By E.W. Bullinger
An excerpt from Things to Come
Vol. VI, No. 4 – October 1899
Man is by his fallen nature selfish; and therefore is necessarily prone to be occupied with himself. And even Christians, who possess a New nature, are not free from this ever present temptation.
This is bad enough in itself and in its results; but, when it is substituted for occupation with Christ, then a double evil result follows: the true way is forsaken, and peace is lost; the false way is taken, and misery is found.
The soul is deceived, because Christ is not altogether left out. He is brought in, but mixed up with self; and is thus dishonoured instead of glorified. He is not put first. It is “Self and Co.,” and Self has got to do something, to “surrender” and “yield”; or else Christ is powerless to help. So that Christ is helpless until Almighty Self makes it possible for Christ to do anything.
Do we wonder that this new-fashioned theology fails to accomplish the object aimed at? Are we surprised to find that this “Gospel of Surrender,” which comes to us New from the West, fails to produce the solid Christianity and holy living which the Old Gospel (which came to us from the East) has produced all through the ages? Ought not its very newness to have put Christians on their guard, and made them look with suspicion upon it?
Do they not see, now, that it is a failure? It is no Royal Road to holiness of life.
Like all human remedies “the dose has to be repeated” again and again, and even then brings no cure for the real evil, no relief from the conflict between the two Natures.
We have met with many who have been brought low by the use of these new-fashioned medicines, which are so widely advertised in the present day. For, while the remedies are used in vain, the disease continues to growapace.
There is only one remedy; only one way; only one Royal Road. But this is a very old Road: “the old paths,” God calls it. Oh that we may succeed in leading some to seek for these “old paths,” the path of peace and rest, the path of righteousness and true holiness.
In our last issue we pointed out this Royal Road; and showed that the secret lay in the utter rejection and obliteration of Self in all its ten thousand subtle forms, and the occupation of the heart wholly with God and His Christ.
This is no new remedy for the inherent evil tendencies of human nature. It is as old as the Word of God itself.
“They looked unto him and were lightened,” is the description of those who use the remedy which God Himself has provided and pointed out (Psalm 34:5). And in the same Book of Psalms He has given us two “cases” of those who tried other remedies.
These “cases” are given to us in two Psalms of Asaph. He was the one who went wrong in this matter. He forsook the fountain of living water, and hewed him out cisterns of his own devising; and the end of it is told for our warning. The new remedies nearly killed him. He tried two of them; and the second after he had proved the failure of the first! “So foolish was I (he said), and ignorant.” It is the same today, and will be to the end.
Let us turn aside and read the Divine account of these two “cases” The first is given us in:
1. I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and He gave ear unto me.
2. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
3. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak…
6. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.
What could be the effect of this self-examination but misery? And so it was. For he goes on to ask:
7. Will the Lord cast off for ever? And will he be favourable no more?
8. Is His mercy clean gone for ever? Doth His promise fail for evermore?
9. Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah.
Here is a “Selah,” calling our attention to the break, and pointing us to the misery resulting from beholding one’s own self, and from self-occupation. Well does it say “Selah.” We have seen the cause for this lamentable condition of things. Now, what is to be its prevention and its cure? The next verse tells us:
10. And I said, This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
11. I will remember the work of Jehovah: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
12. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
13. Thy way, O God, is in the SANCTUARY: who is so great a God as our God?
14. Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the peoples.
15. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy People, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.
Here is another “Selah” pointing us to the Royal Road to peace and happiness. Misery was the result of his Introspection: and it must ever be so. For what is there within any of us to cause us the slightest satisfaction except what God has done? “His workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10). “His new creation work” (II Corinthians 5:17).
Here, then, is the description of the first “case.” We see the nature of the complaint: the effect of the wrong remedy; the miserable result; and the true recovery.
The second “case” is furnished by the same Asaph in:
Here, it is not introspection; not looking within, but looking around. Looking, not at self, but at others. Occupied, not with that which produces misery, but with that which produces distraction. The Psalm begins:
1. Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
Now see what the effect of this is. Asaph is looking away from himself, it is true. The inevitable result of looking at others, and especially at others who seem to be “more advanced,” is to bring us back to ourselves and to reasonings about ourselves:
2. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
3. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4. For there are no bands in their death; but their strength is firm.
5. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men…
7. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish…
12. Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
What is the natural result of this occupation? He looks around and sees the righteous suffering, and the ungodly prospering. He sees the (apparently) needed one taken, and the useless, helpless one left. Naturally he gets distracted! And he exhibits this result of his mistaken occupation:
13. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
14. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
15. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend the generation of thy children.
Now comes the turning-point, which brings him back into the Royal Road.
16. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
17. Until I went into the SANCTUARY of God; then understood I their end…
21. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
22. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
Now we come out into the light. In the “Sanctuary,” all is made clear (as was in the former case, in Psalm 77:13). The presence of God sets all right. Looking unto Him he is “lightened.” Now he gives up all other occupation and beholds only God. Hence he is able to say:
23. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.
26. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever…
Here is a blessed height to reach. We have seen the steps by which it is approached. And, having reached this Royal Road he travels on to the end; and tells us of his blessed and happy experiences, which he sums up in these words:
28. It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God (Adonai Jehovah), that I may declare all thy works.
Here, then, is the end of the whole matter. And it is nothing in himself or others—only God Himself and what He hath done. We need only add the one great lesson and set up this sign or guide-post, which points out the way to the Royal Road, and say:
If you want to be miserable, look within.
If you want to be distracted, look around.
If you want to be happy, look UP!
Occupy your heart with God, and with the standing He has given you in Christ, and we do not hesitate to say that your “walk” will take care of itself. In other words, God’s remedy is a specific, which will accomplish a certain cure; while man’s nostrum will and must assuredly fail.