A wise son maketh a glad father.
A son’s wisdom a father’s joy
The first proverb is a characteristic specimen of its kind. It is in your power to make your father glad, and God expects you to do it. Here is one of the sweetest fruits of wisdom--a son’s wisdom is his father’s joy. A son who breaks his mother’s heart--can this earth have any more irksome load to bear? Foolish son! it is not your mother only with whom you have to deal. God put it into her heart to love you, to watch over you night and day, to bear with all your waywardness, to labour for you to the wasting of her own life. All this is God’s law in her being. Her Maker and yours knew that by putting these instincts into her nature for your good He was laying on her a heavy burden. But He is just. He intended that she should be repaid. His system provides compensation for outlay. There are two frailties--a frailty of infancy and a frailty of age. God has undertaken, in the constitution of His creatures, to provide for both. Where are His laws of compensation written? One on the fleshy table of the heart, the other on the table of the ten commandments. He who knows what is in man would not confide to instinct the care of an aged parent. For that He gave distinct command. There is the mother’s title to her turn of cherishing. You dare not dispute her right, and you cannot withstand her Avenger. (W. Arnot, D.D.)
I. From the imperfection of parents on their own parts. We all want our children to avoid our faults. Children are very apt to be echoes of the parental life.
II. From our conscious inefficiency and unwisdom of discipline. Out of twenty parents there may be one who understands how thoroughly and skilfully to discipline. We, nearly all of us, are on one side or on the other. The discipline is an entire failure in many houses because the father pulls one way and the mother pulls the other way. To strike the medium between severity and too great leniency is the anxiety of every intelligent parent.
III. From the early development of childish sinfulness.
IV. Because our young people are surrounded by so many temptations. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The influence of the child’s character upon the parent’s heart
I. The holy character of a child gladdens the heart of a parent.
1. He sees in it the best results of his training.
2. The best guarantee for his son’s happiness.
II. The unholy character of a child saddens the heart of a parent. Especially a mother. All her toils, anxieties, have been fruitless. A heavy cloud lies on her soul. (Homilist.)
A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
The mother’s sorrow
The word “heaviness” means, in this connection, sadness, sorrow, dejection of mind, a wounded spirit, a broken heart. “Foolishness” denotes, not merely an intellectual weakness, nor merely a religious want, but in general, any grand moral deficiency in the whole complex economy of character.
I. The young man neglectful of his intellectual culture. In all the infinite range of being, after you leave the irrational, until you reach the Divine, there is none whose “education is finished.” Every young man ought to be giving diligent heed to his intellectual development and discipline. The word “foolishness” here is the antithesis, not of “learning,” but of “wisdom”--two very different things. Learning, in its profoundness, is not possible to all young men. Education, i.e., eduction--a drawing forth, a development. Not a mind infused with erudition, but a mind led forth to think. As thinking is hard work, and most men are lazy, few willingly think. They prefer to buy thought. A true mother’s first thought is her child’s education. This, however, often errs sadly, in undue forcing, or in undue attention to merely light literature.
II. The indolent young man.
1. The man who has no regular business. The young man of inherited wealth, or the poor young man who has neither energy nor ambition to rise.
2. The man who, having a business, does not attend to it.
(1) In some cases this results from sheer indolence. The man has no bone or sinew in him, no instinct of effort, no adaptation for work. Among men of strong hands he is simply a mistake.
(2) In other cases this results from a wrong choice of business. The man got into a sphere for which he had no adaptation either mental or physical. Men are everywhere out of place, maladjusted, and so they fail. And by this first failure some men are hopelessly discouraged.
(3) In other cases this results from false theories of success. The man is a believer in good luck and grand chances. He trusts to fortune and waits for opportunity.
(4) In other cases the failure results from divided application and energy. The man attempts too much. Ignoring the principle of a division of labour as the grand law of civilisation, he affects the practical barbarism of attempting to do everything. Every efficient thing God ever made does its own work always, and its own work only. Life is too short for the accomplishment of great tasks with divided energies. Be the reason of the failure what it may, the world is full of men who, with a business to do, never succeed in it. Life swarms with indolent and inefficient men. And all such sons are a heaviness to their mother. Mothers want their sons to be something and to do something.
III. The young man who selects a wrong business or pursues it with a wrong spirit. The grand aim to-day is to get rich speedily. The practical theory is that all business is honourable in proportion to its revenues; but never was a theory more false. All honest business is equally honourable. The young man should engage in no work requiring the slightest violation of dictate of conscience. Evil work may have large revenues, but such success is simply infamous. The man who wins it thus is a disgrace to his generation. Woman’s nature is alive with lofty and chivalrous sentiments. A son’s spotless honour is his mother’s glory.
IV. The young man who makes choice of unprincipled, immoral, irreligious companions. Choose your companions as you would if they were to go in daily to your mother’s fireside. Beware of the young man of fashion. Beware of the sceptical young man. There are those who think freely and speak freely of human nature and of religion--Freethinkers. Beware of the young man of practical immorality. He is a sharper in business, untruthful, a Sabbath-breaker, a profane swearer, a quarreller; his associations are with fast men; he has no reputation for purity.
V. The young man who has become evil himself. It seems impossible that, coming from a happy Christian home, any young man should ever go so widely astray. But alas! the strange thing happens. We see it every day. What a fearful “heaviness” this brings to a mother’s heart. Parental love becomes agony when a child turns to evil courses. To save you from this dire moral pestilence a parent would gladly lay down life.
VI. The young man who lives in neglect of personal religion. To Solomon “wisdom” in its last analysis is personal piety, and “foolishness “ is practical irreligion. You may sneer at religion and think it noble and wise to call yourself infidel. Your mother does not. To her religion is a life and power. Surely an impenitent son is a “heaviness” to his mother. (C. Wadsworth.)
The young man’s
progress:--In these verses you may make out a sort of successive parallel history of two human beings from the cradle to the grave.
