Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts.
I. THE PROPOSITION. First part of the verse. The metals mentioned are silver and gold. The instruments are the fining pot and the furnace. Good men are like gold and silver in sundry regards.
1. From the solidity and substantialness of their principles.
2. From the purity and sincerity of their conversation.
3. From the splendour of their example.Their hearts are like gold and silver, but it is like gold and silver in the ore, which has a great deal of dross mixed with it, and must be separated from it by God's instruments of purification. The "fining pot" represents the Word of God, the "furnace" represents the rod of God, or affliction. The furnace is not for the hurt of the gold, but for its advantage. Labour to be bettered by every hand of God upon us, that so therein we may close with His gracious ends.
II. THE REDDITION. "But the Lord trieth the hearts." This adversative particle hath a threefold emphasis in it.
1. An emphasis of proportion. Taking "but" for "so." The Lord is no less able or careful to try the hearts of the sons of men than the goldsmith is his silver and gold. God tries the heart either in a way of discovery or of purification. He tries them so as to discern them, and make known what they are. This kind of trial has two seasons, this present time and the world to come. He tries them to purge them, and remove their corruptions from them. This He does out of love to themselves, that He may make them vessels of honour. In reference to their works, that they may bring forth more fruit. For the sake of others.
2. An emphasis of exception. As restraining the skill of the refiner in this particular. He may be able to refine his metals, but he cannot try the heart.
3. An emphasis of appropriation. "The Lord trieth the hearts," i.e., the Lord alone does it. This is His prerogative. None other can try the heart thus authoritatively, and none can try it so effectually.
(T. Horton, D. D.)
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
1. If we pass now to consider sectarian divisions and strifes in the Christian Church, we can gain some help in a right estimate of them and for a wise charity, from analogies in the science of metallurgy. The great object of the New Testament and of Christianity is to increase religious qualities practically in the world, to add pure working forces to life, so that men will be nobler and happier in themselves and in their relations to each other. God has made different kinds of ores, and equally rich in different kinds. For some kinds of mineral one process is admirable; for other kinds a very different treatment is essential. And human nature is analogous. Evils are thrown off from men, and good is practically brought out, by a variety of spiritual methods; and that Church or system of training is the best for a soul which fits its temperament and quickens its will. In some men the good is quickly and easily appealed to and developed. A simple faith and administration will reach and awaken it. Others have the sulphurets in the soul. They are obstinate. Common batteries and cool washings do not do the work. They need heat, fire, the treatment of the element of fear; that takes hold of them. Calvinism is the process that reduces their stubborn self-will and makes them agents of good. Give the proper temperaments to each Church: let the Episcopalians take those that can be best reached by their methods, and the Methodists take their natural material, and the Swedenborgians and the Quakers and the Calvinists theirs, and the Unitarians theirs, and great good will be done. The world of character will be richer. The work of the Spirit will be variously and properly performed. "There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord." In science men appeal to the facts. If you put in a ton of ore and take out a pound of gold, you may say that there ought to be two pounds, but you can't say that the process does not produce any gold. And if a system of Christian administration produces honesty, integrity, principle, charity, interest in worship, interest in good ideas and good government and liberty and order, quiet and elevated homes, readiness to serve others and to hold gifts and treasures partly in trust for others — are these qualities to be denied to be good because the process which produces them is different from the ordinary customs? The melter and assayer does not make coin; society does not allow him to put his stamp on money and say, "All gold is spurious which is not poured from my crucibles." It is his office to produce gold. The Government coins and issues it, and allows that great office to no private hands. So the business of Churches is to produce purity, reverence integrity, charity, readiness to do good in all forms. God rates and stamps the products, and His judgment is the final and the only one as to the honesty or spuriousness of the products of the sanctuaries. There is one other point upon which I wish to make our subject bear in illustration.
