But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,…
It is an act of singular kindness that God should stoop to reason with the perverted mind of man. It had been a pleasure to instruct the uncorrupted mind; but now that the instrument is injured, it requires infinitely more patience and skill to deal with it. Yet God deigns to explain his principles of rule, and will eventually vindicate, as supremely just, every secret act. But sinful men are self-blinded.
I. WE ARE REMINDED OF MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY. God deals with men as creatures capable of discerning between right and wrong. Man's morality is, in God's sight, everything. To be righteous is his glory. The final inquiry will be not - Is he rich or poor? learned or unlearned? but this only - Is he righteous or unrighteous? Every man is undergoing moral trial. He must give an account of himself before God.
II. IDOLATRY IS A ROOT OF VARIOUS IMMORALITY. It is not merely a creed, nor yet only a form of worship. It indicates a state of heart, a departure from the soul's anchorage. The living God is the Source of human purity, human greatness, and to wander from him is to drift into darkness and vice and ruin. Wherever idolatry has prevailed, there has prevailed also unchastity, licentiousness, violence, and cruelty.
III. PARENTAL INFLUENCE IS POTENT, YET NOT FATAL. A father's opinions and beliefs will, in the first instance, he conveyed to his child; yet soon the child wilt gather opinions and teaching from other sources, and often modifies or reverses the beliefs of its parent. The evil example of a parent moulds, more or less, the character of a child. As a parent is the channel of natural life to the child, so too he may become the channel of moral and spiritual life. As a fact, the results of parental influence are conspicuously seen. Yet a son is not doomed to copy the character of his parent, nor fated to imitate his vices. He has the power to consider, to ponder, to choose, to resist. Strong influence is not fate.
IV. REPENTANCE, AT ANY STAGE OF HUMAN PROBATION, IS POSSIBLE. It is recognized, throughout the Bible, that a man may turn from evil ways. If, at any point short of death, a man is disposed to turn from a vicious course, all the resources of God's skill and power are on his side. There is no hindrance to a man's reformation and restoration save his own unwillingness, Incessantly, God is inviting such repentance.
V. REPENTANCE LEADS TO COMPLETE AND PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS. Repentance is not merely a negation; it is a positive good. It is the first link in a golden chain that shall bind the soul in sweet allegiance to God. It is the first drop in a precious shower of blessing. It is the foundationstone of a new character. It is the seed of a magnificent harvest. From true repentance every virtue, every excellence, every noble quality, shall spring. Give it time, and it shall bear upon its branches all the figurers and fruits of goodness. It is the first ray of heaven struggling to find entrance into man's heart.
VI. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS INCIPIENT LIFE. "In his righteousness that he hath done, he shall live." Only that man who is righteous truly lives. The life of a man must include the life of conscience - the life of the soul. To eat, drink, sleep, is the life of an animal, not the life of an immortal. The first activities of conscience are the movements and signs of life. Therefore penitence is nascent life. Reformation is life. Reconciliation with God is life - the budding of the heavenly life. The limb of grace on earth is the dawn of an eternal day. Such righteousness brings peace, rest, joy, into the heart - heaven begun below. These are the first fruits of the coming harvest. "The just shall live by his faith." - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,