By Horatius Bonar, 1867
"Christ…the wisdom of God." 1 Cor. 1:24
Our age is eager in its pursuit of knowledge. It professes to be a truth-loving, and a truth-seeking age. It is quite awake to science, and thoroughly in love with its marvels and mysteries. It has obtained a far insight into the dark processes of that which is called "nature." It has witnessed one substance, and another, and another, yielding up their hidden wonders; it has seen earth, and sea, and air giving out their treasures; and, by patient inquiry, it has wrung the deepest secrets from every region of being. It has taken possession of unreclaimed territory all over space, and covered the waste places of former days with verdure, and fragrance, and beauty.
Its fields of discovery lie all around us, near and fair. Wherever it has turned its steps, it has found stores of truth. What a profundity of miracle there is contained in every ray of light, every drop of dew, every pebble of the brook, every fragment of rock, every blade of grass; what an exemplification of order and law there is revealed in every natural process– the motion of earth, and sun, and stars, the shock of earthquakes, the flow of tides, the rush of the breeze, the braiding of the rainbow on the cloud, the change of seasons, the springing, growth, blossoming, and fruit-bearing of flower, and shrub, and tree!
These are the works of God, the laws of God, the daily miracles of God. In all of them wisdom is seen; divine wisdom; wisdom as profound as it is perfect, as incomprehensible as it is glorious, as magnificent in its minuteness as in its vastness, in the grain of sand as in the mighty mountain, in the blush of the unnoticed desert-flower as in the splendor of a new-lighted star.
In all this there is wisdom; wisdom which we do well to study. Yet all these are but parts– mere fragments; and, even when gathered together, they still form but the minutest portion of a whole, whose dimensions are vaster than the created universe– a whole, of which nothing less than the infinity of Godhead is the measure. There is some proportion between the fragments of the split planet, that astronomy has detected in their wanderings, and the planet itself, of which they are the broken parts; there is some proportion between a drop and the ocean, between the stream and the fountain, between a beam and the sun, between a moment and millions of ages; but there is no proportion between the fragments of wisdom that lie scattered over creation and the great whole, which can be contained in no treasure-house except that which is infinite and divine.
Hence it is that, while, in all the regions and departments of creation, may be seen portions of this wisdom, only in the Son of God– in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Word– is the mighty WHOLE contained. He and he only, is "the Wisdom of God."
By the expression, "the Wisdom of God," thus applied to Christ, is not merely meant that he is wise, infinitely wise– but something much more comprehensive. To say that he is infinitely wise is one thing– but to say that he is the wisdom of God is another. We say of the Father, he is infinitely wise; but we cannot say of him, he is the wisdom of God. Of the Son alone, the Christ of God, can this be said. Both things are true of him. He is infinitely wise, and he is the wisdom of God. Only of him can we affirm that he has, and he is, "the wisdom of God."
Suppose we have an able architect, and a goodly palace planned and built by him, into which he has thrown his whole mind, and skill, and genius; we say of himself, he is skillful– but we say of his work, there is his skill, there is the outward personification of all that is in him, and without which you could not have known what is in him. Of other buildings erected by him, we may say there is some skill; but only of his chief work, his masterpiece, would we say that it is the skill or the wisdom of the man.
Suppose we have the poet, and the poem into which he has poured his whole soul; we say of him, he is the poet, of his work, this is the poetry; of him we say he has genius, of his poem, it is genius; it is the full embodiment, in the most perfect form of speech, of all the soul, the mind, the thought, the fancy, the fire, the love, the power, that were wrapped up in him.
Thus is it with regard to Christ. He is the wisdom of God. All that is in God, all that can come forth out of God, is contained in him. He is the full representative of the invisible and incomprehensible Jehovah. He is the brightness of Jehovah's glory, and the express image of his person. In the works of creation God has displayed fragments or portions of his wisdom– but in Christ he has summed up and put forth THE WHOLE of it; so that it can be said of this Christ, he is the wisdom of God. Hence it is that the knowledge of Christ not only transcends all other knowledge– but includes them all; the study of this wondrous embodiment of all that is in God is not only superior to– but actually embraces, all other studies. Here we cannot fathom this; hereafter we may. Here we cannot see how a discovered Christ should be the discovery of all other things, all science, all nature, all things in heaven and earth; hereafter we shall find it so.