2. There is a great discussion now about the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and its religious value. Is it a verbally inspired, completely accurate, and authoritative revelation? The Old Testament is a very wonderful book, and its value in the religious and providential training of the world cannot readily be stated. But it is not a continuous revelation. It does not offer you concentrated spiritual truth in all its pages, the pure silver and gold of the Spirit. The Old Testament is a great lode, or precious mineral vein, upheaved and winding through the strata of a national history. There are different kinds and qualities of ore in it, some easy, some difficult of reduction to the pure standard of moral truth. The Old Testament, compared with all other ancient national literatures, is a religious gold and silver vein immensely, incalculably, divinely rich. That is its distinction in the world, and will be its distinction for ever. And by the statement and authority of Jesus Himself, we get its concentrated value in the laws of love to God and our neighbour. If you understand little of commentaries and theological discussion and council lore, and have these, you have what Jesus Christ called the essentials. Knowledge of mining is good, but its practical value is in furnishing the silver for human use. This spirit of love is the silver into which the inspiration collected from the ore of the Bible is finally reduced. If you do not possess this spirit, your Biblical learning is only intellectual wisdom, your soundness of faith is only correct thinking; and though you may be baptized every day in the name and forms of the most orthodox creed, you advance not by a step towards the kingdom of heaven.
(T. Starr King.)
A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.
I. THEY LIKE FLATTERY. "A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips." The flatterer is a man of false lips. The more corrupt men are, the more blindly credulous to everything that makes them appear better than they are. He who compliments them palliates their offences, gives them credit for virtues they possess not, is their favourite companion, and they ever "give heed" to his lips. One of the best things recorded of George
III. is, that one of his first acts after his ascension to the throne was to issue an order prohibiting any of the clergy who should be called to preach before him from paying him any compliment in their discourses. His Majesty was led to this from the fulsome adulation which Dr. Thomas Wilson, Prebendary of Westminster, thought proper to deliver in the Chapel Royal, and for which, instead of thanks, he received from his royal auditor a pointed reprimand, his Majesty observing that he came to chapel to hear the praise of God, not his own.
II. THEY LIKE CALUMNY. The liar is also the "wicked doer." The "naughty tongue," whilst it speaks flatteries and falsehoods of all kinds, speaks calumnies also. And the worse the man is the more welcome to his depraved heart are the reports of bad things concerning others.
1. Calumny gratifies the pride of evil men. It helps them to cherish the thought that they are not worse than others, perhaps better.
2. Calumny gratifies the malignity of evil men. The worse a man is the more malevolence he has in him; the more gratified he is at hearing bad things concerning other men. "If," said Bishop Hall, "I cannot stop other men's mouths from speaking ill, I will either open my mouth to reprove it or else I will stop mine ears from hearing it, and let him see in my face that he hath no room in my heart."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.
Homilist.I. THE ONE IN ITS SPHERE IS AS LEGITIMATE AS THE OTHER. Look at the sphere of each.
1. The sphere of the moral. It is for the wise. The "reproof" is for men open to reason and impression — men whose natures are susceptible to moral arguments and appeals.
2. The sphere of the corporeal. It is for "fools." Of what service is an argument to an ox, or a whip to a soul?
II. THE ONE IN ITS SPHERE IS MORE THOROUGH THAN THE OTHER. "A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool."
1. The one is more painful than the other. What is pain arising from a few lashes on the body compared to the pain arising in the soul from a conviction of moral wrong? What pain did reproof give David! (Psalm 51.). What agony did the reproving look of Christ give Peter!
2. The one is more corrective than the other. Corporeal chastisement will never do the fool any moral good. You cannot whip the moral devil out of men (Proverbs 27:22). But moral chastisements correct the wrongs of the soul. The fires of moral conviction separate the gold from the dross.
Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.i.e., before the contention be too much diffused or blended with passion; or the parties proceed to open rupture and hostilities; or other persons mix themselves in the quarrel. Compare "It is an honour for a man to cease from strife; but every fool will be meddling." The advice is so excellent and so necessary that one cannot but wish means might be found to put it in practice. When men of birth, education, and fortune are governed in all questions by the dictates of reason and divest themselves of all prejudice and passion, they soon reduce all their differences to an inconsiderable quantity, and settle in such a manner as candour and equity can approve. Let every one, then, in his sphere and station, endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: to quench every spark of discord or strife. To bring this happy work to effect there is but one certain and never-failing method, which is this, to regulate our whole conduct by the Word of God, from whence we are instructed to practise every duty recommended by right, reason, and the best policy.
(John Newcombe, D. D.)
(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
I. IT IS AN EVIL OF TERRIFIC PROGRESS. This strife spreads. One angry word leads to another, one act of resentment, will kindle a fire that may set a whole neighbourhood or a nation into conflagration. A drop of strife soon becomes a river, and the river a torrent.
II. IT IS AN EVIL THAT SHOULD BE CHECKED. "Therefore leave off contention." Every lover of his race and his God should suppress it. It is a desolating thing, it makes sad havoc in families, neighbourhoods, churches, nations.
