Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
I. BOAST NOT THYSELF OF TO-MORROW, Never presume arrogantly on futurity. Beware of pride and vanity. In the day of prosperity rejoice with trembling.
II. DESPAIR NOT OF TO-MORROW. Adverse situations fill many with fears and alarms of what is to come. The day may bring forth some unforeseen relief, and therefore we should hope under distress. The doctrine which the changes of the world perpetually inculcate is that no state of external things should appear so important, or should so affect and agitate our spirits, as to deprive us of a calm, an equal, and a steady mind. Anxiety, when it seizes the heart, is a dangerous disease, productive both of much sin and much misery.
III. DELAY NOT TILL TO-MORROW WHAT IS PROPER TO BE DONE TO-DAY. Thou art not the lord of to-morrow. Procrastination has, throughout every age, been the ruin of mankind. Many of the misfortunes which befall men in their worldly concerns are a consequence of delay. To-morrow, being loaded with the concerns of to-day, in addition to its own, is clogged and embarrassed. Evils of the same kind, arising from the same cause, overtake men in their moral and spiritual interests.
IV. BE EVERY DAY PREPARED FOR WHAT TO-MORROW MAY BRING FORTH. The best preparation for all the uncertainties of futurity consists in a well-ordered mind, a good conscience, and a cheerful submission to the will of heaven. If to-morrow bring you any unexpected good, prepare to receive it with gratitude, temperance, and modesty. If it shall bring forth evil, prepare to receive it with manly fortitude.
V. BUILD YOUR HOPES OF HAPPINESS ON SOMEWHAT MORE SOLID AND LASTING THAN WHAT EITHER TO-DAY OR TO-MORROW ARE LIKELY TO PRODUCE. He who rests wholly upon this world builds his house upon the sand. We are begotten again unto a "lively hope." Here is the object to which a wise man will bend his chief attention, that, having acted his part on earth with fidelity and honour, he may be enabled, through the merits of his Saviour, to look for a place in the mansions of eternal and untroubled peace. This prospect is the great corrective of the present vanity of human life.
(Hugh Blair, D.D.)
1. The goods or perfections of the mind.
2. The goods or advantages of the body.
3. The things that are without us, bona fortunae, riches and honour.There is also a strong inclination in man towards the time to come; he has an immortal appetite. If the soul of man were in the primitive integrity, this providence of the soul would reach to eternity, which is the only just measure of the endurance of any immortal spirit. But since man's understanding is darkened, he can see nothing further than "to-morrow." But confidence in to-morrow is folly, because of the instability of all outward things, and because of our ignorance of future events. Of all boastings the most irrational and groundless is that which arises from presumption of future things, which are so uncertain both in themselves and to us. Self is the great and ultimate object of man's glorying. No man's present possession satisfies him, without the addition of hope and expectation for the future. Our present revenue will not content the heart. Therefore the soul, as it were, anticipates and forestalls the morrow. But consider —
1. How independent all things are of us and of our choice.
2. The inconstancy of all material things. There is nothing certain but that all things are uncertain.
3. Our ignorance concerning coming changes. All things proclaim the folly and madness of that which the heart of man is set upon. "The counsel of the Lord," that alone shall "stand."
I. SHOW THIS BY THE DANGEROUS UNCERTAINTIES WHICH ALL DELAYING MEN HAVE TO DEPEND UPON. There is no such thing hinted at in Scripture as future repentance. There is no ground for hoping that a late repentance will avail men who knowingly and wilfully defer that repentance which is the duty of the present.
1. What certainty can there be in that which depends upon so uncertain a foundation as the life of man? Who can ensure a hereafter to repent in?
2. As life is uncertain, so is the continuance of God's grace uncertain also.
II. HOW IMPROPER THE TIMES RESOLVED ON BY SUCH MEN TO REPENT IN WILL BE FOR THE WORK OF THEIR REPENTANCE. Such as the time of sickness, or of old age, or of death.
III. EVERY EXCUSE WHICH MEN MAY MAKE IN FAVOUR OF THEIR DELAYS MUST, IF SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED, OBLIGE THEM TO HASTEN THEIR REPENTANCE.
1. Excuse — their sins are so small; they can be easily cast off at pleasure.
2. Sins are so great; it is too difficult to repent.
3. Life is just now too full of other things. Consider that every moment consumes somewhat of the thread of life; and that of all business and employments none can possibly be more requisite than our making our peace with God.
(W. H. Hay Aitken, M.A.)
1. There are many miseries which the morrow is continually bringing forth, that are the direct consequence of our own imprudent conduct or our own vicious habits. They spring from a want of religion; and the possession of it would of course relieve them.
2. Suffering also belongs to us as the sons of mortality; such as pain, sickness, infirmity, age. Religion cannot altogether remove such woes, but it can very materially mitigate and relieve them. And, at least, it enables us to look rightly upon them.
