Proverbs 20:28
Loving devotion and truth preserve a king; by these he maintains his throne.
The Truth of Life in Diverse AspectsE. Johnson Proverbs 20:24-30

Man may be said to be governed from above, from without, and also from within; by the power which is from heaven, by human society, and also by the forces which are resident in his own spiritual nature.

I. OUR SPIRITUAL NATURE. God created man in his own image; i.e. he created him a spirit. God is a spirit; so also is man, his offspring, his human child. Our spiritual nature is endowed with the faculties of perception, of memory, of imagination, of reason. These include - some would say that to these there has to be added - the power which is usually called conscience, the exercise of our spiritual faculties directed to all questions of morality. This moral judgment, or conscience, of ours:

1. Distinguishes between right and wrong. Decides what is good and what evil, what is just and what unjust, what is pure and what impure, what is true and what false, what is kind and what cruel, it is an inward light; it is" the candle of the Lord," etc.

2. Approves of the one and disapproves of the other.

3. Acts with such force that, on the one hand, there is a distinct satisfaction, and even joy; that, on the other hand, there is distinct dissatisfaction, and even pain, sometimes amounting to an intolerable agony. There is hardly any delight we can experience which is so worthy of ourselves as the children of God, as is that which fills our heart when we know that, regardless of our own interests and prospects, we have done the right thing; there is no wretchedness so unbearable as remorse, the stinging and smarting of soul when our conscience rebukes us for some sad transgression.

4. Is a profoundly penetrating power. It "searches all the inward parts" of the soul; it considers not only what is on the surface, but what is far beneath. It deals with thoughts, with feelings, with purposes and desires, with the motives which move us, and with the spirit that animates us.

II. THE INJURY OUR NATURE SUFFERS FROM OUR SIN. He that sinneth against Divine wisdom, and therefore against the Divine One, does indeed "wrong his own soul." Every wrong action tends to weaken the authority of conscience, and, after a while, it disturbs its judgment, so that its decision is not as true and straight as it was. This is the saddest aspect of the consequence of sin. When the inward light, the candle of the Lord, begins to grow dim, and ultimately becomes darkened, then the soul is confused and the path of life is lost. If our eye is evil, our whole body is full of darkness; if the light that is in us be darkness, how great must the darkness be (Matthew 6:23)! When that which should be directing us into the truth and wisdom of heaven is misleading us, and is positively directing us to folly and wrong, we are far on the road to spiritual rain. We have to mourn the fact that this is no rare occurrence; that sin does so confuse and blind our souls that men do very frequently fall into the moral condition in which they "call evil good, and good evil." The light that is in them is darkness.

III. OUR RESTORATION THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. Jesus Christ offers himself to us as the Divine Physician; he says to us, "Wilt thou be made whole?" And he who so graciously and mightily healed the bodies heals also the souls of men. He does so by recalling our affection to God our Father, by setting our heart right. Then loving him, we love his Word, his truth; we study and we copy the life of our Lord. And as the heart is renewed and the life is changed, the judgment also is restored; we see all things in another light; we "see light in God's light." The candle of the Lord is rekindled, the lamp is trimmed; it gives a new light to all that are in the house - to all the faculties that are in the house of our nature. Let us yield ourselves to Christ our Lord, let us study his truth and his life, and our conscience will become more and more true in its decisions, and in its peaceful light we shall walk "all the day long," truly happy in heart, enjoying the constant favour of "the Father of lights." - C.

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.
The spirit of man is the breath of the Creator. The breath kindled intelligence in the brain, and infused vitality into the heart. It did more than that. It made man a moral being, capable of virtue, and responsible for his actions. The vitalizing breath of the Lord kindled a light in man — here called "the candle of the Lord." By that candle man sees his own inner nature, witnesses the process of his own mind, and observes the motions of his affections and will. Conscience has a place of pre-eminent importance in our nature.

1. Scientific men give one definition of conscience, while popular usage sanctions another materially different. In every-day usage the word is used to indicate the whole moral nature of man. When a man resists temptation he says, "My conscience will not let me do it." Conscience includes three things: the perception of right or wrong; the judgment of a particular action as being right or wrong; the feeling of pleasure or remorse which follows right or wrong action. The Bible usage of the word is the same as our ordinary usage in every-day speech. In Scripture usage, conscience includes the perception, the judgment, and the feeling. Conscience is not an Old Testament term. And, singularly enough, the word was never used in the teaching of the Lord Jesus.

2. Paul's most frequent word for the function of conscience is the figurative word "witness." Conscience is a witness testifying in the soul. A witness is one who testifies, one who tells clearly what he knows of a matter. To what facts or truths does conscience bear testimony. It testifies to the existence of a fundamental distinction between right and wrong. It testifies that right ought to be done, and that wrong ought not to be done. It convicts a man when wrong has been done. Its witness becomes a check on man's doings.

(Jesse T. Whitley.)

The text is an account of the soul, or spiritual part in man. The spirit of man is the lamp of Jehovah, i.e., its operations and manner of performing them are similar to those of a lamp, and it is supported in them by Jehovah spiritually, as a lamp is in nature physically. In a lamp are four things.