I. These two young men at home. Children at home. Character begins to be developed very soon. Very little boys may sometimes indicate those tempers and dispositions which, upon the one side shall make the father’s heart “glad,” or on the other, fill the mother with “heaviness.”
II. These two young men going out (Proverbs 10:5). The great lesson from this verse is, the importance of taking time by the forelock, using advantages when we have them. It does not do to neglect advantages; seize upon them, use them, do everything in its season. Two things young men should not do: they should neither anticipate nor procrastinate.
III. These two young men getting on. They are now men in business for themselves, having their own responsibilities. Here is an infallible rule: “He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.” Two kinds of slackness of hand: he may do the thing half-asleep, carelessly; he may not keep tight hold on the profits. The man who works with vigour and with thought, whose whole soul and mind and heart work, as well as his hand--he understands the price at which his profits are obtained.
IV. These two young men in relation to success. “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivereth from death.” Two men may get rich--the one by wickedness, trickery, wrong; the other by industry, probity, diligence. “Righteousness” here probably signifies “benevolence,” “beneficence.” The property of the man who is selfish and covetous will do him no good. Riches may be the means of grace as well as anything else. The beneficent man looks at his wealth as a thing which is to be used for God.
V. These two young men in relation to change. In the alteration of circumstance, in misfortune, what a difference there is between the fall of a man who has a thorough character and that of a man who has not.
VI. These two young men in relation to the end. “Blessings are upon the head of the just, but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.” The wicked here means the flagrantly wicked. When the just man grows old he is crowned with respect and love; but the wicked old man receives “violence.” The same people, exasperated, unable to bear him any longer, “cover his mouth” and put him out of the way. There is no spectacle on earth so painful as that of a wicked old man.
VII. Now for the epitaph. “The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot.” The memory of just parents is better than a fortune to the children. The very name of the wicked shall become putrid and offensive. The two great principles which rightly tone the fortunes of the young man are, willingness to learn and uprightness of walking. Everything must be done “uprightly.” (T. Binney.)
I never can forget my interview with a widowed mother who sent for me to counsel with her over her only son, who for the first time had been brought home by a policeman and laid helpless in the hall. It was the adder’s first sting in a mother’s heart. I said, “This is the turning-point of your boy’s life: harshness now will ruin him; love him now more than ever.” Said she, “He is penitent this morning, and says it shall be the last time.” It was not. Such first times are seldom last times. The burden grew heavier, till at last the mother’s prayer moved the Hand to move the heart, and he was plucked as a brand from the burning and brought into the fold of Christ. And it is not only the drunken or debauched son that lies heavy on the mother’s heart. Sin leads to other follies and breeds other griefs. When I see a young man who has superior advantages for culture wandering into low companionship, pitching his household tent over against Sodom, I say, “There is a foolish son who will be the heaviness of his mother.” When I see beardless self-conceit talking about the scientific scepticism of the day, and pretending to Rationalism and doubts about God’s Book and the Cross of Christ, and scoffing at what the Isaac Newtons and the Luthers and Wesleys and Chalmers bowed down before with overawed spirit--sneering at the faith once delivered to the saints--I predict a career that will be a heaviness to the mother. (T. L. Cuyler, D.D.)
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivereth from death
The profits of wickedness and of righteousness
In nothing is our common proneness to self-deception more conspicuously manifested than in the erroneous estimate which we form respecting this world and the next.
Of the one we think as though it could never have an end; of the other as though it could never have a beginning.
I. The treasures of wickedness profit nothing. “Treasures of wickedness” should mean wealth which has been acquired by dubious or unjustifiable methods, or which is applied to unhallowed or forbidden purposes. But it may be used to signify all wealth bearing no relation to the command and will of the Almighty; all wealth in the acquisition and expenditure of which religion has no influence. But take the present life only, and appearances are against the statement of this text. What will not riches do and obtain for men! Some things they will not. They cannot give health to the languid, ease to the tormented, nor life to the dead. Therefore, with all their fair appearances, they profit nothing. They bring with them no solid, substantial happiness; no joy upon which the soul can confidently repose itself; no strength to endure trials in adversity. If they could, we have still to keep in mind that man is destined for an eternal existence, and for him the hour is coming in which all must confess that riches are useless--nothing in the sight of immortal man, much less in the sight of an eternal God.
II. What is meant by righteousness, and in what sense it delivereth from death. The righteousness which delivereth from death is not our own righteousness properly so-called, but the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness, however, involves a righteousness of our own, which is, in its nature, a necessary fruit, and without which it cannot really exist. The righteousness adverted to by Solomon, in the case of the Jews, was first a ceremonial and then a meritorious righteousness. For us there is first an imputation of the perfect righteousness of Christ, and secondly, an actual righteousness of our own; the first being the cause of our justification, and the second its natural and necessary consequence. The righteous man is he who has accepted the salvation of Christ, is in the leading of the Holy Spirit, and has the testimony of his conscience that, in simplicity and godly sincerity, he daily labours to combine a holy life with a humble and contrite heart. Such a righteousness delivers, not from bodily death, but from all those evils that are represented by, and consummated in, death. To disappointment religion opposes hope; to suffering, patience; to the loss of earthly friends, the friendship of One who “sticketh closer than a brother.” In the hour of calamity, disease, and death itself, righteousness is proved to be the only lasting, sustaining remedy. (Thomas Dale, M.A.)
Treasures of wickedness
may mean either treasures wickedly got or treasures wickedly spent, or both. Such treasures profit nothing unto the bestowment of true happiness. (R. Wardlaw.)
