A worker's appetite works for him because his hunger drives him onward.
I. AT BOTTOM, HUNGER, THE NEED OF BREAD, IS THE GREAT STING AND GOAD TO ALL EXERTION, TO USEFUL ACTIVITY IN GENERAL.
II. HENCE HUNGER IS THE HELPER OF OUR TOIL. And we may thank God for every stimulus to do our best. Have not the best things been done for the world in every department by poor men?
III. AS APPLIED TO RELIGION, IT IS THE HUNGER OF THE SOUL WHICH PROMPTS US TO SEEK FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS; the emptiness of other joys which sends us to the feast of the gospel. Through toil and trouble, the worst unrest and distress can alone be overcome. - J.
There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.I. MULTITUDES JUDGE OF DUTY BY THE STANDARD OF THEIR OWN MORAL SENTIMENTS AND FEELINGS, AND THEREFORE THE WAY OF DEATH IS THOUGHT TO BE RIGHT.
1. Sin first defiles the principles and then the conduct.
2. Sin has therefore brought down the ideal as well as the visible standard of duty among men.
3. Men thus rise and sink in their apprehensions of God's law, as they rise and sink in their own moral and spiritual attainments.
4. The more polluted, therefore, the man, the more will he think the way of death to be right.
II. MULTITUDES JUDGE OF DUTY BY THE STANDARD OF COMMON PRACTICE AND OPINION, AND THEREFORE THE WAY OF DEATH IS THOUGHT TO BE RIGHT.
1. The standard of the world is the average performances of duty.
2. This is the standard employed for most worldly or social purposes. It decides the reputation; the fitness for any society; the relationship; the situation.
3. Men identify this standard with the Divine, and determine by it eternal things.
4. Having stood the judgment of his fellows, man supposes that be can stand the judgment of God.
III. MULTITUDES JUDGE OF DUTY, AND OF THE SAFETY OF A COURSE OF CONDUCT, ACCORDING TO THE BELIEF THAT THE DIVINE LAW-GIVER ACCEPTS OF COMPENSATION IN ONE DEPARTMENT FOR WRONGS DONE IN ANOTHER.
1. Few love equally every form of sin. It does not consist with constitutional bias; outward circumstances; the pursuits of life; formed habits; the energy of the nature; the idols of the heart.
2. Many, therefore, attempt to balance their deficiency, and imagined excess, in duty.
3. This is impracticable (James 2:10). All is God's. The law is one. The loved sin is the test.
IV. MULTITUDES JUDGE OF DUTY ACCORDING TO THE PRINCIPLE THAT WHATEVER TENDS TO PRESENT AND TEMPORAL ADVANTAGE IS DEFENSIBLE.
1. Many appear to think that this world is altogether insulated.
2. They therefore confine their views to those objects of pursuit which it presents.
3. They suppose that they have acted their part well when they have escaped from the stage with approbation.
4. The way of such seems right, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
V. MULTITUDES JUDGE OF THE SAFETY OF A COURSE ON THE PRINCIPLE THAT ALL IS WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
1. This is a common and destructive perversion of truth.
2. The offers of grace are only for the present.
3. Every instance of rejection increases guilt, hardens the heart, and tends to bring about a death of indifference.
VI. MULTITUDES JUDGE OF DUTY ACCORDING AS IT BULKS IN THE EYE, AND THEREFORE THE WAY OF DEATH IS THOUGHT TO BE THE RIGHT WAY. Illustrate from —
1. The relative duties of the moral law.
2. Charities — religious societies.
3. The business of worship. It may be added that multitudes misinterpret Scripture.
I. MARK THE MAN OF PLEASURE. "God is not in all his thoughts." He tells us that, as we are sure only of the present, we need seek nothing higher than the gratification of our natural desires; that religion may perhaps serve as a lamp through the dark valley and shadow of death, but cannot fail, on the bright eminence of life, to appear unnecessary and obtrusive. Such language opposes the whole tenor of that religion which inculcates faith, patience, contrition, and self-denial, and leads to the grosset habits of the drunkard and the fornicator, concerning whom an apostle declares, "they shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
II. MARK THE THOUGHTLESS AND INDIFFERENT PERSON — the man who, being too indolent, too timid, or too superstitious to think and act for himself, borrows his system of doctrines and forms of worship from a long train of credulous ancestors or the opinions prevalent around him which are considered the most reputable. "I am right," he exclaims, "or all these are wrong. If I do err, it is in the company of those whom I have chosen as my perpetual companions." The way may seem right, it may save labour, and serve his present convenience; but death lurks at the end. The fool shall be destroyed, and his companions also; the destruction of transgressors shall be together.
III. MARK THE FORMALIST. I mean one who is a strict observer of all the outward ceremonies of religion; the faithful adherent to her most minute forms. He divides the circle of the day; on one side he puts all his devotion, and thither he looks for comfort when conscience disturbs him for the follies so distinctly marked on the other side. He does not take with him into the world a principle which will enable him to resist temptation; and when he has fallen into sin he goes back to his formal services, thinking these may be a sufficient atonement. Or, perhaps, being habitually restrained within the bounds of decorum, he flatters himself that he is regenerated. Formality is a slow but effectual poison; it is a dead and putrid carcass laid upon the altar of Him who demands a "living sacrifice."
IV. MARK THE SELF-CONFIDENT MAN. None that I have mentioned are in greater danger.
1. There are rich men who delude themselves with the vain conceit that silver and gold, and the things which silver and gold procure, render them independent of God. Not all their splendid array, and sumptuous fare, and bowing menials, and princely estates, will save them from lifting up their eyes, being in torments.
