If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? and if in the land of peace…
The preceding verses display two things in the spiritual history of the prophet, which good men in all ages have often deeply felt —
1. An apparent incongruity between a fundamental article of religious belief, and the common facts of society. The righteousness of God he grasped with the tenacity of an earnest faith, it lay as the basis of all his religious views; and yet the facts of society, everywhere, seemed to contradict it. He saw, on all hands, the wicked prosperous and happy.
2. An incongruity between the fundamental spirit of religion and the passing feelings of the moment. The underlying spirit of religion is love; love to God and love to man — love even to enemies; but the prophet here expresses feelings in direct opposition to this spirit. How does he feel towards these wicked men? Commiseration? No, vengeance! Now, the text must be regarded as a gentle but impressive reproof, addressed by the great God to the prophet, for his want of forbearance and self-control.
I. THE TRIALS IN LIFE'S MISSION ARE OF VARIOUS DEGREES OF POWER IN THE HISTORY OF THE SAME MAN.
1. None ever sailed the sea of mortal life and found every wind and tide propitious, the ocean always calm, and the horizon ever bright. But we are to speak of trials of a certain class, not the trials which come upon a man independent of his conduct, such as physical pain, bereavement, etc.; rather of such as are connected with the prosecution of his duties, — the trials of endeavour.
2. Every man has a mission; and every man who endeavours to fulfil it will meet with trials.
(1) There are trials in the endeavour to get knowledge. These obstruct the child in studying his alphabet, and the sage in grappling with the last problem.
(2) There are trials in the endeavour to get a living.
(3) There are trials in the endeavour to get moral excellence.
(4) There are trials in his endeavour to serve his age. What stolid ignorance — what warping prejudices — what base habits — what moral obtuseness — what indifference, ingratitude, and sometimes malignity!
II. THE MAN WHO FAILS TO CONTEND SUCCESSFULLY WITH THE LESSER TRIALS, WILL NOT BE ABLE TO WITHSTAND THE GREATER. This principle is capable of application to all the departments of action to which we have referred: but we shall apply it exclusively to the comparative difficulties of getting religion in different periods of life.
1. We apply it to youth and age. With youth there are docility of disposition, tenderness of feeling, and freedom of intellect. As age comes on these disappear, and prejudices, indifference, and confirmed habits take their place.
2. We apply it to health and disease. There is required, especially in adult life and for investigating minds, a large amount of mental abstraction as the necessary means of attaining religion. Disease and suffering are not only unfavourable to such abstraction, but, in many cases, necessarily prevent its exercise.
3. We apply it to life and death. What is religion? The surrendering of our all to God, — the yielding up of ourselves as a living sacrifice. How can the man, therefore, who cannot resign himself to a commercial loss, or who responds most inadequately, if at all, to the claims of benevolence in life, be able, cheerfully, to yield his friends, property, and all he has, and is, to the great God in death?
Parallel VersesKJV: If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?