Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE IN COMMON THINGS. Jehovah delights in "full weight," and abominates the tricky balance. This may be applied:
1. Literally, to commerce between man and man.
2. Figuratively, to all social relations in which we may give and receive. Work is only honest if thorough; if honest and thorough, it is religious. If principle be the basis of all our transactions, then what we do is done "unto the Lord, and not unto men." If we are indifferent to principle in the common transactions of the week, it is impossible to be really religious in anything or on any day.
II. HAUGHTINESS AND MODESTY. Extremes meet. The former topples over into shame; the latter is lifted into the heights of wisdom.
1. No feeling was more deeply stamped on the ancient mind than this. Among the Greeks hubris, among the Romans insolence, designated an offence peculiarly hateful in the eyes of Heaven. We see it reappearing in the songs and proverbs of the gospel: "He hath brought down the mighty from their seat, and exalted them of low degree;" "Every one that. humbleth himself shall be exalted; but he that exalteth himself shall be abased."
2. It is stamped upon all languages. Thus, in English, to be high, haughty, lofty, overbearing, are terms of censure; lowly, humble, terms of praise. In the German the words uebermuth, hochmuth, point to the same notion of excess and height in the temper.
3. At the same time, let us remember that the good temper may be counterfeited. Nothing is more easy than to suppose we have humbled ourselves by putting on a manner. Yet nothing is more detestable than the assumption of this particular manner. True humility springs from seeing ourselves as we are; pride, from nourishing a fanciful or ideal view of ourselves. Wisdom must begin with modesty; for a distorted or exaggerated view of self necessarily distorts our view of all that comes into relation with sell
III. RECTITUDE AND FAITHLESSNESS. (Ver. 3.) The former means guidance, for it is a clear light within the man's own breast; the latter, self destruction. As scriptural examples of the one side of the contrast, may be cited Joseph and Daniel; of the other, the latter, Saul, Absalom, Ahithophel, Ahab, and Ahaziah.
IV. RECTITUDE AND RICHES. (Ver. 4; see on Proverbs 10:2.)
1. Riches cannot purchase the grace of God, nor avert his judgments.
2. Rectitude, though not the first cause of salvation, is its necessary condition. To suppose that we can be saved from condemnation without being saved from sin is a gross superstition.
V. SELF-CONSERVATIVE AND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE HABITS. (Vers. 5, 6; comp. Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 10:3.) Honesty and rectitude level the man's path before him; wickedness causes him to stumble and fall. Straightforwardness means deliverance out of dangers, perplexities, misconceptions; while the eager greed of the dishonest man creates distrust, embarrassment, inextricable difficulty.
"He that hath light within his own clear breast
VI. HOPE AND DESPONDENCY IN DEATH. (Ver. 7.) The former seems implied. If the Old Testament says expressly so little about a future life, some of its sayings may be construed as allusions to and indications of it. It is little that we can know definitely of the future life. But the least we do know is that hope is inextinguishable in the good man's soul; it is its own witness, and "reaps not shame." But despondency and despair are the direct result of wicked living. To cease to hope is to cease to wish and to cease to fear. This must be the extinction of the soul in the most dreadful way in which we can conceive it.
VII. THE EXCHANGE OF PLACES FOLLOWS MORAL LAW. (Ver. 8.) The good man comes out of distress, and the evil becomes his substitute in sorrow. So with the Israelites and Pharaoh, a great typical example; so with Mordecai and Haman; with Daniel and his accusers. Great reversals of human judgments are to be expected; many that were last shall be first, and the first last.
VIII. THE SOCIAL PEST AND THE TRUE NEIGHBOUR. (Ver. 9.) The pernicious power of slander. The best people are most injured by it, as the best fruit is that which the birds have been pecking at; or, as the Tamil proverb says, "Stones are only thrown at the fruit-laden tree." The tongue of slander "out-venoms all the worms of Nile." It spares neither sex nor age, nor helplessness. It is the "foulest whelp of sin." It promotes nothing that, is good, but destroys much. Knowledge, on the other hand - in the form of sound sense, wide experience - if readily imparted, is a boon to all. And the best of boons, for gifts and charities soon lose their benefit, while a hint of wisdom lives and germinates in the mind in which it has been deposited.
