A false balance is an abomination to the Lord.
(Laurence Echard, A.M.)
I. UPRIGHTNESS PORTRAYED.
1. Commercial integrity (ver. 1). There is an inspection of weights and measures going on daily of which few are cognisant. (Leviticus 19:35, 36). The God of heaven is a God of detail.
2. Lowliness of spirit (ver.2). Uprightness is not uppishness.
3. Integrity of purpose (ver.3). "The crooked, winding policy of ungodly men," says Scott, "involves them in increasing wickedness."
4. A right estimate of wealth (ver.4). The upright man will consider how his gains will look in the day of judgment.
II. UPRIGHTNESS REWARDED.
1. The favour of the Lord (ver. 1).
3. Deliverance (ver. 4).
4. The respect of others (ver. 10).
5. The good of others (ver. 11).
I. THE MANIFEST TRUTH OF THE ASSERTION OF THE TEXT, AND THE GROUNDS ON WHICH IT RESTS. God is a God of justice. Truth, pure and unspotted, is the very essence of the Divine character. Wherever there is deceit in the world, wherever injury, wherever oppression, there is God's anger and loathing accompanying it. The false balance, which is an abomination to the Lord, where do we not see it around us? From the powerful guides of public opinion, each assuming to be written in the interest of justice and truth, but each, almost without exception, warping justice and truth by false statements, false inferences, predetermined conclusions, down to the petty fraud, in measure and weight, which you will find in any chance shop you enter, certain known and avowed avoidances or disguises of truth, are every day practised, and acquiesced in as inevitable. The evil is in every class. But the mischief is not universal. But Christian men and women sin by tacit acquiescence in these wrong things.
II. HOW MAY WE REST SEPARATE OURSELVES FROM, AND DISCOURAGE THE FALSE BALANCE, AND UPHOLD AND CLEAVE TO THE JUST WEIGHT? We must not begin with mere practical details. The secret of all wrong is the false balance within the heart; the real cheating begins there. Is our estimate of men and things which guides our action the real and true one, or some artificial one, that is altogether wrong, and leading us altogether wrong? Men who know what is right are sometimes mixed up with the system of fraud. Why? Because they will not let recognised religious principle hold the balance nor regulate the estimate formed of the relative importance of men and things. "I must think," such a man says, "as others think; I must do as others do." If we would get rid of the false balance without, and in our streets and markets, we must begin within ourselves. Were buyers honest, sellers would, by compulsion, be honest too. Here the fault begins. Practical suggestions: conscientiously regulate the bestowal of employment and patronage: there are certain signs by which even the dull of discernment may discern the tokens of fraud and pretension. Be not an admirer of the system of universal cheapness.
When pride cometh, then cometh shame.
I. The vice of pride PUTS ON A GREAT VARIETY OF APPEARANCES, AND IS FOUND IN EVERY RANK AND CONDITION OF HUMAN LIFE. Pride of station claims our first notice. "Man being in authority," is too apt to be "proud at heart"; to be "puffed up" with this distinction; to consider himself as a being of a higher order than the rest of his fellow sinners; and to look upon those with disdain who are lower in the scale of society than himself. But what do the Scriptures say to such a vain and foolish mortal as this? They tell him that "man will not long abide in honour, seeing he may be compared to the beast that perisheth." They tell him that "men of high degree are a lie; to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity."
2. Nor is the pride of birth less unreasonable than that of rank. Even a heathen in ancient times could see its absurdity, and say, "for as to family and ancestors, and what we have not done ourselves, we can scarcely call those things ours."
3. Of the same wicked and foolish character is pride of riches. Reason tells us that riches cannot give dignity of character, superiority of intellect, vigour of body, endowments of mind, peace of conscience, cheerfulness of heart, or any one of those advantages which form the chief blessings of life; and, therefore, are a very insufficient foundation for "pride of heart."
4. Pride of talent, and pride of learning, also ill become "man that is born of a woman." A disease, an accident, "a sudden terror," may overset the mind, and turn all our light into "utter darkness." Of the pride of beauty, in order to show its folly, it need only be said, in the language of inspiration, "surely all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field
; the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth."
5. The pride of judgment, also, which is too often the pride of the young and ignorant, is of the like foolish description, and is equally rebuked by the Holy Scriptures. It is a common and a true observation, that those who know least generally imagine that they know most, and know best.
6. But, of all kinds of pride, spiritual pride, or the conceit and boast of being holier than others, is the worst description of this bad passion: most hateful to God, and most dangerous to our souls.
II. Opposite, however, as the mid-day sun to "utter darkness," is THE CHARACTER GIVEN IN CRIPTURE OF LOWLINESS OR HUMILITY: AND THE VIEW OF THE BLESSINGS WHICH ARE PROMISED UPON THOSE IN WHOM IT IS FOUND. "When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom." When we consider the nature of man, fallen and far gone from original righteousness, one might well think that men should of their own accord see the propriety, the necessity, of the grace of humility in their character. Our Lord has bound meekness and poverty of spirit upon our consciences by His injunctions, and encouraged our obedience to His injunctions by assuring us that "the meek and the poor in spirit shall inherit the kingdom of heaven." He has declared to us that those who "humble themselves shall be exalted"; and finally, to give the greatest possible weight and effect to what He said, He left us, in His own practice, the most perfect example of the graces which He enjoined to His followers: for "He made Himself of no reputation," etc.
I. THE ADVENT OF PRIDE. Pride is inordinate self-appreciation. This feeling comes to a soul; it is not born in it. Infancy and childhood are free from it. How does it come?
1. By associating only with inferiors.
2. By practically ignoring the true standards of character. When we lose sight of the eternal law of rectitude, and judge ourselves only by the imperfect standards around us, pride is likely to come.
3. By a practical disregard to the majesty of God. The conscious presence of God humbles.
II. THE EVIL OF PRIDE. "Then cometh shame." The man who has formed a false and exaggerated estimate of self must be disappointed one day. Man must always find his level; he must come to realities.
1. Shame of folly. The soul bursts with a sense of its own foolish estimate.
2. Shame of guilt. Pride is a wrong state of mind, and hence shame follows it.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
1. The first is the extensiveness of the sin. Other vices tyrannise over particular ages, and triumph in particular countries. Rage is the failing of youth, and avarice of age; revenge is the predominant passion of one country, and inconstancy the charasteristic of another; but pride is the native of every country, infects every climate, and corrupts every nation.
2. The second reason may be drawn from the circumstances of the preacher. Pride was probably a crime to which Solomon himself was most violently tempted, since he was placed in every circumstance that could expose him to it. He was a king absolute and independent, and by consequence surrounded with sycophants ready to second the first motions of self-love, to comply with every proposal, and flatter every failing. But Solomon had not only the pride of royalty to suppress, but the pride of prosperity, of knowledge, and of wealth.
I. THE NATURE OF PRIDE, WITH ITS ATTENDANTS AND CONSEQUENCES. Pride, simply considered, is an immoderate degree of self-esteem, or an over-value set upon a man by himself, and, like most other vices, is founded originally on an intellectual falsehood. But this definition sets this vice in the fairest light, and separates it from all its consequences, by considering man without relation to society, and independent of all outward circumstances. Pride, thus defined, is only the seed of that complicated sin against which we are cautioned in the text. In speculation pride may be considered as ending where it began, and exerting no influences beyond the bosom in which it dwells; but in real life pride will always be attended with kindred passions, and produce effects equally injurious to others, and destructive to itself.
1. He that overvalues himself will undervalue others, and he that undervalues others will oppress them. Pride has been able to harden the heart against compassion, and stop the ears against the cries of misery. It makes masters cruel and imperious, and magistrates insolent and partial. It produces contempt and injuries, and dissolves the bond of society. Nor is this species of pride more hurtful to the world than destructive to itself. The oppressor unites heaven and earth against him.
2. He that sets too high a value upon his own merits will, of course, think them ill-rewarded with his present condition. He will endeavour to exalt his fortune and his rank above others, in proportion as his deserts are superior to theirs. Once fired with these notions, he will attempt to increase his fortune and enlarge his sphere; and how few there are that prosecute such attempts with innocence, a very transient observation will sufficiently inform us. To pride, therefore, must be ascribed most of the fraud, injustice, violence, and extortion, by which wealth is frequently acquired.
3. Another concomitant of pride is envy, or the desire of debasing others. A proud man is uneasy and dissatisfied, while any of those applauses are bestowed on another, which he is desirous of himself.
4. Another consequence of immoderate self-esteem is an insatiable desire of propagating in others the favourable opinion he entertains of himself. He therefore tortures his invention for means to make himself conspicuous, and to draw the eyes of the world upon him. But for the most part it is ordered by Providence that the schemes of the ambitious are disappointed, so that "still when pride cometh, then cometh shame, but with the lowly is wisdom."
II. SOME OF THE USUAL MOTIVES TO PRIDE, AND HOW LITTLE THEY CAN BE PLEADED IN EXCUSE OF IT. A superior being that should look down upon the disorder and corruption of our world, that should observe the shortness of our lives, the weakness of our bodies, the continual accidents, or injuries, to which we are subject; the violence of our passions, the irregularity of our conduct, and the transitory state of everything about us, would hardly believe there could be among us such vice as pride. Yet so it is, that however weak or wicked we may be, we fix our eyes on some other that is represented by our self-love to be weaker, or more wicked, than ourselves, and grow proud upon the comparison. Another common motive to pride is knowledge, a motive equally weak, vain, and idle, with the former. Learning indeed, imperfect as it is, may contribute to many great and noble ends, and may be called in to the assistance of religion. But how little reason have we to boast of our knowledge, when we only gaze and wonder at the surface of things? When the wisest and most arrogant philosopher knows not how a grain of corn is generated, or why a stone falls to the ground? But were our knowledge far greater than it is, let us yet remember that goodness, not knowledge, is the happiness of man! There is another more dangerous species of pride, arising from a consciousness of virtue; so watchful is the enemy of our souls, and so deceitful are our own hearts, that too often a victory over one sinful inclination exposes us to be conquered by another. This kind of pride is generally accompanied with great uncharitableness, and severe censures of others, and may obstruct the great duty of repentance.
III. THE AMIABLENESS AND EXCELLENCE OF HUMILITY. To evince beyond opposition the excellence of this virtue, we may observe that the life of our Lord was one continued exercise of humility.
(John Taylor, LL.D.)
Christian Weekly.Tirmond, one of the Czar's ablest surgeons, and to whom he was much attached, having died, his widow married a young barber from Dantzic, who was somewhat more expert in gallantry than in surgery; as he became very wealthy by this marriage, he made a great figure at Moscow. Being one day sent for by the Czar, he went to court in a magnificent dress, and in one of his elegant carriages. Peter examined him, and roughly told him he was a blockhead, and immediately sailed in a troop of valets and peasants, whom he ordered him instantly to shave. The gentleman barber was under the necessity of obeying, to the great amusement of the whole court, and with the same parade in which he had arrived, he was then permitted to return.
The integrity of the upright sham guide them.
