Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. MILDNESS AND VIOLENCE. (Ver. 1.) The soft answer is like the water which quenches, and the bitter retort, the "grievous words," like the oil which increases the conflagration of wrath. As scriptural examples of the former, may be mentioned Jacob with Esau (Genesis 32, 33), Aaron with Moses (Leviticus 10:16-20), the Reubenites with their brethren (Joshua 22:15-34), Gideon with the men of Ephraim (Judges 8:1-3), David with Saul (1 Samuel 24:9-21), Abigail with David (1 Samuel 25:23-32). And of the latter, Jephthah (Judges 12:1-6), Saul (1 Samuel 20:30-31), Nabal (1 Samuel 25:10-13), Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:12-15), Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39).
II. THE ATTRACTIVENESS OF WISE SPEECH AND THE REPULSIVENESS OF FOOLISH TALK. (Ver. 2.) If this verse be more correctly rendered, it means that the tongue of the wise makes knowledge lovely, while the mouth of the fool foams with folly. The speech of the former is apt to time and place - coherent - and wins upon the listener. The latter is unseasonable, confused, nonsensical, repellent. Notice the tact of St. Paul's addresses (Acts 17:22, 23; Acts 26:27-29), and what he says about foolish babbling in 2 Timothy 2:16-18; Titus 1:10.
III. MODERATION AND EXTRAVAGANCE. (Ver. 4.) A calm and measured tone should be cultivated, as well as a pure and peaceful heart; these mutually react upon one another. The extravagant, immoderate, licentious tongue is "like a blustering wind among the boughs of the trees, rushing and tearing the life and spirit of a man's self and others" (Bishop Hail). Beware of exaggeration.
IV. SPEECH A DIFFUSIVE INFLUENCE. (Ver. 7.) The lips of the wise scatter seeds of good around them; not so with the heart and lips of the fool. "They trade only with the trash of the world, not with the commerce of substantial knowledge." The preaching of the gospel is compared to the scattering of good seed, and evil activity is the sowing of tares in the world field (Matthew 13:24, etc.). - J.
I. THE FACT WHICH CONFRONTS US; viz. that in this life which we are living we must expect a large measure of misunderstanding. "It is impossible but that offences will come." With all our various and complex relationships; with all that we are expecting and requiring of one another in thought, word, and deed; with the limitations to which we are subject both in mind and in spirit; - how could it be otherwise? A certain considerable measure of mistake, and of consequent vexation, and of consequent anger, will arise, as we play our part in this world. Occasions will arise when our neighbours, when our friends, when our near relatives, will speak to us with displeasure in their hearts, and with annoyance, if not anger, in their tone. This we must lay our account with.
II. THE TEMPTATION WHICH ASSAILS US. This is to a resentment which utters itself in "grievous words." Anger provokes anger and makes it angrier still; vexation grows rote positive bitterness, and bitterness ends in miserable strife. Thus the "little fire" will "kindle a great matter;" thus a spark becomes a flame, and sometimes a flame becomes a fire and even a conflagration, Many a feud may be traced back to the utterance of a few hasty words, which might have been met and quieted by a pacific answer, if they had fallen on patient and wise ears.
III. THE BEARING WHICH BECOMES US. To return "the soft answer." It does become us, because:
1. This is the true victory over our own spirit (see homily on Proverbs 16:32).
2. It is also the worthiest victory over the man who provokes us. We "turn away wrath;" and how much nobler a thing it is to win by kindness than to crush by severity!
3. It is to render an essential service to many beside the actual spokesman. When one man starts a quarrel, a great many suffer on both sides. And when one man quenches a quarrel, he saves many from misery (and perhaps from sin) into which they would otherwise fall (see Judges 8:1-3).
4. It is to act in accordance with the will and the example of our Lord. - C.
I. GOD IS A SPIRIT. We cannot exhaust the sublimity, the awfulness, the comfort, the meaning, in this thought.
II. GOD SEES ALL AND KNOWS ALL. Both the good and the evil. In looking upon evil deeds which pass unchastised in appearance, we are ready to exclaim, "And yet God has never spoken a word!" But God has seen, and will requite.