3. There is a class of disappointments to which irreligious men are subject, but from which the true Christian is altogether free. The worldly man is entirely immersed in the things of this life, its pleasures and its cares. When the changeful morrow comes, and these are swept away, he is ruined. The happiness of the religious man is not dependent on such accidents as these.
(R. Parkinson, B.D.)
I. THE ABUSE OF TO-MORROW. "Boast not" —
1. Because it is extremely foolish to boast at all, Boasting never makes a man any the greater in the esteem of others, nor does it improve the real estate either of his body or his soul. Morrows come from God; thou hast no right to glory in them.
2. Because to-morrow is one of the frailest things in creation, and therefore the least to be boasted of. Boast not of to-morrow — thou hast it not. Boast not of to-morrow — thou mayest never have it. Boast not of to-morrow — if thou hadst it, it would deceive thee. Boast not of to-morrow, for to-morrow thou mayest be where morrows will be dreadful things, to tremble at.
3. Because it is exceedingly hurtful to boast. It is hurtful now. Some men are led into extraordinary extravagance from their hopes of the future. It is hurtful to-morrow also. Because you will be disappointed with to-morrow if you boast about it before it comes. The over-confident not only entail great sorrow upon themselves but upon others also.
II. THE ABUSE OF THE SPIRITUAL TO-MORROW. Never boast of to-morrow with regard to your soul's salvation. Those do who think it will be easier for them to repent to-morrow than it is to-day. Those do who suppose they shall have plenty of time to repent and return to God. Those do who boast in a way of resolves to do better.
III. IF TO-MORROWS ARE NOT TO BE BOASTED OF, ARE THEY GOOD FOR NOTHING? Nay; we may look forward to them with confidence and joy, and we may seek in wise ways to provide for to-morrow.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. MEN ARE NATURALLY INCLINED TO BOAST OF SOMETHING.
II. MEN ARE APT TO DELAY RELIGION AS LONG AS THEY CAN. They boast of to-morrow.
III. IT IS BASE AND SINFUL TO PUT OFF THE CONCERNS OF RELIGION TILL TO-MORROW.
IV. GOD ALONE KNOWS WHAT IS TO COME. The Jews of Christ's time were dreaming of future prosperity, but He foresaw their ruin and destruction as at hand. We, like them, lay plans for futurity, and invade the province of the Most High. We perhaps anticipate wealth, honour.
V. GREAT CHANGES HAPPEN IN A SHORT TIME. "For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Since the introduction of sin, the creature at its best estate is altogether vanity.
I. In this passage it is very plainly insinuated THAT WE ARE TOO APT TO BOAST OF TO-MORROW. The young hope to live to old age; the middle-aged, having passed the most critical stages of infancy and childhood, reckon, with too much security, on grey hairs; while the old look around them for examples, a few of which they can glean of extreme age, and hope they themselves shall add to the number of extraordinary cases of longevity. Boasting of to-morrow likewise appears in framing worldly schemes of future ease and aggrandisement. He who proposes it as his object to make up a sum at all hazards, that he may, by a certain time, execute a plan of a great mansion, suited to the fortune, and then to enjoy himself. See where the evil lies; not in thinking of to-morrow, in the way of making wise and prudent preparation, always taking along with us, "If the Lord will"; but the evil is that boasting of to-morrow which involves in sinful, at any rate in worldly and presumptuous plans, in reference to some future period, or that kind of reference to to-morrow which is a substitute for attention, immediate and serious, to our most important, even our eternal interests.
II. THAT IT IS FOOLISH TO BOAST OF TO-MORROW, "We are young." Granted; but the young droop oftentimes. The green leaf often is seen falling, nipped by frost, or shaken by the wind. The young and strong have been called hence by disease or accident, the majority were young. "But we have stood already many trials of our constitution, and many attacks, and are yet vigorous." The last, however, will come, and the very next may be fatal. "But we are a long-lived race. Father and mother, yea grandfather, and many relatives, lived to a great age." You forget the exceptions. "But we have somehow this persuasion, that we shall live long, and at any rate we will not indulge in gloomy presage of an early tomb." This is very delusive — it is foolish — you can give no reason for it — you may soon find you were deceiving yourselves.
III. THAT THERE IS MUCH DANGER IN INDULGING THIS DISPOSITION.
1. It fosters irreligion and atheism. Leaving out of calculation your own weak and dependent state, the uncertainty of time, and your ignorance of futurity, you form your plans without any reference to the Divine Disposer. You erect many high towering schemes, which savour at once of impiety and folly.
2. It is found to foster some of the worst passions of the human heart. The ambitious reason thus: A few steps more, and I shall rise to the very top of my profession, or of my rank in society, and that in the regular course of events, which supposes the removal of others by the stroke of mortality, as the means of elevation. The covetous man adds heap to heap, with desires more and more insatiable, forgetful of his latter end, and of that country to which he goes, where his wealth will be of no benefit. A due consideration of this might, by the Divine blessing, cut up by the roots this grovelling and idolatrous propensity, and give the soul a heavenward direction. A day may bring forth many most unexpected events, casting a dark cloud over the most flattering prospects. This present day improved may be the happy means of arresting the evil which the presumption of to-morrow tends so much to foster.
