Proverbs 14:14
The tenth verse suggests to us the serious and solemnizing fact of -

I. THE ELEMENT OF LONELINESS IN HUMAN LIFE. "The heart knoweth its own bitterness," etc. In one aspect our life path is thronged. It is becoming more and more difficult to be alone. Hours that were once sacred to solitude are now invaded by society. And yet it remains true that "in the central depths of our nature we are alone." There is a point at which, as he goes inward, our nearest neighbour, our most intimate friend, must stop; there is a sanctuary of the soul into which no foot intrudes. It is there where we make our ultimate decision for good or evil; it is there where we experience our truest joys and our profoundest griefs; it is there where we live our truest life. We may so crowd our life with duties and with pleasures that we may reduce to its smallest radius this innermost circle; but some time must we spend there, and the great decisive experiences must we there go through. There we taste our very sweetest satisfactions, and there we bear our very heaviest burdens. And no one but the Father of spirits can enter into that secret place of the soul. So true is it that

"Not e'en the dearest heart, and nearest to our own, Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh." It is well for us to remember that there is more, both of happiness and of sorrow, than we can see; well, that we may not be overburdened with the weight of the manifold and multiplied evils we are facing; well, that we may realize how strong is the reason that, when our cup of prosperity is full, we may have "the heart at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathize" with those who, beneath a smiling countenance, may carry a very heavy heart. For we have to consider -

II. THE SUPERFICIAL ELEMENT IN MUCH HUMAN GLADNESS. "Even in laughter," etc. A man may smile and smile, and be most melancholy. To wear a smile upon our countenance, or to conclude our sentences with laughter, is often only a mere trick of style, a mere habit of life, cultivated with little difficulty. A true smile, an honest, laugh, that comes not from the lips or from the lungs, but from the heart, is a very acceptable and a very admirable thing. But a false smile and a forced laugh bespeak a double-minded soul and a doubtful character. Surely the angels of God weep almost, as much over the laughter as over the tears of mankind. For beneath its sound they may hear all too much that is hollow and unreal, and not a little that is vain and guilty. But, on the other hand, to smile with the glad and to laugh with the merry is a sympathetic grace not to be despised (Romans 12:15, first clause).

III. THE ISSUE OF FALSE SATISFACTIONS. "The end of that mirth is heaviness." How often is heaviness the end of mirth! All enjoyment that does not carry with it the approval of the conscience, all that is disregardful of the Divine Law, all that is a violation of the laws of our physical or our spiritual nature, must end and does end, sooner or later, in heaviness - in depression of spirit, in decline of power. It is a sorry thing for a man to accustom himself to momentary mirth, to present pleasure at the expense of future joy, of well being in later years.

LESSONS.

1. Let the necessary solitariness of life lead us to choose the very best friendships we can form; that we may have those who can go far and often with us into the recesses of our spirit, and accompany us, as far as man can, in the larger and deeper experiences of our life.

2. Let the superficiality of much happiness lead us to inquire of ourselves whether we have planted in our soul the deeper roots of joy; those which will survive every test and trial of life, and which will be in us when we have left time and sense altogether behind us.

3. Let the perilous nature of some gratifications impose on us the duty of a wise watchfulness; that we may banish forever from heart and life all injurious delights which "war against the soul," and rob us of our true heritage here and in the heavenly country. - C.







The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.
I. THE GENERAL NATURE, SYMPTOMS, AND PROGRESS OF BACKSLIDING. The idea of backsliding is that of gradually receding from an object full in view. It is not the turning back as in the case of those who forsook the Saviour, it is rather like those who, moving against the stream, rest upon their oars. The backslider is one who has had some views and some experience, whether real or supposed, of true religion: there may even have been some enjoyment in the things of religion; but after some progress there is a gradual declension, a loss of taste and enjoyment, a decline in ardour and zeal. Particular symptoms of backsliding may be seen —

1. In the manner in which the secret duties of religion are attended to.

2. In attendance at public worship.

3. In the conduct, temper, and conversation. The progress of backsliding is from bad to worse. There is a gradual relinquishment of principle, an increasing laxity of practice, and an abuse of Christian privileges into an excuse for sin.

