Proverbs 10:7

It is a fact that the name of the good man is fragrant, and that long after his departure there lingers in the memories and hearts of men a sense of loss, a feeling

"Which is but akin to pain And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain;" a feeling of tender regret not unmingled with sacred joy and reverent gratitude, This fact is -

I. A STRENGTH TO THE JUST MAN WHILE HE LIVES. "What has posterity done for us?" asks the cynic. "The idea of posterity has done great things for us," replies the moralist. That idea and the hope to which it gives birth have done much to fortify virtue, to establish character, to enlarge and ennoble the good man's life. That thought has been fruitful of earnest work, and has helped men to gird themselves for heroic suffering. Good men have been better, noble lives have been nobler, because we care to be tenderly remembered and kindly spoken of when we are no longer among the living.


1. It is true that the more admirable and loving a man is, the greater is our loss when he is taken from us.

2. But it is also true that they are blessed who lose the worthiest and the best.

3. For the sorrow we feel at such loss is a very sacred thing; it comes from God himself; it can be borne with simple and pure resignation; it is unembittered with the most painful regrets; it works for the renewal and purification of our spirit and character.

4. And it is attended with a very precious mitigation; we have a pure and holy joy in the recollection of what the departed one was, what he did, how he laboured and triumphed, how many hearts he comforted, how many lives he brightened, what he was to ourselves. And these remembrances bring sunshine over the shadowed fields; they sweeten the bitter cup; they give "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

III. AN INSPIRATION TO ALL WHO KNEW HIM. For the completion of a true and godly life is an inspiration.

1. It is another proof that goodness can triumph over every obstacle and persevere to the end.

2. It is an unspoken, but not inaudible summons, saying, "Follow me."

3. It is a thing of beauty as well as worth; and it attracts all who have an eye to see as well as a heart to feel.

(1) Resolve that, whatever else you leave (or fail to leave) behind, you will bequeath the memory of a just man; that is the best legacy to leave.

(2) Be drawn, as by a Powerful fascination, toward the character and the destiny of the good and wise who have gone before you. - C.

The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.
I. HOW GREAT A CONCERN MEN NATURALLY HAVE TO LEAVE AN HONOURABLE MEMORY BEHIND THEM. This idea is implied in the text, not expressed. All men in all ages have desired and endeavoured that others should entertain a good opinion of them, and if possible a great one. To this pursuit, multitudes have sacrificed their ease, their interest, the dearest of their other passions, and their lives themselves. They who know they have forfeited their title to a good character labour hard, by concealing and palliating matters, to retain as much as they can of it. A truly good person will always, in the first place, "seek the honour which cometh from God only." But still, desire of being esteemed by our fellow-creatures is a natural, and therefore an innocent passion, prompts us to what is right, and supports us in it. And we have also earnest desire of being remembered, as much to our advantage as possible, after we are gone. Though we shall not be within reach of hearing what is said of us, nor shall we be benefited by praise or hurt by reproach. Therefore some treat all concern far posthumous praise and fame as a mere absurdity. But as virtuous and beneficent actions are by far the most certain way of procuring any durable esteem from mankind, so planting in us a desire of such esteem as may endure when we are gone is providing no small security for our good behaviour here. And so this desire becomes an important blessing to us. "A good life hath but a few days; but a good name endureth for ever" (Son of Sirach).All this must be cautiously understood of such reputation only as is truly good; sought from proper motives, and pursued by proper means. If people affect to be admired for excellences, which they have not, their attempt at cheating mankind will probably be as vain as it is certainly unjust. Scripture not only stigmatises those "whose glory is in their shame," but warns against so excessive an admiration, even of things in themselves valuable, as interferes with the superior regard we owe to real piety and virtue.

