Psalm 37:16
Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked.
The Good Man's DirectoryC. Clemance Psalm 37:1-40
Two PicturesW. Forsyth Psalm 37:1-40
The Righteous and the WickedC. Short Psalm 37:12-20
Gladness Under Constrained ConditionsW. M. Taylor.Psalm 37:16-20
How to Make Much of a LittlePlain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times. "Psalm 37:16-20
The Advantages of the Virtuous for the Enjoyment of External GoodA. Gerard, D. D.Psalm 37:16-20
The Folly of Fretful EnvyHomilistPsalm 37:16-20
The Righteous and His Little, Better than the Wicked with His MuchJoseph Exell, M. A.Psalm 37:16-20
The argument is continued and repeated in various forms, that the righteous is to hold fast his confidence in God, and not to be discouraged by the prosperity of the wicked. For -


1. The impotence of the plots which they in their anger devise. (Vers. 12, 13.) The Lord shall laugh. "No weapon formed against him shall prosper."

2. The punishment of the wicked is near and certain. (Vers. 13, 20.) "He seeth that his day is coming."

3. The weapons which they employ against the righteous shall recoil upon themselves. (Vers. 14, 15.) God overrules the contest between them.


1. A little with righteousness is worth more than much with wickedness. (Ver. 16.)

2. The strength of the righteous is maintained and upheld by God. (Ver. 17.) While the "arms" - equivalent to the "strength" - of the wicked soon break down.

3. They fulfil their divinely ]PGBR> appointed days, and their goods descend to their posterity. (Ver. 18.) They are secure, and all things work together for good. The Christian knows of an eternal inheritance.

4. God will provide for all their wants. (Ver. 19.) This we know more abundantly in Christ. - S.

A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.
I. THE GOOD IN COMPARATIVE POVERTY ARE BETTER OFF THAN THE WICKED WITH PLENTY, "A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked." Better for two reasons.

1. His condition would be a more enjoyable one. He would have higher happiness, tits happiness would spring from within, that of the other from without. The happiness of the one selfish, the other generous; the one decreasing, the other heightening.

2. His condition would be a more honourable one. The one is honoured for what he has, the other for what he is. The one is honoured only here by the depraved, the other is honoured yonder by angels and by God.

II. THE GOOD ARE DIVINELY SUPPORTED, BUT THE WICKED SHALL LOSE THEIR POWER, "The arms of the wicked shall be broken; but the Lord upholdeth the righteous."

1. The power of the wicked to execute their purpose is to be destroyed. They have often a great deal of power, the arm of literature, commerce, law, war, and with these they work out their iniquitous plans; but the "arms" are not imperishable.

2. The power of the good to prosecute their mission will he Divinely sustained.

(1)The power to do good is Divine.

(2)Divine power is indestructible. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

III. THE GOOD SHALL HAVE A PERMANENT INHERITANCE, BUT RUIN IS THE DOOM OF THE WICKED. "The Lord knoweth the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be for ever." What is the "inheritance" of the righteous? The Lord Himself. "The Lord is my portion."

1. This "inheritance" will preclude all disappointment. "They shall not be ashamed in the evil time." Whatever comes, whatever the wrecks of life, and the riot of confusion, with this "inheritance" there will he calm courage. "I am persuaded that neither life nor death," etc.

2. This "inheritance" will yield satisfaction under the most unfavourable circumstances.


The little may be better than the much This is Heaven's arithmetic. Why is the little better?

I. Because it is HONESTLY GAINED. Either the product of healthy labour, of commendable skill, or of lawful inheritance.

II. Because it may be SAFELY RETAINED. Prayer and benevolence are a great preservative to wealth.

III. Because it may be TRULY ENJOYED.

IV. Because it will be CAREFULLY SPENT.

V. Because it will be BENEVOLENTLY USED. The righteous gain by giving. A running stream inherits the most territory.

VI. Because it will be DIVINELY BLESSED. Lessons: —

1. To be satisfied with little.

2. To make little sufficient.

3. To use little well.

(Joseph Exell, M. A.)


1. Vice produces a temper which is very unfavourable to our enjoyment. It destroys the constitution, and breaks the vigour of the soul. It subjects it to the most uneasy feelings and the most painful passions (Isaiah 1:5, 6). The fiercest shocks of thunder, winds, and rains cannot produce more dreadful convulsions in the frame of nature, than those into which tumultuous, exorbitant, and jarring passions throw the soul: they ravage all its enjoyments.

2. On the other hand, virtue establishes a temper in the soul, which fits us for taking pleasure in whatever we possess. It dispels the black clouds which overcast the vicious heart, and intercept the comfort which might arise from outward things: they are scattered b.y. its brightness; they fly away before it as the shadows of the night before the rising sun. A virtuous temper lays the mind open to every satisfaction that comes in its way, prepares it for embracing and enjoying it; and it renders the man so well disposed, so happy in himself, that almost every object throws some satisfaction in his way.


1. As bodily distemper, from small beginnings, increases till it prove mortal, as one disease neglected is the cause of many others; so the vices of the depraved heart daily acquire new strength by indulgence; they propagate many more; they infect the temper and disorder the constitution with a growing multitude of tormenting passions; they root guilt, remorse, and terror deeper in the soul. Whatever good qualities he once possessed, they will be gradually choked by his spreading vices; they will wither and decay; his capacity of enjoyment will be blasted in the same proportion. The man who never thinks of rectifying the depravities of his temper, but goes on to indulge them without control, must at last become abandoned, and insusceptible of genuine satisfaction.

