I do not understand merely by this simplicity any lack of understanding. Far from it. “Be ye wise as serpents” is the effectual admonition of Christ in the soul as regards both ministers and saints. And “wisdom is justified of her children.” For the saints are the light of the world, which character any lack of understanding would not be the fulfillment of. In fact, Christ is our wisdom. “To God only wise be glory.” And Christ is God. Therefore, wherever Christ is in the heart there wisdom, like a beauteous root, is gradually striking all its fibers throughout the whole soul. As it is written, “rooted in love.” And he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, only wise. And, says Job, “The root of the matter” (blessed by God) “is in me.” I understand, therefore, by “simplicity”, the first elements, unmixed, of all manifested good, viz.., regeneration, and the subsequent renewing of the Holy Spirit, all short of which is a made-up religion, and is quackery and trash altogether as respecteth salvation. (2 Cor. 1:12)
It is remarkable that the eye of a serpent and of a dove are so alike. The serpent’s wisdom and the dove’s harmlessness are blended in the saint; either of which characteristics will cut off many. For will not the penetrating and dreadful glance of the serpent wither the silliness of false and dead doctrine, of ignorance, and error in every way? And will not the harmlessness of the dove shrink like the sensitive leaf from the baneful touch of craft?
Thus the justification of Christ a wisdom in the supernatural and illuminated soul is eminently a high and very excellent thing. And that justification manifested in the soul is primarily couched, I believe, in the garb of this blessed simplicity. For, in fact, this simplicity is no more nor less than a “single eye”. Mark, now, the promises to the single eye! Surely wisdom and harmlessness are conjoined in it; surely the flaming penetration of the serpent, and the blandness anti timid incapacity for all harm of the loving dove are united in the “single eye”! If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of Light.” Now mark that. And what is singleness but simplicity? And what is light spiritually but the divine nature? For God is light. Thus, wherever there is this divine excellence of simplicity, there is “the root of the” whole “matter”, as seeds and buds in the stupendous and universal works of God contain within themselves all that fructifying futurity bids to burst forth into greater expansion.. And a “good man”, therefore, for his part, cannot but admire this virtue of simplicity as being no mixture, and as containing the stamina of all true godliness. Therefore, a virtue it is with a witness. For it issues direct from the Fountain of Life. (Prov. 4:23) A man, thus, must be a partaker of the “incorruptible seed” before ever he can grow subsequently as a “branch” manifested in the Living Vine. There must be the nucleus of a beginning before there can be the enlargement of a future advance. Thus you find simplicity set at the very head of all. (2 Cor. 1:12) And I believe where the beginning is not right it will all drop through, like a heavy man on a lath and plaster flooring not properly finished. Down he goes, and down he must go; for there is not substance enough to hold him up. “Salt is good, but if the salt have lost its savour, it is neither fit for the land nor yet for the dunghill, but men cast it out.” Well might Christ say, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” For if a man is not a true branch in Christ the Living Vine, and if a man is not thus really sprung from incorruptible seed, (1 Pet. 1:23) what is his branch-like relationship nominally to Christ? Hear! “He is cast forth and is withered; and men” (dead churches and empty professors, as Huntington says) “gather them and cast them into the fire”, (of falsehood in one way or the other) “and they are burned”, (in this life having no moisture, and in the world to come in hell fire).
This simplicity or single eye, therefore, is like the most excellent seed-corn, and with advantageous and good land for it to be sown in, with duly progressing and propitious seasons, there certainly will be a crop, and a harvest too, and the tiller thereof shall be satisfied. For though winter and the night cover with frosty snows and lonesome darkness both fields, seed, and also fruit, yet there is the embryo or promise sure during the long winter previous; and the live-long nights hinder not, yea, rather (in the inscrutable wisdom of Providence) fructify and enrich the whole forthcoming harvest-ingatherings. Thus we read of “the treasures of darkness.” And thus, who will charge God with folly in having made winter? But it is acknowledged that winter seasons on our souls are bleak and drear, and that every leaf is stripped away. So spiritually the winter of trial and the dismays of darkness try God’s people to the quick. They search the very vitals. And floods also deluge and hide everything at times. “O” say some, “we never get into such places as these. The cooing of the turtle, and the bright shining sun, and the level and smooth tracks of ‘all-faith’ are our happy lot.” I question that word “happy”, and rather say of such as I told a friend lately, that notional free-grace men and sun-shiny head-Calvinists slip through the gilded trap-door of their easy religion down-into an endless hell. Thus you will hear the chirping of these twittering notional Calvinists everywhere, more and more, for the form without the power, the image without the breath, and the vessel without any seas to sail on, these are promised; for “in the last days perilous times shall come”, in which there shall be the “form” (not of mere morality or a medley of doctrine, but) of Calvinism’s “godliness” and truth, while the power, experience, and the vital and inward operations, feelingly, thereof are denied. (2 Tim. 3:1 , etc.)