II. THE AWFUL CONSEQUENCES OF BACKSLIDING. "Shall be filled with his own ways." View the backslider. He has lost his delight, his enjoyment in religion. It is now an irksome task. He has gone down on the world's ground; does he find comfort there? No, he is still dissatisfied, still perplexed. He becomes impatient, irritable; a burden to himself, a burden to others. How tremendously will the text be found true when the finally impenitent is in that place where hope never comes!

(T. Webster, B.D.)

Only case in English Bible where the word "backslider" occurs.

I. DESCRIBE WHAT BACKSLIDING IN HEART IS. To some the experience which we call "conversion " is more consciously definite than to others. Recall the experience. If the love then felt has not continued, there is backsliding in heart. The experience is compatible with great zeal and activity, with the maintenance of sound discipline, and with decided orthodoxy. The backslider in heart is thus described in the Word of God: he has lost his first love; he is lukewarm in spirit; mixed up with the world; double-minded and faint-hearted.

II. SOME OF THE THINGS THAT CONDUCE TO BACKSLIDING OF HEART.

1. Neglect of the Word of God. Most, if not all, such backsliding may be traced to this neglect.

2. Neglect of private prayer.

3. Suffering sin to remain unconfessed.

4. Want of Christian activity.

5. Not making public profession of our love to Christ.

III. HOW TO DEAL WITH THE BACKSLIDER IN HEART. "He is filled with his own ways." It is not easy to awaken his interest. It is always difficult to reach his conscience. Argument does not succeed. The only thing to do is to bring them back to their first experience. They must come to Jesus afresh.

(W. P. Lockhart.)

Backsliding in heart necessarily supposes an antecedent rectitude of principle. A man may be a backslider in heart even when he cannot be charged with an open notorious sin. A man may, through the violence of temptation, be led into evil without commencing back-sliding in heart. The case of the text is illustrated in Ephraim. In him we may trace the believer in the warmth of espousal love; in all the stages of heart-backsliding, till even surfeited with his own ways; as well as in the humbled state of restoration to his God and Saviour. The first stage of backsliding is a divided heart. Figures are changed, and the divided heart dwindles into an empty vine. A person may have made great advances in heart-backsliding, yet keep up a profession of religion. Let a professor once dwindle into an empty vine, it is much if he makes no further advances in heart-backsliding. The next stage is self-conceit. Then, with Ephraim, the backslider makes altars to sin. Then he becomes like a wild ass's colt in the wilderness, snuffing up the wind and following the east wind. And a final aggravation is dealing deceitfully with God. Heart-backslidings may be long hid from the view of man, and may be of such a nature that they cannot become matters of Church examination. God is represented as commiserating Ephraim's wretched case. God will give no countenance to his iniquity, nor in any way connive at his sin. God will at last withdraw from him. What can now be expected but Ephraim's final ruin and everlasting overthrow?

(John Macgowan.)

The Christian Magazine.
I. Is it, then, inquired, IN WHAT DOES THIS BACKSLIDING CONSIST?

1. Let it be remarked, that it may be dated from becoming stationary in religious attainments. If the believer be making no progress in his course, nor attaining to greater proficiency in Christian experience, there exists some radical and internal defect. Already in heart he is deviating from God. Is he not growing in knowledge? Is his relish for Divine objects not becoming stronger? Does he experience no increasing keenness of appetite for spiritual provision? He must then be denominated a backslider, as the deficiency of requisite augmentation in these respects manifests that the present state of his heart is not altogether right with God.

2. Again, it consists in the real decline of those holy dispositions implanted in the soul by the Holy Spirit. The highest state of backsliding into which the genuine believer may fall is the indulgence in any flagrant or atrocious sin. Witness the egregious faults of Noah and Lot, of David and Peter.

II. Let us now attend TO THE CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF THIS SPIRITUAL DISEASE.

1. Let it be recollected in general, that the primary cause of this grievous disorder is the corruption, depravity, and deceitfulness of the human heart. From this contaminated source all deviation from God originates.

