Prepare your work without, and make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterwards build your house.
I should place first among preparations — the Sunday. A Sunday will be a preparation, if you view it as preparatory. It does not much matter whether you look upon it as the day for laying in the mind's food for the week, or as the day for raising the mind to its true tone and level for the week, or as the day to hallow anything to which you are looking, by bringing it out especially before God that day. It is a very good thing to use the Sunday for laying before God, and so solemnly consecrating, and obtaining strength and wisdom for, anything that you are planning or expecting in the course of the coming week. But if you will thus spend your Sunday as a ground, apart from the world, and in loftier ranges of thought, you are "preparing your work without, and making it fit for yourself in the field; and afterwards build thine house." What is true of the Sunday is certainly true also of all private exercises of the soul; and most of all, our morning devotions. Our morning devotions should have a distinct, preparatory character. You will find it a good rule never to open your Bible without a little secret prayer. Certainly, whatever it is worth while for a Christian to do at all, it is worth while to do measuredly and deliberately. Better to do a few things so than multitudes lightly. And the God of order and of forethought will Himself bless what most honours Him, by holy premeditation and religious accuracy, in which He sees, therefore, the most of His own image. Map your day before you go out; plan carefully; lay all beginnings in God: "Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house." But you say, "What is this preparation? I cannot so prepare." Then what does that show, but that before the beginning there is another beginning, and that the preparation itself needs to be prepared? But if you ask, "What is the right preparation for sorrow?" I answer, first, not to anticipate sorrow, for that is not filial nor childlike, but to have it well laid in your mind that sorrow must come, and to know its nature, what it is. For the danger of sorrow is, lest it come upon us overwhelmingly, and paralyse our powers. Therefore, be in a state of mind which cannot be surprised — not ignorant of what sorrow is when it comes. Is not it a needful discipline? To prepare for joys the rule is opposite. The preparation there lies in the fact of the anticipation. You cannot expect too much. For one of the perils of a joy is its throwing the mind from its equilibrium by the rush of its novelty. But he who has dealt much with the great undertakings of God's love and promise will scarcely be surprised at any happiness that ever comes. Is he not loved? So the joy will not come disturbingly to the mind.
(J. Vaughan, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.