I. THE GROVELLING MIND. (Ver. 7.) Wisdom is too high for the indolent to climb to, for the sensual and earthly to admire and love. They are like Muck-rake, in Bunyan's parable. From such no good counsel ever comes. They are dumb "in the gate," on every important occasion, when help, light, sympathy, are needed. The base prudence which inspires many popular proverbs - the prudence "which adores the rule of three, which never subscribes, never gives, seldom lends, and asks but one question of any project, 'Will it bake bread?'" - is indeed folly. "Self's the man," says a Dutch proverb. But those who would gain all for self end by losing self and all.
II. THE MALICIOUS TEMPER. (Ver. 8.) There are degrees in vice as in virtue. It is a short step from grovelling egotism to active malice. Extract the root of self-seeking out of any dispute, private or public, in Church or state, and the other differences may soon be adjusted. To make mischief is a diabolic instinct, and it certainly springs up in the mind void of healthy occupation and of interest for the true, beautiful, and good; for the mind's principle is motion, and it cannot cease to act.
III. SIN IN THE THOUGHT AND THE MOOD. (Ver. 9.) When busy invention and meditation are at work in the mind of the wicked and the fool, nothing good is produced. Still more is it the case with the scoffer. In him the ripened and practised powers of the mind are brought into alliance with evil desire. Such a habit of mind, once detected, excites the utmost odium and abhorrence. The man who can sneer at goodness, or hold what is by common consent good and beautiful in contempt, is already an outcast from his kind, and need not complain if he is treated as such.
IV. COWARDLY FAINT HEARTEDNESS. (Ver. 10.) The pressure of circumstances should rouse in us the God-given strength. The man who makes duty his polar star, and trusts in God, can actually do more when things seem to be against him than widen all is in his favour. Moral cowardice is closely connected with the root sin of unbelief. Indulgence in it impoverishes and weakens the soul, so that the man ends by being actually unable to do what once he only fancied himself unable to do. Here is an illustration of Christ's saying, "To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not shall be taken that which he hath." - 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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