Set me free and rescue me from the grasp of foreigners, whose mouths speak falsehood, whose right hands are deceitful.
I. THE STRANGE CHILDREN HERE SPOKEN OF. (Ver. 11.) From them the psalmist prays, "Rid and deliver us."
1. Who are they?
(1) The children of foreigners, or the foreigners themselves; the heathen peoples around them, and especially those with whom they were in conflict; - these may be meant.
(2) Or the evil children of God-fearing parents. There are, alas! such children, and many a home is saddened and shamed by them. They are rightly called "strange children." Literally they are so, if the children of strangers; but rightly too, if they are the offspring of saintly parents. For they are strangers to their father's God, their father's thoughts and ways, their father's joys and blessed anticipations, their father's holy character. They are out of sympathy with the spirit of their home, and their influence in it is of a hostile and most hurtful nature.
(3) Or wicked children generally.
2. Their characteristics are given. "Their mouth speaketh vanity." No wholesome, helpful speech is heard from their lips, but only that which is worthless or worse, and which comes from and leads to no good. What a miserable amount of such speech there is in one day, heard or read, spoken, written, or printed! and what incalculable mischief it has worked, and must ever work! The strange children, the foreign speech as read in their literature - what an amount of uncleanness and ungodliness is not that responsible for! And "their right hand is a right hand of falsehood." This is another of the characteristics of the "strange children." The meaning seems to be that they are unfaithful to their covenants, false in their dealings; they cannot be trusted or relied upon at all. Further, their conduct is such as, by its influence upon men, leads to the denial of God's existence, authority, and Word, and to the belief of the falsehood that this world is everything, and is alone worthy of our care. They are utterly ungodly both in speech and deed.
3. Bible instances of such strange children. Cain, Esau, Jacob's sons, Absalom, and apparently all David's sons, and many more.
4. The motives that should lead to the prayer in our text concerning them. We would not have such children, for we remember what their end must be; what the sorrow they bring upon those who love them (see David's sorrow about Absalom); what the disastrous influence they exert upon others; what the dishonor they bring upon God. Let all this quicken our prayers, as parents, for our children's real conversion to God, and our endeavors to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
II. THE CHILDREN THAT ARE LIKE THE TRIBES AND THE POLISHED PILLARS OR CORNER-STONES. (Ver. 12.) These are the sons and daughters that the psalmist longed to behold and to possess; and such may well be our longing likewise. Note the imagery employed. In both, the metaphors here, though they are manifestly unlike, as a stone is unlike a plant, yet they have some common characteristics, and these seem to have been in the psalmist's mind.
1. The grown-up plant. As such, so it is prayed, may our sons be in their youth - that is, whilst yet young. It is the grown-up plant, not the root; because that is out of sight, and the psalmist would have their godly character a visible thing. And not the tender plant, for that would be wanting in strength, and strength of character is another blessing desired. Hence the ideas suggested by the metaphor seem to be these - that, as the grown-up plant, the moral character of their sons may have root. Rootless plants never abide or come to full maturity; therefore there must be the inward principle and spring of life. Then, visibility. All can see the grown-up plant; it attracts attention - is evident to all. So should our son's character be - not only inward, but outward and visible. Beautiful, too, as the grown-up plant, whether tree, or herb, or flower. There should be about the godly character what too often is conspicuous only by its absence - symmetry, attractiveness, loveliness, and spiritual beauty. The matured flower, how beautiful it is! "So," etc. Then, further, there should be strength. The vigor of the plant is when it is grown up. And how essential is it that our children's character should be strengthened with all might by the Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16)! "Be strong ' is a perpetual charge in the apostolic writings, and they ever point us to the one Source of strength. And there is yet one other idea suggested - light of God. The plant is no man-made or man-matured thing; it is of God. And so with that character which we so crave - it must be of God. He must create, he must sustain, he must perfect it. Character that is simply man-made, that relies on self alone, what a sad contrast it offers to that which is depicted here! how much it always and inevitably lacks!