No moral system is complete which does not treat with clearness and force the subject of wealth. The material possessions of an individual or of a nation are, in a certain sense, the prerequisites of all moral life. The production of wealth, it not, strictly speaking, a moral question itself, presses closely upon all other moral questions. Wisdom will be called upon to direct the energies which produce wealth, and to determine the feelings with which we are to regard the wealth which is produced. Moral problems mightier still begin to emerge when the question of distribution presents itself. If production is in a sense the presupposition of all moral and spiritual life, no less certainly correct moral conceptions--may we not even say, true spiritual conditions?--are the indispensable means of determining distribution. In our own day this question of the distribution of wealth stands in the front rank of practical questions. Religious teachers must face it. Socialists are grappling with this question not altogether in a religious spirit. But all socialism is not revolutionary. In the teaching of the Book of Proverbs on this subject note--
I. Its frank and full recognition that wealth has its advantages and poverty its disadvantages. There is no Quixotic attempt to overlook, as many moral and spiritual systems do, the perfectly obvious facts of life. The extravagance and exaggeration which led St. Francis to choose poverty as his bride find no more sanction in this ancient wisdom than in the sound teaching of our Lord and His apostles. As poverty is a legitimate subject of dread, there are urgent exhortations to diligence and thrift, quite in accordance with the excellent apostolic maxim, that if a man will not work he shall not eat; while there are forcible statements of the things which tend to poverty and of the courses which result in comfort and wealth.
II. But, making all allowance for the advantages of wealth, we have to notice some of its serious drawbacks. To begin with, it is always insecure. If wealth has been obtained in any other way than by honest labour it is useless, at any rate for the owner, and indeed worse than useless for him. There is wealth of another kind, wealth consisting in moral and spiritual qualities, compared with which wealth, as it is usually understood, is quite paltry and unsatisfying. A little wisdom, a little sound understanding, or a little wholesome knowledge, is more precious than wealth.
III. Positive counsels about money and its acquisition. We are cautioned against the fever of money-getting; we are counselled to exercise a generous liberality in the disposal of such things as are ours. Happy would that society be in which all men were aiming, not at riches, but merely at a modest competency, dreading the one extreme as much as the other. (R. F. Horton, D.D.)
The worthlessness of a wicked man’s wealth, the value of a righteous man’s character
I. The worthlessness of a wicked man’s wealth. It will “profit nothing.” The wicked man gets treasures here, and often, indeed, the more wicked a man is the more he succeeds. The fool of the gospel became rich. But of what real profit is wealth to the wicked? It feeds and clothes him well as an animal. It may give him gorgeous surroundings.
1. It “profits him” nothing in the way of making him truly happy. It cannot harmonise those elements of his nature which sin has brought into conflict; it cannot remove the sense of fault from his conscience; it cannot fill him with a bright hope for the future.
2. It “profits him” nothing in the way of obtaining the true love of his fellow-men. Men take off their hats to the wealthy, but there is no genuine reverence and love where there is not the recognition of goodness.
3. It “profits him” nothing in the dying hour or in the future world. He leaves it all behind. Money was the curse of Judas.
II. The value of a righteous man’s character. The righteous shall be delivered from death, from that which is the very essence in the evil of physical death--the sting of sin; and entirely from spiritual death. The soul of the righteous shall never famish. On the contrary, it shall increase in vigour for ever. There is no want to them that fear Him. (Homilist.)
What money cannot do
A millionaire who had been born a poor boy, and whose money had become his idol, was showing his house and grounds to a Quaker. The genial Friend praised them and said it was all wonderfully beautiful. “The almighty dollar has done it all,” said the millionaire. “What cannot money do?” The Quaker looked sadly at him. He said, “Thy question reminds me of the people in the desert. They bowed clown to the golden calf and said it was that which brought them out of Egypt. As it turned out it hindered them and kept them out of the promised land. It would be an awful thing if thy gold kept thee out of heaven. You say, ‘What cannot money do?’ It cannot deliver thy soul.”
The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish.
The Lord and the righteous
I. God has bountifully provided even for the ungodly. Has He shown such concern for the wicked as to provide for them in the gospel “a feast of fat things full of marrow,” and will He disregard the righteous?
II. God is peculiarly interested in the welfare of the righteous. The righteous are God’s “peculiar treasure above all people.”
III. God has pledged His word that they shall never want anything that is good. Exceeding numerous, great and precious are the promises which God has given to His people. He may seem to leave His people in straits, but it shall be only for the more signal manifestation of His love and mercy towards them.
1. A word of reproof. Many do not make their profiting to appear as they ought.
2. A word of consolation. Some may put away from them this promise under the idea that they are not of the character to whom it belongs. (Skeletons of Sermons.)
The famishing of the soul
It is of temporal supplies the wise man is here speaking. The “famishing of the soul” might be understood, with great truth, of the proper and peculiar life of the soul. But the connection demands a different interpretation. Soul is often used to signify the “person” and the “animal life.” It may have reference to that weakness and fainting of spirit which is the result of the corporeal exhaustion produced by the extremity of want. (R. Wardlaw.)
The hand of the diligent maketh rich.
Our life is dependent on our industry. It is good for man that he should have to labour. Were God to do all, We should truly leave Him to do it, not caring to co-operate with the Divine Husbandman in the culture of the field of life. By the “diligent” we are to understand the nimble-handed--those who are active and agile, who will lose nothing for want of rising early and peering about in the darkness if they may but catch a glimpse even of an outline of things. The persons referred to in the text are those who take account of microscopic matters--they are particular about the smallest coins, about moments and minutes, about so-called secondary engagements and plans. The true business man lives in the midst of his business. We are not far from the sanctuary of God when we are listening to such proverbs as these. (J. Parker, D.D.)
Idleness and industry
I. The hand of the one is “diligent,” the other is “slack.”
II. The soul of the one seizes opportunities, the other neglects them. The industrious man makes opportunities. He does the work of the season. The other lets opportunities pass. He “sleepeth in harvest.”
III. The destiny of the one is prosperity, that of the other ruin. The man in the gospel who employed his talents got the “Well done!” of his Master and the ruler-ship over many things. Laziness everywhere brings ruin. “Drowsiness clothes man in rags.” (D. Thomas, D.D.)
