Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. GOD THE OBJECT AND FULFILMENT OF HUMAN DESIRE. We are wishful, craving creatures, "with no language but a sigh." The answer of the praying tongue and heart is God himself - in the fulness of his wisdom and love, the generosity of his gifts, the accessibility of his presence. A philosopher of this century actually taught that God was the Creator of human wishes and imagination. Let us rather say, it is God who creates and calls forth the longings of the finite heart, which (as Augustine says) is restless till it rests in him.
II. GOD THE CORRECTOR OF OUR FALSE JUDGMENTS. (Ver. 2) We are prone to judge of actions and choices by their aesthetic value, i.e. by reference to our feeling of pleasure and pain; God pronounces on their ethical value, their relation to his Law and to the ideal of our own being.
III. GOD THE SUPPORT OF OUR WEAKNESS. (Ver. 3.) What is the source of all care and over anxiety, but that we are unequal to the conflict with laws mightier than our frail energies and endeavours? Without God, we stand trembling in the presence of a giant late which can crush us. But there is no such fate to the believer in God, only a holy power and immovable will. "We are a care to the gods," said Socrates. Much more can the Christian say this, and learn to get rid of his troubles by making them in childlike faith God's troubles, his cares God's cares. Our plans become fixed, our purposes firm, when we are conscious that they are God's plans and purposes being wrought out through us. - J.
I. THOUGHT. "The preparations of the heart belong to man" (Revised Version). "Thy thoughts" ("thy purposes," Revised Version). We are told of Peter, after the denial, that "when he thought thereon, he wept" (Mark 14:72). But if he had thought beforehand what grief he would cause his Master by such unworthiness, he would not have had occasion to weep at all. "When Judas saw that he was condemned, he repented." But if he had thought, he would have seen that this was the plain and inevitable issue of his action. The pity is that we do not think as we should before we act. The preparation of the heart belongs to us; it is our most bounden duty to think, and to think well, before we act. And we must remember that speech is action, and often most important and decisive action too. We should include in our thought, when we are forming our "purposes" (Revised Version), the consideration of the effects of our prepared action upon
(1) our Whole nature - bodily, mental, spiritual;
(2) our family and our friends;
(3) our neighbours and associates;
(4) our fellow worshippers and fellow workers;
(5) the cause of Jesus Christ;
(6) not only the immediate, but the further future.
We should, so far as we can, think the whole subject through, look at it from all those points of view that we command; above all, we should take a decreasingly selfish and an increasingly generous and devout view of the subjects that come before us.
II. ACTION. "Thy works." Thought must be followed by vigorous effort, or it will "lose the name of action." Our works include not only those industries in which we are professionally engaged, - these are of great importance to us, as those which occupy the greater part of our time and most of our strength; but they include also our contributions, larger or smaller, worthy or unworthy, to the condition of our homes, to the character and the destiny of our children, to the comfort and well being of our dependents or our employers, to the improvement of our locality, to the stability and freedom and success of the institutions (social, literary, ecclesiastical, municipal, national) upon which we can bring any influence to bear. We may move in a humble sphere, and yet, when all is told that the chronicles of heaven can tell, we may include in a busy and conscientious life many "works" that will not want the Divine approval or the blessing of mankind.
III. PRAYER. "The answer of the tongue is from the Lord... and thy thoughts shall be established." The two clauses imply, respectively,
(1) that God sometimes makes other issues to result than those which we expect;
(2) that God continually brings to pass that which we strive to accomplish, especially when we commend our cause to his Divine favour. The practical conclusions are these, respectively:
1. That we must be quite willing for the hand of God to give a different direction to our activities; quite prepared to accept another issue from that which we had set before our own minds. For God "seeth not as we see," and he works out his gracious purposes in other ways than those of our choosing.
2. That we should always realize our dependence on God for a favourable issue, and earnestly ask his blessing on our labour. It is the touch of his Divine hand that must quicken into life, that must crown with true success. - C.
I. THE MORAL DESIGNS OF GOD. (Ver. 4.) The creation is teleological; it has a beginning, a process, and an end in view, all determined by the will and wisdom of God. If this is true of every plant, of every mollusc, it is true of every man. We are formed to illustrate his praise. Disobedience, with its consequences, ratifies his just and holy laws.
