Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. CONTRAST BETWEEN DIVINE AND HUMAN GOVERNMENT. Divine government is a mystery in its principles and its ends. Partial revelation only is given of its method in the Scriptures and in the actual course of the world. Actual relations are one thing, their secret spring another. The former may be known, the latter is veiled from our scrutiny. On the contrary, human government should be founded on principles intelligible to all and commendable to the conscience and reason of all. In the kingdom of God, says Luther, we must not seek to be wise, and wish to know the why and wherefore, but have faith in everything. In the kingdom of the world a governor should know and ask the why and wherefore, and trust in nothing.
II. THE RESERVE OF RULERS. (Ver. 3.) If the heart in general is unsearchable, much more must theirs be who have not their own merely, but the secrets of nations in their keeping. The lesson is taught of abstaining from hasty censure of the actions and policy of those in power; the grounds of that policy may be far deeper than anything that meets the eye.
III. THE DUTY OF DISCERNMENT IN RULERS. (Vers. 4, 5.) As the refiner separates the dross from the silver, which mars its beauty and purity, so should the king exclude from his presence and counsels the profligate and the base. A pure or vicious court has immense influence on the manners and morals of the community. Christ speaks in like manner of gathering out of his kingdom at the day of judgment all offenders and workers of iniquity.
IV. THE TRUE FOUNDATION OF AUTHORITY. (Ver. 5.) Not force, but moral power; not might, but right. How often in our time have thrones tottered or the occupant fallen when physical force alone was recognized as the basis of security 1 Justice is imprinted upon the nature of man. And let rulers who would maintain their power ever appeal to reason and to right. He who takes the motto, "Be just and fear not," for the maxim of his policy lays the only stable foundation of law and government. - J.
I. THE HONOUR OF MAN IN INVESTIGATING.
1. The honour of royalty. This is "to search out a matter." The king is acting in a way that honours him when
(1) he searches human nature and knows all that he can learn about mankind, all, therefore, that he can know about his subjects;
(2) he acquaints himself with the character, the disposition, the career, of those immediately about him, in whom he trusts, on whom he leans;
(3) he investigates different affairs as they arise, probing and sifting most carefully, not satisfied until he has searched the whole thing through. It becomes a king to make the most complete and patient investigation into all national affairs.
2. The honour of mankind generally. This is to "search out" and become practically familiar with
(1) all the resources this earth will yield us for our use and our enlargement;
(2) the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual necessities of those around us;
(3) what is the true way to supply their need. This is that which most honours the disciples of that Son of man who came to minister and to redeem.
II. THE GLORY OF GOD IN CONCEALING. The thought of the writer is obscure. We shall certainly get into the track of it if we consider the three truths:
1. That God has no need to investigate. "All things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do;" all the dark places of the earth, the hearts of men, the most abstruse problems which are so perplexing in our sight.
2. That he himself is the Inscrutable One. "His thoughts are very deep," his "ways past finding out."
3. That it is necessary for him to conceal in order that he may truly bless; that he knows more than he can wisely reveal at once. Parents readily understand this, for they have frequently, constantly, to keep some truths our. of sight, ready for a later day and fuller powers; also to decline to reveal, and to leave their children to find out by their own patience and ingenuity. This is very frequently the case with our heavenly Father. For our own sake he half reveals to us and half conceals from us
(1) the way to become materially enriched, leaving us to find out what we need to know about agriculture and the stores of wealth that are far below the surface;
(2) the way to be mentally enlarged and established;
(3) the way to moral and spiritual good. God l,as designedly and for our ultimate benefit and blessing left much to be searched for and brought out of the Bible - his providential dealings with us, our future, both here and hereafter. It is the glory of man that he can discover and reveal what his fellow men are unable to make out. It is the glory of God that he cannot make known to us all that is present to his eye, or such revelation of present good and future blessedness would injure us; that he must hide from us a part of his infinite wisdom, some of his inexhaustible stores, and leave us to search and ascertain, that by our searching we may be "lifted up and strengthened." - C.
I. WE SHOULD KNOW OUR PLACE, AND NOT STEP OUT OF IT. (Ver. 6.) As the Arabic proverb finely says," Sit in thy place, and no man can make thee rise." "All that good manners demand," says a great writer," is composure and self-content." We may add to this "an equal willingness to allow the social claims of others as to rely upon our own." Self-respect is complemented by deference. We need a ready perception of worth and beauty in our companions. If it is folly to refuse respect to admitted external rank, much more to the native rank of the soul.
