I. IN PUBLIC LIFE.
1. Fulness and scantiness of population. (Ver. 28.) The Hebrew had a deep sense of the value of fruitfulness in the wedded life, and of increase in the nation. The majesty of the monarch is the reflection of the greatness of his people, and the decay must represent itself in his feebleness for action. It is our duty as Christian men to study with intelligence political questions, and to support all measures which tend to freedom of commerce and abundance of food.
2. National exaltation and shame. (Ver. 34.) The common ideas of national glory and shame are false. There is no glory in victory over feeble foes, no shame in seeking peace in the interests of humanity. Too often these popular ideas of glory represent the bully and the coward in the nation, rather than its wisdom and honour. There is no other real secret of a nation's exaltation than, in the widest sense, its right dealing, and no other shame for a nation than its vices - such as drunkenness, selfishness, lust for territory. Could Englishmen see the national character in the light in which it often appears to foreigners, it would be a humbling view.
3. Royal favour or disfavour is an index of worth. (Ver. 35.) Not, of course, the only or the truest index; and yet how seldom it happens that a man rises to high position in the service of his sovereign and country without eminent worth of some description or other! Here, again, moral law is exemplified. There is nothing accidental. If it be mere prudence which gains promotion, still prudence is of immense value to the state, and moral law is confirmed by its advancement.
II. IN PRIVATE LIFE.
1. Patience and haste of temper. (Ver. 29.) They are branded respectively with the mark of sense and of folly. "The Scripture exhorteth us to possess our souls in patience; whosoever is out of patience is out of possession of his soul."
2. The calm and the seething heart. (Ver. 30.) The first member seems more correctly rendered, "life of the body is a gentle or tranquil mind." Zeal, on the other hand, or envy, is a constant ferment within the soul. Men's minds must either feed upon their own good or others' evil. Inquisitive people are commonly envious; it is a "gadding passion," and an old proverb says that "Envy keeps no holidays." Lord Bacon says it is the vilest passion and the most depraved. Christian humility and love can only sweeten the heart, and dilute or wash away its natural bitterness
3. The violent death and the peaceful end. (Ver. 32.) A sudden death was viewed as a visitation from God (Psalm 36:13; 62:4). It was thought that the wicked could hardly come to any other end. But the righteous has confidence in his death. Considering the great silence of the Old Testament on the future life, it can hardly be honest exegesis to force the meaning of hope of a future life into this passage. Nor is it necessary. It is the consciousness that all is well, the soul being in God's hands, that the future may be left with him who has revealed himself in the past, which sheds peace into the dying soul.
4. Silent wisdom and noisy pretence. (Ver. 33.) The still and quiet wisdom of the sensible man (Proverbs 10:14; Proverbs 12:16, 23) is contrasted with the eager and noisy utterances of what the fool supposes to be wisdom, but in reality is the exposure of his folly. "There is no decaying merchant or inward beggar hath so many tricks to uphold the credit of their wealth as those empty persons have to maintain the credit of their sufficiency." Wisdom and piety are felt and fragrant, like the violet in the hedge, from humble places and silent lives, Let us aim to be, not to seem. - J.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding.
1. The excellency of meekness, and —
2. The mischief of passionateness, and the evil thereof.
I. THE MAN THAT IS SLOW OF WRATH OR ANGER SNOWS GREAT WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING IN HIS MEEK AND PEACEABLE DISPOSITION AND DEPORTMENT.