3. The boast of to-morrow is most prejudicial to spiritual and eternal concerns. It is the most successful of all Satan's devices, and the easiest mode of compassing his designs.
I. TO WHAT THE WORDS OF THE TEXT WILL APPLY. On some things we can calculate with a degree of certainty. Apply text —
1. With regard to ourselves. And it will apply to both good and evil. The text seems to have in view evil.
2. To the dispensations of Providence.
3. This uncertainty regards our lives. Some are cut off in the midst of sin. Some in the midst of religious declensions.
II. WHAT REASONS CAN BE GIVEN FOR THIS IGNORANCE OF FUTURITY. It never was designed that man should know the future. Even the angels in heaven have not this knowledge. Would such knowledge add to our happiness? or improve our religious character? This arrangement keeps us fully dependent on God. By this means He keeps the world in awe.
III. APPLY THE FACT TO SOME USEFUL PURPOSES.
1. It should check vain curiosity.
2. It teaches us to hope for the best.
3. It is good to be prepared for the worst.
4. Learn the importance of real religion.
I. THE SENTIMENT CONTAINED IN THE TEXT. No man will attempt to controvert the assertion it makes.
1. We are ignorant of the future as to our circumstances.
2. We cannot tell what a day may bring forth as to the state of our bodies and our minds.
3. We are ignorant of the future as to our families and connections.
4. We are totally ignorant of futurity, as to the continuance of our lives.
II. SOME LESSONS OF PRACTICAL INSTRUCTION.
1. Learn the importance of a life of faith and dependence on God. Man was never designed to be independent.
2. Learn to cultivate a spirit of holy resignation to the Divine will.
3. Learn to cultivate a spirit of cautious moderation as to the things of this present life.
4. Learn to cultivate a spirit of humility.
Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.
(J. Parker, D.D.)
I. THIS REMINDS US OF THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF TRIFLES. The small things make life, and if they are small, then it is. We are poor judges of what is great or small. We have a very vulgar estimate of noise, notoriety, and bigness. We think the quiet things are the small ones. The most trivial actions have a knack of leading on to large results, beyond what could have been expected. These trivial actions make character. Men are not made by crises. The crises reveal what we have made ourselves by the trifles. We shape ourselves by the way we do small things.
II. THE OVERWHELMING WEIGHT OF SMALL SINS. The accumulated pressure upon a man of a multitude of perfectly trivial faults and transgressions makes up a tremendous aggregate that weighs upon him. The words "great" and "small" should not be applied in reference to things about which "right" and "wrong" are the proper words to employ. Acts make crimes, but motives make sins. To talk about magnitude, in regard to sins, is rather to introduce an irrelevant consideration. Small sins, by reason of their numerousness, have a terribly accumulative power; a tremendous capacity for reproduction. All our evil doings have a strange affinity with one another. To go wrong in one direction leads to a whole series of consequential transgressions of one sort or another. Every sin makes us more accessible to the assaults of every other. If we indulge in slight acts of transgression, be sure of this, that we shall pass from them to far greater ones. An overwhelming weight of guilt results from the accumulation of little sins.
III. PLAIN, PRACTICAL ISSUES OF THESE THOUGHTS.
1. The absolute necessity for all-round and ever-wakeful watchfulness of ourselves.
2. This thought may take down our easy and self-complacent estimate of ourselves.
3. Should we not turn ourselves with lowly hearts to Him who alone can deliver us from the habit and power of these accumulated faults, and who alone can lift the burden of guilt and responsibility from off our shoulders?
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?I. THE EVIL PRINCIPLES INDICATED IN THE TEXT ARE EXTENSIVELY AND DANGEROUSLY PREVALENT. To be irritated and out of temper is one of the common tendencies of our nature, manifested even in childhood. The root is wrath, anger. This pernicious root grows differently in different natures, and with more or less vigour. This vicious principle is generally regarded too complacently, as though it were a necessary part of our nature. Wrath is dangerous. Its tendency is to increase. The spark will rise into a flame. The intensity of anger depends upon external circumstances, and also upon the condition of our health. The external exciting causes are continually changing. The foolish vice of irritating the temper of others is too common. Some like to torment the susceptible. Others are perpetually fault-finding and sneering. Envy is the condition of one who looks upon the happiness of another and longs to possess it. Envy generally seeks to conceal itself, and to work in secret and in darkness. Passion would strike down its victim in the public market-place, whilst envy would carefully weigh out and mix the poison for its victim to consume unconsciously in his food. This dangerous and deadly principle has extensive existence. Envy is the development of germs which are universally diffused. Then search into the very depths of your nature after the most minute germs of this evil.