Diligent in business
This rule applies alike to the business of life and the concerns of the soul. The law holds good in common things. The earth brings forth thorns instead of grapes unless it be cultivated by the labour of man. A world bringing forth food spontaneously might have suited a sinless race, but it would be unsuitable for mankind as they now are. The fallen cannot be left idle with safety to themselves. The necessity of labour has become a blessing to man. The maxim has passed into a proverb, “If you do not wait on your business, your business will not wait on you.” That diligence in necessary to progress in holiness is witnessed by all the Word of God and all the experience of His people. It would be a libel on the Divine economy to imagine that the tender plant of grace would thrive in a sluggard’s garden. The work is difficult, the times are bad. He who would gain in godliness must put his soul into the business. But he who puts his soul into the business will grow rich. When all counts are closed he who is rich in faith is the richest man. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
Lazy hand. Sloth is the mother of poverty. Or the words may be rendered the hand of deceit. Without diligence honesty can scarcely be expected. Next unto virtue let children be trained up to industry, for both poverty and fraud are commonly the effect of sloth. (B. E. Nicholls, M.A.)
Diligence and prosperity
A connection exists between the bounty of God and the duty of man. All things are of God, and our dependence upon Him is absolute and imperative. There is a perfect accordance between the established law of nature and the law of grace. The former of these combines a dependence upon God for daily subsistence with the necessity of effort to procure it. The latter tells us, and insists upon it, that while by grace we are saved through faith which is the gift of God, we are nevertheless to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”
I. Apply sentiment of text to the ordinary affairs of life. With respect to temporal blessings. The purposes of God are never carried into effect without the use of those means by which they are intended to be accomplished. The application of these means is indispensable to the attainment of the end. If we neglect these, it will be worse than folly to hope for any blessing. What are the appointed means by which a beneficent providence supplies the temporal wants of man?
1. Diligence or industry. An unoccupied and idle man countervails all the laws both of his animal and intellectual frame and wages war upon every organ of his material structure. The law of industry is a benevolent law. If you would make a man miserable, let him have nothing to do. Idleness is the nursery of crime.
2. Economy. He who wastes what providence gives him may not complain of it being with-held or withdrawn. Nature and observation are constantly reading us this lesson. In all that God does there is nothing lost, nothing thrown away, nothing but what is designed for some useful purpose. Every natural substance that does not retain its original form passes into some other that is equally important in its way. There is no example of the entire destruction of anything in the universe. The Lord Jesus did not deem it mean to be frugal. Meanness is more justly chargeable to waste and prodigality. He that is regardless of little things will be very apt to be careless of those that are greater.
3. A sacred regard to the Lord’s day. If a man would make the most of human life, to say nothing of the life to come, he must be a conscientious observer of this consecrated day. Other collateral means are, a sacred regard to truth, honesty in every transaction, rectitude and integrity of character.
II. Apply sentiment of the text to the interests of the soul. Many events may transpire which will frustrate the most diligent in their enterprise. Sickness, infirmity, calamity, treachery. But it is never so in the case of the soul. There is an opulence in the Divine benignity which satisfies the desire of every praying spirit. Note there is a certainty in the promise. Labour for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life shall be rewarded in the issue to the extent of our largest expectations. And at the last his joy will be full. He has gained the true riches and is rich indeed. (J. Everitt.)
Advantages of virtuous industry
I. The industrious man accomplishes very many things which are profitable to himself and others in numberless respects. How many of his own wants and those of others does he not thus relieve! How many sources of welfare does he not open to himself and others!
II. If the industrious man executes many useful matters, he executes them with far more ease and dexterity than if he were not industrious. He has no need of any long previous contest with himself. He understands, he loves the work; has a certain confidence in himself, and is more or less sure of success.
III. The industrious man unfolds, exercises, perfects his powers; not only his mechanical, but also his nobler, his mental powers.
IV. The industrious man lives in the true, intimate, entire consciousness of himself, and of that which he is and does. He actually rejoices in his life, his faculties, his endowments, his time.
V. The industrious man, who is so from principle and inclination, experiences neither languor nor irksomeness. Never are his faculties, never is his time, a burden to him.
VI. The industrious man has a far greater relish for every innocent pleasure, for every relaxation, that he enjoys. He alone properly knows the pleasure of rest.
VII. The industrious man alone fulfils the design for which he is placed on earth, and may say so to himself, and may in the consciousness of it be contented and cheerful. (G. J. Zollikofer.)
He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.
Summer and harvest
I. God affords you opportunities for good. He favours you with seasons which may be considered as your harvest.
1. You are blessed with a season of gospel grace.
2. You have a season of civil and religious liberty.
3. Some are living in a religious family, where they have the benefit of instruction, prayer, and example.
4. Some have seasons of disciplinary trouble.
5. Some have seasons of conviction.
6. All have the susceptible time of youth.
II. The necessity of diligence to improve your reaping season.
1. Consider how much you have to accomplish.
2. Consider the worth of the blessings that demand your attention.
3. Remember that your labour will not be in vain in the Lord.
4. Your season for action is limited and short.
5. Reflect upon the consequences of negligence.
Having made no provision for futurity--for eternity--your ruin is unavoidable. A strict account will be required of all your talents and opportunities. (William Jay.)
Using our opportunities
Our efforts in life must be seasonable. There is a religious forethought. He who neglects to gather in summer neglects the bounties of the Lord as well as neglects his own future necessities. The man who sleeps in harvest is pronounced a fool, because he lets his opportunity slip. The historian writes concerning Hannibal that when he could have taken Rome he would not, and when he would he could not. We are to be men of opportunity--that is to say, we are to buy up the opportunity, to redeem the time. When God opens a gate He means that we should go through it, and pass into all the inheritance beyond. There was a king of Sicily who was called “The Lingerer,” not because he stayed till opportunity came, but because he stayed till opportunity was lost. There is a time to wait and a time to act. Overlong waiting means loss of chance, for the king has passed by, and the gates are closed; but to wait patiently until everything is ripe for action is the very last expression of Christian culture. (J. Parker, D.D.)