1. A vessel.

2. A substance capable of being illuminated.

3. Necessity for kindling it.

4. Constant recruits of oil to supply it and keep it burning. These particulars are as spiritually true in the soul of man.

I. THE SOUL HAS A VESSEL IN WHICH IT IS ENCLOSED AND CONTAINED. The body is the vessel of this lamp of Jehovah.

II. THE SOUL, THOUGH CAPABLE OF RECEIVING ILLUMINATION FROM GOD, IS IN ITSELF ABSOLUTELY DARK. When, by that grand and original sin at the fall, the light that was in us became darkness, how great was that darkness! By the fall this most glorious excellency and perfection of our nature, spiritual discernment by faith, was lost, and we became like the beasts.

III. CHRIST WAS SENT TO KINDLE A LIGHT IN THE SOUL. "A light to lighten the Gentiles." "The true light that lighteth (the lamp of) every one coming into the world." When the light of Jehovah is lighted in the soul of man, and not overwhelmed by sensuality, it conquers and triumphs over the natural darkness that is in us. When the Divine light is the agent in the soul, the moment it meets with any darkness to impede and obstruct its operations it at once recoils, and by that means admonishes us of it; after which it never rests till it has either expelled it or conformed it to itself.

IV. SPIRITUAL OIL IS NECESSARY TO KEEP THE LIGHT ALIVE IN OUR HEARTS. The Holy Spirit is the Divine oil that must feed and nourish our lamps. Inferences for our direction in faith and practice:

1. If the body is a vessel to contain the heavenly lamp, how few are seeking to "possess this vessel in sanctification and honour."

2. If the soul be dark by nature, what becomes of that idol of the deists, the "light of nature"?

3. If Christ be the only person that can lighten our darkness, to Him let every man go.

4. Let us not make the fatal mistake of setting out to meet the Bridegroom, without taking oil in our vessels, with our lamps.

(Bp. Horne.)

Able to shine; constructed to shine; but not alight until it has been lighted — the candle of the Lord. Man's spirit is part of us, and able to produce flame when it has been touched with flame. It is a special capacity we have for feeling, appreciating, and responding to Divine things. Sound affects the ear; light the eye; the spirit is the nerve of religious sensation. Man is a bundle of adaptations. The religious sense is the faculty which all men have, in varying degree, of appreciating religious and Divine things. We could not be holy without the instinct, but the instinct does not insure our being holy. There is in this no difference between the religious instinct and other of our instincts. The religious sense forms part of each man's original outfit. It gives the teacher and preacher something with which to start. The facility with which children can be approached in religious matters shows that religion is a matter of instinct before it is a matter of education. This inborn religious sense is an easy argument for the existence of God. The possession of this religious instinct puts us upon the track of a very simple and practical duty. Whether we become holy or not will depend mostly upon how we treat that instinct, and upon whether we repress and smother it, or give it free chance of unfolding. It rests with us to take some sturdy measures to bring out this religious consciousness into greater force and fuller glow.

(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

When God had completed the house of the soul, He furnished it most liberally with glorious lights. The intellect is one of the bright lights placed in the soul's house to cheer and guide men in this life. The light of the human mind is invaluable. Man is scarcely a man without its illuminating flame. Then there is the guiding light of conscience. And there is the spiritual light which characterises all mankind, that leads humanity everywhere to worship God.

I. MAN IS A GREAT BEING. It is said alone of man, "In the image of God created He him." This singles out man as the greatest being on earth. Every earnest, intelligent, and devout man is in some degree conscious of an inherent greatness. Conscious personality is a unique power. In the moral realm every man is a sovereign who conceives plans and executes purposes of high significance and far-reaching consequences. Man's conscious personality survives the shock of death. Man is the son of God. The sons of God are partakers of the Divine nature. This raises them to a plane that is at an infinite distance from the creatures next to them in the scale of existence. Really true greatness consists in likeness to God. A good man is one of the greatest works of God.


1. The intellectual light of man is from God.

2. The light of conscience is from God. It is a pure, clear flame, that reveals to us the character of our thoughts and purposes before they become actions.

3. The spiritual light in man is from God. Savage and civilised, the world over, worship some god. The lamp that lights all men who come into the world, and leads them to worship, is doubtless of God's kindling. In worship, the soul pays its filial homage to God.

III. MAN HAS BEEN ILLUMINATED FOR A DIVINE PURPOSE. God created all things for His own glory. Men of great intellectual powers are placed by God in the midst of the world's moral darkness, that by their superior light they might scatter the mental night of their fellows. Great intellects possess a tremendous power for good or evil. "Man is like the candle lighted by the Spirit of God, radiating the glory of God's nature, and itself glorified by the Divine fire. But some men are unlighted candles."

(D. Rhys Jenkins.)

Victor Hugo says: "In every human heart there is a light kindled and, close by, a strong wind which seeks to extinguish it; this light is conscience, this wind is superstition. Conscience is the child of God; superstition, the child of the devil. Conscience loves and rejoices in the light; superstition hates the light of mind and spirit, because its deeds are evil."

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