1. The nature of wrath or anger in general. Anger or wrath is a passion which is not of itself sinful, but is either good or ill, as it is regulated; and so it differs from fretting, murmuring, and envy, which can never be good or allowable in any case. Anger is a servant to the meek, but a master to the passionate. The passion of anger is like wind to a ship. If there be a dead calm, and the winds blow not at all, or very weakly, the ship does not make way. And if men be so stupid, indolent, and unconcerned, that their spirits will not stir in them, whatever dishonour they see done to God, these are standing still in the way to heaven. If the wind is brisk enough, but yet is contrary, the ship will at best have much ado with it, and may be driven into a shore which the crew desired not to see. So if men's anger be in itself sinful, it cannot fail of an unhappy event, driving the soul into much sin. Though the wind be not contrary, yet if it be too impetuous and violent, it may dash the ship on rocks and split it. Though a man's anger may have a just ground, yet if it prove excessive and boisterous it may run men headlong into great mischiefs. The ingredients of anger are, a commotion or trouble of the spirit, which ariseth from an apprehension of an injury. Hatred, which is bent against the injury apprehended. Grief, on account of the party or parties injured. A desire for the vindication of the right and honour of the injured. Anger is a passion uneasy, to one's self, compounded of bitter ingredients and uneasy passions; in which one walks on slippery ground, where he is apt to fall headlong.
2. What is it to be slow of wrath? Being slow to take up anger in one's own cause. Managing it warily, when it is taken up, being guided by the light of reason, and not by the fire of passion, and being easy to lay it down. The more slow that anger burns the easier it is to quench.
3. He who is slow of wrath is of great understanding. Such an one thereby shows his duty to God, his sovereign lord, and to himself. He shows that he understands Satan's diligence and malice against him, his real interest, and human nature. Be slow to wrath. It is a heaven-like disposition. The comfort of society depends on it. It is necessary for a man's own comfort. It helps to keep ourselves and others from the snare of sin. But there is such a thing as sinful slackness to anger, which may make us omit duties of justice and charity.
II. THE PASSIONATE MAN PROCLAIMS HIS FOLLY AND NAUGHTINESS IN HIS UNBRIDLED PASSION AND SINFUL ANGER.
1. The nature of sinful anger. Anger is sinful when it riseth without a just ground, having no cause for it assigned by grace or right reason as just. It may rise without any cause at all; or vainly, upon some slight or trifling occasion unworthy of such notice. When it keeps no due proportion with the offence. When it is not directed to the honour of God, and the destruction of sin. When it makes no due difference between the offender and the offence. When the effects of it are sinful. When it is kept up and continued beyond due time.
2. The kinds of sinful anger. Sinful in itself; where there is no just ground. Accidentally sinful; when ill-managed. There is an open and impetuous anger called wrath. A pursuing, implacable wrath, called anger, which is set upon revenge.
3. The effects of sinful anger. Mischievous to the body. Fires the tongue in a particular manner. Disturbs society. Overclouds reason. Unfits a man for duty. The passionate man proclaims his folly. He shows himself to be a proud man, a weak man, incapable of ruling himself; an unmortified man; a rash and precipitant man; an unwatchful man. Practical improvement of this subject — Use of humiliation and conviction; of exhortation. Desire of provoking and stirring up others to passion; for God's sake, and for your neighbour's sake, as well as for your own sake. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." And if at any time you are caught, hasten out of the snare. Dallying with temptation is the fair way to entangle you further; therefore fly from it as from a serpent, lest ye be stung to death thereby.
(T. Boston, D.D.)
Essex Remembrancer.Death is at all times appalling to nature; but never so frightful as when it comes by the hands of the public executioner. To this the text provides an antidote. The man who lives in the "fear of the Lord" is not likely to die an untimely, much less an ignominious death. The case of martyrs is excepted.
I. EXPLAIN THE NATURE OF TRUE RELIGION. What is the principle, its rule, and its object.
1. Its principle is the love of God. This love to God must be supreme. And wherever love is present, it will be evidenced by a desire to comply with the wishes, and obey the commands of the person loved.
2. That the rule of true religion is the revealed will of God, as found in the Scriptures.
3. The object of true religion is the glory of God. Religion in the heart can never be satisfied with anything short of the Divine glory as the great object of life.
II. WHILE DESTITUTE OF THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGION, MEN ARE PERPETUALLY IN DANGER OF BEING OVERCOME BY THE IMPETUOSITY OF THEIR PASSIONS.
1. Principles directly opposite to those of true religion exist in the human heart.
2. Circumstances are continually arising which may call these unholy principles into active operation.
3. There is grave danger, in the absence of true religion, that excited passion will prevail. Impetuosity can be effectually restrained and subdued only by the power of religious principle.
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
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