“ Should it be according to your mind?”
ELIHU thought that Job had spoken too boastfully and that there was too much of self about him and, therefore, he reproved him by asking this question, “Should it be according to your mind?” It is a question which, in the original, has a great wealth of meaning in it and, as the language of the Book of Job is extremely ancient and very terse, it is not easy to get the fullness of Elihu’s meaning. But it has been said that upon the whole, our translation not only gives the meaning of his enquiry, but also more of the meaning than can be conveyed in any other words, so that we may be perfectly satisfied with it and may pray God the Holy Spirit to apply it to us. And if we have grown to be high and mighty, and have begun to criticize the way of God in dealing with us, this question may come to us very sharply, “‘Should it be according to your mind?’ Should everything be arranged just to suit your whims and wishes? Should everything in the world be fashioned according to your taste and the whole globe revolve just to serve you and please your fancy? Should it be according to your mind?‘”
There are four things I am going to say concerning our text. First I shall ask, Are there really any people in theworld who think that everything should be according to their mind? what leads them to that notion? what a mercy it is that they cannot have everything according to their mind. And then, fourthly, I shall urge you to keep this evil spirit in check, so that, henceforth, you will not wish that thingsshould be according to your mind.
- Our first question has a measure of astonishment about it. ARE THERE REALLY ANY PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO WOULD HAVE EVERYTHING ACCORDING TO THEIR MIND? Oh, yes, there are such people! I should not wonder if there are some of them here right now. In fact, I question whether we have not, all of us, at times, drunk very deeply into this naughty, haughty spirit. If we have done so, may we be speedily delivered from it!
First, there are some people who would have God, Himself, according to their mind. Now, as a matter of fact, allthat I can know of God I must learn from God revealing Himself to me. I cannot discover Him by myself–He must unveil Himself to me–and that He has done in Holy Scripture. All that He intends us to know about Himself, He has revealed in the written Word and in the Incarnate Word, His ever-blessed Son. But there are some people who get their idea of God out of themselves. You may have heard of the German philosopher who evolved the idea of a camel out of his own consciousness–at least, so he said. I do not think it was much like a camel when he had evolved it, but there are many persons who try to evolve the idea of God out of their own consciousness. It cannot be, they say, that certain statements in the Bible are true because there is something or other, in their inner consciousness, that contradicts the Scriptural declarations. God, as they believe in Him, is what they think He ought to be, not what He really is. And there are some, in these days, who have even gone so far as to reject the Old Testament altogether because its teaching concerning God does not meet the approval of their very marvelous minds.
Practically, these people are idolaters, for an idolater is one who makes a god unto himself. The true worshipper of God–the accepted worshipper–is one who worships God as He is and as He reveals Himself in His Word. But there are many persons who make a god out of their own thoughts. The teachers of the modern school of theology work in a kind of god-factory. The people in some heathen lands make their gods out of mud, but these men make their gods out of their own thought, their imagination, their “intellect.” That is what they call it, though I am not sure that it is that organ which is at work in this instance. But when a man makes a god of thought, he is just as much an idolater as if he had made a god of wood or of gold. The true God–the God of Scripture thus revealed Himself to His ancient people, “I am the Lord your God, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” This God is our God, “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” “the God of the whole earth He shall be called.” Many a man refuses to accept this God as his, but I would like to ask him, “Should God be according to your mind?” That would be a strange god, indeed! Should He have no other attributes but such as you would give to Him? Should His Character and conduct be only such as you can comprehend and justify? Must there be nothing in Him that shall puzzle you? Are there to be no Divine deeps that shall be beyond the reach of your finite mind? Are there to be no heights beyond your power to soar?
That is what seems to be your notion and if there is anything that staggers you a little, you say, “I cannot believe it.” If it were possible, you would eliminate from the Character of God everything that is stern and terrible–though these attributes clearly appertain to the Most High as He has been pleased to reveal Himself in Scripture. I beg you, dear Friends, never to attempt to mold the Character of God with the fingers of your own fancy! Worship Him just as He is, though you cannot comprehend Him. Believe in Him as He reveals Himself and never imagine that you could, by making any change in Him, effect an improvement in Him. By toning down His justice, you think that you are increasing His love and, by denying His righteous vengeance, you imagine that you are honoring His goodness. But, instead of doing so by the removal of these things which alarm and annoy you–if you could do so–you would take away part of God’s grandeur and strength which make His goodness and His mercy to shine as brightly as they now do!
