He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who has hardened himself against him, and has prospered?
This passage intimates —
I. THAT APPEALS ARE ADDRESSED BY GOD TO MEN IN ORDER TO BRING THEM INTO ALLEGIANCE TO HIM. The conduct which is imputed to men is susceptible of explanation only as the existence of such appeals is assumed.
1. God has appealed to us by the instrumentality of conscience. Conscience is the testimony of secret judgment in the mind of a man as to the moral quality of his own thoughts and actions. The true dictates of conscience are conformable to the extensive principle of the Divine law; and the judgments of the one are substantially the judgments of the other.
2. By the instrumentality of providence, The events which happen under the superintendence of God in the temporal sphere, and affect the temporal interests of man, are intended always to speak powerfully on his behalf. This fact was recognised by Job, when he uttered the language before us.
3. By the instrumentality of revealed truth. All Scripture is profitable "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction," and for what belongs to righteousness.
II. MEN TREAT THE APPEALS OF GOD WITH OBDURATE RESISTANCE. The text takes the case of men who "harden themselves against God," indicating a habit which is heinous in its nature, and which is progressive in its influence. It is emphatically resistance, the surrender of the heart and life to objects against which God has pleaded, and the retention of the heart and life amidst indulgences which God has protested against, and which He has condemned. This resistance is introduced as voluntary. It is also introduced as continued. That continuance augments the guilt. Such resistance becomes more heinous and aggravated in proportion as the calls addressed by God are solemn and weighty. Resistance is also progressive in its influence. In proportion as it is continued in the indulgence, it exercises increasing power and authority over the soul. It becomes more steady, more settled, more confirmed — this being in accordance with what we know of the tendencies of all habits to strengthen and establish themselves.
III. OBDURATE RESISTANCE TO THE APPEALS MADE BY GOD EXPOSES TO FEARFUL AND FATAL CONSEQUENCES. No human being placing himself in voluntary and continued opposition against God can escape final punishment and ruin. God will inflict upon those who harden themselves against Him temporal sorrow; and if their resistance be continued till the last, the irremediable loss of their souls. There will be a proportion between punishment and guilt.
Parallel VersesKJV: He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?