2. The polished pillar or cornerstone. This is the other metaphor. In the courts of the Lord's house we know there were trees. Josephus plainly tells us so, and Psalm 84, implies it when it speaks of the home of the birds there. And in the palaces of the great, in the quadrangles around which they were built, there were generally many beautiful plants; and there would be also conspicuous the beautifully worked and decorated stones, placed at the angles of the building, or the polished pillars on which they rested. So, prays the psalm, may our daughters be. Here the same ideas are suggested by this metaphor as by the other. The cornerstone rests on its foundation as the plant springs from its root. St. Paul speaks in Ephesians 3. as if he had these verses in his memory, of "being rooted and grounded in love;" rooted like the plant, grounded as is the foundation of a building. So must character be - based on firm foundation. Then the idea of visibility is common both to the matured plant and the polished pillar. Beauty also is even more suggested by this second figure than by the first. St. Paul teaches the same lesson when he speaks of our comprehending "with all saints what is the breath, and length, and depth, and height." It is the fair proportion and the beautiful comeliness and completeness of the Christian character which he desiderates so earnestly. Strength, again, is in this metaphor, as in the other. Both pillar and corner-stone would alike need to be strong. Some have regarded the word as pointing to "the Caryatides, the exquisitely sculptured forms of maidens which adorned the corners of some magnificent hall or chamber of a palace" (Perowne). But, with all their beauty, these pillars supporting the angles, of the building must have strength. But inasmuch as the Prayer-book Version, and other authorities beside, give the meaning of "temple" rather than "palace," and as such rendering is more in harmony with this devout utterance, we accept it, and find in it that suggestion of God in the character here spoken of which is also found in the emblem of the plant (Psalm 92:13). Added on to the idea of strength and beauty which belonged to the temple of God there is that of godliness - consecration and devotion to him, without which no character is perfect and complete.
III. How WHAT IS SO DESIRED MAY BE SECURED.
1. Parents, and all who have charge of children, must pray for it; and the prayer must be endorsed by appropriate action.
2. Believe in God's willingness to bestow this. He would not have inspired such prayer else.
3. Our young people must yield themselves up to God. They must renounce sin, and surrender their all to him, and then continually trust and expect the blessing sought.
IV. THE GREAT EXAMPLE OF THIS BEAUTIFUL CHARACTER. Our Lord Jesus Christ.
V. WHY YOU, OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SHOULD THUS PRAY.
1. For the sake of the Lord, who calls you to this blessed life.
2. And for the sake of those who love you, and long that you may be the Lord's.
3. And of those whom you must influence for good or ill.
4. And for your own sake. Oh, how many have mourned, and are mourning now, that they have not lived this true life! But never one who did so live has done other than be profoundly grateful for God's grace that led him thereto. - S.C.
I. ITS ELEMENTS.
Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children.: —
I. THE CULTIVATION OF MORAL WORTH AMONGST YOUNG PEOPLE IS OF VAST IMPORTANCE TO A STATE. The moral character which the patriot here desiderates for the young people of his country is presented in two ways.
1. By a moral contrast (ver. 11).
2. By a metaphorical description (ver. 12).
(1) (2) (3) II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MORAL WORTH OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE PHYSICAL PROSPERITY OF A COUNTRY. The patriot prays for the moral excellence of the young people, not merely for their own sake, but also for the sake of the prosperity of the state (vers. 13-15). 1. All the provisions necessary to the material happiness of mankind must come from the earth. All the food we require — vegetable and animal — and all the clothing we require, God has shut up in the earth, as in a chest, for our use. There in their rudimental elements are the corn and the cattle, the costumes to screen us from the scorching sun and protect us from the cold winds. 2. These provisions require for their development the suitable agency of man. It is for man to unlock the chest, to bring out the germs and to cultivate them into fruition. Even Paradise would not yield provisions without the tilling hand of Adam. 3. This suitable agency can only be guaranteed by the moral rectitude of the population. A high moral tone of character will stimulate the study of agricultural science, ensure industry, economy and temperance. Thus "godliness is profitable to all things." Thus, and thus only, can a state prosper (ver. 15). (David Thomas, D. D.)