2. One particular cause and symptom of backsliding is the intermission of religious duties, the appointed means of increase. It is well known that exercise and employment are necessary to preserve and promote health. Similar is the case with the Christian. Religious exercises and engagements are indispensably requisite for the advancement of gracious habits. The neglect of these will invariably induce declension. Let it suffice to mention two secret duties, inattention to which is particularly productive of declension. These are prayer and self-examination. The former is absolutely requisite for supporting the vital principle of grace, in a lively and prosperous condition. According to the comparisons of some worthy old divines, it is to the soul what the lungs are to the body. The other closet-duty specified as so needful for the prosperity of the soul is self-examination. "They," says a certain writer, "who in a crazy vessel navigate a sea wherein are shoals and currents innumerable, if they would keep their course or reach their port in safety, must carefully repair the smallest injuries, often throw out their line, and take their observations. In the voyage of life, also, the Christian who would not make shipwreck of his faith, while he is habitually watchful and provident, must make it his express business to look into his state, and ascertain his progress." Did we observe an extensive trader entirely neglect his books, and extremely averse to have them examined, a considerable suspicion and strong presumption would be instantly excited, that according to the vulgar phrase, he is going back in the world.

(The Christian Magazine.)

Evangelist.
The bell-buoy must ring out over the rock all the time because the rock is there all the time. The reason the Bible warns so much about backsliding is because we are always in danger of backsliding. A disease may be eating our life away; our ship in the fog may be drifting upon a rocky coast. We are only in the greater danger if not aware of it. Backsliding begins unexpectedly: like a dangerous disease, it steals into our system so secretly that the utmost vigilance is necessary lest we be taken unawares.

I. Let us know, first, THAT BACKSLIDING BEGINS IN THE HEART. The leaves of a fruit-tree begin to fade, curl up, and wither; no fulness of life, no fruit. You suspect a worm — something gnawing at the seat of life — the heart. Men fall as trees do — after gradual decay at the heart (Proverbs 4:23; Hosea 10:2).

II. Well to remember, also, THAT A BACKSLIDER IN HEART IS NOT ALWAYS A BACKSLIDER IN LIFE. Indeed, he is often a zealous worker in external things; shows honest pride in all Church success. Also keeps up the forms of personal and public Christian duty faithfully, etc. But the form without the power (2 Timothy 3:5). Rich — poor (Revelation 3:17).

III. Note, also, SOME OF THE SIGNS OR INDICATIONS OF HAVING BACKSLIDDEN.

1. Loss of relish for private devotions. He may keep them up, but does not enjoy them as formerly (John 15:9).

2. Loss of interest in God's Word. He may continue to read, but not to love as before (Psalm 119:11, 97).

3. Thinking lightly of sin (Song of Solomon 2:5; Genesis 19:20).

4. Loss of zeal in spiritual work. He does no soul-winning work (2 Timothy 4:2).

IV. Again, consider WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CAUSES OF BACKSLIDING.

1. Getting off guard. Unwatched avenues of approach (Mark 14:38).

2. Love of the world. When the world is in, Christ is out (1 John 2:15).

3. The habitual neglect of a single known duty (Jonah 1:1-3).

4. The habitual indulgence of a single known sin. Compromising; sparing the little one, etc. (2 Samuel 12:7).

V. Lastly, bear in mind SOME OF THE RESULTS OF BACKSLIDING IN HEART. "Shall be filled with his own ways." Not God's ways for His followers.

1. With ways of doubt. Backsliding in heart, how often doubt begins! (Psalm 73:11). 2, Ways of fault-finding. Everything looks weary because the heart is wrong (Exodus 16:2, 3).

3. Ways of alienation. Forsaking the Saviour and His service (Malachi 3:13-15).

4. Ways of despair. Saddest human condition (1 Samuel 28:6, 15). Are you conscious of having backslidden even the least?

(Evangelist.)

Christian Age.
? — The heart is obedient to some law of heaven; the waters fail to flow by the attraction of sun and moon. In some parts of the globe the sea is gradually gaining on the land; in others it is gradually receding and leaving the land dry and bare. Are the full and cleansing waters of eternal life gaining on our coasts or no?

(Christian Age.)

