Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. SOME SPECIAL EVILS AND DANGERS.
1. Drunkenness. (Ver. 1.) The spirit or demon of wine is spoken of as a personal agent. It leads to frivolity, scoffing, profane and senseless mirth. To be drunk with wine, as St. Paul points out (Ephesians 5:18), is the opposite of being "filled with the Spirit" (see F.W. Robertson's sermon on this subject).
2. The wrath of kings. (Ver. 2) In those times of absolute rule, the king represented the uncontrollable arbitration of life and death. As in the case of Adonijah, he who provoked the king's wrath sinned against his own soul. What, then, must the wrath of the eternal Sovereign be (Psalm 90:11)? To invoke the Divine judgment is a suicidal act.
3. Contentiousness. (Ver. 3.) Quick-flaming anger is the mark of the shallow and foolish heart. The conquest of anger by Christian meekness is one of the chiefest of Christian graces, "Let it pass for a kind of sheepishness to be meek," says Archbishop Leighton; "it is a likeness to him that was as a sheep before his shearers."
4. Idleness. (Ver. 4.) The idle man is unseasonable in his repose, and equally unseasonable in his expectation. To know our time, our opportunity in worldly matters, our day of grace in the affairs of the soul, all depends on this (Romans 12:11; Ephesians 5:15-17).
II. THE SAFEGUARD OF PRUDENCE. (Ver. 5.) The idea is that, though the project which a man has formed may be difficult to fathom, the prudent man will bring the secret to light. "There is nothing hidden that shall not be made known."
1. Every department of life has its principles and laws.
2. These may be ascertained by observation and inquiry.
3. In some sense or other, all knowledge is power; and that is the best sort of knowledge which arms the mind with force against moral dangers, and places it in constant relation to good. - J.
I. FOUR DELUSIONS IN WHICH MEN INDULGE REGARDING IT.
1. That it is necessary to health. In ordinary conditions it has been proved to be wholly needless, if not positively injurious.
2. That it is reliable as a source of pleasure. It is a fact that the craving for intoxicants and anodynes continually increases, while the pleasure derived therefrom continually declines.
3. That it renders service in the time of heavy trial. Woe be unto him who tries to drown his sorrow in the intoxicating cup! He is giving up the true for the false, the elevating for the degrading, the life-bestowing for the death-dealing consolation.
4. That it is a feeble enemy that may be safely disregarded. Very many men and women come into the world with a constitution which makes any intoxicant a source of extreme peril to them; and many more find it to be a foe whose subtlety and strength require all their wisdom and power to master. An underestimate of the force of this temptation accounts for many a buried reputation, for many a lost spirit.
II. THE CONCLUSION OF THE WISE.
1. To avoid the use of it altogether, if possible; and thus to be quite safe from its sting.
2. To use it, when necessary, with the most rigorous carefulness (ch. 31:6; 1 Timothy 5:23).
3. To discourage those social usages in which much danger lies.
4. To act on the principle of Christian generosity (Romans 14:21). - C.
I. THE RARITY OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP. (Ver. 6.) Many are ready to promise, few willing to perform. Many eager to say, "Lord, Lord!" comparatively few to do the will of the Father in heaven. There is no want of good notions in the world; but, according to the Italian proverb, many are so good that they are good for nothing. The spirit may be willing, the flesh is weak. Inclination to good needs to be fortified by faith in God.
II. THE JUST AND GOOD MAN. (Ver. 7.) We cannot but feel that he is an ideal character. Poets and preachers have delighted to describe him, have surrounded him with a halo, depicted the safety and blessedness of his life. But how seldom does he appear on the actual scene! Our being is a struggle and a series of failures. The one thing needful is to have a lofty ideal before us, and never to despair of approaching a little nearer to it with every right effort.
III. THE IMPARTIAL JUDGE. (Ver. 8.) The earthly judge upon his seat reminds us of the mixed state of human nature - of the need of a process of sifting, trial, purification, ever going on. Judgment is an ever-present fact, a constant process. We are being tried, in a sense, every day, and "must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." Let us "labour that we may be accepted of him."