III. HENCE LET US POSSESS OUR SOULS IN PATIENCE. Commit them unto him in well doing, and wait for the "end of the Lord." He knows, among other things, the need of his children, and bethinks him of helping and delivering them. - J.
I. IT IS ABSOLUTELY UNIVERSAL. The eyes of the Lord are "in every place." There is no secret place, however screened from the sight of man, which is not "naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (see Psalm 139; Jeremiah 23:24; Hebrews 4:13).
II. IT IS CONSTANT. Absolutely unintermitted, day and night; through youth and age; in prosperity end in adversity; under all imaginable conditions.
III. IT IS THOROUGH. Penetrating to the innermost sanctuary of the soul, searching its most secret places, "discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart;" discovering
(1) beneath the fair exterior that which is foul within;
(2) beneath the rugged surface the inward beauty which is breaking forth.
IV. IT IS TO BE FEARED BY THE REBELLIOUS AND THE DISOBEDIENT.
1. Those who are living and are purposing to live in the commission of some flagrant sin.
2. Those who are deliberately rejecting the authority and disregarding the merciful overtures of God in Jesus Christ.
3. And also those who are continually postponing the hour of decision and of return to their allegiance. These souls may fear to think that the eye of the Holy One is continually upon them; or they may be ashamed as they think that the eye of the appealing and disappointed Saviour is regarding them.
V. IT IS TO BE COURTED BY THE TRUE AND FAITHFUL.
1. The hearts that are turning toward a Divine Redeemer may be encouraged to believe that his glance of kind encouragement is upon them (see Mark 10:21).
3. The hearts that, in his holy service, are honestly and earnestly striving to follow and to honour him and to do his work may be glad with a pure, well founded joy as they count on his precious regard, his loving approval. To these it will be a perpetual delight that the "eyes of the Lord are in every place," beholding every human heart and. every human life. - C.
Job 11:12), recalcitrant, stubborn; while he who early shows a willingness to listen to good advice has the germ of prudence, the prophecy of a safe career.
I. A MURMURING TEMPER, A RELUCTANCE TO SUBMIT TO NECESSITY AND THE COURSE OF LIFE, IS IN REALITY A CONTEMPT OF GOD.
II. SUBMISSION TO THE INEVITABLE, COMPLIANCE TO THE LAWS OF LIVING, IS DOCILITY TO GOD. - J.
I. A MAN MAY RE POOR, YET POSSESS ALL THINGS. (2 Corinthians 6:10.) Deus meus, et omnia!
II. A MAN MAY BE RICH, YET DESTITUTE, POOR, BLIND, AND MISERABLE. If we are not satisfied, we are not rich. If we are content, we are never poor.
III. GOD IS THE TRUE AND ONLY GAIN OF THE SOUL. We have a nature which will be satisfied with nothing short of the Infinite. To attempt to feed it with anything less is found to be a cheat and a self-delusion. - J.
I. THE SACRIFICE OF THE WICKED. (Ver. 8.) It is not the man's works which make him good, but the justified man - the man made right with God - produces good works, and these, though imperfect, are well pleasing to God. The lack of heart sincerity must stamp every sacrifice, as that of Cain, as an abomination.
II. THE PRAYER OF THE GOOD MAN. Symbolized by fragrant incense, sweet to him are pious thoughts, wishes for the best, charitable aspirations, all that in the finite heart aims at the Infinite.
III. THE WAY OF THE WICKED. A prayerless life is a godless, and hence a corrupt life. It is a meaningless life, and God will not tolerate what is insignificant in his vast significant world.
IV. THE PURSUIT OF GOOD. He who hunts after righteousness, literally, is loved of God. We learn the necessity of patience, constancy, diligence in well doing. In no other way can genuineness and thoroughness be shown. - J.
I. GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE WICKED.
1. Their whole life is grievous to him. "The way of the wicked is an abomination," etc. And this, not because they hold some erroneous opinions, nor because they make many serious mistakes, nor because they are betrayed into occasional transgressions; but because they determinately withhold themselves from his service; because they claim and exercise the right to dispose of their own life according to their own will; because they deliberately disregard the will of God. They are thus in a state of fixed rebellion against his rule, of settled disavowal of his claims upon them, of consequent neglect of his holy Law. Therefore their entire course or "way" is one of disobedience and disloyalty; it must be painful, grievous, even "abominable" in the sight of the Holy One.