2. Men of intellectual capacity are peculiarly prone to self-confidence. It were wicked to disparage reason; but may it not be overrated? It is s guide, but surely not through regions it has never visited. It is a luminary: so likewise is the moon, and so are the stars; but can we, therefore, dispense with the sun?
3. There are the self-confident who trust in their fancied rectitude.
V. MARK THE SUBJECT OF PARTIAL CONVICTION, the man who mistakes remorse for repentance, and a state of alarm for the unfailing pledge of salvation. They have mourned, and watched, and been oppressed with dread. At length, however, they became tranquil. They were received with due form into a Christian society. But they soon settle down into heartless regularity; their conscience keeps pace with their profession, till at length they come to regard it as a sin to doubt respecting their good estate, and are offended at every faithful admonition. But the gospel has had no practical and saving efficacy upon their hearts. Woe unto them who are thus at ease in Zion, who despise the warning contained in the text!
VI. IS THERE A BETTER WAY — a way which leadeth to LIFE? Jesus the Son of God has opened it; He suffered, bled, and died that He might secure it for us. He is the way of pardon, of peace, and of salvation. He is the way that leads to heaven and glory.
(R. Elton, D.D.)
I. HONEST AND DISHONEST ERROR. The text confines our attention to honest derangement of vision, or what claims to be such. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man." The seat of the trouble is in the man, not in the way. The way remains where it is, and he chooses it and walks into it.
II. INHERENT DIFFICULTIES. Many of our troubles in moral vision arise from the inability to see distance. Some things are present, others are past. It is easy to put paint on paper, but it is aerial perspective that makes a picture. Again, errors of judgment are due to the fact that we give fixed measurements to things that are themselves in motion: growing larger or smaller, advancing or receding. Closely connected with this is the weak eye for angles and the feeble sense of proportion. If we could only see it, there is a difference between self and society, between party and mankind, between time and eternity.
III. DECISION AND INDECISION. Under given conditions a diminished area always makes a brighter disc. Microscopic objects have no mist. Downrightness is always a desirable thing, especially for emergencies that come suddenly and only once. It means health to its possessor and safety to those who know what to expect. It draws to itself unattached particles, and has an incisive momentum that bruises into softer substances. "Yes" and "No" are great civilisers. But clearness that is gained by exclusion may cost too much. When the narrowing process begins it goes on, and self is always the most tempting centre; in fact, the only terminus. It is sometimes difficult for robust natures to see it, but strength of conviction does not necessarily mean correspondence with fact. And fact is the chief thing.
IV. THE CULPABLITY OF MISTAKEN VIEWS. Where and when is the error found blameworthy? Not directly in the region of intellect and its knowledge, but in that of the will and its preferences and energies. The individual error becomes a process and the process becomes a system. There is first light defied and then light debased. This belongs to us, not to circumstance. "Business is business" — how much that is made to cover and countenance? "Others do it, and why should not I?" The same man will always say with regard to any loved indulgence, "This is safe for me, and what have I to do with others?" If we pass from difficulties of the personal life we find the same obscurity or obliquity of view in things that affect communities, nations, and Churches. There was the slavery question, over which the British Parliament struggled for many years, and for which America poured out its blood. So with the great temperance question of to-day.
(G. M. Mackie, M.A.)
1. Does not the way of self-protection seem to be right? To a certain extent it is right. Pressed unduly it becomes practical atheism.
2. Does not the way of physical persecution for truth's sake seem to be right? If man is teaching error why not burn him, or otherwise put a forcible end to his ministry?
3. Does not the way of self-enjoyment seem right.
4. Does not the way of judging by appearances seem right? What can be better? What can be simpler?
5. Does not the way of self-redemption seem right? Is it not brave and spirited to say that we take our own recovery into our own hands? This is the fatal error of mankind. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thy help."Application:
1. Lean not to thine own understanding. The coiled scorpion may be mistaken for an egg.
2. Seek higher than human counsel. Be religious. Put thy whole life into the keeping of God. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." Distrust appearances. Even when the way seems right stand still and commune with Heaven. "Except Thy presence go with me, carry me not up hence."
(J. Parker, D.D.)
Christian Treasury.See that man who is just too late, or the other, who was sitting quietly at his breakfast when he heard the departing signal. Neither can believe he is in fault. Oh, no! his watch is right. The conductor hurried the train; the agent's watch is out of order.
1. There has been error. His watch was wrong, after all. He did not take care to set it by the true standard. Men fail of success because they adopt wrong principles. They blame the Bible, the Church, the ministry; anything, anybody, everything, everybody, rather than self.
2. Our sincere belief that we are right will not save us. God has a certain fixed, and immutable, and holy law. If we follow his teachings we shall be safe; but if we follow our own notions He makes no provision for our faults; we are left to suffer.
3. There are favoured times for obtaining God's favour.
Scientific Illustrations.The currents of the sea are found to run in all directions, east, west, north, south, being formed by various causes — the prominence of the shores, the narrowness of the straits, the variations of the wind, and the inequalities at the bottom. These currents are of the most material consequence to the mariner, without a knowledge of which he could never succeed. It often happens that when a ship gets unknowingly into one of these everything seems to go forward with success, the mariners suppose themselves every hour approaching their wished-for port, the wind fills their sails, and the ship's prow seems to divide the water, but at last by miserable experience they find that instead of going forward they have been all the time receding. The business of currents, therefore, makes a considerable article in navigation, and the direction of their stream and their rapidity has been carefully set down.
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