IX. OBJECTS OF SYMPATHY AND ANTIPATHY. (Ver. 10.) Gladness follows the success of the good and the downfall of the evil. The popular feeling about men's lives, as manifested at critical periods of failure or success, is a moral index, and suggests moral lessons. There is a true sense in which the voice of the people is the voice of God. Compare the scene of joy which followed Hezekiah's success in the promotion of true religion (2 Chronicles 29, 30), and the misery under Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28); also the rejoicings on the completion of Nehemiah's work (Nehemiah 8); and for jubilation at evil men's deaths, Pharaoh, Sisera, Athaliah (Exodus 15; Judges 5; 2 Kings 11:13-20).
X. SOUND POLITICS AND PERNICIOUS COUNSELS. (Ver. 11.) The blessing, i.e. the beneficial principles and administration of good and wise men exalt a city (or state). On the other hand, unprincipled counsels, even if temporarily successful, lead in the end to ruin. "It is impossible," said Demosthenes, "O men of Athens, that a man who is unjust, perverse, and false should acquire a firm and established power. His policy may answer for once, may hold out for a brief period, and flourish marvellously in expectations, if it succeed; but in course of time it is found out, and rushes into ruin of its own weight. Just as the foundation of a house or the keel of a ship should be the strongest part of the structure, so does it behove that the sources and principles of public conduct should be true and just. This is not the case at the present time with the actions of Philip." Compare the examples of Elisha (2 Kings 13:14, etc.), Hezekiah, and Isaiah (2 Chronicles 32:20-23), on the one hand; and the Babel builders (Genesis 11:4-9) and the Ammonites (Ezekiel 25:3, 4) on the other; also Jeremiah 23:10; Hosea 4:2, 3. - J.
I. DIRECT HIS WAY. "The integrity of the upright shall guide them;...the righteousness of the perfect [i.e. the upright] shall direct his way" (vers. 3-5). And we read. (Proverbs 10:9) that "he that walketh uprightly walketh surely." The man who honestly and earnestly seeks guidance of God will find what he seeks; he will know what he should do, and whither he should go, and how he should act, in the various relations of life. Instead of moving onwards and backwards, instead of inclining this way and that, he will walk straight on in the highway of justice, purity, devotion. And he will walk "surely." It is not in the way of holiness that the snares of sin or the stumbling blocks of folly are scattered about.
II. DELIVER HIM IN DANGER OR DISTRESS. (Vers. 4, 8, 9.) "Many are the afflictions" even "of the righteous," but "the Lord delivereth him," etc.; "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness" (Psalm 112:4). Righteousness brings deliverance in many ways.
1. It secures the favour, and thus the merciful interposisition, of the Almighty.
2. It commands the esteem, and thus the succour, of the good and true.
3. It confers mental and physical vigour on its subjects, and makes them strong for the day of peril and of need.
4. It endows with those moral qualities - conscientiousness, consciousness of rectitude, courage, patience, hopefulness, perseverance - which lead to victory.
III. MAKE HIM THE SOURCE OF ENLARGEMENT TO OTHERS. "The city is exalted" (ver. 11). Every man is something the better for the integrity of his neighbor; and the contribution of many righteous men to the exaltation and enlargement of the city, or the Church, or the society, is very great. They are the salt which preserves it; they are the fountain and the garner which supply its need and minister to its strength.
IV. PROMOTE HIS PROSPERITY. (Vers. 28, 31.) As a rule, upon the whole, the righteous man will prosper and be recompensed "on the earth." Sobriety, purity, justice, prudence; in fact, integrity conducts to well being now and here.
V. SECURE FOR HIM THE GOOD PLEASURE OF THE HIGHEST. (Ver. 20.) What a recompense is this - "to be a delight unto the Lord," to "have this testimony, that he pleases God"! What a reward of the purest and most enduring kind to the Christian man, that he is "pleasing Christ," is living every day in the sunshine of his Lord's approval!
VI. ISSUES IN THE FULNESS OF LIFE. "He that is steadfast in righteousness shall attain unto life."
1. Unto the fulness of spiritual life below; nearness of access to God; a real approval by God and of delight in him; constancy of service rendered unto him; growing likeness to his Divine spirit and character.
