Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. WICKEDNESS IS FEARFUL, GOODNESS IS COURAGEOUS. (ver. 1.) A good conscience is better than a thousand witnesses; an evil conscience unmans (Job 15:21). What passes by the name of courage is often the effect of fear of men; and that which is discountenanced as want of spirit may proceed from the profoundest reverence for God. We shall never find anything in the world more to be feared than the warring presence within our own breast. True courage is the knowledge that we are for the time at one with God. The light of his countenance is life, dispersing the darkest cloud, and calming the most turbulent tempest. An evil conscience is "the worm that dies not."
II. POLITICS AND MORALS. (Ver. 2.) Rebellion arising from the collision of party and personal interests must be very injurious to the well being of a small state. Rebellion can only be justified when there is not only the greatest wrong existing, but also the clearest possible prospect of success. If peoples in time of distress, instead of cursing and rising against their rulers, would patiently search into the causes of their grievances, a shorter way would often be found to redress. A certain unity of feeling is essential to the well being of a state. "When any of the four pillars of government are mainly shaken or weakened (which are religion, justice, counsel, and treasure), men had need to pray for fair weather" (Bacon).
III. THE ODIUM OF PETTY TYRANNY. (Ver. 3.) There is nothing more detestable than the oppressive rule of an upstart. A base mind becomes more corrupt from hasty elevation, a narrow heart more cruel, as in the case of Robespierre and other historical examples. As with learning, so with power; the smatterers are the most ostentatious of their knowledge; those "dressed in a little brief authority" love to
"Play such fantastic tricks before high heaven, As make the angels weep." The Divine rule is strong in gentleness. IV. THE SECRET OF MORAL SYMPATHY AND ANTIPATHY. (Ver. 4.) Those that secretly love sin have pleasure in them that do it. "The world loveth its own." It is fearful to sin; more fearful to delight in it; yet more to defend it (Bishop Hall). The pure heart has no "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." We reveal or betray ourselves by our sympathies. The homely proverb says, "Like lips, like lettuce." And the important lesson arises here - that we should dwell on the best and brightest examples, for the sake of their effect on our character; the eye becomes sunny as it gazes at the sun. V. THE EFFECT OF VICE ON THE INTELLIGENCE. (Ver. 5.) It is a most important principle that insight into intellectual relations of truth is affected by the mood of the heart. The clearest knowledge of the letter is here of no avail. "If any man shall do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine." The pure conscience conditions the bright intelligence. The understanding is darkened "because of the blindness of men's heart;" and these call darkness light, and light darkness. Many things dark to reason are simplified to knowledge. The Divine mysteries are mysteries of love, and through love only may be known. - J.
IV. THE SECRET OF MORAL SYMPATHY AND ANTIPATHY. (Ver. 4.) Those that secretly love sin have pleasure in them that do it. "The world loveth its own." It is fearful to sin; more fearful to delight in it; yet more to defend it (Bishop Hall). The pure heart has no "fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." We reveal or betray ourselves by our sympathies. The homely proverb says, "Like lips, like lettuce." And the important lesson arises here - that we should dwell on the best and brightest examples, for the sake of their effect on our character; the eye becomes sunny as it gazes at the sun.
V. THE EFFECT OF VICE ON THE INTELLIGENCE. (Ver. 5.) It is a most important principle that insight into intellectual relations of truth is affected by the mood of the heart. The clearest knowledge of the letter is here of no avail. "If any man shall do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine." The pure conscience conditions the bright intelligence. The understanding is darkened "because of the blindness of men's heart;" and these call darkness light, and light darkness. Many things dark to reason are simplified to knowledge. The Divine mysteries are mysteries of love, and through love only may be known. - J.
Proverbs 28:1, 13, 25 (latter part)
I. SIN MEANS DISTURBANCE TO OUR SOUL.
1. It is bad enough to be unfortunate; to suffer from privation or loss.
2. It is far worse to be guilty. We soon accommodate ourselves to our misfortunes; we readily adjust ourselves to our circumstances, even though these may be very narrow. But sin strikes deep, and its wound lasts long. Among other painful consequences it fills the soul with a tormenting fear.
