Psalm 101:4
A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. The idea in the word "froward" is "twisted,", or "perverse." The idea in the word "wicked" is "wilful," "self-willed," "lawlessness." "What David, therefore, disclaims is the reckless self-will, acknowledging no law of right, which is the temptation of despotic royalty, and was hereafter the secret of his own great sin."

I. PIOUS SOULS SEE SELF-WILL AS THE ROOT OF SIN. Take man as the creature of God. Manifestly he is dependent on God. He has no independent rights, and no independent will. He has a free will within the necessary limits of the creature, but as that free will finds exercise, it can get no better standard than the sovereign and perfect will of the Creator. The supreme triumph of man's free will is his full, loving, hearty acceptance of the Divine will. Adam sinned when he put his self-will in opposition to God's will. Describe how you may the various forms that human iniquity can take (Galatians 5:19-21), the informing spirit of them all is self-pleasing, self-will. Therefore pious souls see clearly that their witness and work is not the mere cleansing of conduct, but the rooting out of the very fibres of self-will, which thread their souls as couch grass threads the fields, or cancers thread the body. Parents must deal with self-will in their children; kings must deal With self-will in their officials; Christians must deal with self-will in themselves and in the world.

II. PIOUS SOULS SEE SELF-WILL AS THE ONE THING TO RESIST. Many may be occupied with special forms of temptation, and with what they discover to be their "easily besetting sins." So they are occupied with the expressions of things rather than with the causes. Illustrate from the various treatment of skin diseases. That treatment alone is hopeful which deals with the fountain of mischief. But the psalmist is dealing with self-will in others rather than in himself. There is a self-reliance which is good, if kept within due bounds. It is the spring of enterprise; it is the spirit of the man who conquers circumstance. But it may easily become masterfulness, tyranny, pursuit of ends irrespective of means, and then pious souls feel repugnance, and may rightly show repugnance. The self-willed man is not a God-fearing man. - R.T.

I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way.
I. WHAT A COMPREHENSIVE RESOLUTION THIS IS! "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way."

1. With a full knowledge of all the care and circumspection it entailed on himself, add with as clear an apprehension of all the risks of popularity it involved among his subjects, this was David's deliberate choice. Influenced by the grace of God he, like his son Solomon after him, chose wisdom as the principal thing, and accounted the fear of the Lord as the choicest safeguard.

2. This deliberate choice of David was no doubt suggested by a sense of necessity. He felt that he needed to behave himself wisely. He was to be a king, and a foolish king is no ordinary fool. Oh, parents and heads of households, masters of factories, managers of business houses, and you, too, ye working men and servants, ye all need wisdom, and you must have it, or you will make shipwreck. If the fisherman's little boat be wrecked through mismanagement, it is as bad for him, especially if he be drowned in it, as if he had lost the greatest steamship that ever ploughed the waters, and perished with the vessel. It is his all; and your all is embarked in the momentous voyage of life. You need to behave yourselves wisely whatever your vocation in the world may be.

3. Moreover, David recognized that to behave oneself wisely one must be holy; for he says, "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way." He felt he could not be wise if he were unacquainted with the true ideal of absolute unblemished perfection; wisdom lay there. The wise man will keep along the king's highway, cost what it may. But you do not need to be a philosopher, and consult huge books, to discover how you ought to act under any circumstances. The way to act in every case is to fear God and keep His commandments.

II. But now the text is interrupted. There is a break; there is a piece inlaid, as it were, of a different metal. It is AN EJACULATION. "Oh, when wilt Thou come unto me?" Many inspired writers, without diverging from their train of thought, interline their purpose with a prayer. There is an old proverb that "kneeling never spoils silk stockings." Prayer to the preacher is like provender to the horse. It strengthens and cheers him to go forward. As the scribe halts to mend his pen, or the mower to whet his scythe, without loss of time, but rather with more facility to do his work; so you expedite instead of hindering your business by stopping in the middle of it to offer a word of prayer. So here it is written, "Oh, when wilt Thou come unto me?" It is a crying of his soul after Divine teaching, Divine direction, Divine assistance; nor less, I believe, is it a yearning after Divine fellowship. You know we never walk aright unless we walk with God. As I have said that holiness is wisdom, so let me say that communion is the mother of holiness. We must see God if we are to be like God. "Oh, when wilt Thou come unto me?" seems to me a question full of solicitude. Lord, it may be Thou wilt come on a sudden with a surprise, for Thou hast told me that in such an hour as I think not Thou wilt appear. Am I ready? Am I able to give in a satisfactory account as to what I have done as Thy servant, in my general walk and conversation? Come, let me press these thoughts upon myself, and then upon you. "I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way;" and well I may, since Thine eye is on me, O my God, and Thy day is coming when I must be put into the balances, and if I am found wanting, terrible must be my doom, for other eyes than mine shall search my heart, and other scales than I am able to use shall give the final test, and settle once for all my endless state. God grant you to order your lives by His grace. You cannot do so without the power of the Holy Spirit. Oh that whenever the Lord shall come you may meet Him with joy.