II. WHAT CARE THE GOODNESS AND JUSTICE OF GOD HAVE TAKEN THAT BY WORTHY CONDUCT WE SHALL OBTAIN OUR DESIRE AND BY A CRIMINAL ONE FAIL OF IT ENTIRELY. There is a particular providence causing the memory of the just and good to flourish out of their ashes, and blasting that of the wicked. Worthy men would be pleased to have present respect paid to their characters, as well as future to their memories. And it is paid in good measure, though the deficiencies in this respect are great: due often to imperfections or eccentricities in the goodness, often to party zeal and to envy. It would probably not be to the advantage of good persons, but far from it, to have all the debt which mankind owes them paid immediately. It might endanger their humility, lead them to an uncharitable contempt of others, and a hazardous confidence in themselves. When once good men are removed to another state, all the reasons which made it unsafe for them to receive praise in this are over; and most of the reasons that made others unwilling to bestow it are over too. Generally speaking, they who deserve well have at length due acknowledgments paid to their memory. The undeserved regard of the ungodly in this life seldom outlasts them any considerable time; the name of the wicked soon rots.

III. IN WHAT MANNER MAY WE BEST CONTRIBUTE TO THE DUE PAYMENT OF THOSE VERY DIFFERENT REGARDS WHICH BELONG TO THE MEMORY OF THE BAD AND THE GOOD. Vehemence and bitterness in speaking of those whom we dislike, either when they are living or when dead, is opposed to the spirit of our religion. Yet we are not prevented from forming and expressing just judgments at suitable times. For the most part the name of the wicked, if let alone, will rot of itself; and all that we shall need to do is, not to undertake the nauseous and fruitless office of embalming it. The regards due to the just are briefly these: that we believe them, on good evidence, to be the good persons they were in reality; that we consider their virtues with due esteem, and their imperfections with due candour; that we vindicate their names from unjust imputations, and make honourable mention of them whenever a fit opportunity offers; that we warn and arm ourselves against the temptations, both of prosperity and adversity, by observing how they have gone through each; that we incite ourselves to aim at more perfection in all Christian graces, by seeing in them what heights of piety and goodness are attainable; that we learn watchfulness from their falls; and that we thank God, in our retirements, for the instructions which His providence hath vouchsafed to us in their good lives.

(T. Seeker.)

So far as this world is concerned, every one of us will soon cease to be a man, and be no more than a memory. Every man leaves behind him some kind of a memory; and it depends entirely on what the man has been as to what the memory shall be. There are memories that do rot; those that dwell on them, and take a delight in them, are poisoned by the contact, and all whose feelings are healthy and pure keep at a distance, and feel as if in the presence of something that was corrupt and evil. But however short life may be, it is long enough for a man to do something that will leave a memory in the world which, when he is gone, shall be a blessing to other men.

I. THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED AS AN EXAMPLE OF HOLY LIVING. We never can see the force of precept fully if we never see precept embodied in action. You can never give a man a clear notion of what the image of God is unless you give him an opportunity of watching for years the life of a man who has walked with God. The memory of such s man acts as a restraint, both upon the unconverted and upon the child of God, when he is pressed by temptation. The memory of such a man acts as an encouragement. We are apt to think that the law of God is too high for us, that we cannot expect to be thoroughly consistent Christians. And yet, why not? We think those men that we see so good must be different in nature from us. But the grace that made them so holy is as free for us as it was for them. The memory is not only an encouragement, it is also a stimulus. When we hear what the good have done we feel a reproach that we have not done more. That memory is blessed which comes acting upon the spirits of men after a man is gone, and impelling them to follow him in the ways of usefulness and goodness. Such a memory is a stimulus to early consecration to God; to full and laborious consecration to God.

II. THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED AS AN EXAMPLE OF HOLY DYING. Even those who do not care about living well would like to die well. Others look upon a happy death only in the light of s suitable close of a good life. There is something blessed in seeing the last days of good men.

III. THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED AS A TIE TO ANOTHER WORLD. Are there not many of us to whom God has given ties of this kind to that better lend? The blessing in this way counteracts the curse; the curse strikes right and left with the stroke of death, and we see our dearest objects falling before our eyes. But then the blessing comes; they are redeemed; their spirits are in heaven; and our affections turn to the same objects as before. But now those affections, instead of being a tie to earth, are a tie to heaven, where those we love have gone.

(William Arthur, M.A.)