I. INTEGRITY IS THE SUREST GUIDE TO EVERY PRACTICAL PURPOSE IN OUR RELIGIOUS INQUIRIES. These inquiries have unfortunately been perplexed and mystified by the polemics of Churches and sects. Of course it is integrity, enlightened, to a certain degree, by a right education, that is meant. Go to the Bible with the sincere desire of gaining the knowledge of practical and consolatory truths, without any sectarian bias, and it is impossible that you should err in anything that might affect your practice here, or your salvation hereafter. Your integrity will guide you in all that is essential.
II. INTEGRITY IS OUR BEST GUIDE IN OUR WORLDLY TRANSACTIONS, AS MEN AND AS MEMBERS OF SOCIETY. It is the great solver of all moral difficulties. Whence do these originate? They are generated by that interference of complicated interests, which embarrasses and perverts the minds of those who have no settled principle to which they can refer amidst the ever-varying plans of worldly wisdom. Integrity, enlightened by the truths, and fortified by the promises of the gospel, admits of no hesitation on account of any temporary inconvenience, to which an honest conduct may expose us. In public concerns, the surest way to outwit cunning and artifice would be to fix only upon such objects as reason can indicate and conscience may approve. Truth, in the hands of wisdom and courage, has a commanding aspect, which would confound the subtle chicanery and pitiful arts of a selfish and low-minded diplomacy. And in private transactions between man and man it holds equally true that enlightened integrity, acting with perseverance upon a settled plan, ultimately gains the very end by upright means which in the cunning and dishonest tall a thousand times for once that they succeed. Integrity makes a man rich in character, and that ensures him the best chance of gaining earthly success and wealth.
(Jas. Lindsay, D.D.)
1. The guidance of integrity is the safest under which we can be placed. The road in which it leads us is, upon the whole, freest from dangers. The man of the world aims at higher things, and more rapid success, than the man of moderation and virtue. But, at the same time, he incurs greater risks and dangers. No calculation of probabilities can ensure safety to him who is acting a deceitful part. He who follows the guidance of integrity, walks in the high road, on which the light of the sun shines. The principle of integrity by no means excludes prudence in the conduct of life. It implies no improvident or thoughtless simplicity.
2. The path of integrity is the most honourable. Integrity is the foundation of all that is high in character among mankind. He who rests upon an internal principle of virtue and honour will act with a dignity and boldness of which they are incapable who are wholly guided by interest. That firmness which the consciousness of rectitude inspires gives vigour and force to his exertions on every great occasion. It adds double weight to all the abilities of which he is possessed. They who oppose him are obliged to honour him. Such a man is trusted and relied on, as well as esteemed.
3. The plan of conduct on which the man of integrity proceeds is the most comfortable, attended with the greatest satisfaction to his own mind. His reference of all his actions to Divine approbation furnishes another source of satisfaction and peace.
4. The man of integrity has in view the prospect of immortal rewards. True integrity will prove the truest wisdom both for this world and the next.
(Hugh Blair, D.D.)
Nehemiah 6:10-16). Haman was perverse and wicked; his ways were crooked; he conspired to take away the lives of others; and on the gallows which he had set up for Mordecai he himself was hung: and so "the transgressor was taken in his own naughtiness" (Esther 7:10).
The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way.
I. THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF THIS BOOK, AND OF ALL MORAL TEACHING. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap." This by the world is —
1. Denied in practice.
2. Denied in theory. The theory is false that, live as you like, the result will be the same. It is contradicted by experience. It is inconsistent with the very being of a God.
II. SPECIAL STATEMENT OF THE PRINCIPLES.
1. "The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way." Note the leading words. "Perfect," not faultless, but upright. Not consciously or intentionally reserving anything from God. "His righteousness." Not his own, but God's; yet made his own by free adoption of his will. "Its work." Not an arbitrary reward.
2. "Wicked fall by his own wickedness." Generally speaking, failure is worked for, and comes as payment. Apply to
(1) (2) (W. R. Clarke, M.A.)
(2) (W. R. Clarke, M.A.)
(W. R. Clarke, M.A.)
(R. F. Herren, D.D.)
The hope of unjust men perisheth.
I. DEATH MEETING THE WICKED MAN. "The wicked man dieth."
1. Death does not wait for reformation of character.
2. The greatest enemies of God and His universe are overcome. There is a stronger power than that of the wicked.
II. HOPE LEAVING THE HUMAN SOUL. What is dearer to the soul than hope? The soul lives in and by hope. Shakespeare Says, "The miserable hath no medicine, but only hope." When the wicked man dieth, he loses this hope. Hope of liberty, of improvement, of honour, of happiness. He dieth, and carrieth nothing away.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his stead.
I. THE RIGHTEOUS ARE GOING OUT OF TROUBLE. The troubles of the righteous arise from physical infirmities, mental difficulties, secular anxieties, moral imperfections, social dishonesties, falsehoods, end bereavements. But the fact is, that they are being delivered out of these troubles.
1. Partially, they are being delivered out of trouble now.
2. Completely, they will be delivered out of all trouble at death.
II. THE WICKED ARE GOING INTO TROUBLE. They are going deeper into trouble every step they take. They are forging thunderbolts and nursing storms. The trouble they are going into is unmitigated.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
Daniel 3:22-27.) Daniel was taken up alive and uninjured out of the lions' den; whilst the men who had accused him were cast into the same den, and the lions, which had not touched Daniel, "brake all their bones in pieces" before they reached "the bottom of the den" (Daniel 6:23, 24).
An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.
I. HYPOCRISY IS DESTRUCTIVE. The hypocrite, by his deception, has often destroyed the reputation, the peace, end the soul of his neighbour. Hypocrisy —
1. Implies the pernicious. A consciousness of wrongness within is the cause of all hypocrisy.
2. Employs the pernicious. Misrepresentations are its instruments.
II. KNOWLEDGE IS RESTORATIVE. Knowledge here is in antithesis with hypocrisy. Real knowledge is truth, reality. It scatters the clouds of ignorance and error, and raises the soul to light, freedom, purity and blessedness.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth.
Homilist.Down deep beneath the errors, follies, vanities of the community, there is a conscience. That conscience points evermore to the right and the just, as the needle to the pole.
I. THE PUBLIC CONSCIENCE IN RELATION TO THE RIGHTEOUS.
1. Public conscience is gratified by the prosperity of the righteous.
2. Public conscience acknowledges the usefulness of the righteous.
II. PUBLIC CONSCIENCE IN RELATION TO THE WICKED.
1. It rejoices in their ruin.
2. It acknowledges their mischief.The "mouth of the wicked" — the channel of impieties, falsehoods, impurities, and innumerable pernicious errors have caused in all ages, and is still causing, the overthrow of states.
When the wicked perish, there is shouting
(J. L. Nye.)When Mordecai triumphed over Haman, "the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad" (Esther 8:15). "When the wicked perish, there is shouting." When Athaliah was slain, "all the people of the land rejoiced" (2 Kings 11:20).
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted.
1. When righteous magistrates are in authority, good laws are enacted, and impartially administered; virtue meets with its encouragements and vice with its due restraints and punishments.
2. The faithful dispensers of the sincere Word of God must needs contribute very much to the happiness of the place where they live. Those who propagate the knowledge of God, and excite men to glorify Him, must in reason be esteemed the instruments of men's felicity.
3. Every upright man, of what station soever, is a blessing to the place where he lives, if he have so much of a public spirit and principle of humanity in him as to desire his neighbour's prosperity as well as his own; and if he be ready upon all reasonable occasions to do good offices to others, such a man is a good member of any civilised community.The other part of the text deals with a contrary cause and effect.
1. At the tribunals of justice, in trials of right and wrong, an unjust sentence has often proceeded from the mouth of a partial judge, a corrupt jury, or a false witness.
2. In dispensing the Divine Word, and treating of the mysteries and doctrines of religion, it is of most destructive consequences to the people, if the mouth of the wicked have the handling of them; for then the people will be sure to be divided by that religion which was designed to unite them, and be emboldened to disobey God by the authority of His own misinterpreted Word. Pure religion is certainly the very best cement of civil society, as mightily enforcing the duties of unity, peace, and love among men: but religion corrupted in the doctrines of faith and practice carries with it the seeds of endless strife and contention, and ministers occasion to continual debates and animosities.
3. In the daily affairs and transactions of common life, the mouth of the wicked does much towards destroying the public good. If this be well demonstrated, it is a fair warning to all cities which are concerned for their own preservation, that they be very careful to increase the upright, and diminish the number of the wicked among them. Let us then exert ourselves, upon all just occasions, in the cause of truth, to the extermination of all that is contrary to it. So shall we both entitle ourselves and those whom we shall reduce from error to the gracious protection of God in this life present, and to His everlasting salvation in that which is to come.
(W. Reading, M.A.)
2 Chronicles 32:22, 30.) But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. — The men of Sodom and Gomorrah were foul of mouth; it was an open sepulchre; and, because of their sins, God overthrew the two cities (Genesis 19:25).
He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour.
Homilist.Four distinct types of character.
I. THE INSOLENT. Men destitute of all true respect for their fellows. They are uncivil and rude, sneering, saucy, abusive.
II. THE RESPECTFUL. He is neither precipitant in the judgment he forms of men, nor hasty in his language. He is the true gentleman of society: cautious, prudent, polite.
III. THE TATTLER. A tale-bearer is one who will take in your secrets, and hasten to his neighbour to pour them into his greedy ears. He has a witching ear to know your concerns. He is not always malicious in spirit, but he is always dangerous. He is always defending friendships, starting suspicions, and creating animosities.
IV. THE TRUSTWORTHY. The antithesis to the tale-bearer. He is a dependable friend; he will listen to your secrets as things too sacred for speech. You can trust him with your life, he will never betray you.
Christian Age."It was told me in the strictest confidence, but you won't tell I" "No," was the quiet reply; "I prefer not to hear it. What right have you to tell what you virtually promised not to communicate; I am sure I have no right, and I have no desire to know what does not belong to me to know." There are people who use their friends as dumping-grounds, and unload on them any choice bits of scandal they may chance to pick up, as though they were conferring a favour. As long as human nature is what it is, there will be plenty of such unloading to be done; but what noble mind wishes to be put to such ignoble uses, and to have made in any part of his spiritual domain a scavenger heap? The perfect character, like the perfectly kept house, has no dark and dusty corners. It is kept sweet and pure in every part. There is no place where a foul garment or a malodorous rag may be tucked away and hidden. Fire and water and the broom and duster in a modern house keep all things clean. There is no more reason why there should be nesting-places of evil in the soul than why there should be dust upon our furniture. The pure sunlight of God let into dark places cleanses and keeps them clean. The person who in confidence would taint another is not a friend, but an enemy.
Where no counsel is, the people fall.
I. WHY DO WE NEED ADVICE? The first reason is found in the peculiar nature of the evils to which we are exposed. Sin has a strangely deluding influence over those whom it tempts. Here there is scope of need for wise counsels, which may enforce the neglected voice of conscience. Advice is also necessary in consequence of special circumstances in which we are placed. We are involved in difficulties from which others are required to rescue us. "Where no counsel is, the people fall."