IV. THE CLEAN CONSCIENCE. (Ver. 9.) This pointed question silences our boasting, and checks the disposition to excuse ourselves. By unwise comparison with others we may seem to stand well; but in the light of his own mere standard of right and duty, who is not self-condemned? "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8, 9).
V. EQUITABLE CONDUCT. (Ver. 10.) How common are the tricks and evasions of trade! And there is something more in this than mere desire for gain. The general experience of the world is so strong against dishonesty, as seen in common proverbs, as "bad policy," that we must look to a deeper cause of its existence, viz. the perversity of man's heart.
VI. EARLY SYMPTOMS OF CHARACTER. (Ver. 11) Tendencies of evil and (never let us omit to acknowledge) tendencies of good are seen very early in children. The Germans have a quaint proverb, "What a thorn will become may easily be guessed." How much depends on Christian culture; for "as the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined." - J.
I. THE DOUBTFUL VALUE OF SELF-PRAISE. "Most men will proclaim," etc.
1. On the one hand, nothing is better than the approval of a man's own conscience. "Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo," says the Roman writer. Let a man have the commendation of his own conscience, and he can hear the hisses of the people with very little concern. It has been in this spirit that the very noblest things have been done by honourable and even heroic men.
2. On the other hand, there is a vast amount of self-congratulation amongst men which is nothing more or better than mere complacency. It is self-flattery, and that is not beautiful, but ugly; it is not true, but false. And such is the tendency in man to assure himself that he is right, even when he is thoroughly and lamentably wrong, that we have to wait and to inquire before we take men's word about themselves. Between the heroic spirit of a Luther, or a Columbus, or a Galileo, and the miserable self-satisfaction of some petty tyrant gloating over his tyranny, there is the entire breadth of the moral world. It is well for us all to be able to do without the honour that cometh from man only; it is well for us also to recognize the truth that our own commendation, so far teem being the voice of God within us, may be nothing but the very unsightly crust of a dangerous and even deadly complacency.
II. THE EXCELLENCY OF FAITHFULNESS. Solomon seemed to find fidelity a rare thing. "Who can find it?" he asked. With Christian truth sown in so many hearts, we do not feel the lack of it as he did. We thank God that in the home and the school, in the shop and the factory, in the pulpit and the press, in all spheres of honourable activity, we find instances of a solid and sound fidelity - men and women occupying their post and doing their work with a loyalty to those whom they serve, which is fair indeed in the sight both of heaven and of earth. There is abundance of unfaithfulness also, it has to be owned and lamented; and this is sometimes found where it is simply disgraceful - among those who wear the name of that Master and Exemplar who was "faithful in all his house." It is required of us, who are all stewards, that we be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2); and we must not only expect to give account to our brother here, but to the Divine Judge hereafter.
III. THE WORTH OF GUIDING PRINCIPLES. "A just man walketh in his integrity." What fairer sight is there beneath the sun? A just or upright man, a man who is
(1) yielding to God that which is due to his Creator and his Redeemer, viz. his heart and his life; who is
(2) giving to his neighbours what is due to them; and who is
(3) honouring himself as is his due; - this man is "walking" along the path of life in his integrity, every step directed by righteous principles and prompted by honourable impulses; his way is never crooked, but lies straight on; it is continuously upward, and moves to noble heights of virtue and wisdom and piety. Who would not be such as he is - a man God owns as his son, and the angels of God as their brother, and all his fellow men as their helper and their friend?
IV. THE CROWN OF HUMAN BLESSEDNESS. "His children are blessed after him." Then is a good man crowned with an honour and a joy which no diadem, nor rank, nor office, nor emolument, can confer, when his children are found "walking in the truth" of God, their affections centred in that Divine Friend who will lead them in the path of heavenly wisdom, their life governed by holy principles, themselves enriched and encircled by a holy and beautiful character, their influence felt on every hand for good - "a seed which the Lord hath blessed." - C.
