Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
What makes a people very unhappy with respect to the concerns of their souls? The want of vision puts a people in very unhappy circumstances. By vision is understood prophecy. By prophecy is meant the preaching, expounding, and applying the Word of God. Doctrine: Though the want of the ministry of the Word makes a people very unhappy, yet it is not the having of it, but the right improving of it that makes them happy.
I. DEPLORABLE IS THE CASE OF THOSE WHO ARE DEPRIVED OF THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD. What makes the case so deplorable? The original word means, the people are naked, they are left in a bare condition (Exodus 22:25). They are stripped of their ornaments, to their shame. They are stripped of their armour, left naked in the midst of danger. They are stripped of the means of their defence. Hence they are exposed in a special manner to the subtlety and violence of their spiritual enemies, without the ordinary means of help. Where there is no vision the people go backward. They leave their first love, their first ways in religion; they fall into a spiritual decay and apostasy. The people are drawn away: from their God and from their duty. The people are idle — they give over their work. The people perish — die for lack of instruction; are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
II. THE MERE HAVING THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD IS NOT SUFFICIENT TO MAKE A PEOPLE HAPPY. The people may have it, and yet get no saving benefit from it. Outward privileges make no man a happy man. The mere having the Word will aggravate the condemnation of those that have it and walk not answerably to it.
III. A RIGHT IMPROVEMENT OF THE MERCY OF THE WORD WILL MAKE A HAPPY PEOPLE. This improvement consists in two things —
1. Faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Holiness of life.This improvement will make happy souls here and hereafter. Here, in peace with God, pardon of sin, all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and hereafter in eternal salvation. It bids fair for prosperity in earthly things. It gives happiness under the crosses and trials of this world. It puts a happiness into the relations in which we stand. Directions for improving the ministry of the Word:
1. Pray much for a real benefit from ordinances.
2. Diligently attend upon ordinances.
3. Meditate upon what you hear, and converse with one another about it.
4. Set yourselves humbly to obey the truths delivered from the Lord's Word, embracing them by faith.
5. Put your hand to the Lord's work in your several stations in your families and among those with whom you converse, to prosecute the great ends of the gospel.
(T. Boston, D D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.