II. WHEREIN LIES OUR SAFETY AGAINST THE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF THESE PRINCIPLES? There may be lurking in our nature forces which need to be held in check by a stronger power than mere intellectual culture. Our higher civilisation too often only gilds crime, and throws its mantle over it. A formal profession of religion may cover the vilest lusts of humanity. There is a higher power. Christianity offers a Divine power by which the evil nature may be purified and every evil passion brought into subjection. Our safety, our only safety, lies in the renewal and sanctification of our nature by the Holy Ghost. Separated from the conscious presence of Christ, and destitute of His renewing grace and protecting providence, who can tell into what mischief we may fall!
(George Lawson, D.D.)
1. There is no man's innocency, no man's virtue, that can secure him from the direful strokes of envy. Sometimes a man's goodness actually inflames the hearts of the envious. See case of Cain and Abel; of Esau; of the brethren of Joseph; of Saul, etc. The greatest instance of all is the envy of Scribes and Pharisees against our Saviour.
2. There is no man so great and powerful, or of so secure an estate or fortune, but the violence of envy hath been capable of overthrowing him. Illustrate case of Abner.
I. A JUST DESCRIPTION OF ENVY. It is a displeasure or trouble arising in a man's mind from the sight or knowledge of another man's prosperity, and causing a man to hate such person, and try to ruin him. It commonly arises on the sight of the prosperity of inferiors or equals. Men envy that to others which they think themselves as well or better to deserve. They seldom envy things or persons that are much above them. Distinguish envy from emulation. Illustrate by these two qualities in Saul and Jonathan, on the occasion of David's killing Goliath. Emulation is a great and noble virtue, envy a poor and sneaking vice. It is always hiding itself. No man will own himself to be envious. He disguises it under a mighty pretended zeal for the truth; or a great love for the public welfare; or a charitable concern for the credit of his neighbour. How few men are wholly free from this vice.
II. THE MISCHIEVOUS EFFECTS PRODUCED BY ENVY. See these, that we may be more set against it; that we may avoid it ourselves; that we may beware of it in others; that we may use our utmost endeavours to quench this flame. Disturbances in the state, schism in the Church, and trouble in a neighbourhood, or in a private family, are generally traceable to envy. To what end is all this evil done by envious men? What do they get by it? Envy is its own punishment. No man can find a greater torment for an envious man than he inflicts upon himself. Even if it succeeds in pulling down a man, it very rarely gets into his place. How is it that God endures, and seems to leave alone, these mischief-making, envious men? They are agents in doing His disciplinary work in His people. It makes men self-watchful. The envious quickly light upon and show up faults that we might have passed over. The envious calumniate failings, not virtues. Remedies are —
1. A right apprehension of the things of this world.
2. A due submission to the will of God.
3. A true humility.
4. A Christian charity.This last plucks it up by the very roots; and plants in our hearts what is most contrary thereto.
(Jonathan Blagrave, D.D.)
Open rebuke is better than secret love.
(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Homilist.True friends are scarce. The old cynic who went about in broad daylight with a lighted lantern in search of "a man" would have had like difficulty in finding a true friend. True friendship often assumes a rough garb; enmity may clothe itself in the stolen dress of love. Men like flattery better than the rebuke of the faithful friend. The truth-speaker often inflicts pain.
I. GOD'S FRIENDSHIP EVER BRINGS SORROW WITH IT. Out of the depths of His loving heart, God summonses the prodigal sinner to return. If he returns he must expect a weary journey. It is a toilsome path, that rugged one of repentance.
II. SATAN'S ENMITY IS OFTEN DISGUISED BY MEANS OF DECEITFUL OFFERS OF JOY. An enemy, he deals in pretences of love, and deceives with a kiss. When Satan tempted Christ, he came as it were with kisses — that is, with bribes. Is it not ever so? Sin wears the garb of friendship without its reality, and men are slaves to appearances. The truly wise man best shows his wisdom by detecting the embraces of an enemy, the false promise, the lying lips.
The full soul loatheth an honeycomb.
I. JESUS CHRIST IS HIMSELF SWEETER THAN THE HONEYCOMB. This is clear if we consider who He is, and what He gives and does. Our Lord is the incarnation of Divine love. The love of God is sweet, and Jesus is that love made manifest. Jesus is in Himself the embodiment of boundless mercy to sinners as well as love to creatures. Jesus must be sweet, for He meets all our wants as sinners. He breathes into our hearts the sweetness of abounding peace. His very name is redolent of celestial hope to believers. Jesus is sweet to God Himself, and to the angels in heaven. It is His presence that makes heaven what it is.
II. THERE ARE THOSE WHO LOATHE THE SWEETNESS OF OUR LORD. Some loathe Him so as to trample on Him. Others are always murmuring at Him. Some are utterly indifferent to Him. The loathing manifests itself by little signs. It comes of a soul's being full — of the world; of outward religiousness; or of pride.
