The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
(J. A. Picton, M. A.)
I. AT THE KIND OF STRENGTH AND PROGRESS THAT IS PROMISED IN THE TEXT TO THE RIGHTEOUS. Our text speaks of a strength whose greatest triumphs in this world are still future, as Christ's greatest triumphs in and over men are still future. It is a benign strength this that lies calmly resting on the sure promises and unchanging faithfulness of God. This kind of strength is moral and spiritual might, active, aggressive, victorious goodness. The strength of our text is the strength of right in vanquishing wrong, the strength of moral goodness in overcoming moral evil, both in its possessor and around him. This spiritual strength is counted weakness by the world, because its triumphs are not only like itself, spiritual, but they are often not immediate. Men who walk by sense, seeing not the things which are invisible, cannot wait God's time and way. And yet to conquer sin and self is man's best and greatest triumph. Every man's noblest battlefield lies within, not without himself; lies within, not without his fellow man. In harmony with the world's prevailing false idea of greatness, the idol gods, and the human heroes that men have made or chosen for themselves, have for the most part been powerful, but not goad. Look at the gods of the heathen. Superhuman in power always, but human, and almost infra-human, in character often. It is not moral and spiritual power, but grosser forms of power, that most people admire most. The suffering attitude of Jesus seemed to His contemporaries, and still seems to the eye of the natural man, the weakest of all Divine displays of power. And yet this in truth is not only the highest kind of power, but it is the mightiest in moral result. For the Cross of Christ is the very "power of God unto salvation." Here in the Cross of Christ we see more of the peculiar power of God "who is love," than anywhere else. Here lies the power of the Gospel. It is the revelation of God's rich grace and love to the evil. God instructs us to seek as our best personal attainment, the possession of a goodness so strong, and pure, and lofty, that evil from within, us and from without us shall flee away ashamed and vanquished before its overcoming and subduing power. This strength needs to be all the more diligently cultivated by us because it is not natural to us. In our fallen state we are spiritually weak. But this best kind of strength may be obtained. It is the life of God in the soul of man, and it re-creates in God's image the soul that it enters, and its presence becomes in part visible. The men in whom this life not only exists, but is abundant, by their very presence, both at rest and in action, exert a beneficent moral power and influence. These are the men from whose moral being a felt virtue goes forth that good men seek, and bad men shun. For there are men, every movement of whose mind creates currents of healthful, healing, spiritual influence, and such God-inspired men are strong. The text holds before us the encouraging prospect, that the really good man shall, by the inherent laws of goodness, go on his way, and become stronger and stronger in goodness, more and more successful in gaining victories over evil. Intellectual greatness we ought all profoundly to revere as one of God's best gifts to man; but we ought not to dishonour the Holy God and His moral image in man by an unholy worship of intellect as disjoined from goodness. How much even in the service of religion is talent often exalted above grace! View the text as a Divine direction, and also as a positive promise of success, to every renewed soul that is trying to make progress in the Divine life, and asks by what means he may become strong. An answer to this inquiry is much needed.
II. WHO ARE THEY THAT OBTAIN THE STRENGTH PROMISED IN THE TEXT? All do not. The man who would be strong and hold on his way must be in God's sense "righteous, and keep his hands clean."
1. The righteous, — the upright, honest, virtuous, pious. Our obligations to God and man not only lie near together, but at many points intersect and overlap each other. Righteousness is a name which covers over and enters into the whole web of human duty. The Bible name "righteous" denotes a well-defined class of men who are not now what they once were, but have been "born again." Our text does not speak of any man in his natural unrenewed state; but it speaks of man when under a supernatural tuition, of man the subject of Divine grace. Life comes before strength, and is more important. Get life, and strength will fellow.
III. THE LAWS THAT REGULATE THIS GROWTH OF STRENGTH. The reasons why the righteous grow stronger are both natural and supernatural. Note —
1. The operation of the natural law that the exercise of our faculties strengthens them. This is a law of the mind as well as a law of the body. The religion of the Bible perfectly harmonises with all Divine law. It is a reasonable service which yet rises above reason. Mature piety is ordinarily the ripened product of years well spent.
2. The righteous man who has clean hands holds on his way, and ever grows stronger through the ordinary operation of the great law of habit. Habit makes all things castor, and among others the most difficult Christian duties. The law of habit comes into action in favour of duty as well as in favour of sin.
3. The righteous man, and of clean hands, holds on his way, and waxes stronger and stronger by the teachings of experience.
4. The righteous man holds on his way, because religion is a life of which Christ is the source. But all life is much affected by food, climate, and exercise; and so is this higher life. Divine truth is the fit food of this life.
