Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands
I. DESCRIBE THE WISE WOMAN.
1. She must know how to manage with prudence and care the concerns of a family. It is woman's work to "guide the house." How many, on marrying, find they need to learn the first principles of domestic economy. If a man can be more happy in any other house than his own, he is a lost man.
2. A wise woman will improve her taste and her manners. This in no way involves her becoming proud.
3. A wise woman will aim to improve her mind. The mind is enlarged by receiving ideas, and by using them as materials of thought and reasoning.
4. A wise woman will endeavour to enlighten and improve her conscience. This is the faculty of the soul by which we weigh the morality of an action. To improve the conscience we must give it light, and let it guide us. Well enlightened, it guides to happiness and heaven.
5. A wise woman will be particularly careful to cultivate the heart. The instinctive affections are capable of improvement by other means than grace. But the female character is essentially defective in the absence of piety. Religion has a peculiar sweetness when it mingles with the modest softness of the female character. By reason of their peculiar trials, females need the comforts, hopes, and prospects of religion more, if possible, than the other sex.
II. A WISE WOMAN BUILDETH HER HOUSE. To build her house is to promote the best good of her husband and her offspring.
1. How will such a woman affect their estate? Her wisdom will save more than her hands could earn.
2. She will render her family respectable.
3. She will render her family happy. She will so manage as not to irritate their passions. Her example will breathe through the house a mild and soft atmosphere. There is no resisting the combined influence of so many virtues. What she cannot do by her precepts and examples, she effects by her prayers. Her influence surely extends beyond her own family.Reflections:
1. Females see how they are to rise in the scale of being.
2. See the importance of supporting good schools.
3. See the importance of the gospel.
4. Females should make the Scriptures their daily study.From the mother, rather than the father, the members of the family will take their character.
(D. C. Clark.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
Homilist.I. ITS GREAT POWER.
1. It can build up. "Every wise woman buildeth her house."(1) Materially. By her economy, industry, and wise management she increases its material resources. A good wife builds up her house —(2) Spiritually. A good wife by her example, her spirit, her admonitions, her reproofs, her prayers, rears in her house a very temple of industry, intelligence, and worship.
2. It can pull down. "The foolish plucketh it down with her hands." There are women who by their miserable tempers and degrading habits ruin their husbands and children.
II. ITS NECESSARY QUALIFICATION. What is the necessary qualification for a good housewife? "Wisdom."
Christian Treasury.A plain marble stone, in a churchyard, bears this brief inscription: "She always made home happy." This epitaph was penned by a bereaved husband, after sixty years of wedded life. He might have said of his departed wife, she was beautiful, and accomplished, and an ornament to society, and yet not have said she made home happy. Alas, he might have added, she was a Christian, and not have been able to say, "She always made home happy." What a rare combination of virtues and graces this wife and mother must have possessed! How wisely she must have ordered her house! In what patience she must have possessed her soul! How self-denying she must have been! How tender and loving! How thoughtful for the comfort of all about her!
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the Lord.I. MEN DIFFER WIDELY IN THEIR DAILY CONDUCT.
1. Some men walk uprightly. Walking uprightly implies —(1) Moral strength. The man is not bent and crooked by the infirmities of sin or the weight of depravity.(2) Conscious rectitude. He does not bow down his head, as if ashamed to look his neighbour in the face. He is as open as the day, and as fearless as the sun.
2. Some walk perversely. "They are perverse in their ways." They are crooked in their purposes, policies, and performances.
II. MEN REVEAL THEIR HEART TOWARDS GOD IN THEIR DAILY WALK.
1. Right conduct springs from a right feeling towards God. The man that walketh uprightly feareth the Lord. There is no true morality without religion. Piety is the first principle of all rectitude. All good living must have respect to God.
2. Wrong conduct springs from wrong feeling towards God. "He that is perverse in his ways, despiseth Him." The wrong doer has no feeling of respect for God. He ignores Him as much as he can. You may know how men feel inwardly toward their Maker by observing how they deal outwardly with each other.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.
I. We might begin with an illustration from the INDUSTRIAL sphere, the relation, namely, between manufacture and natural scenery. Where no manufacture is, the scenery is intact; but much increase comes by the processes of manufacture. Take, for example, the midland counties of England, and especially those parts of them we know as the Black Country. No region of England is more picturesque in itself, marked by the outlines and stored with the elements of natural and original beauty. Yet how man has overlaid and defaced things! Look at the country as it is now, ploughed with railway tracks, torn with excavations, encumbered with heaps of rubbish. And those to whom beauty is all may object to this. "What barbarism," they say, "what vandalism, what wanton and wilful desecration of the sanctities of nature! Better, surely, was the country in its virgin luxuriance, when the slopes were clothed with woodland." Well, the change means loss, no doubt, loss from the standpoint of the beauty-lover. But it means gain from the standpoint of the utilitarian, and gain, too, in the eye of those who look higher than what is merely utilitarian. For not only does black smoke, according to the proverb, make white silver, but it is a witness to facts, a testimony to realities, of which silver is only a single embodiment, and that, too, by no means the highest. The sight was a symbol of several things, all noble and honourable in their way. It is a symbol of man's power over nature, his diligence in extracting and his ingenuity in moulding the substance which nature conceals in her heart. It is a symbol of the clothing that covers shivering forms, a symbol of the bread that feeds hungry mouths. It is a symbol of England's greatness, industry, and world-wide trade.
II. Passing from the industrial to the DOMESTIC sphere, we might select an illustration of a different character, which a poet-preacher of the time has happily associated with this text, and speak of the relation between children and home. We remark, then, that where there are no children, the house may be trim; but much profit comes through the presence and companionship of children. Neatness in a house may be good. But there is a neatness that tells of emptiness. There is a neatness that betokens loneliness. There is a neatness that is not half so attractive as the wear and tear, the disturbance and disorder, that denote the presence of busy little inmates, with their restless hands and roving feet. The loss is a small one compared with the gain. Children are God's heritage. How much they teach! How much they bestow! Not only does the parent train and develop the child, but the child may train and develop the parent. Our children should be leaders to all of us, leaders from faithlessness into faith, from restlessness into rest, from selfishness into sacrifice, from frivolity into earnestness, thoughtfulness, and the sense of responsibility. Does not the pure eye of an innocent child restrain the foul or the cruel act? Are not its needs a discipline in sympathy, its questionings a training in reflection? Where the children are absent, the home may be neat, the mind unperplexed; but much increase — increase of happiness, increase of affection, increase of prosperity — comes through association with little children.
III. Or we might pass to the ECCLESIASTICAL sphere, and select as an instance of the same principle the relation between controversy and the Church. We note, then, at this point, that where no discussion is, the Church may be at rest; but much benefit comes through freedom of discussion, in the case of the Church as well as of the State. Some people are all for peace. But there is a peace of stagnation. There is a peace of indifference. There is a peace that is based upon lack of conviction. Do not judge of Church enterprises nor of Church proceedings, as some do, and condemn them simply because they create dispeace. Peace may be bought too dearly. Purity is better. Truth is better. Undoubtedly in discussion the crib may be soiled. Controversy often awakens temper, evokes party spirit, causes hard words to be said, unkind acts to be done, selfish rivalries to spring up Yet these may be a blessing in the end, in comparison of which the temporary soiling of the crib is a matter of smaller importance after all. There is the down-breaking of prejudice. There is the removing of misunderstandings. There is the formulating of principle. There is the discovering of character. It will be best for the spread of righteousness; it will be safest in the interests of belief.
IV. Pass next to the sphere of PRACTICAL BENEFICENCE, and apply the principle of the text to the relation between philanthropy and experience. We remark, then, that where no philanthropy is, the experience may be easy, free from much that is unpleasant to look at, unpleasant to think of, and unpleasant to do; but much increase comes through the exercise of philanthropy. What have we here but the plain, simple lesson, which has to be learnt by every social benefactor, every Christian worker, that they who will live helpfully, as the saviours and the succourers of their fellow-men, must be prepared to forego fastidiousness. To do any real good amidst the poor, the sunken, and the vicious, men must come into contact with many things that are neither pleasant nor pure. Now, take any such labourer as these, in the great unselfishness, the overflowing charity, the fearlessness of mind and of heart, which the labour engaged in always demands. And take another, to whom labour of the time is unknown, one who, with the same possibilities and the same call, says, "No, the task you propose is distasteful, the experiences you prescribe are rough; I prefer to have my sight unoffended, my feelings unharrowed, my imagination unhaunted. Let me see to myself — the purity of my own character, the health and prosperity of my own soul, in the circle of my personal friendships, the seclusion of my private home." Put the two side by side. Which leads the richer existence? Each has its own reward. How shall we best explain these rewards, their distinctive nature, their relative value? Just in the terms of the text. For the one, the "clean crib" — a certain ignorance, a certain immunity, certain security; not only a sensibility unwrung by the spectacles of sorrow, but a mind kept closed to the pictures of sin: that, and perhaps little more than that. For the other, the "much increase," in the enriching of his personal character, the widening of his personal sympathies, together with the privilege of ministering to his brethren's welfare and the joy of being blessed to his brethren's souls. Clean garments, clean hands, who set a value upon these, as the continuous, the indispensable prerequisite of life? I will tell you who do not. Not the surgeon, as he walks the battlefield with the sponge that wipes the blood and the linen that binds the wounds. Not the rescue party, as they enter the mine, amidst the heat, the soot, and the smoke of a recent explosion, with which the caverns still echo, and the earth still smokes. Not the sailor, as he pulls to the wreck, through a troubled sea that casts up mire and dirt, till his arms are twined with the seaweed and his coat is drenched with the ooze. Clean hands and clean garments, you must be content now and then to forego them, if the world you live in is to be cleansed.
V. Akin to the last thought is another one, drawn this time from the MENTAL sphere. Take the relation between force of character and life. We remark, then, in the last place, that where there is no force of character, the life may be inoffensive, harmless in itself, pleasing to others; but much increase, increase to the world and the Church, comes through force of character. Most men have the defects of their qualities. This is especially true of those whoso distinguishing quality is vigour, a certain superabounding energy and strength. The vigour is apt to be domineering, the energy rude, the strength unaccompanied with suavity, fine feeling, good taste. If you are to reap the advantage of such characters, you take them as you find them, and pardon and tolerate their coarseness that you may be helped and benefited by their zeal. Luther was earnest but rough. But we remember the work. We remember the time. Neither the period nor the task admitted of treatment by rosewater. What though the crib was untidy? Be thankful for the well-ploughed field; be thankful for the gathered sheaves of religious truth and religious liberty, which still remain in our storehouses, to give seed to the Christian sower and bread to the Christian eater, as the outcome of Luther's labours, the memorial of Luther's name. Take God's blessing as it comes to you, and be very tolerant towards the instruments. Polish is a less thing than enthusiasm, courtliness than sincerity. It may be well to have both things combined. But if we are shut up to the alternative, and feel tempted to pronounce for the softer qualities, as less likely to irritate, less apt to excite, let us fall back on the principle of the text, and while remembering that where no force of character is the life may be inoffensive, much increase comes by the vigour we fear.
(W. A. Gray.)
Christian Observer.I. Taken in its primary sense, IT CONVEYS A LESSON OF NO SMALL IMPORTANCE TO THE MERE CULTIVATOR OF LAND. You pride yourself upon the exquisite neatness and order of your farm. The spade, the plough, the fork, the cart, are almost as pure and delicate as when they came from the hands of the maker. But if the work is left undone, and you purchase neatness and order at the expense of having no sheep in the fold, then you pay too dear for your nicety; you have the clean crib, but you will have also an empty barn.
II. The same maxim APPLIES TO THE MANAGEMENT OF A HOUSE. You pride yourself on the exquisite neatness of every corner in your dwelling-place. Not a cobweb is on the ceiling, and not a grain of dust on the staircase. The delighted mistress has the daily satisfaction of seeing her own fair face reflected in the polished table below her. The crib is clean; but you may here also buy the cleanliness at too high a price. Perhaps cleanliness is not merely your taste but your idol. You forget that usefulness is the true object of household economy, and that neatness is a mere means to this end. You, like Mr. Burke's man of honour, "feel a stain like a wound," and esteem a hole in a carpet as tantamount to a hole in your character. You forget that your house was not designed by the great Giver for yourself alone, but for your neighbours and friends, for brothers and sisters, and nephews and nieces, who want a little country air or London shopping, and who naturally look to you, as to a richer relation and friend, to give them the convenience they need. Surely you had better have a soiled "crib" than a narrow heart; and spotted tables than not a single loving, grateful, happy guest to sit at a clean one.
III. This rule is also applicable, I think, TO LITERATURE. The correctness of some writers is perfectly unimpeachable. The grammarian searches in vain for a false concord or quantity, or the rhetorician for a false ornament. There is no confusion of metaphor; no redundancy of expression which disfigures the pages of less cautious writers. Now here the "crib" is clean; but then, in such cases, it is often equally true that there are no "oxen." The style is as "dull, cold, fiat, and unprofitable," as it is pure and correct. It is the judgment of a no less critic than Quintilian, that the writer who, in his youth, is never redundant, will usually in his old age be poverty stricken. Where the heart, the imagination, and the passions have free play, the critic may find something to correct; but very often also consciences will be touched and hearts be edified.
IV. But I now turn to SOME HIGHER TOPICS, TO WHICH THE RULE APPEARS TO ME EQUALLY TO APPLY. Lenis is a most unexceptionable person; of the very calmest temper and the most placid manners. He is always to be found in the right place at the very right moment. He speaks little, and never offensively; he belongs to no party, and is a determined enemy to all excess. He is perhaps constant at church, though a little drowsy there; has a decided preference for vague, calm, general sermons. He gives decently to all popular or uncriticised charities. And the result of all this is, that he gets into no scrapes, incurs no reproach, is claimed as a friend by men of all opinions, simply because he was never known to express an opinion of his own. Now here "the crib "is unusually "clean." But at what expense is it purchased? I should say at the cost of most of the feelings, tastes, principles, rules, habits, and sympathies which constitute the substance and essence of the Christian character. The "crib is clean" because there are "no oxen." Lenis is as much like a statue as a man. All the higher and nobler passions of our nature have no place in him. His life is, possibly, harmless, but it is altogether unprofitable. And this because the one essential quality is wanting, the love of God, and the love of His family upon earth. He might be nearly all he is if there were no such Being as the Redeemer of the world, who had felt for him, and expected him to feel for others. The same thought may be extended to different classes of the ministers of religion. I remember to have seen, some years since, in a review of high authority, a comparison drawn between Bishop as a parochial minister, and Thomas Scott as the minister of Olney. The bishop, on quitting his parish for another sphere of duty, finds little but subjects of self-complacency, commendation, and thankfulness. The whole population might seem to have received the whole word of truth into their souls. Every plan had prospered. "The crib is clean." Mr. Scott, on the contrary, in quitting his parish, speaks strongly of the immorality of one part of the population, of the stubbornness and self-will of another, and of the abuse of the doctrines of grace in a third party. And whilst he dwells strongly, and gratefully, on the zeal, love, and fidelity of some, his language is certainly, on the whole, such as might be expected from the mourning prophet, when "rivers of water ran down his eyes because men kept not the word" of the Lord. Here, therefore, "the crib" was, to appearance, not equally "clean." But then I am disposed to think that the "oxen " were far more diligently at work in the one case than in the other. The object of the one minister was mainly to secure order, regularity, decency, harmony, with a decent regard for morals and religion. The object of the other was to "lay the axe to the root of the tree" — to convince, to alarm, to convert, to sanctify, to lead his hearers as contrite sinners to the foot of the Cross, and to qualify them under God for the highest seats in the kingdom of heaven. And the result was that, in the one case, few consciences were touched, few fears were awakened, few hearts were moved. In the other case, if there were some who were offended at plain truths announced in the somewhat homely language of the minister, there were also many awakened consciences.