II. WHERE ARE WE TO SEEK ADVICE? We should not ask for it except when we really require it. To be ever at a loss what to do unless we are "advised" is a characteristic of a life that is usually spent to little purpose. The secret of a useful course through the world lies in a measure of self-reliance. At other times when advice is sought there is a foregone conclusion, and a man only wishes to have his own views confirmed. Out of its proper place advice, instead of being a help, is almost a hindrance to a right decision. It is not safe to go indiscriminately to all sorts of people with a statement of our difficulties, and entreaties for advice in dealing with them. This disposition is the evidence of a weak mind and an irresolute will. There is no real safety in the counsel sought in the confessional. Supreme wisdom comes to us with greatest force when it flows through the channel of hearts bound closely to our own.
III. HOW TO TAKE ADVICE. The danger of resenting counsel, when it is unpleasant, is one with which we are all more or less familiar. Those who give advice should always be pure of their warrant to do so. But the more experience a man has the less disposed he will be to give advice unsought. Men are rarely careful enough in their way of giving disagreeable advice. There is a spirit and a manner in some counsels which it is not in human nature to bear. But we must take care lest we be displeased with others whose advice we get, simply because we dislike it. All are not good counsellors who try to lead, and we cannot too carefully test the words of advice which, on every hand, are spoken to us. When we are in doubt as to their value, we must weigh them in the balance of God's sanctuary; and if they speak not according to His law, it is because there is no truth in them. The Great Adviser is always interested in us. Reliance on help from above is verified by the experience of all good men.
(A. MacEwen, D.D.)
A gracious woman retaineth honour.
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul
1. He who would do good to his own soul must carefully avoid all manner of sin, whether in thought, word, or deed. The thoughts must be watched. We are to be careful of the words which we utter, so that we may not make our tongues the instruments of evil-speaking, lying, and slandering. And careful also of our conduct and action.
2. Another mark of the object being kept in view, is the habitual study of the Word of God. The Scriptures testify of Christ, and point Him out as the "way, the truth, and the life."
3. Attention to the means of grace.
4. He endeavours to realise an interest in the merits and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
5. The merciful man, who does good to his own soul, does so only by placing his entire dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
(D. Slyman, B.A.)
Homilist.I. A GENEROUS DISPOSITION IS A BLESSING TO ITS POSSESSOR.
1. A merciful man doeth good to his intellectual faculties. It is a psychological fact that the intellect can only see clearly, move freely, and progress vigorously as it is surrounded by the atmosphere of disinterested affection. Selfishness blinds, cripples, enervates the intellect.
2. A merciful man doeth good to his moral sentiments. Conscience approves only of the actions that spring from love.
II. AN UNGENEROUS DISPOSITION IS A CURSE TO ITS POSSESSOR. Unmercifulness of disposition breeds the fiends of envy, jealousy, malice, remorse, fear, suspicion, pride, that torment the soul.
The wicked worketh a deceitful work.
I. THEIR WORK.
1. There is intentionally set before us a good specimen of a bad man. He is a man who works, and works hard in his own way. Some evil-doers are idle, profligate, sensual, devilish. Such seldom deceive themselves, and but rarely deceive others. But here is described a man who is very likely to deceive both himself and others. Wicked men are often shrewd men of the world and clever. They are zealous and laborious men, though the objects they aim at may be unworthy and bad. Their mistake is not in the way they work, but in the thing they work for. If all Christians were as eager in their pursuit of truth and charity and all good works as worldly men are in their search after riches and pleasures, what a difference it would make! Whilst the wicked man works in earnest fashion for time, does he attempt any like efforts for eternity? It is a mistake to think the bad man does not care for eternity at all. Multitudes attempt to serve two masters. A man who works with all his strength for worldly success often persuades himself that he will be able to work for eternity too. Does he then labour for the "meat that endureth unto eternal life"? Nay, at this point his wisdom is at fault, the deceitfulness of his work begins to appear. He is no better than a spiritual impostor and spendthrift. He knows nothing of the faith which awakens the generous and noble impulses of humanity, which touches the heart and makes the life holy. He is altogether ignorant of the quickening and sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost.
2. Not such is the work of the righteous. He "soweth righteousness." The sowing of the seed is the crowning act of the husbandman's preparation for a crop. All his other work goes for nothing unless it be consummated by this work. The wicked is said to work, but the just sows righteousness. The text describes a work of faith. He who "sows righteousness" does it in order that he may hereafter gather in the harvest. What is the seed he sows? (compare Hosea 10:12). To "sow righteousness," to "sow in righteousness," and to "sow to the Spirit," all means the same thing. It is to live righteously, to do righteous actions, to perform acts of devotion and piety to God, and to do works of truth and justice and charity towards our neighbour. It is to learn to do the will of God, looking forward to a future harvest," having respect unto the recompense of the reward." Righteousness in Scripture is a universal virtue, containing in itself all other virtues. A man must gather his seed before he can sow it. He who is to "sow righteousness" must first obtain a supply of the precious fruit of righteousness. Whence can this supply be fetched?
II. THEIR REWARD.
1. Working a deceitful work means working so as to deceive others. There is no real truth in a bad man. He is sure to deceive, whenever deceit will serve his ends. He will cast truth to the winds whenever truth calls upon him to suffer, either in his own person, or in his purse, or in the good opinion of others. Another rendering is, "the wicked winneth deceitful wages." His work will betray him to his ruin, and will in the end utterly disappoint his own hopes. His work will break down just where it ought to stand, and fail altogether when his need is the greatest.
2. Mark well the bright and refreshing contrast. "To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward." The seed which has been sown in hope may lie for a long time beneath the clods, and may seem to be dead as well as buried. But as surely as God's Word is true, it will spring up and grow, and ripen for a harvest of unspeakable joy. The reward of the righteous is a reward of grace and mercy. He that has "sown righteousness" most plentifully will look for his sure reward only from the mercy of God, through Jesus Christ. We live in difficult times, no doubt, but every age has its own trials, and the men of every age are ready to believe that no trials are as bad as theirs. The only safe way is the same in every age. It is to "sow righteousness."
(W. Bonner Hopkins, B.D.)
To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure rewardThe husbandry and harvest of the righteous: — This is a counter-plea to that profane principle of the atheists, who say, "It is in vain to serve God."
I. WHAT IT IS TO SOW RIGHTEOUSNESS. It is the same as to "sow to the Spirit." The gracious course of consecrating a man's self unto God in the practice of godliness. There is likeness betwixt the practice of godliness and the sowing of seed.
1. In some things which go before sowing — the preparation and fitting of the ground, and the choice of seed to put in the ground. In like manner there must be in the practice of godliness the preparation of the heart and the choice of particulars belonging to a Christian course.
2. In the act of sowing, which may include the time of sowing and the plenty of sowing. In the spiritual business the seed-time for righteousness is in this life; the opportunity must be taken when it comes. And to sow righteousness is to be rich in good works.
3. In the things that follow after sowing. The fields must be hedged, the cattle shut out, the birds driven away, the stones picked out, and the field watched to see how it goes on. In spiritual matters it is vain to have entered into a good course if it be not continued. The signs of the practice of godliness are —
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) II. WHAT IS THE SURE REWARD? This is either in the life present or in that which is to come. Rewards in this life are both outward and inward: outward so far forth as the wisdom of God shall see it fitting. The inward is peace of conscience, arising out of the comfortable assurance of God's favour. This is a joy working even in afflictions. The reward in the life to come cannot be expressed. Scripture reasoneth concerning the certainty of this reward by a proverbial speech, "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." Holiness in the seed, happiness in the harvest. And by the truth of God's promise. There is a double reward — a reward of favour and a reward of debt. The doctrines to be collected are — 1. That the practice of godliness is a matter which requireth great industry. 2. That the full reward of religion is not to be looked for immediately on the practice of religion. Sowing and reaping come not at once. 3. That the Lord will surely reward those which faithfully labour in His service. Though there be many a storm after our sowing, the harvest will come, and we shall be comforted. Farmers pay their workmen straight after their labour, before the corn be ripe, but the payments are of far less value than the corn. God bestoweth upon His all that they have sown, and the hire shall far exceed the travail. (S. Hieron.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) II. WHAT IS THE SURE REWARD? This is either in the life present or in that which is to come. Rewards in this life are both outward and inward: outward so far forth as the wisdom of God shall see it fitting. The inward is peace of conscience, arising out of the comfortable assurance of God's favour. This is a joy working even in afflictions. The reward in the life to come cannot be expressed. Scripture reasoneth concerning the certainty of this reward by a proverbial speech, "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." Holiness in the seed, happiness in the harvest. And by the truth of God's promise. There is a double reward — a reward of favour and a reward of debt. The doctrines to be collected are — 1. That the practice of godliness is a matter which requireth great industry. 2. That the full reward of religion is not to be looked for immediately on the practice of religion. Sowing and reaping come not at once. 3. That the Lord will surely reward those which faithfully labour in His service. Though there be many a storm after our sowing, the harvest will come, and we shall be comforted. Farmers pay their workmen straight after their labour, before the corn be ripe, but the payments are of far less value than the corn. God bestoweth upon His all that they have sown, and the hire shall far exceed the travail. (S. Hieron.)
(3) (4) (5) II. WHAT IS THE SURE REWARD? This is either in the life present or in that which is to come. Rewards in this life are both outward and inward: outward so far forth as the wisdom of God shall see it fitting. The inward is peace of conscience, arising out of the comfortable assurance of God's favour. This is a joy working even in afflictions. The reward in the life to come cannot be expressed. Scripture reasoneth concerning the certainty of this reward by a proverbial speech, "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." Holiness in the seed, happiness in the harvest. And by the truth of God's promise. There is a double reward — a reward of favour and a reward of debt. The doctrines to be collected are — 1. That the practice of godliness is a matter which requireth great industry. 2. That the full reward of religion is not to be looked for immediately on the practice of religion. Sowing and reaping come not at once. 3. That the Lord will surely reward those which faithfully labour in His service. Though there be many a storm after our sowing, the harvest will come, and we shall be comforted. Farmers pay their workmen straight after their labour, before the corn be ripe, but the payments are of far less value than the corn. God bestoweth upon His all that they have sown, and the hire shall far exceed the travail. (S. Hieron.)
1. That the practice of godliness is a matter which requireth great industry. (S. Hieron.)
1. That the practice of godliness is a matter which requireth great industry.
I. THE WICKED WORKETH A DECEITFUL WORK. The object which he pursues seems to promise him great things, but it generally fills him with disappointment and chagrin. The characters of the wicked are various, but in one point they all agree — "they forget God." They practically forget Him. They salve over their own consciences by thoughts of impunity. They have no love to God's name, no inclination to obey His laws; they are by consequence without the strongest bond of duty in man, which is love. The law of God is hateful to them, because it puts constraint upon their appetites and evil designs. And they are without the bond of fear. As God's judgments are out of sight, so they are out of mind. The pursuit of evil cannot minister to happiness even here below. It is attended with manifold woes, even upon earth. Sin, in most cases, is connected with punishment. "He that pursueth evil pursueth it to his death." It is the death of hope, peace, reputation, and a good conscience. It is often the cause of a premature temporal death. The pursuit of evil is the necessary school and preparation for eternal death.
