A man's own folly subverts his way, yet his heart rages against the LORD.
I. GOD'S RIGHTEOUS WAY. The way in which God intended man to walk was that way of wisdom, all of whose paths are peace. This divinely appointed way is that of holy service. Man, like every other being above him, and every other creature below him in the universe, was created to serve. We were created to serve our God and out kind; and in this double service we should find our rest and our heritage. This, which is God's way, should have been our way also.
II. MAN'S PERVERTED WAY. Man, in his sin and his folly, has "perverted his way;" he has attempted another path, a short cut to happiness and success. He has turned out of the high road of holy service into the by-path of selfishness; he has sought his satisfaction and his portion in following his own will, in giving himself up to worldly ambitions, in indulging in unholy pleasure, in living for mere enjoyment, in making himself the master, and his own good the end and aim of his life.
III. HIS CONSEQUENT DISQUIETUDE. When anything is in its wrong place, there is certain to be unrest. If in the mechanism of the human body, or in the machinery of an engine, or in the working of some organization, anything (or anyone) is misplaced, disorder and disquietude invariably ensue. And when man puts his will above or against that of his Divine Creator, that of his heavenly Father, there is a displacement and reversal such as may well bring about disturbance. And it does. It is hardly saying too much to say that all the violence, disease, strife, misery, poverty, death, we see around us arise from this disastrous perversion - from man trying to turn God's way of blessedness into his own way. Man's method has been utterly wrong and mistaken, and the penalty of his folly is heartache, wretchedness, ruin.
IV. HIS VAIN AND GUILTY COMPLAINT. He "fretteth against the Lord." Instead of smiting himself, he complains of God. He falls to see that the source of his unrest is in his own heart; he ascribes it to his circumstances, and he imputes these to his Creator. So, either secretly or openly, he complains of God; he thinks, and perhaps says, that God has dealt hardly with him, has denied to him what he has given to others; in the dark depths of his soul is a guilty rebelliousness.
V. THE ONE WAY OF REST. This is to return unto the Lord in free and full submission.
1. To recognize God's righteous claim upon us, as our Creator, Preserver, Redeemer.
2. To acknowledge to ourselves and to confess to him that we have guiltily withheld ourselves from him, and sinfully complained of his holy will.
3. To ask his mercy in Jesus Christ our Saviour, and offer our hearts to himself and our lives to his service. This is the one way of rest and joy; it is "the path of life." - C.
I. CONSIDER THE EXTERNAL CONDITION OF MAN. He is placed in a world where he has by no means the disposal of the events that happen. Calamities befall us, which are directly the Divine dealing. But a multitude of evils beset us which are due to our own negligences or imprudences. Men seek to ascribe their disappointments to any cause rather than to their own misconduct, and when they can devise no other cause they lay them to the charge of Providence. They are doubly unjust towards God. When we look abroad we see more proofs of the truth of this assertion. We see great societies of men torn in pieces by intestine dissensions, tumults, and civil commotions. But did man control his passions, and form his conduct according to the dictates of wisdom, humanity, and virtue, the earth would no longer be desolated by wars and cruelties.
I. ILLUSTRATE THE PROVERB.
foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord.
I. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE ON WHICH MEN ACT IN THIS CASE IS RIGHT AND JUST. When they fret against the Lord they suppose that there is a God, and that He observes and interests Himself in the affairs of His creatures; and that it is a considerable part of His providential government to try, exercise, and promote the virtues of His rational creatures by the discipline of affliction.
II. THE CONCLUSION THEY DRAW IS GENERALLY WRONG, AND THEIR CHARGE UPON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD GROUNDLESS AND UNJUST.
1. It is often the case with regard to men's health. Many complain that God denies them the health and spirits which He has given to others. But health very largely, and very directly, depends on men's management of themselves, by indulgence, fretfulness, inactivity, too close application to business, etc.
2. With regard to their circumstances in life. We see men impoverished and reduced to straits and difficulties. They complain that God brings them into straits, and embarrasses their circumstances. But most persons are really in straits through their own negligence, carelessness, or extravagance. Many are ruined in this world by an indolent temper. Cardinal de Retz used to say that "misfortune was only another word for imprudence."
3. With regard to their relations in life. How many unhappy marriages there are! But they are almost always the consequence of foolish and wilful choices. Many complain that their children are idle, disobedient, and undutiful. But this is generally the result of parental inefficiency in training or in example.
4. With regard to men's minds and their religious concerns. Many who make a profession of religion are uneasy and fretful, without any external cause; but this is usually owing to their own negligence or self-willedness.
III. THE FOLLY AND WICKEDNESS OF SUCH CONDUCT. It is very absurd, for in most of these cases they have no one to blame but themselves. It likewise proceeds from ignorance of themselves. Fretfulness only tends to aggravate our afflictions and to hurt our minds. It may provoke God to bring upon us some heavier affliction. Application:
1. How much prudence, caution, and foresight are necessary for those who are setting out in life!
2. What a great and mischievous evil pride is!
3. Inquire to what your afflictions are owing.
4. Guard against the great sin of fretting against the Lord.
1. As regards health.
2. As regards worldly substance.
3. As regards the vexations of domestic life.
4. From the state of the mind.
5. From the world in which we reside.
II. INSTRUCTIONS DERIVABLE FROM THE PROVERB.
1. It instructs us with regard to sin.
2. It shows the inefficacy of mere suffering to bring a man to a proper state of thinking and feeling.
3. The disposition of the mind under sanctified affliction.
4. The reality of a moral providence.
5. Learn to look to God for His grace and guidance.
II. CONSIDER THE INTERNAL STATE OF MAN. So far as this inward disquietude arises from the stings of conscience and the horrors of guilt, there can be no doubt of its being self-created misery, which it is impossible to impute to Heaven. But how much poison man himself infuses into the most prosperous conditions by peevishness and restlessness, by impatience and low spirits, etc. Unattainable objects pursued, intemperate passions nourished, vicious pleasures and desires indulged, God and God's holy laws forgotten — these are the great scourges of the world; the great causes of the life of man being so embroiled and unhappy.
1. Let us be taught to look upon sin as the source of all our miseries.
2. The reality of a Divine government exercised over the world.
3. The injustice of our charging Providence with a promiscuous and unequal distribution of its favours among the good and the bad.
4. The necessity of looking up to God for direction and aid in the conduct of life. Let us hold fast the persuasion of these fundamental truths — that, in all His dispensations, God is just and good; that the cause of all the troubles we suffer is in ourselves, not in Him; that virtue is the surest guide to a happy life; and that he who forsakes this guide enters upon the path of death.
(H. Blair, D. D.)
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
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