V. The last case to which I shall refer the proverb is that of CONTROVERSY. Eirenos is a man of peace. He can quote to you maxims without number from the Scriptures and from the writings of great theologians on the duty of gentleness, forbearance, charity. If you wish to enlist him on the side of those who are doing battle for some vital truth, he comes down upon you with a deluge of authorities which it is almost impossible to resist; tells you that Fenelon wrote a whole treatise upon "Charity"; that Bishop Hall was the author of a treatise expressly denominated "The Olive Branch "; that Hooker said the time would come when "a few words written in charity" would be worth all the angry disputation in the world. Now all this is true; and is, indeed, never to be forgotten by the disciples of a compassionate Saviour. A higher authority than any of these uninspired writers says: "If I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." But it may be well to remind Eirenos that, notwithstanding the peaceful spirit and language of all these authorities, Fenelon barely escaped burning for the honesty and explicitness with which he spoke his mind; Bishop Hall was for the same offence driven out of his diocese; Hooker was charged with all sorts of enormities before the Privy Council; and St. Paul himself was hunted down like a wild beast by all classes of the community. But Eirenos has no taste for such extravagances. Now here is the "clean crib," but where are the "oxen"? Here is Erasmus; but where is Luther, or Cranmer, or Ridley, or Latimer? Where are the zeal, the "indignation" at error, the "vehemence" of holy love, the devotion to God and to truth, which consumed the soul of the meek and lowly Saviour; which exiled St. John to Patmos; and which has lighted up the funeral pile of the whole army of saints and martyrs?
A faithful witness will not lie.
The Fireside News.Truth is beautiful, as well as safe and mighty. In the incident related below a boy twelve years old, with only truth as a weapon, conquered a smart and shrewd lawyer, who was fighting for a bad cause. "Truth is the highest thing that man may keep," and the noblest child or man is he that keeps the truth ever between his lips. Walter was the important witness in a lawsuit. One of the lawyers, after cross-questioning him severely, said, "Your father has been talking to you and telling you how to testify, hasn't he? Yes," said the boy. "Now," said the lawyer, "just tell us how your father told you to testify." "Well," said the boy modestly, "father told me that the lawyers would try and tangle me in my testimony; but if I would just be careful and tell the truth, I could tell the same thing every time." The lawyer didn't try to tangle that boy any more.
(The Fireside News.)
A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not.
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
I. THE CHARACTER OF A SCORNER. The following ingredients in it:
1. Pride. An undue desire of honour, or an overvaluing one's self, and undervaluing of others. It is the source of undutiful behaviour towards God. It is discovered by affecting a pre-eminence above their fellows. Some claim honour on account of their actual knowledge or their capacity of investigating and discerning truth. To some religion is itself the subject of glorying and vain elation of mind.
2. Contempt of religion and virtue (2 Peter 3:3, 4).
II. THE OBSTRUCTION WHICH ARISES FROM SCORNING TO MEN'S BECOMING WISE.
1. Pride is a great hindrance both to the attainment of knowledge and virtue. Especially is the man who is proud of his wisdom and his religion the farthest off from becoming truly wise and religious.
2. This perverse disposition rendereth men obnoxious to the displeasure of God, and entirely disqualified for receiving favour from Him. Only application is to exhort you to humility, as a most necessary qualification for your increase in useful knowledge, and in every Christian virtue. There may be mistaken notions of humility. It is far from consisting in any such sentiments as disparage human nature, or any such temper and behaviour as are unworthy its dignity. We must not degrade ourselves into a lower species that we may be humble men. With respect to God, it consists in a just sense of our own subjection and dependence, of our own weakness and guilt. This disposition will entitle us to the favour of God and the approbation of all good men.
(J. Abernethy, M.A.)
I. WHO IS REPRESENTED HERE UNDER THE CHARACTER OF SCORNER? Scorners were men who, with much ado, had made a shift to get rid of good principles, and such stiff opinions as they found inconsistent with a loose practice. As they had not any religion themselves, so their way was to despise those who had. The scorner is said to "seek wisdom" and "not to find it" He pretends to know more, to have made freer inquiries after truth, and to have shaken off the prejudices of education more thoroughly than other people.
II. IN WHAT SENSE HE CANNOT FIND WISDOM. Four things unfit such a man for impartial inquiries after Divine truth — a very proud, or a very suspicious temper, false wit, or sensuality. The two last generally belong to him; but the two first are essential to him, and inseparable from him. There is no quality that sticks more closely to a scorner than pride, and nothing more evidently obstructs right reasoning. Suspicion makes him doubt everything he hears and distrust every man he converses with. An extremity of suspicion in an inquirer after truth is like a raging jealousy in a husband or a friend; it leads a man to turn all his thoughts towards the ill-natured side, and to put the worst construction upon everything. False wit is a way of exposing things sacred and serious, by passing a bold jest upon them and ridiculing arguments instead of comforting them. The sensual man is, of all men living, the most improper for inquiries after truth and the least at leisure for it. He is never sedate and cool, disinterested and impartial.
Go from the presence of a foolish man.
I. IT IS UNPROFITABLE. What you want in society is knowledge. True knowledge shall —
1. Rightly guide.
2. Truly comfort.
3. Religiously inspire the soul.But such knowledge is not to be got from the foolish man. He has no power to help you, and therefore time spent in his society is waste.
II. IT IS MISLEADING. "The folly of fools is deceit."
1. They cheat themselves. They fancy they have the true ideas, and the true pleasures, but it is a miserable delusion.
2. They cheat others. They mislead by the falsehood of their speech and the craftiness of their policy.
3. It is wicked. They "make a mock at sin." "Go," then, "from the presence of a foolish man." Seek the society of the wise.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
Fools make a mock at sin.
I. OUR NATURES TESTIFY THAT SIN IS THE CHIEF OF EVILS. Evil has various forms, these set in two divisions, natural and moral; pain or suffering springing from outward conduct and events, independent of our will: and evil related to character and conduct, and inspired by the will. Vice is manifestly more to be dreaded than pain. All will agree that excellence of character is the supreme good, and that baseness of soul and of action involves something worse than suffering. Our very nature teaches the doctrine of Christianity, that sin or moral evil ought of all evils to inspire most abhorrence and fear.
II. EXPERIENCE TESTIFIES THAT SIN IS THE CHIEF OF EVILS. Though sin sometimes prospers, and never meets its full retribution on earth, yet, on the whole, it produces more present suffering than all things else; so that experience warns us against sin or wrong-doing as the chief evil we can incur. To do wrong is to inflict the surest injury on our own peace.
III. THE MISERIES OF DISOBEDIENCE TO CONSCIENCE AND GOD ARE NOT EXHAUSTED IN THIS LIFE. Sin deserves, calls for, and will bring down, future, greater misery. This Christianity, and this nature, teaches. Some, indeed, assert that punishment is confined to the present state; that in changing worlds we shall change our characters, and that moral evil is to be buried with the body in the grave. But to suppose no connection to exist between the present and the future character is to take away the use of the present state. It is even plainly implied in Scripture, that we shall suffer much more from sin, evil tempers, irreligion, in the future world, than we suffer here. I have spoken of the pains and penalties of moral evil or of wrongdoing, in the world to come. How long they will endure I know not.
(W. E. Channing, D.D.)
I. THE FOOLISHNESS IN ITSELF. Sin is really a very terrible thing: nothing is so terrible. Ask its slave and its victim. If you look from its work within you to its work around you, is the foolishness much less manifest? What but sin is the cause of all the misery around us?
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF MOCKING AT SIN.
1. The effects of this mocking on the mocker himself. Nothing can be so deadening to the soul. Because laughing at sin relieves us of fear of it. Such mocking is altogether alien from, and contrary to, the mind of Christ. Moreover, it must quench the Spirit. It must kill the first beginnings of repentance.
2. Consequences upon others. There is nothing more corrupting of others than this mocking at sin. Such men may be found doing their deadly work everywhere, and in every rank of society. The young are their peculiar victims. The mocker's work is often irretrievable. No one who has led another to laugh at sin can ever calculate or undo the work he may have done.Learn —
1. To fly from the very first beginnings of this sin, whether in yourself or in others.
2. Understand the real value of that in which you are tempted to join.
3. If you are tempted to envy sinners their laugh, or to shrink from their mockeries, seek the defence, relief, and strengthening of prayer.
(Bishop S. Wilberforce.)
I. WHAT SIN IS. The transgression of a reasonable, holy, and righteous law.
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF MAKING A MOCK AT SIN. The general consequence of this practice must be the prevailing of sin and unrighteousness in the world. The passions of mankind lead them by a strong propensity to what is forbidden, and all the fences and guards of religion are found little enough to restrain our compliance. Whatever weakens these restraints must, in the same proportion, occasion the increase of all ungodliness. What can more effectually contribute to this evil than making a mock at sin? The natural reluctances of reason and conscience will generally guard men against open scoffers, who ridicule all fear of God, all restraints of virtue and religion. But there are other mockers, whose influence is more to be feared. Men who will permit you to keep a reserve of religion, will pretend to agree with you in detesting some crimes, but persuade you to think others only ludicrous amusements, which it is weakness and superstition to abstain from yourselves, and a morose, unconversable severity to censure in your neighbours. This is a temptation to which we are exceedingly open. How much we are obliged in duty, and concerned in interest, to correct and oppose this vain, irreligious humour of mocking at sin! To check this growing evil, let us reflect on that holy and dreadful presence before whom we stand. The eyes of our Judge are always over us.
(J. Rogers, D.D.)
1. A man may, without directly denying the evil of sin, yet treat it with most unseemly levity.
2. Some men are in the habit of speaking of sin, that is, of the popular and less flagrant kinds of sin, as being indeed, in a modified sense, an evil; but as one which is inherent in, and inseparable from, humanity, which must therefore be submitted to in part, as a man would endure the enforced society of a disagreeable companion, whom circumstances would not permit him to discard.
3. Men mock at sin when they bear false witness concerning the fruits and effects of sin in themselves and others. If sin be a man's worst enemy, and a very powerful and malignant enemy, he who should mock at it, and deride it, must be acting the part of a vain, senseless, and presumptuous braggart. No man can really believe sin to be a matter for laughter. From all irreverence, and an unholy mirth in relation to sin, may God deliver us!
(G. W. Brameld, M.A.)
I. WHAT IS IT TO MOCK AT SIN? Sin is the transgression of the law; doing what God forbids, or omitting to do what He commands. The term "mock," as applied to the law of God, may include ridiculing, trifling with its authority and sanctions, or palliating and excusing the breach of it.
1. There are some who scoff, openly profane, and set at defiance the law of God. Of these there are two classes, the one urged by their sensual appetites, the other by their intellectual pride. There are others who see the necessity of a certain attention to moral conduct, but look with a sullen, contemptuous, sceptical eye upon revelation.
2. There are some who mock at sin by " trifling" with it. They suffer almost anything to set aside obedience to God; they expose themselves unnecessarily to temptation; they frequent companies and places, involve themselves in employments, which are likely to lead them to sin, and yet mock at the idea of danger from them. They do not give the law of God, in reference to the regulation of their daily conduct, a thought either one way or the other.
3. There are others who may be said to mock at sin by "excusing and palliating it." They contend that there is more good than evil in the world. They think the gospel dispensation has lowered the requirements of the law.
II. THE FOLLY OF SUCH MOCKERS. What justifies ridicule, trifling, and palliation, and does this apply to sin?
1. We ridicule what it is beneath argument to confute. Ridicule is, at all times, a dangerous weapon, seldom befitting the spirit of a real Christian. Absurdity is the object of ridicule. But what is there of absurdity connected with the law of God, that we should laugh at the breach of it? There is something more specious in the mockery of intellectual pride at the transgression of God's law; because we are, from the depravity of our nature, less susceptible of the enormity of spiritual sins than of sins of the flesh. Ambition and pride, for instance, with the world give a dignity to the character, where drunkenness would excite disgust.
2. Where is the sense, or wisdom, of trifling with sin? Has the breach, or observance, of God's law so little to do with our happiness or misery, as really to be scarcely worth our serious attention? Are the consequences of sin unimportant?
3. The folly of excusing or palliating sin is no less manifest. It lessens the abhorrence of sin in our mind. By having low views of sin, we adopt low standards of duty, low aims at usefulness, low views of the holiness of God. To palliate sin is to destroy the harmony of the Divine attributes, to rob Christ of His glory, Christianity of its motives, and to beguile us into a fatal neglect, or even denial of its fundamental doctrines. By palliating sin we also encourage the commission of sin in others; as many a parent has found by bitter experience, in screening children from proper correction, from a foolish regard to the feelings of the moment When shall we learn that every deviation from the will of God is a loss of happiness?
(B. E. Nicholls, M.A.)
I. THE FOOL.. Every wicked man is a fool. See this by comparing their properties.
1. It is a fool's property to have no foresight of future things.
2. To affect things hurtful to himself.
3. To prefer trifles and toys before matters of worth and weight. The fool will not give his bauble for the king's exchequer. Illustrate by the prodigal son.
4. To run on his course with precipitation. As these fools are many, so they are of many kinds. There is the sad fool and the glad fool, the haughty fool and the naughty fool.
II. THE SPORT OF THE FOOL. The fathers call "making a mock at sin," the lowest degree of sin, and the very threshold of hell. Consider the object of the fool's sport — sin.
1. Sin, which is contrary to goodness, and though to man's corrupt nature pleasing, yet even abhorred of those sparks and cinders which the rust of sin hath not quite eaten out of our nature as the creation left it. It is a contra-natural thing to "make a mock at sin."
2. Sin, which sensibly brings on present judgments.
3. Sin, which, if it bring not present judgments, is the more fearful. The less punishment wickedness receives here, the more is behind.
4. Sin, that shall at last be laid heavy on the conscience.
5. Sin, which provokes God to anger.
6. Sin, which God so loathed that He could not serve His own elect because of it, but by killing His own Son.
7. Sin, that shall be punished by death — the second death. But I cease urging this terror, and would rather persuade you by the love of God.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY MAKING A MOCK AT SIN. There are three sorts of sinners who, in their several degrees, may justly be charged with this guilt.
1. Those who esteem it a piece of courage to despise all religion, and a greatness of mind to deride all the obligations of virtue.
2. Those who do not in words, but do in deeds, bring contempt upon religion. This practical insult upon religion; this contempt of virtue and goodness in men's lives and actions is really, in the sight of God, a making a mock at sin.
3. Entertaining so slight an opinion of the evil and danger of sin, as makes men who are not entirely profligate, yet content themselves with distant resolutions of future repentance, and in the meantime speak peace to themselves in the practice of unrighteousness, or in the enjoyment of unlawful pleasures
II. UPON WHAT GROUNDS OR REASONS MEN ARE TEMPTED TO BE GUILTY OF THE SEVERAL DEGREES OF THIS VICE.
1. As to those profane spirits who esteem it a mark of courage to despise all religion, the only ground these have to go upon is atheism and infidelity. The only foundation this kind of mockers build upon is the hope that there will be no future state, no judgment to come.
2. Those who pretend to believe a God, and yet live viciously, flatter themselves with a notion that sin is not of so dangerous a nature as the preachers of the gospel represent it to be.
3. Those who are really sensible of the necessity of true repentance and amendment, and yet at the present speak peace to themselves in the practice of unrighteousness, can only find a foundation in an artificial design of securing to themselves both worlds, and of ingrossing more happiness than either God or Nature designed them. This is a mocking of God, but more truly a mocking or deceiving of themselves.
III. HOW WEAK ALL THOSE GROUNDS REALLY ARE, AND HOW GREAT IS THE FOLLY OF ACTING ON THEM. As to the first kind of profane mockers, what is the state of such persons when God takes away their soul? Can they be sure there is no God, and no future state? The hardiest unbeliever never yet pretended to have demonstration in this case. As to the second kind, those who make profession, but live viciously, on a general expectation that sin is less dangerous, and God more merciful than is usually represented, God is not in the least likely to be imposed upon by an outward profession of service, which even an earthly superior would with indignation reject. As to the third kind, those who indulge at present, with promise to themselves of amendment by and by; it may be said that this folly is playing with death and sporting with destruction. It is the folly of letting slip opportunities which may never be retrieved. It is the folly of provoking God to cut us off in His wrath. It is the folly of incapacitating a man's self more and more for the doing of that which yet is of absolute necessity not to be left undone. The longer any man continues in sin, the more difficult it becomes for him to leave it off. He grows hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
(S. Clarke, D.D.)
I. IN ITS NATURE. Its evil is most strikingly represented by contrasting it with the character of God, against whom it is committed; and with the law of God, of which it is the transgression.
1. God is a Being of the most perfect excellence, possessed of every attribute that can excite the admiration, love, and esteem of His intelligent creatures. Holiness is the chief and brightest attribute of the Godhead. Sin aims at the destruction of all the perfections of God.
2. The law of God is a transcript of His perfections. It is not only holy and just, but likewise good, calculated to promote the happiness of those who are subject to its authority. Sin is the transgression of the law, and therefore must contain in it a malignity and vileness proportioned to the purity and excellence of the law of God. Sin is the greatest of evils because it is opposite to the greatest good.