(1) It dreads the pursuing penalty of God's ordaining. And it has reason to do so, for "evil pursueth sinners" (see homily on Proverbs 13:21). In accordance with Divine Law, suffering, sorrow, shame, death, are following in the track of iniquity, and, except there be merciful interposition, will lay their hand upon it.
(2) It dreads the pursuing penalty of man. More often than not sin is pursued by man, either by public taw or by private resentment; and he who has wronged his neighbour, either by fraud or force, has reason to expect arrest and punishment. It is well that it should be so. We have come lately to understand that it is our wisdom to abandon the heavy sentence which was seldom inflicted for the lighter one which is far more freely dispensed. The great thing in administering justice is to connect penalty with sin as closely as possible in the mind of those who are tempted to violate the law.
(3) It dreads penalty when there is no punishment at all. "The wicked flee when no man pursueth." The murderer cannot, dare not, stay in the presence of the body he has slain. The thief turns aside from the officer who has no intention of apprehending him. He who has inflicted the greatest wrong that one man can do another shrinks from his neighbour's eye long before his sin has been suspected. Sin fills the soul with a harassing, a tormenting, fear. The guilty heart imagines a hundred dangers before the hand of judgment is outstretched to seize, or even its pursuing feet are on the path of apprehension. We reckon badly indeed if we only count the actual and palpable inflictions of justice which evil pays; in that penalty must be included all the anxieties, the alarms, the quakings and shiverings of the soul, the abject and haunting terrors which agitate the soul before the chains are on the wrist or the prisoner is at the bar.
3. There are two alternatives open to guilt: (Ver. 13.)
(1) It may try concealment; but this is a mistaken as well as a wrong course. It will "not prosper;" the time of concealment will be one of constant disquietude, and it will end in exposure and humiliation, for again and again it is seen that there is "nothing hidden which is not revealed."
(2) It should adopt the course of confession and amendment; whoso does this "shall have mercy" of God, and will very likely indeed have mercy of man also. But even if not, the way of confession and of penalty is less hard and thorny than the path of sin and secrecy, of cowardice and terror. It is often true that while to bear punishment is tolerable, the miserable effort to escape it is absolutely intolerable.
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS MEANS SECURITY AND SERENITY. "The righteous are bold as a lion." To the upright there are two sources of rest and strength.
1. The consciousness of integrity. He that knows and feels his purity, his innocency, has a fearless heart, and shows a brave front to the enemy. He does not fear that the shafts of falsehood will pierce his strong armour of truth and equity.
2. The favour of God. (Ver. 25.) He "puts his trust in the Lord;" he commits his cause to the Righteous One; he is assured that God is on his side, and he "does not fear what man can do unto him." "The Lord is his salvation; whom should he fear?" (see Psalm 27:1-3; Psalm 84:11, 12). - C.
I. THE PRACTICE OF SINFUL MEN. They "praise the wicked;" they "bless the covetous" (Psalm 10:3).
1. It is a fact that they do so. We hear the voice of ungodliness lifted up in favour of what is utterly wrong in the sight of God; it is expressed in the language of the lips and in every form of literature. There is hardly an evil thing perpetrated by men which does not find its advocate in some quarter.
2. It is comprehensible that they would do so. And this for two reasons. The wicked, as such, have an interest in lowering the standard of public morals; the more they can reduce this. the less will be their own condemnation, and the higher they may hope to move in the society they affect. But perhaps the main account of it is found in -
II. THE BLINDING INFLUENCE OF SIN. Those who break God's Law praise those who are wicked and that which is unworthy, because they "understand not judgment" (Ver. 5). It is the fearful and fatal effect of sin upon the soul to pervert the moral judgment, to deprave the conscience, to make men regard with a diminishing disapproval the wrongness of evil deeds, until they become absolutely indifferent to it, until they positively approve the actions which they once hated and denounced. Then the light that is in them is darkness, and how great and how sad that darkness is (see Matthew 5:23)! Everything is seen in a false light; truth appears as falsehood, good as evil, wisdom as folly; and, on the other hand, all those miserable delusions which a sinful heart holds, and which are leading it down to death, appear as truth, and wrong and guilty actions appear as right, and lives which are dismal failures seem to be successes.