III. After a parenthesis of devotion, he returns with more intense earnestness to his resolution. IN A MOST PRACTICAL MANNER HE CONCENTRATES HIS AIM — "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." With his house or household in view, for which he felt a deep responsibility and a yearning anxiety, he applies himself with a delicate consideration to the state of his own heart. "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." A very wise thing. If any man were to say to you, "I mean to be a good husband, a good father," — if any woman shall say, "I mean to be a good mistress," or "a good servant," that will not do, unless you understand that the heart must first of all be altered. If the heart be right, other things will surely follow in their place. Now, the heart, if we are to walk rightly, must show itself in the house. "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." The heart must be perfect, and then we must show our heart in our actions. Oh, a house is all the better for having a heart inside it, and a man is a man, and he is more like God when there is a heart inside his ribs. When he gets home the children feel that father has got a heart, and as they climb his knees and smother him with kisses, and when he greets his dear relatives, especially those that are part and parcel of himself, he has got s soul that goes beyond his own little self, and is enlarged and inspires the whole of the family. Oh, give me heart, and that is what David meant when he said he would behave himself wisely. But when he was in his own house he would walk with a perfect heart. He would be hearty in everything he did and said. Well, now, the next thing is that the conduct at home must be well regulated. "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." The Christian man at home should be scrupulous in all departments within his house. We may have different rooms there, but in whatever room we are we should seek to walk before God with a perfect heart.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Of the wisdom or prudence which is necessary to guide and support virtue, I purpose to treat in this discourse. I shall adventure to propose some practical rules for that purpose; which may be of service to persons who, with good dispositions and intentions, are beginning the career of life; and which may, perhaps, deserve attention from persons in every period of age. — I begin by observing —

I. THAT IT IS MOST NECESSARY TO LAY DOWN PRINCIPLES ON WHICH WE ARE TO FORM OUR GENERAL CONDUCT. If we set out without principles of any kind, there can be no regular plan of life, nor any firmness in conduct. No person can know where they are to find us; nor on what behaviour of ours they are to depend. If the principles which we pitch upon for determining our course be of a variable nature; such, for instance, as popular opinion, reputation, or worldly interest; as these are often shifting and changing, they can impart no steadiness or consistency to conduct. The only sure principles we can lay down for regulating our conduct, must be founded on the Christian religion, taken in its whole compass; not confined to the exercises of devotion, nor to the mere morality of social behaviour; bus extending to the whole direction of our conduct towards God and towards man. I proceed to advise —

II. THAT WE BEGIN WITH REFORMING WHATEVER HAS BEEN WRONG IN OUR FORMER BEHAVIOUR. This counsel is the more important, because too many, in their endeavours towards reformation, begin with attempting some of the highest virtues, or aspiring to the most sublime performances of devotion, while they suffer their former accustomed evil habits to remain just as they were. This, I apprehend, is beginning at the wrong end. We must first, as the prophet has exhorted, put away the evil of our doings from before God's eyes; we must cease to do evil, before we learn to do well.

III. WE MUST SHUT UP, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, THE AVENUES WHICH LEAD TO THE RETURN OF FORMER EVIL HABITS. Here is required that exercise of vigilance, self-distrust and self-denial which is so often recommended to us in Scripture. This wisdom requires farther —

IV. THAT CONSISTENCY AND UNIFORMITY BE PRESERVED IN CHARACTER; that not by pieces and corners only we study goodness, but that we carry one line of regular virtue through our whole conduct. Without this extensive regulation of behaviour, we can never hold on successfully in a perfect way. True virtue must form one complete and entire system. All its parts are connected; piety with morality, charity with justice, benevolence with temperance and fortitude. If any of these parts be wanting, the fabric becomes disjointed; the adverse parts of character correspond not to each other, nor form into one whole. It is only when we have respect unto all God's commandments, as the psalmist speaks, that we have reason not to be ashamed. At the same time, when I thus advise you to study entire and consistent virtue, and to guard strictly against small transgressions, let me warn you —

V. AGAINST UNNECESSARY AUSTERITY, AS FORMING ANY PART OF RELIGIOUS WISDOM. Too strict and scrupulous, indeed, we cannot be in our adherence to what is matter of clear duty. Every dictate of conscience is to be held sacred, and to be obeyed without reserve. But wisdom requires that we study to have conscience properly enlightened. We must distinguish with care the everlasting commandments of God, from the superstitious fancies and dictates of men. A manly steadiness of conduct is the object which we are always to keep in view; studying to unite gentleness of manners with firmness of principle, affable behaviour with untainted integrity.