2. Unto the fulness of eternal life hereafter. - C.
Proverbs 11:7-10 (latter part)
I. A MELANCHOLY EXTINCTION. Not, indeed, of the man himself, but of his work and of his hope. When the wicked dies, everything, except, indeed, the evil influences he has created and circulated, comes to a dreary end. His expectation, his hope, perishes. He can take nothing that he has toiled for into that other world which he is entering. All his laborious exertion, his elaborate contrivances, his selfish schemes, his painful humiliations, come to nothing; they are buried in the grove. He may have a powerful and well stored mind, but he has cherished no desire, has entertained no ambition which reaches beyond the horizon of mortal life, and with the stopping of his heartbeat, every imagination of his spirit perishes; there is an untimely and utter end of all his brightest hopes. A sad and dismal outlook for a human spirit! How great and how blessed the contrast of a good man! His largest hopes are then on the point of being realized; his purest and brightest expectations are about to be fulfilled. This earth is, more or less, the scene of disappointment; but in the country whose bourne he is about to cross, he will find himself where
"Trembling Hope shall realize Her full felicity." II. A PAINFUL RELIEF. "When the wicked perish, there is shouting." 1. It is bad enough when a man's death is only felt by a very few souls. With the many opportunities we have of connecting ourselves honourably and attaching ourselves strongly to our fellows, we ought to be so much to our neighbours, that when we pass away there will be many to regret us and to speak with a kindly sorrow of our departure. Poor and fruitless must that life have been when this is not so. 2. It is seriously sad when a man's death excites no regret; when "the mourners" do not mourn; when the only thing that is real about the funereal scene is the drapery of woe. It is a pitiful thing when Christ's minister cannot pray for Divine comfort, because, though there are those who are bereaved, there is none that is afflicted. 3. It is a most melancholy thing when a man's death is felt to be a positive relief; when, as he is borne to the grave, those who knew him cannot help being glad that one more root of mischief is plucked up, one more source of sorrow taken away. That a man, created to be a light, a refuge, a blessing, a brother, a deliverer, should be put away with a feeling in every one's heart of gladness that he will be seen no more, put out of sight with the sentiment that the sooner he is forgotten the better, - this is sad indeed. What, then, is - III. THE CONCLUSION OF THE WISE? It is this: "Let me die the death of the righteous." But the disappointing career of the author of these words (Numbers 23:10; Joshua 13:22) should be a solemn warning and a powerful incentive to form the firm resolution to live the life of the righteous, lest, as in Balaam's case, death should overtake us when we are in the ranks of the enemy. - C.
II. A PAINFUL RELIEF. "When the wicked perish, there is shouting."
1. It is bad enough when a man's death is only felt by a very few souls. With the many opportunities we have of connecting ourselves honourably and attaching ourselves strongly to our fellows, we ought to be so much to our neighbours, that when we pass away there will be many to regret us and to speak with a kindly sorrow of our departure. Poor and fruitless must that life have been when this is not so.
2. It is seriously sad when a man's death excites no regret; when "the mourners" do not mourn; when the only thing that is real about the funereal scene is the drapery of woe. It is a pitiful thing when Christ's minister cannot pray for Divine comfort, because, though there are those who are bereaved, there is none that is afflicted.
3. It is a most melancholy thing when a man's death is felt to be a positive relief; when, as he is borne to the grave, those who knew him cannot help being glad that one more root of mischief is plucked up, one more source of sorrow taken away. That a man, created to be a light, a refuge, a blessing, a brother, a deliverer, should be put away with a feeling in every one's heart of gladness that he will be seen no more, put out of sight with the sentiment that the sooner he is forgotten the better, - this is sad indeed. What, then, is -
III. THE CONCLUSION OF THE WISE? It is this: "Let me die the death of the righteous." But the disappointing career of the author of these words (Numbers 23:10; Joshua 13:22) should be a solemn warning and a powerful incentive to form the firm resolution to live the life of the righteous, lest, as in Balaam's case, death should overtake us when we are in the ranks of the enemy. - C.
I. THE EFFECTS OF SOCIAL SIN. It dissolves mutual bonds of confidence, corrupts and disintegrates the social order and stability. In the mixed condition of human character and society there are elements of weakness and elements of strength. Our speech about others and behaviour to them tends either to bring out their weaknesses, so promoting discontent, suspicion, and distrust, or it. tends to bring out their good qualities, so promoting genial confidence and good will.
II. SOME EXAMPLES OF SOCIAL SINS. Great stress, as usual, is laid upon the tongue.
1. There is contemptuous talk about our neighbour. The art of depreciation is cruel to others, and moreover is, as the text says, senseless. What good can come of it? Of Byron's poetry the great Goethe said, "His perpetual fault finding and negation are injurious even to his excellent works. For not only does the discontent of the poet infect the reader, but the end of all opposition is negation; and negation is nothing. If I call bad bad, what do I gain? But if I call good bad, I do a great deal of mischief. He who will work aright must never rail, must not trouble himself at all about what is ill done, but only do well himself. For the great point is, not to pull down, but to build up; and in this humanity finds pure joy."