2. Their worship is wholly unacceptable to him. If we "regard iniquity is our heart, the Lord will not hear us" (Psalm 50:16-22; Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15). God "desireth truth in the inward parts;" he cannot and will not accept as of any value whatever the offering that comes from a heart in a state of determined disloyalty to himself and hatred of his law.
3. Their worship is positively offensive. It is "an abomination" unto him. And it is so, because:
(1) It is an act of conscious rejection of his claim; the worshipper is taking his Name and his Law upon his lips, and at the very time he is consciously keeping back from God what he knows is his due.
(2) It is an act of positive insult, inasmuch as it supposes that God will be indifferent to the wrong things the worshipper is doing, that he will take a few words or offerings instead of purity, truthfulness, integrity, submission.
II. GOD'S PLEASURE WITH THE RIGHTEOUS.
1. Who they are.
(1) They are not the absolutely perfect in creed or conduct; for these are not to be discovered.
(2) They are those who recognize in God the One whose they are and to whom they desire and intend to surrender their hearts and lives. It may be, it must be, an imperfect sacrifice; but it will be a genuine and therefore an acceptable one.
2. With what, in them, God is well pleased.
(1) With the whole spirit and aim of their life. "They follow after righteousness;" they have set their heart on being just, - to God their Creator; to their neighbours, and especially those closely related to them; to themselves. And their daily and hourly life will be an honest and devout endeavour to realize their aim (see Philippians 1:20; Philippians 3:12-15). It is they who truly desire and steadfastly endeavour, against whatever obstacles and with whatever stumblings and haltings, to be right and to do right, with whom God is pleased.
(2) With their devotion. The prayer of these "upright" souls is God's "delight." He is pleased when they reverently approach him, when they humbly confess their failures, when they gratefully bless him for his patience, when they earnestly ask him for strength and grace for coming duties and. struggles. - C.
I. IT IS NEVER CAUSELESS.
II. THE CONNECTION OF CAUSE AND EFFECT IS OFTEN MYSTERIOUS. Hence we should be slow to trace the judgment of God upon sinners.
III. SOME SINS THAT FORETELL JUDGMENT.
1. Desertion of duty; forsaking of God's ways; travelling in paths we know to be crooked or unclean.
2. Indifference to rebuke. For even in error, if we will heed the timely warning and correct the discovered fault, judgment may be averted. If not, there is no way of avoiding the law of doom. The soul that sinneth shall and "must die." - J.
I. THE HEART A PROFOUND MYSTERY. We speculate about the mysteries of the world without us, as if these were the great secrets, forgetful what an abyss of wonder is within.
II. THIS MYSTERY MAY BE COMPARED TO THAT OF HADES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE DEVIL.
1. It is equally profound.
2. It is equally fascinating.
3. It is equally hidden from our knowledge.
Peruse our greatest masters of the human heart - a Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne - we have still not touched the bottom.
III. THE MYSTERY OF ALL WORLDS IS KNOWN TO GOD, THE INTERNAL NO LESS THAN THE EXTERNAL.
1. This is a thought of awe.
2. Still more it should be of comfort.
My God, thou knowest all, all that fain would hide itself from others, even from myself - and yet "hast stooped to ask of me the love of this poor heart"! - J.
I. THE DIFFICULTY SUGGESTED. It is not unnatural to ask - Does God in very deed take notice of such beings as we are? does he condescend to watch the workings of our mind? are the flitting thoughts that cross our brain, the fugitive feelings that pass through our weak human hearts, within the range of his observation? Is that worth his while? Are they not beyond the pale of his Divine regard?