VI. In order to walk wisely in a perfect way, IT IS OF IMPORTANCE THAT WE STUDY PROPRIETY IN OUR ACTIONS AND GENERAL BEHAVIOUR. In a great number of the duties of life, the manner of discharging them must vary, according to the different ages, characters, and fortunes of men. To suit our behaviour to each of these; to judge of the conduct which is most decent and becoming in our situation, is a material part of wisdom. In the scales by which we measure the propriety of our conduct, the opinion of the world must never be the preponderating weight. Let me recommend —

VII. THE OBSERVANCE OF ORDER AND REGULARITY IN THE WHOLE OF CONDUCT. Hurry and tumult, disorder and confusion, are both the characteristics of vice and the parents of it. Let your time be regularly distributed, and all your affairs be arranged with propriety, in method and train.

VIII. WE SHOULD GIVE ATTENTION TO ALL THE AUXILIARY MEANS WHICH RELIGION OFFERS FOR ASSISTING AND GUIDING US TO WALK WISELY IN A PERFECT WAY. These open a large field to the care of every good man. We must always remember, that virtue is not a plant which will spontaneously grow up and flourish in the human heart. The soil is far from being so favourable to it; many shoots of an adverse nature are ever springing up, and much preparation and culture are required for cherishing the good seed, and raising it to full maturity.

(Hugh Blair, D.D.)

The Bible is the one great authority on good manners. There are others, of course; but they are absolutely unnecessary, for all we need is here. In fact, this book is mostly about behaviour — how men have behaved and how they ought to behave under the varying conditions of human life. It is such a mistake to think that these things are externals, additions to a man — they are fundamentals. Good behaviour is a vital thing, it is from the heart. "I will behave myself." We have often been told to do it — perhaps that is one of the first things most of us remember being told. But necessary as the parent, the guardian, and the schoolmaster are to enforce obedience, to moral, and national, and religious law, it is best to take the matter into our own hands, assert our own responsibility, and say, "I will behave myself." Oneself is the person we ought to be most concerned with. And yet there are very many people who are so anxious about the behaviour of others — such careful guardians of other people's morals. How many wise and gratuitous critics there are! How many to point out the mote in their brother's eye l Reformation begins at home — "I will behave myself" — and to do that properly will take me all my time. The psalmist now tells us in what good behaviour consists. "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." The first thing, then, to be seen to is home-conduct. "Is he a Christian?" said one to a friend the other day; and the answer was, "I don't know, I haven't seen him at home." It was a wise reply; home is the best place to judge — there we have the evidence unmistakable. Home graces are best; and if a woman would have her name kept in sweet and everlasting remembrance, let her always be at her best at home; and if a man will win fame that will outlast the renown of all the world's battlefields, let him be a hero at home, a knight of the little round table in his own parlour, where those who love the best will clown him with a wreath that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. The psalm continues, "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes." That undoubtedly is an essential part of fine conduct. Even to look on sin is harmful; it blurs, while it dazzles the vision; it casts a film over the eyes. "I will not know a wicked person." Literally that seems a resolve too difficult to carry out. In business, shop, and office we often have to meet wicked persons, to do business with them, to work at their side. We have to know them — we cannot help ourselves. But we must not know more of them than we can help — we must not be friends with them. Acquaintances they may be, but never friends. "Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land that they may dwell with me." Whoever we cast our eyes upon does well with us in a very real sense. "I am a part of all that I have met." We cannot help being imitative, we reproduce what we see over and over again. So must we fix our eyes upon those who do good and are good, upon those whose atmosphere is purest and most reverent. But mark now that the psalmist has no sooner made this great resolve, than he realizes that the task is beyond him. It requires more wisdom and strength than he possesses. So in the midst of his resolution the prayer breaks from his heart, "O when wilt Thou come unto me?" For such behaviour as this the etiquette of high society is useless — it is the grace of God that we want; not more education, but more love — that love which "doth not behave itself unseemly." "O when wilt Thou come unto me?" That question is soon answered. When will a father run to his child in need? "When wilt Thou come?" Why, He is "not far from any one of us" — "closer than breathing and nearer than hands or feet." Our very feebleness and frailty make irresistible appeal to Him.