II. IN ITS EFFECTS. Within us and around us we contemplate the baneful consequences of this mortal evil. No sorrow or misery of any kind can be named that does not spring from this root of bitterness.
1. See mischief done to the angels who kept not their first estate.
2. Man, formed after his Maker's image, is likewise become a fallen and sinful creature. The calamities of earth bear marks of man's fatal apostasy from God. The whole creation groaneth.
3. The effects of sin are even yet more serious in a future and eternal state.
III. THE VIEWS WHICH PERSONS IN DIFFERENT SITUATIONS ENTERTAIN CONCERNING SIN. These differ according to their different moral characters. The more profligate a man becomes, the less evil he perceives in sin. The purer a man is the clearer and deeper are his convictions of the guilt and danger of transgressing the law of God.
I. THE CHARACTER OF WICKED AND UNGODLY MEN. The phrase "making a mock" sometimes signifies an abusing of others by violent and lewd actions; sometimes an exposing of men to shame and dishonour; sometimes an imposing upon the credulity of others, things that seem incredible and impossible; sometimes it is taken for a failing in our promises. Two other acceptations that are more to the present purpose.
2. Mocking may be taken for slighting, and making no account of; looking upon things or persons as trivial and inconsiderable.
II. THE CENSURE PASSED UPON THEM. They are "fools" who make a mock at sin.
1. They are fools who make a mock at other men's sins, so as to turn them into matter of jest and raillery. Consider what an accursed, horrid thing it is to tempt others to sin only that thou mayest afterwards make sport with them, and raise a scene of mirth out of the ruin of their souls. How desperately impious, wicked wretches they are who sin only to make others sport.
2. They are fools who make a mock at their own sins, so as to think the commission of them but a slight, inconsiderable matter. This will appear from three things. Slight provocations and easy temptations are sufficient to make them rush boldly into the commission of sin. It is very hard to work these men into any true sorrow or compunction for their sins. If they are moved at all with these things; yet they think that a slight and formal repentance will suffice to make amends for all. What is it that induceth and persuadeth wicked men to make so light of their sins?Two answers:
1. Because they see so few instances of God's dread wrath and vengeance executed on sinners in this life; and those rare ones, that are extant and visible, they impute rather to chance than to the retribution of Divine justice.
2. And because it is assumed that God cannot be affected with any real injury, for, as He is not benefited by our service, so He is not wronged by our iniquities. The great and inexcusable folly of making light of sin cannot be surpassed.
(E. Hopkins, D.D.)
1. It involves impiety. To mock at sin is to despise God's holiness, to set at nought His authority, to abuse God's goodness, to disregard and slight God's glory, to make light of God's curse and threatened vengeance; which implies a denial of God's truth, and a scornful defiance of God's power.
2. It involves cruelty. There breathes not on earth a more inhuman, a more iron-hearted monster, than the man who "makes a mock at sin."
3. And such mockery is most infatuated. Sin is the evil that is ruining the poor sinner himself — hurrying him to perdition.
(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)
I. PROVE THAT THE NAME OF FOOLS IS DUE TO THOSE WHO MOCK AT SIN. There are three ways whereby wicked men seek to justify themselves. By laying the blame of all their evil actions, either upon the fatal necessity of all events, the unavoidable frailty of human nature, or the impossibility of keeping the laws of heaven. These plausible pretences are worthless, and those who plead them are thus declared to be "fools."
II. MAKE PARTICULAR IMPEACHMENT OF THEIR FOLLY, BECAUSE THEY MAKE A MOCK AT SIN. This is proved because —
1. This mocking argues the highest degree of wickedness; and —
2. Betrays the greatest weakness of judgment, and want of consideration. If to sin be folly, to make a mock of it is little short of madness.The folly is seen in view of —
1. Whom they provoke, even the Governor of the world.
2. Whom the injury redounds to.
3. There can be no imaginable consideration thought on which might look like a plausible temptation to it. What is it which the persons who despise religion, and laugh at everything serious, propose to themselves as the reasons for what they do?
I. WHO ARE THOSE WHO MAKE A MOCK AT SIN?
1. The man who openly glories in his own wickedness.
2. The man who winks at, or smiles graciously on, the evil deeds of other men, in business, politics, or social life.
3. Those who mock at the reprovers of sin.
4. He who leads others into sin, or encourages others to abide in it. Every man makes a mock at sin who, either in his religious creed, or by his daily conduct, shows that he regards sin as a trifle. If you would understand why God denounces sin as something terrible and monstrous, you must observe its awful consequences, inquiring not merely what sin is, but what sin has done and will do. Sin is a disease of the soul; a paralysis that weakens a leprosy that pollutes, a plague that tortures, a pestilence that destroys the whole spirit within us.
II. WHY ARE SUCH MOCKERS FOOLS? To make a mock at a thing is, in a way, either to treat it or regard it as of little moment. And if the thing is very mighty or great, either in itself or in its influences, such mockery must be foolish.
(C. Wadsworth, D.D.)
I. THEY ARE FOOLS WHO MAKE A MOCK AT OTHER MEN'S SINS. Sins which are open and going beforehand unto judgment, are but too often made the occasion of mirth and scoffing. Wine is a mocker, and the man overtaken with it is the butt of his companion's ridicule. Violation of chastity is the chosen theme of many thoughtless persons' merriment. The monstrous liar finds many ready to draw him out, that they may laugh at his folly in supposing they will believe his incredible fictions. God looks on all, and says the mockers are fools, for that which they laugh at is no jesting matter, either in its nature or in its consequences; and let those who have been accustomed even to smile at the sins of others, ponder —
1. What every sin is;
2. What every sin deserves.
II. THEY ARE FOOLS WHO MAKE A MOCK AT SIN IN THEMSELVES, so as to think lightly of it, and treat its commission as an inconsiderable matter.
1. He is a fool who mocks at his sin, taking up a certain guilt on the hope of an uncertain repentance.
2. Supposing you were infallibly certain that repentance would be given, you would still be a fool in mocking at your sin, and going on in it m hope of repentance. For what is repentance? Not an easy, soft balm to the conscience, but the sword of the Spirit cutting into the heart, and piercing even to the dividing asunder of joints and marrow.
3. They are fools who make light of their sins, hoping they will be pardoned, for in so doing they mock at Christ's sufferings.
(G. Innes, M.A.)
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.
I. THE HEART KNOWS A BITTERNESS PECULIAR TO ITSELF. This is true in a natural, common, and moral sense. Concerning any man this is true. The shoe pinches on every foot, and that foot alone knows where the pinch is felt. Do not intrude into the hidden sorrows of any. Most solemnly this is true concerning the godless man and concerning the awakened man. When the Holy Spirit begins to convince the man of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, then "the heart knoweth its own bitterness." And concerning the backslider. And concerning the tried believer. But the singularity of his suffering is the dream of the sufferer. Others have seen affliction too. Know thy sorrow well. And remember that the cure for bitterness of heart is to take it to your Lord at once.
II. THE HEART KNOWS A SWEETNESS WHICH IS ALL ITS OWN.
1. The joy of pardoned sin.
2. The bliss of vanquished evil.
3. The joy of perfect reconciliation with God.
4. The joy of accepted service.
5. The joy of answered prayer.
6. The joy of peace in the time of trouble.
7. The joy of communion with God.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. A man's own mind of temper — a man's personal character. Every man is more connected with himself than with any external object. He is constantly a companion to himself in his own thoughts; and what he meets with there must, of all things, contribute most to his happiness or his disquiet. A good conscience, and good temper, prepare, even in the midst of poverty, a continual feast. How sadly the scene is reversed if a man's temper, instead of calmness and self-enjoyment, shall yield him nothing but disquiet and painful agitation. The wounds which the spirit suffers are owing chiefly to three causes: to folly, to passion, or to guilt. The external misfortunes of life, disappointments, poverty, and sickness are nothing in comparison of those inward distresses of mind occasioned by folly, by passion, and by guilt.
2. The connection in which a man stands with some of his fellow-creatures — a man's social feelings. Such causes of sorrow or joy are of an external nature. Having connected us in society by many ties, it is the decree of the Creator that these ties should prove, both during their subsistence and in their dissolution, causes of pleasure or pain immediately, and often deeply affecting the human heart. The most material circumstances of trouble or felicity, next to the state of our own mind and temper, are the sensations and affections which arise from the connections we have from others.The practical improvement to which this doctrine leads:
1. Let it serve to moderate our passion for riches and high situations in the world. It is well known that the eager pursuit of these is the chief incentive to the crimes that fill the world. Then contemplate these things with an impartial eye.
2. Let these observations correct our mistakes, and check our complaints, concerning a supposed promiscuous distribution of happiness in this world. The charge of injustice brought against Providence rests entirely on this ground, that the happiness and misery of men may be estimated by the degree of their external prosperity. This is the delusion under which the multitude have always laboured, but which a just consideration of the invisible springs of happiness that affect the heart is sufficient to correct. Judge not of the real condition of men from what floats merely on the surface of their state.
3. Let us turn our attention to those internal sources of happiness or misery on which so much depends. What is amiss or disordered within, in consequence of folly, passion, or guilt, may be rectified by due care under the assistance of Divine grace.
4. Let us frequently look up to Him who made the human heart, and implore His assistance in the regulation and government of it. The employments of devotion themselves form one of the most powerful means of composing and tranquillising the heart. Devotion opens a sanctuary to which they whose hearts have been most deeply wounded can always fly.
(Hugh Blair, D.D.)
1. If God is thus near to us, nearer than the closest and most intimate friend can be, we ought to feel His nearness, and bear about with us the constant sense of it.
2. If our hearts are in a great measure shut out from our fellow-man, and open only to God, it is in His sympathy that we should seek our happiness.
I. OF UNREVEALED AND NEGLECTED SORROWS, A LARGE PROPORTION ARISES FROM A STRONG, NATURAL PROPENSITY TO DEJECTION AND MELANCHOLY. As wounds which are occasioned by external violence are more conspicuous, but less dangerous, than the hidden disease which preys upon the vital parts. Some whose circumstances are prosperous are always in the glooms, their feeble mind spreads its malignant tincture over every surrounding prospect. Spectators form their opinions from exterior circumstances, hence they cannot give their sympathy where they cannot observe sufficient cause of misery. Were they ever so much disposed to give it this miserable man would have none of their comfort.
II. THERE IS A CLASS OF MEN WHO MIGHT SUCCEED BETTER IN PROCURING THE SYMPATHY OF THE WORLD COULD THEY BUT TELL THE CAUSE OF THEIR SORROW. Disappointments in a long train have fallen upon the man's head, and the manliness of his spirit is subdued, and he surrenders himself a willing subject to peevishness and despair. Ambition defeated may fret and chagrin the aspiring mind. Affection slighted gives a deep and incurable wound to the man of a feeling heart.
III. THE MAN WHO SECRETLY GRIEVES FOR THE TREACHERY OF A FRIEND HAS EVEN A MORE SERIOUS CLAIM UPON OUR SYMPATHY. Such a man is sure to say, "My bitterness shall be known only to my own heart."
IV. DOMESTIC SOURCES OF DISQUETUDE. These, from motives of delicacy, are secreted from the notice and sympathy of the world.
V. CASES OF PERSONS WHO HAVE CHANGED THEIR STATION IN LIFE, AND CANNOT FIT TO THEIR NEW CONDITIONS. As in imperfectly assorted marriages. What misery is experienced which must be kept in reserve.
VI. THE MAN WHO CARRIES GRIEF IN HIS BOSOM ON ACCOUNT OF CONSCIOUS IMPERFECTION AND INCONSISTENCY OF CHARACTER. He has often resolved upon reformation, made strenuous efforts against temptations, but has failed and relapsed again under the bondage of sin. This has occasioned miserable agitation and perplexity of soul. He mourns in secret that he is not such as his own resolutions prescribe, and the world around him believes him to be. To all earnest persons it is a matter of deep concern to find that a great proportion of secret sorrow falls to the share of those who are most useful, and deserve best from society.
(T. Somerville, D.D.)
Homilist.Though men live in towns and cities, and in social gatherings, each man is a world to himself. He is as distinct, even from him who is in closest material or mental contact with him, as one orb of heaven is from another.
I. THE HEART HAS HIDDEN DEPTHS OF SORROW. There is bitterness in every heart.
1. There is the bitterness of disappointed love.
2. There is the bitterness of social bereavement — Rachels weeping for their lost children, and Davids for their Absaloms.
3. There is the bitterness of moral remorse. All this is hidden where it is the most deep.The deepest sorrow in the human heart is hidden from others from three causes.
1. The insulating tendency of deep grief. Deep sorrow withdraws from society and seeks some Gethsemane of solitude.
2. The concealing instinct of deep grief. Men parade little sorrows, but conceal great ones. Deep sorrows are mute.
3. The incapacity of one soul to sound the depths of another. There is such a peculiarity in the constitution and circumstances of each soul that one can never fully understand another.
II. THE HEART HAS HIDDEN DEPTHS OF JOY. "A stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy." Though joy is less self-concealing than sorrow, yet it has depths unknown to any but its possessor and its God. The joy that rushed into Abraham's heart when Isaac descended with him from the altar on Moriah; the joy of the father when he pressed his prodigal son to his bosom; the joy of the widow of Nain when her only son raised himself from the bier, and returned to gladden her lowly home; the joy of the broken-hearted woman when she heard Christ say, "Thy sins are all forgiven thee"; such joy has depths that no outward eye could penetrate. The joy of the true Christian is indeed a joy "unspeakable and full of glory." This subject furnishes an argument —
1. For candour amongst men.
2. For piety towards God.Though men know us not, God does.
I. THE NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S BITTERNESS OF HEART. It is hazardous to represent the Christian life as a scene of constant sunshine and unaltered joy. This has occasioned much uneasiness and disappointment. The heart that is right with God has much anxiety, disquiet, and sorrow. These are dependent on disposition and temperament.
II. THE SOURCES OF SUCH INWARD SORROW AND DISTRESS.
1. The secret consciousness of guilt.
2. The general infirmity of our intellectual and moral constitution. For instance, that depression of animal spirits to which some of the most regularly constituted minds are often most subject, and which no intellectual energy is at times able to dissipate or surmount.
3. Fears of shortcoming are sometimes the result of that increased spirituality of mind which marks the progress of the Divine life. Whatever be the attainments of the Christian, he has often hours of heaviness and alarm, and is troubled with distressing apprehensions respecting the safety of his state before God. This feeling must, of course, be greatly modified by the temper and circumstances of the believer, and in different individuals may arise from different causes.
1. There is a bitterness and a joy of the heart which may be called more peculiarly its own, because it arises from the temper of the mind, which gives its own tone to circumstances and things in themselves indifferent. There is a marked contrast between the minds of different individuals. Every day is full of events which receive the character of good or evil from the mind of the individual related to them. Then, since so much depends on the cultivation of the mind and heart, let this be your chief concern.
2. The heart alone is conscious of its own feelings. Happiness and misery have no existence but in the conscious breast, and they are in a great measure confined to it. There are some sensations which the heart never attempts to express. There are some which it is our wish and endeavour to express. But how faint is the impression which we can convey to other minds of what is passing in our own. There is but one Being beside ourselves who knows our heart in the joys and sorrows of life. There is but one Being who can enter into our feelings amid the bitterness and joy of death. There is but one Being who can be all in all to our souls, in the changes and chances of this mortal life, and amid the unchanging glories of eternity: "Acquaint thyself with Him; and be at peace."
I. THE IMPERFECT ESTIMATE WHICH WE FORM OF THE REAL STATE OF THE WORLD. One half the world knows not how the other half lives, and certainly one half has no idea of what the other half feels. All have their calamities and sorrows, so that no man has any real occasion for envying his brother. Our afflictions may be divided into those which we suffer from the cruelty of others, those which arise from our own guilt, and those with which Providence, in the general course of His dealings, visits all of us in our turn.
II. THE SIN OF THOSE WHO TRIFLE WITH THE FEELINGS OF AN AFFLICTED HEART. Illustrate from the child who has brought distress on loving parents; the seducer of innocence; the slanderer and tale-bearer.
III. THOSE SORROWS WHICH ARISE FROM A SENSE OF OUR STATE TOWARDS GOD. We live, it is true, in a world of much infidelity and sin, but there are many who have accepted the everlasting gospel as the power of God unto salvation. It must have opened on them a very awful view of the things of this life; and when conscience, awakening them to think upon their duty, points to that holy book from which we shall be judged, they can scarcely fail of looking on their life with terror and dismay.