II. THE ARGUMENT FROM SECRECY. If "Sheol" is before the Lord, if that region of darkness were "the light (itself) is as darkness," if the place of mystery and shadow is within his Divine regard, how much more are those who are living in the light of day, on whom the sunshine falls, who live their life openly beneath the heavens! The writer evidently felt that there was nothing so particularly hidden or secret about the mind of man. And we may well argue that there is nothing inscrutably hidden within our hearts; for do we not read, continually and correctly, the minds of our children? We know what they think and feel. And if their minds are open to us, how much more must our minds - the minds of the children of men - be "naked and open" to our heavenly Father! If our superior intelligence supplies us with the key to their secrets, what does not Omniscience know of us, even of those thoughts and motives we are most anxious to conceal?
III. THE ARGUMENT FROM UNATTRACTIVENESS. "Abaddon [destruction] is before the Lord." That which has no manner of interest in itself, that from which Benevolence would willingly turn its eyes, that which is repelling to the sight of love and life, - that even is before God; he never ceases to regard a scene so utterly uninviting. How much more, then, will he regard the hearts of his own offspring! There is nothing beneath the skies so interesting to him. What has the most charm to us in our home? Surely not any furniture or any treasures, however rare, or costly, or beautiful these may be. It is our children; it is their hearts of love for which we care. It is to them that we come home in joyful expectation. It is on them our eye rests with benignity and delight. So with our Divine Father. He does look on all the furniture of this wonderful home in which we dwell (Psalm 104:31); he ever has before him the sphere and scene of destruction; but that which draws his eye of tender interest and kindly pity and holy love is the heart of his sons and daughters. We are poor and needy, but we are all his offspring, and "the Lord thinketh upon us."
1. With what parental grief does he look upon
(1) our separation from himself in sympathy;
(2) our unlikeness to himself in spirit and in character;
(3) our disobedience to his will!
2. With what parental satisfaction does he view
(1) our return to his side and his service;
(2) our increasing likeness to our Leader and Exemplar;
(3) our filial obedience and submission to his will! - C.
I. DISLIKE OF CRITICISM. (Ver. 12.) Often seen in those who are most critical themselves. The jiber is easily galled by a telling retort. The satirical man least loves satire upon himself. But one of the lessons we learn from truly great minds is that of willingness to turn a jest against one's self, and to find positive pleasure in a criticism of one's own character that hits the mark, provided it be good natured. But with ill nature no one can be pleased. Most necessary it is for the health of the soul to be often with those who know more than we do.
II. THE APPEARANCE THE MIRROR OF THE MAN. The placid, serene, smiling, winning visage reflects the soul; and so with the downcast brow and dejected mien. It may surprise us that so commonplace an observation should be thought worth recording; but there was a time when such flashed upon man as a new discovery. Perhaps it may be a discovery to many that they may do much by assuming a cheerful manner to regulate and calm the heart.
III. BUT APPEARANCES ARE NOTHING WITHOUT REALITY. (Ver. 14.) To be truly wise is not to know a great deal, but to be always on the track and pursuit of knowledge; and to be utterly foolish it is only necessary to give the reins to vanity, to yield to idleness, to follow every passing pleasure. The countenance of the fool is expressive of what? Of the want of impressions, of vacancy and vanity.
IV. THE FOLLY OF GLOOM AND THE WISDOM OF CHEERFULNESS. (Ver. 15.) In what sense can we ever say that our days are evil, except that we have made them so? And how more readily can we make them so than by yielding to the dark and gloomy mood, and ever looking on the dark side of things? The side of things on which we see the reflection of our narrow selves is ever dark; that on which we see God's attributes mirrored - the beauty of his nature, the wisdom of his providence - is bright and inspiring. It is, indeed, a feast to the soul to have found God; for thought, for feeling, forevery practical need, he is present, he alone "shall supply all our need." Our Lord thus speaks of his body and his blood, of which to eat is life. - J.
I. THAT THERE SOMETIMES RESTS A LONG AND DEEP SHADOW ON THE PATH OF HUMAN LIFE.
1. Sometimes a long one. "All the days of the afflicted are evil." They are not a few who have to make up their minds for many months or years of separation or pain, or even for a lifelong trouble. They know that they will carry their burden to the grave.
2. Sometimes a deep one. "By sorrow of heart the spirit is broken." The burden is greater than the spirit can bear, it breaks beneath it; the heart is simply overwhelmed; all hope has died out, all gladness is gone from the life, all light from the countenance, all elasticity from the step; the hear; is fairly broken.