III. THE FUNCTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS. Their duty, or one of their duties, is to "contend with the wicked." This was the office, the service, of righteous Noah, of Lot, of Elijah, of Daniel, of Nehemiah, of John the Baptist, of Paul; it has been the function of every true and loyal-hearted man placed in the midst of those who are opposing the will of God. Contention is not the highest, as it certainly is not the most inviting, duty we have to take in hand. But it is often very necessary, and is sometimes quite noble service.
1. We may have to contend with the flagrantly bad, to denounce violence, oppression, injustice, vice, profanity, etc.; or with the mere hypocrite, who is right in form but wrong in heart; or with those who are halfhearted, and who are practically opposing the truth and the kingdom of God.
2. We should be very sure of our ground before we take up the attitude and use the weapons of hostility.
3. We should oppose ourselves to those who are wrong in no spirit of animosity against men, but of hatred of all evil.
IV. THE EFFECT AND REWARD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. "They that seek the Lord understand all things." It is the most blessed effect of obedience that it elevates the doer; it purifies his heart, it clarifies his vision, it unlocks the door within which are rare treasures of immortal truth, it makes the soul to see and to rejoice in that to which it had been wholly blind. It unveils the living truth of God. It enables us:
1. To know ourselves as God knows us.
2. To understand our life as God intended us to regard it.
3. To appreciate the words and to recognize the will of the Divine Teacher.
4. To know him himself, "whom to know is life eternal." - C.
I. POVERTY WITH INNOCENCE, WEALTH WITH PERVERSITY. (Ver. 6.) Whatever be the compensations of poverty in a lower point of view, most men would vote for riches if they had the opportunity at the price of all its inconveniences, and we need to be reminded that he who would sell his peace of conscience for wealth does but "gain a loss." Better go to heaven in rags than to hell in embroidery. Better God than gold; better be poor and live, than rich and perish.
II. A MAN IS KNOWN BY THE COMPANY HE KEEPS. (Ver. 7.) The first example is that of the man whose delight is in the Law, who is in fellowship with the truth, and who is therefore a companion "of all them that fear God and keep his precepts." The second is that of one who keeps company with the dissipated, stains his name, and brings dishonour on his family. In society lie the greatest perils and the greatest safeguards. The Christian Church is the Divine society which aims at the true and holy ideal of living. As with books, so with men; the rule is - keep company only with the best.
III. ILL-GOTTEN WEALTH DWINDLES. (Ver. 8.) Wealth is not his who gets it, but his who enjoys it. And if gotten by ill means, it cannot be enjoyed; and "Ill got, ill spent," says the proverb. Wealth, diverted by force or fraud from its natural channels flows back by a law of economic gravitation. A man labours for himself with selfishness and wickedness, and the harvest falls into better hands; "not intending it of himself; but it is so done through God's secret providence."
IV. PRAYERS ARE VITIATED BY INJUSTICE. (Ver. 9.) They are tainted by a horrible lie. In prayer the goodness, the moral perfection, of God is assumed; and prayer implies that the holy will ought to be done. Yet how great the contradiction between such prayers on the lips and the heart bent upon defeating that will! "Just reason that God shall refuse to hear him who refuses to hear God." Without the "ceasing to do evil, and the learning to do well," sacrifices are vain oblations, and incense is an abomination to God (Isaiah 1:11-15).
V. THE SEDUCER IS SELF-SEDUCED. (Ver. 10.) So the snare of Balaam, laid for Israel, became the cause of his own ruin. If the retribution is not visible, it is a fact in the soul. Among the ingredients of remorse, none is more bitter than the recollection of having led youth and innocence astray. It is a sin most difficult of self-forgiveness. But the righteous inherit salvation. There is a real sense in which men should seek to realize the character of "just men that need no repentance." There is no salvation in selfishness - none which does not imply a regeneration of the social consciousness.
