A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
I. SAD EXPERIENCES. The sorrow of thankless children. (Vers. 21, 25.) To name it is enough for thereto who have known it. It has its analogue in Divine places. How pathetically does the Bible speak of the grief of God over the rebellious children he has nourished and brought up! and of Christ's lamentation as of a mother over Jerusalem! Let us remember that our innocent earthly sorrows are reflected in the bosom of our God.
II. JOYOUS EXPERIENCES. (Ver. 22.) The blessing of a cheerful heart, who can overprize it in relation to personal health, to social charm and helpfulness? Contrasted with the troubled spirit, like a parching fever in the bones, it is the perpetual sap of life and source of all its greenness and its fruit. A simple faith is the best known source of cheerfulness. It was a fine remark of a good friend of Dr. Johnson's, that "he had tried to be a philosopher, but somehow always found cheerfulness creeping in."
III. MIXED EXPERIENCES OF HUMAN CHARACTER.
1. The briber. (Ver. 23.) How strongly marked is this sin in the denunciations of the Bible! and yet how little the practice seems affected in a land which boasts above others of its love for the Bible! The stealth and so the shame, the evil motive, the perverse result, all are branded here. "He that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, he shall dwell on high" (Isaiah 33:15).
2. The quick perception of wisdom and the warning glance of folly. The one sees before him what is to be known or done at once; the other is lost in cloudy musings. The more a man gapes after vanity, the more foolish the heart becomes. In religion we see this temper in the restless roving to and fro, the constant query, "Who will show us any good?" "He is full of business at church; a stranger at home; a sceptic abroad; an observer in the street; everywhere a fool.
3. Harshness in judges. (Ver. 26.) Fining and flogging are mentioned. The writer had observed some such scene with the horror of a just man. Inequity or inhumanity in the judge seems an insult against the eternal throne of Jehovah.
4. The wisdom of a calm temper and economy of words. (Vers. 27, 28.) An anxiety to talk is the mark of a shallow mind. The knowledge of the season of silence and reserve may be compared to the wisdom of the general who knows when to keep his forces back and when to launch them at the foe. The composed spirit comes from the knowledge that truth will prevail in one way or another, and the time for our utterance will arrive. Lastly, the wisdom of silence, so often preached by great men. Even the fool may gain some credit for wisdom which he does not possess by holding his tongue; and this is an index of the reality. Our great example here is the silence of Jesus, continued for thirty years; out of that silence a voice at length proceeded that will ever vibrate through the world. - J.
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
I. THE POWER WHICH THE MIND CAN EXERT IN SUPPORT OF THE BODY SO LONG AS ITSELF IS IN GOOD CONDITION. Where there is no aid drawn from the resources of religion, there may be firmness the most unflinching in the endurance of pain. The records of savage life prove the existence of a sustaining principle in man. There is a power in man's spirit to sustain his infirmity. The truth that men have no power of renewing their nature must not be interpreted as implying that men have no power of reforming their lives. The doctrine of human degeneracy, preached in an unguarded and overwrought strain, makes men imagine that they can do nothing unless they feel themselves acted on by a supernatural machinery, and that, until they have experienced inward revelation, it is idle to set about outward reformation. We would always hold that a great deal lies in the unconverted man's power. We can never believe, whilst there is the spectacle on earth of mind wielding a thorough sovereignty over matter, a sovereignty so perfect that the body is set before us as literally the vassal of the spirit, we at all exaggerate his abilities when we urge him, as a candidate for the prizes of eternity, to improve the life, and break away from habits and associations of unrighteousness.
II. A MAN'S TOTAL INCAPACITY TO BEAR A WOUNDED SPIRIT. We are not accustomed to admit up to the full a matter of fact — the physical destructiveness, so to speak, of an overwrought mind. The greatest wear and tear is from mental labour. Mental disquietude tells on the health with corroding and devastating power. It is the gracious appointment of God that a wound in the spirit begins to close so soon as made; so that where there is the wish there is not the power of keeping it long open. If it be true that the endurance of grief cannot be referred to indwelling energy, but rather to that soothing action of time which comes into play on the first moment of affliction, then there is no witness from the experience of mankind against the truth of the text. It cannot be assumed that a spirit is broken until stricken by that Word of God which is "quick and powerful." Conviction of sin is the unbearable thing, and an awakened conscience an irresistible tormentor. A truly broken spirit is that which is bruised by a sense of sin. It is impossible that man should long sustain the anguish of conviction of sin.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Homiletic Review.I. THE VALUE OF A CHEERFUL SPIRIT.