II. WE SHOULD ASSUME THE LOWEST RATHER THAN THE HIGHEST PLACE. (Ver. 7.) The lesson runs all through life, from the outward to the inward and the spiritual (see Luke 14:8-11). "Comme il faut - 'as we must be' - is the Frenchman's description of good society." The lesson is mainly against presumption in any and all of its forms, an offence hateful to man and God. To take the lowly place in religion here becomes us, and it leads to exaltation; to grasp at more than our due is to lose all and earn our condemnation. Christianity has a deep relation to manners. There is nothing so beautiful as the code of manners given in the New Testament.
"How near to good is what is fair! Which we no sooner see, But with the lines and outward air, Our senses taken be."
I. THE DANGER OF SELF-ASSERTION. Its temptation is to assume such proportions that
(1) it becomes immodesty, and this is a positive evil, a blemish in character, and a blot upon the life; and
(2) it defeats its own ends, for it provokes antagonism and is discomfited and dishonoured. Every one is pleased when the presumptuous man is humiliated.
II. THE PREFERENCE OF MODESTY.
1. It is frequently successful. Modesty commends us to the good; we secure their good will; they are inclined to help us and to further our desires; they promote our prosperity. Every one is gratified when the man who "does not think more highly of himself than he ought to think" is the object of esteem, and takes the place of honour.
2. It is always beautiful. It is quite possible that, as a matter of worldly policy, modesty may not "answer." It may be, it will often happen, that a strong complacency and vigorous self-assertion will pass it in the race of life. Yet is it the fitting, the becoming, the beautiful thing. It is an adornment of the soul (see 1 Peter 3:3). It makes the other virtues and graces which are possessed to shine with peculiar lustre. It gives attractiveness to Christian character and lends a sweetness and influence which nothing else could confer. To be lowly minded is a far better portion than to have the gains and honours which an ugly assertiveness may command (see homily on Luke 14:7-11). - C,
I. THE CONTENTIOUS PERSON. (Ver. 8.) He is irritable, easily takes offence, is readily provoked, barbs even the playful darts of jest with poison. When the consequences of this ill temper have broken out in full force, its mischief is seen and exposed too late. Beware, then, of "entrance to a quarrel." The contentious man may make real in the end the enmity of which he only dreams.
II. MANFUL CONDUCT IN DISPUTES. (Ver. 9.) If an unavoidable dispute has begun, bear thyself in it with energy, but with honour. It is unmanly and base to employ against one's opponent the secrets that have been learned from him in some earlier confidential moment. Go first to your adversary, and seek a cordial explanation of the difference, and a lair and honourable settlement. And do not be tempted to mix up foreign matters with it. "Agree with thine adversary quickly."
III. THE EVIL OF NOURISHING QUARRELS. (Ver. 10.) Lawsuits consume time, money, rest, and friends. Worst of all consequences, however, is that in the man's own mind. He lights a fire in his own bosom and keeps it ever supplied with the fuel of passion, and may turn his heart, and perhaps his home, into a hell. - J.
I. THE INEVITABLENESS OF DISPUTES. It is quite impossible that, with our present complication of interests - individual, domestic, social, civic, national - differences and difficulties should not arise amongst us. There must be a conflict of opinion, a clash of wishes and purposes, the divergence which may issue in dissension. What reason would teach us to anticipate experience shows us to exist.
II. THE TEMPTATION OF THE HASTY. This is to enter at once upon strife; to "carry it to the court," to "enter an action," to make a serious charge; or (in the case of a community) to take such hostile action as threatens, if it does not end in, war. The folly of this procedure is seen in the considerations:
1. That it interposes an insurmountable barrier between ourselves and our neighbours; we shall never again live in perfect amity with the man with whom we have thus strives; we are sowing seeds of bitterness and discord which wilt bear fruit all our days.
2. That we are likely enough to be discomfited and ashamed.
(1) Those who judge "hastily" are usually in the wrong,
(2) No man is a wise and good judge in his own cause; to every man that which makes for himself seems stronger, and that which makes for his opponent seems weaker, than it appears to a disinterested observer.
