Blessed is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.
I. THE CONCEALMENT OF SIN. (Ver. 13.) It is like a worm in the bud, preying upon the check and upon the heart. The deepest way of such concealment is when the sinner persuades himself that "he has no sin," apologizing to himself, giving a false colour to his wrong. The sense of a dualism in our being unreconciled will not admit of peace and rest.
II. THE CONFESSION AND RENUNCIATION OF SIN. To admit the truth about ourselves, neither extenuating nor exaggerating our sin and fault; to allow the detecting and discriminating light of God's judgment to fall clear and full on the conscience; - this is what confession requires. But it must be completed by renunciation; otherwise it is mockery. To say -
"We're sorry and repent, And then go on from day to day, Just as we always went" - in the words of the child's hymn - is mere sentimentality and weakness. But never are these conditions fulfilled without a sense of the Divine pity striking into the heart. God is faithful and just to forgive our sins; and the conscience is assured that III. THE TENDER CONSCIENCE. (Ver. 14.) It is well with him whose heart is in the constant habit of reverential dependence upon God. His law for human conduct envelops all life from the greatest to the minutest matters. It is the atmosphere of the soul that we need to keep pure; it is the fellowship with the Spirit who is holiness that we need most jealously to guard. IV. THE HARDENING OF THE HEART. (Ver. 14.) Making light of sin leads to its repetition; repetition indurates the conscience. Disregard of the delicacies of the soul leads surely to a benumbed, and presently to a lost, sensibility. It is better to feel too keenly than not to feel at all; better the weak conscience than no conscience at all. He who presumes upon the mercy of God will have to reckon with his justice. - J.
III. THE TENDER CONSCIENCE. (Ver. 14.) It is well with him whose heart is in the constant habit of reverential dependence upon God. His law for human conduct envelops all life from the greatest to the minutest matters. It is the atmosphere of the soul that we need to keep pure; it is the fellowship with the Spirit who is holiness that we need most jealously to guard.
IV. THE HARDENING OF THE HEART. (Ver. 14.) Making light of sin leads to its repetition; repetition indurates the conscience. Disregard of the delicacies of the soul leads surely to a benumbed, and presently to a lost, sensibility. It is better to feel too keenly than not to feel at all; better the weak conscience than no conscience at all. He who presumes upon the mercy of God will have to reckon with his justice. - J.
Happy is the man that feareth always.
I. WHAT IS THE FEAR THAT MEN OUGHT TO MAINTAIN ALWAY? It is a fear of God for Himself, and a fear of other things for God, or in reference to Him. We ought to entertain —
1. A filial and reverential fear of God. Slavish fear will never make a man happy. Slavish fear is mixed with hatred of God; filial fear with love to Him.
2. We must entertain a fear of jealousy over ourselves.
3. A fear of caution and circumspection. This makes a man walk warily.
II. SOME THINGS IN RELATION TO WHICH WE SHOULD ENTERTAIN THIS HOLY FEAR.
1. With respect to himself. Happy is the man who keeps a jealous eye over himself. Be jealous over your principles, your hearts, your tongues, and your senses.
2. With respect to our lusts and corruptions. He is happy who can say he fears nothing so much as sin. Fear the sin of your nature; sins by which you have been formerly led astray. These forsaken lovers will again make suit to you, and will get in upon you, if you grow secure. Fear little sins. There is no sin really little, but many most dangerous ones that are little in man's esteem.
3. With respect to our graces. Grace is a gift to be stirred up. It is in hazard of decay, though not of death. The way to keep the treasure is to fear.
4. With respect to our duties. The whole worship and service of God is called fear; so necessary is our fear in approaching Him.
5. With respect to our attainments. They are in hazard of being lost.
III. THE NECESSARY QUALIFICATION OF THIS DUTY. "Alway." This fear must be our habitual and constant work. This fear should season all we do, and be with us at all times, cases, conditions, places, and companies. Because —
1. We have always the enemy within our walls. While a body of sin remains within us, temptations will always be presenting themselves.
2. Because there are snares for us in all places and in all circumstances. There are snares in our lawful enjoyments; snares at home, in the field, waking, and at table. Many ditches are in our way, and many of these are so concealed that we may fall completely into them before we are aware. At all times we are beset.
IV. THE ADVANTAGE ATTENDING THIS DUTY. "Happy." For —
1. This prevents much sin, and advanceth holiness of heart and life. He that fears to offend God is most likely to keep His way.
