It is a wonderful day in the history of a soul when he begins to appreciate the thoughts of God, as we have it in Proverbs 2, “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul.” The thoughts of men are abandoned as vain, foolish and evil, and the soul drinks in with great avidity the nectar of heavenly wisdom. The soul is upon another plane than that upon which the natural man moves, and another order of things engages the attention, entirely different from those things in which the mind of flesh occupies itself.
By nature man is full of his own thoughts, and as self is the centre of them, and the point from which everything is viewed, they are all wrong. He has his own ideas about God, about himself, and about the world, and he has no correct thought about any one thing in the whole universe. He is in thick darkness, and not only in darkness, but he has his thoughts directed by Satan, who is both his enemy and God’s. Hence his thoughts are all evil, and all destructive to his immortal soul.
The first thought in the heart of man, and that which was the occasion of his fall, was to lift himself into a higher position than that in which the goodness of God had placed him. It was his own exaltation he sought, and it was of no importance to him who was robbed if he was enriched. The first Person he attacked was God Himself, he grasped at divinity; and you may be sure that one who will aim at the position which belongs only to his Creator is not likely to allow man to stand in the way which he may think leads to his glorification. Therefore man is no sooner fallen through the activity of his sinful ambition than he becomes a murderer. He will use death, which lies upon man as the judgment of God, as an instrument by which to remove from his path the object which lies between him and the exaltation of self. He has also the erroneous idea in his mind that happiness is to be found in the gratification of his bestial propensities, and to these he gives a loose rein when it is safe for him to do so. Hence violence and corruption stain the history of the human race, from the very outset of its sinful career. Man seeks by every means possible, whether it be fair or foul, to arrive at the highest place in the world; and when he arrives there he is found to be a tyrant, and still discontented.
Being evil himself he has no idea of a Being supremely good. If a notion of God comes into his mind, it is a demon rises up before him, a being with all the lusts which he himself possesses, and also with unlimited power. He has no true thought of God at all. As the Psalmist puts it “God is not in all his thoughts” (Ps. 10:4); that is, no true thought of God is there; a hard master, an austere man, takes the place of God in his thought, but that is not God at all. Hence he has no confidence in God, and the thought of having to do with Him is beyond everything a terror to his soul.
Now the light of God is in the world, brought into it in Christ, and preached in the Gospel, its object being to dispel this darkness. It is a light above the brightness of the sun; above all created light, and above all the light which was necessary for man in his innocent condition. It is this which dispels the darkness from the conscience and heart of man. In that light I see what a sinner I am, but I see something of His grace and goodness: just enough to give me the sense that if I come to Him He will not cast me out. I turn to Him for forgiveness, and receive it by faith in Jesus. I see that in the power of the blood of Jesus, which is the witness of God’s love to me, I am justified in Him who shed that precious blood, and whom God has raised from the dead. I am not only sheltered from judgment by that blood, but I am brought to God as the Justifier of the ungodly, the Saviour of the lost. I praise Him with my whole heart, and possibly now think that my trials are all at an end, and my way to the glory of God will be all plain sailing, as far as any trouble from myself is concerned.
In this I shall find myself greatly mistaken. What I have done has been brought into the light, and my conscience has been set perfectly at rest as regards that; but the light has yet to discover to me what I am, and this is a deeper and more serious question than the question of my many sins. This I may be slow in learning, for it is not a pleasant subject, and I may be far from diligent. But God is a patient Teacher, and in His light He will make me see light, and eventually I shall get the knowledge of myself. That which is pleasant to the flesh is not always good, and it is our eternal good that God is after. Blessed be His name He does not give us everything we naturally desire, nor does He lead us in a path of our own choosing!