Wisdom is one of the last things which we are in the habit of connecting with the name of Christ. We connect with it salvation, pardon, life, righteousness, love– but not wisdom. Yet it is wisdom that God so especially associates with Christ. "He, of God, is made unto us wisdom." "In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." When God looks at him, that which he especially sees in him is wisdom. When he bids us look at Him and admire him, it is because he is the Wisdom. He is the perfection of all perfection; but specially the perfection of wisdom; so that, while each perfection is in him, it is in him in such a way as to manifest the wisdom of God. Holiness is in him; but then, it is in him in such a way, and manifests itself in such a way, as to show forth not only itself– but wisdom as well. Each perfection becomes thus not merely a display of itself– but an illustration, or embodiment, of wisdom.
It is of this Wisdom that the "wise man" speaks in the Proverbs so frequently. It is this Wisdom which utters its voice, and says, "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." Sometimes the name given is the "Wisdom of God;" sometimes it is the "Word of God."
The subject is a very wide one; we take up here only that section of it which relates to the Person of the Christ.
In this there are two parts, the divine and the human, the heavenly and the earthly, the invisible and the visible, the infinite and the finite, the uncreated and the created; and these, both in themselves and in their union, distinction, adjustment, co-operation, harmony, make up that glorious Person, Son of God and Son of Man, of whom it is affirmed that he is the "Wisdom of God." The whole Creator is in him, and the whole creature is in him; yet both retaining their properties distinct and unchanged by the union.
On the subject of the divine and the human, philosophy, and mysticism, and metaphysics, and theology, have speculated. Various and strange have been the ideas which man has held regarding himself and God. Sometimes he would spiritualize all matter, as if the created and the human were mere ideas, or shadows projected from the Godhead; sometimes he would materialize all spirit, not only making the soul of man a mere part of his body– but bringing down the Godhead to the level and form of creaturehood, as if the Creator and the creation were one; every part of nature, animate and inanimate, being fragments of Godhead. Such is human wisdom. It cannot comprehend either the earthly or the heavenly, either the nature of man or God, nor adjust the connection between them, without destroying and confounding both.
God takes another way; a way which not merely preserves, unchanged and distinct, both natures, while uniting them in one– but which brings forth to view, in glorious fullness, the true properties of each. In man is seen God, very God; in God is seen man, very man. All that is glorious in the Godhead, and all that is excellent in manhood, is gathered into one person, and fully exhibited in him. The Word is made flesh; yet the Word is still the Word, and flesh is still flesh. The heavenly becomes earthly; yet both are preserved; nor is the one lost in the other. The Creator becomes the creature; yet Creator and creature, though conjoined in one person, remain still distinct. The Eternal becomes a Being of time, yet continuing Eternal. The Infinite becomes finite, yet abiding Infinite. The Immortal becomes mortal, yet continuing Immortal. The Omnipotent becomes the helpless child of clay, yet remaining Omnipotent still. The Prince of Life becomes the heir of death, yet abides still, the Prince of Life, the Living One, the life of the boundless universe!
Thus the two parts of the great universe are brought together, yet kept distinct. Thus they are linked to each other by a new tie, closer than that of creation; for the union which creation produces is not half so close or dear as that which is brought about by incarnation and redemption. By this union these two parts are revealed to each other; heaven is revealed to earth, and earth is revealed to heaven. Earth now knows what Godhead is, by its coming down and dwelling here; heaven knows what manhood is, by the human nature being taken up to sit at God's right hand, in the person of the Christ.
It seems to be union only at a single point; for it is with one body and one soul that the Godhead is united. But that single point is enough; that one link unites the nature. In order to moor a ship we do not require a thousand cables, each fastened to a separate plank or spar; one strong cable, fixed at one point, makes fast the whole, and connects the entire vessel with its anchor. So the incarnation of Christ, whereby Godhead took into union with itself a human soul and body, is the fastening or mooring of the whole nature to the throne of the universe– to the great fountain-head of life and being.