1. Be inspired with the spirit of peace.
2. Maintain the character of peace.
3. Use the argument of peace. Thus he will check the spirit of strife.
III. IT IS AN EVIL WHICH CAN BE EASILY CHECKED AT THE BEGINNING. YOU may mend the embankment with tolerable ease at the stage when it emits only a few oozing drops. The mightiest and most furious beasts of prey you can easily destroy at their birth; the most majestic and resistless river you can stop at its spring head. So it is with strife, in its incipient state you may easily crush it. Crush the upas in the germ, tread out the conflagration in the spark.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.
(H. Alford, B. D.)
Wherefore is there a price in the hand of fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?
(H. Ward Beecher.)
1. A man of good natural faculties and endowments of mind may be said to have the price of wisdom in his hand, when he hath no heart to it.
2. This price may be understood of the schools of good education and learning. Those who are brought up in such places often act the part of fools.
3. Riches are in many respects the price of wisdom, in that they enable their owners to buy books, to hire teachers, and to be at leisure to spend their time in the study of useful learning.
4. Men of great power and authority have the price of wisdom in their hands.
5. We have a noble price put into our hands to get wisdom, in the ordinances of religion and means of grace we enjoy. These advantages are the portion of every Christian. But these opportunities are sadly often in the hands of those who have no heart to make use of them. This appears —
(1) (2) (W. Reading, M. A.)
(2) (W. Reading, M. A.)
(W. Reading, M. A.)
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
I. THE ENDURANCE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST. He loved before time began. He loved you when time began with you. Since that day this Friend has loved us at all times. Consider the reality of Christ's love at all times. His love has never been a thing of mere words and pretensions. Consider the nature of the love of Christ, as accounting for its endurance and reality. His love sprang from the purest possible motives. Christ's love was a wise love, not blind as ours often is. He loved us knowing exactly what we were whom He loved. His love is associated continually with an infinite degree of patience and pity. He is so constant in His love, because He sees us as what we are to be. He is described as "born for adversity," the adversity of the fall, and of tribulation.
II. REFER THE TEXT TO THE CHRISTIAN. You have found Jesus Christ to be a true brother and a blessed friend; now let the same be true of you. If Christ be such a friend to us, what manner of people ought we to be towards Him? We should be friends that love Christ at all times.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. ADVERSITY IS THE COMMON LOT OF BROTHERHOOD. It comes sooner or later to all of us. It is a necessity of our nature. It is a wise appointment of God.
II. THE TIES OF BROTHERHOOD ARE FORMED FOR ADVERSITY. We are united in families for purposes of mutual succour.
III. ADVERSITY TENDS TO SANCTIFY THE INTERCOURSE OF THE BROTHERHOOD. Some of the most valuable of our lessons are taught us in our intercourse with one another.
IV. IN ADVERSITY WE ARE LED TO KNOW, IN AN ESPECIAL MANNER, THE PRESENCE OF THE ELDER BROTHER WITH THE BROTHERHOOD. Jesus became a brother in adversity. His sufferings and sorrows enabled Him to sympathise with us in all our struggles and troubles.
V. IT IS BY ADVERSITY THAT THE WHOLE BROTHERHOOD ARE GATHERED AT LAST INTO OUR FATHER'S HOUSE ABOVE.
1. The first value of friendship is that it will give support in weakness, understanding amid evil reports, consolation in sorrow, and help in the bearing of burdens; and that is no friendship which breaks down under such demands. Trouble is a splendid thing for any man if it only sifts his friends; it saves him a deal of trouble in other ways. There is an admirable compensation about our existence.
2. The second service of a friend is that he is one to whom all our thoughts may be uttered, one to whom we may be absolutely sincere. Ordinarily, a man is only honest when he is alone; let another man come in, and hypocrisy begins. Our words are a kind of clothes to hide our real selves. But with a friend we are absolutely open; we do all our thinking aloud, we stand erect before him, and find in his mind a true picture of what we are. Such a friend is a masterpiece of nature.
3. A third service is that it affords us the possession of one soul to whom we may be tender without shame. See the tenderness between David and Jonathan, and between Achilles and Patroclus. When one man becomes dear to another they have both reached the goal of fortune. By a tender friendship the Divine part in us finds exercise.