(2) (3) II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MORAL WORTH OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE PHYSICAL PROSPERITY OF A COUNTRY. The patriot prays for the moral excellence of the young people, not merely for their own sake, but also for the sake of the prosperity of the state (vers. 13-15). 1. All the provisions necessary to the material happiness of mankind must come from the earth. All the food we require — vegetable and animal — and all the clothing we require, God has shut up in the earth, as in a chest, for our use. There in their rudimental elements are the corn and the cattle, the costumes to screen us from the scorching sun and protect us from the cold winds. 2. These provisions require for their development the suitable agency of man. It is for man to unlock the chest, to bring out the germs and to cultivate them into fruition. Even Paradise would not yield provisions without the tilling hand of Adam. 3. This suitable agency can only be guaranteed by the moral rectitude of the population. A high moral tone of character will stimulate the study of agricultural science, ensure industry, economy and temperance. Thus "godliness is profitable to all things." Thus, and thus only, can a state prosper (ver. 15). (David Thomas, D. D.)
(3) II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE MORAL WORTH OF YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE PHYSICAL PROSPERITY OF A COUNTRY. The patriot prays for the moral excellence of the young people, not merely for their own sake, but also for the sake of the prosperity of the state (vers. 13-15). 1. All the provisions necessary to the material happiness of mankind must come from the earth. All the food we require — vegetable and animal — and all the clothing we require, God has shut up in the earth, as in a chest, for our use. There in their rudimental elements are the corn and the cattle, the costumes to screen us from the scorching sun and protect us from the cold winds. 2. These provisions require for their development the suitable agency of man. It is for man to unlock the chest, to bring out the germs and to cultivate them into fruition. Even Paradise would not yield provisions without the tilling hand of Adam. 3. This suitable agency can only be guaranteed by the moral rectitude of the population. A high moral tone of character will stimulate the study of agricultural science, ensure industry, economy and temperance. Thus "godliness is profitable to all things." Thus, and thus only, can a state prosper (ver. 15). (David Thomas, D. D.)
(David Thomas, D. D.)
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth.: —
I. WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF NATIONAL PROSPERITY?
2. Competent affluence.
3. Sufficient and suitable means of employment for all classes.
5. Good laws, well administered.
6. Peace — internal and external.
7. A government and magistrates of a good and excellent kind.
8. A revenue competent to all the purposes of a wise and righteous government.
II. THESE ELEMENTS OF NATIONAL PROSPERITY AND HAPPINESS CANNOT BE OBTAINED OR PRESERVED EXCEPT BY THE INFLUENCE OF TRUE RELIGION.
1. The nature and tendency of what is opposed to religion.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 2. True religion produces all those qualities which are the immediate spring and cause of prosperity and happiness. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 6. Attention to duty. 7. Temperance, chastity, etc. (J. P. Smith, D. D.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) 2. True religion produces all those qualities which are the immediate spring and cause of prosperity and happiness. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 6. Attention to duty. 7. Temperance, chastity, etc. (J. P. Smith, D. D.)
(3) (4) (5) 2. True religion produces all those qualities which are the immediate spring and cause of prosperity and happiness. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 6. Attention to duty. 7. Temperance, chastity, etc. (J. P. Smith, D. D.)
(5) 6. Attention to duty. 7. Temperance, chastity, etc. (J. P. Smith, D. D.)
(5) 6. Attention to duty. 7. Temperance, chastity, etc. (J. P. Smith, D. D.)
6. Attention to duty.
7. Temperance, chastity, etc.
(J. P. Smith, D. D.)
(1) (2) (3) 2. Beauty. Not veneered impotency, but polished power. 3. Religiousness. All must be inspired by the Divine. 4. Usefulness. No indolent living for oneself, but a self-sacrificing devotion to the good of others. II. ITS REALIZATION. Three things necessary. 1. Original capacity. (1) (2) (3) (4) 2. Appropriate culture. (1) (2) 3. Voluntary co-operation. (1) (2) (3) (T. Baron.)