5. The great reason is that the righteous man's God and Father holds him up and strengthens him. And He is the living God. When others stumble and fall, the righteous man rises and stands upright, because God strengthens and upholds him. Clean hands, and such alone can lay a firm hold upon God, and lovingly constrain Him in His visits to leave a blessing behind Him. Polluted hands have no such power. The man who seeks and finds this Helper must hold on his way and grow stronger. The whole atmosphere of Scripture is strongly provocative of robust spiritual health. The Godward attitude continued in makes weak men to become strong, and strong men to become stronger and stronger.
(J. C. Macintosh.)
I. A CHARACTER SPOKEN OF. "Righteous." As persons who are taught to discard their own righteousness, and are clothed upon with the righteousness of another. Clad in that righteousness, they are taught to live "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world."
II. THESE RIGHTEOUS ONES ARE DESCRIBED AS ON THEIR "WAY." There is but one way, and Jesus is that way — the way of acceptance with God, the way in which alone we can walk so as to please God. It is the only way of happiness, and may be a way of self-denial.
III. THE PROMISE. "Shall hold on." It is as positive as language can express it. He shall do it. Discouragements he may have, and shall have; trial of his patience, his hope, and his love — this he stands continually in need of, day by day, and hour by hour; through want of watchfulness he may slumber; through want of diligence he may stumble; withholding prayer, he ceases to fight; through self-confidence he may fall; but "the righteous shall hold on his way." It is the "mouth of the Lord that hath spoken it."
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
John Bunyan, has not pictured Christian as carried to heaven while asleep in an easy chair. He makes Christian lose his burden at the cross foot, he ascribes the deliverance of the man from the burden of his sin, entirely to the Lord Jesus; but he represents him as climbing the Hill Difficulty — ay, and on his hands and knees too. Christian has to descend into the Valley of Humiliation, and to tread that dangerous pathway through the gloomy horrors of the Shadow of Death. He has to be urgently watchful to keep himself from sleeping in the Enchanted Ground. Nowhere is he delivered from the necessities incident to the way, for even at the last he fords the black river, and struggles with its terrible billows. Effort is used all the way through, and you that are pilgrims to the skies will find it to be no allegory, but a real matter of fact: your soul must gird up her loins; you need your pilgrim's staff and armour, and you must foot it all the way to heaven, contending with giants, fighting with lions, and combating Apollyon himself.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE WHO ARE HERE INTRODUCED. They have already commenced the course of the Christian life. The expression "clean hands" denotes their freedom from those pollutions which are connected with human nature in its unconverted state. The language further suggests an open and honest profession of their attachment to the ways of God and righteousness. The man who partakes of this character will necessarily be concerned that he may hold on his way, and wax stronger and stronger.
II. THE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH LED YOU TO SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM THE WORLD AND TO DEVOTE YOURSELF TO GOD. All these claims are now at hand, and possess all the claim they ever possessed. Hold on your way, and look to the exercise of that cleanness of spirit which every honest mind will be concerned to possess. Look to the exercise of purity of intention, to the testimony which God has connected with His Word, that it may come home to your heart, and work mightily there.
I. THE PERSONS SPOKEN OF. The "righteous" are those who have "clean hands." The former term describes their state, the latter their character. Righteous is a forensic term. There can only be two ways of being righteous — either by never having sinned, or by being delivered, in some way or other, from the condemnation due to sin. The former applies to the angels. For fallen man another kind of righteousness must be devised, which is, the imputation of Christ's righteousness unto him.
II. WHAT IS SAID CONCERNING THEM? "Shall hold on his way." They are going onward in the way to heaven; in this way they meet many obstacles — as from false brethren, false teachers, false waymarks. There are obstacles both in the way of faith and of conduct. Nevertheless, they shall "hold on their way." This must necessarily follow.
1. From a consideration of the character of God. He is faithful and immutable.
2. From a consideration of the death of Christ. He died for us, not leaving it doubtful what effects would be produced by His death.
3. From a consideration of the nature and constitution of the covenant of grace. It is God's will that saints should have strong consolation, upon the ground of their final perseverance.
4. From a consideration of the nature of real conversion, and the work of God the Holy Spirit.
5. From a consideration of the intercession of Christ, which must be ever prevalent.
6. From a consideration of the nature of that principle which is implanted within them. It is an immortal principle; an "incorruptible seed."
