He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
I. A UNIVERSAL WASTE. (Ver. 5.) Wisdom means the right use of knowledge. A man may know a very great deal, and yet not be a wise man. Wisdom classifies the materials of knowledge, and studies to use them so as to build up and beautify the life. It proposes right ends, and chooses the best means by which to reach them. It shows itself not so much in doing the right thing, as in doing it at the proper time. In the highest use of the word, "wisdom" is just another name for piety. It is that state of mind and heart which is produced by the believing reception of gospel truth. The one fool of the Bible is the sinner. The only wise man is he who regards the glory of God as the end of his life, and who makes his acts and habits means to that end. Now, we all naturally lack wisdom, and a thoughtful man realizes this lack most thoroughly in the time of trial. What a rare and difficult attainment is that holy discretion which can welcome even the contrary winds of calamity, and the driving storms of tribulation, because it can make them helpful in steering joyfully towards the desired haven!
II. AN ABUNDANT SOURCE OF SUPPLY. "God, who giveth to all" (ver. 5); literally, "the giving God." The living, loving Jehovah is the one Source and Fountain of wisdom. That is one of his essential attributes; and it is his prerogative to impart it to his creatures. He gives the Holy Spirit to work wisdom in the hearts of believers. Now, the God of wisdom is the Giver of all good things. His resources are infinite, and his gifts are universal and unceasing. In his common providence he imparts blessings to all his creatures - to the barnacle that clings to the rocks, and to the archangel that ministers before the throne. And he is "the giving God" in grace also. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?" So he is ready to bestow wisdom at all times, and especially in the day of trial; he waits to impart to every devout sufferer a wealth of holy patience and of spiritual joy. And the giving God gives liberally and unreproachingly. It is his characteristic habit to be exceedingly bountiful.
III. AS EASY METHOD OF OBTAINING. "Let him ask, and it shall be given him" (ver. 5). Holy wisdom is not the result merely of thought or speculation. No Aristotelian or Baconian method can produce it. No habit of sullen, dogged Stoicism reveals its presence. It is to be had from God, and for the asking. God is the living God, and he is very near us; and we, his children, have the freest access to him. He gives "simply" to those who pray simply. He bestows "liberally" upon those who petition liberally. It is his way "to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." When Solomon asked only for wisdom, God gave him riches and honor too. When the prodigal requests only the place of a hired servant, his Father assures him of the station and honor of a beloved son. The Lord always gives liberally; never with a grudge - never ungraciously. He always gives with his heart when he opens his hand. Does the consciousness of much personal guilt make any of us slow to "ask of God"? Does our past neglect or abuse of his gifts deprive us of childlike confidence in coming to him? Then let us remember that he "upbraideth not." What a sweet word is that! It limns for our comfort a most touching trait of the character of the giving God. How unlike he is to human benefactors! Instead of reproaching the returning prodigal, he welcomes him with kisses of love. God upbraids no one for his great ignorance, or for his enormous guilt, or for his repeated backslidings, or for his long delay, or for making himself a last resource, or for coming too often, or for asking too much. How easy this God-appointed method of obtaining wisdom! We have only to "ask, and it shall be given" us. And how great the encouragement! "God giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not."