(3) Whether a case will prosper or not at law depends on several uncertainties; and even if we have a righteous cause we may be entirely defeated - a brilliant advocate against us will easily "make the worse appear the better cause."
(4) The issue may be such that we shall be impoverished and ashamed. And that which will aggravate our misery will be that we have so foolishly neglected -
III. THE WAY OF THE WISE. To go at once to the offender and to state our complaint to him. This is in every way right and wise.
1. It is the way of manliness and honour. To talk to a third person about it is more easy and pleasant "to the flesh," but it is not the straightforward and manly course.
2. It is the way that is becoming. It is not the fitting thing to disclose our secrets to another; personal and domestic and ecclesiastical contentious are hidden by the wise and the worthy rather than made known to the world.
3. It is the way of peace; for, in the majority of cases, a very little explanation or a very simple apology at the beginning will set everything right.
4. It is the distinctly Christian way (Matthew 5:25, 26; Matthew 18:15). - C.
I. THE APT WORD. Compared to "golden apples in silver frames." Carved work adorning the ceilings of rooms is perhaps alluded to. The beauty of the groined sets off the worth of the object. Just so the good word is set off by the seasonableness of the moment of its utterance (1 Peter 4:11). The apt word is "a word upon wheels, not lotted or dragged, but rolling smoothly along like chariot wheels." Our Lord's discourses (e.g. on the bread and water of life) sprang naturally out of the course of passing conversation (John 4.; Luke 14.). So with Patti's famous discourse on Mars' Hill (Acts 17).
II. WISE CENSURE IN THE WILLING EAR IS COMPARED TO A GOLDEN EARRING. (Ver. 12.) For if all wisdom is precious as pure gold, and beautiful as ornaments m that material, to receive and wear with meekness in the memory and heart such counsels is better than any other decoration. "The wisest princes need not think it any diminution to their greatness or derogation to their sufficiency to rely upon counsel. God himself is not without, but hath made it one of the great names of his blessed Son, 'The Counsellor'" (Bacon). He who willingly gives heed to wise chastisement does a better service to his ears than if he adorned them with the finest gold and with genuine pearls.
III. A FAITHFUL MESSENGER IS COMPARED TO COOLING SNOW. (Ver. 13.) In the heat of harvest labour a draught of melted snow from Lebanon is like a "winter in summer" (Xen.,' Mem.,' 2:1, 30). A traveller says, "Snow so cold is brought down from Mount Lebanon that, mixed with wine, it renders ice itself cold." So refreshing is faithfulness in service. The true servant is not to be paid with gold.
IV. IDLE PRETENSIONS COMPARED TO CLOUDS AND WIND WITHOUT RAIN. (Ver. 14.) Promise without performance. Let men be what they would seem to be. "What has he done? is the Divine question which searches men and transpierces every false reputation.... Pretension may sit still, but cannot act. Pretension never feigned an act of real greatness. Pretension never wrote an 'Iliad,' nor drove back Xerxes, nor Christianized the world, nor abolished slavery."
V. THE POWER OF PATIENCE. (Ver. 15.) Time and patience are persuasive; a proverb compares them to an inaudible file. Here patience is viewed as a noiseless hammer, silently crushing resistance. "He who would break through a wall with his hand," says an old commentator, "will hardly succeed!" But how do gentleness and mildness win their way! "I Paul beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:1). - J.
I. THE WORDS THAT ARE WELCOME. They are:
1. Words that travel; "words upon wheels" (literally). They are words that do not "fall to the ground like water which cannot be gathered up again;" but words which are not allowed "to fall to the ground," which pass from lip to lip, from soul to soul, from land to land, from age to age.
2. Words that are level with our human understanding; which do not require special learning, or profundity, or experience to be appreciated, but which make their appeal to the common intelligence of mankind.
3. Words that meet our spiritual necessities; that direct us in doubt, that comfort us in sorrow, that strengthen us in weakness, that nerve us in duty, that calm us in excitement, that sustain us in disappointment, that give us hope in death.
II. THEIR COMMENDATION. They are like golden apples in silver caskets; i.e. they are things that excite our admiration and bring us refreshment. We do well to admire the true and wise word; the saying or the proverb, the terse, sagacious utterance which holds a little world of wisdom in its sentences, is a thing to be admired by us all. The man who first launches it is a benefactor of his people. And we do still better to appropriate and employ it; to find refreshment and even nourishment in it. Many a wise word has given needed strength to a human soul in the very crisis of its destiny.