(2) (3) 2. Beauty. Not veneered impotency, but polished power. 3. Religiousness. All must be inspired by the Divine. 4. Usefulness. No indolent living for oneself, but a self-sacrificing devotion to the good of others. II. ITS REALIZATION. Three things necessary. 1. Original capacity. (1) (2) (3) (4) 2. Appropriate culture. (1) (2) 3. Voluntary co-operation. (1) (2) (3) (T. Baron.)
(3) 2. Beauty. Not veneered impotency, but polished power. 3. Religiousness. All must be inspired by the Divine. 4. Usefulness. No indolent living for oneself, but a self-sacrificing devotion to the good of others. II. ITS REALIZATION. Three things necessary. 1. Original capacity. (1) (2) (3) (4) 2. Appropriate culture. (1) (2) 3. Voluntary co-operation. (1) (2) (3) (T. Baron.)
2. Beauty. Not veneered impotency, but polished power.
3. Religiousness. All must be inspired by the Divine.
II. ITS REALIZATION. Three things necessary.
1. Original capacity.
2. Appropriate culture. 3. Voluntary co-operation. (T. Baron.)
2. Appropriate culture.
3. Voluntary co-operation.
1. The young man is compared to a tree which is, of course, not inside the house, but out in the open; not sheltered within the walls, but exposed to all the vicissitudes of the atmosphere and to changes of climate. He has gone forth to battle with the forces of the world, and to do his work in it. Firmly rooted in the ground, he grows up (as the psalm says) "in his youth." He throws out his faculties and powers freely in every direction. The rough winds of life blow around him, but he wrestles with them, and heeds them not: indeed, the blast of difficulty only serves to fix him more deeply in the soil, and contributes to his courage and his strength. He grows upward: there is nothing interposing itself between him and heaven itself — no overhanging vice, no deadening sin or stiffing worldliness, to stunt and dwarf his development. He expands because he reaches out towards the sky. What a graphic picture of the ideal Christian gentleman in the prime vigour of his youth! with nothing squalid, or mean, or miserable, or petty, or unclean, or false about him; but with all his thoughts pure, and all his aims noble, and all his tendencies in the right direction: his life an example and a blessing, a help and a strength to those who come in contact with him.
2. Now turn to the other side and observe the contrast. Here we have something in the house, and not outside of it. It is not a tree: it is a graceful column. It is not intended for rough contact with the crowd. It is rather the ornament and the blessing of the house itself. And it is sculptured into forms of exquisite beauty. You will observe that no clumsy workman has been engaged in producing it, but that, although it may be intended for an ordinary household, it is hewn and fashioned in such a way as to be fit for a palace. The daughter — that is, the young woman here depicted — is spoken of as a column. Not characterized, as some columns are, by sturdy, massive strength, but rather marked by gracefulness; rather a slender-shafted column than anything else, she is yet no mere piece of ornamentation, but does her part in the sustaining and upholding of the household. If a girl cannot go out into the world and labour, so as to be able to contribute by her earnings to the maintenance of the family (and few can do that), at least there are many conceivable ways in which she may contrive to lighten the burden laid upon the shoulders of her parents. Parents grow old; and what in their younger days was easily borne becomes (occasionally, at least) irksome, and sometimes almost intolerable, to their failing strength and their clouded faculties. Or sickness comes into the household, and calls for patient nursing. Or little brothers and sisters require management, and perhaps teaching. Or it may be a blight falls upon the family prosperity; and then there must be a curtailing of accustomed comforts, and a necessary taking up of somewhat uncongenial occupations. But the imagery points net only, I think, to the work done, but also to the manner in which it is done. A pillar may support a rock, or help to support it, and yet be a coarse and clumsy sort of affair after all. It may be rough, instead of being polished. But this pillar spoken of by the psalmist is polished; and not only polished, but adorned with lovely sculptures. And there it stands before us, in its quiet gracefulness and beauty, a most engaging and most attractive object. Now, what is meant by this? External accomplishment? Well, yes, perhaps — nay, probably yes — the grace of a self-possessed and ladylike manner, the charm of a cultivated taste, of a musical voice, of a pure style — all the advantages, in fact, of a well-used education. These are things by no means to be despised. And, indeed, it were much to be wished that the girls of our ordinary English families, when their course of instruction is over, would take up, if only for their own sakes, some