II. THE MORAL FEELINGS OF GOD. (Ver. 5.) Only that which stands in a true relation to him can be true. Haughtiness and arrogance are, so to speak, in the worst taste. In the eyes of God they are not beautiful, and cannot escape his criticism and correction.
III. HIS PROVISION FOR THE OBLIVION OF GUILT AND THE CURE OF MORAL EVIL. (Ver. 6.) In social relations he has opened a fountain, sweet and healing, for mutual faults and sins. Love hides a multitude of sins. "I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much" (comp. Isaiah 58:7; Daniel 4:27). But prevention is better than healing, and in religion is the prophylactic against evil.
IV. GOD'S RECONCILING LOVE. (Ver. 7.) What sweeter pleasure does life yield than reconciliation? 'Tis a deeper blessing than peace which has never been broken. Life is full of the principle of opposition; and God is manifested, first in the drawing of us to himself, and then in the union of estranged human hearts to one another.
V. THE LAW OF COMPENSATION. (Ver. 8.) He hath set the one over against the other, that we should seek nothing alter him. Poverty has great advantages, if we will see it so - is more favourable, on the whole, to moral health than the reverse condition. And the hard crust of honest poverty, how sweet! the luxurious living of the dishonest rich, how insipid! or how bitter!
VI. DIVINE RECTIFICATIONS. (Ver. 9.) We must take heed to our own way; yet with all our care, we cannot ensure right direction or security. We need God's rectification and criticism at every point, and hence should ever say to ourselves, "If the Lord will, we will do this or that" (James 4:15). The blending of human with Divine counsel, human endeavour with God's guidance, may defy analysis, but is known in experience to be real. - J.
I. IN VIEW OF THE PAST AND OF HIS RELATIONS WITH GOD. What is his hope there? What are the possibilities of his sins being forgiven, his iniquity purged away? What he must rely upon, in this great domain of thought, is this - truth in himself and mercy in God.
1. He himself must be a true penitent, one that
"...feels the sins he owns, And hates what he deplores;" that intends with full purpose of heart to turn from all iniquity and to cleave to righteousness and purity. 2. He must cast himself on the boundless mercy of God gained for him and promised to him in Jesus Christ his Saviour. II. IN VIEW OF THE PAST AND OF HIS RELATIONS WITH MEN. God accepts true penitence of spirit and right purpose of heart, for he can read our hearts, and knows what we really are. But man wants more. Before he receives the sinner to his confidence and restores him to the position from which he fell, he wants clear proofs of penitence, manifestations of a new and a clean heart. The man who has put away his sin can only "purge" the guilty past by the practice of "mercy and truth," of kindness and integrity, of grace and purity. He has done that which is wrong, false, hurtful. Let him now do that which is just, true, right; that which is kind, helpful, pitiful, generous; then we shall see that he means all that he says, that his professions are sincere; then he may be taken back - his iniquity purged - to the place which he has lost. III. IN VIEW OF THE FUTURE, SAVING REGARD TO HIMSELF. How shall the penitent make good the promises he has made to his friends? How shall he ensure his future probity and purity? how shall he engage to walk in love and in the path of holy service, as he is bound to do, taking on him the name of Christ? The answer is, by walking on in reverence of spirit, by proceeding in "the fear of the Lord;" thus will he "depart from evil," and do good. It is the man who cultivates a reverent spirit, who realizes the near presence of God, who walks with God in prayer and holy fellowship, who treasures in his mind the thoughts of God, and reminds himself frequently of the will of God concerning him - it is he who will "never be moved from his integrity;" he will redeem his word of promise, he will live the new and better life of faith and holiness and love. - C.
2. He must cast himself on the boundless mercy of God gained for him and promised to him in Jesus Christ his Saviour.
II. IN VIEW OF THE PAST AND OF HIS RELATIONS WITH MEN. God accepts true penitence of spirit and right purpose of heart, for he can read our hearts, and knows what we really are. But man wants more. Before he receives the sinner to his confidence and restores him to the position from which he fell, he wants clear proofs of penitence, manifestations of a new and a clean heart. The man who has put away his sin can only "purge" the guilty past by the practice of "mercy and truth," of kindness and integrity, of grace and purity. He has done that which is wrong, false, hurtful. Let him now do that which is just, true, right; that which is kind, helpful, pitiful, generous; then we shall see that he means all that he says, that his professions are sincere; then he may be taken back - his iniquity purged - to the place which he has lost.