Thus Paul never could get into this easy path of always-sunshiny and unwinterly religion. We are told that he got into well nigh black despair, as we read at length in 2 Cor. 1:8, etc. Says he, “We would not have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure above strength, insomuch so that we despaired even of life.” “Ah!” says some, “that means the life of his body.” Indeed! Why, the life of his body he did not care much for. He hazarded his bodily life for the name of Christ; “neither count I my (bodily) life dear unto me”, says he. But this despairing of life, as above, means that he was shaken as to his interest and religion altogether. And, pray, was not David tried about his interest when he fled from Absalom? And, pray, was not Asaph tried about his interest when he refused to be comforted, and said, “Is His mercy clean gone forever?” And Jeremiah, when he said to God in that bold and impassioned language, “Wilt Thou be altogether as a liar unto me?” as if, questionably, God’s promises had failed to him for evermore? And, pray, did not Christ, in the very agonies of hell and death, cry out, “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” The withdrawal of the divine presence from a living soul is a great water-flood. Hart (with all his great experience) says in aftertimes of himself, in one of his hymns,
But notional and head-Calvinists are wicked and unquickened men. They have none of these changes, “for who that is dead can feel?”
Paul, therefore, as we read, (2 Cor. 1:9, etc.) when he got into his great dismay, and “despaired of life”, and thought that the biting frost of God’s most heavy trial had manifested, by its piercing and tremendous force, that life (without which every thing else was nought) was not in him, says, after his deliverance, that his rejoicing is this; yea, that in the testimony of his conscience he had, and was possessed of this “simplicity” of which we are speaking. “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God we have had our conversation,” or profession of Christ. He thus, you see, is led to put simplicity before either godly sincerity or unfleshly wisdom, or even the grace of God. And why? Because the grace of God is only a general term; and unfleshly wisdom is only a general term; and even godly sincerity is rather the stream than the fountain; and do the branches bear the root, or the root the branches? (Rom 11:18) But as for this simplicity it is the primary spot of absolute realities, or regeneration and the Spirit’s renewings; and Paul, therefore, puts it as the very spring and head of all manifested good, and so does the Psalmist, for he says, as I have quoted, “the Lord preserveth the simple.” And, pray, what is he preserved unto but eternal salvation? “Kept and preserved by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” (I Pet. 1:5; Jude 1)
Again; I believe this simplicity is spoken of by Isaiah, when he says, “not only that the Lord shall be for a diadem of beauty to the residue of His people”; (Isa. 28:5) but, says he also, “for strength to them that,” (in examining whether they be in the faith) “turn the battle to the gate.” (Isa. 28:6) And here God, according to His promise, must be for our “strength”, in discernment, for this gate is regeneration conjoinedly with the renewings; this gate is a single eye, or simplicity; this gate is the incorruptible seed partaken of; (2 Pet. 1:4) this gate is as the germ of all good. Without this I shall only be “as a bowing wall and a tottering fence”; without this, however high in profession and a fair show, I am only a tree without roots, a sepulcher that appears not, and the winds will come and blow down that tree; without this simplicity of supernatural wisdom and harmlessness, though I have got, as I or others think, however much knowledge, I am only “a thing” (or instrument) “not having life”, I should only be a timbrel, pipe, or bassoon. And plenty of such bassoons there are, for there are plenty of glorious knowledge folks whom I question if they are anything better than flutes or fifes, not having life, but only to make a din.
Thus knowledge, alas! is all in vain. As for “knowledge, it shall vanish away”. (1 Cor. 13:8) Thousands of times have I questioned over and over again whether my poor religion is anything better than dead letter-knowledge, for a man may know all mysteries and yet be nothing. This I call “turning the battle to the gate,” and a sharp battle and turning it is! This is not sheltering ourselves under the cuckoo-note of “grace” a general term in the mouth of thousands of hypocrites and “things not having life”. But it is turning the battle to the gate; and a strait gate with a vengeance it is to be manifested to us internally as ours thus! Am I regenerate? Am I sure of it? What says my conscience? Am I simple? Am I harmless and wise, a child of God without rebuke by the twofold testimony of my conscience, and the Spirit of God indwelling there? And also, does the parliament at the gate, does the congregation of God’s regenerate children set their seal to my religion? for wisdom is eventually justified by all her children. This is simplicity, I verily believe. The glorious manifestive root and life of the whole matter is this. This is the manifestive door and way; if any man enter in here he shall be saved. And I believe there are hundreds of blessed ones standing without, while the boldfaced dead doctrinalist rushes in. But God resisteth the proud, and sendeth them all repulse-stung empty away; and blessed is every Israelite that has this simplicity, and is “without guile”, for the Lord Himself tells us to “behold” all such, and not those who love the wages of unrighteousness in letter-arrogance.
Selected from The Gospel Standard.
By J.K. (John Kay) of Abingdon, 1841