He that walks uprightly walks surely: but he that perverts his ways shall be known.
Happiness is the favourite wish and the alluring object which every living creature pursues. In pursuing the end all are agreed, but in the ways of securing the end they differ widely. The choice of these means shows a man to be wise or foolish, religious or wicked. Man, besides his innate appetite for happiness, has a superior principle in him, which is reason; and reason will inform him that happiness, all joy and no sorrow, is unattainable and impossible under present conditions. The only way to obtain true happiness is to walk uprightly. It may, however, be said, that although the position in the text should be allowed to be true, yet it contains a truth of very little use or comfort to us, and a promise which none of us can apply to his own person; seeing that we are all sinners in various degrees. Two observations take off the force of this objection.
1. Though uprightness means goodness, and an upright man is a perfect and righteous man, this is not the character here represented. Here uprightness is a social virtue, producing a good conduct towards others. He who in all his dealings is honest, sincere, charitable, candid, and friendly, will in return receive good-usage and escape ill-usage. The promised reward of safety is also of the social kind, namely, security and peace, honour and reputation, esteem and favour, encouragement and assistance, rather than the future rewards of righteousness. Any person, therefore, may apply this encouragement to well-doing to himself.
2. Though we should suppose the uprightness mentioned in the text to mean goodness in general, and a goodness to which we cannot pretend, yet we may hope to make some advances towards it, and consequently may hope to come in for some share of the reward. If he who walketh uprightly in all respects, walketh surely in all respects, he who endeavours to do so, and on several occasions does walk uprightly, will obtain some degree of safety and security, proportionably to his moral improvements.
I. THE WAYS OF THE RIGHTEOUS ARE PLAIN, DIRECT, EVEN WAYS. Nothing is less difficult than to know our duty, and our interests also, if there be a sincerity of intention, and an integrity of heart. Christian faith and Christian practice are plain and perspicuous so far as they are of universal importance and of absolute necessity. The ways of the unrighteous are dark, crooked, rough, and slippery ways. What is to be said beforehand for the obtaining of criminal pleasures? And how much is to be given up? What are the consequences of such proceedings? and what the vain hopes on which such a person relies?
II. HE WHO WALKS UPRIGHTLY ACTS UPON GOOD MORAL PRINCIPLES, WHICH WILL STAND THE TEST OF THE STRICTEST SCRUTINY. The belief of these principles is absolutely necessary even for upholding civil government and preserving human society. All other springs and motives of action, besides reason and religion, are fickle and various. An upright person in all cases and conditions is the same person and goes the same way. By this he is secured from diffidence and self-distrust and distraction of mind.
III. HE THAT WALKETH UPRIGHTLY HAS TAKEN THE PROPER WAY TO ATTAIN ALL THAT A MAN CAN REASONABLY HOPE AND DESIRE IN THIS WORLD. This proper way Scripture calls the straight and the plain way, viz., the way of diligence and benevolence, of honour, honesty, and integrity, which may seem to be slow, but is both sure and speedy also.
IV. HE WHO DESIGNS ONLY WHAT IS JUST AND REASONABLE CAN RUN NO GREAT HAZARD. He is not likely to receive any great injury from intriguing men, or trouble from the vain and busy world. Nor is he likely to raise up adversaries. Serenity, satisfaction, and a just confidence always attend upon him. Good dispositions of the heart, like great abilities of the mind, are open, free, unsuspicious, courageous, and liberal. The upright person is constant and consistent with himself; his heart and his face, his mind and his speech, his professions and his deeds agree together. So men place confidence in him. He is secure as to the final result of affairs, the main end, and the considerable purposes of human life. If prosperity consists in a satisfaction of mind upon the whole, he cannot fail of being prosperous.
V. EITHER THERE IS A FUTURE STATE OR THERE IS NOT. In either case the upright man is safe. He alone can make the best of both worlds. Do not, then, be weak enough to grieve or repine at the seeming prosperity of the wicked sons of fortune, who obtain a greater influence of worldly favours than many persons far better than themselves.
(J. Jortin, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.