(W. A. L. Taylor, B.A.)

I will walk within my house with a perfect heart
That which strikes us first in this psalm is that the qualifications for continuing in the household of David are to he moral qualifications. He does not say that he will make choice of the clever, or of the strong, or of the brave to he companions of his life. He, for his part, will live with the good, the faithful in the land, the perfect in the way. That which shall disqualify men from living with him is not want of ability or want of distinction, but want of loyalty to goodness and to God: "A froward heart shall depart from me; I will not know a wicked person." David needed all the help he could get from courage and from talent in his difficult position; but he made up his mind to reserve his highest favours for goodness. And next we observe that the qualifications for membership in David's household are chiefly negative. He is more careful to say who shall not than who shall enjoy the privilege. The sins of unfaithfulness, the froward heart, the privy slanderer of his neighbour, the man of proud look and high stomach, the worker of deceit, the teller of lies — these were to have no access in the house of David in Jerusalem. It seems to be a low because it is a negative standard; but people would not say so who have at all tried to act upon a like principle. Let us be sure that we could do as much before we criticize him. What, then, is David's hope? He hopes that with the coming of the sacred ark of Jerusalem — in other words, that with a nearer contact with the presence of God — he will be able to effect a great change. The restored sense of a sacred presence among them, the active works of the ministers and the sanctuary, the pervading atmosphere of worship and of praise, where everything suggested what God expected of His people and what was due to God from each and from all — these things would, in time, make the reformation which David had at heart easy and natural. In Christendom the family is a different and it is a more beautiful thing than it was in David's time. It is a return to nature, to the order of life clearly traced in nature, and at the bidding of the Restorer of our race. He reminds us that "at the beginning God made man, male and female," and that "for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh." More than one French writer has expressed the admiration felt by his countrymen — felt, at least, in their more judicial moments — for the family life of the middle classes in England, and of the English poor throughout the country districts. It is, indeed, one of the choicest blessings which God has bestowed upon our country. But we must admit that family life in England is threatened not only by the standing enemies of its happiness and well-being, such as a preference of club society to that of wife and children on the part of men, of a husband's personal extravagance or inconsiderateness, or cruelty, or worse. In conclusion, two lessons would seem to be suggested by this psalm of King David. Observe the order and methods of David's proceeding. He began by improving himself. "Oh, let me have understanding in the way of godliness. I will walk within my house with the perfect heart." No man can hope to influence others for good who is not taking pains with himself. No man to whom eternity, sin, prayer, are not real, can hope to get others to think seriously about them. No man who is not endeavouring to rule his own temper, his own tongue, his own life by the law of Jesus Christ can hope to make that law a rule of the life of others, however much younger, however much less instructed they may be than himself. And next the improvement of the family can only be procured by religious as distinct from moral — merely moral influences. David does not expect to do much with the sinister elements of his motley household until the return of the sacred Ark to Jerusalem. There is one mark of the household in which God is known and loved, which is too often wanting in our day, I mean the practice of family prayer. Depend upon it, the worth of every practice of the kind can only be measured by its effect during a long period of time. Family prayers, though occupying only a few minutes, do make a great difference to any household at the end of a year.

(Canon Liddon.)

A house without a roof would be scarcely less a home, according to Bushnell, than "a family unsheltered by God's friendship." A pious wife with a prayerless husband is compared by Payson to a dove with a broken wing, trying to beat her upward way through storm and wind.

(E. P. Thwing.)

Some people in public act the philanthropist, but at home act the Nero with respect to their slippers and their gown. Audubon, the great ornithologist, with gun and pencil went through the forests of America to bring down and to sketch the beautiful birds, and after years of toil and exposure completed his manuscript and put it in a trunk in Philadelphia, and went off for a few days of recreation and rest, and came back and found that the rats had utterly destroyed the manuscript; but without any discomposure, and without any fret or bad temper, he again picked up his gun and pencil, and visited again all the great forests of America and reproduced his immortal work. And yet there are people with the ten thousandth part of that loss who are utterly irreconcilable; who, at the loss of a pencil or an article of raiment, will blow as long and loud and sharp as a north-east storm. Let us learn to show piety at home. If we have it not there, we have it not anywhere. If we have not genuine grace in the family circle, all our outward and public plausibility merely springs from the fear of the world, or from the slimy, putrid pool of our own selfishness. Home is a mighty test of character.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

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