4. The fourth service which friendship renders is that it helps us to know ourselves and to know God. When you enjoy friendship most it is in contrast to solitude, and you seek solitude again, in order to know what you have gained from your friend. You cannot reckon up a profit and loss account while you are in his company; you have to retire to your own soul's communion in order to ascertain your gain and loss thereby. Thus you have a compensation for intercourse with another soul by introspection of your own. Further, as the power that keeps the atoms together in one body is of God, the tie between your friend's heart and your own is of God, and you cannot let your consciousness of friendship deepen without deepening at the same time your consciousness of God.
(H. H. Snell.)
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
I. THE IDEAL OF FRIENDSHIP. Every man cannot be a friend. Friendships cannot be willed, they must be made. They grow; they want resemblances. Earthly friendships have often some element of weakness in them. No man can know more of his brother without knowing the worst as well as the best of him. Friendship with Christ alone satisfies. Here is —
1. The test of friendship. "At all times." True only of Christ.
2. The preciousness of friendship.
3. The future of friendship.
II. THE IDEAL OF BROTHERHOOD. "A brother is born for adversity."
1. This is a unique fact.
2. It is a designed fact.
3. It is an adapted fact.To be a true brother, Christ must take account of the world as it is, and what word is there more expressive of life than this, "adverse things" — things that turn against us!
(W. M. Statham.)
( Matthew Henry.)
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
I. THE POWER WHICH THE MIND CAN EXERT IN SUPPORT OF THE BODY SO LONG AS ITSELF IS IN GOOD CONDITION. Where there is no aid drawn from the resources of religion, there may be firmness the most unflinching in the endurance of pain. The records of savage life prove the existence of a sustaining principle in man. There is a power in man's spirit to sustain his infirmity. The truth that men have no power of renewing their nature must not be interpreted as implying that men have no power of reforming their lives. The doctrine of human degeneracy, preached in an unguarded and overwrought strain, makes men imagine that they can do nothing unless they feel themselves acted on by a supernatural machinery, and that, until they have experienced inward revelation, it is idle to set about outward reformation. We would always hold that a great deal lies in the unconverted man's power. We can never believe, whilst there is the spectacle on earth of mind wielding a thorough sovereignty over matter, a sovereignty so perfect that the body is set before us as literally the vassal of the spirit, we at all exaggerate his abilities when we urge him, as a candidate for the prizes of eternity, to improve the life, and break away from habits and associations of unrighteousness.
II. A MAN'S TOTAL INCAPACITY TO BEAR A WOUNDED SPIRIT. We are not accustomed to admit up to the full a matter of fact — the physical destructiveness, so to speak, of an overwrought mind. The greatest wear and tear is from mental labour. Mental disquietude tells on the health with corroding and devastating power. It is the gracious appointment of God that a wound in the spirit begins to close so soon as made; so that where there is the wish there is not the power of keeping it long open. If it be true that the endurance of grief cannot be referred to indwelling energy, but rather to that soothing action of time which comes into play on the first moment of affliction, then there is no witness from the experience of mankind against the truth of the text. It cannot be assumed that a spirit is broken until stricken by that Word of God which is "quick and powerful." Conviction of sin is the unbearable thing, and an awakened conscience an irresistible tormentor. A truly broken spirit is that which is bruised by a sense of sin. It is impossible that man should long sustain the anguish of conviction of sin.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Homiletic Review.I. THE VALUE OF A CHEERFUL SPIRIT.
1. It helps bodily health.
2. It is a clarifier and invigorator of the mind.
3. It lubricates the wearing machinery of business and daily care.
II. HOW ATTAIN THIS SPIRIT?
1. Look at your mercies with both eyes; your troubles with only one eye.
2. Learn Paul's secret: "In whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
3. Be useful. Light somebody's torch, and your own will burn brighter.
4. Make God your trustee. Believe in His care of your welfare.
1. Recognised by medical science. A wise physician avails himself of this fact, and is ever anxious not only to dispel all sad thought from the mind of the patient, but to awaken the most pleasurable thoughts and emotions. It is a fact —
2. Attested by general experience.
I. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MAN FOR HIS PHYSICAL HEALTH. Man is responsible for his mental disposition, whether cheerful or gloomy, and his disposition greatly determines his health.
II. THE DUTY OF THE GUARDIANS OF CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.
III. THE SANITARY INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY. The design of Christianity is to fill the human heart with joy. "These things have I spoken unto you that your joy may be full." Christianity is the best physician to the body. He who promotes Christinity is the wise philanthropist. Some people are always trying to keep the body well, and neglect entirely the condition of the soul.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. THE MEANING OF THE VERBS.
1. By "a merry heart" is meant a heart which has been taught by the Spirit of God to seek its happiness in Divine and heavenly objects, which is disposed to look at the bright side of things under the influence of contentment and hope. Such a heart has the best reason for cheerfulness. Faith keeps it from suspicion and distrust, hope from despair, and charity from that envy which is a rottenness of the bones. The love of God shed abroad in the heart makes it form the most favourable idea of every dispensation, and Christ dwelling there brightens all around by His presence.
2. By the "broken spirit" is meant a heart crushed by affliction, and which refuses to be comforted. Such is his spirit who, seeing his affairs ruined by his own folly, or the knavery of others, or by misfortunes which he could neither foresee nor prevent, sinks into utter despondence, and becomes incapable of the least effort to better his circumstances. Such is his spirit who, seeing the desire of his eyes taken away with a stroke, imagines he has nought now to live for. Such also is the spirit of the man wounded by remorse, or shattered by the influence of indulged melancholy, jealousies, suspicions, and fears.
II. ILLUSTRATE THIS VIEW HERE GIVEN OF THE RESULT OF CHEERFULNESS AND DEPRESSION.
1. Let us consider their influence on the body. The influence of a suitable medicine on the body is wonderful. Disease is checked or alleviated by it when first received; the continued use of it removes it entirely, and strengthens the constitution to resist its further attacks. Such is the power of holy joy over the health. On the other hand a broken spirit dries up the bones, and the finest constitution sinks under its influence.
2. Consider their influence on prosperity and adversity. All the comforts of prosperity are heightened by a cheerful spirit. So amiable does prosperity appear when thus enjoyed, that every heart wishes its continuance; but the broken spirit is a stranger to all the satisfactions as well as the homage of gratitude. On such a heart all its delights are lavished in vain. The cheerful heart can triumph in adversity. But how different is the case with the broken spirit! Every temporal disaster is the supposed prelude to their ruin, etc.
3. Consider the influence of cheerfulness and of depression on the soul. Cheerfulness quickens all the powers of the soul in their exercise; the imagination forms the most pleasing ideas of scenes and objects; memory calls up the most joyous recollections; hope paints the future blissful as the present; and the understanding, rejoicing in the truth, pursues its inquiries with unwearied ardour. On the other hand, when the spirit is broken, the imagination calls up only scenes of woe; memory brings nought to remembrance but what tends to disquiet and torment us; despair clothes the heavens with blackness; and the understanding doth nought but write bitter things, and form the most dreadful conclusions against itself.
4. Consider the influence of cheerfulness and depression on the duties and the pursuits of life. When the heart is cheerful the duties of a man's calling are a pleasure to him. How ingenious is the cheerful heart in finding the means of enjoyment and in extending these! On the other hand, when the spirit is broken the duties of a man's profession are a burden him.
5. Consider their influence on the connections of life. The man of a merry heart is the happiness of his family and friends. How different is the case with the broken spirit! The indications of joy in his presence such a man is apt to regard as an insult to his wretchedness.Conclusion:
1. How strongly does the broken spirit claim our pity and our prayers! It is impossible to conceive on this side the grave a condition more dreary.
2. Let us carefully guard against the first symptoms of despondence in ourselves and in others. Let us seek out those remedies which the gospel contains for raising the bowed down.
3. Let me address those who are blessing themselves in a false mirth. I know not whether the despairing mourner or the jovial sinner is the greatest object of pity. The jovial sinner's mirth is like the laughter of the maniac, or like the singing of a patient whose brain a fever hath disordered. The broken spirit may lead to that godly sorrow which worketh repentance to salvation, but the audacious mirth of the sinner is most likely to end in weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
(H. Belfrage, D. D.)
Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.
I. WE MAY LOOK FOR THE INTEREST OF LIFE IN THE WRONG PLACE. It is difficult to see the spiritual in what is commonplace, the great in what is near, the sacred in what is ordinary. Men go to far-off lands seeking beauty which can be found almost at their doors. The romance of life has often been sought far afield, while all the time a nobler romance was to be found around the door. The wisest delineators of human life have found its romance near home. One reason of the popularity of George Eliot's novels lies just here, that she has taken up the lives of ordinary people, and shown, with fine sympathy, how rich in interest is the common life of the common people. It is of supreme importance for the living of a Christian life that we should have our interest kept fresh and rightly directed. It is not only the flesh that wars against the spirit, but listlessness; not only positive sins, but the deadening weight of the conviction that we are set down in the midst of dull commonplace. Our enthusiasm needs to be aroused, and the rousing of our enthusiasm must spring from the conviction that there is something within our reach worth being enthusiastic about. That conviction often fails us just because we commit the folly which our proverb reproves. Immanuel Kant was never more than a few miles from his native Konigsberg. He found in the human mind a field of study exhaustless in its scope and interest. If the life of our town is dull it is because our own souls are dull. The insipidity and commonplaceness of which we complain belong to our own vision.
II. WE MAY LOOK FOR THE WORK OF LIFE IN THE WRONG PLACE. The one error is linked with the other. From false views of life there spring erroneous conceptions of the work we may accomplish. It is not circumstances that make a man spiritually great, but the way in which he handles the circumstances. Spiritual greatness springs not from without, but from within. It matters little what may be the rough material put into our hands. The spiritual product we turn out depends upon the spirit in which we work. Our work is not far off in the ends of the earth; it is close beside us. These are no tame, prosaic days in which we live. They may be days of trouble, and unrest, and upheaval, but the Spirit of God is moving as of old upon the face of the waters. We need not sigh for the opportunity of playing our part in the movements of other days. The movements of to-day are enough for our faith, and energy, and devotion.
(D. M. Ross, M. A.)
Homilist.I. THAT THE ONE HAS A MEANING, THE OTHER AN UNMEANING FACE. One translator renders the words "In the countenance of a wise man wisdom appeareth, but the fool's eyes roll to and fro." God has so formed man that his face is the index to his soul; it is the dial-plate of the mental clock. A wise man's face looks wisdom — calm, devout, reflective. The fool's face looks folly. As the translucent lake reflects the passing clouds and rolling lights of sky, so does the human countenance mirror the soul.
II. THAT THE ONE HAS AN OCCUPIED THE OTHER A VACANT MIND. The meaning of Solomon perhaps may be wisdom as before, that is, present, with the man that hath understanding. The principles of wisdom are in his mind, are ever before his eye. Wisdom is "before" his mind in every circumstance and condition. Its rule, the Word of God, is before him. Its principle, the love of God, is before him. Thus he has an occupied mind. But the mind of the fool is vacant. His "eyes are in the ends of the earth." He has nothing before him, nothing true, or wise, or good. He looks at emptiness. Alas! how vacant the mind of a morally unwise man! It is a vessel without ballast, at the mercy of the winds and waves. His thoughts are unsubstantial, his hopes are illusory, the sphere of his conscious life a mirage.
III. THAT THE ONE HAS A SETTLED, THE OTHER AN UNSETTLED HEART. The morally wise man is fixed, wisdom is before him and his heart is on it. He is rooted and grounded in the faith. He is not used by circumstances, but he makes circumstances serve him. But the fool is unsettled, his "eyes are in the ends of the earth." His mind, like the evil spirit, walks to and fro through the earth, seeking rest and finding none.
I. THE FOLLY OF DISCONTENT. A man's eyes may be said to be in the ends of the earth if he thinks his happiness lies in a different sphere from that which Providence has allotted to him. The grumbling spirit is widespread, and is not confined to any class of the community. Sometimes the round man is put into the square hole. God does not invariably wish a man to stay for ever in the place where he has been dropped. The mistake is when we so allow these feelings to work in us that they make us disheartened where we are. Some time the tide of opportunity rises to every man's feet, and happy is he if he is ready to take it when his hour comes. But if it does not come, what then? Why, then we must surely conclude that God needs us where we are.
II. THE FOLLY OF THE SCORNER. A person's eyes are in the ends of the earth if the objects of his admiration are all people he has never seen, and if he has nothing but contempt for those among whom he lives. If the only causes that can awaken your enthusiasm are causes belonging to past centuries, if all your heroes are men who are dead, and you have no living heroes, your eyes are in the ends of the earth. Some go to romance and poetry for the objects of their admiration. But it is one thing to pity the poor in a book, and quite a different thing to pity them in the flesh.
III. THE FOLLY OF THE BUSYBODY. A person's eyes are in the ends of the earth when he occupies his eyes with the affairs of other people and neglects his own. The gossip; the loud-mouthed politician; the satirist who lashes the iniquities of the times, and who himself is the slave of the same vices. A wise man said that ours is an age when every man wants to reform the world and no one is willing to reform himself.
IV. THE FOLLY OF THE PROCRASTINATOR. A man's eyes are in the ends of the earth if he is looking forward to the proper use of future time and not making proper use of present time. We all do it. How easy and pleasant is the duty which is going to be done to-morrow! Some are committing this folly in regard to the most important of all concerns — the concern of the soul and eternity. This is a threefold folly.
1. The future opportunity may never come.
2. If it does come, can you be sure that you will then be anxious about eternity?
3. You can only have a mean and selfish conception of religion if you defer it to some future time. You are going to spend your life on yourself, going to give it to the devil, and at last going to creep to Christ and get Him to take you into heaven and save you from the consequences of your sin. Can you hold your face up to a conception of religion like that? Christ wants your life — wants to make it year by year more and more useful and noble.
(James Stalker, D. D.)
Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.
1. It may mean a dogged defiance of their authority — a fixed determination not to obey their laws.
2. It may mean an effort to supplant a prince, a secret or overt attempt to alienate the affections and confidence of the subjects, and transfer the same to another person; a concerted method for placing in the post of honour a rival candidate for popular favour.
3. It may mean assassination, a cruel and cowardly attempt on the life of the sovereign, an execrable conspiracy to hurry into the unseen world the occupant of the national throne. This is a most diabolical and detestable way of attempting to settle real or imaginary grievances; a sin which is sternly condemned by God, and denounced by all right-thinking men.
(J. Hiles Hitchens, D. D.)
I. THE DOOM AND CENSURE. "It is not good." It speaks only dislike, but means detestation. It implies that it is a crime most impious in itself, and most odious and abominable to God.
II. THE ACTION CONDEMNED. "To strike princes."
1. We must not strike princes with the tongue, in their fame and reputation.
2. We must not strike princes in their authority, nor the exercise of it over us. This may be done by refusing to be subject to their laws, or by deposing them from their dominion.
3. It is sacrilege to strike them in their persons, and to offer violence to their liberty or life.
III. THE CAUSE, MOTIVE, OR PROVOCATION TO THIS ABOMINABLE ACTION. That is equity. Either the prince's equity or the subject's equity. To strike for either is here censured as a heinous crime.
1. It may he understood of resisting and rebelling against them for their own equity and the execution of that justice which is committed to them.
2. It may be understood of striking them for their subject's equity. That is, it is a great injustice to strike princes upon any pretences of equity and justice in so doing. Never yet was there any insurrection against the lawful magistrate but what was prefaced with glorious pretences, the honour of God, the liberty of the subject, a due freedom for tender consciences, etc. These are all excellent things, and we can never too much prosecute them while we do it in a lawful and allowed manner. But a good purpose can never justify a wicked action, and God abhors that our sins should be made the means of His glory.
(E. Hopkins, D. D.)
He that hath knowledge spareth his words.
1. By the good temper, the sweetness and the sedateness of his mind. "A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit," i.e., a precious spirit. He is one that looks well to his spirit, that it be as it should be, and so keeps it in an even frame, easy to himself, and pleasant to others. A gracious spirit is a precious spirit, and renders a man amiable and more excellent than his neighbour. He is of a cool spirit (so some read it), not heated with passion nor put into any tumult or disorder by the impetus of any corrupt affection, but even and stayed. A cool head with a warm heart is an admirable composition.
2. By the good government of his tongue. A wise man will be of few words, as being afraid of speaking amiss; he that has knowledge, and aims to do good with it, is careful, when he does speak, to speak to the purpose, and says little, in order that he may take time to deliberate. He spares his words, because they are better spared than ill-spent. This is generally taken for such a sure indication of wisdom that a fool may gain the reputation of being a wise man if he have but wit enough to hold his tongue, to hear, and see, and say little. If a fool hold his peace, men of candour will think him wise, because nothing appears to the contrary, and because it will be thought that he is making observations on what others say and gaining experience, and is consulting with himself what he shall say that he may speak pertinently. See how easy it is to gain men's good opinion and to impose upon them. But when a fool holds his peace God knows his heart, and the folly that is bound up there; thoughts are words to Him, and therefore He cannot be deceived in His judgment of men.
( Matthew Henry.)