II. THAT FAVOURABLE CIRCUMSTANCES CANNOT COMMAND SATISFACTION TO THE SPIRIT.
1. Wealth will not do it. Great treasure often means great trouble (ver. 16); shares and stocks often bring as much burden as blessing with them; he who piles gold on his counter may be heaping anxiety upon his heart.
2. Sumptuous fare will fail (ver. 17). All the delicacies that can be spread upon the fable will not give enjoyment to him that has a restless spirit, or a secret that he knows he cannot hide, or a debt he knows he cannot meet, or a bounden duty he knows he has neglected.
III. THAT HAPPINESS MUST BE HEART DEEP, OR IT IS NOTHING. (Ver. 13.) If it is not the merry heart that produces the cheerful countenance, the smile can very well be spared, both by him who smiles and by those who are in his presence. Few things are sadder to hear then hollow laughter, or to see than a forced and weary smile.
IV. THAT A CHEERFUL SPIRIT IS A VALUABLE BESTOWMENT. (Ver. 15.) Better than the large estate or the high position, or the influential circle, is the buoyant spirit which
"Ever with a frolic welcome lakes The thunder and the sunshine." V. THAT A LOVING SPIRIT IS A STILL GREATER GIFT OF GOD. "Where love is," there is peace and there is joy, however mean the home or slight the fare. He who carries with him to every table and every hearth a loving spirit is a friend of God's own sending; he is "the welcome guest;" he has a treasure in his breast which no coffers will supply. VI. THAT PIETY IS THE ALL-COMPENSATING GOOD. 1. It makes the poor man rich - "rich in faith," "rich toward God," rich with a wealth which "no thief can steal." 2. It brings comfort to the sorrowful, and introduces that Divine Physician who can bind up the broken heart, and heal its wounds. 3. It speaks of a heavenly portion to those who have no hope of deliverance here; there may be "affliction all the days" of life (ver. 15), but "the righteous hath hope in his death" (Proverbs 14:32). Blessed, then, is he in whose heart is "the fear of the Lord." - C.
V. THAT A LOVING SPIRIT IS A STILL GREATER GIFT OF GOD. "Where love is," there is peace and there is joy, however mean the home or slight the fare. He who carries with him to every table and every hearth a loving spirit is a friend of God's own sending; he is "the welcome guest;" he has a treasure in his breast which no coffers will supply.
VI. THAT PIETY IS THE ALL-COMPENSATING GOOD.
1. It makes the poor man rich - "rich in faith," "rich toward God," rich with a wealth which "no thief can steal."
2. It brings comfort to the sorrowful, and introduces that Divine Physician who can bind up the broken heart, and heal its wounds.
3. It speaks of a heavenly portion to those who have no hope of deliverance here; there may be "affliction all the days" of life (ver. 15), but "the righteous hath hope in his death" (Proverbs 14:32). Blessed, then, is he in whose heart is "the fear of the Lord." - C.
I. POVERTY WITH PIETY, OR RICHES WITH DISCONTENT. Which shall we choose? Naturally all, or nearly all, will prefer to take riches with its risks rather than poverty with its certain privations. Our Bible is precious because it reminds us that there is another side in this matter. Riches are too dearly gained at the expense of peace of conscience; poverty is blessed if it brings us nearer to God.
II. SCANTY FARE WITH RICH SPIRITUAL SEASONING, OR RICH FARE WITH A POOR HEART. Which? For ourselves and our personal comfort? For others and the hospitality we should like to dispense to them? For ourselves, high thinking with tow living; for others, slight fare with large welcome will make a true feast. - J.
I. HASTE OF TEMPER AND LONG SUFFERING. (Ver. 18.) Quarrelsomeness, irritable words (would that we could recall them!), a thousand stabs and wounds to the heart of our friend and to our own, the result of the former. For the latter, read the exquisite descriptions of the New Testament wherever the word "long suffering" occurs, and see the matchless beauty, and learn to covet the possession of that character - the impress of God in human nature - and those best gifts which belong to "the more excellent way."