III. IN VIEW OF THE FUTURE, SAVING REGARD TO HIMSELF. How shall the penitent make good the promises he has made to his friends? How shall he ensure his future probity and purity? how shall he engage to walk in love and in the path of holy service, as he is bound to do, taking on him the name of Christ? The answer is, by walking on in reverence of spirit, by proceeding in "the fear of the Lord;" thus will he "depart from evil," and do good. It is the man who cultivates a reverent spirit, who realizes the near presence of God, who walks with God in prayer and holy fellowship, who treasures in his mind the thoughts of God, and reminds himself frequently of the will of God concerning him - it is he who will "never be moved from his integrity;" he will redeem his word of promise, he will live the new and better life of faith and holiness and love. - C.
I. THE DERIVATION OF AUTHORITY AND LAW FROM GOD. (Ver. 10.) The true ruler is the representative of God. Royal decrees and legal statutes profess to rest, and must rest ultimately, if they are to be binding, upon the moral Law itself. Hence the reverence in old days for "the Lord's anointed," though in the person of a Charles Stuart, was the popular witness to a deep truth, which lies at the foundation of society.
II. PRINCIPLES OF STABLE RULE. (Ver. 11.) The pair of scales have ever been viewed as the emblems of justice, and so the expressions, symbolically, of the nature of God. The second allusion is to the stone weights which the Oriental merchant carries in his bag, serving the purpose the more exactly, as not liable to rust. The exact balance and the just weight, then, if symbols of Jehovah, must be the symbols of every righteous human government.
III. THE PRINCIPLES OF ROYAL FAVOUR AND DISFAVOUR. (Vers. 12-15.)
1. The ruler must be of pure sentiment, abhorring all kinds of immorality, keeping his court pure, "rearing the white flower of a blameless life in the fine light that beats upon the throne." How much we owe in these respects to the example of our sovereign and her husband is written on the thankful heart of every religious Englishman.
2. Strong moral convictions. That the throne securely rests, not upon might, but right; not upon bayonets, but upon the Word of God. The influence proceeding from such a mind will be constantly felt as antipathetic to falsehood and corruption, and the other eating mildews of high places.
3. Sympathy with honest policies. How common is it to assume that politics have little or nothing to do with morality! No one who believes in the teaching of his Bible can accept such a dogma. He who acts upon it is already a traitor to his country and his God. As Greece had its Demosthenes, who has been called a "saint in politics," so we have had, thank God, in our time Inca of eloquent tongue and true heart in the national councils. May their line and tradition never become extinct!
4. Their dread judicial power. (Ver. 14.) The authorities who represent the penal powers of law are a terror to evil doers. There must be the power to punish. And a measured and well tempered severity does in a sense "reconcile" numbers, not to be affected otherwise, to a course of law-abiding and just conduct.
5. The attractions of their smile. (Ver. 15.) Ever, while human nature continues what it is, the smile of the sovereign, the tokens of his favour - the star, the medal, the garter, the uniform - will be sought after with eagerness and worn with pride. There may be a side of idle vanity in this, yet equally a side of good. It is good to seek association with greatness, though the ideal of greatness may often be mistaken. Only let us see that there is no real greatness which does not in some way reflect the majesty of God. - J.
I. THAT BUSINESS IS WITHIN THE PROVINCE OF RELIGION. The man who says, "Business is business, and religion is religion," is a man whose moral and spiritual perceptions are sadly confused. "God's commandment is exceeding broad," and its breadth is such as will cover all the transactions of the market. Commerce and trade, as much as agriculture, are "the Lord's;" it is an order of human activity which is in full accord with his design concerning us; and it is a sphere into which he expects us to introduce our highest principles and convictions, in which we may be always serving him.
1. It is a flagrant violation of one of his chief commandments. The second of all the commandments is this, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (see Matthew 22:29). But to cheat our neighbour in the market is to do to him what we should strenuously protest against his doing to us.