Summer, the Christian’s gathering-time
I. The person spoken of. “A wise son.”
II. The season in which the wise son exerts himself. “In summer.” And why is the gospel dispensation represented by summer?
1. Winter is over and gone. His reign was tyrannical and cold. But now summer returns. So the gospel dispensation reveals to us the bright extended beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
2. In winter the face of nature is squalid and deformed. But summer comes; and, by a touch surpassing magic, beauties on beauties start into view. So the gospel dispensation mollifies the hard heart, removes the deformity of sin from the soul, adorns the temper and the conversation with all the beauties of holiness.
3. In winter the heavens distil no kindly influence; all is adverse to vegetation. But when summer returns the air breathes balm, the clouds drop fatness, and the earth is fertilised. So the gospel brings along with it refreshing clouds of spiritual influences.
4. In winter no flowers adorn the earth; their beautiful tints, their savoury smell and delicate forms sleep in the earth; but in summer these appear in rich profusion and of variegated colours. In like manner the gospel dispensation is attended with a rich profusion of gracious young converts, whose souls are endowed with knowledge, faith, and affection, and breathe forth a precious perfume, as the Holy Spirit breathes on them.
5. In winter we search the orchard and garden in vain for fruit. But when summer returns we mark with grateful pleasure the pleasant contrast, and gather the mellow fruits of various hues and flavours. In like manner the gospel dispensation is attended with a variety of fruits to the praise of God the Father.
III. I would now direct your attention to the exercise in which the wise son is engaged. “He gathereth in summer,” or during the gospel dispensation.
1. He gathereth a knowledge of God and of his duty to Him, as these are revealed in God’s Word and the dispensations of His grace.
2. He gathereth holy tempers, which cause him to resemble his heavenly Father in watchfulness, patience, meekness, and forbearance.
3. He gathereth an experimental knowledge of God’s providence. These are heavenly fruits; they will not corrupt, nor can they be pilfered; they will last for ever, and the happy soul will relish them through the endless ages of eternity.
In conclusion, see from this subject--
1. The character of one who believes and practises the true religion: he is a “wise son.”
2. The excellency of the gospel dispensation. It is a season which affords every means and opportunity to promote the peace and comfort of the soul.
3. The duty and responsibility of the young. (James Logan, M.A.)
Walter Scott, in a narrative of his personal history, gives the following caution to youth: “If it should ever fall to the lot of youth to peruse these pages, let such readers remember that it is with the deepest regret that I recollect, in my manhood, the opportunities of learning which I neglected in my youth; and through every part of my literary career I have felt pinched and hampered by my own ignorance, and I would this moment give half the reputation I have had the good fortune to acquire if by so doing I could rest the remaining part upon a sound foundation of learning and science.”
Thrift of time
Every moment lost in youth is so much character and advantage lost; as, on the other hand, every moment employed usefully is so much time wisely laid out at prodigious interest. It was to the young Mr. Gladstone was speaking when he said, “Thrift of time will repay you in after-life with a usury of profit beyond your most sanguine dreams.”
Opportunity to be used
In our present career a man has but one chance. Time does not fly in a circle, but forth, and right on. The wandering, squandering, desiccated moral leper is gifted with no second set of early years. There is no fountain in Florida that gives perpetual youth; and the universe might be searched probably in vain for such a spring. Waste your youth; in it you shall have but one chance. Waste your middle life; in it you shall have but one chance. Waste your old age; in it you shall have but one chance. It is an irreversible natural law that character attains final permanence, and in the nature of things final permanence can come but once. This world is fearfully and wonderfully made, and so are we, and we shall escape neither ourselves nor these stupendous laws. It is not a pleasant thing to exhibit these truths from the side of terror; but, on the other side, these are truths of bliss, for, by this very law, through which all character tends to become unchanging, a soul that attains a final permanence of good character runs but one risk, and is delivered once for all from its torture and unrest. It has passed the bourne from behind which no man is caught out of the fold. (Christian Age.)
The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot.
The remembrance of good and forgetting of bad men
I. How great a concern men naturally have to leave an honourable memory behind them. This idea is implied in the text, not expressed. All men in all ages have desired and endeavoured that others should entertain a good opinion of them, and if possible a great one. To this pursuit, multitudes have sacrificed their ease, their interest, the dearest of their other passions, and their lives themselves. They who know they have forfeited their title to a good character labour hard, by concealing and palliating matters, to retain as much as they can of it. A truly good person will always, in the first place, “seek the honour which cometh from God only.” But still, desire of being esteemed by our fellow-creatures is a natural, and therefore an innocent passion, prompts us to what is right, and supports us in it. And we have also earnest desire of being remembered, as much to our advantage as possible, after we are gone. Though we shall not be within reach of hearing what is said of us, nor shall we be benefited by praise or hurt by reproach. Therefore some treat all concern far posthumous praise and fame as a mere absurdity. But as virtuous and beneficent actions are by far the most certain way of procuring any durable esteem from mankind, so planting in us a desire of such esteem as may endure when we are gone is providing no small security for our good behaviour here. And so this desire becomes an important blessing to us. “A good life hath but a few days; but a good name endureth for ever” (Son of Sirach).
All this must be cautiously understood of such reputation only as is truly good; sought from proper motives, and pursued by proper means. If people affect to be admired for excellences, which they have not, their attempt at cheating mankind will probably be as vain as it is certainly unjust. Scripture not only stigmatises those “whose glory is in their shame,” but warns against so excessive an admiration, even of things in themselves valuable, as interferes with the superior regard we owe to real piety and virtue.