1. It helps bodily health.
2. It is a clarifier and invigorator of the mind.
3. It lubricates the wearing machinery of business and daily care.
II. HOW ATTAIN THIS SPIRIT?
1. Look at your mercies with both eyes; your troubles with only one eye.
2. Learn Paul's secret: "In whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
3. Be useful. Light somebody's torch, and your own will burn brighter.
4. Make God your trustee. Believe in His care of your welfare.
1. Recognised by medical science. A wise physician avails himself of this fact, and is ever anxious not only to dispel all sad thought from the mind of the patient, but to awaken the most pleasurable thoughts and emotions. It is a fact —
2. Attested by general experience.
I. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MAN FOR HIS PHYSICAL HEALTH. Man is responsible for his mental disposition, whether cheerful or gloomy, and his disposition greatly determines his health.
II. THE DUTY OF THE GUARDIANS OF CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.
III. THE SANITARY INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY. The design of Christianity is to fill the human heart with joy. "These things have I spoken unto you that your joy may be full." Christianity is the best physician to the body. He who promotes Christinity is the wise philanthropist. Some people are always trying to keep the body well, and neglect entirely the condition of the soul.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
1. By "a merry heart" is meant a heart which has been taught by the Spirit of God to seek its happiness in Divine and heavenly objects, which is disposed to look at the bright side of things under the influence of contentment and hope. Such a heart has the best reason for cheerfulness. Faith keeps it from suspicion and distrust, hope from despair, and charity from that envy which is a rottenness of the bones. The love of God shed abroad in the heart makes it form the most favourable idea of every dispensation, and Christ dwelling there brightens all around by His presence.
2. By the "broken spirit" is meant a heart crushed by affliction, and which refuses to be comforted. Such is his spirit who, seeing his affairs ruined by his own folly, or the knavery of others, or by misfortunes which he could neither foresee nor prevent, sinks into utter despondence, and becomes incapable of the least effort to better his circumstances. Such is his spirit who, seeing the desire of his eyes taken away with a stroke, imagines he has nought now to live for. Such also is the spirit of the man wounded by remorse, or shattered by the influence of indulged melancholy, jealousies, suspicions, and fears.
II. ILLUSTRATE THIS VIEW HERE GIVEN OF THE RESULT OF CHEERFULNESS AND DEPRESSION.
1. Let us consider their influence on the body. The influence of a suitable medicine on the body is wonderful. Disease is checked or alleviated by it when first received; the continued use of it removes it entirely, and strengthens the constitution to resist its further attacks. Such is the power of holy joy over the health. On the other hand a broken spirit dries up the bones, and the finest constitution sinks under its influence.
2. Consider their influence on prosperity and adversity. All the comforts of prosperity are heightened by a cheerful spirit. So amiable does prosperity appear when thus enjoyed, that every heart wishes its continuance; but the broken spirit is a stranger to all the satisfactions as well as the homage of gratitude. On such a heart all its delights are lavished in vain. The cheerful heart can triumph in adversity. But how different is the case with the broken spirit! Every temporal disaster is the supposed prelude to their ruin, etc.
3. Consider the influence of cheerfulness and of depression on the soul. Cheerfulness quickens all the powers of the soul in their exercise; the imagination forms the most pleasing ideas of scenes and objects; memory calls up the most joyous recollections; hope paints the future blissful as the present; and the understanding, rejoicing in the truth, pursues its inquiries with unwearied ardour. On the other hand, when the spirit is broken, the imagination calls up only scenes of woe; memory brings nought to remembrance but what tends to disquiet and torment us; despair clothes the heavens with blackness; and the understanding doth nought but write bitter things, and form the most dreadful conclusions against itself.
4. Consider the influence of cheerfulness and depression on the duties and the pursuits of life. When the heart is cheerful the duties of a man's calling are a pleasure to him. How ingenious is the cheerful heart in finding the means of enjoyment and in extending these! On the other hand, when the spirit is broken the duties of a man's profession are a burden him.
5. Consider their influence on the connections of life. The man of a merry heart is the happiness of his family and friends. How different is the case with the broken spirit! The indications of joy in his presence such a man is apt to regard as an insult to his wretchedness.Conclusion:
1. How strongly does the broken spirit claim our pity and our prayers! It is impossible to conceive on this side the grave a condition more dreary.
2. Let us carefully guard against the first symptoms of despondence in ourselves and in others. Let us seek out those remedies which the gospel contains for raising the bowed down.
3. Let me address those who are blessing themselves in a false mirth. I know not whether the despairing mourner or the jovial sinner is the greatest object of pity. The jovial sinner's mirth is like the laughter of the maniac, or like the singing of a patient whose brain a fever hath disordered. The broken spirit may lead to that godly sorrow which worketh repentance to salvation, but the audacious mirth of the sinner is most likely to end in weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
(H. Belfrage, D. D.)
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