definite study — some branch of science, or some field of literature, or some period of history, or some foreign language, or some department of music, or of painting — something which shall find them occupation, and furnish a sphere for the faculties which God has bestowed upon them, and which at the same time shall not interfere with their duties, but rather make them more fit for any higher work for God and their fellow-creatures in which they may be called upon to engage. However, the polish and the gracefulness of which I speak is rather that of inward life and character, than that of outward accomplishments. It is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price. It is the tender consideration, the loving sympathy, the unselfish regard, the purity, and the gentleness, and the compassion which, if they are to be found anywhere in their highest perfection, are surely to be found in the women who are true followers and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(G. Calthrop, M. A.): — The ancients, in their building arrangements, did just the opposite of what we do. We construct our houses with the garden in front or behind. They build them with the garden inside. And so when you entered the porch you found yourself in a court, with the rooms all round. In the houses of the wealthy this court was laid out with wonderful taste, adorned with shrubs and trees, with fountains and fishponds, and elegant statuary. In some instances it was paved with coloured marbles, shadowed by olive and acacia trees, and surrounded by a piazza, whoso entablature rested on columns or pilasters (called by the Greeks caryatides), which were commonly carved after the figure of a woman dressed in long robes. Now, I think I catch the idea in my mind of the sacred poet. Two objects in that central court specially arrest his eye; the one being the young but sturdy trees that grow up so vigorous within the enclosure, and the other the polished pillars or pilasters that stand so gracefully around; and to his mind they are respectively the suggestive emblems of the sons and daughters of a pious and prosperous household. For young men David desired —
I. A HEALTHFUL FRAME; a strong, robust, vigorous physique. It has been said that, as righteousness is the health of the soul, so health is the righteousness of the body. You who have a sound and well-disciplined body, with the appetite and elasticity that go along with it — even though you cannot boast of more than a mediocrity of talent, and are unpossessed of wit and imagination — will outstrip, in the race for real happiness and usefulness, those nervous and morbid creatures whose only compensation is the occasional gleam of a fitful and spasmodic genius.
II. A SOLID CHARACTER. The figure in the text is tropical, and certainly the writer had in his mind's eye some such tall and stately species of growth as he refers to by name in another psalm, where he says, "The righteous shall flourish as a palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." "Character," says Foster, "should retain the upright vigour of manliness; nor let itself be bent and fixed in any specific form. It should be like an upright elastic tree, which, though it may accommodate itself a little to the wind, never loses its spring and self-dependent vigour." I have often seen mere youths whose dignity of bearing was like a coat of mail to them, and to others was a perpetual sermon. "Under whose preaching were you converted?" said one young man to another. "Under no one's preaching," was the reply, "but under my cousin's practising." Ah! a consistent life, whose manifest aim is not the pursuit of pleasure, but the performance of duty, is mightier in its testimony than all the eloquence of the pulpit. In like manner you may be lifted above the common level, notwithstanding all the natural difficulties which would keep you down; aye, these very difficulties may be ultimately the means of your elevation.
III. A HIDDEN LIFE. Doubtless, what chiefly struck the eye of the psalmist as he looked on those young trees was their exuberant vitality. Whence the height of their stems, the extension of their branches, the greenness of their foliage, the fulness of their bloom? There was a life within, which, springing from the root, made itself felt to the remotest leaf and fibre. Under the warm and genial influence of a tropical climate, sheltered within the enclosure, yet open to the light and rain and dew, those trees were no doubt pictures of full luxuriant life. That life came from God. It is equally so in the spiritual domain. Each of you needs that which no human power can communicate, and without which the fairest religious profession is only a painted corpse. personal and saving religion is no development from within, no product of moral evolution; it is something whose germ must be imparted to you by the Holy Spirit; and without which germ you are, in the sight of God, absolutely dead.