IV. AN INDISPENSABLE REQUISITE TO SUCCESS. (Vers. 6-8.) Prayer is not real unless it be the expression of faith. It must issue "from a living source within the will," and be inspired by perfect confidence in God's readiness to help. How much unbelief prevails in our time on the subject of prayer! The scientific temper of the age merely allows a man to "pray to God, if there be a God - to save his soul, if he have a soul." And the forcible words of James, in these three verses, suggest that still, in the case of very many Christians, an imperfect faith in God's readiness to respond to their prayers is one of the greatest defects of their spiritual life. We are apt, even, to speak of evident answers to prayer as unusual, and - when they do occur - as remarkable. Now, the gift of wisdom is promised only to him who asks it with a steady faith, and who evinces the reality of his faith by a life of consistent purpose. God our Father demands the confidence of his children. "Nothing doubting" should be the Christian's motto in prayer. The petitioner must not shift backwards and forwards between faith and doubt, like a tumbling billow of the sea. He must not swing like a pendulum between cheerful confidence and dark suspicion. It must be his fixed persuasion that God is, and that he is the Hearer of prayer. He must expect an answer to his supplications, and be ready to mark the time and mode of it; else he may rest assured that no answer will come. Transient emotions are not religion. It is the men and women within whom faith is the dominant power who take the kingdom of heaven by force. God is all simplicity himself, and he gives with simplicity; so he can have no sympathy with an unstable, double-souled man. A mind that continually vacillates in its choice will be prone in the end to fail in both the purposes between which it has hesitated. Certainly it will not obtain that Divine wisdom which every human heart so greatly needs for the exigencies of adversity. Steadfast faith, and that alone, will give a man singleness of eye, make him strong to keep hold of the angel of the covenant, and draw down upon him the richest blessings of gospel grace. - C.J.
A double-minded man is unstable.
I. THE CHARACTER OF ONE WHO IS IRRESOLUTE AND UNFIXED IN HIS LEADING VIEWS AND DESIRES.
1. His understanding is various.
2. He acts as if he had two wills.
3. His affections are spiritual or carnal, serious or sensual, heavenly or worldly, just as the two contrary principles of flesh and spirit prevail in him, which alternately sway the mind, and of which alternate sway this variableness of temper is the certain effect.
II. THE EFFECT OF THIS UNHAPPY TEMPER.
1. The double-minded man is inconstant in his purposes and pursuits.
2. Another effect of such a divided heart is that it can seldom in good earnest fall in with the dictates of conscience in the plainest instances of duty.
3. The double-minded man is easily overcome in an hour of temptation.Lessons:
1. There is no man but what hath, and must have, some leading views in life, some grand point at which he aims, and to which he makes almost all his other views subservient.
2. Common understanding and reason will lead a man to examine what this great end is that he drives at.
3. Every man, as a reasonable creature, endowed by his Maker with reflection and understanding, should take special care that his governing aims be right.
4. Before we can know what ought to be our great and governing views, we must know what we are and what we are designed for.
5. That to serve and please and fear that great God that gave us being is our great concern, and ought at all times to be our governing view, as reasonable creatures born for immortality.
(John Mason, M. A.)
1. Let us examine it as it appears to others. To the eminently good he is an object of humiliating compassion; to the bad, of derision. Moreover, every change of conduct adds his own testimony to the suffrage of the world, either that his understanding is so weak as to be always wavering between truth and error; or that his resolution is so frail as to fluctuate incessantly between good and evil, clearly discerned and acknowledged by himself to be so. Like a child, playing on the brink of a precipice (overhung with fruits and flowers), now struck with the danger, now tempted by the beauty and the fragrance; trembling, yet lingering, whether he recede from or advance to his destruction; presenting an image of most pitiable imbecility. His mind is torn by struggling passions; his life, a scene of conflict, that one may compare to civil war, in which rival parties, alternately defeated and victorious, inflict and suffer reciprocal calamities; and whichsoever prevails, nothing is to be seen but the burning of towns, the laying waste of provinces, confusion and desolation on every side. Alas, when a man is conscious of breaking through the secret resolutions of his own mind, of violating injunctions to which he has been professing perpetual obedience, renewing transgressions which he has been lamenting in anguish, which will shortly make him abhor himself, which will possibly fill up the measure of his guilt and seal his doom — what a scene of internal misery to be conscious, while knowing his duty, of wanting spirit and resolution to perform it; to possess an understanding, yet violate its best dictates; to have a heart, yet transgress its purest sentiments; to hear the voice of conscience and of God recalling him from ruin, yet finding himself hurried on by the headstrong fury of his passions — what must be the feelings of this man, who has endured so lately the pangs of guilt, who has been in the very crisis of a blessed change, who had begun to taste the sweets of liberty, yet is ensnared again — what must his feelings be while renewing and perpetuating his ignominious bondage!
