THE DEFINITION OF A ‘FULL SOUL’!
“The full soul loatheth an honeycomb” [Prov 27:7]
Who is this “FULL SOUL?” He is one whom God has never quickened by the Holy Spirit into spiritual life, one lying still in the death of nature. But is that all? Will that be a sufficient description of what the Holy Spirit means by the expression, “a full soul?” We must add something to the definition I have already given to afford us a clear idea of the meaning of the words. It represents, then, not so much one dead in ‘sin’, as one DEAD IN A ‘PROFESSION’; it points out not so much the carnal who make no profession whatever of religion, as those who make a pretension, and nothing but a pretension, to the possession of godliness.
But let us, with God’s blessing, enter a little into DETAILS. Generalities do not suit God’s people. They want something particular—something that shall come directly to the point—something that shall anatomize the inward man, dissect him, lay him bare, and point out what a child of God is, and what a child of God is not; so that each may have a testimony in his own conscience whether he is under the teachings of the Holy Spirit or not.
A. “THE FULL SOUL,” then, we may define by one single expression, as “ONE FULL OF SELF.” Self in one or other of its forms has complete possession of him; and he has never yet taken that first step which the Lord of life and glory lays down as the door of entrance into His kingdom—”If any man will come after Me, let him DENY himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Self has never been denied, or crucified; and he is therefore full of self, because it has never received a death blow in him. But this SELF is such a deceptive creature; he can wear such masks, he can assume so many forms, he can rise to such heights, he can sink to such depths, he can creep into such holes and corners, that it will not be sufficient for me to say that “a full soul is full of self,” unless I try to act the part of the police, so as to find out the felon, track him to his hiding-place, and drag him out into the light of day.
1. One form of self then, is SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS; and we can scarcely believe what a subtle wretch this self-righteousness is. There are many people who would scorn the idea of being Pharisees, in whom the heart-core of Pharisaism never has been touched. And I believe in my heart and conscience that every man is a double-dyed and treble-distilled Pharisee, unless God has begun and is carrying on the work of grace in his heart; and perhaps the greatest Pharisees that walk abroad in the light of day are some in a Calvinistic profession of religion, who have a name to live, but in the eyes of God are dead in sin.
Unless a man is taught and brought to know experimentally these two things—the law and the gospel—he must be more or less a Pharisee. If he knows nothing of a sentence of inward condemnation and death under which he falls down before the throne of the Most High God as a ruined wretch without hope or strength, the heart-core of Pharisaism is not yet touched in him. And if he does not know more or less of the gospel, so as to see by the eye of faith a blessed and a blessing Jesus, Pharisaism will still lurk and work within him. A man must rest upon SOMETHING; and if he does not rest by faith on the BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE SON OF GOD, he must rest more or less upon HIMSELF.
2. But again, “the full soul” is one also who is FULL OF NOTIONS, DOCTRINES, VIEWS, SENTIMENTS, AND OPINIONS; but none of which he has received from God. The deception of the human heart is past the power of man, and I might say of angels, to dissect. The depths of human hypocrisy are beyond the reach of the most keen-eyed man to scrutinize, and beyond the power of the ablest man to lay bare. Now, there are hundreds who have received from BOOKS or from MINISTERS sound gospel doctrines; but as to receiving them from GOD into a broken heart and a contrite spirit, as reviving cordials for a fainting soul—of that THEY KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
But they have received the doctrines as they stand in the Word of God, or as they come from the mouths of ministers, without ever having had them, as the apostle James says, “grafted” into their hearts—”Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). The truth has not entered nor grown into a wounded heart, as the grafted scion enters and grows into the wounded stock.
3. But again, “the full soul” may also represent one who is FULL OF PRESUMPTION. My friends, of all spiritual sins (that is, sins that a spirit may commit) I believe the child of God dreads most the sin of presumption. “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me” (Ps. 19:13). AND IF GOD HAS LET LOOSE HIS WRATH AGAINST ONE SIN MORE THAN ANOTHER IN THE WORD, IT HAS BEEN AGAINST PRESUMPTUOUS TRANSGRESSIONS. Now a man who has no fear of God in his heart, no spiritual apprehension in his soul of the greatness, majesty, justice, and the holiness of Jehovah, if he should take up religion, must necessarily be presumptuous.
Under the Levitical law, if anyone entered into the Holy Place, and still more into the most Holy Place, unless he were privileged, in the one case as a priest, and in the other as high priest once a year, he would be guilty of presumption, because he was not the person whom God had appointed to enter there. And thus if a man take hold of religion, AND GOD DOES NOT BY HIS SPIRIT LEAD HIM INTO IT, his taking hold of and laying claim to the solemn truths God has revealed in His Word is an act of presumption. And the higher he soars into the truths revealed in God’s Word without the Spirit’s teaching him, the greater is his presumption, and the more daring intruder he is into the sanctuary of the Most High!
4. Again, “a full soul” is one who is FULL OF PRIDE. And what sort of pride? Not necessarily worldly pride, but what is commonly called SPIRITUAL OR RELIGIOUS PRIDE. Whenever presumption lodges in a man’s mind, pride is sure to be its inseparable companion. A man who has had no soul humbling sight of God, no debasing view of himself, no feeling acquaintance with the depths of the fall, no insight into his own lost, ruined condition, and who therefore knows nothing experimentally of vital godliness, must needs be a proud man; for he has had nothing to break the neck of pride within him. No—the more religious he is WITHOUT DIVINE TEACHING, the more proud he will be; and the more he is stiffened up with the ‘form of godliness’, while he denies the power thereof, the more will pride work, reign, and rule within his heart.