II. IDLENESS AND HONESTY. (Ver. 19.) The way of the former beset with difficulty. Lazy people take the most trouble, in the affairs of the soul as in everything. The honest path is the only easy path in the long run. We must remember that it is a long run we have to pass over, and must make our choice accordingly. Life is no mere picnic or excursion. For amusement of the leisure hour we may strike into a by-path, but never lose sight of the high road of faith.
III. PARENTAL JOY AND SORROW. (Ver. 20.) On the whole, these are one of the best indices of a man's character. A truly good parent may not understand his child, as Mary misunderstood Jesus; but at the bottom of the heart, when there is filial goodness there is parental sympathy and approval.
IV. SPURIOUS JOY AND QUIET PERSISTENCE IN RIGHT. (Ver. 21.) This is a good contrast. The fool is not content with saying or doing the foolish thing; he must needs chuckle over it and make a boast of it, often gaining applause for his mere audacity. But the man of true sense is content to forego the momentary triumph, and goes on his way. Ever to forsake the way we know to be right, even in momentary hilarity, brings its after sting.
V. FAILURE AND SUCCESS IN COUNSELS. (Ver. 22.) Wild tumultuous passion causes the former; and calm deliberation, the comparison and collision of many minds, brings about sound and stable policy. To lean upon one's own weak will, to act in haste or under impulse, how seldom can a prosperous issue come of this! See how individuals rush into lawsuits, nations into war, speculators into bankruptcy, - all for want of consultation and good advice. We need the impetus of enthusiasm, not less the direction of cool prudence; if one or the other factor be omitted, disaster must ensue.
VI. SEASONABLE WORDS. (Ver. 23.) We must consider not only the matter, but the manner, of our utterances. This requires "a mind at leisure from itself" to seize the happy opportunity, to refrain from introducing the jarring note, to turn the conversation when it threatens to strike on breakers. Oh, happy art! admirable and enviable in those that possess it, but cultivable by all who have the gentle heart. We cannot conceive that the conversations of Christ were ever other than thus seasonable. - J.
I. TEACHINGS OF COMMON SENSE.
1. To avoid danger and death. (Ver. 24.) This is obvious enough, but, unguided by religion, prudence may easily make mistakes.
2. To avoid unjust gains. (Ver. 27.) Every advantage must be paid for, in some coin or other. Then, "is the game worth the candle?" Will a dishonest speculation, looked at on mere commercial principles, pay?
3. To be cautious in speech. (Ver. 28.) Speech is the one thing that many think they have a right to squander. There is no more common profligacy than that of the tongue. Yet, is there anything of which experience teaches us to be more economical than the expense of the tongue?
4. To be generous of kind looks and words. (Ver. 30.) What can cost less, or be worth, in many cases, more? "Good words," says George Herbert, "are worth much, and cost little."
5. To be a good listener. (Ver. 31.) And this implies willingness to receive rebuke. All superior conversation in some way or other brings to light our ignorance and checks our narrowness. And just as he is not fit to govern who has not learned to serve, so only he who has long sat at the feet of the wise will be entitled himself to take his place among the wise. One of Socrates' disciples exclaimed that life indeed was to be found in listening to discourses like his. May we all feel the like in sitting at the feet of our Master, who commends those who have thus chosen the good part which shall never be taken away from them!
6. To avoid conceit and cultivate humility. (Ver. 32.) It is the overestimate of self which makes us contemptuous in any sense towards others. But to look down as from a superior height on others is the most mischievous hindrance to progress in sense and knowledge. A mastermind of our times says that he hates to be praised in the newspapers, and begins to have some hope for himself when people find fault with him.
7. To found humility upon religion. (Ver. 33.) Its only genuine and deep foundation. What are we in relation to the God whose perfection is revealed to us in nature, in the ideals of the soul, in the fulfilment of the living Person of Christ? From this depth only can we rise; for honour springs from a lowly root; and he that exalteth himself shall be abased.
II. TEACHINGS OF RELIGION. We have already seen how they blend with those of common sense. But let us bring them into their proper distinctiveness and force.