IV. THE SORROW ARISING FROM THE ORDINARY VISITATIONS OF PROVIDENCE. But our religion carries consolation with its sorrows. This comes from the belief in the Omniscience of God; in the grace of God; in the promise of remission of sins; in the assurance of a general resurrection.
(G. Mathew, M.A.)
1. Among the mental dispositions which prevail with the sufferer to smother his secret pangs and bitternesses from public inspection, the first is pride, whether of a pardonable or an improper description. Timidity is not less solicitous than pride to wrap up its griefs from general observation. Prudence and a sense of duty exert a similar influence.
2. When the circumstances of a sufferer are outward and visible, his perception of his calamity may be far more acute than the common observer surmises. And the heart of a man may be wrung with an unusual bitterness in consequence of its unusually delicate sense of religious and moral obligation.Practical improvements:
1. The survey delivers a lecture on resignation and contentment and disproves the notion that there is actually any large inequality in the Divine distribution of good and evil among mankind.
2. The subject suggests an instructive lesson of mutual sympathy and kindness in all the varieties of outward condition. There never has breathed yet one individual in the full enjoyment of pure, unalloyed happiness.
3. Take care that the common and unavoidable uneasiness shall not be aggravated by that self-dissatisfaction which arises from wilful disobedience.
4. Remember that we are passing on to a fairer and more faultless condition of being, where the souls of the pious and penitent shall have their capacity for enjoyment filled up to the brim.
(J. Grant, M.A.)
I. THE BELIEVER'S SORROWS. There are sorrows common to believers and to unbelievers. There are some peculiar to the renewed man. Those are the most alive to sin who are most free from sin. A strong sense of sin is one of the characteristics of the real man of God. Believers are also at times unable to receive the promises. When comfort is offered they cannot avail themselves of it. Sometimes there is great spiritual depression under a sense of the withdrawal of God's favour. But there is nothing more dangerous than to leave the soul in this state of bitterness of heart.
II. THE BELIEVER'S JOYS. What is it in which he finds joy?
1. From the joyful sound of the everlasting gospel.
2. The joy of pardoning grace applied to the soul.
3. The fulness of Divine grace.
4. Communion with God.
(H. M. Villiers, M.A.)
(R. F. Horton, D.D.)
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
(H. Ward Beecher.)
1. A life not led under the direct influence of religion. The man who, however many virtues he may possess, however upright he may be in the duties of life, however carefully he may attend to the duties of religion, does not receive it into his heart, nor act on its considerations as a motive. This is a way of life which usually seems right to a man. It describes the ordinary, unexceptionable citizen of a peaceful and religious age. But this way must end in the ways of death. One day they must come into the presence of God, and stand before Him. Wherewith shall they come? They have left God out of their calculation. That neglect is a way of death.
2. Those who, believing from the heart, and living in the main as in God's sight, are yet notoriously and confessedly wanting in some important requisite of the gospel. This case is found even in the very strongholds of the profession of religion. It may be illustrated by all the violent partisanship which is so characteristic of our day. The case is found again in the class of persons who, while professing zeal for religion in general, nourish unscrupulously some one known sin, or prohibited indulgence. But He whom we serve will not have a reserved life, but a whole one.
3. There is a class of persons who deal with erroneous doctrine as the other class with deficient practice. These plead that each should conscientiously arrive at his own conclusion, and respect that conclusion as sacred. But this involves much more than is suspected at first sight. The issue of what has been said is this, and it is a lesson by no means unneeded in the present day, that whether we consider practice or belief, each man's deeming is not each man's law; every man's deeming may be wrong, and we can only find that which is right by each one of us believing and serving God, as He has revealed himself to us in Christ. There is but one way that is true; but one, and that is the way everlasting.
(J. W. Nutt, M.A.)
I. THE WAY OF WILFUL IGNORANCE. This is very commonly thought a safe way, but its end is death. How constantly ignorance is pleaded as an excuse for neglecting religion. Ignorance that is voluntary is sinful.
II. THE WAY OF FORMALITY. An outward form and imitation of godliness, without any inward spiritual feeling. But professions can never deceive God, and the way of formal religion offends Him.
III. THE WAY OF DOING ONE'S BEST. This is often thought to be the right way; yet it is equally ruinous. What do men mean by "doing their best"? Alas! it commonly means doing something less than God requires. In numberless instances, doing the best means "doing nothing at all."
IV. THE WHY OF UNCOVENANTED MERCY. Men own that they are sinners, and deserving of punishment, but they speak peace to themselves, saying, "God is merciful." It is true that God is merciful, but there is a particular way in which alone that mercy is offered to sinners. God has never said that He will spare the unconverted, the impenitent, the unbelieving, the ungodly.
V. THY WAY OF GOOD INTENTIONS. A man resolves to seek God; and that, too, in God's own way, by true repentance, faith in Christ, and by a life of holy obedience. But he stops with the resolves. That way is a way of death.
(J. Jowett, M.A.)
The Christian Treasury.We are all travellers. Our journey occupies our lifetime. Its end depends upon the way we take. The endings are but two. Yet many go heedlessly on. They love the way, and they are pleased to think well of it.
1. It is the way in which they were born.
2. They see many walking in this way.
3. It is a way which is most pleasing to them.
4. It is an easy way to walk in.
5. It is a way which is profitable to self.How shall we know this way of death? It is the way of sin. It is the course of this world. It is the way of indifference to the things of eternity.
(The Christian Treasury.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
I. THE CONVENTIONALLY MORAL WAY SEEMS RIGHT, BUT IS NEVERTHELESS RUINOUS. Civilised society has its recognised rules of life. These rules recognise only the external life of man. They take no cognisance of thought, feeling, desire, and the unexpressed things of the soul. Industry, sobriety, veracity, honesty, these are the extent of its demands, and if these are conformed to, society approves and applauds. Without disparaging in the least this social morality, we are bound to say that what is conventionally moral may be essentially wrong. It may spring from wrong motives, and be governed by wrong reasons. The Scribes and Pharisees of old were conventionally right. Albeit they were rotten to the core. The end of such a way is death. Death to all the elements of well-being.
II. THE FORMALISTICALLY RELIGIOUS WAY SEEMS RIGHT, BUT IS NEVERTHELESS RUINOUS. Religion has its forms, it has its places, and its times of worship, its order of service, its benevolent institutions. A correct and constant attendance to such forms are considered by thousands as religion itself. It is mechanism, nothing more. The motions of machinery, not the actions of the soul. There is no life in it, and it cannot lead to life, but to death.
III. THE WAY OF THE SELFISHLY EVANGELICAL SEEMS RIGHT, BUT IS NEVERTHELESS RUINOUS. There is no true religion apart from a living faith in Christ. But the thing that is come to be called evangelical is to a fearful extent intensely selfish. Its appeals are all to the hopes and fears of men. Its preaching makes men feel, but their feelings are all concerned for their own interest; makes men pray, but their prayer is a selfish entreaty for the deliverance from misery, and the attainment of happiness. "He that seeketh his life shall lose it." Conclusion: Right and wrong are independent of men's opinions, what seems right to men is often wrong, and the reverse. Men are held responsible for their beliefs. A wrong belief, however sincere, will lead to ruin.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
Christian Age.Not a few persons have received a genuine surprise on being told, after an examination, that they were affected with colour-blindness, h much larger number might experience a far greater shock on learning that they are suffering from moral colour-blindness. The eye that fails to distinguish colours may be exceptionally good in judging of form, and unusually keen in detecting objects at a distance. The victim of colour-blindness may even name colours so correctly that for a long time his defect escapes notice. So the person that is morally colour-blind is frequently one distinguished for remarkable shrewdness and foresight; he is quite an oracle as to what is prudent in business and in good taste in social life. He names the virtues and vices as other people do, and his verdicts on conduct seem so generally to tally with the truth that his weakness is not suspected by others, and is entirely hidden from himself. Yet the moral colour-blindness goes to much greater length than does the ordinary trouble. Its radical evil is in a failure to distinguish black and white, a defect exceedingly rare in the physical eye. When the fault is betrayed, even in the slightest degree, in judgments on nice points, it is a sign of something deep-seated and serious, which will lead one to pronounce a lie white, and to call evil good and good evil. The revelation of its true nature may come, as the revelation of the other colour-blindness has sometimes come, in some terrible wreck that means ruin to many others as well as to the one at fault. Too much care in this matter cannot be exercised in regard to any one, whether in his own behalf or in behalf of those whose safety depends in large measure on his seeing things truly. There is a terrible danger in following a colour-blind leader. There is one advantage and encouragement for the morally colour-blind. The defect is not, in their case, organic; and, while it may develop with startling rapidity if neglected, it is possible to overcome it. Its detection, as well as its cure, depends on the most careful and constant testing by the truest standards and on hourly aid from the great Physician.
Sunday Companion.Two men were talking together of their beliefs, when one of them petulantly remarked to his Christian brother: "I don't care what your creed is. I am an agnostic. It makes no difference what a man believes if he is sincere." Oh, yes, it does. Let us see. A family was poisoned recently by eating toadstools which they sincerely believed to be mushrooms. Three of them died. Did it make no difference? A man endorsed a note for a friend whom he sincerely believed to be an honest man. He was a scoundrel, and left him to pay the debt. Did it make no difference? A traveller took the wrong train, and went to Scotland instead of to Brighton. Did it make no difference? If a man is sincere he will take pains to know the truth. For where facts are concerned all the thinking in the world will not change them. A toadstool remains a toadstool, whatever we may think about it.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
1. The obvious consequences of a life of pleasure and dissipation to health, fortune, and character. To each of these it is an enemy, precisely in the same degree to which it is carried. A temporary satisfaction is admitted. But no sensual pleasure, except what is regulated by temperance, can be lasting.
2. The ruin which a life of pleasure and dissipation brings upon the moral state and character of men, as well as on their external condition. As the love of pleasure gains ground, with what insidious steps does it advance towards the abolition of all virtuous principles! Without the assistance of reflection and of serious thought, virtue cannot long subsist in the human mind. But to reflection and serious thought the men of dissipation are strangers. Men become assimilated to the manners of their loose associates; and, without perceiving it themselves, their whole character by degrees is changed. From a character originally stamped only with giddiness and levity shoots forth a character compounded of dishonesty, injustice, oppression, and cruelty.
3. The disquieting sensations which are apt to intrude upon the men of pleasure, even in the midst of their enjoyments. Often a show of mirth is put on to cover some secret disquiet. At the bottom of the hearts of most men, even amidst an irregular life, there lies a secret feeling of propriety, a sense of right and wrong in conduct. Though conscience be not strong enough to guide, it still has strength to dart a sting. Can that be reckoned sincere joy which is liable to be interrupted and mingled with so many sensations of the most disagreeable nature?
4. How unsuitable a life of dissipation and pleasure is to the condition of man in this world, and how injurious to the interests of society. Amid the sorrows that surround us, and in view of the brevity of life, should we be pursuing giddy amusement and perpetual pleasure? Such persons scatter poison in society around them. They are corrupting the public manners by the life they live. They create discontent and indignation in the poorer classes of men, who see them indulging in wastefulness and thoughtless profusion, when they and their families are not able to earn their bread. To serve God, to attend to the serious cares of life, and to discharge faithfully the duties of our station, ought to be the first concern of every man who wishes to be wise and happy. Amusement and pleasure are the relaxation, not the business, of life.
(Hugh Blair, D.D.)
(J. F. B. Tinling.)
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.I. THE GENERAL NATURE, SYMPTOMS, AND PROGRESS OF BACKSLIDING. The idea of backsliding is that of gradually receding from an object full in view. It is not the turning back as in the case of those who forsook the Saviour, it is rather like those who, moving against the stream, rest upon their oars. The backslider is one who has had some views and some experience, whether real or supposed, of true religion: there may even have been some enjoyment in the things of religion; but after some progress there is a gradual declension, a loss of taste and enjoyment, a decline in ardour and zeal. Particular symptoms of backsliding may be seen —
1. In the manner in which the secret duties of religion are attended to.
2. In attendance at public worship.
3. In the conduct, temper, and conversation. The progress of backsliding is from bad to worse. There is a gradual relinquishment of principle, an increasing laxity of practice, and an abuse of Christian privileges into an excuse for sin.
II. THE AWFUL CONSEQUENCES OF BACKSLIDING. "Shall be filled with his own ways." View the backslider. He has lost his delight, his enjoyment in religion. It is now an irksome task. He has gone down on the world's ground; does he find comfort there? No, he is still dissatisfied, still perplexed. He becomes impatient, irritable; a burden to himself, a burden to others. How tremendously will the text be found true when the finally impenitent is in that place where hope never comes!
(T. Webster, B.D.)
I. DESCRIBE WHAT BACKSLIDING IN HEART IS. To some the experience which we call "conversion " is more consciously definite than to others. Recall the experience. If the love then felt has not continued, there is backsliding in heart. The experience is compatible with great zeal and activity, with the maintenance of sound discipline, and with decided orthodoxy. The backslider in heart is thus described in the Word of God: he has lost his first love; he is lukewarm in spirit; mixed up with the world; double-minded and faint-hearted.
II. SOME OF THE THINGS THAT CONDUCE TO BACKSLIDING OF HEART.
1. Neglect of the Word of God. Most, if not all, such backsliding may be traced to this neglect.
2. Neglect of private prayer.
3. Suffering sin to remain unconfessed.
4. Want of Christian activity.
5. Not making public profession of our love to Christ.
III. HOW TO DEAL WITH THE BACKSLIDER IN HEART. "He is filled with his own ways." It is not easy to awaken his interest. It is always difficult to reach his conscience. Argument does not succeed. The only thing to do is to bring them back to their first experience. They must come to Jesus afresh.
(W. P. Lockhart.)
The Christian Magazine.I. Is it, then, inquired, IN WHAT DOES THIS BACKSLIDING CONSIST?
1. Let it be remarked, that it may be dated from becoming stationary in religious attainments. If the believer be making no progress in his course, nor attaining to greater proficiency in Christian experience, there exists some radical and internal defect. Already in heart he is deviating from God. Is he not growing in knowledge? Is his relish for Divine objects not becoming stronger? Does he experience no increasing keenness of appetite for spiritual provision? He must then be denominated a backslider, as the deficiency of requisite augmentation in these respects manifests that the present state of his heart is not altogether right with God.
2. Again, it consists in the real decline of those holy dispositions implanted in the soul by the Holy Spirit. The highest state of backsliding into which the genuine believer may fall is the indulgence in any flagrant or atrocious sin. Witness the egregious faults of Noah and Lot, of David and Peter.
II. Let us now attend TO THE CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF THIS SPIRITUAL DISEASE.
1. Let it be recollected in general, that the primary cause of this grievous disorder is the corruption, depravity, and deceitfulness of the human heart. From this contaminated source all deviation from God originates.
2. One particular cause and symptom of backsliding is the intermission of religious duties, the appointed means of increase. It is well known that exercise and employment are necessary to preserve and promote health. Similar is the case with the Christian. Religious exercises and engagements are indispensably requisite for the advancement of gracious habits. The neglect of these will invariably induce declension. Let it suffice to mention two secret duties, inattention to which is particularly productive of declension. These are prayer and self-examination. The former is absolutely requisite for supporting the vital principle of grace, in a lively and prosperous condition. According to the comparisons of some worthy old divines, it is to the soul what the lungs are to the body. The other closet-duty specified as so needful for the prosperity of the soul is self-examination. "They," says a certain writer, "who in a crazy vessel navigate a sea wherein are shoals and currents innumerable, if they would keep their course or reach their port in safety, must carefully repair the smallest injuries, often throw out their line, and take their observations. In the voyage of life, also, the Christian who would not make shipwreck of his faith, while he is habitually watchful and provident, must make it his express business to look into his state, and ascertain his progress." Did we observe an extensive trader entirely neglect his books, and extremely averse to have them examined, a considerable suspicion and strong presumption would be instantly excited, that according to the vulgar phrase, he is going back in the world.
(The Christian Magazine.)
Evangelist.The bell-buoy must ring out over the rock all the time because the rock is there all the time. The reason the Bible warns so much about backsliding is because we are always in danger of backsliding. A disease may be eating our life away; our ship in the fog may be drifting upon a rocky coast. We are only in the greater danger if not aware of it. Backsliding begins unexpectedly: like a dangerous disease, it steals into our system so secretly that the utmost vigilance is necessary lest we be taken unawares.