VI. POVERTY AND RICHES HAVE THEIR COMPENSATION. (Ver. 11.) Confidence in riches begins in illusory self-confidence; and there is much to abet and foster it in the opinion of the multitude; for, as the old saying runs, "Rich men have no faults." But the poor man, endued with sense and with religion, sees through these false estimates; knows that the rich feel misfortunes which pass over his own head; that they pay a tax of constant care and anxiety; and that it is ever better to fare hard with good men than to feast with bad.
VII. "THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE THE VOICE OF GOD." (Ver. 12.) Whatever be the love of greatness and splendour, of rank and position, in the common mind, the people cannot but rejoice in good rulers, and be depressed under evil. A generous acclamation breaks from the popular heart when good men are raised to honour. "When Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in the king's royal apparel,...the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour; in every province...a feast and a good day" (Esther 8:15-17). - J.
Proverbs 11:10). But there is a truth suggested by the wise man's language which does not elsewhere appear; he says that when the wicked rise "a man is hidden," that "men hide themselves." The fact here alluded to is clear enough; we have often read, or have frequently observed, that the best men retire to seclusion and inactivity when iniquity is on the throne, when unprincipled cleverness holds the reins; they will not serve under a sovereign whom they despise, or in circumstances which make office holding a disgrace, if not a danger. But beyond and beneath this fact the language is fitted to suggest to us that there is much of hidden manhood amongst us. We find it in -
I. PREMATURE RETIREMENT. Not only under the conditions stated in the text, when the withdrawal of honorable men is necessary to the upright and the high-minded, but also under very different conditions. When men are allured by a desire for quietude and ease, or when they are disheartened by disappointment, or are disgusted by the slowness of their ascent to place and power, or when they underestimate their capacity and their opportunity, and they therefore lay down the weapon and leave the field. This is a serious loss. Then "a man is hidden;" a man is burying the wisdom of maturity, the large result of manifold experience, the gathered fruit of many years. He is hiding in his own home the cultured capacity he should be expending on the city, on the country of his birth.
II. UNDEVELOPED FACULTY. We do not know how often it happens that men are born with great capacities in their nature, and who live and die without manifesting them to the world. They fail to receive the education which would bring them forth, or they are confined within a range so narrow that they have no chance of showing what they could be and do. They "die with all their music in them;" they pass away, unknown, unproved, unfelt. That is expended upon unimportant trifles which might have directed the affairs of some great company, or guided the activities of some influential Church, or decided the course of some powerful nation. A "man is hidden," and a community is left unenriched.
III. UNDISCIPLINED FORCE. When God gives to a human spirit a strong power of will, there is an imperative necessity that it should be wisely and rightly guided and controlled in youth. Faithfully disciplined, such a one becomes a most useful man, who will contribute largely to the advancement and happiness of the world. But if that discipline be withheld, and the clever, wilful boy be allowed to grow up into untrained and uncultured manhood, there will be a sad waste of power. He will be more likely than not to do harm rather than good to his generation; he may be a blight instead of a blessing. There is "a man hidden;" one who has it in him to be one of the highest and worthiest, but who, as it is, is lost or even worse than lost, to his contemporaries and his country.
IV. UNRESCUED WRONG. Even when we see humanity at its very worst, in its very foulness and baseness, we do well to feel that beneath the humiliating and pitiful exterior is a hidden manhood. It is the noble work of Christian beneficence to get down to this, to lay its kind and holy hand upon it, to raise and to restore it, to bring it into the sunshine of truth and love, to make it visible and even beautiful in the sight of God and in the estimate of man. - C.
I. THE CONCEALMENT OF SIN. (Ver. 13.) It is like a worm in the bud, preying upon the check and upon the heart. The deepest way of such concealment is when the sinner persuades himself that "he has no sin," apologizing to himself, giving a false colour to his wrong. The sense of a dualism in our being unreconciled will not admit of peace and rest.