1. To choose the upward path and shun the downward. (Ver. 24.) To cleave to God; to love him with mind, and heart, and soul, and strength; to be ever seeking the Divine meaning in the earthly objects, the Divine goal through the course of common events, the true, the beautiful, and the good, in their ineffable blending and unity in God; - this is the upward way. To be striving after emancipation from self, in all the coarser and grosser, in all the more refined and subtle forms of lust and greed, - this is the avoidance of hell and of the downward way. "Seeking those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God," implies and demands "the mortification of the members which are upon the earth."
2. To consider the judgments of God. (Vers. 25, 27.) There was a period in the ancient world when men thought of Divine power as blind caprice, fortune, fate, destiny, setting down and raising up whomsoever it would by no fixed moral law. It was a great revelation and a magnificent discovery when men saw that there was a law in the events of life, and this law none other than the holy will of Jehovah. One of the principles of his judgment is here set forth. Godless pride is obnoxious to his disapproval, and incurs extinction at his hands. But he is Compassion, and the poor and friendless, especially the widow, are certain of his protection. It is as if a charmed circle were drawn around her humble dwelling, and a Divine hand kept the fire glowing on her hearth.
3. To consider the religious aspect of thoughts and words. (Ver. 26.) Words and thoughts are one, as the body and the soul. A great thinker, indeed, defined thought as talking to one's self - as all our words to others should, indeed, be as thought overheard. Thus we are thrown back on the heart, and the elementary maxims for its guidance in purity. Keep it with all diligence! But perhaps not less important is the reflex influence; for if bad words be scrupulously kept from the tongue, evil images will less readily arise in the heart.
4. To consider the conditions of access to God. (Ver. 29.) He is a moral Being, and must be approached in a moral character and a moral mood. To suppose that he can be flattered with empty compliments or gifts, as if he were a barbarous Monarch and not a just God, is essentially superstitious. He is the Hearer of prayer, but only of the just man's prayer. To the aspiration of the pious soul never fails the inspiration of the holy God. But of the bad heart it must ever be true, "The words fly up, the thoughts remain below." Thus to view all life's relations in God is both "the beginning of wisdom" and "the conclusion of the whole matter." - J.
I. GOD'S LOCAL AND EFFECTIVE NEARNESS TO THE WICKED AN AGGRAVATION OF THEIR GUILT. The fact that "in him they do live, and move, and have their being," that by his operative presence they are momently sustained in being, that by the working of his hand around and upon them they are supplied with all their comfort, and filled with all their joys, - this great fact makes more heinous the guilt of forgetfulness of God, of indifference to his will, of rebellion against his rule. But the truth of the text is -
II. GOD'S DISTANCE IN SYMPATHY AND IN SPIRIT FROM THE WICKED. God is far from the wicked in that:
1. He is utterly out of sympathy with them in all their thought and feeling, in their tastes and inclinations, in their likings and dislikings. He hates what they love; he is infinitely repelled from that which they are drawn to.
2. He regards them with a serious Divine displeasure. He is "angry with the wicked every day." His "soul finds no pleasure in them." He is grieved with them; in his holy add loving heart there is the pain of strong parental disapproval.
3. He is practically inaccessible to them. It is only he "that has clean hands and a pure heart" who is free to draw nigh unto God. "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination" unto him (see homily on ver. 8). God cannot hear us if we "regard iniquity in our hearts;" we virtually withdraw ourselves from him, we place a terrible spiritual distance between our Creator and ourselves, when we take up an attitude of disloyalty toward him, or when we abandon ourselves to any evil course. Yet let it be always kept in mind, that:
4. To the penitent and believing he is always near; in whatever far country the wayward son is living, he may address himself immediately to his heavenly Father.
III. GOD'S SYMPATHETIC NEARNESS TO HIS CHILDREN. "He heareth the prayer of the righteous." Those who are earnestly desirous of serving God, of following Jesus Christ, may be assured:
1. Of his actual and observant nearness to them when they approach him in prayer.
2. Of his tender and loving interest in them (Mark 10:21).
3. Of his acceptance of themselves when they offer their hearts and lives to him and his service.
4. Of his purpose to answer their various requests in such ways and times as he knows to be best for them. - C.