2. Thus unhappy is the double-minded man in his own eyes: we are now to consider him with respect to his moral worth — his character in the sight of God. It is not a wavering, divided temper and conduct which comes within the line of salvation marked out by the gospel: "If ye continue in My Word" (says Jesus Christ Himself), "then are ye My disciples indeed"; and again, "No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." As guilt is the poison of the soul, so repentance is its cure: the double-minded man betakes himself alternately to the poison and to the remedy. If such treatment would be fatal to the bodily constitution, how much more to the constitution of the mind, which, if it do not fix in virtue, must sink into the reverse, while the passions and appetites are rather inflamed than moderated by temporary and ineffectual restraints, and all those finer principles which should hold them in subjection are gradually impaired and become callous by frequent injuries — every virtuous effort grows weaker and weaker, till it yields mechanically to every impulse of desire, and the whole mind becomes at length blind to danger, deaf to counsel, and dead to the sense of goodness. In this melancholy state, what hope of moral recovery can remain? Those who have lost sight of reason in the career of passion, or who have even long slumbered in a course of stupid unthinking wickedness, may still be awakened; and strong motives, with the aid of strenuous exertion, may still open some glimmering prospect of recovery. But when reason, conscience, religion, have tried their utmost, but in vain, what more remains to be done?
1. A hypocrite (James 4:8). As Theophrastus saith of the partridges of Paphlagonia, that they had two hearts, so every hypocrite hath two souls. As I remember, I have read of a profane wretch that bragged he had two souls in one body, one for God and the other for anything.
2. It implieth one that is distracted and divided in his thoughts, floating between two different ways and opinions, as if he had two minds or two souls.
3. And, more expressly to the context, it may note those whose minds were tossed to and fro with various and uncertain motions; now lifted up with a billow of presumption, then cast down in a gulf of despair, being divided between hopes and fears concerning their acceptance with God.
1. That unbelieving hypocrites are men of a double mind; they want the conduct of the Spirit, and are led by their own affections, and therefore cannot be settled: fear, the love of the world, carnal hopes and interests, draw them hither and thither, for they have no certain guide and rule. This double mind in carnal men bewrayeth itself two ways — in their hopes and their opinions.(1) In their hopes they are distracted between expectation and jealousy, doubts and fears; now full of confidence in their prayers, and anon breathing forth nothing but sorrow and despair; and possibly that may be one reason why the Psalmist compareth the wicked to chaff (Psalm 1:4), because they have no firm stay and subsistence, but are driven to and fro by various and uncertain motions, leading their lives by guess, rather than any sure aim.(2) In their opinions hypocrites usually waver and hang in suspense, being distracted between conscience and carnal affections; their affections carry them to Baal, their consciences to God.
2. That doubtfulness of mind is the cause of uncertainty in our lives and conversation. Their minds are double, and therefore their ways are unstable. For our actions do oft bear the resemblance of our thoughts, and the heart not being fixed, the life is very uncertain. The note holdeth good in two cases.(1) In fixing the heart in the hopes of the gospel.(2) In fixing the heart in the doctrine of the gospel; as faith sometimes implieth the doctrine which is believed, sometimes the grace by which we do believe.A certain expectation of the hopes of the gospel produceth obedience, and a certain belief of the doctrine of the gospel produceth constancy.
1. None walk so evenly with God as they that are assured of the love of God. Faith is the mother of obedience, and sureness of trust maketh way for strictness of life.