It is the same light in which I saw what a sinner I was which leads on to reveal to me that which I am in my carnal nature. In that light I find myself in the presence of the omniscient God. He has searched me and known me. He understands my down-sitting, mine up-rising, and my thought afar off; my path and my lying down He searches, and with my ways and words He is well acquainted. He has beset me behind and before and I feel He has laid His hand upon me. He has arrested me in my wilful career but I know not yet His purpose regarding me. Therefore I turn away from this exercise as something beyond and above me altogether, and for which I have no heart. But where shall I find a hiding-place? Heaven, hell, the uttermost parts of the sea—night itself is bright with His presence. I find out that all things are naked and open to Him with whom I have to do. This is the soul learning that “HE IS” (Heb. 11:6). God becomes a tremendous reality to the soul. Previous to this exercise God had not entered the circle in which we revolved in our forgetfulness of Him. Perhaps we imagined that He took no account of us; that He did not know, or could not judge through the dark cloud (Job 22:13); but now we know that the darkness and the light are both alike to Him.
But all this is learned with a sense of His goodness in our hearts, otherwise we could not bear this searching. It is but a little light which comes into our souls at the time. To begin with, just as much as causes us to feel we need such a Saviour as God has provided; but in the fact that He has provided such a Saviour, and in the foundation for our eternal blessing which has been laid in His cross, the grace and love of God has so come to light that our confidence in Him is great enough to make us willing to learn our lesson however bitter the exercise may be. The light which reveals to us what we are is the light of God, and therefore our knowledge of Him is ever in advance of our knowledge of ourselves: “Mine eye sees Thee: wherefore I abhor myself” (Job 42:5-6). Peter learned what a sinful man he was in the presence of the Saviour. This supports us through the process by which we come to the knowledge of ourselves.
The next thing we learn is that God is our Maker. This is a great advance upon learning Him as our Justifier. Israel will learn this in the coming day, when God takes them up again as His workmanship, and “It shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What has God wrought!” (Num. 23:23). And in Psalm 100:3, “It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves.” So here we have the statement: “I will praise Thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.” We are the creatures of God, and He who made us knows all about us; but we are also His creatures as new-created in Christ. Surely we may well say we are both fearfully and wonderfully made, and in His school we learn that truth so as to know it right well.
But in making us, God had His thoughts about us. Not one thought that He had in His mind, when He made us at the beginning, will fall to the ground unfulfilled; but now all His thoughts concerning us are set before us in His Son. He has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). To this end He has been working from the beginning, and to this end are all His dealings with us. From this He cannot be diverted. He has made the power of Satan, the fall of man, the rejection of His blessed Son work to this end. He is able to make everything serve His purpose, and nothing can militate against His gracious decrees. He has also His purposes in creation, and He will fill it with His glory and praise. And as it is in redemption He has come to light so everything will be filled with the glory of that work. But in the ages to come we who are saved in this dispensation have the nearest and highest place to Himself, as sons along with His Son, and as the body and bride of the heavenly Man.
Therefore we can say: “How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great the sum of them! If I should count them they are more in number than the sand.” How far all this is away from the thoughts of the natural man! What a scene of incorruptible and holy joy and delight we come into in the contemplation of the thoughts of God! Thoughts of infinite goodness, grace and love! Thoughts of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thoughts which dwelt in the mind of the Triune God before His works of old! Thoughts for our glory! Thoughts which can be spoken of as the depths of God! And these thoughts all set before us in Christ! Oh, to think that the Almighty God, the Most High, the Creator of all things should set Himself before us in a Man, and that Man the eternal Son of the eternal Father; and that He should come down into the lower parts of the earth where we were to bear the judgment which lay upon us, and thus make known the love of God to us; and that He should take us up, and bring us to the Father, and set us in the same place before the Father as He is in Himself; and that He should give us to know that love in the Spirit’s power in our hearts; this passes all our powers of comprehension! That He should tell us that the Father Himself loves us; that He should speak of His Father as our Father, and of His God as our God; and that He should declare the Father’s name to us, in order that the love wherewith the Father loved Him might be in us and He in us; and that He should also tell us that He was coming soon to bring us into the Father’s house, that we might be for ever where He is!—how great the sum of these thoughts! how deep! how high! how vast! how infinite! And to think that He can never be turned aside from the object which He has in view; what rest of soul this gives us!
Knowing thus His thoughts, that they are all thoughts of blessing for us, we are ready to say to Him: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”