Leave God just as He is, remembering how He has said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” The Infinite God must be past finding out by the creatures whom He has made. I confess that it is one of my greatest joys to find myself completely baffled when I am trying to comprehend the Character of God. Sometimes, when I have tried to preach upon the Deity of Christ, I have been fairly staggered under the burden of that stupendous Truth and I have felt the utter uselessness and poverty of human language to describe our great and terrible, yet loving Lord! And I have been glad to have it so, for, verily, God is altogether above our comprehension and none of us can speak of Him as He deserves to be spoken of! But never let us try in any way to diminish His glorious perfections.
A more common way of offending God and setting up our self-will, is by quarreling with His Providential dealings.If anyone here is doing so, let me ask, “Should it be according to your mind?” You look, sometimes, upon the arrangements of Providence on a great scale in reference to the nations of the earth. You see them at war with one another and you note how slow the progress of civil and religious liberty are and how few there are to rally in defense of right principles. Sometimes you get greatly distressed about the general state of affairs and you wish you could alter it–but the Lord looks down from His eternal Throne and He seems to say to you, “Should it be according to your mind?” The world was wisely ordered by God before we were born and it will be equally well ordered by Him after we are dead!
When Alexander Peden, the Covenanter, was dying, he sent for one of his brethren, a fellow-minister of the Word, James Renwick, and he bade him stand out in the room and turn his back to his departing friend. When he had done so, Peden said to him, “I have looked at you and I perceive that you are only a little man and you have but feeble shoulders and weak legs.” “Yes,” replied Renwick, “that is true, but why have you made that observation?” “Because,” said Peden, “I perceive that you cannot, after all, carry the whole world upon your back–you are not made for any such work as that.” And I may say of all of us who are here that we were not made to carry the world on our backs. Yet some of us attempt to play the part of Atlas and not only try to carry the world, but seek to set the Church right as well! We fancy that we can do that, poor worms that we are, but the Lord knows that we can do nothing of the kind. “He remembers that we are dust,” though we are apt to forget it ourselves!
Well, Beloved, after all, “should it be according to your mind?” Will you, like Jonah, sit pining, mourning and complaining? Does not the Eternal Ruler understand the politics of nations and the best way of governing the world infinitely better than you do? Do not attempt to drive the horses of the sun–your puny hands are unfit for so tremendous a task as that. Leave all things with God! As long as they are ordered by Him, they are well ordered!
Probably, however, it is with the minor Providence that we more often quarrel when we are in an ill state of heart. You think that you would like to be rich, yet you are poor. “Should it be according to your mind?” You would have liked to be healthy and strong, but you are weak and sickly, or you have a suffering limb that troubles you and you sometimes think, “Mine is a very hard loss. I wish it could be changed.” “Should it be according to your mind?” Should the fashioning of yourself and your circumstances have been left to you? What do you think? Possibly you have recently sustained a great loss in business and you cannot quite get over it. “Should it be according to your mind?” Should Providential circumstances have been arranged otherwise so as to suit you? Should God have stopped the great machinery of the universe and put it out of gear in order to prevent you from losing a few pounds? “Should it be according to your mind?”
Perhaps it is worse than that–a dear child has been taken away just when he had become most closely entwined around your heart. You would gladly have kept him with you, but was it right that he should go, or right that he should stay? Come now, there is a difference of opinion between you and God–who is in the right? Should it be according to His mind, or according to your mind? “Ah,” says someone else, “it is the mainstay of the home who has been taken away from us–the husband–the father of the family.” Well, though it is so, again I ask concerning this bereavement, or any other trial that comes to you, “Should it be according to your mind?” It should be sufficient for you to know that the Lord has permitted it or actually performed it.