I suppose it would be difficult to describe the causes and workings of consumption and decline. The same kind of disease is common among Christians. It is not that many Christians fall into outward sin, and so on, but throughout our Churches we have scores who are in a spiritual consumption — their powers are all feeble and decaying. They have an unusually bright eye — can see other people's faults exceedingly well — and sometimes they have a flush on their cheeks, which looks very like burning zeal and eminent spiritual life, but it is occasional and superficial. "Vital energy is at a low ebb: they do not work for God like genuinely healthy workmen; they do not run in the race of His commandments like athletic racers, determined to win the prize; the heart does not beat with a throb moving the entire man, as a huge engine sends the throbbings of its force throughout the whole of the machinery; they go slumbering on, in the right road it is true, but loitering in it. They do serve God, but it is by the day, as we say, and not by the piece; they do not labour to bring forth much fruit — they are content with here and there a little shrivelled cluster upon the topmost bough. That is the state of mind I want to describe, and it is produced in ninety-nine out of every hundred of believers by a long course of prosperity and absence of spiritual trouble.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

A good man shall be satisfied from himself
No search is more vain than the search for a contented man. We have made happiness and contentment to be something outside of ourselves. In the text are three paradoxes.

I. A GOOD MAN. Goodness is an internal quality. The good man is whole within, sound within. Hence his satisfaction; all health is within. Piety has its own internal resources and powers. There is a pretty story told of a king, Shah Abbas, who in his travels met with a shepherd. He found him to be so wise that he elevated him to great power: he became a great statesman. But it was discovered, many years after, that he frequently went to a lonely house, of which he kept the key; there it was supposed he kept his treasure; nay, it was supposed that there he hatched schemes against his royal master; thither, it was thought, traitors might resort. The whispering courtiers persuaded the king to break open the door, in order that all the villainy may be laid bare, and there was found an empty room, save that his shepherd's wallet and staff, and crook, and old coat were there. "Hither," said he, "I come, in order that if I ever am tempted to think more highly of myself than I ought to think, I may be rebuked by remembering my origin, and what my rise has done for me." Contentment is containment; the idea in it is that of having learned the lesson of self-sufficing and self-sustaining. Contentment is a sense of possession; a sense of satisfied want.

II. A MAN SATISFIED. The lives of most men are passed in fretfulness. To fret is to fray out; fretfulness wears life threadbare. Contentment is the science of thankfulness. The causes of discontent are idleness, living to no purpose. It is only in self-occupation that we have self-possession.

III. THE SOURCE OF THE SATISFACTION. "From himself."

1. The holy man is satisfied with the object and foundation of his faith.

2. In the evidence of his religion.

3. In the ordinances of the sanctuary.

4. In the law of life.

5. In the apportionment and destiny of the world.There may be four replies to the question, Are you satisfied?(1) I am. Not with myself, but from myself. I find my happiness within.(2) I am not. Religion is to me not rest, but unrest; it is described to me now principally by unsatisfied, appetites.(3) I try to persuade myself that I am, but I am not; it is all so fading, so fleeting, could be satisfied, could we continue here.(4) I am. Extremes meet — I am. I see no reason for anxiety, and my business and my pleasures, they suffice for me. But what you call satisfaction I call death. There is not one ray of happiness, properly, from yourselves; all is borrowed, and all is illusion. If you do not find the true contentment on the earth, you will find it nowhere.

(E. Paxton Hood.)

What is a good man? What is goodness in man? A thing is good in the sense of being adapted for a certain end, which may be supposed to be the object of its existence. Good is the right direction of power and capacity in anything and everything. Evil is the wrong direction, or the abuse of power and capacity. Evil is possible through the liberty of the creature, wherein any and every power can be used or abused — rightly or wrongly directed. Evil is possible only through the freedom of the creature; it extends just as far as that freedom extends; and it consists in a misdirection and abuse of the powers that are essentially good, as given by God. A good man is simply a man who so uses all the powers God has put within his reach that they shall most perfectly answer the end God designed. We have, to guide us towards and in the right direction of all powers, these three principles:

1. That everything be done for the highest good of mankind generally, or of other men, not for self.

2. That it be done in the best, most perfect manner possible to the doer.

3. That in doing it, we recognise that universal design of a Father's love under which the well-being of any creature, and of the whole universe, is possible. He whose life embodies these principles is a good man. Good and bad men are not born such, nor made such by external power. They become such freely. How universal is the application of this principle I Every single thing that a man does involves either the use or abuse of some power that he possesses. The great good of man is ever inward, intellectual, spiritual. The main element of power will be, that the good man is seeking to reach some ideal of life, the source of his inspiration, and the object of his most ambitious hopes.