2. None are so constant in the profession of any truth as they that are convinced and assured of the grounds of it.
(T. Manton.)I. WE HAVE TO OBSERVE ON THE MISERABLE DISADVANTAGE, INEFFICIENCY, AND, WE MAY SAY, WORTHLESSNESS, OF SUCH A STATE OF MIND FOR ANYTHING GREAT AND GOOD. "Double-minded," "unstable in all" things. Now, connect this with the consideration of the feebleness of the human powers at the best. Let those powers be in their best order, and exerted in the most steady, constant, and consistent manner possible, and even then, how slow and toilsome is the progress to any good! The most vigorous have mourned and been mortified, to see how little they had done: the most determined servants of God have confessed that they were "unprofitable servants." Again, connect the idea of this character with that of the shortness of life; short, in the most protracted instances, shorter still, in the far greater number. And how much of this inevitably consumed in little cares and occupations, and, in many instances, in grievances, pains, and languor! A man deliberating and perplexing and confounding his designs, and life still hastening on; prosecuting a purpose a little while, and then, hesitating, stopping, life still going on! abandoning his design — life all the while passing away'. Think, again, what dishonour and ignominy it is, for a man to be thus, as it were, his own opponent and frustrator. There is enough to obstruct him, from without, were he ever so vigorously prepared for the great operations of duty. But he has within him the causes of defeat. He cannot put in order the active principles and powers within the citadel of his soul, to sally out in force against the external difficulties and opposition. He has there opinion dissenting from opinion, motive disagreeing with motive, passion conflicting with passion, purpose thwarting purpose. But to carry the view outward; this double-minded man, who has no simplicity and unity of purpose, think how unfortunate is his case, on account of the multiplicity of things there will be to distract his purposes, and frustrate his exertions. In this "double" condition of mind he is liable to be arrested by a great number of things on either side.
II. But we may previously observe that there are very many men exempt from this miserable weakness, BY BEING THE SUBJECTS OF SOMETHING STILL WORSE. There is many a sinner that betrays no double-mindedness. He is actuated wholly, steadily, constantly, by some one predominant evil. The man of all-grasping ambition, the complete sensualist, the insane lover of money. And these, in their way, are most worthy to be held up as examples to those who profess to be, or to wish to be, devoted to better things. "Look at them," we would say to the unstable, double-minded man — "look at them and be ashamed!" In representing the character of our text, in some of its most usual forms, we may note that there is perhaps some difference between a double-mindedness of variableness, fluctuation, fickleness, and that of inconsistency or self-contradiction. But we would rather direct the attention to that doable-mindedness which endeavours, in the habitual course of life, to combine irreconcilable things. And how many exemplify this in the manner in which their minds are affected between the present and the future! A predominance of regard to the great and endless future is indispensable to the happy order of the human soul. But in some minds this concern rather harasses than predominates — it cannot govern, but will not depart. And as it will not, it is attempted to be brought into some kind of compromise with the prevailing interest about the present objects. There is the warning thought, "These present objects will soon be no longer mine — I must leave them! and what will be the state of my soul elsewhere?" And there is terrible authority in this thought. It forces its demand on the conscience of such a man. There are, therefore, some serious thoughts; some employments of a religious kind; some abstinences and self-denials; some prayers, however constrained. And this miserably embitters the interest of the present and temporal objects. Still the heart cannot, cannot let these objects sink down to the subordinate rank, and admit the predominance of the grand future ones. This miserable double-mindedness distracts the tenor of a man's life. He goes on hesitating, embarrassed, impeded, and only succeeds in going wrong 1 It is much the same thing, we have said already, when we exemplify the character, denominated in the text, in the case of a man who approves some great, general, good object, but is influenced by a selfish interest against it. This private interest rises up against all his convictions and better wishes and sympathies, and determines him to oppose the thing he pronounces so good. But yet, not without a painful consciousness of inconsistency, which his utmost efforts cannot reconcile, and which gives a wavering "unstable" character to his course of proceeding. See, again, the character in the text exemplified in the case of a man harassed between the dictates of his own judgment and conscience, on the one side, and the consideration of how he will be accounted of in the world, on the other side. The attempted combination of things which cannot truly agree is exemplified in some who wish to carry an appearance and a profession of belonging to the Christians, the people of God, and at the same time are very desirous of being on the most favourable terms with worldly and irreligious society. We will only add to the description one more particular, and that of a doctrinal reference. There seems to be in some persons a "double-minded" apprehension of the meritorious cause of human salvation — a notion of some kind of distributive partition of the merit, between the sinful being himself and Jesus Christ. Now this must produce a painful perplexity and instability in a man's experience, and in his religious exercises and efforts. For it can never be adjusted, on each side, how much. If the Redeemer will not, of mere free favour, furnish all for justification, where will He stop? If I am to contribute essentially, meritoriously, myself, what will suffice? by what rule is it to be estimated? Unstable, therefore, is such a man in his feelings, in his efforts, in his prayers.