II. THE CONFESSION AND RENUNCIATION OF SIN. To admit the truth about ourselves, neither extenuating nor exaggerating our sin and fault; to allow the detecting and discriminating light of God's judgment to fall clear and full on the conscience; - this is what confession requires. But it must be completed by renunciation; otherwise it is mockery. To say -
"We're sorry and repent, And then go on from day to day, Just as we always went" - in the words of the child's hymn - is mere sentimentality and weakness. But never are these conditions fulfilled without a sense of the Divine pity striking into the heart. God is faithful and just to forgive our sins; and the conscience is assured that III. THE TENDER CONSCIENCE. (Ver. 14.) It is well with him whose heart is in the constant habit of reverential dependence upon God. His law for human conduct envelops all life from the greatest to the minutest matters. It is the atmosphere of the soul that we need to keep pure; it is the fellowship with the Spirit who is holiness that we need most jealously to guard. IV. THE HARDENING OF THE HEART. (Ver. 14.) Making light of sin leads to its repetition; repetition indurates the conscience. Disregard of the delicacies of the soul leads surely to a benumbed, and presently to a lost, sensibility. It is better to feel too keenly than not to feel at all; better the weak conscience than no conscience at all. He who presumes upon the mercy of God will have to reckon with his justice. - J.
III. THE TENDER CONSCIENCE. (Ver. 14.) It is well with him whose heart is in the constant habit of reverential dependence upon God. His law for human conduct envelops all life from the greatest to the minutest matters. It is the atmosphere of the soul that we need to keep pure; it is the fellowship with the Spirit who is holiness that we need most jealously to guard.
IV. THE HARDENING OF THE HEART. (Ver. 14.) Making light of sin leads to its repetition; repetition indurates the conscience. Disregard of the delicacies of the soul leads surely to a benumbed, and presently to a lost, sensibility. It is better to feel too keenly than not to feel at all; better the weak conscience than no conscience at all. He who presumes upon the mercy of God will have to reckon with his justice. - J.
I. THE SIMILE. (Ver. 15.) He is like a fierce and devouring beast. No pity softens his bosom; no justice regulates his conduct. Complaint provokes further exactions; resistance kindles him into fury. He looks upon his people, not as a flock to be tended, but to be preyed upon. He roars around them like the nightly bear about the fold. Such monsters have often appeared in history.
II. THE SOURCE OF OPPRESSION. It lies in the ignorance of the oppressor's heart - ignorance of policy, of humanity, of Divine and eternal right. The great generalization, "They know not what they do," covers, indeed, all kinds of sin, but does not exempt from guilt. Men might know better; but, without the practice of what we know, our light itself becomes darkness.
III. THE GOOD RULER. (Ver. 16.) The trait that "he hates covetousness" may be made general; for false or perverted desire is the real motive of all such wickedness. "Lust and desire to have" gold, territory, power, etc., is selfish and cruel, and turns every man governed by it into a being more or less resembling the non-moral brute. Politics can never be excluded from Christianity; and the immense effect for good or evil of the acts of those in power is a reason why all good Christians should take a close interest in politics, and not permit any rank or station to be exempt from criticism. - J.
I. THE VIOLENT MAN. (Ver. 17.) His doom, here as elsewhere, is viewed as sudden; he hastes to Hades - lives not out half his days. The truth is general, reflecting the intuition of the moral order. And in accordance with that order it is that pity will be turned away from him that shows no pity. This is no argument for capital punishment, but it is an argument for such a treatment of criminals as will best deter from crime.
II. THE INSECURITY OF EVIL WAYS. (Ver. 18.) Integrity is alone safe; and in one or other of his crooked ways (such may be one meaning of the text) the sinner will ultimately fall. The dangerous feat is tried once too often. Our interest is attracted to "the dangerous edge of things," and we are astonished that men can stand upon it so often without falling. We do not see the result of the last and fatal attempt; or, seeing it, we do not surmise the previous successful attempts to defy the law of things. Scripture is right; but we do not know enough of events absolutely to verify its truths.
III. POVERTY AS A JUDGMENT. (Ver. 19.) Here, again, we have a general truth - an abstract from the great broad field of life's facts. On the whole, there is no secret of abundance but industry; nor of poverty but idleness and indulgence in pleasure and amusement as a pursuit. Repose and pleasure are the illusions from which the stern voice of God, speaking through daily experience, is ever rousing us. Hardly any disease of body or of mind, any social evil, is there which may not be traced to self-indulgence and inertia.
