If you cease to hear instruction, my son, you will stray from the words of knowledge.
I. ENSURE OUR SAFETY. So that we shall not be visited with evil. But is not the good man visited with evil? Do not his crops fail, his vessels sink, his shares fall, his difficulties gather, his children die? Does not his health decline, his hope depart, his life lessen? Yes; but:
1. From the worst evils his piety secures him. The "fear of the Lord," that Holy One before whom he stands and with whom he walks, keeps him from folly, from fraud, from vice, from moral contamination, from that "death in life" which is the thing to be dreaded and avoided.
2. And the troubles and sorrows which do assail him lose all their bitterness as they wear the aspect of a heavenly Father's discipline, who, in all that he sends or suffers, is seeking the truest and the lasting well being of his children. The man who is living in the fear of God, and in the love of Jesus Christ, may go on his homeward way with no anxiety in his heart, for he has the promise of his Saviour that all things shall work together for good - those things that are the least pleasant as well as those that are the most inviting.
II. SATISFY OUR SOUL. "Shall abide satisfied." Certainly it is only the man of real piety of whom this word can be used. Discontent is the mark which "the world and the things which are in the world" leave on the countenance and write on the heart of man. Nothing that is less than the Divine gives rest to the human spirit. Mirth, enjoyment, temporary happiness, may be commanded, but not abiding satisfaction. That, however, is found in the devoted service of a Divine Redeemer. Let a man yield himself, his whole powers and all his life, to the Saviour who 1oved him unto death, and in following and serving him he will "find rest unto his soul." Not half-hearted but whole-hearted service brings the joy which no accident can remove and which time does not efface or even lessen. The secret of lifelong blessedness is found, not in the assertion of an impossible freedom from obligation, but in an open, practicable, elevating service of the living God, our Divine Saviour.
III. CONSTITUTE OUR LIFE AND CONDUCT TO A STILL HIGHER FORM OF IT. "The fear of the Lord tendeth to life." It is not merely that a regard for God's will conduces to health and leads to long life (Psalm 91:16); it is not only that it tends to secure to its possessor an honourable and estimable life among men. It is much more than this; it is that it constitutes human life. "This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God." For man to live in ignorance or in forgetfulness of his Divine Father is to miss or to lose his life while he has it (or seems to have it). On the other hand, to live a life of reverence, of trustfulness in God, of love to him, of filial obedience and submission, of cheerful and devoted cooperation with him in the great redemptive work he is outworking, to be attaining more and more to his own spiritual likeness, - this is life itself, life in its excellency, its fulness, its beauty. Moreover, it itself, with all its worth, is but the prelude of that which is to come. It is the "fair beginning" of that which shall realize a glorious consummation a little further on. With all that hinders and hampers taken away, and with all that facilitates and enlarges bestowed upon us, we enter upon the nobler life beyond, which we have no language to describe because we have no faculty that can conceive its blessedness or its glory.
1. Let the perils of human life point to a Divine Refuge.
2. Let the weariness of earthly good lend to the Divine Source of rest and joy.
3. In the midst of the deathfulness of sin, lay hold on eternal life. - C.
i.e., essential errors. The popular pretence that men must hear both sides is an insidious attack on the Bible, a covered insinuation that the Bible is insufficient to enlighten. Every one should early settle his belief in the leading doctrines of the gospel. Why need such an one expose himself to the infection of error. Men are naturally so averse to the truth that it is infinitely dangerous for those not fully confirmed in it to expose themselves to the contagion of error. They ought not to presume so much on their own stability. Men cannot parley with error and be safe. And if the man himself is safe, he ought to consider the injury he may do to others by encouraging the promulgation of dangerous errors. The encouragement of erroneous teachers and books is conspiring against God. Popularly it is said that truth will recommend itself to every man's conscience, and none can be injured by seeing it compared with error. In answer, it may be said —
Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.
I. THE SEVERAL TEMPTATIONS WHICH MEN LIE UNDER TO LISTEN TO SUCH INSTRUCTORS. It is one step toward security to see the dangers we are exposed to. Since the fears and apprehensions of guilt are such strong motives to infidelity, the innocence of the heart is absolutely necessary to preserve the freedom of the mind. In the most unhappy circumstances of sin and guilt, religion opens to us a much safer and more certain retreat than infidelity can possibly afford. Vice is not the only root from which infidelity springs. Reason itself is betrayed by the vanity of our hearts, and sinks under the pride and affectation of knowledge. All kinds of laudable ambition grow to be vicious and despicable when, instead of pursuing the real good which is their true object, they seek only to make a show of an appearance of it. Thus it is that ambition for virtue produces hypocrisy; ambition for courage, boastings and unreasonable resentments; ambition for learning and knowledge, pedantry and paradoxes. Another sort of temptation is a kind of false shame, which often, in young people especially, prevails over the fear of God and the sense of religion. When religion suffers under the hard names of ignorance and superstition, they grow ashamed of their profession, and by degrees harden into denying God.
II. THE DANGER THAT LIES IN LISTENING TO THESE INSTRUCTORS. Here only speak to such as have not yet made shipwreck of reason and conscience. It is an unpardonable folly and inexcusable perverseness for men to forsake religion out of vanity and ostentation; as if irreligion were a mark of honour and a noble distinction from the rest of mankind. We must answer for the vanity of our reasoning as well as for the vanity of our actions. If the punishments of another life be, what we have too much reason to fear they will be, what words can then express the folly of sin? Consider, therefore, with yourselves, that when you judge of religion, something more depends upon your choice than the credit of your judgment or the opinion of the world. Religion is so serious a thing as to deserve your coolest thoughts, and it is not fit to be determined in your hours of gaiety and leisure, or in the accidental conversation of public places. Trust yourself with yourself; retreat from the influence of dissolute companions, and take the advice of the psalmist, "Commune with your own heart."
(T. Sherlock, D. D.)
1. This is founded on a principle which men would not admit in any other case.
2. The objection would be less deceptive if in matters of religion men were more inclined to truth than to error.
3. The retailers of false doctrine do not state things candidly.
4. The antidote to error does not always go along with the error itself.
5. Facts speak decisively against the encouragement of false books and teachers, under the pretence mentioned in the objection.Apply —
1. To those who profess to be the friends of God and established in the truth. Do not encourage the promulgation of known errors.
2. To such as are not established in religious opinions. Get established without delay. Error in every form is couching to make you his prey. Beware of an indiscreet desire to read every new book and to hear every new preacher.
(E. D. Griffin, D. D.)
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