building up, in its moral and Christian uses! Here the image of the house is directly introduced, and may be variously applied.
I. WISDOM THE FOUNDATION OF DOMESTIC STABILITY AND HAPPINESS. (Vers. 3, 4.) The same great principles apply in the least as well as the most important things. Every day brings humble occasions for the practice of the grandest laws, no less in the house, the farm, or the shop, than in the council chamber or on the battle field. "Method is as efficient in the packing of firewood in a shed, or the harvesting of fruits in a cellar, as in Peninsular campaigns or the files of a department of state." Let a man keep the Law, and his way will be strewn with satisfactions. There is more difference in the quality of our pleasures than in the amount. Comfort and abundance in the home are the certain signs of prudence and sense and action constantly applied.
II. WISDOM THE SOURCE OF MANLY STRENGTH. (Vers. 5, 6.) It was a great man who said, "Knowledge is power." It is not the force of brute strength, but that of spiritual energy, which in the long run rules the world. The illustration of the text is aptly selected from war, where, if anywhere, brute force might be supposed to prevail. Experience shows that it is not so. The complete failures of men like Hannibal and Napoleon show it in one way. Recent wars have illustrated the truth that it is the deliberate and matured designs of the strategist and far-seeing statesman which command success, rather than the "great battalions" on the side of which Providence was said to be. And in another application, sheer force of intellect is often surpassed and outdone by the steady and constant employment of humbler powers. Strength in any form without prudence is like a giant without eyes. Violence and craft may seem the readiest way to wealth; yet experience shows that prudence and piety lead most surely to desirable prosperity. - J.
A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength
I. THE DISEASED AND FEEBLE STATE OF MIND AGAINST WHICH WISDOM IS THE PROPER REMEDY. It seemeth to consist in an indisposition for the due exercise of its powers. The body is then distempered and weak, and so the mind is rendered incapable of the offices which become such a being. The weakness principally appeareth in the prevalence of passions which are excited by them, and are summed up in aversion; that is, in the prevalence of fear and sorrow and anger. Reason and moral conscience is the man; in its vigour and authority over the inferior springs of action our strength lieth.
1. Fear is an infirmity natural to man, which very often hath pernicious effects, and in itself, abstracting from its effects, is very uncomfortable. Every living creature, according to its measure of perfection, hath a self-enjoyment, and findeth ease and satisfaction in its sound and healthy state. But it was wisely provided that such of them as are liable to dangers and annoyances from abroad should have a painful apprehension of them, in order to their being put upon the speediest methods for avoiding them. This is the end of fear in their constitution. Man is made with a larger comprehension, and with the privilege of foresight, by which he discovereth a variety of dangers, and seeth them at a great distance; and this certainly was not originally intended to be his torment, but, if it be so in event, it must be by way of penal infliction for his faults, or a distemper of his mind against which there is a proper remedy provided.
2. Grief. This is not equal in all men. Some spirits can sustain their infirmity better than others. But all find it requires a force above that of mere unimproved and uncultivated nature to support it. It requireth religious wisdom.
3. Anger. Felt when the disagreeable event is considered an injury, and as befalling us by the injustice or ill-will of a voluntary agent. Now consider the symptoms of this natural weakness. During the prevalence of these passions the understanding is obscured; at least, we have not the due use of it. It seems to be the natural tendency of pain to arrest the thoughts. The counsels of the mind are at such times full of perplexity, which often produce irresolution, instability, and fatal precipitation.
II. WHEREIN THE STRENGTH OF THE WISE MAN LIETH. How wisdom, or religious virtue, is the cure of our weakness and its symptoms.
1. It is a defence against fear, because it represents uncomfortable events as too inconsiderable to affect our main interests. The good "man is satisfied from himself"; his integrity is his chief treasure. Virtue is a greater good than riches, worldly honours, and carnal pleasure.
2. The testimony of our conscience is an effectual preservative against immoderate dejecting fears, as it gives us confidence towards God and assurance of His favour.
3. The wise man is strong against fear, because his confidence is in the Divine all-sufficiency, love, and faithfulness. Chance and necessity, as the cause of events, are the refuge of ignorant minds. Faith controls the fears of a religious mind, for it represents an intelligent, powerful, and gracious Providence as superintending all affairs and directing all events irresistibly.
4. The wise man is strengthened by the Christian hope of immortality. The same principles and sentiments restrain immoderate anger. So religious wisdom delivers us from the symptoms of weakness arising from the passions; ignorance and confusion; the darkened understanding. True wisdom openeth the eyes. There is an admirable simplicity in religion. A man of knowledge increaseth strength against irresolution, unsteadiness, and precipitancy; his behaviour is consistent and uniform, because it is conducted by one invariable principle. The wise and virtuous perform their good works with vigour and alacrity. And this spiritual strength is ever increasing, and a constant source of pleasure to the man himself. Then let us examine ourselves, and try what equanimity we maintain in the changes of life.
(J. Abernethy, M.A.)
I. IN RELATION TO THE DUTIES OF LIFE.
II. IN REGARD TO THE RELATIONSHIPS OF LIFE.
III. IN RELATION TO THE TRIALS OF LIFE.
IV. AS A SAFEGUARD AGAINST THE TEMPTATIONS OF LIFE.
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