Nor was it with one particular stage of our being that this union was formed; but with all; from the first moment of conception in the womb to death and the grave. Had the Son of God united himself with manhood in its maturity, there would have been no union and no sympathy with the different stages of human life and growth. But he enters the Virgin's womb and begins life just where we begin it, thus joining himself to us at the very commencement of human existence; taking the first small invisible thread of mortal life and weaving it into his own Godhead. He is made of a woman; and that links him to woman, and woman to him, in everlasting bonds. He is a man; and that links him to man, and man to him, in eternal union. He was an infant; and that links infancy to him, and him to infancy. He was a child, a boy, a youth; and that links childhood, boyhood, youth to him, and him to them. He passed through all the stages of humanity, uniting himself to us at these different points, and consecrating these steps of human development.
What a marvel of wisdom is here! What treasures of knowledge are thus spread out before heaven and earth! Truly he is "THE wisdom of God!"
But why did He not become man until after man had sinned, and human nature had become vile and mortal? Why did He not unite himself with the unfallen Adam, and with an unfallen creation, thereby upholding our nature, and preventing that fall which has been so terrible, so disastrous? For many reasons; too many to be here enumerated. But this at least we may say, that it was needful that the creature should be abased, emptied, laid prostrate, before it could be lifted up to a height so glorious as that of union with Godhead. It must be shown that this was no natural process, no law of the creature's own being, whereby, after a certain time, it could rise from the human to the divine. It must be shown that it was from no desert of the creature, no necessity of being or of righteousness, no claim which the finite can have on the infinite. Every possibility of boasting or pride must be cut off; hence sin, death, corruption, must be allowed to enter it before it can be safe for itself, or honorable for God so to uplift and glorify it. Until it has been brought to its lowest depths; until it is seen to be the most abject, degraded, undeserving of beings; until the curse of God, pronounced over it, has declared it totally unworthy of anything but consuming wrath; until this has been accomplished, it could not be trusted with such an elevation, such a glory. Until it had sunk down to the lowest, it was not fit to be raised to the highest; until it had reduced itself to a condition rendering it only fit to be swept out of God's presence forever, it was not in a condition to receive the destined honor; until it hung over hell, ready to drop into the devouring fire, it could not be trusted with personal affinity to Godhead, with the crown of heaven, or with the throne of the universe.
No, it was not in a condition fully to set forth the wisdom of God, until it had become sinful. As man's wisdom is not fully seen in prosperous, peaceful days, nor has opportunity to develop itself until everything is disordered, complicated, broken, and its resources are taxed to the very uttermost, so was it respecting the wisdom of God. There was needed a condition of creaturehood disturbed, accursed, ruined; a condition which, by its entanglements, its conflicting demands, its desperate wreck of law, and righteousness, and goodness, should tax wisdom's resources to their utmost. Until such had become the condition of the creature, there was comparatively little scope for the development of wisdom. Just as the fall was needed to let loose the boundless fountains of hidden love in God, so was it needed to disclose the treasures of his infinite wisdom. Just as this free-love of God could not rightly sing its song, in all the rich breadth of its harmony, over unfallen man– but needed that fall in order to get down to the lowest notes of the wondrous music, which are the deepest, the fullest, and the sweetest; so the wisdom of God could not half unfold itself, nor show its breadth and length, its height and depth, over an unfallen race.
Thus, then, we see in Christ the God-man, the Wisdom of God. In the constitution of his person; in the incarnation itself; in the time and circumstances of the incarnation; in the purposes for which that incarnation was devised; in the way in which it has carried out these purposes; in all these we see "Christ, the Wisdom of God;" Christ the great embodiment of divine wisdom; Christ not only the possessor of this wisdom– but the revealer, the exhibitor, the teacher of its mysteries.
What, then, must be the guilt of undervaluing this incarnation of wisdom! What the evil of errors as to the person of the Christ! This is the object which God so specially holds up to view, claiming for it our admiration, our reverence, our love. Above all objects of nature upon earth, in which science has discovered such wonders of wisdom, God has set his Son as the center and summation of all wisdom. Woe be to the man who slights this, who prefers other objects to this, who finds other centers than this.