I. THE UTTER UGLINESS OF IMPURITY. To the eye of holy men there is an unspeakable offensiveness in any form of impurity - selfishness, worldliness, covetousness, sensuality, whatever it may be. And how much more hideous and intolerable must it be in the eyes of the Holy One himself (Habakkuk 1:13; Psalm 5:5)! This is one explanation of choosing leprosy as a type and picture of sin, viz, its fearful loathsomeness in the sight of God.
III. THE ONE WAY OF RETURN. When the heart sees, and is ashamed of, its corruption, and returns in simple penitence to God, then there is mercy and admission. But sincere repentance is the only gateway by which impurity can find its way to the favour and the kingdom of God.
IV. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF INWARD PURITY. When the heart, conscious of guilt, has sought and found mercy of God in Jesus Christ, and is "cleansed of its iniquity," so that there is "a clean heart and a right spirit" before God, all is not yet done that has to be accomplished. What Christian man can say, "I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin"? "If we [who are in Christ Jesus] say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). "In many things we offend all" (James 3:2). We are washed, but we "need to wash our feet" (John 13:10). There yet lingers within the heart of the humble and the pure that which needs purification before they will be "holy as he [the Lord] is holy." What are these cleansing forces which will best do this much needed and most desirable work? Are they not:
1. The avoidance of that which defiles; the deliberate turning away of the eyes of the soul (so far as duty to others will allow) from all that stains and soils?
2. Much fellowship with Jesus Christ the Holy One, and much intercourse with his true friends and followers?
3. The earnest, determined pursuit of that which is noblest in man, especially by the study of the worthiest lives?
I. THE TRANSPARENCY OF CHILDHOOD. Some men are full of guile and of hypocrisy; they have acquired the power of concealing their real thought and feeling beneath their exterior, and you are never quite sure what they mean. You dare not trust them; for their words, or their demeanour, or their present action may entirely belie them. Not so the child. He means what he says. If he does not love you, he will not affect any liking for you. You will soon find from his behaviour what he thinks about men and things, about the studies in which he is occupied, about the service in which you want him to engage. And whether he is living a pure and faithful life, whether he is obedient and studious, or whether he is obstinate and idle, you will very soon discover if you try. It requires but very little penetration to read a child's spirit, to know a child's character. but the truth which is not so much on the surface respecting the knowledge we have of or from the child relates to -
II. THE PROPHECY OF CHILDHOOD. "Even a child" will give some idea of the man into whom he will one day grow. "The child is father to the man." In him are the germs of the nobility or the meanness, the courage or the cowardice, the generosity or the selfishness, the studiousness or the carelessness, the power or the weakness, that is to be witnessed later on. He that has eyes to see may read in the child before him the future - physical, mental, moral - that will be silently but certainly developed. Hence we may regard -
III. CHILDHOOD AS A STUDY. If men have found an insect, or a flower, or a seed, or a strum well worth their study, how much more is the little child! For, on the one hand, ignorant assumption may spoil a life. To conclude hastily, and therefore falsely, respecting the temper, the tastes, the capacities, the inclinations, the responsibilities, the cull)ability or praiseworthiness of the child, and to act accordingly, may lead down into error and unbelief and despair the spirit that might, by other means, have been led into the light of truth and the love of God. And, on the other hand, a conscientious and just conclusion on these most important characteristics of childhood may make a life, may save unimaginable misery, may result in an early, instead of a late, unfolding of power and beauty, may make all the difference in the history of a human soul. And only the Father of spirits can tell what that difference is. - C.
I. GOD THE SOURCE OF ALL GOOD.
1. Of all bodily good. The eye, the ear, with all their wondrous mechanism, with all their rich instrumentality of enjoyment, are from him.
2. Of all spiritual faculty and endowment, the analogues of the former, and "every good and perfect gift" (James 1:16). The new heart, the right mind, should, above all, be recognized as his gifts.
3. In domestic and in public life. Good counsels of Divine wisdom, and willing obedience of subjects to them, are the conditions of the weal of the state; and it may be that these are designed by the preacher under the figures of the eye and the ear.