2. It is a distinct breach of what is due to our brother. It is a most unbrotherly action; it is an act done in conscious disregard of all the claims our fellow men have on our consideration. Moreover, it is an injury to the society of which we are members; for it is one of those wrongs which are crimes as well as sins; it is an act which strikes at the root of all fellowship, all commerce between man and man.
3. It is an injury done by a man to himself. No man can rob his brother without wronging his own soul. He is something the worse forevery act of dishonesty he perpetrates. And he who is systematically defrauding his neighbours is daily cutting into his own character, is continually staining his own spirit, is destroying himself.
III. THAT HONESTY IS ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. "A just weight is his delight." Not that all honest dealing is equally acceptable to him. Much here, as everywhere, depends upon the motive. A man may be honest only because it is the best policy, because he fears the exposure and penalty of fraud: there is small virtue in that. On the other hand, he may be strictly fair and just in all his dealings, whether his work be known or unknown, because he has a conviction of what is due to his neighbour, or because he has an abiding sense of what God would have him be and do. In this case his honesty is as truly an act of piety, of holy service, as was a sacrifice at the temple of Jehovah, as is a prayer in the sanctuary of Christ. It is an act rendered "unto the Lord," and it is well pleasing in the sight of God his Saviour; he "serves the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23, 24). It is a great thing that we need not leave the shop or the ship, the office or the field, in order to render acceptable sacrifice unto the Lord our God. By simple conscientiousness, by sterling and immovable integrity, whatever the pest we occupy, maintained by us with a view to the observant eye of our ever-present Master, we may honour and please him as much as if we were bowing in prayer or lifting up our voice in praise in the worship of his house. - C.
I. THE REFLEXIVE EFFECT OF MAN'S CONDUCT.
2. Rectitude is safety (ver. 17). It is a levelled and an even way, the way of the honest and good man; not, indeed, always to his own feeling, but in the highest view, "He that treads it, trusting surely to the right, shall find before his journey closes he is close upon the shining table lands to which our God himself is Sun and Noon." The only true way of self-preservation is the way of right.
3. The truth of contrast (ver. 18). Pride foretells ruin; the haughty spirit, overthrow and destruction (Proverbs 15:25, 33). The thunderbolts strike the lofty summits, and leave unharmed the kneeling vale; shiver the oak, and pass harmless over the drooping flower. We are ever safe upon our knees, or in the attitude of prayer. A second contrast appears in ver. 19. The holy life with scant fare better than a proud fortune erected on unjust gains,
"He that is down need fear no fall; He that is low, no pride." 4. The effect of religious principle (ver. 20). We need constantly to carry all conduct into this highest light, or trace it to this deepest root. Piety here includes two things: (1) obedience to positive command; (2) living trust in the personal God. Happiness and salvation are the fruit. "I have had many things in my hands, and have lost them all. Whatever I have been able to place in God's hands, I still possess" (Luther). II. EFFECTS IS RELATION TO OTHERS. 1. The good man is pleasing to others (vers. 21, 24). There is a grace on his lips, a charm in his conversation, in a "speech alway with grace, seasoned with salt." How gladly men listened to our great Exemplar, both in public and in private! Thus, too, the good man sweetens instruction, and furthers its willing reception in the mind of his listeners. 2. He earns a good reputation for sense, discretion, prudence (vers. 21, 22). And this not only adds to his own happiness (for we cannot be happy without the good will of our fellows), but it gives weight to his teaching (ver. 23). The teacher can produce little effect whose words stand not out in relief from the background of character. The true emphasis is supplied by the life. 3. The contrast (ver. 22). The folly of fools is self-chastising. The fool makes himself disagreeable to others; even if he chances upon a sound word or right action, it is devoid of the value and weight which only character can give. He incurs prejudice and opposition on every hand, sows thorns in his own path, and invites his own destruction. III. THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT IN ALL. Every one of these effects marks in its way the expression of the Divine will, the laws of a Divine order. But, above all, the end determines the value of choice and the quality of life. The great distinction between the seeming and the real is the distinction between facts as they appear in the light of our passions, our wishes, our lusts, our various illusions and self-deceptions, and facts as they are in the clear daylight of eternal truth and a judgment which cannot err (ver. 25). To guard against the fatal illusions that beset us, we should ask: 1. Is this course of conduct according to the definite rules of conduct as they are laid down in God's Word? 2. Is it according to the best examples of piety? Above all, is it Christ-like, God-like? - J.