IV. HASTE TO BE RICH. (Ver. 20.) This temper is contrasted with that of the faithful man. There is a different scale of value in the two cases. The good man values things by the moral standard, the covetous man only by the standard of gold. The true way of looking at wealth is as an available means to all ends of health, wisdom, benevolence. These alone are rational ends; but they may be lost sight of in the passionate pursuit of the means. It was a thought deeply impressed on the ancient world that over-eagerness for riches must involve dishonesty. "No one quickly grows rich, being at the same time a just man," says Menander. "For he who desires to become rich desires to become rich quickly. But what reverence for the laws? what fear or shame is there ever in the covetous man who hastes to be rich?" says Juvenal. To lessen our desires rather than to increase our means is the true wisdom of life - to study to give account of our little rather than to make our little more.
V. RESPECT OF PERSONS IN JUDGMENT. (Vers. 21, 22.) The vice springs from some mean source - from fear, covetousness, or obsequiousness. Cato used to say of Caelius the tribune, that he might be hired for a piece of bread to speak or hold his peace. To prefer interest to the truth, this is the fiery temptation in one form or other of us all. And the keeping back of a part of the truth may be as injurious to others as the utterance of direct falsehood. Any meanness harboured in the soul exposes to constant danger. Timidity may fall into worse sins than those it seeks to avoid. And in other ways extremes meet. While the haster to be rich casts an evil, envious eye on the property of others, he is blind to the menace of poverty from behind. In any case, poverty of soul follows from the constant drain of thought and energy towards things that "perish in the using." How much need have all to beware of those passions which are the "thorns" that spring up and choke the good word of God in the heart! - J.
Proverbs 28:20, 22 (and Ver. Proverbs 28:8)
I. THE GRAVE DOUBT ABOUT WEALTH. To have sufficiency of money for a comfortable home, for education, for the furtherance of the cause of God, and for the relief of human want, - this is certainly a very desirable thing. He who is facing the future may honestly desire to attain it, and he who has won it may well give God hearty thanks for the goodness which has placed this blessing in his power. But the mere acquisition of wealth, on which so many set their hearts, to which they devote their lives, and for which they sacrifice the best and highest things of all, ensures nothing at all of that which is valuable to a man who uses his reason and cares for his character. For who can be sure:
1. How it will be gained. There are temptations on every hand to gain money dishonestly or, if not fraudulently, by questionable means; by taking advantage of the weak and struggling in a way which, if it be not positively unjust, is inconsiderate and unkind. Of those who "make haste to be rich," how very large a proportion fail to "be innocent" (Ver. 20)! They either deviate from the straight line of perfect equity, or they wander into ways of rank injustice and shameful wrong. Who shall say whether the next aspirant will not be counted in their number? And what does it profit a man to gain a fortune and to lose his integrity?
2. How long it will stay. He "considereth not that poverty shall come upon him." Few things are less certain than the duration of wealth. Who that has reached middle life has not frequently known of those that were supposed to be beyond the reach of misfortune being suddenly reduced or positively beggared (see Proverbs 23:5)?
3. How much it will do for its possessor. "He that hasteth... hath an evil eye;" so far is he from being satisfied with his fortune, and from looking graciously and generously upon all his neighbours, rich and poor, that he looks enviously upon those that are wealthier than himself, proudly upon those that are less successful, and grudgingly upon those that are poor, lest they should want his aid and diminish his store.
4. Whither it will go. If dishonestly obtained, it is likely enough that wealth will soon meet with the penalty it deserves, and pass to another holder. It may go to him that will "pity the poor," or it may get into the hands of "the fool," who will squander it in some kind of folly (Ecclesiastes 2:18, 19, 21). There is, then, an utter uncertainty about riches. It may be that God has not intended a man to be rich, but to be happy in a very humble station (Proverbs 30:9); and a pertinacious endeavour to secure what God has not placed within reach must end in a wretched failure and a badly bruised spirit. To such as these the strong words of Paul are applicable (1 Timothy 6:9, 10).