II. VIRTUES INDISPENSABLE TO HAPPINESS.
1. Laborlousness. (Ver. 13) This is a command of God: "If any man will not work, neither let him eat;" for which the seeing eye and hearing ear are needed. Viewed in one light, of imagination, labour may appear as a curse; for it thwarts our natural indolence, our love of ease, and our sentimental views in general. But viewed in the light of actual experience, the law of labour is one of the divinest blessings of our life-constitution.
(1) Craft and trickiness exposed. (Vers. 14, 17.) Here the cunning tricks of trade are struck; in particular the arts of disparagement, by which the buyer unjustly cheapens the goods he desires to invest in. The peculiar manner in which trade is still conducted in the East, the absence of fixed prices, readily admits of this species of unfairness. But the rebuke is general.
(2) The deceptiveness of sinful pleasures. (Ver. 17.) There is, no doubt, a certain pleasure in dishonesty, otherwise it would not be so commonly practised in the very teeth of self-interest. There is a peculiar delight in the exercise of skill which outwits others. But this is only while the conscience sleeps. When it awakes, unrest and trouble begin. The stolen gold burns in the pocket; the Dead Sea fruits turn to ashes on the lips.
3. Sense and prudence. (Vers. 15, 16, 18.)
(1) Sense is compared to the most precious things. What in the affairs of life is comparable to judgment? Yet compared only to be contrasted. As the common saying runs, "There is nothing so uncommon as common sense." The taste for material objects of price may be termed universal and vulgar; that for spiritual qualities is select and refined
(3) Prudence in war. There are justifiable wars; but even these may be carried on with folly, reckless disregard of human life, etc. "The beginning, middle, and end, O Lord, turn to the best account!" was the prayer of a prudent and pious general.
4. Reserve with the tongue, or caution against flatterers. (Ver. 19.) The verse may be taken in both these senses. In all thoughtless gossip about others there is something of the malicious and slanderous spirit; there is danger in it. As to the listener, rather let him listen to those who point out his faults than to those who flatter. - J.
us is Divine." The human ear and eye are -
I. INSTANCES OF DIVINE SKILL AND POWER. That we should be able, by means of this small apparatus included in "the ear," to detect such a variety of notes, to distinguish sounds from one another so readily, through so many years, to perceive the faintest whisper in the trees, and to enjoy the roll of the reverberating thunder; that we should be able, by means of two small globes in our face, to see things as minute as a bad or a dewdrop and as mighty as a mountain or as the "great wide sea," to detect that which is dangerous and to gaze with delight and even rapture on the beauties and glories of the world; - this is a very striking instance of the wonderful skill and power of our Creator.
II. EVIDENCES OF DIVINE GOODNESS. For what sources of knowledge, of power, of pure gladness of heart, of mental and moral cultivation and growth, has not God given to us in sculpturing for us "the hearing ear," in fashioning for us "the seeing eye "?
III. SUGGESTIVE OF THE DIVINE KNOWLEDGE. "He that planted the ear, shall he Dot hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?" (Psalm 94:9). The wonderful Worker who has supplied us, his finite and feeble creatures, with such power of hearing and of vision, with such sources of knowledge, - how great, how perfect, how boundless, must be his own Divine perception! How certainly must he hear the whisper we would fain make inaudible to him! how inevitably must he see the action we would gladly hide from his searching sight! How absolute must God's knowledge be, both of our outward life and of the inner workings of our soul!
IV. OPPORTUNITY FOR DIVINE SERVICE. For here are the means we want of learning of God, of knowing, that we may do, his holy will. Our eye not only conveys to us the sight of the beautiful, the richly stored, the glorious world that God has made for us, but it enables us to rend "the book he has written for our learning," wherein we can find all that we need to know of his nature, his character, and his will. And our ear not only conveys to us the melodies of the outer world, but it places within the reach of our spirit the Divine truths which are uttered in our presence. These, as they come from the lips of parent, or teacher, or pastor, can "make us wise unto salvation," can fill our hearts with holy purpose, with true and pure emotion, with abiding peace. And we may add that the speaking lips are also that which "the Lord hath made;" and what an opportunity these give us of uttering his truth, of helping his children, of furthering his cause and kingdom! Such excellent service can our bodily organs render to our immortal spirit; and so may they be impressed into the holier service of their Divine Author. - C.