2. Still worse is open slander (ver. 13). Secret detraction is like an arrow shot in the dark, and does much secret mischief. Open slander is like the pestilence that rages at noonday. It sweeps all before it, levelling the good and bad without distinction. A thousand fall beside it, and ten thousand on its right hand. They fall, so rent and torn in their tender parts, as sometimes never to recover the wounds or the anguish of heart which they have occasioned (Sterne).
3. Independent counsels (ver. 14) are another source of social mischief. As when there was no king in Israel, and when every man did that which was right in his own eyes, and the people became the prey of their enemies (Judges 2:19, seq.; Judges 17:6; 21:25). The spiritual forces in a nation, the intelligence and honest patriotism of its rulers, are ever of more importance than wealth, fleets, or armies.
4. Rash undertakings. (See on Proverbs 6:1, seq.) To promise more than there is a reasonable prospect of performing; to enter imprudently into bargains, covenants, or treaties, not easy to abide by, yet involving disgrace and dishonour if broken. The serious penalties which follow acts of imprudence should instruct us as to their real sinfulness, The good intention is marred by the hasty or thoughtless execution.
III. SOME SOCIAL SAFEGUARDS.
1. Seasonable silence. (Ver. 12.) As we are not to believe all we hear, so neither are we to speak all we know; to be cautious in believing any ill of our neighbour, and to be cautious in repeating what we do believe, are alike duties.
2. Kindly desire. "The honest man's ear is the sanctuary of his absent friend's name, of his present friend's secret; neither of them can miscarry in his trust" (Bishop Hail).
3. Fulness of counsel. (Ver. 14.) The "multitude of counsellors" implies association, conference, and cooperation. By the exchange of ideas we enrich, define, classify, or correct our own. The same subject needs to be looked at from opposite points of view, and by minds of different habit; and the just medium is thus arrived at.
4. Caution. (Ver. 15.) Especially with reference to the incurring of responsibilties. To fetter or lose our freedom of action is to deprive ourselves of the very means of doing further good. One of the acts of benefaction is to contrive that neither the doer of the kindness shall be hampered by excessive responsibility nor the recipient of it by excessive obligation.
5. As the foundation of all, intelligence and love - the inner light which fills the intellect with illumination and the heart with glowing affection. These are the sources of truth in friendship, safety in counsel, general usefulness to society. - J.
I. THE PURITY OF WOMAN IS HER "HIDDEN STRENGTH" (Milton). "She that has that is clad in complete steel."
II. IT IS HER CHIEF ORNAMENT. It clothes her amidst dangers with "unblenched majesty" and "noble grace."
III. IT IS ROOTED IN RELIGION, FOUNDED LIKE MANLY TRUTH IN THE FEAR OF GOD.
IV. IT IS PRECIOUS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
"So dear to Heaven is saintly chastity,
Genesis 40:6), the Kenites (1 Samuel 15:6), David and the Egyptian slave (1 Samuel 30:11-20), David's conduct to Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:7; 2 Samuel 21:7), Job praying for his friends (Job 42:10), the centurion and the Jews (Luke 7:2-10), the people of Melita to Paul (Acts 28:1-10). For examples of the latter, see Joseph's brethren (Genesis 37; Genesis 42:21), Adoni-bezek (Judges 1:6, 7), Agag (1 Samuel 15:33), Haman (Esther 9:25).
I. RELIGION APPEALS TO THE WHOLE RANGE OF OUR MOTIVES, FROM THE LOWEST TO THE HIGHEST. We should cultivate the higher, but not ignore the lower.
II. TO DO GOOD TO OTHERS IS TO DO CERTAIN GOOD TO OURSELVES. We thus make friends, and they are a defence.
III. TO INJURE OTHERS IS CERTAINLY TO INJURE OURSELVES. Thus we make enemies. And "he that hath a thousand friends bath not one to spare; he that hath an enemy shall meet him everywhere." - J.
How will it affect me? This is very far indeed from the spirit of Christ; his spirit is that of unselfishness, of generous regard for the welfare of others. To bear one another's burdens is to fulfil his law and to reproduce his life. Yet is there one respect in which we certainty do well to consider ourselves. We do well to pay very particular attention to the effect of our conduct on our own character, to ask ourselves - How are these actions of mine telling on my manhood? Are they building up, or are they causing to crumble and decay? The consideration is twofold.
