I. EARLY TRAINING. (Ver. 6.) The young twig must be early bent. Experience teaches us that nothing in the world is so mighty for good or evil as custom; and therefore, says Lord Bacon, "since custom is the principal magistrate of man's life, let man by all means endeavour to obtain good customs. Custom is most perfect when it beginneth in young years; this we call education, which is in effect but an early custom. The tongue is more pliant to all expressions and sounds, the joints more supple to all feats of activity and motions, in youth than afterwards. Those minds are rare which do not show to their latest days the ply and impress they have received as children."
II. INDEPENDENCE. (Ver. 7.) How strongly was the worth of this felt in those ancient times! Poverty and responsibility to others are to be avoided. Many are forced into distress of conscience and to the loss of a good name by being tempted, for the wake of the rich man's gold or the great man's smile, to vote contrary to their convictions. Others will sell their liberty to gratify their luxury. It is an honest ambition to enjoy a competence that shall enable one to afford to be honest, and have the luxury of the freest expression of opinion. Hence frugality becomes so clear a moral duty.
III. INTEGRITY. (Ver. 8.) Ill-gotten gains cannot prosper. "The evil which issues from thy mouth falls into thy bosom," says the Spanish proverb. The rod wherewith the violent and unjust man struck others is broken to pieces.
IV. NEIGHBOURLY LOVE (Ver. 9.) "Charity gives itself rich, covetousness hoards itself poor," says the German proverb. "Give alms, that thy children may not ask them," says a Danish proverb. "Drawn wells are never dry." So give today, that thou mayest have to give tomorrow; and to one, that thou mayest have to give to another. Let us remember, with the Italian proverb, that "our last robe is made without pockets." Above all, if our case is that "silver and gold we have none, let us freely substitute the kindly looks and the healing words, which are worth much and cost little."
V. A PEACEFUL TEMPER. (Ver. 10.) Let the scoffing, envious, contentious temper be cast out of our breast first. As for others, let us strike, if possible, at the cause and root of strife. Let there be solid argument for the doubter, and practical relief for actual grievances. Let us learn from the old fable, and follow the part of Epimetheus, who, when evils flew abroad from the box of Pandora, shut the lid and kept hope at the bottom of the vessel.
VI. A FAITHFUL AND CONSTANT HEART. (Ver. 11.) The greatest treasure to an earthly monarch, and dear above all to the King of kings. "He who serves God serves a good Master." Grace and truth are upon the lips of God's Anointed forevermore. And to clench these proverbs, let us recollect that nothing but truth in the inward parts can abide before the eye of Jehovah. "A lie has no legs." It carries along with itself the germs of its own dissolution. It is sure to destroy itself at last. Its priests may prop it up, after it has once fallen in the presence of the truth; but it will fall again, like Dagon, more shamefully and irretrievably than before. Truth is the daughter of God (Trench). - J.
The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender
I. THE PRINCIPLE MAY BE UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED AND ACTED UPON. Though a man may have received much — a vigorous intellect, a commanding judgment, a rich imagination — he will be miserable if he can give nothing. If a man were assured that he would never be permitted to tell what he had done or recite what he had seen, he loses at once the great impetus which urges him to do much or to see much. A man is not satisfied with being rich, he must be in circumstances to give; some one must be borrower, while he is a lender. It is the giving which makes the receiving of any worth. What is the reason of this alleged supremacy of giving over receiving?
1. The resemblance which is thus acquired to our Redeemer and Creator. If God be love, there is no presumption in supposing that without objects over which the love might expand the Almighty Himself would have remained unsatisfied. Lending, not borrowing, constitutes the happiness of God. And there is more like-mindedness to Christ in giving than in receiving.
2. The giver or the lender has necessarily an advantage over the receiver or the borrower, and this explains how the one is the servant of the other. In all cases the giving seems to imply a relative superiority and the receiving a relative inferiority.
3. Notice the reflex character of benevolence which causes that whatever is bestowed is restored to us tenfold.
II. OBJECTIONS URGED AGAINST THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT. In dividing society into the lenders and the borrowers you would exclude the vast majority of mankind from the possibility of being charitable. But being charitable is not limited to any class of society. The poor man may be a giver as well as the rich. God has not granted to the wealthy a monopoly of benevolence.
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
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