II. THE DIFFERENT ENDS TO WHICH THE LIFE OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE LIFE OF THE UNGODLY LEAD. What is righteousness? Other terms are godliness, holiness, the new man. What is meant is not the righteousness of forms, but an inward disposition manifested by corresponding conduct, the new heart and the new life. It is the godliness which is opposed to the bodily exercise that profiteth little. Such righteousness tendeth to life. It has a natural and necessary tendency to promote present peace and eternal glory. In Scripture the words life and death are used for happiness and misery. The righteous are necessarily training themselves for eternal happiness, independently of that promise which secures to them "the crown of glory that fadeth not away." There must be a fitness for heaven, a character acquired upon earth which is suitable to the abode of the just. The righteousness of which we speak is conformity of heart and life to Jesus Christ; it is union of soul with Him, a likeness to His example; it has a measure of His holiness and perfection. Righteousness disposes and fits a man for the enjoyment of God, for it cultivates those faculties of the soul which are called into exercise in heaven. Righteousness rests upon the basis of love. The acquiring of this righteousness is the preparation for the enjoyment of God. Already the righteous have communion with the Father of their spirits and with the "spirits of the just made perfect." This being so, the passage for them is easy from this world to eternity. But righteousness also has a tendency to promote present happiness. The righteous live in the favour of God. They have peace of conscience. They fear no evil. They can look on death without alarm. Righteousness has a natural tendency to promote our welfare by conciliating the favour of the good and the respect of all And the reward laid up in heaven is sure. In conclusion, address two classes: Those who are seeking after righteousness — a word of cheer. Those who are "working a deceitful work" — a word of warning.
(H. J. Hastings, M.A.)
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.Opposites illustrate each other. Of this principle considerable use is made in the sacred Scriptures.
I. OPPOSITE CHARACTERS. The idea of righteousness is equality, as the equilibrium of a pair of scales. Applied to moral or religious natures it means a correspondence between our obligations on the one hand and our performance on the other. So it becomes obedience or conformity to the law. The radical meaning of the word "wicked" is inequality, unfairness. In a moral sense a want of correspondence between duty and performance, or nonconformity to righteous laws. Wickedness is disorder, incongruity, deception, an unsound principle, naturally producing a deceitful work.
II. OPPOSITE PRACTICES. Righteousness renders to all their due. Where wrong sentiments are indulged wrong dispositions and practices naturally follow. Hence result —
1. Treachery towards friends.
2. Fraud and falsehood in business.
3. Extortion and oppression.
4. Maladministration; a never-ceasing theme of complaint.In all such cases the work is a "deceitful work" — deceitful in its nature, operation, and results.
III. OPPOSITE RESULTS.
1. God convinces the sinner of his unrighteousness.
2. Enlightens, transforms, and renews the soul.The renewed begins to sow righteousness. To him there is a sure reward. Pause and inquire whether such a change has been effected in you. Pray for convincing and converting grace. Persevere through evil and through good report.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
1. Because of the size of the field in which this sowing may be carried on.
2. Because of the number and kind of sowers. Farmers are only one class of men. All classes of persons may be sowers of righteousness.
3. Because of the certainty of the reward. Farmers hope for harvest, but cannot be quite sure. The reward of sowing righteousness is made up of pleasure and profit. Sometimes the profit is found in this life. But the best part of the reward is in heaven.
(R. Newton, D.D.)
I. AS THEY APPEAR AT WORK.
1. Evil works deceitfully. It deceives the individual possessor; it makes his very life fiction. It deceives others. It fabricates and propagates falsehood.
2. The good works righteously. Being righteous in heart, he is charged with righteous principles, which he sows as seed in the social circle to which he belongs.
II. AS THEY APPEAR IN RETRIBUTION. All works, the bad as well as the good, bring results to the worker. These results are the retribution; they are God's return for labour.
1. The righteous reap life. Life of the highest kind — spiritual. Life of the highest degree — immortal blessedness.
2. The wicked reap death — the death of all usefulness, nobility, and enjoyment.
III. AS THEY APPEAR BEFORE GOD.
1. God observes moral distinctions.
2. God is affected by moral distinctions. What He sees He feels.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS PROVES THE SPIRITUAL LIFE TO BE BEGUN IN OUR SOULS; EVIL SHOWS THAT OUR SOULS ARE STILL DEAD IN SIN. Naturally we are all dead in sin. There is a life which God's life-giving Spirit begins in us. One of the most marked indications of its existence is righteousness developing itself in the whole character and conduct.
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS CONNECTED WITH THE SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT WHICH MAINTAINS LIFE; EVIL WITH THE NEGLECT OF SUCH NOURISHMENT, WHICH OCCASIONS DEATH. Man's spiritual nature must receive spiritual sustenance. The soul that is quickened to righteousness hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and God bestows upon it what it seeks, so as to nourish it and strengthen it.
III. RIGHTEOUSNESS LEADS TO COURSES OF ACTION WHICH PROLONG LIFE; EVIL, FROM ITS VERY NATURE, CONDUCTS TO DEATH. God's ways tend not only to the preservation and prolongation of life in this world, but to the full enjoyment of life for evermore.
IV. RIGHTEOUSNESS ASSOCIATES US WITH THOSE WHO ARE ALIVE TO GOD, THUS HELPING TO MAINTAIN LIFE IN THE SOUL; EVIL UNITES US TO THOSE WHO ARE SPIRITUALLY DEAD, AND BRINGS US INTO THE SAME STATE WITH THEM. To be the living among the dead is no easy thing. If voluntarily we associate with the dead, imbibing their spirit, and following their ways, we must be conformed in likeness to them.
V. RIGHTEOUSNESS ENSURES THE DIVINE PROTECTION, SO THAT LIFE IS GUARDED AND DEFENDED; EVIL INCURS GOD'S WRATH, WHICH IS DEATH. Life is a brittle thing. The great God who gives it is ready, however, to ward off all the dangers which may menace it. His favour is life; His frown is death.
VI. RIGHTEOUSNESS CONDUCTS TO LIFE EVERLASTING IN HEAVEN; EVIL TO ETERNAL DEATH IN HELL. The world of glory shall be peopled by the righteous. The evil and unbelieving shall inhabit the world of woe.
I. THE COMMENCEMENT OF MORAL EVIL IN THE HUMAN SOUL. He is born in a state of impurity. Evil is interwoven in the very texture of his being. It commenced with the first family of the human race, and the evil spirit of unrighteousness has been transmitted from father to son. When a man is not properly acquainted with the corruption of his nature, he mistakes a want of opportunity to sin for moral purity of heart, and the absence of temptation for a truly virtuous mind. Evil in actual operation in human life —
1. Springs up in thoughts.
2. Finds expression in overt acts.
II. THE PROGRESS OF MORAL EVIL. "He that pursueth evil" There is not the root only, but also the tree and the growth. A man seldom becomes a sudden profligate. By a continuance in evil the feelings become less affected with its enormity, the conscience is less tender and scrupulous, the base inclinations and passions of the heart gather strength, and temptation finds an easy dupe to every impious proposal. Sin has not a resting-place. It carries within itself the power of perpetual motion. Sin hardens the heart.
III. THE COMPLETION OF MORAL EVIL. It has its seed-time, its growth, and its harvest.
1. The completion of sin is the death of reputation.
2. The death of enjoyment.
3. The death of the body.
4. The death of the soul.
Such as are upright in their way are His delight.I. WHO ARE THE UPRIGHT? Those whom God makes upright, the workmanship of His own Spirit, His new creation. This does not deny that there is in a sense an uprightness in the natural man. As long as man is a responsible being he is answerable to God for the use of the means given him, and it is a certain truth that there is not a natural man in the world who acts up to the light that he has. Great numbers claim the character of being upright and sincere. So the apostle Paul thought of himself when in his unconverted state. Natural sincerity never comes to the testing of God's holy light. It can deal with man, but there is never that in natural sincerity which comes before God. For the upright see the publican smiting on his breast; the prodigal returning home; the woman a sinner dropping tears of penitence on Jesus's feet; Matthew, Zaccheus, Nicodemus. The weakest, the feeblest believer, is upright. He often, indeed, thinks himself otherwise. He will even regard himself as a self-deceiver. The upright man mourns over inbred corruptions. Sometimes he has seasons of doubt. He is brought into circumstances of trial. Amidst all, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, he holds fast his integrity.
II. THE UPRIGHT ARE GOD'S DELIGHT. It is not their way, but themselves, that are His delight. He loved them before all worlds; He loved them before they loved Him in eternity. But the characters of the upright are His delight. He delights in the fruits of His own Son's mediation, in the workmanship of His own Spirit, and in the reflection of His own image. But especially He delights in their being upright. He looks to the humiliation of the upright, their broken hearts, their falling tears. So precious is this uprightness before God, that it seems as if He overlooked all faults where it is. What a word of encouragement this ought to be to those who are honestly seeking Him! If you are indeed upright God knows it, and "your inheritance shall be for ever."
(J. Harrington Evans.)
Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished. (Taken with
1. That even well-disposed men will sometimes agree to do in company what they would not dare to do as individuals.
2. That no man's personal accountableness to God can ever be swallowed up and lost in an impersonal organisation. The relation of the individual to the moral government of God is primary, dominant, and inalienable; it cannot be diminished by the concurrence of others. Before God the combination of men in counsel and action results always not in divided responsibility but in joint responsibility. Each member is responsible for the whole result of what he consents to, or carries into action. There can be no divided liability for a conjoint iniquity. If this were not so, it would require men only to join hand in hand to go unpunished. But how should God judge the world unless in all such cases the responsibility is joint, not distributive? This is also the principle of human legislation and administration. It is not, therefore, good to undertake, as if merely nominal, any real responsibilities.This truth, that a man is responsible for whatever he consents to, ought —
1. To be proclaimed in relation to ecclesiastical organisations and missionary societies.
2. The principle may be seen in the working of political party. Educated men are guilty, in a free country, of all the national iniquity against which they do not protest with determination.
3. The principle of personal liability needs application to commercial affairs and civil life. The Almighty God stands behind every creditor and every customer, in readiness to assert and enforce every just claim to the uttermost. The Infinite Defender of Right is behind every person who is wronged. The highest Law Court is omnipresent and sleepless. We cannot put an end to the great battle between selfish interests, but we can do much by public spirit and sound legislation to alleviate its woes. On the whole I must express my conviction, however, that the commercial world will bear an honourable comparison with the political and ecclesiastical, when tried by this principle of the responsibility of each member in every combination.
Homilist.Men, like sheep, are gregarious. The combination is —
I. NATURAL. The wicked, in the text, are supposed to be in danger, and nothing is more natural than for men to crowd together in common danger. Fear as well as love brings men together; the one drives, the other draws.
II. USELESS. No combination of men, however great in number, vast in wisdom, mighty in strength, affluent in resources, can prevent punishment from befalling the wicked. It must come.
1. The moral constitution of the soul.
2. The justice of the universe.
3. The almightiness of God, render all human efforts to avoid it futile.
(J. Parker, D.D.)
But the seed of the righteous shall be delivered
1. If the mind-laws, which include the intellectual and moral aspects of man, be disobeyed, that is if the process of education be not contemporaneous with the progress of years, the mental faculty languishes in the stagnation of its undeveloped powers, the mental man grows and abides an ignoramus, a stereotyped boor; and if the means of grace be in like manner neglected, the spiritual man rises not into the dignity which the love of God designed for him.