I. THE INJURY WE MAY DO OURSELVES, ESPECIALLY BY UNKINDNESS. "He that is cruel troubleth his own flesh." Habitual cruelty does even more harm to itself than to its victim. That indeed is bad enough; for it is not only the present suffering which is inflicted by it; it is the diseased sensitiveness and the abjectness of spirit; it it the loss of courage and of confidence and of hopefulness that is left behind, which is the deepest and the darkest mark of cruelty on the object of it. But worse than ever, this is the moral injury which cruelty does to itself. It not only
(1) calls down the strong condemnation of man, and
(2) draws forth the strong rebuke and penalty of God;
(3) it indurates the soul of the sinner. It makes him shockingly insensitive to human suffering. It may go so far as to cause him to take a savage and a diabolical delight in inflicting and in witnessing it. Thus it drags a man down to the very lowest levels. And what is true of cruelty, or of unkindness which very soon becomes cruelty, is true in other ways of other sins. All wrong doing, falsehood, dishonesty, lasciviousness, profanity, covetousness, intemperance, makes its mark and leaves its stain upon the soul of the evil doer; and the further he goes and the deeper he continues in sin, the deeper is the mark and the darker and broader is the stain.
II. THE BLESSING WE MAY BRING UPON OURSELVES, ESPECIALLY BY KINDNESS. "The merciful man doeth good to his own soul." Mercy may here stand for any form of kindness or of goodness of heart. It will include kindliness of manner, generosity of disposition, practical helpfulness, pity for those who suffer or are sad, patience with the erring and the froward, magnanimity under ill treatment, considerateness toward the weak and the unprivileged. All these forms of "mercy" bring a blessing to the merciful heart. They secure the appreciation and the affection of the best among men; they gain the approval and benediction of God. And they react with most valuable benignity on the heart itself. They contribute to:
1. A tenderness of spirit, a responsiveness of heart, which allies us very closely to our Divine Lord.
2. An excellency and even nobility of action which makes us "the children of our Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:45).
3. A breadth of sympathy and largeness of view which make us ourselves truly wise and worthy in the sight of God. - C.
I. EVERY ACTION IS A SECONDARY CAUSE AND IS FOLLOWED BY ITS CORRESPONDING EFFECT.
II. THE EFFECT CORRESPONDS IN KIND AND IN DEGREE TO THE CAUSE.
III. HUMAN CONDUCT MAY THUS BE VIEWED AS A SOWING FOLLOWED BY REAPING WORK BY WAGES, ACTION BY REACTION.
IV. THE GAIN OF THE WICKED IS DECEPTION ILLUSORY. Illustrations: Pharaoh's attempt to decrease Israel resulted in their increase and his own destruction. Caiaphas seeking by murderous expediency to save the nation brought about its ruin. The persecution of the Church at Jerusalem led to the greater diffusion of the gospel (Acts 8.).
V. THE REWARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS STABLE AND SURE. Illustrations: The patient continuance in well doing of Noah, Abraham, Joseph. Compare the sowing of St. Paul in tears, e.g. at Philippi (Acts 16), with his joyous reaping, as his Epistle to the Philippians witnesses. The reward is eternal - "a crown of righteousness that. fadeth not away." "What we weave in time we shall wear in eternity." - J.
I. ALL ACTIONS HAVE AN IMMEDIATE AND A REMOTE RESULT.
II. IT IS THE FINAL RESULT THAT MUST BE CONSIDERED IN ESTIMATING DIFFERENT COURSES OF CONDUCT.
III. THERE ARE TWO IDEAL TERMINI TO CONDUCT - LIFE AND DEATH. An old proverb says, "We know not who live or die." But we may know towards which issue certain habits are tending.
IV. TENACIOUS RECTITUDE IS THE WAY OF LIFE; BLIND PURSUIT OF THE OBJECTS OF PASSION, THE WAY TO DEATH. - J.
I. GOD VIEWS PERVERSITY WITH DISPLEASURE. Moral perversity is analogous to physical deformity; the line is crooked when it should be straight.
II. HE VIEWS RECTITUDE WITH DELIGHT. The morally right is the aesthetically beautiful. The true, the beautiful, and the good are one in God, and he can only delight in that which reflects himself. Hence his delight in the well beloved Son, and in all who are conformed to his image. - J.