(J. T. Davidson, D. D.): —
1. Let me speak, first, to parents and to teachers. What ideals have we as parents for our children; and what ideals have we as to the kind of education which will best secure these ideals? I think it is true that we as a nation have an unreasoning distrust of ideals. We know ourselves strictly practical, and we condemn ideals as visionary and futile. But is it visionary, is it useless to try to form some notion of the best and truest and completest life possible for our children, and the best means of attaining it? What would we wish their lives to be? How may they best be trained for such lives? Knowledge, we say, is power; and too often it seems to be that the acquisition of knowledge is the goal of education. Our ideas of education are shaped by the periodical visit of the examiner or the inspector. The temptation is to aim at immediate results and plant the kind of crop which will spring up quickly and be easily harvested, rather than at such patient development and training of powers as will produce solid and permanent results, though we may have to wait for the harvest. But there is a greater power than knowledge — it is character. What tells in the long run is character. True education will be such a training as will draw out, develop, strengthen the faculties which each child possesses to fit it for its duty in life. It will aim at awakening intelligence and stimulating the growth of character. It will take account of the mysterious complexity of our nature — body, mind, soul, spirit — with their mysterious correlation and interaction, so that a due balance may be preserved; the flesh help soul, and the soul help flesh. It will remember, too, that each human being is a distinct personality, and true education is the individual's development according to the truth of his own personality, or for the action which lies within range of his capacity. Such education of the character must be religious education — that is to say, it must be carried on in a religious atmosphere by teachers who regard it as a religious work and connect their teaching by their own examples. Religious education is not merely or mainly instruction in religious subjects, in Bible or Catechism for a certain time in the day, but education carried on in a religious spirit. "If I were to have to choose," said Bishop Creighton, "between two systems of education, in one of which purely secular teaching was to be given by a religious man, and in the other religious teaching by a secular man, I should have no hesitation in saying which system I would choose in the interest of religion as well as education. I would rather have the religious-minded leader though the subject he taught were secular, because I know that the devotion of his heart would penetrate whatever he did, and perchance the fire that was in him might fall on others with whom he came in contact, and kindle a corresponding flame in their hearts." Our ideal, then, will be an education which will develop the individual personality of each separate child for the action which lies within the range of its capacity, which will aim, above all, at the development of worthy character, and which will find its sanction and obligation for conduct in the relation of the child to its Father in heaven, who has taken it into covenant with Him.
2. I want to say a word, next, to those who, though not yet in a position of responsibility towards others, have left school and are emancipated from the discipline of education imposed upon them from outside. You are responsible for self-education. To each of us is entrusted the building up of our own character; to fulfil that duty we must not only guard against moral faults, we must improve every talent we possess, we must widen our interests, we must sharpen our faculties careful effort. And why? For your own sake. Many a life has been wrecked for want of taking a chart and setting a course and steering steadily along it with steady purpose instead of passing hither and thither, the sport of every wind and circumstance, until it was driven upon some sandbank, where it stuck fast hopelessly or was dashed to pieces against the rocks, which if they had known they might have avoided.
3. I just want to say one word to those who are still under the discipline of school life. Boys and girls, use your opportunities. It matters quite as much how you learn as what you learn; perhaps more. By the way in which you do your lessons you are surely acquiring, mentally and morally, habits of attention, concentration, thoughtfulness, industry, trustworthiness principally, or habits of carelessness, desultoriness, slackness, indolence, indifference. There are plenty of lessons which will not be of any direct use to you in after life; there are none which will not have served some useful purpose in developing intelligence and building up character.
I. BOTH FIGURES EXPRESS, IN DIFFERENT WAYS, THE NOTIONS OF FIXITY AND SUBSTANCE. Both plant and column are fixed and steady. The plant is fixed by its roots into the earth: the column fixed into the building. Fixity is essential to both. Young men and young women, will you remember this: fixity of root, of foundation, is the first necessity? Be rooted. Strike into the great truths and remain there; else there is no reality, no substance. All men acknowledge the need of fixed principles and beliefs. You must have a fixed belief about the rising of the sun and its setting. There must be a fixed belief in the seasons, in the coming of winter and spring and summer and autumn. If men did not hold these beliefs fixed as the basis of their activity the human world would come to a stop. So life must be rooted in fixed belief in God, and the way of reconciliation and fellowship with Him. This belief alone gives meaning and purpose and substance to life. The more you are rooted and fixed in great truths the stronger and more substantial you will be.
