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Experience Proves That Heavenly Wares Are the Best in Their Own Nature

{Proof That the Heavenly Trade is the Best Trade

The Nature of Those Things about which Wisdom’s Merchants Deal

Experience Proves Heavenly Wares Are the Best in Their Own Nature}

Second, experience assures people of this truth that heavenly things are the best things. Inquire of a soul that has tried both: one who has had all that the world could give on the one hand, and on the other hand, who has also experienced the favor of God and spiritual things. That person will tell you that there are no things like spiritual things, similar to what David said about Goliath’s sword, “There is none like it” (1 Samuel 21:9).158 And similar to what Solomon said of the virtuous wife (Proverbs 31:29),159 the things above excel everything on earth. “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver” (Proverbs 16:16 NASB). This was Solomon’s experience,160 who had the largest trial of any man; he had houses, vineyards, gardens, servants, silver, gold, the special treasures of kings, greatness, pleasure, music, and whatever his eyes desired. And, on all of these, he gives this verdict: “4I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; … 11Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. 12So I turned to consider wisdom, madness and folly; for what will the man do who will come after the king except what has already been done?” 13And I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:4, 11–13 NASB).161

Piety transcends moral depravity, Heaven transcends the world, and purity surpasses pleasures as light does darkness. When Solomon speaks of earthly things, he tells you: “For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:23 ESV). “This also is a grievous evil—exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind?” (Ecclesiastes 5:16 NASB). And he does not find that which he seeks. But when Solomon speaks of wisdom and spiritual things, he is like one who lacks words to express their worth. “For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her” (Proverbs 8:11 NKJV). David was a man who had experienced a variety of conditions in the world. He knew what trouble and comfort were, what youth and age were, and what poverty and riches were. He had pleasures, honors, treasures, the hearts of the people, and command of a kingdom. Yet he tells you that he had seen the consummation of all perfection (Psalm 119:96),162 that the light of God’s countenance was better than all (Psalm 4:6),163 and to be a doorkeeper (a menial job) in the house of God was better than to dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:10).164 David chooses wisdom as his one thing: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4 NKJV).

Moses knew what honor was and the pleasures of sin. Yet given a choice, he preferred poverty with godliness while on the side of the truth rather than all the treasures of Egypt. “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24–26 ESV). He knew the nobles of Egypt and the grandeur of Pharaoh’s court. Yet he could value a poor persecuted people who acknowledged God. Moses clung to God above all the world. “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places” (Deuteronomy 33:29 NKJV). Moses deems God to be like none other: “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11 NASB). Moses also deems his religion the best investment: “He said to them, ‘Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess’” (Deuteronomy 32:46–47 ESV).

Ask Paul, and he will tell you what was the fruit of sin and of charging furiously against Christ and His portion when the Lord Jesus came to reckon with him and pay him back in the way to Damascus (Acts 9:3–4).165 Paul even felt Christ’s blow many years after in twitches of conscience now and then (1 Timothy 1:12–15).166 From the sense of the change grace had made in his heart and condition, he tells you that whatever he had previously considered to be gain, he now counted loss for Christ (Philippians 3:6–10).167 There was a time when he thought his book learning, blind zeal, Jewish heritage, observance of the ceremonial law, popular applause, favor of the authorities, and protection by the authorities were all valuable things. But now he changes his reasoning and values the knowledge of Christ, his portion in Him, and grace derived from the power of His death and resurrection to be excellencies that greatly overshadowed his former glory.

The [Philippian] jailer once thought it was best for him to swim with the stream, sail by the compass of the times in which he lived, to run down the ways and servants of the Lord Jesus,168 to obey the warrant of the authorities, and fasten the saint’s feet in the stocks (Acts 16:24–34).169 But grace took him in hand and plucked him through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13–14)170 of conscience, terrors, and repentance into a state of regeneration. He then corrects his errors and sees that his chief concern is to embrace Christ and come over to the way of persecuted godliness, believe in the Lord Jesus, be kind to His servants, and pursue the trade of despised Christianity. Upon careful consideration, he deemed Christianity to be most worthy of his choice and pursuit. “What treasures more rich or precious,” said Agerius,171 when a prisoner for Christ in Venice, “than everlasting life? Where else might be greater riches or more honorable dignities than in Heaven? Here [in prison] the delectable dew drops, the pleasant nectar flows, the sweet milk runs, and here is plenty of all good things. I have found a hive of honey in the entrails of a lion (Judges 14:8).172 In the deep, dark dungeon, I have found a paradise of pleasure; where others weep, I rejoice. Where others shake and tremble, I find plenty of strength and boldness. In narrow bonds and cold shackles, I have rest.” Also go to sinners during a time when they are under terrors of conscience and the armed troops of death and Hell invade their guilty hearts. Ask their opinion about how good their choice was and what was the advantage of that bargain they made in parting with God for the world, in rejecting Christ for the flesh, in turning their backs on holiness—all for the service of sin. Observe their dejected countenances, their guilty looks, their unquiet gestures, their cries and groans—these will quickly tell you of their sad resentment of their folly and the bad trade they pursued in the ways of sin and death.

158Then the priest said, ‘The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, behold, it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod; if you would take it for yourself, take it. For there is no other except it here.’ And David said, ‘There is none like it; give it to me’” (1 Samuel 21:9 NASB).

159Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all” (Proverbs 31:29 ESV).

160The record of 1 Kings shows us that Solomon, in addition to violating God’s command not to multiply horses, wives, gold, or silver for himself (Deuteronomy 17:16–17), allowed his foreign wives to turn him away from God (1 Kings 11). God rebuked him, but there is no record of his repentance. It is believed however, that Ecclesiastes, among other things, is a record of Solomon’s heartfelt repentance. This repentance may be why the books of Chronicles do not mention his great sin.

161It is worth reading the entire passage: I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines. Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. So I turned to consider wisdom, madness and folly; for what will the man do who will come after the king except what has already been done? And I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:4–13 NASB).

162I have seen the consummation of all perfection, But Your commandment is exceedingly broad” (Psalm 119:96 NKJV).

163There are many who say, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us” (Psalm 4:6 NKJV).

164For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10 ESV).

165Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” (Acts 9:3–4 ESV).

166I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:12–15 ESV).

167Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:6–10 NKJV).

168The passage did not actually say that the jailer was hostile to Christianity. He did obey orders.

169Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:24–34 NKJV).

170Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14 NKJV).

171Ashwood references “Fox” as his source, but the editor did not find the name “Agerius” in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

172When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion” (Judges 14:8 NASB).

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