2. The enjoyment of the good man is in every respect the reverse. Like his practice, it is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. His virtue does not merely secure the continuance of that relish which he has for true pleasure; it improves his relish in proportion as itself is, by careful practice, strengthened and refined. By daily progress in holiness, he will be more and more possessed of that heavenly serenity of soul, which, by giving him the full enjoyment of himself, prepares him for deriving high and solid satisfaction from every agreeable circumstance in his worldly condition.

III. BUT A STRONG OBJECTION SEEMS TO ARISE FROM EXPERIENCE: the wicked, it may be urged, have actually a greater, and the righteous a less degree of enjoyment than we have asserted. We admit the fact; if the wicked were so totally destitute of enjoyment as we have represented them to be, their life would be insupportable: but we maintain that, when this fact is examined, instead of weakening our argument, it will confirm it. We have hitherto supposed the character to be purely virtuous, or purely vicious, that by viewing virtue and vice separately, we might the better discover the genuine tendency of both: but every human character is mixed, composed of some virtues and some vices; and the actual enjoyment of every human creature is affected by each of the ingredients which enter into the composition. Every abatement to which the good man's enjoyment is liable in this mixed state, is to be placed to the account of vice and whatever degree of enjoyment the world can convey to the wicked, is to be ascribed to their imperfect virtues.

1. If these things be so, need we be surprised that so few are really happy? Is it not rather surprising that so many find life tolerable?

2. Need we be concerned that outward things are distributed so promiscuously, or so unequally? It is in the power of every man, by the assistance of God's grace, to cultivate a virtuous and holy temper: and this is infinitely more important to his enjoyment than the gaudiest distinctions of external state.

3. Would we be truly happy? Let us be virtuous. It is not more our duty than it is our interest.

(A. Gerard, D. D.)

Plain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times. "
1. See, in any poor cottage, where true devotion and honest industry abide, how far even very scant wages will go towards providing the real comforts of life. It is not only that Christian patience makes them content with a little, but somehow Christian prudence teaches them to make the most of that little, so that it seems to grow in their hands, and to reach further in the way of making them comfortable than any one would have thought possible.

2. Nor is it less surprising, on the other hand, to see how irreligion wears out and destroys, if not the riches themselves of worldly men, at least all the enjoyment and pleasure that might be looked for in them. How often do we hear of great fortunes dissipated unexpectedly, and nothing, people say, to show for it all I

3. This becomes still plainer when we come down to more particulars — to the things wherein people are supposed particularly to enjoy their wealth. "Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a stalled ox, and barred therewith." Who would not rather be St. John in the wilderness, with the leathern girdle about his loins, and his meat locusts and wild honey, than such a wealthy king as Herod, "making a feast to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee"?

4. It is the same in the matter of health and strength. A saint on a sick-bed — Hezekiah turning his face to the wall and praying — shall do more, shall really exert more power to change the face of the world, than a mighty conqueror, such as Sennacherib, at the head of his army.

5. One chief supposed advantage of wealth is, that it enables men to choose their company, and to abound in all social enjoyment; but one sure friend that the righteous hath is worth all the companions of the ungodly. Elijah in the wilderness, with now and then a visit from an angel: did he not find that the remembrance of those rare moments cast a light over all his long, solitary hours, which quite prevented them from being tedious? Did he ever wish himself, think you, in Ahab's place, with his many friends and allies, and his seventy children?

6. Nay, and the same rule holds, not only in respect of outward things, but of knowledge also, and scholarship, and acquaintance even with divine matters. Thus a little drop of knowledge, touched by Divine grace, may swell into a sea: as the wise son of Sirach describes God's dealings with himself: "I came out," he says, "as a brook from a river, and as a conduit into a garden: I said, I will water my best garden, and will water abundantly my garden bed; and lo, my brook became a river, and my river became a sea." Because he applied himself to his immediate and nearest duty with all [ is heart, God blessed him with large and high knowledge, beyond all the ungodly wisdom of the world.

7. Such is God's mercy on the one hand, and the perverseness of men on the other, that, even in respect of spiritual blessings also, the psalmist's saying holds true. A little measure of grace well employed, and received into a heart willing to be made righteous, is better — far better — than the highest spiritual privileges, when God, in His unsearchable judgments, has vouchsafed them to unworthy persons. Here is comfort for those who seem to be placed in less favourable circumstances than others; less within reach of the means of grace; farther from churches, or with rarer opportunities of receiving the Sacraments. I do not deny that their loss is great: yet our Lord not doubtfully gives us to understand that it may be made up, though they themselves know not how, by increased and most earnest prayers and endeavours on their part. They may be like the woman of Canaan, who, although she was in the place of the dogs, yet was allowed a portion of the children's bread, because of her great faith, her persevering and humble prayer.

(Plain Sermons by Contributors to the "Tracts for the Times. ")

As I was writing these words there broke upon my ears the song of a canary bird hanging in the room overhead. Its thrilling notes were not a whir less joyous than those which I have often heard rained down from the infinite expanse of heaven by the little skylark of my native land. In spite of its cage that tiny warbler sings, and when its young mistress goes to speak to it, there is a flutter of joy in its wings as with ruffled neck and chattering gladness it leaps to bid her welcome. So let us accept our bonds, whether of poverty, or weakness, or duty, as the bird accepts its cage. You may cage the bird, but you cannot cage its song. No more can you confine or restrain the joy of the heart which, accepting its condition, sees God in it and greets Him from it.

(W. M. Taylor.)

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