Here lies one of the crowning sins of Rome. She has degraded the Son of God, and has done what she could to nullify the great objects of incarnation, as well as the great end of blood-shedding. She has exalted the human above the divine; she has seated a woman upon the throne of God; she has made the glory of the incarnation to center in Mary, not in Mary's son; she has made, not Christ– but Mary, the wisdom of God; not Christ– but Mary, the power of God; not Christ– but Mary, the link between the earthly and the heavenly; not Christ– but Mary, the point of union between the human and the divine!
But the question which, from all this, is most closely brought home to us is, "What do you think of Christ?" Is he to you wisdom? Is he to you the wisdom of God? In him centers all that God counts excellent, and true, and perfect, and glorious, and wise. Does all that you esteem excellent, and true, and perfect, and glorious, and wise, center also in him? He is the object of divine admiration; is he also the object of yours? He is the beloved of the Father, in whom He is well pleased; is he also your beloved, in whom you are well pleased? Do you see in him wisdom? Not merely salvation, forgiveness, life– but wisdom– wisdom the highest, truest, noblest, ever tasted by man?
Or have you some other Christ, some object whom you admire more than him, in which you see more truth, more wisdom, more beauty, more attractiveness, than in him? Is pleasure your Christ? But will pleasure make you wise unto salvation? Will pleasure bring you into the everlasting kingdom? Is gold your Christ? But will gold make you wise, or be an introduction into the presence of God? Is the world your Christ? But will the world make you wise, or deliver you from the eternal darkness? Is sin your Christ? But will sin make you wise? Will sin save and bless you? Is literature your Christ? But will all earth's widest range of literature make you truly wise, or fill the void of your heart, or gladden you with abiding joy? Is science your Christ? But will science make you wise– wise for eternity? Are poetry and romance your Christ? Will they heal your spirit's wounds? Will they minister to a mind diseased? Will they pluck from your memory the rooted sorrow? Will they erase the written troubles of the brain? Will they fill you with the "joy unspeakable and full of glory?"
Christ is the wisdom of God; and in the knowledge of this Christ there is wisdom for you; nor wisdom only– but life, forgiveness, peace, glory, and an endless kingdom! Study him! Acquaint yourself with him! Whatever you are ignorant of, be not ignorant of him– whatever you overlook, overlook not him– whatever you lose, lose not him. To gain him is to gain eternal life, to gain a kingdom, to gain everlasting blessedness. To lose him is to lose your soul, to lose God, to lose God's favor, to lose God's heaven, to lose the eternal crown! O my friend and fellow-man, I charge you, and again I charge you, whatever you lose, lose not him. You can not afford such a loss; such an infinite, eternal loss; a loss for which there can be no compensation, here or hereafter. Other losses may be heavy– but they are light compared with this; only the loss of a grain of sand when compared with a mine of gold. Other losses may be protracted for years– but this is forever. Other losses may make you poor for this life– but this impoverishes you to all eternity.
And it is the loss, too, of that very thing which thousands in our day are seeking, each in his own way– the loss of wisdom! It is not merely the loss of righteousness, the loss of pardon, the loss of gladness, the loss of heaven; but it is the loss of wisdom; that which God calls wisdom; that which would make your soul wise forever and forever! Remember that "the wise shall inherit glory;" that "those who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the skies."
Young man, would you not be wise? Even though you could save your soul and gain heaven without it, would it not be better to have this wisdom, than to live and die without it? That cannot be of low importance respecting which God has uttered this longing, this compassionate yearning, "O that they were wise!"
And where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding? The depth says, It is not in me; and the sea says, It is not in me; and the river says, It is not in me; and the cloud says, It is not in me; and the flower says, It is not in me; and the star says, It is not in me; and the light says, It is not in me; and the darkness says, It is not in me. It is only in Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the Wisdom of God.
And what price shall we pay for it? "It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx or the sapphire; the gold and the crystal cannot equal it, and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold." But, just because it is beyond price, it is without price; and that which is most precious is to be gotten at least cost; no, it is altogether free!
And how shall it be had? "If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not, and it shall be given him." Take him who is wisdom, and you have it all. "He who has the Son has life;" so he who has the Son has wisdom. The good tidings concerning this wisdom are the same good tidings that are made known respecting the Son of God. The Father's testimony to his Christ is his testimony to the wisdom. He who receives that testimony receives the Christ; and he who receives the Christ, receives the wisdom; and, in that wisdom, everlasting life and an inheritance of glory.