III. THEIR CULTIVATION. How shall we learn to speak these "words upon wheels" - these fitting, wholesome, strengthening words? They come:
1. From a true heart; a heart that is true and loyal to its God and Saviour. First of all we must be right with him; only from a pure fountain will come the healing stream.
2. From a kind heart. It is love, pity, sympathy, that will prompt the right utterance. Where the learned deliverance or the brilliant bon-mot would entirely fail, the simple utterance of affection will do the truest work, will hit the mark in the very centre. Love is the best interpreter and the ablest spokesman as we make the pilgrimage and bear the burdens of our life.
3. From a thoughtful spirit. It is not the superficial talker, that discourses upon every possible topic, but rather the man who thinks, who ponders and weighs what he knows and sees, who tries to look into things, and who takes the trouble to look back and to look onward, - it is he who has something to say which it will be worth our while to listen to.
4. From practised lips. We do not acquire this sacred art of wise and helpful speech in a day or in a year; it is the happy and exquisite product of patient effort, it is a growth, it is a holy and beneficent habit, it is a thing to be cultivated; we may begin poorly enough, but by earnest eudeavour we shall succeed if we will only "continue in well doing." - C.
I. WARNING AGAINST SATIETY. (Vers. 16, 17.) The stories of Samson and of Jonathan may be read in illustration of the saying (Judges 14:8, 9; 1 Samuel 14:26). Ver. 27 points the warning against incurring the pain of satiety, "Honey, too, hath satiety," says Pindar -
"A surfeit of the sweetest things, The deepest loathing to the stomach brings." 1. We should beware of a too frequent repetition of even innocent pleasures. "If a man will not allow himself leisure to be thirsty, he can never know the true pleasure of drinking." Self-indulgence far more than suffering unnerves the soul. It may well be asked - How can men bear the ills of life, if its very pleasures fatigue them? 2. A special application of the warning. Do not weary your friends. There should be a sacred reserve of a delicate mutual respect even in the most intimate relations of friendship. To invade a busy privacy, with a view to enjoy a snatch of gossip or secure some paltry convenience, is an offence against the minor morals. Defect in manners is usually owing to want of delicacy of perception. Kindly utterance must rest on the conscientious observance of peat Christian principles; let daily life be evangelized by their all-pervading power. Let us make our "foot precious" to our neighbour by not intruding it too often in his home. Better that our visits should be like angels', few and far between, than frequent and wearisome as those of a beggar or a dun. II. THE TONGUE OF THE FALSE WITNESS. (Ver. 15.) Compared to destructive weapons (comp. Psalm 52:4; Psalm 57:4; Psalm 64:4; Psalm 120:4). "The slanderer wounds three at once - himself, him he speaks of, and him that hears" (Leighton). Not only falsehood, but the perverse and distorted way of telling the truth, comes under this ban. "In the case of the witness against our Lord, the words were true, the evidence false; while they reported the words, they misrepresented the sense; and thus swore a true falsehood, and were truly foresworn (Matthew 26:60)" (Bishop Hall). III. MISPLACED CONFIDENCE. (Ver. 19.) Compared to a broken tooth and a disjointed foot. It is a too common experience, and suggests the counsel to select as confidants only good men. "Be continually with a godly man, whom thou knowest to keep the commandments of the Lord, whose mind is according to thy mind, and will sorrow with thee, if thou shalt miscarry;...and above all, pray to the Most High, that he will direct thy way in truth" (Ecclus. 37:12-15). Above all, "let God be true, and every man a liar." IV. INAPT AND UNREASONABLE MIRTH. (Ver. 20.) It is like the mixture of acid with soda, by which the latter is destroyed; while the combination with oil, etc., produces a useful compound. It is like laying aside a garment in cold weather. Discordant behaviour, the words or the manner out of tune with the occasion, is the fault pointed at. It springs from thoughtlessness and want of sympathy. The Spirit of Christ teaches us to cultivate imagination and sympathy with others. "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." - J.
1. We should beware of a too frequent repetition of even innocent pleasures. "If a man will not allow himself leisure to be thirsty, he can never know the true pleasure of drinking." Self-indulgence far more than suffering unnerves the soul. It may well be asked - How can men bear the ills of life, if its very pleasures fatigue them?
