Written by Elder G.E. Coulbourn
The Salisbury Old School Baptist Association, in session with the Salisbury Church, to the several churches, meetings and associations with which we correspond, sendeth greetings and love, we hope, in the Lord.
DEAR BRETHREN: - As is the usual custom in writing Circular Letters, it seems we must have some subject as a basis or foundation of the letter. The Association is drawing near, and the one appointed to write the Letter has put it off for some reason almost as long as possible, not knowing what subject to use, and feeling it seems most of the time void of understanding, so we shall try and use the word “understanding” for consideration.
First we call your attention to the opposite of this word: misunderstanding, or lack of understanding, and to consider it first from a literal or natural viewpoint. We all know something about what it means for men not to understand each other, as without understanding there is confusion, difference of opinions, sometimes to the extent of breaking friendships on matters of little import, but this kind of understanding or wisdom is, as James says, “not from above,” for where envying and strife are in the heart it is earthly, sensual, even devilish, and as we see it, all such lack of understanding is of the flesh, or carnal mind, for in nature we strive for exaltation. The kind of “understanding” that we have in mind is the kind that Job asked about when he said, Where can wisdom be found, and what is the price of understanding? Answering his own questions, he tells us that it is without price, all the gold and silver are not equal to it, and it cannot be purchased with any of all the fine jewels of the world, and neither can it be found, much less bought. As the Scripture says further, it is hid from the eyes of all living, even including the eyes of the fowl and the keen eye of the vulture, for, “There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen.” This, to our understanding, is the hidden path, or way of real wisdom or understanding. Now since it is hidden from the eyes of all living, and cannot be purchased with gold and jewels, being without price, and out of sight, the question again, Where can it be found? We do not believe this path, wisdom, way or understanding, whatever we call it, can be found by searching, for no man by searching with his natural eye or mind can find God, for he is out of sight, hidden from this kind of wisdom, and his spiritual things also hidden from the wise and prudent, as such, and God was thanked that it was even so, that these things were hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes. These babes we believe to be the ones in which God works in their hearts this wisdom of his, and to understand something of his secret or hidden way, and this God works by revealing unto them that it is of God himself that they are in Christ Jesus, as Paul explains it. For “of him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God s made unto us wisdom [understanding], and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” So now in this new condition of heart we begin to realize, to some extent at least, where true understanding begins, where it goes on and that it is in Christ Jesus, the way, the wisdom, the truth, the life and the resurrection itself, for he said he was all this. Unless or until he tells us in our own hearts about this glorious hidden way of wisdom, we will fail to understand it, though it were possible that we could be as wise as Solomon by nature; and indeed this reminds us that Solomon did not get his natural wisdom by studying, but it was the gift of God that he was made so wise in this world, and then the greater gift of God was to follow with this man and show him that all his natural wisdom or understanding was but vanity and vexation of spirit, and so Solomon the wise man, by nature, learned that this wisdom was of no lasting value, and learned that the fear of God was the beginning of real wisdom, and to do as God commands was understanding. His Son, Jesus, had this real understanding, for he kept his commandments, and, if we mistake not, works in us, at times at least, a great desire to follow him, and now if this Letter could only call your attention to the new commandment that this blessed spiritual Man of understanding taught we feel it would suffice. We refer to what he said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another.” This being with us, that is, his love, then, as he said, since he loved us we should love one another; and when we are in this condition of heart and mind we hope we understand something at least about so great a love as he had for us: a sacrificed life for the people he loved.
We find it very hard at times to understand the Scriptures. If we do understand at all any of the Scriptures, it is because he opens our understanding that we may do so, for this he did with the disciples before his departure from earth, after eating with them in the mysterious manner he did, we read, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” So as we see it, to sum up, if we have real wisdom or real “understanding” we have Christ, or the Spirit of Christ, in our hearts, our hope and our only hope of glory. Then if we understand the Scriptures, he gives us the power of understanding, by working in us to see the Scriptures are simply a testimony of Jesus himself. This the disciples did not see, this we cannot see unless and until he opens our understanding, and with an enlightened understanding we then see Jesus the way, the truth, the redemption, the salvation and the resurrection of lost sinners who could not save, redeem or resurrect themselves. What a glorious and powerful Wisdom is this Jesus we hope in, and therefore since all power and glory are his, let him that glorieth glory not in his riches, or the strong man in his strength, or the wise man in his (natural) wisdom, but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, saith the Lord.
May the Lord be to us wisdom and understanding and our Moderator in this meeting and glorify himself in it, if it please him so to do, by giving us hearts of understanding and directing us to do his will, and may he and his Son, the blessed Jesus have all the praise we can possibly render unto him.
G.E. Coulbourn, Moderator
J.H. Truitt, Clerk
George F. Adkins, Ass't Clerk
Signs of the Times
Volume 98, No. 3