Should it be according to your mind, or according to His mind? It is not easy, I know, to submit without murmuring to all that happens to us. I am probably touching very tender places in many who, at divers times and seasons, have really felt that God, in His Providential dealings with them, had been unkind to them, or that, at least, He had been showing His kindness in a very strange way.
There are some who carry this difference between them and God into another sphere, for they do not approve of theGospel as it is taught in the Bible. You know that the Gospel, as revealed in the New Testament, is so simple that a child can understand it. And you may go and teach it to the poorest and the most illiterate and many of them will leap at it, and grasp it at once! But there are others who think that it should be something which is much more difficult to understand, something which would need a higher order of intellect than the common people possess. Do you really think so, my dear Sir? “Should it be according to your mind?” Would you shut out the poor and the needy and the illiterate from the privileges of the Gospel–and keep them to yourself and to a few others who have been highly educated? Surely not! O Brothers and Sisters, if it were possible for us to preach a Gospel that we had made obscure, or which could only be comprehended by the elite of society, we would soon have cause to sadly deplore before God that we had lost that simple, blessed, plain way of instruction which the wayfaring man, though a fool, can understand, and in which he need not err!
Many try to bring down the Doctrines of Grace. They would get rid of Election if they could. Anything like the specialty of the Atonement of Christ they cannot bear! The sweet and blessed Doctrine of Effectual Calling they abhor and they would gladly make a Gospel of their own. But should they want to do so? Is it not your duty and mine, Brother, rather to try to find out what the Gospel really is than to seek to make it what we consider it ought to be? “Should it be according to your mind?” We have known some people take a text of Scripture and, because it did not square with the system in which they were brought up, they tried to cut it down to make it fit in with their notion! But, Sirs, is not the Gospel grander than any of our comprehension of it? Are there not in it great Truths of God that cannot be cut down to fit any system that the human mind can make? And ought we not to be thoroughly glad that it is so? For, surely, it is better that the Gospel should be according to God’s mind than that it should be according to the mind of Toplady, or the mind of Wesley, or the mind of Calvin, or the mind of Arminius! The mind of God is greater than all the minds of men, so let all men leave the Gospel just as God has delivered it unto us.
Sometimes this difference comes up concerning the Church of Christ. Some people do not like God’s order of Churchmembership and Church government–they would like to see the world welcomed inside the Church. They do not approve of the ordinances as they were instituted and observed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Believers' Baptism is peculiarly objectionable to them. Sometimes they disapprove of God’s ministers–they pick holes in the most useful of them. This man ought to be so-and-so, and that other man ought to be something else. I can only ask again, with regard to the whole matter, “Should it be according to your mind?” Are you to make the ministers and to teach them what they are to preach? Are they your servants or God’s servants, and are they to deliver their message in your way or in God’s way? Let the question be honestly considered and then, perhaps, much of the murmuring that is sometimes heard, and much of the discord that often arises among professing Christians would be cleared away. For, surely, these things should not be according to our mind, but we should let God appoint, equip and send forth His own servants just as He pleases–not as we please. Christ must decide everything concerning His own Church! He must be free to choose whom He likes to be members of it and to fashion His Church after His own model.
II. Now, secondly, we are to enquire–WHAT LEADS PEOPLE TO THINK THAT EVERYTHING SHOULD BE ACCORDING TO THEIR MIND?
My answer is, first, that there is a great deal of self-importance in such a notion. There are some people who seem tofancy that they are the center of the whole universe. The times are always bad if they do not prosper. If the earth does not so revolve as to bring grist to their mill, then the times must be out of joint. But who are you, dear Friend, that you should suppose that for you, the sun rises and sets? That for you seasons change and that God is to have respect to you and to nobody else? “Should it be according to your mind?” Then, if so, why not according to my mind, also? And whynot according to the mind of another Brother? And why not according to the mind of yet another? But no, it is according to your mind that you would have it! Ah, does not this show what overweening importance we attach to ourselves?We are mere ants, creeping insects upon the bay-leaf of existence–here today and gone tomorrow–yet we suppose that all things are to be ordered for our special benefit and we quarrel with God if we suffer even a little inconvenience!