2. A special application of the warning. Do not weary your friends. There should be a sacred reserve of a delicate mutual respect even in the most intimate relations of friendship. To invade a busy privacy, with a view to enjoy a snatch of gossip or secure some paltry convenience, is an offence against the minor morals. Defect in manners is usually owing to want of delicacy of perception. Kindly utterance must rest on the conscientious observance of peat Christian principles; let daily life be evangelized by their all-pervading power. Let us make our "foot precious" to our neighbour by not intruding it too often in his home. Better that our visits should be like angels', few and far between, than frequent and wearisome as those of a beggar or a dun.
II. THE TONGUE OF THE FALSE WITNESS. (Ver. 15.) Compared to destructive weapons (comp. Psalm 52:4; Psalm 57:4; Psalm 64:4; Psalm 120:4). "The slanderer wounds three at once - himself, him he speaks of, and him that hears" (Leighton). Not only falsehood, but the perverse and distorted way of telling the truth, comes under this ban. "In the case of the witness against our Lord, the words were true, the evidence false; while they reported the words, they misrepresented the sense; and thus swore a true falsehood, and were truly foresworn (Matthew 26:60)" (Bishop Hall).
III. MISPLACED CONFIDENCE. (Ver. 19.) Compared to a broken tooth and a disjointed foot. It is a too common experience, and suggests the counsel to select as confidants only good men. "Be continually with a godly man, whom thou knowest to keep the commandments of the Lord, whose mind is according to thy mind, and will sorrow with thee, if thou shalt miscarry;...and above all, pray to the Most High, that he will direct thy way in truth" (Ecclus. 37:12-15). Above all, "let God be true, and every man a liar."
IV. INAPT AND UNREASONABLE MIRTH. (Ver. 20.) It is like the mixture of acid with soda, by which the latter is destroyed; while the combination with oil, etc., produces a useful compound. It is like laying aside a garment in cold weather. Discordant behaviour, the words or the manner out of tune with the occasion, is the fault pointed at. It springs from thoughtlessness and want of sympathy. The Spirit of Christ teaches us to cultivate imagination and sympathy with others. "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." - J.
I. SELF-PRAISE. We may go a little way in that direction, but not far. If we transgress the narrow bounds allowed, we shall soon find that we have done ourselves harm in the estimation of our neighbour. And even to talk, without praise, of ourselves is a habit to be held well in check, or it will run into an offensive and injurious egotism (see homily on Proverbs 17:2).
II. SELF-EXAMINATION. TO "search out our own glory" is not glorious, but rather inglorious. It is allowable enough for a man sometimes to recall what he has been to others, and what he has done for others; but he may not practise this beyond a very circumscribed limit. To hold up his own achievements before his own eyes is to beget a very perilous complacency; to find them out for other people's edification is quite as dangerous. And, on the other hand, for men to be searching their hearts or their lives to discover what is evil in them, to be instituting a constant examination of their souls to ascertain whereabouts they stand, - this is open to grave mistake, and may soon become unwise and hurtful. Self-examination is very good up to a certain point; beyond that point it becomes morbid and is a serious mistake.
III. BODILY EXERCISE AND INDULGENCE. This is very pleasant and (the latter) very "sweet," like the eating of honey. And to go some way in both of these is good and wise. But let the athlete beware lest his very love of bodily exercise betrays him into excesses which undermine his strength and bring on premature decline and death. And as to bodily indulgence, let us be often reminding ourselves that only in the cup of strict moderation - whatever that cup may be - is real pleasure or lasting health to be found. All excess here is as foolish as it is sinful.
IV. SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT. Can we have too much of this? Undoubtedly we can. Those who are perpetually partaking of one particular kind of religious nourishment, however good that may be in its way and measure, are over-eating of one kind of food, and they will suffer for so doing. They will not grow as God meant them to grow, proportionately and symmetrically; there will be a lopsidedness about their mind or character which is very noticeable and very ugly. Whether it be the contemplative, or the poetical, or the speculative, or the evangelistic, or the didactic, or any other side of truth in which men surfeit their souls, they make a mistake in so doing. They should understand that Divine truth has many sides and aspects, that there is not any one of them that constitutes wisdom or is sufficient to fill the mind and build up the character of a man. Our wisdom is to partake of the various dishes which are on the table our bountiful Host has provided for us; for as the body is the better for eating of many "meats," so is the soul all the stronger and all the fairer for partaking in moderation of all the various sources of spiritual nutrition that are within its reach. - C.