2. It prevents strokes from the Lord's hand. Where sin dines judgment will sup. Holy fear prevents falls.
3. This fear carries the soul out of itself to the Lord Jesus Christ, the fountain of light, life, and strength. Improvement:
(1) (2) (3) (T. Boston, D.D.)
(2) (3) (T. Boston, D.D.)
(3) (T. Boston, D.D.)
(T. Boston, D.D.)
I. THE ACTION. "Feareth." It is evangelical fear, for only the gospel can bring it. It is three-faced. The first outlook of it is towards God. The fear of God is not that turbulent tornado of terror that tears up and destroys; it is the gentle fall of the summer rain on the thirsty soil; it is the soft dew-descent of the Holy Ghost; it is the fear of God for himself. It is the holy hush in His almighty presence, the calm instinct of regeneration that gives sympathetic dignity to the soul. It is the "strength of the Lord." Another outlook of this fear is towards yourself. Your worst enemy is your next-door neighbour, and on his gate is your own name. He is yourself. To draw illustration from mining, your heart is full of inflammable gas. Sin fills every chink, and it is all ready for the tempting flame. Another outlook of this fear is towards your surroundings. Look up, look in, but also look round. The world is an intertwined network of devildom. Take care, beware!
II. THE TIME FOR THIS ACTION. The longest day has a nightfall. In this activity of the soul no swinging bell heralds a release; without a break or gap the night-shift succeeds to day, and the day-shift to night, and the same worker is in both. "Happy is the man that feareth alway." At all times, in all circumstances, in all companies, you are in danger of going to the bottom. Alway fearing is alway safe.
III. THE CONSEQUENCE OF IT. "Happy is the man." Because for time and eternity he is ready. It is never waste of wind or time to keep to the path, even though it wind and wind like an eternal corkscrew. He is happy because this fear saves him from the fear of man. That fear ever bringeth a snare. The Christian filled with the gospel fear of God is happy, too, because it empties the soul. You and I are unblessed to-day because we are too full.
(George Lawson, D.D.)
(H. G. Salter.)
But he that hardeneth his heart shall fan into mischief
I. WHAT HE IS TO FEAR, WHOSE FEAR WILL MAKE. HIM HAPPY. The primary object of fear is sin. The dread of sin produces the dread of temptation. The continual recurrence of temptation and the imbecility of nature make many doubtful of the possibility of salvation. In fear many have fled from possibilities of temptation into deserts and monasteries. But this is not the worthy way of meeting fear. And in cloisters men do not escape from themselves. True fear is a constant sense of the Divine presence, and dread of the Divine displeasure. True fear inspires prayer.
II. WHAT IS MEANT BY HARDNESS OF HEART. Hardness of heart is a thoughtless neglect of the Divine law: such an acquiescence in the pleasures of sense, and such delight in the pride of life, as leaves no place in the mind for meditation on higher things. To such men Providence is seldom wholly inattentive. They are often called to the remembrance of their Creator, both by blessings and afflictions; by recoveries from sickness, by deliverances from danger, by loss of friends, and by miscarriage of transactions. As these calls are neglected, the hardness is increased, and there is danger lest He whom they have refused to hear should call them no more. This state of dereliction is the highest degree of misery.
III. HOW, OR BY WHAT CAUSES, THE HEART IS HARDENED. The most dangerous hardness proceeds from some enormous wickedness, of which the criminal dreads the recollection, and finding a temporal ease in negligence and forgetfulness, by degrees confirms himself in stubborn impenitence. A less dangerous hardness consists, not in the perversion of the will, but in the alienation of the thoughts: by such hearts God is not defied; He is only forgotten. Of this forgetfulness the general causes are worldly cares and sensual pleasures. Such men are usually either stupidly or profanely negligent of these external duties of religion, which are instituted to excite and preserve the fear of God. A great part of them whose hearts are thus hardened may justly impute that insensibility to the violation of the Sabbath. Many enjoyments, innocent in themselves, may become dangerous by too much frequency. Whatever tends to diminish the fear of God, or abate the tenderness of conscience, must be diligently avoided.
IV. THE CONSEQUENCE OF HARDNESS OF HEART. "Shall fall into mischief" — both into wickedness and misery. He that hardeneth his heart shall surely become both wicked and miserable.
(S. Johnson, LL.D.)
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