III. THERE ARE SOME WHO DO APPRECIATE THE SWEETNESS OF CHRIST. Pray for a good appetite for Christ, and when you have it, keep it. Do not waste a good appetite upon anything less sweet than the true honeycomb. When you have the appetite, indulge it.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. CORPOREAL GOOD. It is appetite that makes bodily food sweet and enjoyable. Delicious was the manna to the Israelites at first. Which of the two is the more blest, the man who has the abundance of the enjoyable without the power of enjoying or he who has the scarcest and humblest fare with the full relish of the hungry soul?
II. INTELLECTUAL GOOD. A man may have an immense library, and no appetite for books. To him the priceless library is worse than worthless. I'd rather be the man of one book, nay, of no book at all but the book of my own soul — the book of nature — with an appetite for truth, than the owner of the choicest library of the world with no desire for knowledge.
III. SPIRITUAL GOOD.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place.
1. They who wander lose many relative comforts. A heathen philosopher observes that "wanderers about have many acquaintances, but few friends."
2. The domestic affairs of wanderers greatly suffer. Their work either stands still, or goes on very indifferently.
3. Precious time is lost in wandering from home. Many whose lawful business leads them abroad stay much longer than is needful. They trifle at every place where they come, and must chat with every person who hath as little prudence as themselves.
4. Wanderers are exposed to many temptations which ought to be avoided.
5. This habit is a great hindrance to family religion. Apply these thoughts to ourselves, and inquire how far we are concerned in this admonition. It is important for young people to cultivate a habit of staying at home. It is peculiarly bad in servants to wander from their place. Relations should endeavour to make home agreeable to one another. It is especially bad to wander from the house of God.
1. Love your own nest, and stay in it.
2. Keep the nest clean, and make your home happy.
3. No nest is so good for you as your own, and therefore do not seek to change it.
(J. J. Ellis.)
Homiletic Review.I. AS THE BIRD HAS ITS NEST, SO MAN HAS HIS PLACE. And both are of Divine appointment. Behind the instinct of the bird and the social nature of man we must recognise the purpose of God. Man's place is in —
1. The home. "God setteth the solitary in families."
2. In society. "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, for the powers that be are ordained of God."
3. In the Church, its fellowship, worship, work.
II. AS THE BIRD NEEDS THE NEST, SO THE MAN NEEDS THE PLACE.
III. AS THE NEST NEEDS THE BIRD, SO THE PLACE NEEDS THE MAN.
V. THE CONSEQUENCES OF WANDERING.
VI. APPEAL TO WANDERERS. Come back! the place waits for you. Your own heart echoes its cry.
I. MAN IN HIS WRONG PLACE. Here called "a wanderer." "Where art thou?" God asked Adam; intimating that he was not where he ought to have been. Sin had turned him out of his place. Some things concerning man's original state — the place from which he had wandered.
1. It was a state of conscious Divine approval. Conscience was at rest.
2. A state of Divine illumination. The creature enjoyed the high privilege of companionship with his Creator. Sin has both stained the conscience and darkened the understanding.
3. A state of Divine sympathies. His supreme affections were centred in his Maker. Towards Him his emotions moved like bright constellations round the sun. The fatal mistake sin has introduced into the hearts of men is the vain attempt to meet the wants of the spiritual in the supplies of the material.
II. MAN IN HIS RIGHT PLACE. "Man is as his heart is." The evils which have been enumerated arise from the moral derangement of the affections. The gospel comes to restore the forfeited "place" by restoring lost confidence. It does so by revealing God in such a way as to inspire confidence. The gospel is the revelation of Divine love putting away sin, and bringing the sinner near to Himself. The soul's resting-place is faith and love.
(G. Hunt Jackson.)
1. In the common affairs of life Solomon was correct. The unrest of that man's mind, and the instability of his conduct, who is constantly making a change of his position and purpose, augurs no success for any of his adventures. See cases of eagerness to leave the native country; changing occupation; changing situation and acquaintance. And it is certainly true in changing one's religious service in the cause of God.
2. In spiritual things. There is a tendency in us all to be looking for evidences, signs, marks, experiences, graces, and coincidences of one kind or another. When a Christian wanders from his place — from the simplicity of his faith in Jesus — that moment he departs from his safe shelter in the solid rock. Many believers wander out of their place. A believer's place is in the bosom of his Lord, or at the right hand of his Master, or sitting at His feet with Mary. Wandering habits imply a lack of watchfulness.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.
(J. McCann, D.D.)
1. Some men are so happy as to inherit friends from their fathers. The love of our father's friend is worth having. If he is a good man, there will be a certain power in him that will be a restraint to keep now in the good way your father would have approved. Your father's experience of life survives in him to give you counsel. If he should ever be in trouble, pay your father's debts in friendly attention to him.
2. "Thine own friend forsake not." There are friends and friends. Most of our friends are acquaintances, and nothing more. Friendships of the perfect and ideal sort are necessarily rare. By friends we mean those for whom we have a strong affection, and who have a strong affection for us. A wise man said, "I want my friends to stand by me when I am wrong; other people will stand by me when I am right." When you have friends of that sort, forsake them not. Keep them when you have them.
