhaps even oftener curses our devotions. There is no glow in the petition because there is no glow in the petitioner.
5. 'To forget to watch for that I pray for.' 'Watching thereunto' is one of Paul's great maxims of prayer. Yet it is a maxim often practically ignored. It shows a fearful lack of belief in prayer.
6. 'Apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet ready to abuse what I have.' What an affront this is upon the wisdom and love of our God. As if He did not know best what is 'convenient' for us. I murmur that I have not more light, yet I do not put to best use the light I have. I murmur that I have not more leisure, and yet I abuse the leisure I possess. I murmur that I have no more wealth, yet I often abuse the money I have.
7. 'I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust in themselves. When I would do good, evil is present with me.' 'Corruptions' is a technical term of Biblical and Puritan theology. It indicates the sins and sinful tendencies of human nature.
II. What was the Sevenfold Sanctification these Abominations wrought in John Bunyan?
1. 'They make me abhor myself.' Then by so much they were ordered for his good. All of the Pharisee must die out of us, and with the self-deprecatory publican we must range ourselves for all time. Repentance is a continual need of Christians.
2. 'They keep me from trusting my heart.' 'He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool,' and to that folly we are fearfully prone. But realize the innumerable evils of your heart and how can you trust it?
3. 'They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.' Inherent righteousness, or natural righteousness, can never meet the demands of the righteous and holy Lord. Seeing my abominations drive me to the ineffable and vicarious righteousness of Christ they abduce an immortal good.
4. 'They show me the necessity of fleeing to Jesus.' Only Jesus can deliver us from the guilt and dominion of our abominations. When I see my hurt I know my Physician.
5. 'They press me to pray unto God.' This has constantly been a fact of Christian experience. Our sinfulness drives us to God in prayer.
6. 'They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.' What provokes vigilance and gravity is a blessing in its result, however evil it may be in itself.
7. 'And provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me, and cany me through this world.' If John Bunyan found that his various forms of indwelling sin provoked him to cast himself entirely upon God, through Christ, for help and guidance all his life long, then God had verily turned the curse into a blessing unto Him.
Dinsdale T. Young, The Enthusiasm, of God, p. 174.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 26". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent