The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.
I. WE ARE NOT TO EXPECT PERMANENCE IN OUR ACQUISITIONS. On the lot of some men Providence is pleased to bestow a longer continuance of prosperity than on that of others. But as the term of that continuance is hidden from us, all flattering and confident expectations are without foundation. Human life never stands still for any long time. It is by no means a fixed and steady object, like a mountain or rock. Nor is it a still, smooth stream with the same constant tenor. Amid such vicissitudes of time and life, who has any title to reckon upon the future? To faults all are subject, to troubles all are exposed. To look for entire exemption from faults or troubles is to court disappointment. We must not, however, sadden the present hour by dwelling on the thoughts of future disappointment. What is given us, let us cheerfully enjoy, and render thanks to Him who bestows it. Virtue, conjoined with prudence, may reasonably afford the prospect of good days to come.
II. WE ARE NOT TO EXPECT, FROM OUR INTERCOURSE WITH OTHERS, ALL THAT SATISFACTION WHICH WE FONDLY WISH. What the individual either enjoys or suffers by himself, exhibits only an imperfect view of his condition. In the present state of human affairs we are closely interwoven with one another. These associations open a field within which our wishes and expectations find an ample range. Among persons of all characters and descriptions many an expectation must perish, and many a disappointment be endured. All are jealous of the high pretensions of others. Hence the endless mortifications which the vain and self-conceited suffer. Hence the spleen and resentment which is so often breaking forth, disturbing the peace of society and involving it in crimes and miseries. Were expectations more moderate they would be more favourably received. Did we more rarely attempt to push ourselves into notice the world would more readily allow us, nay, sometimes assist us to come forward, in the closer connections which men form of intimate friendship and domestic life there is still more reason for due moderation in our expectations and hopes. For the nearer that men approach to each other, the more numerous the points of contact are in which they touch, the greater indeed will be the pleasure of perfect symphony and agreements of feelings; but, at the same time, if any harsh and repulsive sensations take place, the more grating and pungent will be the pain. From trifling misunderstandings, arising from the most frivolous causes, spring much of the misery of social and domestic life.
III. WE ARE NOT TO EXPECT CONSTANT GRATITUDE FROM THOSE WHOM WE HAVE MOST OBLIGED AND SERVED. Grateful sensations for favours received are very generally felt. When no strong passions counteract these sensations, grateful returns are generally intended, and often are actually made. But then our expectations of proper returns must be kept within moderate bounds. Many circumstances, it is to be remembered, tend to cool the grateful emotion. Time always deadens the memory of benefits. As benefits conferred are sometimes underrated by those who receive them, they are sometimes overvalued by those who confer them. On persons of light and careless minds no moral sentiment makes any deep impression. With the proud spirit, which claims everything as its due, gratitude is in a great measure incompatible. On the other hand —
IV. WHATEVER COURSE THE AFFAIRS OF THE WORLD TAKE, THE GOOD MAN MAY JUSTLY HOPE TO ENJOY PEACE OF MIND. To the sceptic and the profligate this will be held as a very inconsiderable object of expectation and hope. But surely the peace of an approving conscience is one of the chief ingredients of human happiness, if it be tempered with true humility, and regulated by Christian faith! He, whose study it is to preserve a conscience void of offence towards God and man, will have, in every state of fortune, a ground of hope which may justly be denominated gladness. He has always somewhat to rest upon for comfort.
V. A GOOD MAN HAS GROUND TO EXPECT THAT ANY EXTERNAL CONDITION INTO WHICH, IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, HE MAY PASS, SHALL, BY MEANS OF VIRTUE AND WISDOM, BE RENDERED, IF NOT PERFECTLY AGREEABLE, YET TOLERABLY EASY TO HIM. The inequality of real happiness is not to be measured by the inequality of outward estate. The wise and good man hopes to find, or make, his state tolerable to himself. In some corner of our lot there are always comforts that may be found. And the spirit of man will long sustain his infirmities.
VI. WE HAVE GROUND TO EXPECT, FROM THE ORDINARY COURSE OF HUMAN AFFAIRS, THAT IF WE PERSEVERE IN STUDYING TO DO OUR DUTY TOWARDS GOD AND MAN, WE SHALL MEET WITH THE ESTEEM, THE LOVE, AND CONFIDENCE OF THOSE WHO ARE AROUND US. In regard to moral qualifications the world is ready to do justice to character. No man is hurt by hearing his neighbour esteemed a worthy and honourable man. The basis of all lasting reputation is laid in moral worth. Great parts and endowments may sparkle for a while in the public eye. Candour and fairness never fail to attract esteem and trust. The world commonly judges soundly in the end. The good man is likely to possess many friends and well-wishers, and to have few enemies. This subject, in its treatment, has been limited to what the righteous man has to hope for in the ordinary course of the world. But it has to be added that there is a hope laid up for him in heaven. He knows that "in due season he shall reap if he faint not." For here, or yonder, his hope is perpetual gladness.
Parallel VersesKJV: The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.