II. What care the goodness and justice of God have taken that by worthy conduct we shall obtain our desire and by a criminal one fail of it entirely. There is a particular providence causing the memory of the just and good to flourish out of their ashes, and blasting that of the wicked. Worthy men would be pleased to have present respect paid to their characters, as well as future to their memories. And it is paid in good measure, though the deficiencies in this respect are great: due often to imperfections or eccentricities in the goodness, often to party zeal and to envy. It would probably not be to the advantage of good persons, but far from it, to have all the debt which mankind owes them paid immediately. It might endanger their humility, lead them to an uncharitable contempt of others, and a hazardous confidence in themselves. When once good men are removed to another state, all the reasons which made it unsafe for them to receive praise in this are over; and most of the reasons that made others unwilling to bestow it are over too. Generally speaking, they who deserve well have at length due acknowledgments paid to their memory. The undeserved regard of the ungodly in this life seldom outlasts them any considerable time; the name of the wicked soon rots.
III. In what manner may we best contribute to the due payment of those very different regards which belong to the memory of the bad and the good. Vehemence and bitterness in speaking of those whom we dislike, either when they are living or when dead, is opposed to the spirit of our religion. Yet we are not prevented from forming and expressing just judgments at suitable times. For the most part the name of the wicked, if let alone, will rot of itself; and all that we shall need to do is, not to undertake the nauseous and fruitless office of embalming it. The regards due to the just are briefly these: that we believe them, on good evidence, to be the good persons they were in reality; that we consider their virtues with due esteem, and their imperfections with due candour; that we vindicate their names from unjust imputations, and make honourable mention of them whenever a fit opportunity offers; that we warn and arm ourselves against the temptations, both of prosperity and adversity, by observing how they have gone through each; that we incite ourselves to aim at more perfection in all Christian graces, by seeing in them what heights of piety and goodness are attainable; that we learn watchfulness from their falls; and that we thank God, in our retirements, for the instructions which His providence hath vouchsafed to us in their good lives. (T. Seeker.)
The memory of the just
So far as this world is concerned, every one of us will soon cease to be a man, and be no more than a memory. Every man leaves behind him some kind of a memory; and it depends entirely on what the man has been as to what the memory shall be. There are memories that do rot; those that dwell on them, and take a delight in them, are poisoned by the contact, and all whose feelings are healthy and pure keep at a distance, and feel as if in the presence of something that was corrupt and evil. But however short life may be, it is long enough for a man to do something that will leave a memory in the world which, when he is gone, shall be a blessing to other men.
I. The memory of the just is blessed as an example of holy living. We never can see the force of precept fully if we never see precept embodied in action. You can never give a man a clear notion of what the image of God is unless you give him an opportunity of watching for years the life of a man who has walked with God. The memory of such s man acts as a restraint, both upon the unconverted and upon the child of God, when he is pressed by temptation. The memory of such a man acts as an encouragement. We are apt to think that the law of God is too high for us, that we cannot expect to be thoroughly consistent Christians. And yet, why not? We think those men that we see so good must be different in nature from us. But the grace that made them so holy is as free for us as it was for them. The memory is not only an encouragement, it is also a stimulus. When we hear what the good have done we feel a reproach that we have not done more. That memory is blessed which comes acting upon the spirits of men after a man is gone, and impelling them to follow him in the ways of usefulness and goodness. Such a memory is a stimulus to early consecration to God; to full and laborious consecration to God.
II. The memory of the just is blessed as an example of holy dying. Even those who do not care about living well would like to die well. Others look upon a happy death only in the light of s suitable close of a good life. There is something blessed in seeing the last days of good men.
III. The memory of the just is blessed as a tie to another world. Are there not many of us to whom God has given ties of this kind to that better lend? The blessing in this way counteracts the curse; the curse strikes right and left with the stroke of death, and we see our dearest objects falling before our eyes. But then the blessing comes; they are redeemed; their spirits are in heaven; and our affections turn to the same objects as before. But now those affections, instead of being a tie to earth, are a tie to heaven, where those we love have gone. (William Arthur, M.A.)
The remembrance of a noble name
Who would not preserve a noble name? The recollection of such a name is a continual inspiration. From that recollection many things may be shed that are mere matters of detail, but the substance and the honour, the real quality and worth, abide with us evermore. Who need be ashamed to own that he had a just father and a virtuous mother? No man blushes when he cites the name of a conqueror who worked heroically and succeeded perfectly in the great warfare of life. Just memories are flowers we cannot allow to fade; we water them with our tears; by them we enrich and ennoble our prayers, and by them we animate ourselves as by a sacred stimulus. Blessed are they who have a noble past, a yesterday crowded with memories of things beautiful end lovable; they can never be lonely, they can never be sad; they walk in the company of the just and true, and the silence of the communion does not diminish its music. Here is a fame which is possible to every man. It is not possible for us all to win renown in fields of battle, in walks of literature, in lives of adventure, or in regions of discovery and enterprise--that kind of renown must be left to the few, the elect who are created to lead the world’s civilisation; but the renown of goodness, the fame of purity, the reputation of excellence--these lie within the power of the poorest man that lives. (J. Parker, D.D.)
The memory of the just
The mind often goes back in review of the past human world. On this great field there are presented all the grand varieties of character. They come to view in great divisions and assemblages--in mass, as it were--bearing the broad distinctions of their respective ages, nations, and religions. Here and there individuals stand up conspicuously to view--of extraordinary and pre-eminent character and action. What an odious and horrid character rests upon some. They seem to bear eternal curses on their heads. And these have gone in that same character, unaltered, into another world, and that a state of retribution. But there has been “a multitude that no man can number,” bearing on earth and bearing away from it the true image of their Father in heaven. The saints of God in the past time are presented as a general comprehensive object to our memory. And we have many of “the just” retained in memory as individuals. They abide in memory, and ever will, kept alive, as it were, the images, the examples, the personifications of what we approve, admire, and feel that we ought to love and to be. Now, their memory “is blessed,” self-evidently so, for the mind blesses it, reverts to it with complacency mingled with solemnity. It is blessed when we consider them as practical illustrations, verifying examples of the excellence of genuine religion. Their memory is blessed while we regard them as diminishing to our view the repulsiveness and horror of death, and as associated with the most blessed things through all time. (J. Foster.)