III. WHAT IS THE REMEDY FOR ALL THIS? The great thing to quell all this mischief and conflict and wretchedness is to have one grand predominant sovereign purpose of life. And what can that be but to live for God and eternity? How gloriously this would crush the hateful strife! and bring us out free, in singleness of spirit, for the enterprise of immortality! The means conducive, under the Divine influence, to the establishment of this great predominant principle and power are most plain and obvious. Let the man who feels the plague of this internal dissension, let him look most deliberately, most resolutely, and, as in the sight of God, at the motives, the objects, the interests, which divide and baffle his spirit; and solemnly decide what it is that deserves to have the ascendency. And what he is losing all the while! losing the labour of his vital powers — spending his strength for nought; losing his time, the inestimable advantages for the attainment of the final good, the present happiness he might be enjoying, the benefits of the Redeemer's work, the day of grace and salvation. By continuance, too, these worse contesting principles have habit on their side, the most infernal ally of evil principles, an angelic one of the good. And, lastly, as God is, if we may speak so, the supreme unity, simplicity, consistency, stability, in the universe, the soul must have a firm connection with Him, so as to be in a humble sense (what we should not venture to express, if His own Word had not) a "partaker of the Divine nature," by His Spirit imparted, through the medium of the Redeemer. And then these opposing evil principles and powers in the soul will shrink in the strife, will no longer prevail, though they linger to struggle, will have received the touch of death, and will perish wholly and for ever when the spirit is at last set free from mortality and this infected world.
(Bp. Smalridge.)Psalm 16:5). On the other side, the carnal-minded person who is uniform and consistent with himself in a constant course of sin; who hath got the conquest over his conscience, and is deaf to its loudest cries; who, finding the fetters of religion too burdensome, hath taken care to break these bonds asunder, and to cast away these cords from him, hath his share of pleasures, which he freely enjoys, without abatement or control. The double-minded person who pretends to be sometimes spiritual, and who at other times is carnal; who shares his affections betwixt the Creator and the creature; who sometimes obeys the laws of God to comply with the dictates of his conscience, and at other times disobeys God's laws to gratify his sensual appetite, may perhaps propose to himself a double share of pleasure; and all that happiness which the spiritual and carnal person do separately divide between them, he may fondly hope to join together in one, and to enjoy at once. But whilst he aims at too much, he is in danger to lose all; whilst he claims more happiness than comes to his share, he forfeits what otherwise he might have fairly enjoyed; and, instead of uniting in one the different pleasures of a sensual and spiritual life, he will find by experience that he truly tastes neither. For the pleasures of sin are embittered by the remorses of conscience, whose checks he is not able wholly to silence; and, on the other side, that satisfaction of mind which he should reap from the consciousness of having done some things well is impaired by the sense of guilt which arises from his having done other things which he knows to be evil. There are several forbidden pleasures which a profligate, dissolute thorough-paced sinner, who hath no sense of shame, no fear of God, no strugglings of conscience to restrain him, doth without control freely indulge himself in; and these make up a great part of that happiness which he pitches upon as his portion. But the double-minded person who proposes to himself different ends, and pursues different courses, though he sometimes transgresses the lines of duty, dares not go great lengths in vice; he hath not so far got the mastery over his conscience but that there are several kinds and instances of sin at which he presently starts back and recoils; he is for keeping up an interest with two opposite parties, God and the world; and therefore is careful not to serve either, so far as to make the breach with the other utterly irreconcilable; and thus, for want of a perfect and uniform obedience, he loses those pleasures which the saints of God find in a religious life; and at the same time, for want of being thoroughly wicked, he debars himself from several sorts and degrees of pleasure which profligate sinners take very frequent and very large draughts of. And as through the restraint of conscience he dares not allow himself in several pleasures which notorious sinners liberally taste of, so in those which, through the prevalence of his lusts, he gives way to, he finds not all that relish which they do. For though he is so far wicked as not to resist a temptation when it is offered; yet he cloth not so much as the other entertain himself with the prospect of criminal pleasure before be enjoys it; his soul is not so wholly swallowed up with it whilst he enjoys it; and he doth not with so much contentment call it back and dwell upon it in his memory, and act it over again in his imagination after he has enjoyed it.