II. THE CERTAINTY ABOUT FAITHFULNESS. "A faithful man shall abound with blessings." And there is no room for questioning it. Let a man be faithful to his convictions; let him be to God, his Father and his Saviour, what he knows in his heart he should be; let him be true and upright in all his relations with his fellow men, and he will be regulating his life by a sovereign principle which will "abound with blessings." It will:
1. Build up a strong and noble character.
2. Establish an honourable reputation and win the confidence of men.
3. Secure as large a measure of peace and of happiness as is the lot of disciplined humanity.
4. Dispense much good of many kinds to those around, both in public and in domestic life.
5. Lead down to a peaceful end, and on to a glorious future. What wise man would endanger the loss of these priceless blessings for the uncertain and transient good of worldly wealth? - C.
I. To GIVE IT MAY REQUIRE THE HIGHEST MORAL COURAGE. It may be in the teeth of the interest of the adviser; it may turn a friend into an enemy; it may inflict a keen smart. Nothing but the highest regard to truth on the one hand, to love on the other, may be sufficient to nerve for the task.
II. THE TEMPORARY DISPLEASURE OF A FRIEND IS TO BE FACED RATHER THAN THAT HE SHOULD SUFFER LASTING EVIL. To save a soul from death, this is the great duty imposed by Christian love. And to that principle we must be true, whether we gain or lose a brother to our heart.
III. FLATTERY TURNS OUT TO BE BITTER, NEED COUNSEL HUMBLY RECEIVED EVER SWEET IN THE END. The former swelling our self-conceit, blinds us to both our advantage and our duty; lures us to folly and, perhaps, to ruin. The latter opens our eyes to ourselves and to our circumstances, and turns our foot from the precipice. We have reason to be thankful for the warning word that has saved us, and to bless the faithful heart which dictated it; reason ourselves to pray that we may miss no such opportunity of another's salvation. - J.
I. THEY MAY LEAD TO UNNATURAL VICES - EVEN THE ROBBERY OF PARENTS. (Ver. 24.) The heart must be profoundly corrupted that can sacrifice filial affection on the shrine of the base lust for gain. Theft is not less but more a crime it committed against one's own blood.
II. THEY LEAD TO STRIFE. (Ver. 25.) They overcome the instinct for justice and social right, and the man becomes an oppressor and a murderer - if not in act, in spirit and purpose - of his kind. Wars and fightings come of the "lusts in our members." It is confidence in the eternal God - his gracious providence and goodness, which calms excessive desire, and fills the heart with peace and content. And the riches the soul thus gains are surer and more permanent than any treasures laid up on earth. - J.
I. THREE FORMS OF FILIAL WRONG.
1. Culpable carelessness. Doing things or leaving them undone, so that the money of parents (which, perhaps, can ill be spared) is wasted.
2. Unconscientious appropriation. Which may ascend from picking out of the pet or taking from the cupboard up to a serious appropriation of property.
3. Unprincipled involvement. Either in the form of
(1) contracting debts which (it may be well known) will have to be paid out of the father's purse; or, what is still worse
(2) following an evil course of conduct which will discredit the family name and rob it of its honoured and prized reputation.
II. ITS GUILTINESS BEFORE GOD. They who do such things may justify them to their own minds; they may say to themselves, "It is no transgression; what is our parents' is our own;" but this is not the light in which it shows to Heaven. It is not only the wise man. but the Son of God, who has affixed his solemn condemnation to filial shortcoming (Matthew 15:5). Undutiful conduct toward parents is a very heinous sin.
2. It is a wrong done to those who, in virtue of their relationship, have the strongest claim upon us.
3. It is a sin against those who have spent on us the most patient, sacrificial love. To rob them to whom we owe more than we can owe any other human being is an aggravated offence indeed. It is well to consider -
III. THE TRUE FILIAL FEELING. A true son, who realizes what is due to his parents, will not only shrink from taking the advantage which his father's trustfulness places in his power, but he will consider how he may make some return for all that he has received at his parents' hands. And he will understand that this is to be rendered by:
1. Responsive affection.
2. Prompt and cheerful obedience.
3. Ready acquiescence in those things which are beyond his reach; docility and submissiveness of spirit.
4. Practical willingness to share the burdens of the home. Thus he will lighten the labour and brighten the lives of those who were the first, and will perhaps be the longest, if not the last, W love him. - C.
forward to human life from the sanguine standpoint of youth may see in it little to be afraid about; but they who have reached the latter end of it, and look back upon it, know how much there is in it to give ground for serious apprehension. It is they who are concerned for the young, and who are so devoutly solicitous that these should put their trust in that which will sustain them. There are three principles which are applicable.