2. If the body-laws, or the principles which regulate the health, be disregarded by habits of excess or even ordinary indulgence or neglect of exercise, the penalty is a diseased body, and personal infirmity.
3. If the estate laws be disregarded, which make industry essential to getting, and frugality essential to saving what is got, and forethought essential in the way of insurance upon life or property, the punishment meets the man in his estate, in his condition of life, that is, in the form in which he has sinned. When we pray for a sound and enlightened mind, do we turn to the Word "whose entrance giveth light"? Do we seek to inform our minds, correct our judgments, and enrich our memories? When we pray for health and strength to labour and enjoy, do we avoid those varieties, artifices, and excesses in food and drink, and those sluggish habits of inactivity and sloth, which make health physically impossible? When we pray for prosperity in our worldly affairs, do we still, on conscientious principles, "labour, working with our hands the thing that is meet"? Do we glorify God in our attention to our business? Where can there be a more cogent, impressive, animating motive than the sterling fact, "Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies and spirits, which are His"? Man can no more do without God, or act independently of God and His laws, than the rays of light can dispense with the sun. All the errors of individual character, all the failures in educational theories, all the mistakes of experimental legislation, originate in the fundamental fatal effect of reckoning without God, setting aside the great elemental fact that He is at the root, progress, and issue of all things, and that to put Him out of our calculations, to supersede His constitution, is to start upon false premises, to provoke and compel a failure, to reason and range in a vicious circle, for ever retracing its impracticable, unprogressive steps. "The wicked shall not go unpunished." "The seed of the righteous shall be delivered."
(Joseph B. Owen, M.A.)
As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.
1. A pretty face and a very ugly soul. It is nice to be beautiful, but it is far better to be good. When you feel tempted to be proud because you are good-looking, ask yourself, "Is my soul good-looking and beautiful to God?"
2. A good head and a bad heart. King John, one of England's worst kings, was a very clever man. It is not enough to be learned, or to have great talents; we want to be holy, and then shall we be able to use our abilities well.
3. Wise words and foolish deeds. It was said of a certain king, that "he never said a foolish thing and never did a wise one." A jewel treated as described in this text would be a jewel misapplied. It was never intended for such a use. And God did not intend that we should ever waste our minds and our time in the service of sin. The Jews had a saying that the nose of a pig is walking dirt. If a jewel were placed in it, it would be spoiled. Sin mars a beautiful face; it will even make a clever man foolish; it will ruin us if it be not taken away from us.
(J. J. Ellis.)
I. HERE IS A VERY INCONGRUOUS CONJUNCTION IN ONE PERSON. Physical beauty and moral deformity united. Do not despise natural, or personal, or artistic beauty.
II. HERE IS A VERY REVOLTING CONJUNCTION IN ONE PERSON. Incongruity is not always disgusting, it is sometimes ridiculous. But this incongruity is disgusting when it is seen aright with healthy moral sentiments. We do not always see how revolting it is, because our eye rests upon the personal attraction, and peers not into the moral heart. We are taken up more with the "jewel" than with the "swine."
III. HERE IS A VERY COMMON CONJUNCTION IN ONE PERSON.
1. Wickedness is prompted by personal attraction.
2. Wickedness is fond of personal attractions. Vulgarity always likes finery, and sin is always fond of making a grand appearance. Do not, in forming your fellowships, be carried away with one side of life. Do not follow the swine for the sake of the jewel.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth.2 Corinthians 9:6).
I. THE DESCRIPTION OF PERSONS OF VERY OPPOSITE CHARACTERS. "Scatter" is the same word as "disperse" (Psalm 112:9). He that scatters is the liberal soul; the man who, with a free and generous spirit, labours to spread the most useful and extensive influence, by all manner of means; the man who is ready to distribute of his temporal substance for promoting religious and civil liberties and interests, for doing good to the souls and bodies of men, and, particularly, for relieving the necessitous and the distressed. We should manage our religious and charitable distributions, not with contrivance how to shift off our obligations and opportunities for them, but with devising how in the best manner to improve them; not with a grudging, but with a free and cheerful heart. On the contrary, he that withholds, keeps back, or spares, more than is meet or right, is the covetous man, whose narrow, selfish spirit will not suffer him cheerfully to pay his personal or his public debts, much less to practise beneficence at an expense that cannot be demanded by human laws. No arguments derived from humanity or Christianity can work his heart up to bear his proper proportion in generous and beneficent acts.
II. WHAT IS AFFIRMED OF THESE PERSONS RESPECTIVELY. We might consider this increase and want with respect to our best interests, that relate to the enrichment of the soul in goodness. Distributing enlarges the heart, and makes it open, free, and generous, with growing propensions to every good work. The man who withholds is poor-spirited; he has a contracted soul; he is destitute of those amiable graces by which our God and Saviour are most conspicuously imitated and glorified. We may also consider this increase and want with respect to our worldly substance. That is not lessened but improved by distributions on all proper occasions. Withholdings, more than is meet, ever tend to poverty and want. God's blessing on the generous comes either as a visible increase of their outward estates, or as a secret increase of the inward contentment of their own minds. Those who are of a covetous temper, do not enjoy what they possess. According to a just estimation of things, they are no richer by all their silver and gold than if it still lay in the ore of the Indian mines.
III. ACCOUNT FOR THE TRUTH OF BOTH THESE PROPOSITIONS. Every virtuous, spiritual, and holy disposition of the soul increases by frequent and proper exercise; and loses its force and vigour, and aptness for action, by disuse and neglect. This is common to all principles and habits of the moral or religious and supernatural kind.
1. The blessing of God is upon them that scatter, and His blast is upon them that withhold more than is meet.
2. The friendship of men is toward them that scatter, and their disaffection toward those who withhold more than is meet.
(J. Guyse, D.D.)
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
I. THE LIBERAL MAN, AND WHAT HE GETS FROM HIS LIBERALITY. The man here is living in the midst of dependent fellow-creatures, and uses his property in relieving them. Here seems to be the idea of a husbandman throwing his seed in every direction where it may be profitable. The liberal man looks abroad, and where his money is wanted, and where it is likely to do good, there he gives it with the greatest cheerfulness of mind. This is what ought to be. We are not required to give away when we have not in reality the power to do so; but when we possess the power the duty is incumbent. We must "scatter" for the blessing of others. A notion prevails that if we give liberally to others, we hurt ourselves. We are, indeed, told to "do good, hoping for nothing again," yet we may urge as an encouragement that, in sowing the seeds of kindness, we are sure to reap a personal benefit. The men who have been most liberal have, in a general way, prospered most in their worldly undertakings; and certainly they have been rewarded with growth in grace, and a large measure of peace, confidence, and joy in their own souls.
II. THE MEAN MAN, AND THE RESULT WHICH FOLLOWS HIS MEANNESS. To withhold is not always wrong. It may be a right thing, a positive duty. But some men are wretchedly mean; they have not a spark of kind sympathy or of generous sensibility in their souls. They are over-full of their own things. These the text speaks about. There is a measure in the amount of almsgiving which is to be determined by a person's circumstances. To whom much is given, from the same will much be required. If you give God less than God requires of you, then instead of a blessing there will rest on you a curse. God has often taken away from a man the riches which he would not use rightly when he had them. Poverty of pocket is not the worst kind of poverty. It is poverty of soul that is so deplorable.
(William Curling, M.A.)
I. TWO OPPOSING CHARACTERS. One is said to "scatter." Of the blessed man it is said, "He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor" (Psalm 112:9). The apostle says, "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." Faithfulness implies two things: first, a clear perception, a just apprehension of the purposes for which we are put in trust; and secondly, a conscientious employment of those means by which the purposes are to be accomplished, according to the dictates and directions of the supreme Lord of all. Neither indiscriminate almsgiving nor improvident expenditure derive any countenance from the rule of Christian practice, as finally and unalterably settled in the epistles to the infant Churches. The man who "scattereth" is the man who gives, whether to the service of his God, or to the succour of his fellow-men, on principle; the man whose charities, as they are called (though the term religious obligations would be far more applicable), bear some definite and assignable proportion, not only to his present expenses and indulgences, but to the provision for the family; the man, who devotes to purposes of philanthropy and piety such a proportion of his worldly increase, as his own conscience, enlightened and directed by God's Word, accounts an offering expressive of his gratitude to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. The contrary character to this is he who "withholdeth more than is meet "; he who is actuated, alike in what he saves, and in what he spends, by considerations purely selfish; who professes, indeed, that he accumulates upon principle, but whose principle will not endure the application of the standard of the Word of God, his object being to found or to aggrandise a family, while in prosecuting this object he overlooks or undervalues the salvation of the soul. Many are the subterfuges and evasions by which men endeavour to justify, or at least to palliate, their own conduct in "withholding more than is meet," e.g., difficulty of detecting imposture; perversion of benevolent funds; and the excuse that whatever is spent is a contingent evil, while whatever is hoarded is a certain good.
II. TWO OPPOSING CONSEQUENCES. True wisdom involves the consideration of our latter end. If the habits and actions of the "life that now is" can exert any influence upon the destinies of "that which is to come," the counsel given by our Lord would be the dictate of policy, as well as the command of authority: "Walk while ye have the light." Temporal blessings do usually wait upon the discreet and conscientious dispensation of God's bounty. He that scattereth increaseth even in this world's goods. But Christian benevolence for Christ's sake must not be taken for the whole of the system of Christian practice, of which it only constitutes a part. Towards poverty of soul tendeth that mistaken and short-sighted policy, which men are wont to term prudence and forecast. But to have made no use of God's property for God's purposes will be a ground of judgment and condemnation, as much as to have abused it for our own.
(Thomas Dale, M.A.)
1. We see the absolute necessity of some form of spiritual activity to the increase of the Christian life.
2. The course of thought we have been pursuing suggests to us the spiritual nature of the Divine rewards. We need, badly need, a revision of the vocabulary of the Divine rewards. Too often those rewards are spoken of in terms which degrade rather than honour the high service of God. The reward and the service are one. The rewards of Christ are not less service, but more service and higher toil.
(G. S. Barrett, D.D.)
I. GENEROSITY EXEMPLIFIED.
1. In nature. Clouds give rain, sun gives light, earth gives fruit. "The heart does not receive the blood to store it up, but while it pumps it in at one valve, it sends it forth at another."
2. In the example of Christ (Galatians 1:4).
3. In the early Church (Acts 2:44, 45).
4. In modern times. Peabody, Morley, etc.
II. GENEROSITY EXTOLLED.
1. It is unstinted (Isaiah 32:8).
2. It is profitable. One who has had experience in giving systematically, says, "It pays as an investment, and is a fortune in business." Mr. Haig Miller tells of a gentleman who, on starting in life, said, "I determined that for every £10,000 I made £1,000 should be given back to God and works of charity, and I have had ten times to fulfil my vow." If temporal gain is the motive which inspires giving, the act will be spoiled by the motive; but giving from right motives is often honoured by a present and a bountiful return. The converse of this is true. Withholding "tendeth to poverty." If not poverty of purse, as is often the case, there will be poverty of soul.
3. It is hearty. "God never sent us into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts."
4. It is healthy. "If a man is growing large in wealth, nothing but constant and generous giving can save him from growing small in soul."