I. HE IS RIGHTEOUS. The character in the text is right with God. Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
II. HE IS HOLY. He has "clean hands." The hand is the instrument of action; it is moved by the heart — the pulsations of which are right, and so he can lift them up to God "without wrath or doubting." He is not afraid for God to see them, nor for Him to know the principles whence these actions emanate. A man has just as much religion in his business as he has in his closet; the same in the counting house as he has on his knees. There is no reason why labour should not be a psalm, and commerce a ritual in the best sense of the word. The time shall come when "holiness to the Lord" shall be written upon the bells of the horses; and then, whether men eat or drink, or whatever they do, they "do all for the glory of God."
III. HE IS PERSISTENT. "He shall hold on," etc. At an important period of his existence, Gibbon said of his prospects, "All is dark and doubtful." Of this character's future, all is bright and hopeful — "Glory, honour, immortality, eternal life," are in the future. "He shall hold on his way." The wind, and tide, and sea may be against the steamers which reach your port, but through the power of the steam within, they hold on their way. Outward circumstances may appear to be all against the character of the text; but by the power of the principle within he "holds on his way." This is a moral duty. Final perseverance is an article for the code, rather than for the creed. This is a law of the Divine life. The leaven is put in to leaven the whole lump. You must go on, or recede; you cannot stand still. The purest water that ever fell from heaven will corrupt if it be stagnant.
IV. HE IS GROWING. The Bible beckons you on to better things, and urges you to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is also confirmed by experience. There is also a power in the habit of goodness. The more you exercise faith, the easier you can do so. The more you do for God, the more delightful becomes the exercise. In every conflict with hell in which you conquer, you learn the tactics of war, and become mightier for further engagements. What a bright vista opens before the soul which is morally right!
Job 42:5, 6): —
1. It is not possible to set out the salient features of Job's strength with even a slight approximation to completeness, without taking into account the immense energy he derived from his burning consciousness of unimpeachable integrity. Not that Job made no mistakes. He made many. He misconceived God's methods, misjudged God's heart, flung censures to right of him and censures to left of him, spoke rashly and petulantly. But never did he sink into an insincerity, or clothe himself with a sham; but maintained an unbroken consciousness of integrity of spirit and purity of heart. Integrity is power. Sincerity is a high form of human energy. Righteousness as a passion of the heart, and an element in character and life, is a manifest and undeniable source of imperial force. Wickedness is, in spite of seeming strength, actual imbecility.
2. Nevertheless, the closing picture of this hero, Job, is not that of a conqueror, but a confessor; not of an enthroned prince, but a kneeling penitent. This is not what we expected. The language of genuine sorrow and deep self-abasement loads his lips, and his far-shining integrity is not worth a moment's lip defence by the side of his failure to keep the law of God. Sincerity is good, but it is not sinlessness. Indisputable integrity of purpose, and inflexible honesty of heart, are jewels of unspeakable worth, but they will not atone for rash speech, misjudgment of God, and hatred of weak and faulty men. Be true, by all means; but think of Job's penitence, and remember that the heroic virtue of integrity and wholeness, superlatively good as it is, is not enough.
3. It is the special charm of Job's story that it exhibits this high-strung and strenuous integrity dwelling in the same spirit with the acutest penitence and throbbing self-loathing. We can recognise these qualities apart, and appreciate them in their singleness, but that they should blend in the same life, tenant the same spirit, and be sources of power to the same character, conflicts with our habitual thought. Yet the minds of culminating power in the vast brotherhood of the world's workers and redeemers, have not been more deeply marked by their persistent devotion to purity of thought, uncompromising fidelity to fact, and aspiration after perfection, than by their quivering sensitiveness to the smallness of their achievements, acute sense of personal fault, and prevailing consciousness — often attended by spasms of weakening pain — of absolute failure. The righteous Job in his penitence anticipates the Church of the first-born in heaven. It is fidelity to the clearest laws of advancing human life which marries in one and the same progressive spirit, inflexible consecration to reality and right, and deep and true penitence for failure and sin.
4. Whence came this penitential mood? What induced this change of feeling? The unexpected revolution is effected by the revelation of God to the eye of the soul. "Mine eye seeth Thee." He passes out of the realm of mere "hearsays" about God, to that of inward experience and actual communion. The eyes give fuller and clearer knowledge than the ear. Job knows God as he did not know Him before. The character of his knowledge is changed, heightened, vitalised, intensified, personalised.
5. Was not Job led to this renewing sight of God by the voice that addressed, startled, and overwhelmed him out of the whirlwind, forcing in upon his mind an oppressive and overwhelming conception of the creative and administrative power of the Almighty? Is not the ear the way to the spiritual eye, as surely as the sight of God is the way to repentance, and repentance the way to life?