I. Let us know, first, THAT BACKSLIDING BEGINS IN THE HEART. The leaves of a fruit-tree begin to fade, curl up, and wither; no fulness of life, no fruit. You suspect a worm — something gnawing at the seat of life — the heart. Men fall as trees do — after gradual decay at the heart (Proverbs 4:23; Hosea 10:2).
II. Well to remember, also, THAT A BACKSLIDER IN HEART IS NOT ALWAYS A BACKSLIDER IN LIFE. Indeed, he is often a zealous worker in external things; shows honest pride in all Church success. Also keeps up the forms of personal and public Christian duty faithfully, etc. But the form without the power (2 Timothy 3:5). Rich — poor (Revelation 3:17).
III. Note, also, SOME OF THE SIGNS OR INDICATIONS OF HAVING BACKSLIDDEN.
1. Loss of relish for private devotions. He may keep them up, but does not enjoy them as formerly (John 15:9).
2. Loss of interest in God's Word. He may continue to read, but not to love as before (Psalm 119:11, 97).
4. Loss of zeal in spiritual work. He does no soul-winning work (2 Timothy 4:2).
IV. Again, consider WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CAUSES OF BACKSLIDING.
1. Getting off guard. Unwatched avenues of approach (Mark 14:38).
2. Love of the world. When the world is in, Christ is out (1 John 2:15).
3. The habitual neglect of a single known duty (Jonah 1:1-3).
4. The habitual indulgence of a single known sin. Compromising; sparing the little one, etc. (2 Samuel 12:7).
V. Lastly, bear in mind SOME OF THE RESULTS OF BACKSLIDING IN HEART. "Shall be filled with his own ways." Not God's ways for His followers.
3. Ways of alienation. Forsaking the Saviour and His service (Malachi 3:13-15).
4. Ways of despair. Saddest human condition (1 Samuel 28:6, 15). Are you conscious of having backslidden even the least?
Christian Age.? — The heart is obedient to some law of heaven; the waters fail to flow by the attraction of sun and moon. In some parts of the globe the sea is gradually gaining on the land; in others it is gradually receding and leaving the land dry and bare. Are the full and cleansing waters of eternal life gaining on our coasts or no?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
A good man shall be satisfied from himself
I. A GOOD MAN. Goodness is an internal quality. The good man is whole within, sound within. Hence his satisfaction; all health is within. Piety has its own internal resources and powers. There is a pretty story told of a king, Shah Abbas, who in his travels met with a shepherd. He found him to be so wise that he elevated him to great power: he became a great statesman. But it was discovered, many years after, that he frequently went to a lonely house, of which he kept the key; there it was supposed he kept his treasure; nay, it was supposed that there he hatched schemes against his royal master; thither, it was thought, traitors might resort. The whispering courtiers persuaded the king to break open the door, in order that all the villainy may be laid bare, and there was found an empty room, save that his shepherd's wallet and staff, and crook, and old coat were there. "Hither," said he, "I come, in order that if I ever am tempted to think more highly of myself than I ought to think, I may be rebuked by remembering my origin, and what my rise has done for me." Contentment is containment; the idea in it is that of having learned the lesson of self-sufficing and self-sustaining. Contentment is a sense of possession; a sense of satisfied want.
II. A MAN SATISFIED. The lives of most men are passed in fretfulness. To fret is to fray out; fretfulness wears life threadbare. Contentment is the science of thankfulness. The causes of discontent are idleness, living to no purpose. It is only in self-occupation that we have self-possession.
III. THE SOURCE OF THE SATISFACTION. "From himself."
1. The holy man is satisfied with the object and foundation of his faith.
2. In the evidence of his religion.
3. In the ordinances of the sanctuary.
4. In the law of life.
5. In the apportionment and destiny of the world.There may be four replies to the question, Are you satisfied?(1) I am. Not with myself, but from myself. I find my happiness within.(2) I am not. Religion is to me not rest, but unrest; it is described to me now principally by unsatisfied, appetites.(3) I try to persuade myself that I am, but I am not; it is all so fading, so fleeting, could be satisfied, could we continue here.(4) I am. Extremes meet — I am. I see no reason for anxiety, and my business and my pleasures, they suffice for me. But what you call satisfaction I call death. There is not one ray of happiness, properly, from yourselves; all is borrowed, and all is illusion. If you do not find the true contentment on the earth, you will find it nowhere.
(E. Paxton Hood.)
1. That everything be done for the highest good of mankind generally, or of other men, not for self.
2. That it be done in the best, most perfect manner possible to the doer.
3. That in doing it, we recognise that universal design of a Father's love under which the well-being of any creature, and of the whole universe, is possible. He whose life embodies these principles is a good man. Good and bad men are not born such, nor made such by external power. They become such freely. How universal is the application of this principle I Every single thing that a man does involves either the use or abuse of some power that he possesses. The great good of man is ever inward, intellectual, spiritual. The main element of power will be, that the good man is seeking to reach some ideal of life, the source of his inspiration, and the object of his most ambitious hopes.
(S. Fager, B.A.)
(W. Sparrow, D.D.)
1. The satisfaction of the good man arises from the circumstance that he is regulated in his character and conduct by a fixed and stable thing — by principle. The question with him is, What is duty? What is due to God? He does not live by impulse; he is not moved by passion; he is not ruled by circumstances; he does not act to secure any temporary object. These things would make any man miserable, if his satisfaction were to arise from them. In the midst of his activity the good man's satisfaction arises from himself — from the consciousness that he acts upon principle and in the sight of God.
2. The sentiment may be illustrated by the contrast which is often exhibited between the good man and the wicked, when the latter is called upon to eat the fruit of his own ways. We frequently find that a man has brought himself by his folly and sin — by extravagance, imprudence, and passion — into a condition of perfect thraldom, and perhaps of peril, from which it is impossible to liberate himself. The man has brought such wretchedness into his heart, such poverty and distress upon his family, is so tied and bound by the consequences of his own conduct, that he has no power to help himself, and if relieved at all, it must be by the interference of others, and at the expense of his own character. Now, in a ease like that, the man so relieved is satisfied; but he is not "satisfied from himself." The good man, on the contrary, is not only preserved from such pain and wretchedness, but is placed in circumstances, the result of a wise and holy course of conduct, as to be able to help others.
3. The satisfaction of a good man arises from his being preserved from the sting and reproach of an evil conscience. This is somewhat of a negative expression, but it is a great and positive blessing. It is something a man has not — that is, he has not a disturbed, pained, and lacerated conscience.
4. Consider also the positive and increasing pleasure, the growing delight, of the good man's soul. It is not wrong for a man to reflect with grateful complacency upon actions that are good. A man who has lived a life of active goodness, and can reflect on a long series of deeds that will bear reflection, has a source of essentially high, and pure, and profound satisfaction within him.Lessons from this theme:
1. The subject, properly understood, is in exact harmony with evangelical truth.
2. It is important to examine our condition, and the relationship we sustain to God and goodness.
3. If by God's grace men have been brought into a state of harmony with God and all that is good, and if their life, inward and outward, is in such harmony that it is ministering, as it were, to their souls a secret blessed satisfaction, they should be very careful not to put the harp out of tune. Good men, Christian men, by giving way to temptation, by committing sin, have interfered with the harmonious movements of their life, and got out of health.
4. Learn to have a noble and manly view of life. Live for duty, not for pleasure; for principle, not for expediency; for the approbation of God, not for the praise of men. Let us think not about immediate and temporal, but ultimate and external results.
John 4:14): — Why put these clauses together? Surely you will say, "To illustrate a truth by way of contrast": for does the one not point to a man who is satisfied from the fountain of a human morality, while the other views an indwelling Christ as the spring of ceaseless satisfaction . The words of Christ are an exegesis of Solomon's words. Both proclaim the self-sufficiency of the spiritual life. Our subject is the self-sufficient life.
I. IT ARISES FROM ITS INWARDNESS. Solomon says a good man is satisfied from "himself"; Christ that the water He gives is "in him." But what is the living water which Christ gives? Christ tells us it is eternal life. The fountain itself is Jesus "glorified in the heart by the Holy Ghost." Note the inwardness of the "Well" — "from himself" says Solomon, "in him" says Christ. But where? In what part of man does Christ dwell? At the moment of regeneration Christ enters the deepest being of man — enters that which underlies all faculties — changes it; makes it His Holy of Holies, and from it works through the whole range of man's nature. Christ dwells in man — in that mysterious something which transcends consciousness which thinks, loves, imagines, wills. This seat of Christ in the regenerate, underneath the faculties of the man, explains how he possesses ceaseless happiness, undisturbed peace, unbroken tranquillities.
II. IT ARISES FROM ITS SELF-ACTIVITY. Look at the "Well." This is Christ Himself, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily — i.e., the unlimited attributes and life of the Godhead — all grace, all glory, all power. This Divine Well is not like the pool of Bethesda, whose stagnant waters had to be stirred by an angel's hand before they could live with virtue and healing power. The fulness of Jesus Christ in a man is a living fulness. It is eternally alive. The water springs up. This suggests two ideas.
1. It brings this life before us not as mere water that springs up, but as life, a living thing, which, like all other kinds of life, takes to itself an organism, and builds itself up by the law of evolution and development, until it reaches the maturity of its being.
2. Note the goal of its movement, — the point toward which it unfolds itself — springs up, not to the world, but up into everlasting life. Still the water, its satisfying element, is independent of the world. All along it has been so. Christ, the fountain, is eternally active. The water springs up in itself, and its final point is eternal life. We must not, however, suppose with some that this life becomes eternal, as if at first it was mortal, might die; but at some point became eternal. No. It is eternal in its germ, eternal in its initial developments. The idea of our text is quite different. It is a life which, not having its source on earth, obeys a law of nature, and seeks its original source in heaven. Man, originally formed in the image of God, seeks reunion with Him.
III. IT ARISES FROM ITS POWER TO SATISFY MAN. This is a fact of life — felt according to the spirituality of the man, the depth and riches of his Christ-experience. This lone widow, stripped of all, so utterly destitute that she has nothing to compete with Christ in her, has a joy unspeakable and full of glory. This sweet, saintly spirit, who for long has lain upon a bed of pain and sickness, who for years has seen neither grass grow nor flower bloom, who lives in that garret amid the dust and noise of the great city, has Christ in her heart, a well of water — a satisfaction, a perfect joy. The salt waters of trial and sorrow, and toil and loss may overflow us, but down in the regenerate part of man is a well of water — fresh, sweet, living, always springing up. This is the joy and peace that lie beyond the touch of time.
I. TWO GREAT PRINCIPLES OF HAPPINESS, or ingredients of which it is composed.
1. Peace of mind. Unless the mind is in a state of quietude and peace there cannot be happiness. And peace is communicated to the spirit in a direct and glorious manner through Divine influence.
2. Expectation. Looking forward to something that we possess not.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF THESE PRINCIPLES TO OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. God has not chosen outward circumstances as the medium through which He imparts these elements of happiness to the mind.
2. God has so ordered it in the economy of grace that man is the intelligent and voluntary agent in the application of these elements of happiness to his own case.
3. Whenever our minds are under the influence of the highest principles of happiness they are not only independent of circumstances, but actually exercise a control over them.
(A. G. Fuller.)
I. THE BACKSLIDER. This class includes —
1. Apostates. Those who unite them- selves with the Church of Christ and for a time act as if they were subjects of a real change of heart. Then they break away and return back to their worldliness. Such was Judas.
2. Those who go into open sin. Men who descend from purity to careless living, and from careless living to indulgence of the flesh.
3. Those who, in any measure or degree, even for a very little time, decline from the point which they have reached. Note the word "backslider." He is not a back-runner, nor a back-leaper, but a back-slider; he slides back with an easy, effortless motion, softly, quietly, perhaps unsuspected by himself or anybody else. Nobody ever slides up. The Christian life is a climbing. If you would know how to back-slide, the answer is, "Leave off going forward and you will slide backward." Note that this is a backslider in heart. All backsliding begins within, begins with the heart's growing lukewarm. What is the backslider's history? "He shall be filled with his own ways." The first kind of fulness is absorption in his carnal pursuits. Then they begin to pride themselves upon their condition and to glory in their shame. Presently the backslider encounters chastisement, and that from a rod of his own making. A fourth stage is at last reached by gracious men and women. They become satiated and dissatisfied, miserable and discontented.
II. THE GOOD MAN. His name and history. The text does not say he is satisfied with himself. No truly good man is ever self-satisfied. The good man is satisfied from himself. A good man is on the side of good. He who truly loves that which is good must be in measure good himself. A good man is "satisfied from himself" because he is independent of outward circumstances, and of the praise of others. The Christian man is content with the well of upspringing water of life which the Lord has placed within him. Faith is in the good man's heart, and he is satisfied with what faith brings him. Pardon, adoption, conquest over temptation, everything he requires. Hope and love are in the good man's heart. When the good man is enabled by Divine grace to live in obedience to God, he must, as a necessary consequence, enjoy peace of mind.... who takes the yoke of Christ upon him, and learns of Him, finds rest unto his soul.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. A good man is most likely to escape the evils and calamities of life and to pass through this world the freest from troubles and vexations. His virtues will be a natural defence and security to him against many evils and miseries which would otherwise befall him. Most of the things which embitter human life arise from their faults and follies, their unreasonable lusts, and unruly passions. The good man places his happiness in the favour of God and the sense of his own integrity. He desires no more than he wants; and he wants no more than he can use and enjoy; and this reduces his necessities to a narrow compass. He bears an universal good-will to all mankind and is always ready to do all the good he can to others. He is sober and temperate in all his pleasures and enjoyments; and this upon a principle of religion and virtue.
2. Whatever calamities or afflictions befall a good man he will bear them much better than other people. Disappointments are not so great to him who takes an estimate of things, not from fancy or opinion, but from truth and reality, and the just weight and moment of them. Though his virtues are not full proof against the strokes of fortune, and cannot ward off every blow, yet they will blunt the edge of afflictions and greatly abate their smart. It is well to consider the uncertainty of all external enjoyments, not to overvalue them, or set our hearts upon them, or place our happiness in them.
3. The good man has pleasures and enjoyments peculiar to himself which will, in a great measure, supply the want of external blessings. Every good and virtuous action we do affords us a double pleasure. It first strikes our minds with a direct pleasure by its suitableness to our nature; and then our minds entertain themselves with pleasant reflections upon it. Learn —(1) It is an unjust reproach to cast upon religion and virtue that they deprive us of joy and comfort and satisfaction.(2) What is the true cause of the trouble and uneasiness which are to be found under the sun.
(W. Garrett Horder.)
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going
(J. Parker, D.D.)
Homilist.I. THE HASTILY CREDULOUS. "The simple believeth every word."
1. One of the strongest tendencies in man's mental nature is his propensity to believe. It is one of the most voracious appetites of the soul. The child opens its mental mouth, hungering for tales from the nurse's lips, and will eagerly swallow up everything that is said.(1) This propensity to believe implies a state of society that does not exist. Were men born into heaven, were society free from all error and deception, it would be not only right, but a beneficial thing to believe every word, and to confide in every character. This is the state of society for which man was created, but he has lost it. He comes into a world of lies.(2) This propensity to believe explains the reign of priesthood.(3) This propensity to believe shows the easiness of the condition on which God has made the salvation of man to depend. "He that believeth shall be saved."
2. The thoughtless yielding to this tendency is an immense loss. "The fool rageth, and is confident." The fool sees no danger, dreads no harm. He rushes recklessly forward into mischief.(1) He is passionate. "He rageth." Counsels and warnings only irritate him.(2) He is stubborn. He "is confident." What does he care about your warnings? Nothing.(3) He is foolish. "He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly, and he inherits folly."(4) He is despised. A man of wicked devices is hated. The man who has given way to his credulity becomes all this. He is passionate, ignorant of the grounds of his belief, he cannot brook contradiction, his opinions being prejudices, he is stubborn in holding them, and in all this he is "foolish" and "hated."
II. THE CAUTIOUSLY BELIEVING. "The prudent man looketh well to his going." True prudence is indicated by two things.
1. A dread of evil. "A wise man feareth." True dread of evil is consistent with true courage. Few, if any, displayed more heroism than Noah, yet, being moved by fear, he prepared an ark. Evil, both physical and moral, is a bad thing in the universe, and it is right to dread it, as we dread poisonous serpents and ravenous beasts. True prudence is indicated —
2. By a departure from evil. "He departeth from evil." Moral evil is the heart of all evil, and this he forsakes. He shuns it as an enemy to God and the universe. The prudence is indicated —
3. By mental greatness. He is dignified with knowledge. He is "crowned with knowledge." Caution in believing is necessary for three reasons.
(1) (2) (3) (Homilist.)
(2) (3) (Homilist.)
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.
But the rich hath many friends.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
He that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
(A. Rowland, LL.B., B.A.}
Do they not err that devise evil?
1. The wicked "err" egregiously in imagining for a moment that any man is placed here to be independent of God, and of His commandments.
2. In taking it for granted that they know best what is good for them; that they can tell what will induce to their own comfort and happiness, better than the revealed law of their lives in the Word of God.
3. In conceiving that sin has any real good to confer.
4. The wicked "err" in being intent only on the present.
5. They admit and cherish in their hearts, in opposition to all reason, as well as Scripture, an idea that there will be, after all, a means of escape for them. They thus prove, by their conduct, that they do not use their reason and common sense in this supremely important concern.
(A. B. Evans, D.D.)
In all labour there is profit.
(C. Kingsley, M.A.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
I. PROFITABLE LABOUR. "In all labour there is profit." The word "all" here of course must be taken with limitation. Ill-directed labour is not profitable.
1. Labour is profitable to our physical health.
2. Labour is profitable to our character. It conduces to force of thought, energy of will, power of endurance, capacity of application.
3. Labour is profitable to our social comforts. By labour, honest, well-directed labour, man gets not only the necessities, but the comforts, the luxuries, the elegances, and the elevated positions of life. There is no true labour that is vain.
II. IMPOVERISHING TALK. "The talk of the lips tendeth only to penury." All talk does not tend to penury. There is a talk that is profitable. The talk of the preacher, the lecturer, the statesman, the barrister, more often tend to affluence than to penury. Sir Walter Raleigh says, "He that is lavish in words is a niggard indeed. The shuttle, the needle, the spade, the brush, the chisel, all are still but the tongue."
III. DIGNIFYING WEALTH. "The crown of the wise is their riches." The idea is, that a wise man would so use his wealth that it will become a crown to him. By using it to promote his own mental and spiritual cultivation, and to ameliorate the woes and to augment the happiness of the world, his wealth gives him a diadem more lustrous far than all the diamond crowns of kings. But the foolishness of fools is folly. This looked at antithetically means that the wealth of a fool adds no dignity to his character.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
I. THE USELESSNESS OF A RELIGION WHICH IS MERELY VERBAL.
1. Do not misunderstand this. Gift of speech is from God. He is to be obeyed and honoured by it. Religion is to be verbal. Confess Christ. Exhort one another. Rebuke sin. Sing psalms and hymns. By our words we shall be justified or condemned.
2. But a merely verbal religion is useless. We may call Christ, Master and Lord, and disobey Him. We may dispute on religious subjects, and be without religion itself.
II. THE NECESSITY AND ADVANTAGE OF PRACTICAL INDUSTRY IN RELIGION.
1. The Bible often speaks of spiritual "labour."
2. "In all" such "labour there is profit." The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Resist the devil, and he shall flee from you.God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love.
1. Your present interest calls you to it. There is a gathering before the final harvest; and they who sow plenteously shall gather plenteously.
2. Can you be active in His service who has done so great things for you?
3. Nor forget the punishment threatened to apostasy.
4. Keep in mind the reward promised.
5. Be solemnly impressed with the greatness of the work, and the brevity and uncertainty of time.
1. Am I wrong in thinking that most of us take our religion much too easily? Where is the "labour"? Where is the difficult part? And yet a religious life is always set before us as a very difficult thing — Work. "Work while it is day." "Go work in My vineyard." "Strive to enter in." "We labour to enter into the rest." We get up in the morning, and we say a prayer, and perhaps read a few verses in the Bible, or some religious book, before we leave our room. During the day, we have one or two religious thoughts. Perhaps we do some act of kindness which costs us very little, and which we do with a very mixed motive. Am I understating the religion of your day? or am I overstating it? But does it correspond with the description which the Bible gives of a religious life? Does this satisfy the requirements of God? Is your conscience satisfied? Where is the self-denial? Where is the "labour"? Was this Christ's life?
2. Why do you find your religion such a tame thing? Why do you make such a little progress? Why have not you the enthusiasm which some have? Why is your religion unattractive to other people? It wants "labour." Nothing will restore that neglected field but hard work. Digging, tilling, watering, fencing, weeding, burning, that restores a field! True, it is all of grace. God must give the sunshine, and you must spread the seed to receive it. Let any farmer say what is the secret of fertilising his land. "Labour." Let every man of great learning and high intellectual power say where is the secret of his great knowledge and mental power. He would say, "Fag." Let every experienced Christian say what has made him what he is. He will say, "Labour; hard work." "In all labour there is profit."
3. The "labour" may differ in different persons. A woman's work is very different to a man's. The work of one class of society may be chiefly manual; but God makes His unity out of man's diversity. I would that you would invest in "labour." If you wish to lead a happy life, you will never find it in what you are to get, but you will find it in what you are to give. Get out of this pointless, easy-going, unsatisfying, useless life. Let me go with you a step or two. In the morning do not waste your time in bed, but wake early to the realities of life. Try to begin with a good thought. Discipline yourself, even in dressing. Take pains with your morning prayer. Have some arrangement. Stop the first wandering thought. And when you read your Bible, go deep. Look for inner meanings. All the day long, remember your own particular danger, and be on your guard about it. Try to raise your own and others' conversation to a higher level. Set to yourself in life some special work which you believe God calls you to do. It may be for the poor, for the suffering, for the school, for the sick, for the heathen, for the Church, for Christ. And remember, whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.
(J. Vaughan, M.A.)
In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and His children shall have a place of refuge
I. WHAT IS THIS FEAR OF THE LORD? Fear stands for true godliness. It is a short way of expressing real faith, hope, love, holiness of living, and every grace. There is a something more tender, more touching, more real about fear than there is about some people's faith, which faith may very readily verge upon presumption. But in speaking of fear we must always discriminate. There is a fear with which a Christian has nothing to do. What is the fear that a well-ordered, well-disciplined, beloved child has of his own father?
1. He has an awe of him which arises out of admiration of his character.
2. He is sure to be very deferential in his father's presence.
3. He fears at any time to intrude upon his father's prerogative.
4. He dreads everything which might cause his father's displeasure.
II. WHEREIN IS THE CONFIDENCE OF GODLY FEAR SEEN? The history of men that have feared God may enlighten us on this matter, e.g., Job, Habakkuk. The confidence will not only appear in time of trouble, it will appear also in acts of obedience. The same confidence will develop itself when persecution is involved, and when we have to bear witness to the truth.
III. WHEREUPON IS THIS CONFIDENCE BUILT? They that fear God know God to be infinitely loving to them, to be immutable and unchangeable, to be unsearchingly wise and omnipotently strong on their behalf; they know that an atonement has been made for their sins, and that the Spirit of God dwells in them.
IV. HOW THIS CONFIDENCE AND THIS FEAR ARE FAVOURED OF GOD. The promise is, "His children shall have a place of refuge." Those who fear God and have confidence in Him are His children. There is a heaven lying asleep within those words, "His children." For the "place of refuge" finds illustration in Noah, Lot, Israel, Ruth, Elijah, Christians at Pella, etc. Moses Stuart says the text means that the children of those who fear God shall have a place of refuge. And there are many precious texts that speak thus of our children.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THAT GODLINESS IS SAFETY. "The fear of the Lord is strong confidence." The godly are safe. God is their Refuge and Strength. They will not fear though the earth be removed. We make three remarks about this refuge.
1. It is a provision against immense dangers.
2. It admits of the greatest freedom of action. A prison is a refuge as well as a fortress. But all in this refuge have ample scope for action. The sphere is as infinite as God.
3. It is accessible at all times and for all persons. Its gates are open day and night.
II. THAT GODLINESS IS LIFE. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. Godliness is a fountain of happiness — salubrious, abundant, perennial.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
I. REAL GODLINESS INVOLVES CONFIDENCE TOWARDS GOD. Because in such a case as this reconciliation with God is complete. Not necessarily the realisation of reconciliation and the fruits and effects of it. If reconciliation in the case of those who fear the Lord be complete, confidence cannot but be restored by such reconciliation. There springs up between them that "fear the Lord and God," that which may be called filial friendship; and in this there is strong confidence, Further, the intercourse of the godly with heaven is perfectly unfettered. And there is, in the case of those who "fear the Lord," happy dependence; such as that of the babe upon its mother. We are not always to be asking God for an explanation of His doings, we are to trust Him. There is motherhood as truly as fatherhood in God.
II. REAL GODLINESS PRODUCES CONFIDENCE TOWARDS MEN. Not impudence; not boldness of the evil kind; but that confidence which is perfectly consistent with deep humility, and which works together with that spirit which is ever ready to put honour on another. Do not mistake this confidence towards men. This confidence is the confidence of conscious uprightness. As in the case of Job. But it is not the self-conceit which says, "Stand by, I am holier than thou."
III. THE CONFIDENCE WHICH REAL GODLINESS AWAKENS IS ADAPTED TO ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. In danger it becomes boldness. In duty and work it becomes conscious power. The godly man is not a fatalist.
IV. A CONFIDENCE WHICH ABIDES TO THE END. It goes with a man to the uttermost, it carries him right through. It endures because the principles out of which it is established endure. Faith endures. Hope endures. This confidence will be strong enough to do all the work which you, in this world of sin and sorrow, may require from it. Then do not be content without strong confidence. And endeavour to promote this confidence, especially among weak and timid Christians.
(S. Martin, M.A.)
I. THE HABIT WHICH THE TEXT EXHIBITS. "The fear of the Lord." Fear, in its most comprehensive and general definition, is that emotion arising from the prospect of danger, either real or imaginary. In spiritual things it has a twofold character.
1. Slavish fear, or mere dread of Jehovah in His character as Judge. This fear must not be put in the place of religion.
2. Filial fear. Analogous to the emotion properly exercised by children towards parents; it is exercised by all those who have undergone a redemption from slavish fear and a renovation of heart by the influence of the Divine Spirit. It arises from a deep and humble reverence of the Divine perfections and from a practical desire to walk in obedience to the Divine commandments. It is principally included in the direction of all the affections towards Jehovah and the exhibition of practical religion in the life and conversation. The filial fear of the Lord is by no means inconsistent with the love cf the Lord.
II. THE ADVANTAGES WHICH THIS MENTAL HABIT ALWAYS AND INVARIABLY SECURES. The fear of God excludes all other fear, and he who has it has a sanctuary in which his soul shall abide in security, and safety, and peace, while looking beyond the scenes of this present life for the perfect enjoyment of interminable and imperishable felicity. Notice three facts embodied in the principle.
1. The fear of the Lord removes the terrors of conscience. Conscience is the judge of a man's mind with regard to a man's own actions. An accusing conscience is one that sets before the spirit of a man the array of his crimes. The fear of the Lord prevents the accusations of conscience and brings the soul into a state of peace.
2. The fear of the Lord removes also the terrors of temporal chastisement. But the chastening of God is always for our profit; and in connection with the profit arising from chastisement there are peculiar comforts.
3. The fear of the Lord removes the terrors of death and of futurity. He who has God for his friend must look, not only without fear, but with hope and joy, to the last moment of dissolution, and his entrance into the mysteries of the awful world of futurity.
1. Where this reigns it produces a holy security and serenity of mind.
2. It entails a blessing on posterity.
3. It is an overflowing and everflowing spring of comfort and joy. It is a "fountain of life," yielding constant pleasure and satisfaction to the soul.
4. It is a sovereign antidote against sin and temptation. Those that have a true relish of the pleasures of serious godliness will not be allured by the baits of sin to swallow its hook; they know where they can obtain better things than any it can pretend to offer.
( Matthew Henry.)
(W. J. Woods, B.A.)
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.
Homilist.I. SOMETHING THAT NEEDS REPLENISHING. Life is a fire — it must be kept alight; a lamp — it needs oil; energy — it demands a nervous sustentation. So with spiritual life — it cannot continue without food.
II. SOMETHING TO REPLENISH MAN'S LIFE. "The fear of the Lord." Here is rich provender called a "fountain"— continuous, inexhaustible, pure — the source, not the stream. How is it a fountain of life?
1. Because it enables us to assimilate Divine food.
2. Because it is the key which unlocks the tap.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding.
1. The excellency of meekness, and —
2. The mischief of passionateness, and the evil thereof.
I. THE MAN THAT IS SLOW OF WRATH OR ANGER SNOWS GREAT WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING IN HIS MEEK AND PEACEABLE DISPOSITION AND DEPORTMENT.
1. The nature of wrath or anger in general. Anger or wrath is a passion which is not of itself sinful, but is either good or ill, as it is regulated; and so it differs from fretting, murmuring, and envy, which can never be good or allowable in any case. Anger is a servant to the meek, but a master to the passionate. The passion of anger is like wind to a ship. If there be a dead calm, and the winds blow not at all, or very weakly, the ship does not make way. And if men be so stupid, indolent, and unconcerned, that their spirits will not stir in them, whatever dishonour they see done to God, these are standing still in the way to heaven. If the wind is brisk enough, but yet is contrary, the ship will at best have much ado with it, and may be driven into a shore which the crew desired not to see. So if men's anger be in itself sinful, it cannot fail of an unhappy event, driving the soul into much sin. Though the wind be not contrary, yet if it be too impetuous and violent, it may dash the ship on rocks and split it. Though a man's anger may have a just ground, yet if it prove excessive and boisterous it may run men headlong into great mischiefs. The ingredients of anger are, a commotion or trouble of the spirit, which ariseth from an apprehension of an injury. Hatred, which is bent against the injury apprehended. Grief, on account of the party or parties injured. A desire for the vindication of the right and honour of the injured. Anger is a passion uneasy, to one's self, compounded of bitter ingredients and uneasy passions; in which one walks on slippery ground, where he is apt to fall headlong.
2. What is it to be slow of wrath? Being slow to take up anger in one's own cause. Managing it warily, when it is taken up, being guided by the light of reason, and not by the fire of passion, and being easy to lay it down. The more slow that anger burns the easier it is to quench.
3. He who is slow of wrath is of great understanding. Such an one thereby shows his duty to God, his sovereign lord, and to himself. He shows that he understands Satan's diligence and malice against him, his real interest, and human nature. Be slow to wrath. It is a heaven-like disposition. The comfort of society depends on it. It is necessary for a man's own comfort. It helps to keep ourselves and others from the snare of sin. But there is such a thing as sinful slackness to anger, which may make us omit duties of justice and charity.
II. THE PASSIONATE MAN PROCLAIMS HIS FOLLY AND NAUGHTINESS IN HIS UNBRIDLED PASSION AND SINFUL ANGER.
1. The nature of sinful anger. Anger is sinful when it riseth without a just ground, having no cause for it assigned by grace or right reason as just. It may rise without any cause at all; or vainly, upon some slight or trifling occasion unworthy of such notice. When it keeps no due proportion with the offence. When it is not directed to the honour of God, and the destruction of sin. When it makes no due difference between the offender and the offence. When the effects of it are sinful. When it is kept up and continued beyond due time.
2. The kinds of sinful anger. Sinful in itself; where there is no just ground. Accidentally sinful; when ill-managed. There is an open and impetuous anger called wrath. A pursuing, implacable wrath, called anger, which is set upon revenge.
3. The effects of sinful anger. Mischievous to the body. Fires the tongue in a particular manner. Disturbs society. Overclouds reason. Unfits a man for duty. The passionate man proclaims his folly. He shows himself to be a proud man, a weak man, incapable of ruling himself; an unmortified man; a rash and precipitant man; an unwatchful man. Practical improvement of this subject — Use of humiliation and conviction; of exhortation. Desire of provoking and stirring up others to passion; for God's sake, and for your neighbour's sake, as well as for your own sake. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." And if at any time you are caught, hasten out of the snare. Dallying with temptation is the fair way to entangle you further; therefore fly from it as from a serpent, lest ye be stung to death thereby.
(T. Boston, D.D.)
Essex Remembrancer.Death is at all times appalling to nature; but never so frightful as when it comes by the hands of the public executioner. To this the text provides an antidote. The man who lives in the "fear of the Lord" is not likely to die an untimely, much less an ignominious death. The case of martyrs is excepted.
I. EXPLAIN THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION. What is the principle, its rule, and its object.
1. Its principle is the love of God. This love to God must be supreme. And wherever love is present, it will be evidenced by a desire to comply with the wishes, and obey the commands of the person loved.