5. It is refreshing.
6. It wins the heart. Edward Payson said, when dying, "I long to give a full cup of happiness to every human being." The benedictions of his people were a chief part of his rich reward (compare Job 29:13).
7. It is painstaking. The true friend of the needy does not wait till misery presses its claim at his door; he goes and looks first (compare Luke 19:10).
(J. Parker, D.D.)
The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
I. APPLY THIS PRINCIPLE, IN ITS NARROW SENSE, AS BELONGING TO OURSELVES PERSONALLY. There are some works in which we cannot all engage. Peculiar men have special work; but watering is work for persons of all grades and all sorts.
1. All God's plants, more or less, want watering.
2. The Lord's people usually get this watering through instrumentality. The Holy Spirit waters us by the admonitions of parents, by the kind suggestions of friends, by the teaching of His ministers, by the example of all His saints.
3. Some plants need special watering, and should be the objects of unusual care — partly because of temperament or of ignorance, and partly because of circumstances, maybe of trial, maybe of soul-withering.
4. All believers have some power to water others. In so watering others we shall be watered ourselves. This is the main point.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) II. THE PRINCIPLE, IN A WIDER SENSE, AS IT MAY REFER TO US AS A CHURCH. We, as a Church, have enjoyed singular prosperity; but we have endeavoured to water others. We have undertaken a good many enterprises for Christ, and we hope to undertake a great many more. We must keep our watering work up. III. THE PRINCIPLE, IN THE WIDEST SENSE, AS IT MAY BE REFERRED TO THE ENTIRE BODY OF CHRIST. Our missionary operations are an infinite blessing to the Churches at home. Relinquishing them, giving them up, staying them, would bring such a curse that we had need to go down on our knees and pray, "God send the missionary work back again." ( C. H. Spurgeon.}
(2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) II. THE PRINCIPLE, IN A WIDER SENSE, AS IT MAY REFER TO US AS A CHURCH. We, as a Church, have enjoyed singular prosperity; but we have endeavoured to water others. We have undertaken a good many enterprises for Christ, and we hope to undertake a great many more. We must keep our watering work up. III. THE PRINCIPLE, IN THE WIDEST SENSE, AS IT MAY BE REFERRED TO THE ENTIRE BODY OF CHRIST. Our missionary operations are an infinite blessing to the Churches at home. Relinquishing them, giving them up, staying them, would bring such a curse that we had need to go down on our knees and pray, "God send the missionary work back again." ( C. H. Spurgeon.}
(3) (4) (5) (6) (7) II. THE PRINCIPLE, IN A WIDER SENSE, AS IT MAY REFER TO US AS A CHURCH. We, as a Church, have enjoyed singular prosperity; but we have endeavoured to water others. We have undertaken a good many enterprises for Christ, and we hope to undertake a great many more. We must keep our watering work up. III. THE PRINCIPLE, IN THE WIDEST SENSE, AS IT MAY BE REFERRED TO THE ENTIRE BODY OF CHRIST. Our missionary operations are an infinite blessing to the Churches at home. Relinquishing them, giving them up, staying them, would bring such a curse that we had need to go down on our knees and pray, "God send the missionary work back again." ( C. H. Spurgeon.}
( C. H. Spurgeon.}
( C. H. Spurgeon.}
I. THE CHARACTER OF TRUE RELIGIOUS OR CHRISTIAN LIBERALITY.
1. Its principle. The spirit which is in man must be the seat of this virtue, or the liberal hand, so far as it respects God, is of no worth. There is much beneficence apart from religion. But it is the grateful heart God requires.
2. Its objects. First our kindred according to the flesh. Then the poor and distressed in society.
3. The modes in which this liberality should express itself. It should be honest in its administration. It should be proportionate in degree. It should be affectionate in its communication. It should be expansive in its embrace. It should be habitual in its exercise.
II. THE RECOMPENSE TO ENCOURAGE US TO ITS EXERCISE AND DISPLAY.
1. As respects the life that now is. Inward pleasure, pleasure in looking at the good effected; enlarged powers of usefulness.
2. As respects the life to come. Apply to those who give nothing to the cause of the poor. To those who give little. To those who are in the habit of giving much.
(John Clayton, jun.)
(W. Dodsworth, M.A.)
(R. F. Horton.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him.
I. HOW CAN THIS BE DONE?
1. By locking up the Word of God in an unknown language, or by delivering and preaching it in such a style that the people shall not comprehend it. Illustrate by the practice of the Roman Church. But the terms of theology, the phrases of art, the definitions of philosophy, the jargon of science, are an unknown tongue to the young godly ploughmen, or praying shopkeepers. Simplicity is the authorised style of true gospel ministry.
2. By keeping back the most important and vital truths of revelation, and giving a prominence to other things, which are but secondary. Morality brings no food to hungry souls, although it is good enough in its place. Dissuasives from vice are not the bread of heaven, though well enough in their way. We need to have the great doctrines of grace brought forward, for the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and it is by preaching the truth as it is in Jesus that souls are won to Him.
3. By want of loving zeal in our labour. That which God blesses to the saving of sinners is truth attended by the earnestness of the speaker. Think of the preaching of Baxter. We are guilty of withholding corn unless we preach with a sympathising, loving, tender, affectionate, earnest, anxious soul.
4. By refusing to labour zealously for the spread of the kingdom of Christ and the conversion of sinners.
5. By refusing to help those who are working for Christ. I cannot understand how a man can love God when he only lives to heap up riches.
II. THE BLESSEDNESS WHICH THOSE POSSESS WHO BREAK THE BREAD OF LIFE. To describe it is altogether beyond my power. You must know, and taste, and feel it. There are many blessednesses in doing good to others.
1. An easy conscience.
2. Comfort in doing something for Jesus.
3. Watching the first buddings of conviction in a young soul.
4. The joy of success.
5. The final and gracious reward.
III. Now I have to OPEN THE GRANARY MYSELF. Hungry sinners, wanting a Saviour, we cannot withhold the bread from you! We tell you the way of salvation.
1. It is a satisfying salvation.
2. It is an all-sufficient salvation.
3. It is a complete salvation.
4. It is a present salvation.
5. It is an available salvation.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
He that trusteth in his riches shall fall
Homilist.I. HERE IS A COMMON TENDENCY. Trusting in wealth is —
1. Spiritually unsatisfactory.
2. Necessarily evanescent.
II. HERE IS A TERRIBLE CATASTROPHE. "Fall."
1. Whence? From all his hopes.
2. Whither? To disappointment and despair.
3. When? Whenever moral conviction seizes the soul, whether before or after death.
4. Why? Because wealth was never a fit foundation for the soul.
But the righteous shall flourish as a branch
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.I. PEACE SHOULD BE THE GRAND AIM OF ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE DOMESTIC CIRCLE. To trouble the house is an evil.
II. THERE ARE SOME MEMBERS WHO BREAK THE PEACE OF THEIR DOMESTIC CIRCLE. They are the ill-natured, impulsive, false, selfish.
III. THOSE WHO BREAK THE PEACE OF THEIR DOMESTIC CIRCLE ARE FOOLS. Their folly is seen in this —
1. They get no good by it.
2. They get degradation by it.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
(J. Cross, D.D., LL.D.)
He that winneth souls is wiseI. THE OBJECT OF THE CHRISTIAN WORKER. It is a good thing in any work to have a clear perception of the object to be sought after. This brings our efforts into order and gives them consistency. If a man lose sight of a clear purpose he becomes listless, or at best mechanical. This is true pre-eminently in Christian work. They who undertake it purpose the gathering of immortal souls out of darkness into God's marvellous light. Ours is an apostolic mission. We are to catch men — souls. Their salvation is the centre of the target — the bull's-eye which we are to hit. We should be thankful for every token of success. If we can instruct the mind or store the memory with the things of God, ours is not lost work, but we are not to be content with these things; they may be means to the end, they are not the end itself. Our purpose is to bring the young to Christ, and Christ to them. The very magnitude of the purpose will give us encouragement if we look at it rightly.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS WORK IS TO BE DONE. "Winneth." No force is to be employed. We cannot drive even little children into the fold of safety with clogs and stones. We want to lay hold of the heart, to gain the affections, and to do that we are to use the persuasive aspect of the gospel. A forced religion, if you can conceive it, is nothing worth. It is a sham flower. The examples of winning are found in the way in which the first disciples of the Saviour, and above all, the Saviour Himself, did their work. We are to live the truth, letting our whole life tell of what is right, and that beyond mistake; and yet over all love is to preside, softening our asperities, and making our wisdom peaceable as well as pure. Where there is a tender, winning spirit, then plain home-thrusts can be made that would be resented if they were mingled with the wrath of man. The attractive power lies even more in the evident tone of our teaching than in the sort of language we use. The root of persuasion lies in love to God and love to man, cherished by prayer, kindled and sustained by the Holy Ghost.
III. THE CHARACTER REQUISITE FOE THIS GREAT WORK. "Wise." There is needed a high style of Christian character. We are to be good. The successful winner of souls must himself be already won for Christ. Our work is intimately bound up with our characters. Other things being equal, he will be most likely to bring others to Christ who himself is nearest to Christ. The influence of personal holiness steals in where nothing else can find a place. Our power with man will be just in proportion to our power with God. Every devout effort to reach a holier life is a way of increasing our efficiency as winners of souls. We have also to be wise in the knowledge of God's truth. A man may know enough for his own salvation and yet not know so as to be able to impart effectively to others. Mighty in the Scripture, we shall be mighty for our work. And we are to be wise in the knowledge of the human heart. In their inmost nature the heart of a child and of a man are very much alike. Any one may gain this knowledge who, with a prayerful, sympathising nature, goes out into the world and keeps his eyes open. The teacher who knows his children can give to each his portion of meat in due season as none other can. Think of the encouragements to this work. Ours is everlasting work, its monuments are to abide for ever. We are working for eternity, polishing stones for the heavenly temple, searching for gems with which to deck the Saviour's crown. Think of the joy of the heavenly greeting, and the approval of the Lord, an approval not bestowed according to success, but according to fidelity. Upon no better purpose can you spend your life. Work for Christ that shall stand.
(Edward Medley, B.A.)
1. Because he has selected a wise object.
2. Because to win a soul requires infinite wisdom.
3. He will prove to have been a wise man in the judgment of those who see the end as well as the beginning.
I. THE METAPHOR USED IN THE TEXT. We use the word "win" in many ways, e.g., game of chance, juggling tricks, etc. It is used in warfare. Warriors win cities and provinces. The word was used to signify success in a wrestling match. There are secret and mysterious ways in which those who love win the object of their affections. Love is the true way of soul-winning. The Hebrew is, "He that taketh souls is wise," and the word refers to fishing, or bird-catching. We must have our lures for souls adapted to attract, to fascinate, to grasp.