II. GROWTH AND PERMANENCE ARE BOTH SET FORTH IN THE TEXT. Growth belongs just as necessarily to the conception of a plant as permanence does to that of a column. I have been speaking of the necessity of fixity, of having the root fixed in great truths. Does this seem to any one inconsistent with growth? How can we be growing and changing if we are fixed? If we are indissolubly bound to anything how can we grow? I ask, how can the plant grow, immovably fixed to one spot? How does it grow but by being fixed? Growth of soul and spirit is the result of holding firmly to great central truths and drawing the very pith of them into the being. With the strength of these in him one lays hold of more. These great truths lead the soul to more. They cry for more; they guide and direct and clear the horizon, and give man a spirit, courage, and impulse for more. Growth and permanence must go together.
III. IN THE PLANT AND THE COLUMN WE HAVE REPRESENTED INDIVIDUALISM, SEPARATENESS, INDEPENDENCE, AND, ON THE OTHER HAND, COMBINATION, UNITY, MUTUAL HELP, AND SUPPORT. The true conception of human life is the union of these two tendencies. He is the best and strongest man who is individual, self-reliant, independent, and yet has the woman's love for the general reason, generous trust, wide sympathies; and who trusts above all things the deep feelings which he has in common with all men.
IV. THE TEXT SPEARS OF TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF BEAUTY — THAT OF THE PLANT, THE BEAUTY OF NATURE; THAT OF THE SCULPTURED COLUMN, THE BEAUTY OF CULTURE. These are two sides of the same: the one is not to be attributed to man specially, and the other specially to woman. We are reminded that all beauty of soul must be the result both of nature and of cultivation. That the soul may be beautiful, it must be a living soul, living by contact with the infinite, in fellowship with God. This is truly the beauty of nature, the deepest nature. Young men and young women, let us think that we have a God who delights in our happiness, a loving God. And let this make us glad. Such a gladness has a powerful influence. The gladness of a devout heart has a healing, sweetening, purifying influence on the whole being. Remember also that you owe it to the world and to God to cultivate your mind and heart. This is your time to grow. Your first duty is to grow mentally, morally, spiritually yourselves. Your fresh enthusiasm is given you for the purpose of growth. Try both how devout you can be, and how well stored and educated your mind can be made, and you will be a mighty force in the world for good.
(J. Leckie, D. D.)
I. BOYS. God wishes to see them like "plants grown up in their youth." Like plants, not like weeds. Do you know the difference between plants and weeds? I will only name one or two. Weeds are not wanted; plants are prized. Some boys grow up like weeds. A whole wagonload of weeds is not worth anything. The best thing that can be clone with the weeds is to burn them up out of the way. Now, there are some boys who grow up like thistles, or like nettles, or like docks; there is no demand for them. They are not wanted in offices, nor in shops, nor on ships, nor in factories, or warehouses, or schools, or colleges. They are not wanted in America, or Australia, or New Zealand, or, in fact, in any part of the world beside. But plants are valued in many ways. Some are prized for their beauty and fragrance, as the flowers; some are healing, medicinal plants; and some are valued, like the strawberry plants, for the good fruit they bear. Boys may, if they will, be valued in all these ways at once. Now, boys, what will you be? Plants or weeds? This is the time in which to make your choice. Like Samuel, know the Lord from your boyhood; for (Job 28:28). The voice of Wisdom says to you (Proverbs 8:17).