This notion also arises from
self-conceit. We really seem to fancy that we could arrange things much better than they
now are–we would not dare to plainly say so, much less would we be willing to put it in writing, but we talk and feel as if it were really so. If only we had had the ordering of things, we are quite sure that they would not have happened as they have done! But then, depend upon it, they would have happened wrongly if they had been other than they have been! “Should it be according to your mind?” No! Unless you are self-conceited enough to put your folly in comparison with the wisdom of God, you know that it should not be according to your mind!
Then there is the spirit of murmuring that so easily comes upon us. We have known some who really became slaves tothat evil spirit. They complained of everything, nothing was right in their eyes. It was not possible, it seemed, even for God, Himself, to please them. “Should it be according to your mind?” How would it be possible to please one who is so changeable, so whimsical, so fanciful as you are? Poor simpleton, surely you cannot think that such a thing should be.
But, oftentimes, this quarrel arises from lack of faith in God. If we did but believe in Him, we would see that allthings are ordered well. If we did but trust in God as a loving child trusts in its father, we would feel safe enough at all times and we would not want to have anything different from what it is. Have you ever heard of the woman who was in a great storm at sea and terribly frightened? She saw her husband, who was the captain of the ship, perfectly composed even while the vessel was tossed about by the mighty billows–but he could not calm her troubled heart. So he drew a sword from its scabbard and held it close to her breast. As he did so, he said to her, “Do you not tremble, my wife?” “No,” she replied, “I am not in the least afraid.” “But this sword is close to you.” “I am not afraid of that,” she said, “because it is in my husband’s hand. "Well,” he said, “is it not even so with this storm? Is it not in the hands of God? And if it is in His hands, why should we be alarmed?” So, if we have true faith in God, we shall accept whatever God sends us, and we shall not want to have things arranged according to our mind, but we shall quite agree with what Hismind ordains.
So would it be, too, if you had more love to God, for love always agrees with that which its object delights in. So,dear Friends, when we come to love God with a perfect heart, we are glad for God to have His way with us. If He wills that we should be sick, we would not wish to be otherwise. If He wills that we should be poor, we are willing to be poor–and if He wills that we should pass through a sea of trial, we would not wish to have a drop less than His blessed will appoints.
III. But now, thirdly, WHAT A MERCY IT IS THAT THINGS ARE NOT ACCORDING TO OUR MIND! If they were, I wonder what sort of world we would live in?
If things were according to our mind, GodHe knows what will best glorify Him and Hehas been pleased to so arrange His Providential dealings with men that all shall glorify Him to the highest possible degree. And, Beloved, if we were to alter anything of this–if we could altar anything, it is evident that the Glory of Godwould not be so well promoted. So, “should it be according to your mind” that God would lose a measure of the Glory that is due unto His name? God forbid!
If it were according to our mind, others would often have to suffer. At any rate, if things were arranged according tothe mind of some people, they would grind the poor in the dust and utterly crush them. If things were settled according to the mind of man, we would often be in a terrible plight. Did not David say to God, “Let us fall now into the hands of the Lord, for His mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hands of man”? When God is most grieved with His people, He never deals with them in so harsh a manner as the ungodly would deal with them if they had them in theirpower. Let us trust in the Lord, my Brothers and Sisters, and thank Him that He does not allow things to be according to the mind of man, for it would be terrible, indeed, for us, then!
Here is another reflection. If things were according to our mind, we would have an awful responsibility resting uponus because we would feel that if anything went amiss, we would be the cause of it. If we had the choosing of our circumstances and the details of all that happened to us, we would straightway feel that we would be called to account for everything by our fellow men and by our own conscience. But now that it is according to the mind of God, you have no responsibility concerning it. If it is according to His will, it must be that which is right and that which is best! So let us bless His name that all things are left at His disposal.
If things were according to our mind, I am afraid our temptations would soon be greatly increased, for many whoare poor would speedily become rich–and they do not know what the temptation of riches might be, nor the Grace they would need to resist it. And some, who are now sick and are praising God upon their sickbeds–if they were well, might find much of their spirituality departing and they might be thrown into a thousand troubles which they now escape in the quiet of their own room. Some of you are in a condition of life where you may not have many comforts, but, on the other hand, you are not subject to those trials which come to us who are prominent in public life. You can be sure you are in your right place if God put you there. “Should it be according to your mind?” If so, you would have more temptations and less Grace–more of the world, but less of your Lord. So thank Him that it is not according to your mind.