Who would not preserve a noble name? The recollection of such a name is a continual inspiration. From that recollection many things may be shed that are mere matters of detail, but the substance and the honour, the real quality and worth, abide with us evermore. Who need be ashamed to own that he had a just father and a virtuous mother? No man blushes when he cites the name of a conqueror who worked heroically and succeeded perfectly in the great warfare of life. Just memories are flowers we cannot allow to fade; we water them with our tears; by them we enrich and ennoble our prayers, and by them we animate ourselves as by a sacred stimulus. Blessed are they who have a noble past, a yesterday crowded with memories of things beautiful end lovable; they can never be lonely, they can never be sad; they walk in the company of the just and true, and the silence of the communion does not diminish its music. Here is a fame which is possible to every man. It is not possible for us all to win renown in fields of battle, in walks of literature, in lives of adventure, or in regions of discovery and enterprise — that kind of renown must be left to the few, the elect who are created to lead the world's civilisation; but the renown of goodness, the fame of purity, the reputation of excellence — these lie within the power of the poorest man that lives.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

The mind often goes back in review of the past human world. On this great field there are presented all the grand varieties of character. They come to view in great divisions and assemblages — in mass, as it were — bearing the broad distinctions of their respective ages, nations, and religions. Here and there individuals stand up conspicuously to view — of extraordinary and pre-eminent character and action. What an odious and horrid character rests upon some. They seem to bear eternal curses on their heads. And these have gone in that same character, unaltered, into another world, and that a state of retribution. But there has been "a multitude that no man can number," bearing on earth and bearing away from it the true image of their Father in heaven. The saints of God in the past time are presented as a general comprehensive object to our memory. And we have many of "the just" retained in memory as individuals. They abide in memory, and ever will, kept alive, as it were, the images, the examples, the personifications of what we approve, admire, and feel that we ought to love and to be. Now, their memory "is blessed," self-evidently so, for the mind blesses it, reverts to it with complacency mingled with solemnity. It is blessed when we consider them as practical illustrations, verifying examples of the excellence of genuine religion. Their memory is blessed while we regard them as diminishing to our view the repulsiveness and horror of death, and as associated with the most blessed things through all time.

(J. Foster.)

It is a trite saying that the present is the only period of time we can call our own; but it is a saying not less true than trite. Now is the moment of action. By our acts in this living present we shall become a power as a memory. In our footsteps our successors will trace our characters as the geologist traces those of the beasts end birds of antediluvian fame.


1. A wicked man's memory lives in his children. Sometimes as a beacon to warn of danger.

2. In their sins the wicked perpetuate their memory. Those who are not content to be in the road to hell themselves, but must inveigle others into the same accursed paths, surely fasten their memories on the souls of their victims. What putrid animal matter is to our physical senses the memory of the wicked shall be to our moral sensibilities when they are gone.

II. THE MEMORY OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS BLESSED. True, as a rule, in the case of the children of the good men. Exceptions prove the rule. Let our children find us faithful to our principles, to our professions, to our Saviour, and when we are gone our memory "shall be blessed." The memory of the just shall be blessed in their actions — their acts live long after they are gone, in their effects. Illustrate by the memories of the martyrs end reformers. And there are martyrs in humble life. We have, then, a work to do, that our memories may be a blessing and not a curse, that we may leave footprints behind for others to walk in.

(W. Morris.)

I. THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED IN THEIR INHERENT WORTH. Contrast Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Paul, Luther, etc., with Pharaoh, Voltaire, Paine, etc. Of the former, the mention of their names is as ointment poured forth, beautiful, fragrant, and costly; while the latter are only regarded with pity and regretted as a waste.


1. In Christian conversation.

2. In the public mention of them.

3. In quiet meditation.And they are influential, as is evident —

(1)In the history of the Christian Church.

(2)In the annals of profane history.

(3)In the efforts of human progress.


1. In the books they have written.

2. In the inspiration they have given.

3. In the effects they have produced.Application: What sort of memory are we weaving for ourselves? One to be blessed, and that will remain unforgotten in the world? or one that will decay, "rot," and around which there will cling no loving and permanent memories of Divine or human blessedness?

(T. Colclough.)

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