6. Here, then, is one signal value of the knowledge of God, even of His immense power and greatness. It is the ground and spring of a true conception of ourselves, of our limitations and possibilities, our actual condition and ethical ideal.
7. Such God-inspired penitence swiftly vindicates itself in the pure sincerity and holy brotherliness it creates, and the reconciliations it effects between man and man, and man and his lot. Sin divides; repentance unites. Humbled before the Lord, Job becomes a priest. Set the tree of penitence in such a Divine soil, and it must bear this kind of fruit.
(J. Clifford, D. D.)
1. It is a rough road, up hill, down dale, across rivers, and over mountains.
2. Moreover, the road is long. It is a life-long road.
3. Besides that, the road is so contrary to fallen nature. It is a way of faith.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
My purposes are broken off.
I. THE CHERISHED PURPOSES OF LIFE. The generality of persons live without forming any purposes at all. They drift along the current, and laying aside the strength and glory of manhood are nothing but logs. The true purposes of life are not mere languid dreams, or objectless hopes, or anticipations of pleasure, and we must not confound these with the ambition alluded to by Job. But they are the thought out plans and aspirations of a vigorous mind in true earnest.
1. Sometimes these purposes are selfish.
2. Sometimes these ambitions are philanthropic.
3. Sometimes these purposes are religious.There is the longing to lead a notably pious life, to be a pattern for others to copy, to bring up a godly family, to convert sinners, and to be worthy soldiers of the cross.
II. THE BROKEN PURPOSES OF LIFE. How often are ambitions formed; how seldom are they realised! Our purposes are always being broken. We have had a cherished plant, and longed to see it flower. But the frost has nipped the bud, and it has withered and drooped. We have had a loved child for whom we cherished a hope of carrying forward the work of our lives. But the loved one had been taken from us altogether or has turned out a sorrow instead of a joy. We have intended to go hither or thither, but the storm has intervened and we have been left behind.
III. THE HAND OF GOD IN THE PURPOSES OF LIFE. Job did not realise that his purposes had been cut off by God, and that there was an object underlying the sorrow which filled his heart. Neither do men understand that there may be a reason that they cannot fathom which has hindered the success of their cherished hopes. Eternity will show that man's purposes are broken —
1. Because if successful they would have been injurious to ourselves. Many souls have been saved by being kept from riches or power. Many have been kept from ruin by having their cherished idol taken away.
2. Because they might work some evil for others. We often see instances of misdirected philanthropy. But how seldom we can see behind the scenes, and how little do we know what will really benefit our fellow creatures!
3. Because God sees that we are not fitted for the work,
4. Because He has higher and better purposes for us.
5. Because He desires to bring us to a state of perfect trust in Himself. He crushes our plans to show us how weak, how foolish we are, and to lay us low in humility. How much wiser are His arrangements!
(J. J. S. Bird.)
The Study.I. MEN FORM PURPOSES. Mind is active and made to think. Men speculate and resolve. Pleasure and wealth, honour and worldly position eagerly sought.
II. THESE PURPOSES NOT ALWAYS FULFILLED. Broken off as threads of the web cut off from the loom (Isaiah 32). Impossible to realise. Providence intervenes; man proposeth, God disposeth. Greeks represented the fates as spinning the threads of human life. Procrastination prevents performance. Satan hinders (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
III. THIS IS A SAD FACT IN EXPERIENCE. "My" purposes. Good resolutions formed and never carried out; plans adopted and forsaken; principles never come to maturity, and life wasted in attempting, and nothing done!
I. AS REVEALING THE SPECULATIVE SIDE OF HUMAN LIFE. All men have purposes. Man cannot live by history alone; he must strengthen himself by hope. Man puts out his hand and plucks of the tree of tomorrow. Every man speculates concerning the future, and feels himself inspired as he dwells on the charms of the coming time. Man's power of speculation always exceeds man's power of realisation. The poetic fancy is in advance of the toiling hand. The wanderer's mind is at the destination long before the wanderer's foot has taken the first step of the journey! The power of speculation and the power of realisation are not coordinate. We paint many a fire which we never can enkindle. We plant olive yards which bear no fruit, and dig wells which hold no water. Yet we would not give up this power of projecting ourselves into the future! We would not like to be barred in the small prison called "today." Not a man but is pleasing himself with some dream of fancy. Each is saying, "The times will change for the better; the cold winds will die out; the sky will be a cloudless arch; I shall walk on a carpet of violets through palaces of perfume."
II. AS DISCLOSING THE REAL SIDE OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE. "Purposes"! — that is poetry; "Broken"! - that is history! This is a sad combination of words! Life is full of half-built towers. Men had begun to build, but were not able to finish. Life is a pile of fragments. Nowhere is there aught complete. Life is all beginnings; there is no finished pinnacle!