Proverbs 18:24). And if we would do this we must be careful to choose our time for speaking the truth to our friends, and must study to do not only the right but the appropriate thing. We must -
I. ABSTAIN FROM THE INOPPORTUNE. (Ver. 20.) It should require but a very humble share of delicacy to understand that what is very valuable at one time is altogether misplaced and unpalatable at another. We should carefully abstain from:
1. All merriment in the presence of great sorrow. By indulgence in it then we only add fuel to the fire of grief.
2. The discussion of business or the proposals of pleasure in the presence of earnest spiritual solicitude. When men are profoundly anxious about their relations with God, they do not want us to harass and burden them with talk about temporal affairs or about social entertainments; these are good in their time, but not at such a time as that.
3. Entering into the affairs of life in the presence of the dying. Those who stand very near indeed to the future world do not want to be vexed with matters which they are leaving behind for ever. Similarly, it is a mistake to be always or even often discussing death and the future with those who, while not unready for either, are charged with the duties and responsibilities of active life.
4. An urgent insistance upon spiritual obligations in presence of acute bodily suffering or severe destitution. The Christian course, in such a case, is to call in the doctor or the baker.
II. CULTIVATE THE ACCEPTABLE. (Ver. 25.) How acceptable to the human heart is:
1. Good news from our friends and kindred when afar off from us. It is worth while to take much trouble, to a put ourselves quite out of our way," in order to convey this; it is one of the friendliest of friendly acts.
2. Society in loneliness; the kindly visit paid to the solitary, a conversation (however brief and simple) with those whose hearth is uncheered by companionship.
3. Encouragement in depression. The heart often aches and hungers for a word of cheer, and one very short sentence may lift it up from depths of disappointment and depression into the bracing air of hopefulness and determination.
4. Sympathy in sorrow. Grief does not crave many or fine words; it asks for genuine sympathy - the "feeling with" it; if it has this, it will gratefully accept any simplest utterance in word or deed, and will be comforted and strengthened by it. Real sympathy is always the acceptable thing.
5. Guidance in perplexity. When we do not know which way to turn, then the brief word of direction from one who has "gone that way before us" is valuable indeed. There is no kinder friend than the true and faithful guide. If we would take our part well and be to our brethren all that it is in our power to become, we must study to do the congenial and acceptable thing. The man who has acquired this art is worthy of our admiration and our love; we are sure that he will not go without our Master's commendation; for is it not he who is feeding the hungry, and giving the thirsty to drink? is it not he who is clothing the naked and healing the sick? While we do these two things, should we not also -
III. BE PREPARED FOR EVERY POSSIBLE CONDITION? We may be sure that uncongenial and congenial things will be said to us, timely and untimely attitudes will be taken toward us; some men will aggravate and others will heal our spirits. The wise man will see to it that he is
(1) rooted in those principles which never change but always sustain;
(2) has his strength in the One "with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning." - C.
I. LOVE DELIGHTS IN ITS OPPORTUNITY. (Ver. 21.) And to true Christian love there is no opportunity sweeter than the distress of a foe.
II. LOVE DELIGHTS IN SUPPLYING NEED. It is the opposite of egotism, which clamours for personal satisfaction, and closes the avenues of pity to the distressed.
III. LOVE IS VICTORIOUS OVER EVIL. (Ver. 22.) A wholesome pain is excited in the mind of the enemy. He begins to feel regret and remorse. The torch of a love divinely kindled dissolves the barrier of ice between soul and soul. Evil is overcome good.
IV. LOVE IS SURE OF ITS REWARD. Both present, in conscience; and eternal in the fruits and in the award of God. Not a cup of cold water shall be forgotten. - J.
Proverbs 24:17, 18, 29.) To the truth on this subject there affirmed, may be added the consideration that to return good for evil is the true triumph; for -
I. TO BE AVENGED IS REALLY UNSATISFACTORY. It is, indeed, to have a momentary gratification. But of what character is this satisfaction? Is it not one that we share with the wild beast, with the savage, nay, even with the fiend? Is it one that we can approve in our calmer hour, that we can look back upon with any thankfulness or pure delight? In fact, it is to be really and inwardly defeated; for we then give way to a malevolent passion - we are "overcome of evil" instead of overcoming it. We allow thoughts to enter our mind and feelings to harbour in our heart of which, in worthier moments, we are utterly ashamed.