The two memories
It is a trite saying that the present is the only period of time we can call our own; but it is a saying not less true than trite. Now is the moment of action. By our acts in this living present we shall become a power as a memory. In our footsteps our successors will trace our characters as the geologist traces those of the beasts end birds of antediluvian fame.
I. What does the text assert of the name and memory of the wicked?
1. A wicked man’s memory lives in his children. Sometimes as a beacon to warn of danger.
2. In their sins the wicked perpetuate their memory. Those who are not content to be in the road to hell themselves, but must inveigle others into the same accursed paths, surely fasten their memories on the souls of their victims. What putrid animal matter is to our physical senses the memory of the wicked shall be to our moral sensibilities when they are gone.
II. The memory of the righteous is blessed. True, as a rule, in the case of the children of the good men. Exceptions prove the rule. Let our children find us faithful to our principles, to our professions, to our Saviour, and when we are gone our memory “shall be blessed.” The memory of the just shall be blessed in their actions--their acts live long after they are gone, in their effects. Illustrate by the memories of the martyrs end reformers. And there are martyrs in humble life. We have, then, a work to do, that our memories may be a blessing and not a curse, that we may leave footprints behind for others to walk in. (W. Morris.)
I. The memory of the just is blessed in their inherent worth. Contrast Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Paul, Luther, etc., with Pharaoh, Voltaire, Paine, etc. Of the former, the mention of their names is as ointment poured forth, beautiful, fragrant, and costly; while the latter are only regarded with pity and regretted as a waste.
II. The memory of the just is blessed in their influential words. Their words are blessed--
1. In Christian conversation.
2. In the public mention of them.
3. In quiet meditation.
And they are influential, as is evident--
(1) In the history of the Christian Church.
(2) In the annals of profane history.
(3) In the efforts of human progress.
III. The memory of the just is blessed in their important works.
1. In the books they have written.
2. In the inspiration they have given.
3. In the effects they have produced.
Application: What sort of memory are we weaving for ourselves? One to be blessed, and that will remain unforgotten in the world? or one that will decay, “rot,” and around which there will cling no loving and permanent memories of Divine or human blessedness? (T. Colclough.)
The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.
The wise take advice, fools only give it
Here is one of the most valuable results of wisdom. It is not what it gives, but what it receives. It receives commandments. This receptiveness is a prime characteristic of the new heart. As the thirsty ground drinks in the rain, so the wise in heart long for, and live upon, God’s Word. This receptiveness is a most precious feature of character. Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled. “A prating fool shall fall.” All his folly comes out. The fool, being empty, busies himself giving out instead of taking in, and he becomes still more empty. From him that hath not shall be taken. He is known, by the noise he makes, to be a tinkling cymbal. People would not have known that his head was so hollow if he had not been constantly ringing on it. To receive a lesson and put it in practice implies a measure of humility; whereas to lay down the law to others is grateful incense to a man’s pride and self-importance. The Lord Himself pointed to the unsuspecting receptiveness of a little child, and said that this is the way to enter the kingdom. (W. Arnot, D D.)
A prating fool
A fool of lips; a lip-fool.
1. The self-conceited are generally superficial. There is much talk and little substance; words without sense; plenty of tongue, but a lack of wit. Light matter floats on the surface, and appears to all; what is solid and precious lies at the bottom. The foam is on the face of the waters; the pearl is below.
2. The reference may be to the bluster of insubordination; the loud protestations and boastings of his independence on the part of the man who resists authority and determines to be “a law unto himself.” (R. Wardlaw.)
He that walketh uprightly walketh surely.
Upright walking sure walking
I. Describe the practice itself. To walk doth signify our usual course of dealing, or the constant tenor of our practice. Uprightly means “in perfection,” or “with integrity”; it denotes sincerity and purity of intention. “He that walketh uprightly” imports one who is constantly disposed in his designs and dealings to bear a principal regard to the rules of his duty and the dictates of his conscience.
II. Proof of the security.
1. An upright walker is secure of easily finding his way. If we will but open our eyes, the plain, straight, obvious road, the way of the just, is right in view before us. The ways of iniquity and vanity, ill designs and bad means of executing designs, are very unintelligible, very obscure, abstruse, and intricate. The ways of truth are graven in very legible characters by the finger of God upon our hearts and consciences. An upright man doth hardly need any conduct beside his own honesty. If ever such a man is at a loss as to his course, he hath always at hand a most sure guide to conduct or direct him.
2. The upright walker doth tread upon firm ground. He builds upon solid, safe, approved and well-tried principles.
3. The upright person doth walk steadily. His integrity is an excellent ballast, holding him tight and well poised in his deportment.
4. The way of uprightness is the surest for dispatch, and the shortest cut toward the execution or attainment of any good purpose.
5. The way of uprightness is in itself very safe, free of danger, tending to no mischief.
6. The way of uprightness is fair and pleasant.
7. He that walketh uprightly is secure as to his honour and credit. By pure integrity, a man first maintaineth a due respect and esteem unto himself, then preserveth an entire reputation with others.
8. The particular methods of acting which uprightness disposeth to observe do yield great security from troubles and crosses in their transactions.
9. An upright waller hath perfect security as to the final result of affairs, that he shall not be quite baffled in his expectations and desires.