II. SOME OF THE WAYS BY WHICH SOULS ARE TO BE WON.
1. A preacher wins souls best when he believes in the reality of his work.
2. When he keeps closest to saving truth.
3. Souls are won by bringing others to hear the Word.
4. By trying after sermon to talk to strangers.
5. By button-holing acquaintances and relations.
6. By writing letters.
7. The soul-winner must be a master of the art of prayer.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. A GREAT WORK CONTEMPLATED. The definite business of all Christian workers. Great because —
1. Of the value of the object.
2. Of the soul's capacities — for evil if not won, and for good if won.
3. Because the soul is the mainspring of life and action.
II. AN EFFECTUAL METHOD SUGGESTED. Winning.
1. Christian work is a magnetic force. The centre of electric magnetism is the Cross.
2. The possibility here embodied. A work which all may undertake and accomplish.
III. A CHARACTER HERE DEFINED. "Is wise." Because he benefits others. Because he gains a star for his own crown. Because he is laying up treasure in heaven. For he wins the approval of his God and the plaudits of the angels. The highest form of wisdom is to devote life's strength to gather pearls whose salvation will enrich with eternal wealth.
(J. F. Pridgeon.)
I. THE INVOLUNTARY INFLUENCE OF A GOOD MAN'S LIFE. The fruit of a life is the involuntary and regular expression of what the man is in heart and soul. All actions are not the fruit of life, inasmuch as man in the exercise of his freedom and, indeed, even by accident, performs actions that, instead of fully expressing, misrepresent his life. The regular flow of a man's general activity is the fruit, and this, in the case of a good man, is a "tree of life." It is so for three reasons.
1. It expresses real life.
2. It communicates real life.
3. It nourishes real life.
II. THE HIGHEST PURPOSE OF A GOOD MAN'S LIFE. "He that winneth souls is wise." This implies —
1. That souls are lost.
2. That souls may be saved.
3. That souls may be saved by man.
4. That the man who succeeds in saving souls is wise.
III. THE INEVITABLE RETRIBUTION OF A GOOD MAN'S LIFE. The recompense here is supposed to refer rather to the suffering he experiences in consequence of his remaining imperfections than of the blessings he enjoys as a reward for the good that is in him. The sins of good men are punished on this earth. The argument here is a fortiori — if God visits the sins of His people with punishment, much more will He visit the sins of the wicked.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
I. HE WHO WOULD SUCCEED IN WINNING SOULS NEEDS TO BE WISE. It needs wisdom to succeed in the business of life. It needs a far higher and nobler wisdom to win Souls. It is an exceedingly difficult thing to win men over from the ranks of sin and Satan to the ranks of God and His Christ.
1. The would-be soul-winner needs to be theoretically wise. He needs to be well informed. He cannot know too much and must be well informed on some very important matters, e.g., the sacred Scriptures, human nature, etc.
2. He needs to be practically wise — wise in action as well as in thought. He should deal largely in the most attractive and pathetic truths. He should carefully choose the most appropriate seasons. He should cultivate the most loving spirit and the most kindly manner. He should be much in communion with God.
II. HE WHO DOES SUCCEED IN WINNING SOULS PROVES HIMSELF TO BE WISE. This is true looked at from several points of view.
1. Think of this work in relation to God. It is co-operation with God.
2. In its relation to those who are won.
3. In its relation to society.
4. In its relation to those who are engaged in it.In this world it brings them honour, pleasure, and culture. The blessings follow them into the future world.
I. WHAT IS A SOUL? We know little about a soul apart from the Bible. It teaches —
1. That man is a compound being.
2. That the soul is indestructible.
3. Because indestructible, its value is infinite.
II. WHAT IS MEANT BY WINNING SOULS?
1. The word "win" is used both in a good and bad sense. There are no mean tricks in winning souls.
2. "Win" is a warlike word: what powers are there striving for the soul?
3. Margin has, "he who taketh souls," implying the use of various allurements.
III. HOW MAY SOULS BE WON? There must be —
2. The soul-winner must be careful not to offend the prejudices of those he seeks to win.
3. There must be method. The soul-winner must first have the love of Christ in his own heart. Then he must proclaim it patiently, lovingly, prayerfully, earnestly. This can be done in various ways.
IV. IN WHAT SENSE IS THE MAN WHO WINS SOULS WISE?
1. In the ordinary sense. The man of business who has adaptation, method, diligence, etc., you say is a wise man.
2. Because he is preparing for the future.
3. Because he builds lasting monuments.
4. Because he pleases God.
(A. F. Barfield.)
I. WISDOM IS SEEN IN THE ATTEMPT TO WIN. The very effort itself is a proof of true wisdom.
1. The soul's position proves it. It is a perishing one.
2. Soul-winning is a noble work. A soul-winner need envy no one. His work surpasses all in true nobility.
3. Soul-winning is a lasting work, and therefore he who attempts it is wise.
4. It is a soul-profiting work. The man who imparts a blessing by the very act receives one. The way to be a joyful Christian is to be a working one at the winning of souls.
5. Winning souls is a work that tells on eternity.
6. Winning souls is a work which will influence you in heaven.
II. WISDOM IS REQUIRED IN THE WORK OF WINNING.
1. The nature of the work as suggested in the text shows it. The word for "winneth" has three references. It refers to the snaring of birds, the catching of fish, the taking of a city. To the accomplishment of each of these wisdom is required.
2. The variety of disposition seen in souls requires it.
III. HINTS AS TO HOW TO SET ABOUT WINNING SOULS.
1. They must be alarmed.
2. They must be allured.
3. They must be taken by the hand.
4. They who would win others must show that they themselves are won.
(Archibald G. Brown.)
I. HE HAS SELECTED THE NATURAL FIELD FOR SUCCESSFUL HUMAN EFFORT. It is time to drop our suspicion in reference to honest work. Butler's definition says, "Happiness consists in a faculty having its proper object." That is, let any one of our powers fasten itself upon a legitimate end, and proceed at once unto vigour, and a feeling of true continuous joy will spring up from the mere exercise. Our reason is the happiest in reasoning; our judgment in deciding; our imagination in the poetic drawing of pictures; our affections in lavishing their love on chosen friends. There needs only to be added the element of success. That is, we must be able to gain the ends we aim at. If we are baulked, we are disappointed and discontented. Hence it is important for each man to understand his own adaptations and possibilities, so that he may seek right ends. Winning souls is the true work for human souls to do. For it flings into successful action the whole Christian man, body, mind, and spirit. There is intelligence in it; there is faith in it; there is hope in it; there is activity in it; there is excitement and exhilaration in it. And success is sure to follow fidelity. The old fable was that one who always carried a myrtle-wand in his hand would never grow weary in the way. But here is no fable. The love of Christ in the heart, and the zeal of Christ in the life, are what evermore satisfy, exercise, and rest the soul.
II. THE SPECIFIC END TO BE REACHED IN WINNING SOULS EVIDENCES WISDOM IN THE CHOICE. Even a ministry of destruction has something grand about it, fearful as it seems to gaze upon, awful as it must be to exercise. But a ministry of relief is better than any of retribution. It has in it all the sublimity of power, and then the additional grace and glory of help, the beauty of being serviceable. A ministry of salvation is simply transcendent. It deals with a man's highest nature, and touches upon the destinies of eternity. Everywhere God seems to look upon human beings as just so many souls. To save a man is to deliver a fellow-man from sin and hell, and bring him to holiness and heaven. To save a soul is to incorporate with the eternal destiny of a sentient and reasoning being a new spring and force of exultant and exhilarant life; to quicken all its susceptibilities; to renew the will into a profitable obedience to God; to unfold all the capacities of intellect and affection. In a word, to save the soul is more than to create the soul.
III. THE PROPRIETORSHIP WE GAIN IN THE SOULS WE INSTRUMENTALLY WIN. We love what we work for more than what costs us nothing. Value to you is measured by this sum of yourself you have put in possession. A soul we help to save possesses a value to us unlike that of any other soul. For we gain a kind of proprietary right in it. God lets us feel so.
1. Present companionship. The soul we lead into the joys of this new life becomes our helper, and returns the benefit. If we put into active, beneficent, useful, attractive life any human soul, may we not share all the benedictions its sweet, gentle, Christlike career is scattering around it?
2. Eternal communion. Those who are with us here will go with us to be in our company hereafter.
IV. THE GRAND AWARDS OF THE GOSPEL FOR THIS WORK SHOW THE WISDOM OF WINNING SOULS.
1. The growth of personal graces. He who watereth others shall be watered himself. He who carries a lantern for darkened men finds his own path lit the clearest.
2. The day of approval. Every soul which saves a soul shares in the satisfaction his work gives to the Master. Oh, the exquisite joy of that supreme moment when a Christian labourer presents a new prince or princess to Christ, the King of Glory, in the midst of heaven!
(C. S. Robinson.)
I. THE OBJECT HERE PROPOSED TO OUR BENEVOLENT SYMPATHY AND REGARD — THE SOUL OF MAN. The soul of man — who of us understands it? Fix attention on the nature and frame of the human soul. In nature it is not material, it is spiritual and immaterial. The body is divisible, the soul is a homogeneous substance — it is indivisible, insoluble, inseparable. The soul is not matter. We know of only two substances, matter and spirit, flesh and mind, body and soul — these make up the whole of what we know to have any existence in the universe of God. Philosophers have speculated much about the locality of the soul in the body. All that we know is, that although the soul dwells in matter, it is perfectly and entirely distinct from it.
1. We may endeavour to form some estimate of the soul by noticing its Maker, its origin. Think of it as formed for eternity; as occupying all the attributes of Jehovah in its formation; as made in the true image of God; as made next in rank and degree, though equal in blessedness, to the angelic multitude. Though the soul is not in the condition it was in when it came from the hands of its Maker, still there is that about it that tells us something of what it was; there are traces of primeval glory and dignity. Such is the faculty of reason, and the power of conscience.
2. Form a notion of the soul's capacities, and faculties, and properties. Think of its power of thought; of the recording pen of memory; of the tablet of the heart; of the creations of genius; the glow of enterprise; the light of reason; all proving to us that the soul of man is spiritual, intellectual, immaterial, immortal. Think, too, of its power of knowledge. The soul of man wanders on and on, exploring invisible and distant objects.
3. Think of the power of pleasing. How it can charm by description, dazzle by comparison, enliven by wit, convince by argument, thrill, captivate, and carry away by eloquence. Think of its power of acting on matter, in the glow of painting, in the symmetry of architecture, in the beauty of sculpture, in the enchanting intonations of the human voice.
4. The soul must be of inestimable value, for its redemption has been effected by Jesus Christ.
5. Think, too, on the endless duration of the soul's existence. Only one word can be applied to the duration of the human soul — it is the word Eternity. The soul never dies.
II. THE CONDUCT DESCRIBED IN THE TEXT, IN REFERENCE TO THIS OBJECT, AND RECOMMENDED TO OUR ADOPTION. We can only win souls as instruments and accessories. Christ is the ransomer of the soul. The French commentator paraphrases the text thus: "He that sweetly draweth souls to God, maketh a holy conquest of them"
1. We are to endeavour to win souls by instruction. Knowledge is wanted, is agreeable. Knowledge is to be communicated, now, from mind to mind, from one to another. The man who has knowledge is bound to communicate it to the man who has not.
2. We must do it by persuasion. For the soul is not only ignorant, but perverse. Its ignorance calls for illumination, and its perverseness and obstinacy call for entreaty and persuasion. Seriousness of manner, combined with affectionateness of spirit, are the charms we are to employ, the artillery we are to command. We are to clothe our words with plainness, seriousness, and affection.
3. It is our duty to endeavour to win souls by admonition. It is necessary, sometimes, to rebuke with all authority and all earnestness.