II. TO ACT MAGNANIMOUSLY IS THE VICTORIOUS THING.
1. It is to gain a very real victory over our self, over our lower passions.
2. It is to win our enemy. To make him suffer, to wound him, to damage his reputation, to cause him serious loss and injury, - that is a very poor thing indeed to do. Anyone is, in a moral sense, equal to that; mere malevolence can do that and can be at home in the act of doing it. But to win an enemy, to turn his hatred into love, his contempt into esteem, his cruelty into kindness, his hostility into friendship, - that is to triumph over him indeed, it is to "heap coals of fire upon his head."
III. TO ACT MAGNANIMOUSLY IS TO ACT DIVINELY. For it is:
1. To carry out Divine commandment (text; Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:14, 19, 21).
2. To act as the Divine Father does, and as Jesus Christ did when he was with us (Matthew 5:45; Luke 23:24).
3. To receive a Divine reward (text). God will bestow a bountiful, spiritual blessing on those who thus resolutely keep his word, gain dominion over themselves, bless their neighbour, and follow in the footsteps of their Lord. - C.
I. AGAINST SLANDER. (Ver. 23.) Here is a striking picture. Gunning and slanderous habits beget a dark and gloomy expression on the brow; as a homely German proverb says, "He makes a face like three days' rainy weather." The countenance, rightly read, is the mirror of the soul. Without the candid soul the brow cannot be clear and open. If we look into the mirror, we may see the condemnation which nature (that is, God) stamps upon our evil and unholy moods.
II. AGAINST CONTENTIOUSNESS. (Ver. 24.) Better solitude than the presence of the quarrelsome in the home. A wife is either the husband's most satisfying delight or the cruetlest thorn in his side.
III. UNHOLY COWARDICE. (Ver. 26.) Faint heartedness springs from need of genuine faith. To see the chief struck down in battle dismays the band.
"He is gone from the mountain, he is lost to the forest, Like a summer-dried fountain, when our need was the sorest!" And if the good man is a fountain of help and encouragement by his example, how does the drying up of such a spring - the failure to assert the truth and confront the gainsayer - dismay and paralyze those who look on! IV. EXCESS IN SPECULATIVE THOUGHT. (Ver. 27.) There may be too much of any good thing, even of the pursuit of knowledge. It is too much when it disturbs the health; as a common proverb of the Germans says, "To know everything gives the headache." It is too much when it disturbs the moral balance and unfits for society. We must know when to leave the heights of speculation and nestle in the lowly vale of faith. V. WANT OF SELF-CONTROL. (Ver. 28.) It is like an undefended city or one in ruins. How weak is it to be able to endure nothing, to deem it a mark of strength to resist every provocation and injury! Let us learn, after Christ's example, to be abused without being angry; to give soft words and hard arguments; and to cultivate self-control in matters of small moment, in preparation for those of greater. For "if we have run with the footmen, and they have wearied us, how shall we contend with horses?" - J.
IV. EXCESS IN SPECULATIVE THOUGHT. (Ver. 27.) There may be too much of any good thing, even of the pursuit of knowledge. It is too much when it disturbs the health; as a common proverb of the Germans says, "To know everything gives the headache." It is too much when it disturbs the moral balance and unfits for society. We must know when to leave the heights of speculation and nestle in the lowly vale of faith.
V. WANT OF SELF-CONTROL. (Ver. 28.) It is like an undefended city or one in ruins. How weak is it to be able to endure nothing, to deem it a mark of strength to resist every provocation and injury! Let us learn, after Christ's example, to be abused without being angry; to give soft words and hard arguments; and to cultivate self-control in matters of small moment, in preparation for those of greater. For "if we have run with the footmen, and they have wearied us, how shall we contend with horses?" - J.
I. IT IS REFRESHING AND EVER WELCOME. This needs no illustration. Absence and distance raise a thousand fears in the fancy. Division and space from loved ones chill the heart. The arrival of good tidings bridges over great gulfs in thought.
II. IT IS A PARABLE OF THE SPIRITUAL SPHERE. God has sent us good news from what, in our sins and ignorance, seems a far country. We have friends there. There is a real link between us. We are really near. There is the prospect of a final reunion. - J.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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