(S. Fager, B.A.)

This sentiment sounds more akin to the proud spirit of the stoical philosophy than the humble spirit of revealed religion. That philosophy taught its disciples to aspire after an absolute and universal independence. It insisted that the "wise man" should not look abroad for happiness in any direction, but find it in himself absolutely. Scripture seeks to make men independent in a way that is possible, and by means that are good. Man, as a finite creature, must always be dependent. He cannot revolve upon his own centre, and look abroad far nothing. God only is self-existent and self-sufficing. Who needs to be told that mankind generally do not find happiness by searching for it in their own bosoms? This text does not teach that a good man's happiness is enjoyed in absolute independence of all created things, much less of the one Uncreated. Nor does it teach that he is called on to deny himself the moderate use of such things as Providence may put within his reach, and to which his nature is adapted. It simply teaches that the good man is satisfied from himself, in opposition to outward, temporal blessings as chief, indispensable, and absolute grounds of support. The souls of God's real servants are made His habitation through the Spirit, and this indwelling is attended with a peace which the world can neither give nor take away. The witness of the Spirit of God to the spirit of man essentially involves happiness — a happiness which is independent of all things else, and which is enjoyed, both spontaneously and on reflection. Those dispositions and habits which are the fruits of the Spirit make the human soul a treasure-house of happiness, and render their possessor to a great degree independent of all created things; but this same happiness may be made a subject of reflection, and be heightened by it. The gift of the Spirit in man, the testimony of the Spirit to a man, the fruits of the Spirit upon a man, these things are internal and exhaustless. A man so favoured and endowed is satisfied from himself, for various reasons — because he is not tormented with apprehensions of God's wealth; because he is more or less delivered from the dominion of the passions which embitter human life; because he has acquired tastes and tempers which essentially and spontaneously produce peace and joy; because reflection on what has been done for him and in him is a further source of comfort; and because he has a positive hope full of immortality, which cheers him in every trial, and burns brighter and brighter as the darkness of outward tribulation thickens around him. What is thus set forth as doctrine has been thousands of times realised in human experience. God's people have often been found maintaining a marvellous independence by simply depending upon God, and to have been satisfied with themselves because God was in them. Enoch, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, Paul, and John. At the best, human life is a chequered thing. With the good, evil is everywhere mingled — largely mingled. Every heart knows its own bitterness, and every heart has its own. It is clear that if happiness and satisfaction are to be found at all, they must be found within.

(W. Sparrow, D.D.)

The parallelism of this verse is an illustration of the great law of sowing and reaping. Now we take the good man and the satisfaction flowing from himself. There must be some people in the world whom we rightly call good men. The phrase is a frequent one in the Scriptures. In our Lord's teachings we are directed both to the origin and end, the source and manifestation, of goodness. He says, "Purify the inward life; put the heart right, for 'out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.'" Observe the difference between the good man of the Bible and the good man of society. The good man of the Bible is a man of religious faith and devotion, of communion with God, and sanctity of heart; and this Divine element flowing downwards, and working outwardly, produces the manifestations of equity, benevolence, industry, prudence, and all "holy conversation and godliness." The good man of the world builds uphill from the earth. He attends to the personal virtues from a consideration of their tendency to benefit him; from self-respect, from contempt of vice, or dread of its evil consequences. He cultivates the social virtues from calculation, or from amiable sentiment and disposition. But in all this he builds upward — he stands upon the earth, and never gets into that higher region in which the goodness of the good men of the Bible begins. Virtue is not holiness. They differ from each other in nature, origin, and end.