I. SELF-RELIANCE IS BETTER THAN LEANING UPON OTHERS. To be kept from "the evil which is in the world" by the authority, or the counsel, or the entreaty of others is quite unsatisfactory in any but the very young. These human props will be taken away, and where, then, is our virtue?
II. MORAL PRINCIPLE IS BETTER THAN RIGHT DISPOSITION. It is well enough to inherit or to imbibe right inclinations, pure impulses, honourable feeling. But these may go down before the force of some one very strong temptation, or be (as indeed they often are) worn down and worn out by the droppings of hostile influences. Moral principle, well rooted in the soul, will stand the rough wind and still lift up its head to heaven.
III. TO TRUST IN GOD IS INCOMPARABLY WISER THAN RESTING IN OURSELVES,
1. To "trust in our own heart is great folly. For, on the one hand, we do not know what we may have to encounter. Possibly our life may be comparatively free from evil, material and moral; but perhaps it may not be so. There may be before us trials of the utmost severity, for which the very greatest endurance will be required; or there may be temptations of the severest kind, which will assail us with tremendous and overwhelming force; or there may be demanded of us high duties, large services of even heroic order, only to be rendered by a noble self-abnegation; or there may await us splendid opportunities, to be unequal to which would be a lifelong regret, to avail ourselves of which would crown us with joy and honour. And, on the other hand, we do know that, associated even with moral principle, there is some measure of human weakness. Every man has his vulnerable point; and to every man's strength of mind and character there is a limit which is only too easily reached. Who of us would dare to say that he, of himself, however fortified he may be even by sound convictions as well as excellent inclinations, is strong enough to withstand any storm that may beat against him, to swim any current into which he may be cast, to rise to any height that he may be called upon to climb?
2. To trust in God is the true wisdom. For
(1) God is able to make us stand (Romans 14:4). He can make us to know the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe." We can "do all things in Christ who strengtheneth us."
(2) He has promised to sustain and to enable us, if we do put our trust in him (Psalm 32:10; Psalm 125:11; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 40:30, 31; 2 Timothy 1:12). God has given us abundant reason to believe that, if we practically and devoutly trust in him, he will see us safely through every evil we may have to meet and master, and will guide us to his own home and glory. - C.
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF FOLLY IS LIFE IN AND FOR SELF ALONE. The thought that is superior to counsel and comparison with other minds; the feeling which shuts out consideration and sympathy; the will which would act as if it knew no law but its own; - these are manifestations of that folly which is at once immoral and irreligious.
II. PRACTICAL WISDOM WELL COMPARED TO A WALK. This is the rising in thought towards universal truth. It is governed by the pulse of charity in the soul; it moves towards all worthy Divine and human ends. In folly we advance to perdition, in aiming at our weal, in wisdom, renouncing self, we enter blessedness. - J.
I. THE KINDLY AND GENEROUS HEART". (Ver. 27.) This prompts the generous hand; gathers more than it sows; is not suffered to want any good thing. It stands out in bright colours and winning aspect against the dark background of the selfish, self-concentrated, hard hearted life Let us cultivate the open eye which drinks in the knowledge of all that concerns our fellows, and the open hand in harmony with it.
II. ITS WORTH IS HEIGHTENED BY CONTRAST. (Ver. 28.) Men cower, their brows contract, their mien becomes depressed, their soul enslaved, their manhood unmanned, beneath the proud man's oppression and the wicked's scorn. Persecution drives the moral sunshine out of the world, and tends to depopulate its moral life. As the increase of goodness depends largely on sound social and political conditions, it must be an object of prayer and of endeavour with all good men to overthrow tyranny and abolish fraud, that "the fruits of righteousness may abound and increase on every hand." - J.