II. GIRLS. Let us now see what message the text has for them. It desires that they may be "like corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace." What does that mean? First, it teaches that girls should have in their characters great firmness and strength. Like a rock, or a massive corner stone, they must never be moved from the place God has appointed for them. There is a great deal of difference between a rock and a sponge or an india-rubber ball. One is solid, firm, and unyielding, the others are soft, pliable, and may be pressed into any shape whatever. Some girls are like sponges; they will be persuaded to do almost anything, without thinking whether it is right or wrong; while others, having chosen the right way, are like a splendid corner stone that has been placed in the wall of a building, there to abide as long as the edifice lasts. Nothing can move them from their foundation. But a corner stone also unites two sides of a building. It looks along both sides of a wall, and joins them both together. In this way sisters may be the bonds of a household. In many homes that are commonly very happy little differences do sometimes occur. Let it be your special work to soothe and heal them. It is almost impossible to say how great is the power of gentle sisterly love in any home. There is one thing more for you in the text, and that is the phrase, "polished after the similitude of a palace." This is a very beautiful figure. The daughters of the Church are not only to be firm and immovable in all that is good, and like bonds of union in their homes and everywhere else, but they ere to have a finish, a smoothness, and perfection of character about them that will make them fit to be placed in the palace of the King.
(R. Brewin.): — If we alter "corner stones" into "cornices" we get a clearer meaning; and as one of our most eminent scholars prefers this rendering, reminding us that "Syrian architecture still delights in ornamenting corners of rooms with variegated carved work," we may accept the charge without misgiving.
(A. H. Vine.): — A piece of marble blasted from the quarry may stand as a symbol of strength, but when transformed by the skilful hand of the sculptor it changes into a thing of exquisite beauty. Education in its highest form blends strength with beauty. The higher life abounds in attractive graces. Soul culture develops and blooms into beauty. One of the poets of Israel, with the vision of palaces before him, offers a prayer that the daughters of Judah might be as corner stones, polished into brilliant beauty after the similitude of a palace.
That: — The charming young woman is one of the most useful and beautiful objects of earth; God's improvement on man; His masterpiece; a being inspiring those who meet her with all good desires, and worthy of all reverential admiration when one beholds her adorned with the perfections that her Creator has ordained for her glory; Jehovah's choicest gift to Adam was such a maiden.
1. The charming young woman whom we all know was a girl as long as she could be, and when she passed to the stature of womanhood she put on strength, but not a bit of coarseness or mannishness. She became a womanly woman. Now she is proud of her sex and makes others so. She is sincere and frank. There is no mask on her face and no humbug in her make-up. She loves truth for its own sweet sake. She is full of conscious moral power, and never feels the need of having recourse to that common weapon of weaker feminines — falsehood. Out of such materials the brave Deborah, the virtuous Vashti, the consecrated Esther, and the patient Virgin Mary were composed.
2. The charming young woman is full of fine feelings. She loves and cultivates the beautiful, and her soul naturally clings to the elegant in nature, as it does also to the spiritual splendours of God. Her fine feelings recoil from unreined gush and lawless sentiment, but easily run into the ways of generous charity. She has tears for suffering and kindly ministries for those who need. Yet in peril or necessity there are principles to guard, or to nerve to heroic effort. The days she tenderly played mother to her dolls were true forerunners of the devoted services of her maturer years. She may be beautiful of features, but is generally not so. "Beauty is vain." Flattery or worshipping self before a mirrored shrine usually spoils our handsome girls.
3. The charming young woman does not rest her power of fascination upon her shapeliness nor her array of second-hand clothes borrowed from the ostrich and silk-worm. Her charm-power is from within. Her ideal is industrious. She abhors a sublimation of herself into a mere fitness to occupy a glass case, too fragile to move, too mightily fine for any vigorous use. She is a princely one, after the style of Rebecca the water. drawer; Rachel the shepherdess, and Tamar the maiden baker. These were all worthy daughters of kings. Our model is independent in the superior sense, not in the "I don't care far any one" import of the term. She cares for everybody. She cares too much on the one hand to be a dead weight on any one, and on the other band she cares too much for herself to be the slave of a capricious "They say."
4. Our charmer is pure in heart; the "racy" jest or double-meaning pun is quickly scouted out of her presence, even when she is among the intimates of her own sex. Her purity is her panoply; a glance of her sincere eye would be to the insinuating rake like a section of the day of judgment. She has principles, and lots of them. She knows why she has them, and keeps them for constant use and not for parlour dress-parade or donation to other people. She is pious. Religion and women were made for each other, and each needs the other. A young woman with no bent easily to accept the Saviour gives evidence of a radical defect in her nature.
(A. S. Walsh, D. D.)
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