4. The effect of religious principle (ver. 20). We need constantly to carry all conduct into this highest light, or trace it to this deepest root. Piety here includes two things:
(1) obedience to positive command;
(2) living trust in the personal God.
Happiness and salvation are the fruit. "I have had many things in my hands, and have lost them all. Whatever I have been able to place in God's hands, I still possess" (Luther).
II. EFFECTS IS RELATION TO OTHERS.
1. The good man is pleasing to others (vers. 21, 24). There is a grace on his lips, a charm in his conversation, in a "speech alway with grace, seasoned with salt." How gladly men listened to our great Exemplar, both in public and in private! Thus, too, the good man sweetens instruction, and furthers its willing reception in the mind of his listeners.
2. He earns a good reputation for sense, discretion, prudence (vers. 21, 22). And this not only adds to his own happiness (for we cannot be happy without the good will of our fellows), but it gives weight to his teaching (ver. 23). The teacher can produce little effect whose words stand not out in relief from the background of character. The true emphasis is supplied by the life.
3. The contrast (ver. 22). The folly of fools is self-chastising. The fool makes himself disagreeable to others; even if he chances upon a sound word or right action, it is devoid of the value and weight which only character can give. He incurs prejudice and opposition on every hand, sows thorns in his own path, and invites his own destruction.
III. THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT IN ALL. Every one of these effects marks in its way the expression of the Divine will, the laws of a Divine order. But, above all, the end determines the value of choice and the quality of life. The great distinction between the seeming and the real is the distinction between facts as they appear in the light of our passions, our wishes, our lusts, our various illusions and self-deceptions, and facts as they are in the clear daylight of eternal truth and a judgment which cannot err (ver. 25). To guard against the fatal illusions that beset us, we should ask:
1. Is this course of conduct according to the definite rules of conduct as they are laid down in God's Word?
2. Is it according to the best examples of piety? Above all, is it Christ-like, God-like? - J.
I. THE EVIL OF PRIDE.
1. It is based on falsity. For what has the richest or the strongest or the cleverest man, what has the most beautiful or the most honoured woman, that he or she has not received (1 Corinthians 4:7)? Ultimately, we owe everything to our Creator and Divine Benefactor; and the thought that our distinction is due to ourselves is an essentially false thought. Hence:
2. It is irreverent and ungrateful; for it is constantly forgetful of the heavenly source of all our blessings.
3. It is ugly and offensive in the sight of man. That self-respect which makes a man superior to all meanness and all unworthiness of himself is honourable and excellent in our eyes; but pride, which is an overweening estimate of our own importance or virtue, is wholly unbeautiful; it marks a man's character as a scar marks his countenance; it makes the subject of it a man whom we look upon with aversion rather than delight - our soul finds no pleasure in regarding him. It is positively offensive to our spirit.
4. It is repeatedly and severely condemned by God as a serious sin (Proverbs 8:13; Psalm 12:3; Psalm 31:23; Psalm 101:5; Psalm 138:6; Isaiah 2:12; Mark 7:22; 1 Timothy 3:6; 2 Timothy 3:2; James 4:6, etc.).
5. It is spiritually perilous in a very high degree. No truth is more constantly illustrated than that of the text, "Pride goeth before destruction," etc. Pride begets a false confidence; this begets unwariness, and leads into the place of danger; and then comes the fall. Sometimes it is in health; at other times, in business; or it may be in office and in power; or, alas! it may be in morals and in piety. There is no field of human thought and action in which pride is not a most dangerous guide. It leads up to and (only too often) over the precipice.
II. THE EXCELLENCE OF HUMILITY. "Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly," etc. And it is better because, while pride is open to all these condemnations (as above), humility is to be commended and to be desired for the opposite virtues.
1. It is founded on a true view of our own hearts. The lowlier the view we take of ourselves, the truer the estimate we form. There is a lowliness of word and demeanour that is feigned and that is false. A man may be "proud of his humility," and may declaim his own sins with a haughty heart. But real humility is based on a thorough knowledge of our own nature, of its weakness and its openness to evil; on a full acquaintance with our own character, with its imperfection and liability to fail us in the trying hour.
