The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.
No subject is of so much importance to man as religion. On no subject is it so desirable that right views should be possessed. Yet in religion to what extremes of formalism and folly, absurdity and asceticism, men proceed. Multitudes identify religion with a tiresome routine of forms and ceremonies. And many build their hopes of heaven on the groundwork of austerities. In one direction we see men placing religion in little more than a name, regardless of all the duties and dispositions and devotions of which it consists. In another direction our attention is arrested by people who are so ascetic as to think it sinful to smile. The text contains a powerful corrective of all those false impressions of religion which moody and soured examples of it may have produced.
I. THE CHARACTER DEPICTED. The righteous. Not one who fulfils every requirement of God's law; nor one strictly honest in dealing with his fellow-men. If sinful man is to be righteous before his Maker, he must be so —
1. By Divine imputation.
2. By spiritual renovation.
3. By habitual practice. We demand a lustrous manifestation of probity as well as piety. Good works are as essential to salvation as a sound creed and a changed heart.
II. THE DIVINE POSSESSION OF THIS CHARACTER. We are justified in describing this hope as Divine, because —
1. It has a Divine Author.
2. A Divine foundation.
3. A Divine tendency.
III. THE BLESSED FRUIT OF THIS DIVINE POSSESSION. Gladness.
IV. THE AWFUL CONTRAST WHICH THE TEXT PRESENTS. A contrast in character, and in destiny.
Parallel VersesKJV: The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.