I. HATRED TO PARENTS. (Ver. 20.)
1. It is unnatural beyond most vices, like hating the hand that lifts food to the mouth.
2. It is disobedience to a primary Divine command.
3. It incurs the Divine curse and the darkest doom.
II. THE VICE OF GRASPING. (Ver. 21.) It springs from excessive, irregular, disordered desire, and generally from an ill-led life. We must wait upon God's order; must distinguish the necessary from the superfluous and the luxurious, and seek no enterprises that lie out of our proper vocation; if we would arm ourselves against this unholy temptation, and avoid the curse which attends compliance with it. For ill-gotten wealth can never prosper.
III. THE REVENGEFUL SPIRIT. (Ver. 22.) It costs more to avenge injuries than to endure them. "He that studieth revenge keepeth his wounds open." Let us recall the lessons of the sermon on the mount, and if there is any one who has aroused our dislike, pray for him (not in public, but in the privacy of the heart).
IV. IN EQUITY, WHETHER IN COMMERCE OR IN GENERAL RELATIONS. (Ver. 23; see ver. 10.) What is shameful when detected is no less hideous in the sight of Gun, though concealed from men. - J.
I. WE MUST EXPECT TO BE WRONGED, OR TO BELIEVE OURSELVES WRONGED, AS WE GO ON OUR WAY. So conflicting are our interests, so various our views, so many are the occasions when an event or a remark will wear an entirely different aspect according to the point of view from which it is regarded, that it is utterly unlikely, morally impossible, that we should not be often placed in a position in which we seem to he wronged. It may be some sentence spoken, or some action taken, or some purpose settled upon, slight or serious, incidental or malevolent, but we may take it that it is one part of the portion and burden of our life.
II. BITTER RESENTMENT IS DISTINCTLY DISALLOWED. It is natural, it is human enough. As man has become under the reign of sin, it finds a place in his heart if not in his creed, everywhere. It seems to be right. It has one element that is right - the element of indignation. But this is only one part of the feeling, and by no means the chief part. A bitter animosity, engendered by the thought that something has been done against us, is the main ingredient. And this is positively disallowed. "Shy not, I will recompense evil;" "It hath been said,... hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies... do good to them that hate you;.... Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath;" "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger... be put away from you, with all malice" (Matthew 5:43, 44; Romans 12:19; Ephesians 4:31).
III. WE HAVE AN ADMIRABLE ALTERNATIVE. We can "wait on the Lord," and he will "save us." We can:
1. Go to God in prayer; take our wounded spirit to him; cast our burden upon him; seek and find a holy calm in communion with him.
2. Commit our cause unto him; be like unto our Leader, "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). We shall thus ask God to save us from ourselves, from indulging thoughts and feelings toward our neighbour winch shame rather than honour us, which separate us in spirit from our great Exemplar (1 Peter 2:21); and to save us from those who would injure us, working for us, in his own way and time, our deliverance and recovery.
IV. WE WIN THE TRUE VICTORY. To be avenged on our enemy is a victory of a certain kind; the moment of success is a moment of triumph, of exultation. But:
1. That is a victory which is greatly and sadly qualified. When we regard the matter disinterestedly and dispassionately, can we really envy such triumph? Should we like to have in our heart the feelings which are surging and swelling in the breast of the victor - feelings of bitter hatred, and of positive delight in a brother's humiliation, or suffering, or loss?
2. The victory of forgiveness is pre-eminently Christian. It places us by the side of our gracious Lord himself (Luke 23:34), and of the best and worthiest of his disciples (Acts 7:60; 2 Timothy 4:16).
3. It gives to us a distinct spiritual resemblance to our heavenly -Father himself. (Matthew 5:45.) - C.
I. DIVINE PROVIDENCE. (Ver. 24.) It is needful, for human wisdom is shortsighted, and human direction inadequate. It is a gracious fact, and, if acknowledged, brings blessing to the trustful mind and heart. Each man has a life vocation. God appoints it, and will reveal the means for the attainment of it. We cannot enter the kingdom except through the guidance of Christ.
II. HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY. (Ver. 27.) There is a light within us, or conscience in the most comprehensive sense. By the help of reason we may judge other men; by that of conscience, ourselves. It is in another statement the power of reflection, the inner mirror of the soul.
III. GENERAL RELATED TRUTHS.
1. The necessity of pondering well our wishes. (Ver. 25.) We should think thrice before we act once. To act first and reflect afterwards is foolish and helpless; thus we reap the good of neither thought nor action.
2. The necessity of discrimination in rulers. (Ver. 26.) The figure is borrowed from agriculture, from the process of sifting and threshing - the latter in a penal sense (2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3; Amos 1:3). It is carried into the gospel. The Divine Judge's "fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor." We must submit to law or be crushed by its penal action.
3. The necessity of love and faithfulness in government. (Ver. 28.) For human government, to be sound, stable, and. respected, must be a reflection of the Divine government. And the eternal features of the latter are love and faithfulness. Clemency and severity are but two sides of the one living and eternal love which rules men only for their salvation.
4. The beauty of piety in youth and age. (Ver. 29.) Let the young man in Christ approve his strength by manful self-conquest, and the old man by riper wisdom and blameless conversation (1 John 2:13, 14).
5. The necessity of inward purification. (Ver. 30.) And to this end the necessity of chastisement. In bodily disease we recognize the struggle of life against that which is inimical to it; and in the afflictions of the soul the struggle of the God-awakened soul against its evils. Luther says, "Evil is cured, not by words, but by blows; suffering is as necessary as eating and drinking." - J.
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.
I. THAT WHEREON WE CONGRATULATE IT. We look with satisfaction, and perhaps with pride, upon the young man who possesses:
1. Physical strength. Well-developed muscular power and skill, the attainment of the largest possible share of bodily vigour and capacity, this is one element of manliness, ands although it is not the highest, it is good in itself, and so far as it goes.
2. Intellectual power. The possession of knowledge, of mental vigour and grasp, of reasoning faculty, of business shrewdness and capacity, of imaginative power, of strength of will; but especially:
3. Moral and spiritual strength. Power to resist the evil forces which are around us; to put aside, without hesitation, the solicitations to unholy pleasure or unlawful gain; to decline the fellowship and friendship which might be pecuniarily or socially advantageous, but which would be morally and spiritually injurious; to move onward in the way of duty, unscathed by the darts and arrows of evil which are in the air; to undertake and to execute beneficent work; to range one's self with the honourable and holy few against the unworthy multitude; to bear a brave witness on behalf of truth, purity, sobriety, righteousness, whatever the forces that are in league against it; - this is the noblest element of strength, and this is pre-eminently the glory of young manhood.
II. ITS PECULIAR TEMPTATION. The temptation of the strong is to disregard and even to despise the weak, to look down with a proud sense of superiority on those who are less capable than themselves. This is both foolish and sinful. For comparative weakness is that from which the strong have themselves come up, and into which they will themselves go down. It is a question of time, or, if not of time, of privilege and bestowment (see infra), and a proud contempt is quite misplaced. The young should clearly understand that strength, when it is modest, is a beautiful thing, but when haughty and disdainful, is offensive in the sight both of God and man.
III. ITS CLEAR OBLIGATION. The first thing that human strength should do is to recognize the source whence it came, and to let its recognition find expression in devout and reverent action. "Thy God hath commanded thy strength." As, ultimately, all strength of every kind proceeds from God; and as he constantly sustains in power, and the strong as much as the weak are dependent on his fatherly kindness; and as the strong owe more to his goodness than the weak (inasmuch as they have received more at his hand); - the first thing they should ask themselves is - What can we render unto the Lord? And they will find that to devote their strength to the service of their Saviour and of their kind is to find a source of blessedness immeasurably higher, as well as far more lasting, than that which comes from the sense of power. It is not what we have, but what we give, that fills the soul with pure and abiding joy. - C.