1. The satisfaction of the good man arises from the circumstance that he is regulated in his character and conduct by a fixed and stable thing — by principle. The question with him is, What is duty? What is due to God? He does not live by impulse; he is not moved by passion; he is not ruled by circumstances; he does not act to secure any temporary object. These things would make any man miserable, if his satisfaction were to arise from them. In the midst of his activity the good man's satisfaction arises from himself — from the consciousness that he acts upon principle and in the sight of God.

2. The sentiment may be illustrated by the contrast which is often exhibited between the good man and the wicked, when the latter is called upon to eat the fruit of his own ways. We frequently find that a man has brought himself by his folly and sin — by extravagance, imprudence, and passion — into a condition of perfect thraldom, and perhaps of peril, from which it is impossible to liberate himself. The man has brought such wretchedness into his heart, such poverty and distress upon his family, is so tied and bound by the consequences of his own conduct, that he has no power to help himself, and if relieved at all, it must be by the interference of others, and at the expense of his own character. Now, in a ease like that, the man so relieved is satisfied; but he is not "satisfied from himself." The good man, on the contrary, is not only preserved from such pain and wretchedness, but is placed in circumstances, the result of a wise and holy course of conduct, as to be able to help others.

3. The satisfaction of a good man arises from his being preserved from the sting and reproach of an evil conscience. This is somewhat of a negative expression, but it is a great and positive blessing. It is something a man has not — that is, he has not a disturbed, pained, and lacerated conscience.

4. Consider also the positive and increasing pleasure, the growing delight, of the good man's soul. It is not wrong for a man to reflect with grateful complacency upon actions that are good. A man who has lived a life of active goodness, and can reflect on a long series of deeds that will bear reflection, has a source of essentially high, and pure, and profound satisfaction within him.Lessons from this theme:

1. The subject, properly understood, is in exact harmony with evangelical truth.

2. It is important to examine our condition, and the relationship we sustain to God and goodness.

3. If by God's grace men have been brought into a state of harmony with God and all that is good, and if their life, inward and outward, is in such harmony that it is ministering, as it were, to their souls a secret blessed satisfaction, they should be very careful not to put the harp out of tune. Good men, Christian men, by giving way to temptation, by committing sin, have interfered with the harmonious movements of their life, and got out of health.

4. Learn to have a noble and manly view of life. Live for duty, not for pleasure; for principle, not for expediency; for the approbation of God, not for the praise of men. Let us think not about immediate and temporal, but ultimate and external results.

(T. Binney.)

(with John 4:14): — Why put these clauses together? Surely you will say, "To illustrate a truth by way of contrast": for does the one not point to a man who is satisfied from the fountain of a human morality, while the other views an indwelling Christ as the spring of ceaseless satisfaction . The words of Christ are an exegesis of Solomon's words. Both proclaim the self-sufficiency of the spiritual life. Our subject is the self-sufficient life.

I. IT ARISES FROM ITS INWARDNESS. Solomon says a good man is satisfied from "himself"; Christ that the water He gives is "in him." But what is the living water which Christ gives? Christ tells us it is eternal life. The fountain itself is Jesus "glorified in the heart by the Holy Ghost." Note the inwardness of the "Well" — "from himself" says Solomon, "in him" says Christ. But where? In what part of man does Christ dwell? At the moment of regeneration Christ enters the deepest being of man — enters that which underlies all faculties — changes it; makes it His Holy of Holies, and from it works through the whole range of man's nature. Christ dwells in man — in that mysterious something which transcends consciousness which thinks, loves, imagines, wills. This seat of Christ in the regenerate, underneath the faculties of the man, explains how he possesses ceaseless happiness, undisturbed peace, unbroken tranquillities.

II. IT ARISES FROM ITS SELF-ACTIVITY. Look at the "Well." This is Christ Himself, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily — i.e., the unlimited attributes and life of the Godhead — all grace, all glory, all power. This Divine Well is not like the pool of Bethesda, whose stagnant waters had to be stirred by an angel's hand before they could live with virtue and healing power. The fulness of Jesus Christ in a man is a living fulness. It is eternally alive. The water springs up. This suggests two ideas.