If it were according to our mind, we would seldom know our own mind. If a man could manage everything as heliked, he would not long like his own management. Unrenewed men, especially, are never satisfied. The way for a man to be happy is not to have his own will, but to sink his will in the will of God. Look at Solomon when he had his own way. As one time he gave all his thoughts to grand buildings–and when he had built his palaces he got quite tired, so he took to making gardens, aqueducts and fountains of water. When he had made them, he did not get much satisfaction out of them, so he got instruments of music and singing men and singing women, but he was soon tired of them. Then he took to study, but he said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” He had whatever he chose to have, yet it was all vanity and vexation of spirit to him! And he never had what filled his soul till he came to rest alone in his God, which, we trust, he did in his old age.
I do not know a more horrible endowment that a man could have than for God to say to him, “Everything shall be as you like to have it.” He would probably be the most miserable and most dissatisfied person under Heaven! “Should it be according to your mind?” Ah, then sin would go uncorrected in you, for you would never have a mind to use the rod! Then your dross would remain, for you would never have a mind to be put into the furnace! Should all things go with you according to your own will, then your flesh would get the mastery over you and be pampered and indulged–you would be settled on your less, not emptied from vessel to vessel–and you would bring upon yourself unutterable woe! O Beloved, for this reason, also, it is a thousand mercies that things are not arranged according to the mind of even the best saint out of Heaven except when his mind is brought into full subjection to the will of God!
“Should it be according to your mind?” Then there would be universal strife. If this were the case, think what a terrible condition the Church of God and the world, too, would soon be brought into, because, as I have already hinted, if it were according to your mind, why should it not be according to my mind, or according to the mind of every other person? Then what chaos, what confusion there would be! How would the world be managed if you, I, and 50 others, each one with a different mind from all the rest, must have it according to our minds? It would mean that the King of Heaven must resign His Throne and give place to universal anarchy! It could not be–it would be impossible that such an arrangement should continue for an hour! We would have to go, in tears, before the Lord and cry to Him, “O Lord, come back and reign over us, for we cannot get on without You! Everything is going to destruction for need of an Almighty Will to manage it.” Should it be according to your mind? “No, Lord never let it be so except when you have made my mind to be filled with Your mind and then it shall be well.” “I always have my way,” said a holy man. “How is that?” asked one who heard him. And the good man replied, “Because God’s way is my way.” “I always have my will,” said another, and he gave a similar explanation, “because it is my will that God should have His will.” When God’s will gets to be your will, then it may be according to your mind–but not till then–thank God, not till then!
IV. So now, in the last place, dear Friends, I am going to say to you, let us try, by the help of God’s Holy Spirit, to CHECK THAT SPIRIT WHICH LEADS MEN TO THINK THAT ALL THINGS SHOULD BE ACCORDING TO THEIR MIND.
First, because it is impracticable. As I have already shown you, it is quite impossible that all things should be according to the mind of men so long as their mind is in its natural carnal state.
Again, it is unreasonable that it should be so. In a well-ordered house, whose will ought to be supreme? Should itnot be the father’s? Do you expect everything in your home to be ordered according to the will of your little boy? No, you know that you take a comprehensive view of all who are in the house and all their concerns–and you are better able to judge than he is, what is right. It would be very unreasonable for your child to say, “Everything is to be managed according to my will.” If he were to talk like that, you would soon teach him better, I guarantee you–and it is unreasonable to imagine that the Lord should make your will to be the rule of His dispensations. Do not cultivate a spirit which you cannot justify by any sensible and reasonable arguments.