I. A SOLEMN ASSEVERATION OF DOOM. The first words should be rendered, "The hand upon it!" referring to the custom of striking hands in a compact, and meaning the same as "My word for it!" Experience, the laws of nature, the assurances of God's prophets, the voice of conscience, all ratify this doom; the sinner must meet his fate, and there is no ultimate deliverance.
II. AN ASSURANCE OF SAFETY. The generation of the righteous, i.e. all that belong to that class, will escape from affliction, distress, condemnation, all woes that belong to time; for his refuge is in the eternal arms. If exiled from earth, it is to find a home in the bosom of God. - J.
Romans 2:3). No doubt men do indulge the thought that they will do wrong things with impunity; that, though others suffer, yet will they succeed in eluding justice; that they will have shrewdness enough to stop at the right point and to save themselves from the penalty of indiscretion. Sin is deceitful, and it imposes on its victims with strong and fatal delusions.
I. THE CERTAINTY THAT SIN WILL SUFFER. "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished."
1. How impotent must mere numbers be against the decision and the action of the Almighty! There is a certain sense of security that men have in being a part of a large multitude. But it is a false sense. What do numbers avail against the action of the elements of nature, or against the outworking of the laws which determine the well being and ill-being of the soul?
2. Confederacies of evil men are confessedly insecure. "Hand may join in hand;" the covetous, the dishonest, the violent, may combine; but in the heart of evil there are the seeds of unfaithfulness and treachery; and the alliance will break down in time. Sin carries in its folds the germ of its own undoing.
3. Against the continued success of sin many forces are combining.
(1) All honest and true men have a direct and strong interest in deposing and dishonoring it.
(2) It usually inflicts on some one man, or family, or city, an injury which calls forth an intense and invincible resentment.
(3) It has within it the elements of physical and moral weakness, which are sure to be developed in time.
(4) It is always open to the accusation of conscience and to consequent exposure.
(5) It must move and even hasten towards utter demoralization and the loss of all that is most worth keeping.
(6) It has against it the decree and the overruling action of the Holy One (Psalm 34:16; and text). Sin never is absolutely unpunished, even when it imagines that it is; and it never remains unpunished, though it may seem to have excellent chances of escape. The judgment of God will overtake it in time.
II. THE HOPE OF THE RIGHTEOUS. "The seed of the righteous shall be delivered." "The generation of the upright shall be blessed" (Psalm 112:2). Even if God allows a men to go on long without the proof of his Divine favour, yet will he not withhold his blessing. It will come upon the children, if not upon the upright man himself. And who is there that would not be more than willing that God should bless him through his offspring? To clothe them with honour, to satisfy them with substance, to deliver them in their time of trouble, to make them citizens of the kingdom of Christ, to employ them as ambassadors of Christ, - is not this a meet ample and rich reward for ill our personal fidelity? If God blesses us in our children, we fire blessed indeed. - C.
glaring incongruity. And the like is the incongruity between beauty and impurity in woman.
I. THE SOURCE OF OUR DELIGHT IN PHYSICAL BEAUTY IS THAT IT EXPRESSES MORAL WORTH. Philosophers have always found it impossible to define the beautiful as an object. Analysis at last results in this - that in every beautiful object we detect an analogy to some perception in our own minds. It is a visible presentation of spiritual beauty.
II. OUR DISPLEASURE IN THE ASSOCIATION OF PHYSICAL BEAUTY WITH MORAL WORTHLESSNESS ARISES FROM THE PRESENCE OF A CONTRADICTION. And the mind is made to love harmony.
III. THUS WE HAVE A WITNESS IN OURSELVES THAT GOD DESIGNED BEAUTY AND VIRTUE TO BE INDISSOLUBLY UNITED. As the sign and the thing signified - the body and the soul. Sin ever puts asunder what God has joined, and all vice is incongruous with the beauty of his world. - J.
I. WISHES AND HOPES HAVE A CERTAIN POWER TO FULFIL THEMSELVES. (See Mozley's fine sermon on this subject.)
II. THE REGULATION OF THE WISHES IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF SELF-DISCIPLINE.
III. TO WISH AND TO HOPE FOE NOTHING BUT THE BEST (IN ACCORD WITH THE WILL OF GOD) IS AN INSURANCE AGAINST DISAPPOINTMENT.