III. AS SUGGESTING MAN'S TRUE COURSE AS A SPECULATIST AND AS A WORKER. "Go to now, ye that say today or tomorrow," etc. There is a "tonight" between today and tomorrow. Learn —
1. All purposes against God must be broken off.
2. Form the loftiest purposes for God, and they will be fulfilled.
3. Remember the moral import of uncertainty.
If I wait, the grave is mine house.I. DESCRIBE THE HOUSE.
1. The grave is a very spacious house.
2. It is very dark and dreary.
3. It is a house of silence. It is empty.
4. It is the house of corruption.
5. It is the house of oblivion.
II. ALL MEN ARE GOING TO THIS HOUSE.
1. This lot is ours by the appointment of God.
2. Ever since God appointed death, He has been carrying mankind to the grave in a constant and uninterrupted succession.
3. We not only see the mortality in others, but feel it coming upon ourselves.
III. WHY WE SHOULD KEEP THIS SERIOUS TRUTH IN MIND.
1. Because God requires men to keep their mortality in view.
2. God takes many methods to impress this important truth upon men's hearts.
3. It is necessary in order to their forming all their worldly schemes with wisdom and propriety.
4. In order to form a just estimate of the world and its inhabitants.
5. In order to prepare them to endure the trials and afflictions of the present life with patience and fortitude.
6. It will have a direct tendency to prepare men for death when it comes. Improvement. Every way of thinking and acting is sinful, which tends to banish the thoughts of death from our minds.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
And where is now my hope?
The Evangelist.? —
I. OCCASIONS IN LIFE WHICH FORCE UPON US THIS INQUIRY.
1. In those seasons when the troubles of life press heavily.
2. When our human dependencies have failed.
3. When the terrors of a guilty conscience seize us.
4. The question irresistibly presses upon all as death seems to approach.
II. THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF THOSE WHO HAVE NOT PROVIDED AGAINST THESE SEASONS OF TRIAL.
1. All earthly hopes are, in their very nature, inadequate to our exigencies.
2. All the hopes which are derived from the world and the creatures are temporal in their duration.
3. If they could endure and go with us into eternity, or the separate state of souls, — yet they would not stand the test of the final day of account.
III. SEE THE NECESSITY OF CLOSE SELF-EXALTATION.
1. This examination should refer to the object of our hope.
2. We should examine whether we have a well-grounded and scriptural prospect of attaining to the object of our hope. It is possible that we may practise self-delusion.
3. Your hope may be good as to its object, its foundation may be the work of Jesus Christ, an anchor sure and steadfast, but have you a valid title to appropriate that hope to yourself?
4. Inquire whether your hope has borne any trials. Application —(1) The discovery that our hope is good, and entereth into that within the veil, may well afford exultation.
2. But, if our hope is found vain and weak, or absolutely false, it is high time to abandon it and seek a better.
I. THE INQUIRY. "Where is my hope?"
1. Is your hope in the world? This is the case with multitudes. Then your hope is set on that which is not good.
2. Is your hope in sin? Is that possible? The pleasures of sin are but for a season, the pains of sin are for eternity.
3. Is your hope in your works? This was the case with the ancient Pharisees. They "went about to establish their own righteousness," but failed in the attempt. All who are "of the works of the law" are under it as a covenant; and as such it requires perfect obedience, or there is no justification by it.
4. Is your hope in your knowledge? "Knowledge puffeth up." "The Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power."
5. Is your hope in Christ? Then it is in the right place. The hope of Job was in him — the Redeemer; so was the hope of the primitive Christians.
II. THE CASES IN WHICH INQUIRERS ARE WARRANTED TO HOPE. We are not warranted to hold out hope in every case. You must be made to feel your guilt, before you will give up your false hope. You must be made to feel your insufficiency before you will apply to Christ for relief.
1. If you repent you are warranted to hope.
2. If you believe, you are warranted to hope.
3. If you obey, you are warranted to hope.
4. If you love Christ, you are warranted to hope.
5. So you are, if you love the house of prayer.
6. And if you love the brethren.
7. And if you seek the Divine glory.
III. THE QUALITIES OF THE HOPE WHICH THE GOSPEL INSPIRES.
1. It is a Divine hope.
2. A lively hope.
3. A joyful hope.
4. A liberal hope.
5. A permanent hope.In conclusion, let us consider the inquiry in the text in reference to ourselves, and thus endeavour to make a suitable improvement of the subject. Where is now my hope?
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