The godly man has perished from the earth; there is no one upright among men. They all lie in wait for blood; they hunt each other with a net.
1. They are the choice fruit of the land - wholesome, fragrant, delicious. The ideal Israel is compared to "grapes" and "the first ripe in the fig tree" (Hoe. 9:10). The Lord "taketh pleasure" in such; they satisfy the hunger of the Divine heart for godliness in the creature (Psalm 147:11; Psalm 149:4; Proverbs 11:20). So far as they share the spirit of Christ, they are, like him, "beloved of God," and should be attractive to men.
2. They are the salt of the earth - the one element that preserves from universal corruption. The picture presented to us is the gradual dying out of the godly; they "cease" (Psalm 12:1), they "perish" (Isaiah 57:1). Some few remain, "two or three in the top of the uttermost bough," which were not touched, or those unripe which were but imperfect and poor, or those which had fallen, "and thus were fouled and stained, and yet were not utterly carried away." The promise, "Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children" (Psalm 45:16), is no longer fulfilled. The sons and daughters of the godly do not rise up to fill their places in the Church The few godly survivors are heard lamenting and longing for the pious companions of former days; "my soul desireth the first ripe fig" (desiderio tam cari capitis). The fewer the good that remain, the more difficult it is for them to retain the fervour of their piety. Embers dispersed soon die out. It is hard to keep up a June temperature under December skies. From this dearth of the godly many evils follow. There is a loss of confidence, first in spiritual fellowship, and then in social relations (ver. 5). There is a loosening of the most sacred family bends. Depravity and degradation become deeper and darker (vers. 3, 4). The little remnant of God's servants are increasingly depressed and discouraged: "Woe is me!" (cf. Psalm 120:5; Isaiah 6:5). This results from constant contact with sin and from the heart-sickness which it causes; "great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart" (Romans 9:2). Thus we learn:
1. The greatest calamity to a nation is not war, pestilence, or famine, but the withholding of the Spirit of grace to convert the hearts of men, and consequently the dying out of the righteous. The famine of bread is bad; the famine "of hearing the words of the Lord" is worse. But worst of all is the dearth of living witnesses for God in the land.
2. The winning of souls to God is the greatest wisdom and the most enlightened patriotism.
3. The welfare of a nation is bound up with the living God, the true Church, and believing prayer. - E.S.P.
The good man is perished out of the earth
Homilist.He bemoans —
I. THE DEPARTURE OF EXCELLENCE FROM HIS COUNTRY. "The good man is perished out of the earth." Probably they had emigrated to distant lands, perhaps they had gone into eternity. Goodmen are the "lights of the world." Their influence penetrates the mass as salt, counteracts its tendency to corruption, removes its moral insipidity, gives it a new spirit — a spirit pungent and savoury.
II. THE RAMPANCY OF AVARICE IN THIS COUNTRY.
1. The working amongst the general community. To get wealth for themselves was with them such a furious passion that the rights and lives of others were disregarded.
2. Its working amongst the higher classes. "That they may do evil with broth hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up." The idea seems to be this: that the "great man," the "prince," for some corrupt motive, seeks the condemnation of some innocent person; and the "judge," for a bribe, gratifies his wish. A judge from avarice will pronounce an innocent man guilty. All this is done very industriously, "with two hands." Possible, lest some event should start up to thwart them; and when it is done "they wrap it up." "So they wrap it up." Avarice, like all sinful passions, seeks to wrap up its crimes.
III. THE MISCHIEVOUSNESS OF THE BEST IN HIS COUNTRY. "The best of them is as a briar; the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge." There is a gradation of wickedness of the men in the country, but the best of them is like a prickly thorn, and worse than a thorn hedge. The prophet is so struck with this, that the thought of retribution takes hold of him, and he says, "The day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh: now shall be their visitation." Another thing which the patriot here bemoans is —
IV. THE LACK OF TRUTHFULNESS IN THE COUNTRY. "Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide," etc. "Place no faith in a companion; trust not a familiar friend; from her that lieth in thy bosom guard the doors of thy mouth. For the son despiseth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man's enemies are the members of his own family." — Henderson. All social faith was gone; a man had lost all confidence in his brother. Social scepticism and suspicion prevailed in all circles. No faith was to be put in a friend.
I. WHEREIN THE GOODNESS OF THIS GOOD MAN, THE PROPHET MENTIONS, DID EXPRESS ITSELF. The Christian Church, as well as the prophet, may justly bewail her barren Christians, and the scarcity of men truly good. We call ourselves saints and elect, but where is the patience, the temper, and the spirit of them? Let our religion be never so primitive and apostolical, except it makes us really good it is but wrangling hypocrisy and noise.
1. True goodness doth express itself in plainness and sincerity in all our respective dealings with men.
2. Goodness expresses itself in the exercise of good nature, and charitable allowances for the errors of others.
3. The good man is of a spirit truly public, whose care and attention looks abroad.
4. The good man takes up religion only to serve a spiritual purpose. Religion without this good purpose is only fashion or faction, hypocrisy and formality, superstition or interest.
II. WHAT GREW UP AND PREVAILED IN THE PROPHET'S TIME IN THE PLACE OF TRUE RELIGION OR GOODNESS.
1. Superstition and false religion, which naturally produce trouble and disquiet in all governments.
2. Wicked lives in the professors of the true religion, which will surely cause misery and ruin in a nation.
3. Atheistical persuasions prevailed, or there was no religion at all.
III. WHAT PARTICULAR REASONS MAY MOVE US TO BEWAIL THE WANT OF REAL GOODNESS.
1. The want of it is the principal cause of our distractions about religion.
2. Real goodness is the best way to unite us among ourselves. Real goodness purges our judgment, removes our prejudices.
(Gregory Hascard, D. D.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
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