But we go on to consider what is said of this “full soul;” and may the Lord enable you to look into your consciences, and see whether you are the character or not.
B. “The full soul loathes a honeycomb.” What is this honeycomb? Some may say, “It is Christ;” and doubtless in some sense it does signify Christ. But we may gather, I think, from another portion of God’s Word something of what is meant by this honeycomb. The Psalmist, speaking of God’s statutes, says, “Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10). By the honeycomb, then, I understand THE WORD OF GOD DROPPING WITH POWER AND SWEETNESS INTO THE SOUL; not Christ merely, but everything that God has revealed in His blessed Word connected with Christ, and flowing out of Christ, as experimentally made known to the conscience.
Should we say that the honeycomb merely represents Christ, it might justly be said that there are “full souls” who do not loathe that honeycomb. Why, there are many people, and there may be some such here, who would not give a penny to hear a sermon, “unless,” say they, “it is full of Christ.” But what do they know really and EXPERIMENTALLY of Christ? Theirs is a ‘doctrinal, a notional Christ’. Christ ‘in the letter’ of the Word they love to hear preached; because a mere doctrinal preaching of Him touches upon no rotten places within, exposes no hypocrisy, drags to light no secret presumption, brings no painful convictions to their mind.
But Christ EXPERIMENTALLY made known—the sweetness of God’s truth distilled into the soul, the application of the Word with power, savor, dew, and unction, that the Spirit drops into the heart, just as the honey drops out of the full honeycomb—this, the very essence and marrow of vital godliness—”the full soul loathes.” Anything but application of God’s Word to the soul by the Spirit, anything but power and savor, anything but what touches the conscience and drops into the heart as the dew from heaven on the parched ground—anything but THAT for the “full soul.” As many notions, as many doctrines, as many sentiments as you please; but the real work of the Holy Spirit upon the conscience, the vital teaching of “God unto profit,” attended with melting power and a soul-dissolving effect—anything but THAT. “We leave ALL THAT to the poor groaners, the muck-worms, and corruptionists—that does not suit US—we want to hear about Christ.”
O what a dangerous, O what a subtle devil have we to contend with! He can use the very name of Christ, and the very doctrines of Christ, all the time that he is luring by them his deceived victims to their ruin. So that a man dead in a profession, with no more grace in his heart than Satan himself, can hear and can rejoice to hear ‘Christ doctrinally preached’. But when we speak of and insist upon a conscience touched with godly fear, and a heart melted and softened by the Spirit—when the hand is firmly put upon some rotten spot within, he writhes like a serpent which you suddenly step on in your path. And thus the very things that God’s people love, and the only thing that can satisfy them, “the honeycomb,” and the sweetness of God’s truth dropping into their hearts—the only things that can really profit, cheer, strengthen, and encourage the souls of the living family, are the very things that “the full soul loathes.”
But how much is contained in the word “LOATHES!” It does not mean merely hate; it is something stronger than hatred; it implies a turning away from with abhorrence. The word “loathe” is sometimes applied to the feelings that God’s people have of themselves, as in the passage, “You shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that you have committed” (Ezek. 20:43). When a man loathes himself, it is not merely that he hates himself; but that he looks upon himself as a vile, detestable wretch. Some loathe toads; some loathe spiders; some lizards (gecko) and some loathe filth. Loathing, then, not merely implies hating a thing, but hating it as a thing we cannot bear to look upon.
The “full soul,” then, crammed with doctrines, sentiments, and notions, full of pride and presumption, “loathes the honeycomb.” When he hears, for instance, an experimental ministry—what is the effect of it upon him? His secret language is, “I cannot bear this; I hate to hear a parcel of feelings spoken of; such petty preaching, such preaching down of self does not suit me.” Thus the “full soul” turns away with hatred and contempt from the power of truth, and from the instrument through whose lips it comes. And while some of God’s poor, needy people, are perhaps feeding on the truth dropping with sweetness into their souls—enmity, malice, wrath, hatred, and all uncharitableness rise up in the full soul’s heart.
Now, which are you? A “FULL soul” or “a HUNGRY soul?” Do you loathe the honeycomb? Do you dislike experimental preaching? Do you hate to have ‘the fingers of the minister’ inside your conscience? Do you hate to have your heart probed and searched, and all your religion torn to pieces? Oh! you may depend upon it that if you do, you are a “full soul.”
But if you are a “hungry soul,” you “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” If you hunger and thirst, you must experience painful craving at times. There may be here many poor people—and IT IS THE POOR WHOM GOD HAS FOR THE MOST PART CHOSEN TO BE RICH IN FAITH—there may be here many poor people, who know what it is to have a hungry belly. But does not that make you want food? So the hungry soul too has its desires. Yes, it is full of desires; AND WHAT IT DESIRES IS SOMETHING THAT GOD ALONE CAN SUPPLY. And the mercy is, that spiritual desires shall never be unrelieved—for the Lord has promised to feed the hungry with good things—while He sends the rich empty away.
[Amen! Praise the Lord! M.J.]