2. That the rule of true religion is the revealed will of God, as found in the Scriptures.
3. The object of true religion is the glory of God. Religion in the heart can never be satisfied with anything short of the Divine glory as the great object of life.
II. WHILE DESTITUTE OF THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGION, MEN ARE PERPETUALLY IN DANGER OF BEING OVERCOME BY THE IMPETUOSITY OF THEIR PASSIONS.
1. Principles directly opposite to those of true religion exist in the human heart.
2. Circumstances are continually arising which may call these unholy principles into active operation.
3. There is grave danger, in the absence of true religion, that excited passion will prevail. Impetuosity can be effectually restrained and subdued only by the power of religious principle.
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
A sound heart is the life of the flesh.
I. THAT A MAN'S BODILY HEALTH, WHERE THE ORGANISATION IS NORMALLY GOOD, IS VERY MUCH IN HIS OWN HANDS. Heaven has given us the means and the motives to cultivate happy conditions of the heart. "Keep thy heart with all diligence." We infer from this fact —
II. THAT CHRISTIANITY IS AN INDISPENSABLE AGENT IN REMOVING MAN'S PHYSICAL DISEASES.
III. THAT MEDICAL SCIENCE WILL ALWAYS BE INEFFECTIVE UNTIL IT PRACTICALLY CONCERNS ITSELF WITH THE MORAL DISEASES AND CURES OF THE MIND. The medical practitioner should know —(1) That it is unscientific to ignore the fact that moral evil is the source of all physical evil, and —(2) That it is unscientific to ignore the fact that there is no agent to remove moral evil but Christianity. We infer —
IV. THAT AS THE TRUE MORALITY OF THE WORLD ADVANCES, THE PHYSICAL HEALTH OF THE WORLD WILL IMPROVE. A drainage to carry away all the foul passions of the heart is the desideratum. The man who is most successful in his efforts, through Christianity, to promote a moral renovation of hearts is the greatest philanthropist.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
But envy is the rottenness of the bones
1. That all mankind in reality consult their own interest best, when they contribute to the good of the whole.
2. That there is an intrinsic pleasure resulting from the practice of virtue.
3. That it recommends us to the love and esteem of all mankind. Anguish of heart, hatred, disesteem, and insecurity, are the natural rewards of iniquity, even in this world. This is nowhere more conspicuous than in the passion of vice and envy. A "sound heart," is literally a heart of lenity or medicine. "Envy" is a leaven that sours and corrupts, sets all the humours upon the fret, and is the bane of all that is good and beautiful and desirable in life.
I. THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF ENVY; AND WHO ARE THEY THAT ARE MOST SUBJECT TO IT. Envy is a pain or uneasiness, arising from an apprehension of the prosperity and good fortune of others; not because we suffer for their welfare, but merely because their condition is bettered. There is a strong jealousy of preeminence and superiority implanted in our nature by Almighty God, for wise and noble purposes. When this principle takes root in a good mind, it is called emulation. But when this principle meets with an evil, corrupt disposition, it degenerates into envy, the most malignant and hateful passion in human nature, the worst weed of the worst soil. This passion affects us chiefly in relation to our equals. If we find we have equalled or exceeded those of like birth, the natural consequence is joy and complacency; but if we are exceeded by them, emulation or envy. The persons most subject to envy are the covetous; men of little or mean spirits; men of extraordinary endowments and abilities, who cannot bear a rival; proud men; and old men.
II. THE SYMPTOMS BY WHICH ENVY MAY BE KNOWN.
1. When we find ourselves averse from doing a person good offices.
2. When we are pleased with the evil of others.
3. When we manifest a censorious disposition; silencing the good actions of others, or exposing the bad.
4. When we have a discontented, querulous, and quarrelsome disposition.
III. THE ILL EFFECTS OF ENVY.
1. To the envious person it is "rottenness in his bones." It wastes the body, and keeps the mind in a ferment. It kills our quiet and our virtue also.
2. It exposes a man to the just hatred and aversion of all mankind; and spreads its malignant influence wherever it comes.
IV. THE BEST REMEDIES FOR THE CURE OF THIS PERNICIOUS PASSION.
1. Settle our opinion of things, and endeavour to take a right estimate of them, according to the law of God.
2. Make a right judgment of our own worth and abilities.
3. Reflect seriously upon the vanity and insignificancy of all worldly advantages.
4. Think of God, who takes pleasure in the happiness of all His creatures.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker.
I. HUMAN NATURE, AS INVOLVING A CRIME — "OPPRESSING THE POOR."
1. By political injustice. When they have no proper organ for expressing their wants, or have a voice in the representation of their country, or a free agency in all the enactments of their country.
2. By social neglect. When the state, as a body, allows vast masses of accumulating distress and ignorance and misery to grow up around it.
3. By mental debasement. Real, true, solid Christian education consists in three things — in giving the mind great truths, in imparting to the mind great motives, in the bestowment of great principles.
II. THE CONSEQUENCE — THE MAKER IS REPROACHED. The poor cannot but think ill of God, when society, which assumes to be His arrangement, presses so heavily upon them.
(R. Montgomery, M.A.)
Homilist.Piety and philanthropy are essentially one. Wherever there is piety or godliness, there is philanthropy. Philanthropy is the offspring of all true religion. The text teaches —
I. THAT INHUMANITY IS UNGODLINESS. There is a great deal of inhumanity in the world, the poor have to endure a great deal of "oppression." Superior force is exerted to exact their labours for the most inadequate remuneration, and thus to "grind their faces." All this oppression of the poor is a reproach of God; he who does it "reproacheth his Maker." He reproaches his Maker —
1. By disregarding that identity of nature with which our Maker has endowed all classes.
II. TRUE HUMANITY IS GODLINESS. "He that honoureth Him, hath mercy on the poor." He that honoureth God, by loving Him supremely, and serving Him, will have mercy on the poor. There is, it is true, a fickle, sentimental, natural mercifulness for the poor, which has no connection with godliness, but this is not true humanity. True humanity is that which sympathises with man, as the offspring of God, the victim of moral evil, the child of immortality, and which consecrates itself in the Spirit of Christ to ameliorate his woes and redeem his soul, and this is godliness in its practical development (Isaiah 58:6, 7).
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath hope in his death.
I. THIS OBSERVATION IS GENERALLY TRUE. It is enough to appeal to the common and daily experience of mankind (Psalm 37:37). When good men come to die, they have commonly a great calm and serenity in their minds, and are full of good hopes of God's mercy and favour. But there are exceptions, both to the peace of the righteous and to the misery of the wicked, in death. Some good men are melancholy and dispirited. They may be naturally of a dark temper. The quiet death of a bad man may be explained by disease; or stupidity, through ignorance or gross sensuality; or the delusion of false principles.
II. WHENCE DOES THIS DIFFERENCE PROCEED? It is founded in the true nature and reason of the things themselves; in the nature of religion and virtue, and of impiety and vice.
1. A religious and virtuous life is a real ground of peace and serenity of mind, of comfort and joy, under all the evils and calamities of life, and especially at the hour of death.
2. Impiety and wickedness is a real foundation of guilt and fear, of horror and despair, in the day of adversity and affliction, and more especially in the approaches of death.
II. IF THIS BE TRUE, IT IS A DEMONSTRATION ON THE SIDE OF RELIGION. Upon three accounts.
1. Because the principles of religion, and the practice of them in a virtuous life, when they come to the last and utmost trial, do hold out, and are a firm and unshaken foundation of peace and comfort to us.
2. That they minister comfort to us in the most needful and desirable time.
3. That when men are commonly more serious and sober and impartial, and when their declarations and words are thought to be of greater weight and credit, they give this testimony to religion and virtue, and against impiety and vice.
(J. Tillotson, D.D.)
1. The manner of his passing out of the world. He is "driven away."
2. The state he passeth away into. He dies in a hopeless state. The righteous hath hope in his death. He has the grace of hope, and the well-founded expectation of better things than he ever had in this world.
I. HOW, AND IN WHAT SENSE, ARE THE WICKED "DRIVEN AWAY IN THEIR WICKEDNESS AT DEATH." What is meant by their being "driven away"? Three things; they shall be taken away suddenly, violently, and irresistibly. Whence are they driven and whither? They are driven out of this world, where they have sinned, into the other world, where they must be judged. They are driven out of the society of the saints on earth, into the society of the lost in hell. They are driven out of time into eternity. They are driven out of their specious pretences to piety. They are driven away from all means of grace, quite out of all prospect of mercy. In what respects may they be said to be driven away in their wickedness? In respect of their being driven away in their sinful, unconverted state. They die sinning, acting wickedly against God, loaded with the guilt of their sins, and under the absolute power of their wickedness.
II. THE HOPELESSNESS OF THE STATE OF UNRENEWED MEN AT THEIR DEATH. Consider four things.
1. Death cuts off their hopes and prospects of peace and pleasure in this life.
2. When death comes, they have no solid ground to hope for eternal happiness.
3. Death roots up their delusive hopes.
4. Death makes their state absolutely and for ever hopeless. Exhortation.(1) Take heed that you entertain no hopes of heaven but what are built on a solid foundation. Beware of hope built upon ground that was never cleared. Beware of that hope which looks bright in the dark, but loses all its lustre when it is set in the light of God's Word. Beware of that hope which stands without being supported by Scriptural evidences.(2) Hasten, O sinners, out of your wickedness, lest you die in your sin.(3) Be concerned for others, lest they be "driven away."
III. THE STATE OF THE GODLY IN DEATH IS A HOPEFUL STATE.
1. They have a trusty good Friend before them in the other world.
2. They shall have a safe passage through to the other world.
3. They shall have a joyful entrance into another world. Objection: How comes it to pass that many of the godly, when dying, are full of fears, and have little hope? Answer: The fears are usually consequences of states of bodily health; but they may be due to flagging spiritual life. Improvement: How to prepare for death, so that we may die comfortably.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (T. Boston, D.D.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) (T. Boston, D.D.)
(3) (4) (5) (T. Boston, D.D.)
(5) (T. Boston, D.D.)
(5) (T. Boston, D.D.)
(T. Boston, D.D.)
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE RIGHTEOUS. The peculiar distinction between the righteous and the wicked lies in the heart, not in the understanding.
II. THE TRUTH ASSERTED IN THE TEXT. The assertion is true, though there may be some apparent exceptions There is nothing preceding, attending, or following death, which can destroy the foundation of the hope of the righteous.
1. A clear and just sense of their guilt and ill desert in the sight of God cannot destroy their hope in Christ.
2. There is nothing in the thoughts of leaving this world which can destroy their hope.
3. There is nothing in the prospect of having a more constant and realising sense of the Divine presence which can destroy their hope.
4. The prospect of being for ever united with perfectly holy creatures cannot destroy their hope.
5. Nor in the prospect of the holy employment of heaven.
6. Nor in seeing the displays of Divine justice upon the vessels of wrath after death.
7. Nor in seeing all the Divine purposes completely accomplished and unfolded.
8. Nor the prospect of existing for ever. Improvement of the subject:(1) If the righteous have hope in their death, then they are essentially different from the wicked.(2) If only the righteous have hope, then multitudes will be fatally disappointed in their dying hour.(3) The death of the righteous may be peculiarly instructive and beneficial to the living.
1. There is the hope of Divine support in death itself.
2. There is the hope of complete deliverance from the evils incident to a physical existence.
3. There is the hope of introduction to unmingled and permanent good.
(James Foster, M.A.)
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.1. An enemy all must meet. Death.
2. A privilege all must envy. Hope in death.
3. A dispensation all must approve of. The righteous hath hope in his death.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.1. What he is driven from. A large measure of happiness, and from all sources of moral improvement.
2. Where he is driven to. Out of time into eternity, and from the presence of God.
3. What he carries with him. His wickedness; the accumulated sins of a whole life, and a fixed character of evil. Learn —(1) What "a dreadful view of life and death for the wicked.(2) The greatness of Christ's salvation from the greatness of the ruin from which it saves.(3) The value of the gospel hope from the happiness it secures in life and death.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Homiletic Monthly.I. IN LIFE.
1. The difference is real, not imaginary. It is in the inward disposition, as well as in the outward conduct.
2. The difference is manifest. The ruling disposition, which is the life of character, and which is essentially different in both, makes itself known by its fruit.
3. The difference is increasing. These two characters continue to show forth their difference, and to go further from each other for ever.
II. IN DEATH. "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness" —
1. As by a storm. He has no foundation to stand upon. He has no hold upon anything real, lasting.
2. As a culprit is led away to his execution. There is no resignation on his part to a superior will than his own. He views the past with remorse, and anticipates the unknown future with gloom and fear. "But the righteous hath hope in his death." This is an indication of strength, not weakness. He hath hope, even in death, when all things that are seen vanish away.Some reasons for his hope:
1. The Bible, as he reads it and believes it; the light which came from heaven drives away the gloom of the dark valley, and reveals the land beyond.
2. He is at peace with God. God is known by him as his Father, Friend, and Saviour. Love to God, in his heart, has put away fear.
3. He is confident that his Redeemer has absolute control over all things; that He is Lord of the future. His hope, therefore, is such that, like Fuller, he is not afraid to plunge into eternity. The text is a proof of a belief in a future state of rewards and punishments in the time of Solomon.
I. THE PUNISHMENT TO BE INFLICTED UPON A CERTAIN MAN.
1. The name of the offender. Wicked.
2. The nature of the offence. Malice.
3. The punishment; in three degrees. As begun in this life. Increased at the time of death. Perfected at the day of judgment.
II. THE CONCLUSION OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
1. What is a righteous man?
2. What is it to have hope in death?
Homiletic Review.I. THE HOPELESS. Whose? "The wicked" — the unconverted. What?
1. The condition in which he dies. "In his wickedness." He lived careless and indifferent, encased in false hope; or hardened and scoffing, fighting against God. So he dies. Driven away not from, but in his wickedness. Death makes no change of character. "Unjust still."
2. The compulsion under which he dies. "Driven away." Ejected from this life's engagements, enjoyments, and means of improvement. Torn away from possessions, pursuits, pleasures, and prospects here. "This night — thy soul — then whose," etc.? Death takes no bribes. Wishes and protests unheeded. "Driven... chased out," etc. (Job 18:18).
II. THE HOPEFUL. Whose, "the righteous" in moral position, principle, practice. What? — Hopeful of —
1. The Divine support in it.
(1) (2) (3) 2. Decisive victory over it. Prospective — Grave robbed. "Resurrection of life." 3. Heavenly glory after it. (1) (2) (3) (Homiletic Review.)
(2) (3) 2. Decisive victory over it. Prospective — Grave robbed. "Resurrection of life." 3. Heavenly glory after it. (1) (2) (3) (Homiletic Review.)
(3) 2. Decisive victory over it. Prospective — Grave robbed. "Resurrection of life." 3. Heavenly glory after it. (1) (2) (3) (Homiletic Review.)
2. Decisive victory over it. Prospective — Grave robbed. "Resurrection of life."
3. Heavenly glory after it.
I. THE OBJECTS.
1. His hope of support in death; of the immortality of the soul; of the resurrection of the body; and of perfect happiness in heaven.
II. THE GROUNDS AND EVIDENCES. The foundation of the hope is the free mercy of God, which can be communicated only through Jesus Christ. Evidence of this hope is that the righteous man finds, upon a thorough trial, that the characters which God has declared essentially necessary to salvation do belong to him.
III. THE VARIOUS LIMITATIONS AND DEGREES OF A GOOD HOPE IN DEATH. A good hope is always supported by evidence, and according to the degree of evidence is the degree of hope. Different believers, at different times, have different degrees of evidence. Much depends on weakness of body, mind, or heart. But every righteous man has a substantial reason to hope, whether he clearly sees it or not. Good men do, in fact, usually enjoy a comfortable hope.
(S. Davies, A.M.)
I. THE DOOM OF THE WICKED. As smoke is driven by the wind, so will the wicked perish in the day of wrath. We are not able to form a right conception of what it is to be and abide in wickedness. Because it is so near us, we do not know it.
II. THE HOPE OF THE JUST. Hope, always lovely, is then sweetest when it beams from heaven through the gloom that gathers round the grave.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
1. He is one who has been convinced of his unrighteousness.
2. One who is made the partaker of righteous principles.
3. One who is righteous and holy in his life.
II. THE HOPE OF THE RIGHTEOUS. This hope has for its object future spiritual and eternal blessings. It is called a "good hope through grace," because we are indebted for it to the grace and favour of God; and because it is wrought in us by the gracious influences of the Divine Spirit. Eternal life includes the immortality of the soul — the everlasting, conscious existence of the rational mind; the resurrection of the body; and the enjoyment of eternal happiness.