IV. SELFISH HOPES LEAD TO UNANSWERED PRAYERS AND TO BITTER CHAGRINS. - J.
I. THRIFTY SPENDING. All wise outlay of money is a form of thrift, The increase of capital depends upon the observance of certain laws and rules of prudence; and the prudence which enables to amass enables also to spend. Spending in works of benevolence is seldom known to impoverish a man, for it is seldom disjoined from calculation and economy in personal habits. But whether we can trace out the manner of the connection in every instance or not, it is real and profound. Wise distribution is the condition of steady increase. In the highest point of view benevolence is a "lending to the Lord."
II. UNTHRIFTY SAVING. Niggardliness tends to poverty, because it stints the energies. It springs from a false view of the value of money, or an exaggerated view. The true source of happiness, as of wealth, lies at last in the will, its energy, its industry. He who has so little faith in this as to put all his reliance on the mere means of living, may well become poor outwardly, as he certainly is inwardly.
III. THE SATISFACTION OF DOING GOOD. Here, again, we must look to the reflex effect of actions, The indirect results are the wider and the more important. From every free forth-going of the heart in acts of love and kindness there is a certain return into the heart. It is not sufficiently considered that whatever gives expansion to the mind - large views, broad sympathies - is so much gain in actual power. And again, that we cannot directly do much towards the removal of our own troubles, but obliquely may quell or diminish them by aiming at removing the troubles of others. Fulness of interests in the heart will not give room for grief to gnaw.
IV. SELFISHNESS AND GENEROSITY IN COMMERCE. (Ver. 26.) In time of dearth the avaricious proprietor, keeping back his corn to secure a higher price, brings down upon himself curses; while he who thinks of humanity more than of personal profit earns the blessings of the poor. The maxim that "business is business" is true, but may be pushed too far. If a trader profits by a war or scarcity, that is an accident; but it is not an accident, it is a crime, if he votes for war or interferes with the natural action of the market with a view to personal gain. If the same conditions of trade make the man rich which impoverish the many, he will feel it to be his duty to give the more out of his abundance. - J.
I. EXPENSIVE ECONOMY. "There is that withholdeth," etc.
1. If we keep back the wage that is due to the workman, we shall miss the blessing that goes with justice, and suffer the curse which attends injustice (James 5:1 4).
2. If we keep back the corn we should sow more plentifully, or the strength we should expend more liberally, or the mental power we should employ more patiently and systematically, we shall reap less bountifully, we shall make less profit, we shall do less work in the spiritual sphere. "He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly" (2 Corinthians 9:6).
3. If we shut up our thought and our care to our own heart, or even our own home, we shall lose all the harvest of love and blessing we might reap if we did not withhold ourselves from those outside our door. It is a poor economy, indeed, that hides its talent in a napkin.
II. PROFITABLE EXPENDITURE. There is a bound beyond which we should not go in putting forth our resources, physical, pecuniary, mental, spiritual What that limit is every one must decide for himself. Regard should certainly be had to the preservation of health and to the necessity for replenishment. But we may often wisely and rightly go very much further than we do; and if we did we should find that we were liberally repaid. Our scattering would mean increase, our liberality would mean nourishment, our endeavour to enrich others would result in our own growth and ripeness; watering them, we should ourselves be watered. This is true of:
1. Human sympathy and love. The friendly man makes many friends; and to have true friends is to be blessed indeed.
2. The energetic pursuit of our vocation, whatever it may be. It is the man who throws his full energies into his work who is repaid in the end.
3. Generous helpfulness. Give money, time, thought, counsel, whatever you have to give, unto those who need it, unto the young, the ignorant, the baffled and beaten, the unfortunate, the slain in life's battlefield; and there shall come back to you that which will be far more valuable than anything or all that you have expended. There shall come to you
(1) the smile of that Divine Saviour who gave himself for us, who, though he was rich, for our sake became poor;
(2) the gratitude of those whom you serve, afterwards and yonder if not now and here;
(3) spiritual enlargement, - the "soul will be made fat," the heart will expand, and Christian graces of many kinds and of much beauty will make their home there.
III. THE SUPERIOR CLAIM. (Ver. 26.) A man has a right to do the best he can for himself; the best, even, for his own purse, though that is saying something very different and much less. But this right may soon be traversed. It is so crossed when a man cannot go any further without injuring his brethren; that bars his way; obligation limits claim. In other words, the claim of our fellow men is greater far than that of our individual self. When the people are lacking bread, we may not hold back our corn. God has given us our powers and our resources, not that we may build up a fortune, but that we may be of true service in a world which is full of need. To grow rich is not at all necessary to any one, and proves to be a curse to multitudes; to feed the hungry, to minister to want and sorrow, to still the cry of pain or perishing, to make glad the heart and bright the life, - that is the real privilege and heritage of man. - C.