2. It is admirable in itself. We do not, indeed, admire servility; we detest it heartily. But we do admire genuine humility. It is a very valuable adornment of a Christian character; it graces an upright life with a beauty no other quality can supply. There is no one whom it does not become, whom it does not make much more attractive than he (or she) would otherwise be.
3. It is the very gateway into the kingdom of God. It is the humble heart, conscious of error and of sin, that seeks the Teacher and the Saviour. It is the guide which conducts our spirit straight to the feet and to the cross of our Redeemer.
4. It is an attribute of Christian character which commends us to the love and to the favour of our Lord.
5. It is the only ground on which we are safe. Pride is a slippery place, where we are sure to slip and fall; humility is the ground where devotion, finds its home, which a reverent trustfulness frequents, where God is ready with the shield of his guardianship, from which temptation shrinks away, where human souls live in peace and purity and attain to their maturity in Jesus Christ their Lord. - C.
I. THE MARVELLOUS RANGE OF HUMAN COMPLACENCY. It is simply wonderful how men will allow themselves to be deceived respecting themselves. That which they ought to know best and most thoroughly, they seem to be least acquainted with - their own standing, their own spirit, their own character. They believe themselves to be all right when, in fact, they are all wrong. They suppose themselves to be travelling in one way when they are moving in the very opposite direction. This strange and sad fact in our experience applies to:
1. Our direct relation to God. We may be imagining ourselves reconciled to him, in favour with him, enjoying his Divine friendship, engaged on his side, promoting his kingdom, while, all the time, we are far from him, are condemned by him, are doing the work of his enemies, are injuring his cause and his kingdom. Witness the hypocrites of our Lord's time, and the formalists and ceremonialists of all times; witness also the persecutors of every age; witness those of every land and age who have failed to understand that it is he, and only he, who "doeth righteousness that is righteous" in the sight of God.
2. Our relation to our fellow men. How often men have thought themselves just when they have been miserably unjust, kind when they have been heartlessly cruel, faithful when they have been guiltily disloyal!
3. What we owe to ourselves. Only too often men think that conduct pure which is impure, consistent with sobriety which is a distinct step toward insobriety, agreeable which is objectionable, safe which is seductive and full of peril.
II. THE DISASTROUS END OF A SERIOUS MISTAKE. The way seems right to a man, and he goes comfortably and even cheerily along it, but the end of it is - death.
1. In some cases this end is premature physical decline and dissolution.
2. In all cases it is spiritual decay and the threatened death of the soul, the departure and ultimate loss of all that makes human life honourable, all that makes a human spirit fair in the sight of God.
3. The death which is eternal.
III. OUR CLEAR WISDOM IN VIEW OF THIS POSSIBILITY. It is:
1. To ask ourselves how we stand in God's sight. Man may be accepting us on our own showing, but God does not do that. "The Lord weigheth the spirits" (ver. 2). He "looketh upon the heart;" he considers the aim that is before us and the spirit that is within us; what is the goal we are really seeking; what is the motive by which we are really animated; what is the deep desire and the honest and earnest endeavour of our heart.
2. To be or to become right with him. If we find ourselves wrong in his view, to humble our hearts before him; to seek his Divine forgiveness for all our wandering; to ask his guidance and inspiration to set forth upon a new course and to maintain it to the end. He alone can "show us the path of life." - C.
I. AT BOTTOM, HUNGER, THE NEED OF BREAD, IS THE GREAT STING AND GOAD TO ALL EXERTION, TO USEFUL ACTIVITY IN GENERAL.
II. HENCE HUNGER IS THE HELPER OF OUR TOIL. And we may thank God for every stimulus to do our best. Have not the best things been done for the world in every department by poor men?
III. AS APPLIED TO RELIGION, IT IS THE HUNGER OF THE SOUL WHICH PROMPTS US TO SEEK FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS; the emptiness of other joys which sends us to the feast of the gospel. Through toil and trouble, the worst unrest and distress can alone be overcome. - J.
I. GODLESS STRIVINGS. Life is full of success and failure. There are successes which cost the soul, and failures in which is contained the reaping of life eternal. The activity of the worthless man (ver. 27).