Homilist.Three things implied in the death of the wicked are here set forth.
I. A VERY SOLEMN CHANGE. He is "driven away."
1. Whence?(1) From all existing enjoyments; the beauties of nature, the circles of friendship, the pleasures of literature, etc.(2) From all secular engagements. The farmer, lawyer, statesman, etc.(3) From all means of moral improvement: churches, Bibles, teachers.
2. Whither? To the grave as to his body, to eternal retribution as to his soul. The death of the wicked implies —
II. A GREAT PERSONAL RELUCTANCE. He does not go away, he is not drawn away; he is "driven away."
1. All the sympathies of his nature are centred in this life. They are all twined around earthly objects, as the ivy around the old castle. They are all more deeply rooted in the earth than the oak of centuries. He is in the world, and the world is everything to him.
2. The future world is terribly repulsive to him. Not a ray of hope breaks through his tremendous gloom; it is one dense mass of starless thunder-cloud. This being the case, with what tenacity he clings to life! He will not go, he cannot go, he must be "driven." His death is not like the gentle fall of the ripened fruit from its old branch in autumn, but like the oak, uprooted, and dashed into the air, by a mighty whirlwind. It is not like a vessel gliding to its chosen haven, but like a bark driven by a furious wind to a shore it shrinks from with horror. "Driven away!" The death of the wicked, as here indicated, implies —
III. A TERRIBLE RETENTION OF CHARACTER. He is "driven away" in his wickedness. He carries his wickedness with him. This is the worst part of the whole. He carries his vile thoughts, his corrupt passions, his sinful purposes, his depraved habits, his accumulated guilt, with him. He will leave everything else behind but this — this adheres to him. He can no more flee from it than from himself. This wickedness will be the millstone to press him downward into deeper, darker depths for ever; the poison that will rankle in the veins for ever; the fuel that will feed the flames for ever. O sinner, lay down this wickedness at the foot of the atoning and soul-renovating Cross!
I. DESCRIBES THE DREADFUL TERMINATION OF A COURSE OF IRRELIGION AND OF SIN.
1. Who are the wicked? The term is generally restricted to "sinners of the baser sort" — those whose lives are grossly sensual. But Scripture regards it as the appropriate designation of all who are in an unregenerate state; all who are destitute of the fear and love of God, who habitually transgress His law, and practically disregard His gospel.
2. What will be the issue of their career? Note the manner in which he dies. Reluctantly. Unavoidably. The condition in which he dies. In his sins, with all his guilt on his head, and all his depravity in his heart.
II. DESCRIBES THE BLESSINGS OF THOSE WHO DIE IN THE LORD.
1. Who is righteous? Not simply believers, but regenerated and converted sinners.
2. What is the privilege of the righteous? He has hope in his death. That hope is glorious in its object. It is sure in its foundation. It is felicitating in its influence.
( Matthew Henry.)
I. THERE IS THE HOPE OF DIVINE SUPPORT IN DEATH ITSELF. "As thy day," etc.
II. THERE IS THE HOPE OF COMPLETE DELIVERANCE FROM THE EVILS INCIDENT TO A PHYSICAL EXISTENCE. In this life the soul is imprisoned. Its heavenly and spiritual tendency is retarded by its companion of dust. Spiritual life has its thought, feeling, and expression limited and baffled by physical boundaries. A prolonged mental exercise is followed by fatigue and reaction, so is it with spiritual exercises and pleasures. Death sets the righteous free from all these evils. It takes down the decaying, exposed, and inferior tabernacle, that the guest within may come forth to light and liberty. It introduces the soul to perfection of being, activity, and enjoyment.
III. THERE IS THE HOPE OF INTRODUCTION TO UNMINGLED AND PERMANENT GOOD.
(Jas. Foster, M.A.)
( G. Whitefield.)
(J. Vaughan, M.A.)
I. THE WICKED IS DRIVEN AWAY IN HIS WICKEDNESS.
1. Wicked men are taken out of the world against their will, and by a power which they cannot withstand.
2. They die with their souls unrenewed and their characters unchanged.
3. They go to receive the punish- ment of their sins.
II. THE RIGHTEOUS HATH HOPE IN HIS DEATH. Though they may not be able to express themselves in the language of assurance and exultation, yet will there be a believing dependence on the mercy and faithfulness of God. And even though all hope should seem gone, and the manifestations of the Divine presence be withdrawn, yet even then would the declaration of our text be true. For as, on the one hand, the real certainty of our salvation is not augmented or diminished by our present feelings, however the evidence of it to ourselves may be affected, so, on the other, the position — the righteous have hope in their death — is not to be limited merely to express the feelings which the righteous may experience at death, but expresses also the security of their state. The foundation, as well as the objects of hope, remain firm and immutable. It is in the weakness of nature that the supporting energy of grace is most apparent, and the power of the Saviour is most conspicuously displayed. And how often hath it happened that, in the midst of utmost exhaustion, when all further utterance had ceased, the soul has seemed to catch a glimpse of future glory, and, reanimating the almost lifeless body, hath proclaimed its assurance of the Divine love and mercy and protection, and ascended to heaven in a song of holy triumph!
Righteousness exalteth a nation.
I. GIVE AN ACCOUNT OF THIS TRUTH.
1. From the justice of the Divine Providence. Public bodies, or communities of men, can only be rewarded and punished in this world. St. Austin says that the mighty success and long prosperity of the Romans was reward given them by God for their eminent justice and temperance, and other virtues. But the general and crying sins of a nation cannot hope to escape public judgments. Public judgments are the banks and shores upon which God breaks the insolency of sinners, and stays their proud waves. The experience of all ages hath made this good.
2. From the natural tendency of the thing. Religion and virtue, in their own nature, conduce to the public interest. Religion is the greatest obligation upon conscience to all civil offices and moral duties. Chastity, temperance, and industry do, in their own nature, tend to health and plenty. Truth and fidelity do create mutual love and goodwill. And so almost every vice has some temporal inconvenience annexed to it, and naturally following it. Religion and virtue naturally tend to good order and more easy government of human society, because they have a good influence both upon magistrates and subjects. Religion makes the people more obedient to government and more peaceable one towards another.
II. VINDICATE THIS TRUTH.
1. From the assertion that government may subsist well enough without the belief of a God, and a state of rewards and punishments after this life.
2. From the assertion that virtue and vice are arbitrary things. Inference from this discourse.(1) If this discourse be true, then those who are in places of power and authority are peculiarly concerned to maintain the honour of religion.(2) It concerns every one to live in the practice of it.
(J. Tillotson, D.D.)
I. STATE THE QUESTION CLEARLY. By religion, as exalting a nation, is not meant either the religion of a cruel man, a superstitious person, or an enthusiast. Religion and righteousness must be taken in the true sense of the terms. It is not affirmed that the true religion is so necessary in all its doctrines, and in all the extent of its precepts, that there are no instances of the flourishing of societies which have not been wholly regulated by it. We only affirm that the most sure method that a nation can take to support and exalt itself, is to follow the laws of righteousness and the spirit of religion. It is not affirmed that in every particular case religion is more successful in procuring some temporal advantages than violation of it. We only affirm generally, that the more a society practises virtue, the more prosperity win it enjoy. By "exaltation" is not meant that sort of elevation to which worldly heroes aspire. If we understand by "exalting a nation," whatever governs with gentleness, negotiates with success, attacks with courage, defends with resolution, and constitutes the happiness of a people, then a nation is only exalted by righteousness. It is not affirmed that the prosperity of such a nation would be so perfect as to exclude all untoward circumstances. An argument against us is taken from the abuses which religion has caused in society. This is removed by taking away false ideas of religion. Another objection is taken from the case of some idolatrous nations, that have arrived at a great height of worldly glory. A third from some particular instance in which vice has proved of more advantage to a state than virtue. A fourth from extravagant notions of glory. A fifth from the evils which the most virtuous societies suffer.
II. SHOW THE GROUND OF THE MAXIM OF THE WISE MAN. Open six sources of reflections.
1. The idea of society in general.
2. The constitution of each government in particular.
3. The nature of arts and sciences.
4. The conduct of Providence.
5. The promises of God Himself.
6. The history of all ages.
Homilist.Righteousness exalteth a nation.
I. IN MATERIAL WEALTH. Truth, honesty, integrity in a people are the best guarantees of commercial advancement. The more credit a nation has, the more business it can do; and the more business, if rightly conducted, the more will be the accumulation of wealth. It exalts —
II. IN SOCIAL ENJOYMENT. According as the principles of veracity, uprightness, and honour reign in society, will be the freeness, the heartiness, and the enjoyment of social intercourse.
III. IN MORAL POWER. The true majesty of a kingdom lies in its moral virtue. The state whose heart beats loyally to the eternal principles of rectitude gains an influence upon earth mightier than the mightiest armies or battalions can impart.
I. "RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTETH A NATION." These words at once reveal to us the great secret in all national improvement, national happiness, national peace and prosperity. Let us not suppose that legislative enactments, criminal laws, courts of justice, and houses of correction, ever can succeed in uprooting vice and implanting virtue, in securing peace and protecting property, in removing sin and exalting the nation. These truly should not be left undone; but never for one moment imagine that in themselves they can remedy the evil. These never can change the heart of man. Think not that a nation's true, substantial, and lasting greatness consists in power, wealth, noble edifices, princely palaces, extensive cities, warlike achievements, naval victories, commercial enterprise, colonial possessions. Be not dazzled with the glitter and glare of this mere external appearance of greatness.
II. "BUT SIN IS A REPROACH TO ANY PEOPLE." This is a striking contrast, a painful transition. From gazing with rapture upon the exaltation of righteousness, we are now to move on to behold with sorrow the degradation of sin. Read the histories of the ancients; and what was the blot which marred and defaced even the most enlightened nations of old? Sin, idolatry, ungodliness, spiritual ignorance: they were "without God in the world." What was it which caused the Almighty to send famines, pestilences, captivities, and finally destruction, upon His own peculiar people, even the children of Israel? Sin. They rebelled against the words of the Lord, and lightly esteemed the counsel of the Most High. But, alas! we do not require to search the records of the ancients, traverse the wide ocean, and wander to distant shores, to test the truth of this Scriptural declaration. We have ocular demonstrations of it amongst our own people, in our villages and towns. For, what is the blemish which is so visible upon all ranks and classes? Sin. What is it which blackens, darkens, and deadens the noblest mansions, alike with the meanest habitations, spreading misery, ignominy, and wretchedness amongst and around us.
(G. J. Morehead, M.A.)
I. AN EXPLANATION OF THE WORDS "RIGHTEOUSNESS," AND "EXALTATION." Righteousness signifies, according to its primitive idea, full weight or measure. It is such a conformity to some law which men are bound to obey as answers all its demands. Exaltation means advancement or promotion to a state of dignity and honour, usefulness and happiness. The exaltation of a nation consists in its intellectual, moral, political, social, and physical excellence.
II. ILLUSTRATE THE MANNER IN WHICH REVEALED RELIGION EXALTETH A NATION.
1. Righteousness exalteth the intellectual state of a nation. Righteousness encourages the cultivation of the mind, and enlightens the reason.
2. Righteousness exalteth the moral state of a nation. It unfolds the foundation of genuine morality, and affords the ability of conforming to its precepts. Without the righteousness of faith there is no obedience to the Divine law, such as it requires. Sinners, as such, are immoral in a strict sense, because unrighteous, i.e., disobedient to God's law. Righteousness, by drawing forth into proper exercise the faculties, and forming correct habits, exalts the morals of individuals and nations.
3. Righteousness exalteth the political state of a nation. It adds its sanctions to the authority of government. It teaches and enforces subordination. It establishes parental authority and family discipline, without which civil communities cannot flourish.
4. Righteousness exalts the social state of a nation. By this is meant their manners. It influences a people to combine gravity with cheerfulness.
5. Righteousness exalteth a nation by promoting its physical state. By this is meant its natural resources, such as its population, wealth, and means of defence.
III. EXAMINE THE PROOFS WHICH HISTORY AFFORDS OF THIS TRUTH. So far as the principles of righteousness are known among a nation, so far that nation is exalted. Every system of religion will influence its followers according to the interest which it excites in their feelings. Illustrate especially from the history of the Jewish nation. Learn(1) The importance of the Church of Jesus Christ, in this world. The Church of God is the sheet-anchor of the world.(2) The importance of a religious magistracy.
(J. B. Romeyn, B.D.)
I. TRUE RELIGION AND PIETY EXALTETH A NATION. Religion is the mother of justice, moderation, mercy, and all other virtues.
1. This it does in itself; being in its own nature a truly great, noble, and honourable thing. A nation's power without piety is but an ability to do mischief.
2. By virtue of its own natural fruits and consequences, it promotes industry. It disposes men to mind the public good and honour of the nation.
II. RELIGION PROCURES THE BLESSING OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE UPON THE COUNTRY. True religion binds men together, and so makes them mighty and formidable, by removing the causes of division, and by making them feel the happy effects of peace and quietness. True religion increases a people into a multitude by securing chaste marriages, and by inviting other people to resort to it.
(Bishop Patrick Symon.)
I. THE BENEFICIAL POWER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Righteousness being regarded as the produce of Christianity. If the precepts of the Bible were acted out by the members of the community, there would be banished all that tends to produce discord to its security. The influence of religion is of supreme value on the duties, and also on the trials of life.
II. AN OBJECTION DRAWN FROM THE DISCORD TO WHICH CHRISTIANITY HAS GIVEN RISE. It must be admitted that Christianity has, all along, been the occasion of much disquietude and unhappiness. But the fault lies, not with Christianity, but with man, who perverts God's blessings. Admitting the fact, we must strike a balance between the produced wretchedness and the produced happiness.
I. SOME WRONG ESTIMATES OF NATIONAL GREATNESS.
1. Some say a character for shrewdness.
2. The estimate of a diplomatist would be erroneous.
3. So would that of the social economist.
4. And the warrior.
5. The mere place-hunter.
6. And even the historian.
II. THE PROPER ESTIMATE OF NATIONAL GREATNESS.
1. Righteousness supposes individual integrity. The character of a people is determined by its units. Individual integrity means an adherence to truth at all hazards.
2. Righteousness implies a respect for human nature. A recognition of the value of life and the soul.
3. Righteousness farther involves the disposition that concedes to our fellow-men the liberties we enjoy. A policy of monopoly is a policy of unrighteousness.
4. Righteousness requires that political justice be rendered to other nations.
5. It necessitates compliance with the law of progress. And —
6. That we regulate our political action by our duty to God. All political convictions should contain the elements of godliness — piety and patriotism should be joined in holy wedlock.
(W. J. Acomb.)
(G. F. Greene.)
Wesleyan S. S. Magazine.Christian institutions, such as the family and the Sabbath, tend to prolong life and increase the population. Many heathen tribes, lacking these, have become all but extinct; and, other things being equal, civilised nations multiply in proportion as Christ is practically acknowledged as their Head and Lord, and as Christian institutions are embraced. In 1851 the population of France was about double that of England and Wales; in the ten years from 1851 to 1861 the increase of population in England and Wales was more than double that in France; so that the proportionate increase per cent. is fully four to one in favour of the country where the Sabbath is recognised, and the domestic virtues are upheld.
(Wesleyan S. S. Magazine.)
Sin is a reproach to any people
1. It is the nature of sin to lessen and diminish a people. The most populous nations have been reduced to a handful by the prevalence of vice — Israel, Greeks, Romans.
2. It is the nature of sin to sink and depress the spirits of a people. A people confirmed in the habits of vice, have no heart to labour, to think, to form, or to execute any virtuous designs. Their genius withers, their exertions languish, their hopes, their honours, their virtues perish.
3. It is the nature of sin to destroy the wealth of a nation, and subject them to all the evils and reproaches of poverty. Some species of fraud may, for a time, advance a person or people in wealth and grandeur. Yet vice, according to its natural course, will eventually involve them in poverty and shame.
4. It is the nature of sin to deprive a people of the blessings of freedom, and involve them in the misery and meanness of slavery. Vice has the same effect upon the body politic that sickness has upon the natural body. Vice destroyed the liberties of Greece. Vice subverted the freedom of Rome.
5. It is the nature of vice to provoke the displeasure of God, and draw down His judgments, which complete the ruin of a people.
(D. Emmons, D.D.).