I. MEN FIND WHAT THEY SEEK. (Ver. 27.) The favour of God, which includes all the elements of happiness by well doing, or sorrow by ill-doing. This law of antecedence and consequence in moral things, thus so reiteratedly pressed upon us, cannot be too constantly before the mind. Every moral action is a prophecy before the event; every moral result, a fulfilment of a previous prophecy.
II. THE CAUSES OF DECAY AND OF PROSPERITY. (Ver. 28.) Trust in riches leads to moral downfall (comp. Proverbs 10:2; Psalm 49:6, 7). By trust in riches is meant the habit of depending on them and their accessories - luxury and ease - as the main good in life. It is in this sense that "riches slacken virtue and abate her edge." The laxity and dissoluteness of the mind may well be compared to the limp and falling leaf. He, on the other hand, whose trust is in spiritual resources - the treasures of the kingdom of God - is like a tree full of sap; his foliage is abundant; his leaf ever green (Palm 92:13; Isaiah 66:14).
III. THE RETRIBUTION OF GREED AND OPPRESSION. (Ver. 29.) The man who "troubles his house" is the close-fisted and greedy, who in his covetousness keeps his household upon scant fare or withholds from them their due pay (Proverbs 15:27). Ahab is thus charged by Elijah as a "troubler of Israel" (1 Kings 18:17, 18). But he reaps the wind, i.e. nothing from his misplaced care and exertion (Isaiah 26:14; Hosea 8:7). Nay, he so comes down in the scale as actually often to fall into slavery to just and merciful lord (ver. 24). These reversals in human life - more marked or easily observable, perhaps, in ancient times than with ourselves - remind men of a superior judgment, which constantly revises and corrects the short-sighted and superficial judgments of men.
IV. THE PRODUCTS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Ver. 30.) All that the good man says and does becomes a source of blessing and life (a "tree of life") to many. He exercises an attractive power, and gathers many souls to his side for the service of God and the cause of truth.
V. THE CERTAINTY OF RECOMPENSE. (Ver. 31.) This may be taken as an argument from the greater to the less. The sins of the righteous do not escape chastisement; how much less those of men unreconciled to God! "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18). - J.
I. ITS BRIGHTEST CROWN in the souls that it wins, Wisdom wins wealth, honour, friendship, knowledge; acquaintance with men and with nature; high position and commanding rule; the gratification that attends achievement. Wisdom makes great changes in the face of nature, and effects great results in the organization of men. But the crown which it wears is its beneficent work in human souls. "He that winneth souls is wise" indeed. For to do that is:
1. To arrest a stream of evil influence, the full outflow and consequence of which it is impossible to estimate.
2. To originate a stream of holy and helpful influence, the growing and widening range of which we cannot imagine.
3. To turn back a human spirit from a course which leads downward to an opposite course which leads homeward and heavenward; it is to change the direction of one in whom are boundless capacities of accomplishment and of endurance, and to change it permanently for the better.
4. It is to give joy of the purest kind to hearts of the greatest worth, and satisfaction to the Divine Saviour himself (see James 5:19, 20). It is wisdom's brightest crown; but it is also -
II. ITS HARDEST TASK. He that winneth souls must be, or needs to be, wise indeed; for he has a very great thing to do. He has:
1. To oppose himself to he knows not what supernatural hostilities (Ephesians 6:12).
2. To do battle with human obduracy and the evil spirit of procrastination.
3. To contend with the spiritual blindness and insensibility which are the sad consequence of long disloyalty.
4. To baffle the arts of false friendship and overcome the blandishments of an evil world.
5. To silence the deceitful voices which whisper to the awakened soul that there is no need to render an immediate and wholehearted decision; and thus to lead it to a full surrender to Christ and to his service.
6. To persuade to a life of earnest and habitual devotion and holy usefulness. The practical lessons of the text are:
(1) That we cannot expend ourselves too lavishly in the great work of winning men to Jesus Christ. There is no room for extravagance here.
(2) That we have need to put forth our whole strength to gain so great a victory.
(3) That when we have done all we can do we must remember that nothing is accomplished without the influence which is from above. - C.