1. It is mischievous in spirit and in end. He is depicted as one who digs a grave for others (Proverbs 26:27; Jeremiah 18:20, sqq.). And his words are like fire that scorches, blasting reputation, withering the buds of opening good in the sentiment of the young, scoffing down the right and true.
2. It is contentious; breeding quarrels, creative of strife, introducing breaches between friends, disuniting households. "Envy and every evil work" is wherever he goes.
3. It is the activity of the tempter, the seducer. Not content with error himself, he would have partners in sorrow and in guilt. It is thus truly diabolical.
4. It is metilated and determined (ver. 30). Very striking is the picture of this verse - the eyes bah closed, the bit lips, the firm line about the mouth of one resolved on dark designs and their determined execution. What a power is thought for good or evil! Oh for its right direction by the loving and creative Spirit of all wisdom and goodness, that it may be ever inventive of kind and healing deeds, that may "seal up the avenues of ill," rather than open them more widely to the processions of darkness and hate! - J.
I. AN HONOURED AGE. The biblical pictures of the aged pious are very charming, and Polycarp, with his eighty-six years upon him, passing to another crown, that of martyrdom, is sublime; also "Paul the aged and the prisoner." The text points out what we must all recognize for an aesthetic truth, that it is the association of age with. goodness which makes it truly respectable, venerable, beautiful.
II. MORAL HEROISM. The heathen type of heroism was strength of arm - bodily strength, manly courage against an outward foe. The spiritual and the Christian type is in strength of will against evil, self mastery, self-conquest, sublime patience. Better than to be members of any knightly order, "Companions" of the Bath, or any similar society speaking of the lower and carnal virtues, to be "companions in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." - J.
(1) that which is spent in winning them is often far more valuable than the good for which the sacrifice is made; and
(2) the crown, when it is worn, usually weighs heavier and gives less satisfaction than was imagined in the ardour of pursuit. Old age is a crown. It is natural that men should desire it, for two reasons.
1. It means a prolongation of life; and life, under ordinary conditions, is greatly desired, so that men cling to it even tenaciously.
2. It means the completion of the course of life. Age is one of its natural stages. It has its privations, but it has also its own honours and enjoyments; those who have passed through life's other experiences may rightly wish to complete their course by wearing the hoary head of old age. But in connection with age, there is -
I. THE CROWN OF SHAME. For it is not always found in the way of righteousness. An old man who is still ignorant of those truths which he might have learned, but has neglected to gather; or who is addicted to dishonourable indulgences which he has had time to conquer, but has not subdued; or who yields to unbeautiful habits of the spirit which he should long ago have expelled from his nature and his life; or who has not yet returned unto that Divine Father who has been seeking and calling him all his days; - such an old man, with his grey hairs, wears a crown of dishonour rather than of glory. But while we may feel that he is to be condemned, we feel far more inclined to pity than to blame. For what is age not found in the way of righteousness - age without excellency, age without virtue, age uncrowned with faith and hope? Surely one of the most pitiable spectacles the world presents to our eyes. It is pleasant, indeed, to be able to regard -
II. THE CROWN OF HONOUR. When old age is found in the way of righteousness, it is a crown of honour, in that:
1. It has upon it the reflection of an honourable past. It speaks of past virtues that have helped to make it the "green old age" it is; of past successes that have been gained in the battle of life; of past services that have been diligently and faithfully rendered; of past sorrows that have been meekly borne; of past struggles that have been bravely met and passed; for it was in the rendering and in the bearing and in the meeting of these that the hair has been growing grey from year to year.
2. It has the special excellency of the present. "A crown of beauty" (marginal reading). In the "hoary head" and in the benignant countenance of old age there is a beauty which is all its own; it is a beauty which may not be observable to every eye, but which is there nevertheless; it is the beauty of spiritual worth, of trustfulness and repose, of calmness and quietness; it is a beauty if not the beauty, of holiness. He who does not recognize in the aged that have grown old in the service of God and in the practice of righteousness something more than the marks of time, fails to see a crown of beauty that is visible to a more discerning eye.