1. It brings this life before us not as mere water that springs up, but as life, a living thing, which, like all other kinds of life, takes to itself an organism, and builds itself up by the law of evolution and development, until it reaches the maturity of its being.

2. Note the goal of its movement, — the point toward which it unfolds itself — springs up, not to the world, but up into everlasting life. Still the water, its satisfying element, is independent of the world. All along it has been so. Christ, the fountain, is eternally active. The water springs up in itself, and its final point is eternal life. We must not, however, suppose with some that this life becomes eternal, as if at first it was mortal, might die; but at some point became eternal. No. It is eternal in its germ, eternal in its initial developments. The idea of our text is quite different. It is a life which, not having its source on earth, obeys a law of nature, and seeks its original source in heaven. Man, originally formed in the image of God, seeks reunion with Him.

III. IT ARISES FROM ITS POWER TO SATISFY MAN. This is a fact of life — felt according to the spirituality of the man, the depth and riches of his Christ-experience. This lone widow, stripped of all, so utterly destitute that she has nothing to compete with Christ in her, has a joy unspeakable and full of glory. This sweet, saintly spirit, who for long has lain upon a bed of pain and sickness, who for years has seen neither grass grow nor flower bloom, who lives in that garret amid the dust and noise of the great city, has Christ in her heart, a well of water — a satisfaction, a perfect joy. The salt waters of trial and sorrow, and toil and loss may overflow us, but down in the regenerate part of man is a well of water — fresh, sweet, living, always springing up. This is the joy and peace that lie beyond the touch of time.

(Hugh Mair.)

The text is not intended to deny that external circumstances have considerable influence over our happiness. The sentiment is not to be taken as describing the actual condition of society. The happiness of the great mass of mankind is dependent upon external circumstances. The question before us does not lie between the influence of outward circumstances on the one hand and Divine control on the other. The text does not assert the good man's independence of God.

I. TWO GREAT PRINCIPLES OF HAPPINESS, or ingredients of which it is composed.

1. Peace of mind. Unless the mind is in a state of quietude and peace there cannot be happiness. And peace is communicated to the spirit in a direct and glorious manner through Divine influence.

2. Expectation. Looking forward to something that we possess not.

II. THE SUPERIORITY OF THESE PRINCIPLES TO OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. God has not chosen outward circumstances as the medium through which He imparts these elements of happiness to the mind.

2. God has so ordered it in the economy of grace that man is the intelligent and voluntary agent in the application of these elements of happiness to his own case.

3. Whenever our minds are under the influence of the highest principles of happiness they are not only independent of circumstances, but actually exercise a control over them.

(A. G. Fuller.)

Men are affected by the course they pursue; for good or bad their conduct comes home to them. The fulness of the backslider's misery will come out of his own ways, and the fulness of the good man's content will spring out of the love of God which is shed abroad in his heart.

I. THE BACKSLIDER. This class includes —

1. Apostates. Those who unite them- selves with the Church of Christ and for a time act as if they were subjects of a real change of heart. Then they break away and return back to their worldliness. Such was Judas.

2. Those who go into open sin. Men who descend from purity to careless living, and from careless living to indulgence of the flesh.

3. Those who, in any measure or degree, even for a very little time, decline from the point which they have reached. Note the word "backslider." He is not a back-runner, nor a back-leaper, but a back-slider; he slides back with an easy, effortless motion, softly, quietly, perhaps unsuspected by himself or anybody else. Nobody ever slides up. The Christian life is a climbing. If you would know how to back-slide, the answer is, "Leave off going forward and you will slide backward." Note that this is a backslider in heart. All backsliding begins within, begins with the heart's growing lukewarm. What is the backslider's history? "He shall be filled with his own ways." The first kind of fulness is absorption in his carnal pursuits. Then they begin to pride themselves upon their condition and to glory in their shame. Presently the backslider encounters chastisement, and that from a rod of his own making. A fourth stage is at last reached by gracious men and women. They become satiated and dissatisfied, miserable and discontented.