In the next place, it is un-Christlike. “Should it be according to your mind?” Why, if ever there was a Son of thegreat Father, according to whose mind things should be, it was our blessed Lord Jesus Christ! Yet what did He say? “Not as I will, but as You will.” And as Jesus said, “Not as I will,” is there one among us who shall dare to say, “Let it be as I will?” “Will you not join your Elder Brother in that sweet resignation of all desire to be the ruler in order that the great Father, who fills all things, may have His way? If you wish to have all things according to your mind, you are not like Christ–for in all things He did the Father’s will and suffered the Father’s will, too, and rejoiced in it. Let us pray the Holy Spirit to help us to do the same!
Once more, if we desire to have our own mind, it is atheistic, for a god without a controlling mind is no god. And agod whose will was not carried out would be no god. If you were to have your way in all things, you would be taking the place of God–do you not tremble at the very thought of it? His Throne ill becomes you. Would you–
Snatch from His hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge His judgments, be the God of God?
If you are truly converted, you shudder at the bare mention of such a thing as that! Yet, dear Sister, was not that the spirit in which you came into this House? Did you not feel, “The Lord has dealt very harshly with me. I can scarcely be reconciled to Him”? Oh, drop that rebellious spirit! You are but a poor, helpless creature, and He is God Over All! Let His supreme will sweetly rule your heart at this hour–and labor to get rid of that waywardness and that revolting from the Most High!
I knew one who was in mourning many, many years for a child. And a good Quaker said to her, “Friend, have you not forgiven God yet?” There are some to whom we might put the same question. And we have heard of some who professed to be Christians, who, when they met with a very terrible reverse, said they could never understand it– really meaning that they could never acquiesce in the Divine Will about that loss. It must not be so with us. Whenever a child falls out with his father, the best thing he can do is to fall in again, for a sullen child who is angry with his father, will have to come round if he has a wise father. The father will say to him, “My dear Boy, there is one of us who must change before we can be perfectly agreed. And I cannot, for I know I am in the right. It is you who must change and come round to my way of thinking.” And if you have fallen out with God by willfulness and stubbornness, He cannot come round to you, but you will have to come back to Him. So yield to Him at once! Bow down before Him, your own Father in Heaven, who infinitely loves you! Do you mean to say that you will keep up the quarrel with Him? You began the dispute and you know that you are in the wrong and He is right, so say, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seems good to Him.” Or if you cannot say as much as that, at least do what Aaron did in his great bereavement, “Aaron held his peace,” or what David did when he said, “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because You did it.” Oh, for that blessed silence which springs from acquiescence to the Divine Will!
I should like you to go further than that, however, and even to praise and bless the Lord for poverty, pain and bereavement. In Heaven, among the sweetest notes of your song will be those you sing over your trials here below. There was one who lost his eyesight, but he always praised God for that, for he said that he never saw till he was blind. I have heard of another who had lost a leg, and he said that he never stood on the Rock of Ages till he had that leg amputated. We, who are branches of the true vine, will have more of Christ’s sharp pruning-knife than of anything else, but let us praise and bless God for it and henceforth labor, by the Spirit’s Power, to chase out of our soul the idea that things should be according to our mind. Get away to your room and confess your willfulness and pride, dear Brother, if you have fallen into that sad state. Ask the Lord to make your soul even as a weaned child–
Pleased with all the Lord provides
Weaned from all the world besides."
I know that I have been speaking to some who do not love the Lord. I wonder what it is that keeps them where they now are–out of Christ? You want something to be changed, you say. Well, ask the Lord to change you, for that is thealteration that is needed. The plan of salvation does not quite suit you. Well, there will never be another. Does not Jesus Christ please you? God will never lay another foundation for a sinner to build his hopes upon, so you had better be pleased with God’s way and build upon Christ Jesus, the sure Foundation Stone. We tell people, sometimes, that they had better not fall out with their living and I can tell you, Soul, that you had better not fall out with your salvation! God’s way of saving you is the best conceivable way–and it is also the only way.
He says that whoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. May the Eternal Spirit bring you to believe in the Lord Jesus now–and if you do so believe you shall be saved at once! But do not think that the plan of salvation will be altered to please you. It will not be made according to your mind. There is the Gospel–take it or leave it, but change it you cannot! May the Lord grant that you may accept it and rejoice in it for His dear Son’s sake! Amen.