3. It has the blessed anticipation of the future. It looks homeward and heavenward. A selfish and a worldly old age is grovelling enough; it "hugs its gold to the very verge of the churchyard mould;" but the age that is found in the ways of righteousness has the light of a glorious hope in its eyes; it wears upon its brows the crown of a peaceful and blessed anticipation of a rest that remains for it, of a reunion with the beloved that have gone on before, of a beatific vision of the Saviour in his glory, of a larger life in a nobler sphere, only a few paces further on. - C.
I. THE EVIL OF IMPATIENCE. How bad a thing it is to lose command of ourselves and to speak or act with a ruffled and disquieted spirit appears when we consider that:
1. It is wrong. God gave us our understanding, our various spiritual faculties, on purpose that we might have ourselves under control; and when we permit ourselves to be irritated and vexed, to be provoked to anger, we do that which crosses his Divine purpose concerning us and his expectation of us; we do that which disappoints and grieves our Father.
2. It is a defeat. We have failed to do that which was set us to do. The hour when our will is crossed is the hour of trial; then it is seen whether we succeed or fail; and when we lose control of our spirit we are defeated.
3. It is an exhibition of folly. He that is hasty of spirit "exalteth folly" (Proverbs 14:29). He gives another painful illustration of folly; he shows that he is not the wise man we could wish that he were. He shows once more how soon and how easily a good man may be overcome, and may be led from the path of wisdom.
4. It conducts to evil. "He that is soon angry will deal foolishly" (Proverbs 14:17). A man who loses the balance of a good temper will certainly "deal foolishly." We are never at our best when we are angry. Our judgment is disturbed; our mental faculties are disordered; they lose their true proportion. We do not speak as wisely, we do not act as judiciously, as we otherwise should. In all probability, we speak and act with positive folly, in a way which brings regret on our own part and reproach from our neighbour. Very possibly we say and do that which cannot easily, if ever, be undone. We take the bloom off a fair friendship; we plant a root of bitterness which we are not able to pluck up; we start a train of consequences which will run we know not whither.
II. THE TRUE CONQUEST. To be master of ourselves is to be "of great understanding," to be "better than the mighty," or than "he that taketh a city." It is so, inasmuch as:
1. It is an essentially spiritual victory. To take a city is, in part, to triumph over physical obstacles, over walls and moats and bullets; but he that ruleth his spirit is doing battle with evil tempers and unholy inclinations and unworthy impulses. He is striving "not against flesh and blood," but against the mightier enemies that couch and spring on the human soul; he is fighting with far nobler weapons than sword or bayonet or cannon - with thought, with spiritual energy, with deep resolve, with strenuous will, with conscience, with prayer. The victory is fought and won on the highest ground, the arena of a human spirit.
2. It is a victory over ourself. And this is worthier and better than one gained over another.
(1) There is no humiliation in it; on the contrary, there is self-respect and a sense of true manfulness.
(2) Our first duty is that we owe to ourselves. God has committed to each human spirit the solemn charge of his own character. We have other high and sacred functions to discharge, but the first and greatest of them all is to honour, to train, to rule, to cultivate, to ennoble, our own spirit. We are therefore carrying out the express will of God when we victoriously command ourselves.
3. It is bloodless and beneficent. The warrior may well forget the honours he has received when he is obliged to remember the cries of the wounded on the battlefield, and the tears of the widows and the orphans who are the victims of war. But he who rules his own spirit has no sad memories to recall, no heart-rending scenes to picture to his mind. His victories are unstained with blood; by the conquest of himself he has saved many a heart from being wounded by a hasty word, and he has preserved or restored that atmosphere in which alone happiness can live and prosperity abound. - C.
I. CHANCE IS BUT AN EXPRESSION OF HUMAN IGNORANCE. When we speak of that which is contingent, we mean something the law of which is not yet known.
II. MAN'S CONTROL OVER EVENTS IS LIMITED. We can give the external occasion to a decision; the decision itself rests with a higher power.
III. GOD OVERRULES ALL THINGS, AND OVERRULES THEM FOR THE BEST. To pretend that we are not free is to deny our nature, and so to deny him; and it is also a denial of him to think that we can be absolute masters of our fate. Between night and day - truths that are obscure and convictions that are clear - our life is balanced. Life rests on two pillars - the providence of God and the responsibility of man. - J