3. Friendships which fall far short of this ideal are also worth keeping. For the most part our friends must be people whose circumstances and education and history are very much like our own. There are people who drop a whole set of their "friends" whenever they get a considerable rise in their income. For the most part, close and real friendships must be formed early in life. When close friendships are formed after a man has passed middle life, it is usually with much younger persons.
4. Of the place and power of friendship in life, only those who have had and retained loyal and worthy friends, can have any real knowledge. Bacon says, "Friendship redoubleth joys and cutteth grief in halves." Friendships assist to check and to subdue that selfish absorption in our own successes and in our own sorrows which poison the very springs of life and brings paralysis on all its nobler powers. Our confidence in their goodness and our delight in their affection save us from cynicism. We think the better of the human race because we think so well of them. When we do not absolutely accept the judgment of a friend, it clears our mind to discuss a difficult question with him. Our friends take the side of all that is best in us against whatever is mean and cowardly and dangerous; they serve the purpose of an external conscience. Our friends see us, not merely as we are, but as we might be.
5. The Christian will form his closest friendships with men who share his faith in Christ and his hope of immortality. Such friends will continue to be our friends in the realms that lie beyond death.
(R. W. Dale, LL.D.)
I. FRIENDSHIP IS BASED OF TRUE LOVE. Concord of sentiment, agreement of taste, unity of purpose, frequent companionship, are not enough. These may exist without the binding together of hearts. Love is the essential element of true friendship. "For my friend first, and then for myself," is the spirit of true friendship. The idea of sacrifice is in friendship, and sacrifice is in the very nature of love.
II. FRIENDSHIP IS RECIPROCAL IN ITS GROWTH AND PRESERVATION. It cannot be a one-sided thing. Seneca said, "Love if you wish to be loved." The atmosphere of suspicion or distrust is fatal to real friendship.
III. GENUINE FRIENDSHIP STRENGTHENS IN THE TIME OF TRIAL. There is nothing like adversity to test life's attachments. See some points of duty in true friendship. Do not encourage your friend to your secrets. If they are disclosed, see that you never betray them. There is a becoming reticence and dignity even in friendship. Do not think you can treat your friend anyhow because he is your friend. The dearest friendships cannot dispense with thoughtfulness, kindness, and politeness. Do not allow any trivial matter to interfere with your friendship. Do not forget to pray for, and seek, the spiritual welfare of your friend. As you believe in the power of prayer, pray for your friend. Cultivate close and endearing fellowship with the best Friend — the Friend of Sinners.
(J. Hiles Hitchens, D.D.)
1. Do not expect perfection in any with whom you contract friendship. If we do, we shall be sure to meet with disappointments. Young people are apt to cherish romantic ideas, and to form impossible expectations. In the best persons, great and solid qualities counterbalance the common infirmities. To these qualities you should look in forming friendships; to good-sense and prudence; virtue, good-temper and steadiness of affection.
2. Do not be hurt by differences of opinion arising in intercourse with your friends. These are sure to occur. Perpetual uniformity of thought would become monotonous and insipid.
3. Cultivate openness of temper and manners. Nothing more certainly dissolves friendship than the jealousy which arises from darkness and concealment.
4. Cultivate gentle and obliging manners. It is a common error that familiar intimacy supersedes attention to the lesser duties of behaviour. Let no harshness, no appearance of neglect, no supercilious affectation of superiority, occur in the intercourse of friends. A tart reply, a proneness to rebuke, a captious and contradictious spirit, are often known to embitter domestic life and to set friends at variance.
5. Do not rashly listen to evil reports against your friends. Be slow of believing anything against the friend whom you have chosen. Suffer not the poison of jealousy easily to taint your mind and break your peace.
6. Do not desert your friend in danger or distress. When your friend is calumniated, then is the time openly and boldly to espouse his cause. The honourable zeal of friendship has, in every age, attracted the veneration of mankind.
(Hugh Blair, D.D.)
1. Because of the pleasure of it. There is a great deal of sweetness in consulting and conversing with a cordial friend. The sweetness of friendship lies not in hearty mirth, but in hearty counsel, faithful advice, sincerely given, and without flattery.
2. Because of the profit and advantage of it, especially in a day of calamity. Don't expect relief from a kinsman for kinsman's sake, but apply yourselves to your neighbours, who are at hand, and will be ready to help us at an exigence.
( Matthew Henry.)
(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished
1. Man's life and destiny are determined, not by an inexorable and eternal fate, but by his free manhood. Circumstances are the material out of which he has to weave the garment of his life, and it depends upon himself whether it shall be a garment for honour or dishonour.
2. The radical distinction between men lies in the possession of true vision. The true man sees the realities of things, gazes into the truer and eternal. The unspiritual man sees only the show and appearance of things. This true vision, being an essential characteristic of the spiritual man, is more than intellectual apprehension. It is a perception in which the whole being is exercised.
3. True vision determines true action. There is a sense in which a man may "see," and yet follow his evil passions rather than his nobler knowledge. But in such cases there is something perilously defective in the vision. It has lacked depth and splendour, and divineness.
4. "Vision" and "action" determine destiny. "Drifting" is fatal; to "pass on" in the unresisted current of circumstances is "to suffer." For lack of the "true vision" that creates true action empires have perished, and individuals are subject to the same law. Spiritual blindness is death.
(John Thomas, M.A.)
He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.
Homilist.Flattery is a species of conduct generally most pleasing, always most pernicious. The flattery in the text is a loud vaunting. It intrudes itself on all occasions; it is busy and demonstrative.
I. IT IS A CURSE TO ITS AUTHOR. He who practises sycophancy inflicts an incalculable injury on his own spiritual nature. The spirit of independence, the feeling of honest manhood, give way to a crawling, creeping instinct; it is a sneaking art used to cajole and soften fools.
II. IT IS A CURSE TO ITS VICTIM Perhaps this is what Solomon means when he says "it shall be counted a curse to him," i.e., the object of it. "Of all wild beasts," says Johnson, "preserve me from a flatterer."
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
I. THE CHARACTER OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP. It should be simple, manly, unreserved; not weak, or fond, or extravagant, nor yet exacting more than human nature can fairly give; nor intrusive into the secrets of another's soul, or curious about his circumstances. The greatest element in friendship is faithfulness. Friends learn from one another; they form the characters of one another; they bear one another's burdens; they make up for each other's defects. The ancients spoke of three kinds of friendship — one for the sake of the useful, one for the sake of the pleasant, and a third for the sake of the good or noble. The first is a contradiction in terms. It is a partnership, not a friendship. Every one knows the delight of having a friend. Is there a friendship for the sake of the noble and the good? Mankind are dependent beings, and we cannot help seeing how much, when connected together, they may do for the elevation of one another's character and for the improvement of mankind.
II. CHANGING FRIENDSHIPS. Like the other goods of life, friendship is commonly mixed and imperfect, and liable to be interrupted by changing circumstances or the tempers of men. Few have the same friends in youth as in age. Some youthful friendships are too violent to last; they have in them some element of weakness or sentimentalism, and the feelings pass away. Or, at some critical time of life, a friend has failed to stand by us, and then our love to him grows cold. But there are duties we owe to an extinct friend. We should never speak against him, or make use of our knowledge about him. A passing word should not be suffered to interrupt the friendship of years. It is a curious observation, that the most sensitive natures are also the most liable to pain the feelings of others.
III. CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP. The spirit of a man's life may be more or less consciously Christian. Friendship may be based on religious motives, and may flow out of a religious principle. Human friendships constantly require to be purified and raised from earth to heaven. And yet they should not lose themselves in spiritual emotion or in unreal words. Better that friendship should have no element of religion than that it should degenerate into cant and insincerity. All of us may sometimes think of ourselves and our friends as living to God, and of human love as bearing the image of the Divine. There are some among us who have known what it is to lose a friend. Death is a gracious teacher. Who that has lost a friend would not wish to have done more for him now that he is taken away? The memory of them is still consecrated and elevating for our lives.
(Frederick Temple, D.D.)
(M. C. Peters.)
1. I would recommend all persons to seek this means of improvement in their families. With his family is every Christian bound to share, and by sharing to increase, his devout affections. There are innumerable degrees of life among the members of our Lord: there are all the stages from simple consecration to Him, in baptism and profession, to the fullest union. To be helpers of each other's faith throughout these several stages — to become by mutual communication joint partakers of one common Spirit — is one of the most effectual means of spiritual growth. "He that watereth may hope to be watered also himself."
2. But this is not all: he is in the way to have his own "countenance sharpened," his own motives quickened, his own soul stirred up to watchfulness, love, zeal, diligence, and an endeavour at being consistent. If we know ourselves, we know that we want every kind of motive, every sort of help. Then let every Christian try the power of meeting each morning and evening to pray together with his family. But, if so, how much more should we thank God for those further helps which He affords to us in the public assemblies of the congregation. Here especially the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. If we came to His house expecting much, imploring much, desiring much, we should gain much. Our God would enrich us, and that partly through the channel of our "fellowship one with another."
(J. H. A. Walsh, M.A.)
So he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.
I. THE RELATION WHICH SUBSISTS BETWEEN OURSELVES AND OUR LORD — HE IS OUR MASTER. You are men, and naturally moved by all which moves other men, but still the master motive power with you who are Christians is the supremacy of Christ. He has a right to be our Master from the very dignity of His character. We yield Him service because of His love to us. And our position of servants is an irreversible one.
II. THERE IS A CONDUCT CONSISTENT WITH BEING SERVANTS OF JESUS. A servant should —
1. Own himself to be his Master's.
2. Have no time at his own disposal.
3. Be always about his Master's business.As servants it is our duty to learn our Master's will, and to do it when we know it. It is ours also to obey the Master willingly, and for love of His person. The waiting upon the Master is to be performed personally by the servant. It is ours, in waiting, to abide near to Christ.
III. THE REWARD WHICH SURELY COMES TO FAITHFUL SERVANTS. He finds his honour in waiting upon his Master. Every faithful servant of Christ is honoured in his Master's honour. He is honoured with his Master's approval. He is honoured by having more given him to do. He is honoured in the eyes of his fellow-servants. But the chief honour of the faithful servant comes from the blessed Trinity.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Melancthon's friends were astonished at his liberality, and wondered how, with his small means, he could afford to give so much in charity. It was principally owing to the good management of a faithful servant named John. The whole duty of providing for the family was entrusted to this domestic, whose care and prudence amply justified the confidence reposed in him. He avoided all needless expenditure, and watched with a jealous eye his master's property. He was also the first instructor of the children during their infancy. John grew old in his master's service, and expired in his house, regretted by all. During a service of thirty-four years how much usefulness was effected by honest John, and by his master, through his instrumentality! Melancthon invited the students of the university to attend the funeral of his faithful servant; delivered an oration over his grave; and composed a Latin epitaph for his tombstone.
As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.
1. That all men have naturally the same moral character might be inferred from the similarity of origin, aspect, and general habits that belong to all ages and all nations of men.
2. We can hardly fix our eye on any individual or community of antiquity but we can find its exact resemblance in some individual or community with whose character we are familiar. Of this take as Scriptural examples the family of Adam and of Jacob; the characters of Balaam, and of Shimei, and of Joab, and of Jezebel.
3. There have prevailed in all ages and nations the same crimes, calling for the restraining influence of the same laws. Men have been at all times inclined to wrong their fellow-men of their property. The descriptions of depravity which applied to Israel, Babylon, Egypt, Syria, Sidon, and even Edom, apply with equal propriety to the men of this land.
4. Argue from the fact that the Bible has never become obsolete. It describes men of other periods, and the description suits the present generation. Remarks:(1) We see one source of those corruptions of doctrine with which the world is filled. Men have determined that human nature has grown better. Having settled this point, they infer that the same Bible will not suit the different ages and nations.(2) This subject justifies a kind of preaching as plain and pointed as anything found in the law of God, or in the communications of Christ and His apostles.(3) The subject furnishes ungodly men with the means of knowing their own characters.(4) We may argue, from this subject, that men must all pass the same second birth to fit them for the kingdom of God.(5) We see why there need be but one place of destiny in the coming world for all the unregenerate. The little shades of difference that now appear in the ungodly are too insignificant to mark them out for distinct worlds.
(D. A. Clark.)
1. Let us ask ourselves who are our intimate friends and associates?
2. Let us compare ourselves with the dying.
So is a man to his praise.
(John Devotion, M.A.)
Homilist.Men, in ancient times as well as in modern, submit precious metals, such as silver and gold, to the test of the fire. Fire revealed their impurity, and made them appear in their true character. What fire is to these metals, Solomon says, popularity or applause is to man's character — it tests him.
I. POPULARITY REVEALS THE VANITY OF THE PROUD MAN. How did Absolom appear in the blaze of popularity? (2 Samuel 25:22). How did Herod appear? Amidst the shouts of his flatterers he assumed to be a god.
II. POPULARITY REVEALS THE HUMILITY OF A TRUE MAN. A true man shrinks from popular applause, and feels humbled amidst its shouts. Dr. Payson, a careful self-observer, mentions among his trials "well-meant but injudicious commendations." "Every one here," he writes to his mother, "whether friends or enemies, are conspiring to ruin me. Satan and my own heart, of course, will lend a hand, and if you join too, I fear all the cold water which Christ can throw upon my pride will not prevent it from breaking out in a destructive flame. As certainly as anybody flatters and caresses me, my Father has to scourge me for it, and an unspeakable mercy it is that He condescends to do it." Popularity is indeed to character what the "fining-pot is for silver and the furnace for gold." Few things in life show us the stuff of which men are made more than this. Little men court this fire, but cannot stand it.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
1. The fact of their creation by God. They were brought upon the earth before man was, and have, by priority, a right to such comforts as it affords.
2. Their being named by Adam. This indicated his lordship over them, and the interest God would have him take in them.
3. When man had sinned, by the slaughter of innocent animals he was impressively taught, and continually reminded of, the only way of salvation.
4. In the time of the Flood the animals were carefully preserved.
5. In the Mosaic economy laws were enacted for the protection and well-being of the creatures. Many make the mistake of thinking that animals must be frightened into obedience. A kind and gentle treatment, as it is the most humane, is also the most successful. They are fond of being praised and encouraged: a kind word or affectionate stroke makes them wonderfully happy, and even the expression of countenance they learn to understand. Remember it is said of God, "With the merciful man Thou wilt show Thyself merciful." His eye is upon us, and He will call us to account for every act of cruelty done to the creatures He has made. Strive, then, to be like Him in kindness and in gentleness.
(J. Thain Davidson, D.D.).