(Bp. Smalridge.)I. IT IS CONTRARY TO THAT LOVE OF GOD WHICH THE GOSPEL EXPRESSLY REQUIRES (Matthew 22:35). Now, if the steadiness of our obedience depends upon the sincerity of our love of God; if nothing can seduce them from their duty, whose hearts are truly possessed with an ardent love of God; then will it follow, on the other side, that those whose obedience is partial and interrupted, who advance some steps in the paths of virtue, and after that depart back into sinful courses, are destitute of that superlative love of God which is the very basis of all religion, and the first and chief condition of our eternal salvation.
II. IT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THAT PERFECTION WHICH IS ANOTHER CONDITION OF THE GOSPEL COVENANT. Absolute perfection is not to be attained, and therefore repentance comes in to supply the want of it; but a sincere endeavour after perfection is possible; and he who sins with a resolution to repent is not sure that God will give him grace to repent in time of need. Now, if an endeavour after perfection, if doing the utmost we can do in "all things to keep a conscience void of offence," is confessed on all hands to be the least that can be meant by that perfection which is the condition of our salvation, then must double-minded persons be in a very dangerous state who cannot pretend that they perform this condition. For can that person be said to use his utmost endeavours to be perfect who, though he resists some temptations, yet not only yields to but even invites others? Doth he do all he can do to approve himself to God who doth as many actions, which he knows to be displeasing to God, as he doth actions acceptable? Can he be thought in earnest to press forwards towards the mark whose retreats are equal to his advances? who is always in motion, but rids no ground; and who, after some years spent in a course of religion, is got no farther than when he at first set out? As well may he be thought a perfect scholar who, in that part of learning he professes, is ignorant of as many things as he knows; or that be deemed a perfect animal which, of those limbs it should have, wants as many as it hath, or which is destitute of as many organs of sense as it enjoys.
III. IT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THAT SINCERE FAITH UPON THE OBSERVANCE OF WHICH ON OUR PART WE EXPECT SALVATION, "if we examine the faith of a double-minded person, if we try it by its works, we shall not find it thus general and impartial. He finds gracious promises the gospel annexed to the performance of some duties, and these he pretends to discharge on purpose that he may inherit those precious promises; but he finds also severe threats denounced against some sins; and, notwithstanding these threats, he goes on in a constant habitual commission of them. Now, how is his performance of these duties a better proof that he heartily believes those promises than his voluntary transgressions are, that in his heart he disbelieves those threats?
(Bp. Smalridge.)A two-souled man is unsettled; "unstable in all ways." His opinions are fluctuating; and so are his sentiments. Sometimes he is repenting of his sins, and sometimes he is repenting of his repentance. Sometimes the importance of the future overwhelms him, and sometimes he feels theft nothing is worth thinking of but the present. Such instability of sentiment must unsettle the believer. The man is sometimes as serene as a May morning, and sometimes as sweeping as a cyclone. You can never know how he will receive you, or how he will behave under certain circumstances. His instability imparts its changefulness to his countenance; while he is looking one way, his soul has gone another. His speech is ambiguous, his tone of voice wavering, his utterance now very rapid and now very slow. Sometimes he answers offhand and without reflection, and then he requires so much time to consider that the opportunity for speech has passed. He is untrustworthy in every department of life. That man cannot receive anything of the Lord. He cannot hold his hand long enough to have anything placed therein.
(C. F. Deems, D. D.)
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