1. Our first test, therefore, of the Divine authority of any voice which may seem to speak to us, must be its harmony in moral character with the mind and will of God, as revealed to us in the Gospel of Christ. Whatever is contrary to this, cannot be Divine, because God cannot contradict Himself.
Until we have found and obeyed God’s will in reference to any subject, as it is revealed in the Bible, we cannot expect a separate direct personal revelation. A great many fatal mistakes are made in this matter of guidance, by the overlooking of this simple rule. Where our Father has written out for us plain directions about anything, He will not, of course, make an especial revelation to us concerning it. No man, for instance, needs or could expect any direct revelation to tell him not to steal, because God has already in the Scriptures plainly declared His will about it. This seems such an obvious thing that I would not speak of it, but that I have frequently met with Christians who have altogether overlooked it, and have gone off into fanaticism as the result. For the Scriptures are far more explicit even about details than most people think. And there are not many important affairs in life for which a clear direction may not be found in God’s book. Take the matter of dress, and we have 1 Pet. 3:3, 4 , and 1 Tim. 2:9, 10. Take the matter of conversation, and we have Eph. 4:29, and 5:4. Take the matter of avenging injuries and standing up for your rights, and we have Rom. 12:19, 20, 21, and Matt. 5:38-48, and 1 Pet. 2:19-21. Take the matter of forgiving one another, and we have Eph. 4:32 and Mark 11:25, 26. Take the matter of conformity to the world, and we have Rom. 12:2, and 1 John 2:15-17, and James 4:4. Take the matter of anxieties of all kind, and we have Matt. 6:25-34, and Phil. 4:6, 7.
I only give these as examples to show how very full and practical the Bible guidance is. If, therefore, you find yourself in perplexity, first of all search and see whether the Bible speaks on the point in question, asking God to make plain to you by the power of His Spirit, through the Scripture, what is His mind. And whatever shall seem to you to be plainly taught there, that you must obey.
When we read and meditate upon this record of God’s mind and will, with our understandings thus illuminated by the inspiring Spirit, our obedience will be as truly an obedience to a present, living word, as though it were afresh spoken to us today by our Lord from Heaven. The Bible is not only an ancient message from God sent to us many ages ago, but it is a present message sent to us now each time we read it. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life”[John 6:63], and obedience to these words now is a living obedience to a present and personal command…
2. The second test, therefore, to which our impressions must be brought, is that of our own higher judgment, or common-sense.
It is as true now as in the days when Solomon wrote, that a “man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels” [Prov. 1:5]; and his exhortation still continues binding upon us: “Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding” [Prov. 4:7].
As far as I can see, the Scriptures everywhere make it an essential thing for the children of God to use all the faculties which have been given them, in their journey through this world. They are to use their outward faculties for their outward walk, and their inward faculties for their inward walk. And they might as well expect to be “kept” from dashing their feet against a stone in the outward, if they walk blindfold, as to be “kept” from spiritual stumbling, if they put aside their judgment and common-sense in their interior life.
I asked a Christian of “sound mind” [ 2 Tim. 1:7] lately how she distinguished between the voice of false spirits and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and she replied promptly, “I rap them over the head, and see if they have any common-sense.”
Some, however, may say here, “But I thought we were not to depend on our human understanding in Divine things.” I answer to this, that we are not to depend on our unenlightened human understanding, but upon our human judgment and common-sense, enlightened by the Spirit of God. That is, God will speak to us through the faculties He has Himself given us, and not independently of them. That is, just as we are to use our eyes when we walk, no matter how full of faith we may be, so also we are to use our mental faculties in our inward life.
Part 2 of 4. Excerpted from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, by Hannah Whitall Smith, chapter 11, “Difficulties Concerning Guidance.” The author quoted from the KJV translation of the Bible. [Title and bracketed references and words added by GN editor.] This volume, published in the late 1800’s, continues to bless God’s people with its Christ-centerd, grace-oriented message. The book and study guide are available from GFI @ 1-888-66GRACE.