II. THE GOOD MAN. His name and history. The text does not say he is satisfied with himself. No truly good man is ever self-satisfied. The good man is satisfied from himself. A good man is on the side of good. He who truly loves that which is good must be in measure good himself. A good man is "satisfied from himself" because he is independent of outward circumstances, and of the praise of others. The Christian man is content with the well of upspringing water of life which the Lord has placed within him. Faith is in the good man's heart, and he is satisfied with what faith brings him. Pardon, adoption, conquest over temptation, everything he requires. Hope and love are in the good man's heart. When the good man is enabled by Divine grace to live in obedience to God, he must, as a necessary consequence, enjoy peace of mind.... who takes the yoke of Christ upon him, and learns of Him, finds rest unto his soul.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

That virtue is its own reward, and alone sufficient to a happy life, was an opinion in great esteem among ancient philosophers. Scripture confirms the position that a virtuous life is the best course we can take to secure our happiness. But the philosophers went much farther in their commendations of virtue. They made their virtuous man, not only regardless, but even insensible of everything that concerned the body and this life. This was talking beyond the reach of human nature. Religion, which is our reasonable service, and treats us like men, does not require unreasonable things of us. It does not pretend to make us insensible of evils, nor prohibit the use of all lawful means to prevent or remove them. Religion lays the best foundation for our happiness in this world by prescribing such rules as, if we observe them, will enable us either to avoid these temporal evils, or will support us under them. The good man will have more pleasure in the good things of this life and less of the evils than the wicked. Besides which, he has enjoyments peculiar to himself which the sinner is a perfect stranger to.

1. A good man is most likely to escape the evils and calamities of life and to pass through this world the freest from troubles and vexations. His virtues will be a natural defence and security to him against many evils and miseries which would otherwise befall him. Most of the things which embitter human life arise from their faults and follies, their unreasonable lusts, and unruly passions. The good man places his happiness in the favour of God and the sense of his own integrity. He desires no more than he wants; and he wants no more than he can use and enjoy; and this reduces his necessities to a narrow compass. He bears an universal good-will to all mankind and is always ready to do all the good he can to others. He is sober and temperate in all his pleasures and enjoyments; and this upon a principle of religion and virtue.

2. Whatever calamities or afflictions befall a good man he will bear them much better than other people. Disappointments are not so great to him who takes an estimate of things, not from fancy or opinion, but from truth and reality, and the just weight and moment of them. Though his virtues are not full proof against the strokes of fortune, and cannot ward off every blow, yet they will blunt the edge of afflictions and greatly abate their smart. It is well to consider the uncertainty of all external enjoyments, not to overvalue them, or set our hearts upon them, or place our happiness in them.

3. The good man has pleasures and enjoyments peculiar to himself which will, in a great measure, supply the want of external blessings. Every good and virtuous action we do affords us a double pleasure. It first strikes our minds with a direct pleasure by its suitableness to our nature; and then our minds entertain themselves with pleasant reflections upon it. Learn —(1) It is an unjust reproach to cast upon religion and virtue that they deprive us of joy and comfort and satisfaction.(2) What is the true cause of the trouble and uneasiness which are to be found under the sun.

(L. Abbot.)

The happiness of a good man does not depend on the mere surroundings of his life, or the possessions which he can call his own, but on something more vital — on that which is more really his own, and of which no change of circumstances can ever deprive him. The uneducated man cannot find company in himself. He has to look outside himself for enjoyment and satisfaction. The man whose nature has been cultured, especially by self-discipline, is often least alone when most alone, so that when the voices of men are not heard he hears a still, small voice within his heart. Now, goodness is the highest culture, for it is the culture of that which is most spiritual in the nature. Goodness is an inward harmony. Goodness is the most economical thing in the world, for with it men have an inward treasure that renders them, to a large extent, independent of that which is without. Religion is a possession which makes men rich in any position. There need be no commendation of an ascetic order of life, or contempt of the world. But if we are to enjoy even this world, the power to enjoy must be found within, there must be internal harmony, or the world will be a great discord to us. The kingdom of God, that kingdom which Christ declared is "within," is the great condition of blessedness; aye, it is the condition for enjoying even the kingdom which is temporal and visible. These points illustrated from the life of G. B. Sowerby, F.L.S., author of "The Saurus Conchyliorum."

(W. Garrett Horder.)

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