III. THE EULOGIUM WHICH THE TEXT PRONOUNCES ON THE CONDUCT OF THOSE WHO WIN SOULS. He is "wise."
1. Scriptures say that man is wise who saves his own soul.
2. The text pronounces that man wise who is instrumental in winning the souls of his fellow-creatures. Such a man, in his conduct, is promoting the honour, and glory of God. Such a man connects himself with the coming in of the mediatorial reign of our Immanuel. Such a man is the best friend of the human race, and most effectually promotes the welfare of mankind around him.
I. THE WORTH OF SOULS. The very word "souls" is startling. The soul is a direct emananation from God — a breath of God, a spark, so to call it, of Deity. It is a living soul. It has infinite capacities. See the estimation in which God holds it; especially in giving His Son for its redemption. See not the original redemption only, but also all the subsequent acts of grace. Then most guilty must he be who despises his own soul, and in spite of all this array of mercy, chooses death rather than life.
II. THE WINNING OF SOULS.
1. The agency which the Divine wisdom has seen fit to employ in this business.
2. The means which this agency is commissioned to use. In preaching the doctrine of Christ, we are wielding a weapon of omnipotent might.
3. While with fidelity we preach Christ, we must do it with the earnestness which its importance demands, and the affection which its subject warrants.
4. And we must also labour to the utmost to give no offence, that the ministry be not blamed. But this line of conduct is strictly within the limit of the faithful preaching of the Word. What are the noble and glorious results of a ministry so conducted? Such a pastor both saves himself and them that hearken.
(Joseph Haslegrave, M.A.)
1. Missionary associations and enterprises take their rise out of the most enlightened and comprehensive views of human nature.
2. Missionary Societies employ the only expedient which has ever been known to act on human nature with the power of effecting a moral transformation.
3. Missionary enterprises proceed on the most enlightened views of the harmony between the instrumentality of man and the agency of God in the work of winning and saving souls.
4. The instrumentality employed secures the most glorious of all results to the instruments themselves.
5. Missionary operations are conducive, in a high degree, to the prevalence of the spirit of Christian union.
(H. F. Burder, M.A.)
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
I. IN THE CHOICE OF THE OBJECT OF PURSUIT. When men fix on that which is of real and unquestionable value to the exclusion of other things. There can be no doubt of the preference due to the soul's interests, even on the low standard of calculated good. Common sense must admit the wisdom shown in making the soul of man the object of the pursuit of men. If true of man's own soul, equally true of the souls of others. He who makes the soul the object of his pursuit, and aims at doing good to men through those means that are spiritual, finds that his benevolence is exercised under circumstances very favourable.
II. IN DETERMINING THE MANNER IN WHICH THAT OBJECT SHALL BE PURSUED. In selecting, out of many plans, that which is the most likely to succeed. Of these plans for winning souls some are of men's devising, and bear the marks of their original. There is one, and one alone, of God's ordaining. Of men's schemes there is —
1. The religion of morality, which aims at men's reformation, by addressing the reason in the form of arguments and conviction.
2. The religion of sentiment, which addresses itself to the feelings, and endeavours to win the affections by exhibitions calculated to melt and touch and soften the sensibilities of men's natures. And there is the Divine religion of the gospel, which aims at the conversion of the soul through faith. This system speaks to the heart and to the conscience; and this is the way of wisdom in winning souls.
(Henry Raikes, M.A.)
I. WHAT IS HERE IMPLIED?
1. That these souls might be lost, else they could never be won — would never need to be won.
2. That these souls, though lost, are not irrecoverably lost; they may yet be won.
3. That human instrumentality is to be employed for the accomplishment of these ends; the work is the Lord's.
II. THE WINNER OF SOULS HAS A TWOFOLD AIM. The immediate aim is the salvation of souls; the ultimate aim is the glory of God.
III. THE GAIN IS PERPETUAL. These souls once won are won for ever. Leave it to other men to build palaces and rear memorial pillars, to add house to house, and call their lands by their own names; be yours the God-like task of contributing to rear the palace of the Great King — of adding another and another stone to that goodly structure — of setting up pillars in the eternal temple that shall stand when all others have fallen — of brightening the diadem of Jesus with gems rescued from ruin — with stars that shall shine for ever and ever. Be it yours to win souls; for the price of them is far above rubies, more precious than the gold of Ophir — to rear plants that shall flourish and bloom for ever in the paradise of God.
(Thos. Main, D.D.)
I. HE IS WISE WHO WINS SOULS, FOR HE HAS A BLESSING IN THE WINNING.
1. The best way to keep our own souls in health is to seek those of others.
2. The best way to benefit our brethren is to seek souls.
II. HE HAS A BLESSING IN THE WON. Every soul we win for Christ —
1. Is a token of His favour. It proves we have used the means in the right way.
2. Causes, or should cause, more watchfulness. We are examples to them.
3. Is an additional helper for us. What sweet communion have we with our spiritual fathers and spiritual children!
III. HE HAS A BLESSING STORED UP IN HEAVEN.
1. Exalted position. "Shine as stars."
2. Perpetual preferment. "For ever and ever."
3. Unbounded delight.
(R. A. Griffin.)
The Congregational Pulpit.To win souls is a proof of wisdom, and it is also an exercise of wisdom. There is the wisdom of winning souls to be considered, and also the wisdom in winning souls.
I. THE WISDOM OF WINNING SOULS.
1. Human souls require to be won. They are at first in a lost state. They are lost as being without knowledge, without righteousness, without happiness, and without hope.
2. But the souls of men may be recovered. The method of their salvation is arranged and completed in the gospel.
3. See the wisdom of this work in its innate grandeur and excellence. In a shipwreck or a fire what strenuous efforts are made to save property, or to save life: how much more to pluck these brands from the burning.
4. See what an enduring work it is. Other things, saved, may perish again; but a soul saved will be secure for ever.
5. See the reward it brings to the happy agent himself. It gratifies his benevolence, and his piety — it secures him affection and love — it will ensure immortal honour (Daniel 12:3).
6. It is an essential part of our duty as Christians. The task of winning souls is committed to us. A dispensation of the gospel is entrusted to us. We are bound by the pledges of our allegiance and gratitude to Christ to employ ourselves in this work.
II. THE WISDOM IN WINNING SOULS.
1. There are difficulties peculiar to the work.(1) In the perversity and prejudices of those whom we seek to save.(2) In the snares and oppositions of the world, skilfully managed by the great adversary of our souls.(3) In the ignorances, jealousies, and inconsistencies of the agents themselves.
2. The required wisdom consists of several important constituents.
(The Congregational Pulpit.)
(E. E. Jenkins, M.A.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
1. Be prayerful. Have regular hours for secret communion with God.
2. Study the Scriptures.
3. Be gentle. Lead rather than drive. Speak the truth in love. Never argue.
4. Be polite. Haste or brusqueness will repel. A courteous, affable manner is well-nigh irresistible.
5. Be courageous. Trusting the guidance of the Spirit, never be afraid to speak to any soul.
6. Leave the result with God. It is unwise ever to waste time in regrets. A rebuff may mean a soul under strong conviction. Some seeds take longer to sprout than others. Remember you are not working for yourself, but for God; that without Him you could do nothing; and to Him belongs all the glory.
(G. F. Pentecost.)
(D. L. Moody.)
(F. E. Toyne.)
Matthew Henry says, "I would think it a greater happiness to gain one soul to Christ than mountains of gold and silver for myself." Brainerd said, "I cared not where nor how I lived, or what hardship I went through, so that I could but gain souls to Christ." Ward Beecher says, "As the pilot beats cruise far out, watching for every whitening sail, and hover through day and night all about the harbour, vigilant to board every ship that they may bring safely through the Narrows all the wanderers of the ocean, so should we watch off the gate of salvation for all the souls, tempest-tossed, beating in from the sea of sin, and guide them through the perilous straits, that at last, in still waters, they may cast the anchor of their hope." The Christian is to do good, not by force or hardness, but by gentle persuasion and persevering kindness. To win, as in a game, implies skill in adapting the means to the end.
1. He who would be successful in winning souls to Christ must be considerate and thoughtful.
2. Another qualification is courage.
3. Another is tender, unaffected sympathy. It is said that if a piano is struck in a room where another stands unopened, one who should place his ear near it would hear a responsive note within, as though touched by the hand of an unseen spirit. Such is the power of sympathy.
(John N. Norton.)
1. He is a wise man who sets this before him as the object for which to five. No pursuit is more worthy of our energies. No pursuit yields a better return.
2. He who would be successful in this work must go about it wisely. He must himself be wise unto salvation. He must have the tact to discern his opportunities, and rightly direct his appeals. The word winneth (margin, "taketh") is an allusion to the hunter's craft.
3. A wise adaptation to the circumstances and temperaments of those we seek to bless is needed in this work. It will not answer to deal with all alike. Men are not to be taken in the lump and treated after some patent method of moral mechanics. Every human being is an individual, and must be so reckoned and laboured for. No labour or self-denial will be misspent in this holy cause.
(C. A. Davis.)
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth.
1. Of the happiness which God has appointed for goodness, it has pleased Him that some portion should accrue in this world; and of the misery which is the wages of sin, a much more abundant portion.
2. Even the righteous shall be recompensed (that is, punished) for their sins, in the earth, much more the wicked, with a sorer punishment. The argument is, if the good and pious often suffer for the faults they fall into, for the wicked to expect an exemption from suffering is a most vain and absurd expectation. The first is the more natural and obvious sense of the passage. This world is not a place of retribution. It is a place where men may suffer for their virtues and escape for their wickedness; and this so frequently as even to afford some ground and pretence for questioning which course a man had best take if this life were his all. A man might say, "Let us live to ourselves, and seize all the good within our reach, whatever be the consequences to others." Such a plan the wise king pronounced to be foolish and shortsighted, even on the principles of worldly prudence, and without taking another life into the account. After all the arguments from suffering virtue and successful wickedness have been urged and admitted, the balance of good will be found to be with the good, and evil unknown to them, to beset the path and track the steps of the wicked. The words imply that any one may see this who will attend carefully to what passes around him. It is in every one's mouth that "honesty is the best policy." The upright and regular part of the community is too sagacious and too strong for the schemer at last. The honest and good gain upon them and pass them, even in the career of worldly success. There is a reward in this life for a strict adherence to temperance and all the other branches and laws of self-government. But this doctrine is apparently opposed to such teachings as are found in Ecclesiastes 9:11. But it may be noticed that in Proverbs the rule is dealt with, and in Ecclesiastes the exceptions to the rule. Such exceptions there will always be. Part of the text declares that the punishment of sin in this world is more certain than the reward of virtue. And the fact is so. The recompense of the wicked does not tarry. Their course is soon interrupted by evil and suffering. We can generally predict the end of the wicked in this world. Licentiousness and debauchery lead to disease and embarrassment. Of dishonesty it may be said, its resources are soon dried up, and the plenty it procures is but for a moment. From the laws of nature and the appointments of Divine providence there is no escape. The true end and design of all the Divine afflictions and all earthly sufferings is our improvement. He adapts His methods to our wants, and appoints us such trials as we can bear. But the promise of recompense in the earth is perceived to belong to them; is fulfilled in them in many respects.
(A. Gibson, M.A.)