10. It is an infinite advantage of upright dealing that at the last issue, when all things shall be most accurately tried and impartially decided, a man is assured to be fully justified in it, and plentifully rewarded for it. Upright simplicity is the deepest wisdom, and perverse craft the merest shallowness. He who is true and just to others is most faithful and friendly to himself, whoever doth abuse his neighbour is his own greatest foe. (I. Barrow, D.D.)
The path of duty the path of safety
I. It is so because omnipotence guards the traveller (Psalms 34:14).
II. It is so, however perilous it may sometimes appear. Moses, at the Red Sea, felt it perilous, but onwards he went, and was safe. Joshua, at the Jordan, felt it perilous. He proceeded, and was safe. David confronting Goliath; Daniel, in the lion’s den, kept on and were safe (see Isaiah 33:15). (Homilist.)
Of the security of a virtuos course
An important maxim: in the practice of virtue there is safety. Much higher praise than this may be bestowed upon it. Let the evidence for immorality be reckoned uncertain, still it remains the truth, that, for this life, a virtuous course is the safest and the wisest. Uprightness is the same as integrity or sincerity. It implies a freedom from guile and the faithful discharge of every known duty. An upright man allows himself in nothing that is inconsistent with truth and right. He hates alike all sin, and practises every part of virtue, from an unfeigned attachment to it established in his soul. This is what is most essential is the character of an upright man. He is governed by no sinister ends or indirect views in the discharge of his duties.
1. Uprightness of character comprehends in it right conduct with respect to God. Such a man, in his religion, is that which he appears to be to his fellow-creatures. His religious acts are emanations from a heart full of piety.
2. Implies faithfulness in all our transactions with ourselves. The upright man endeavours to be faithful to himself in all that he thinks and does, and to divest his mind of all unreasonable biases. He wishes to know nothing but what is true, and to practise nothing but what is right.
3. Includes candour, fairness, and honesty in all our transactions with our fellow-creatures. An upright man may be depended on in all his professions and engagement. All his gains are gains of virtuous industry. He maintains a strict regard to veracity in his words, and to honour in his dealings.
Such a man walks “surely.”
1. Consider the safety which such a person enjoys with respect to the happiness of the present life. Think of the troubles that men bring on themselves by deviating from integrity. The path of uprightness is straight and broad. He that walks in it walks in the light, and may go on with resolution and confidence, inviting rather than avoiding the inspection of his fellow-creatures.
2. Upright conduct is commonly the most sure way to obtain success in our worldly concerns. The most sure way, but not always the shortest. Universal experience has proved that “honesty is the best policy.” An upright man must commend himself by degrees to all that know him. He has always the greatest credit, and the most unembarrassed affairs. The disadvantages under which he labours are counterbalanced by many great advantages. Though his gains may be small, they are always sweet. He has with him an easy conscience, the blessing of God, and security against numberless grievous evils.
3. Consider the security which an upright conduct gives with respect to another world. It must be possible that there should be a future state. We may well secure the best condition and greatest safety in it. And the practice of religious goodness is the proper means to be used for this purpose. The happiness of every successive period of our human life is made to depend, in great measure, on our conduct in the preceding periods. All we observe of the government of the Deity leads us to believe that He must approve righteousness and hate wickedness. To act righteously is to act like God. And there are many reasons which prove that the neglect of virtue may be followed by a dreadful punishment hereafter--e.g., the presages of conscience. These reasons the Christian religion confirms. And should all that reason and Christianity teach us on this point prove a delusion, still a good man will lose nothing, and a bad man will get nothing. Inferences:
(1) How much we are bound in prudence to walk uprightly! Even if we regard only our present interest.
(2) In view of another state of existence the prudence of a virtuous course is greater than can be expressed.
(3) All that has been said is true, though there should be the greatest uncertainty with respect to the principles of religion.
(4) With what serenity of mind a good man may proceed through life. Whatever is true or fame, he has the consciousness of being on the safe side, and there is, in all cues, a particular satisfaction attending such a consciousness. (R. Price, D. D.)
Uprightness a man’s greatest security
The supreme aim of men is to secure that which they esteem their chief interest, and to pursue it upon the surest grounds. Man’s ultimate end is happiness.
I. Explain the words of the text. Walking signifies the course of our lives. Walking honestly or deceitfully, walking in light, in darkness, anal the like, is nothing else but living righteously or wickedly, behaving a man’s self honestly or deceitfully in the world. Uprightly signifies in perfection, or with integrity; it denotes honesty and sincerity of intention. Ha who lives uprightly is he who in the general course of his life beam a constant regard to God and His commandments. To walk surely is to be in a safe condition; to be out of danger of falling into any extreme calamity. The sum of the wise man’s assertion is this: He that in the whole course of his life acts sincerely and justly, with a continual respect to the reason of things, and to the law of God; that carries on all his undertakings by fair and equitable means, avoiding all frauds and deceits, all base and unworthy practices--this man takes the wisest and surest course to succeed in all his designs, respecting either his present or his future happiness.
II. Prove the truth of the assertion.
1. The upright man begins to act, or sets out, upon the best and surest grounds. To the undertaking and prosecuting any design upon good grounds, it is requisite--
(1) That the reasons upon which a man undertakes it, be firm and stable, and such as will not change.
(2) That he be well assured that the way he intends to go will lead him right to the end.
(3) That he be sure not to mistake the way.
2. In the continuance and whole course of his affairs he has the greatest probability not to fall into any considerable disappointment or calamity. And this for two reasons.
(1) Because the way of uprightness is in itself freest from danger, and according to the natural constitution of things, least liable to misfortunes and disappointments.
(2) Because it is guarded and protected by she peculiar favour and providence of God.
3. In the end and last issue of things the upright man has the utmost security, whatever disappointments he may before meet withal, that his designs shall then be crowned with the most perfect success. It is the event and final issue of things that determines the wisdom or folly of any action. The upright man will at the end appear to have chosen the wiser course--
(1) Upon account of that peace of conscience which will attend him at the hour of death;
(2) of the happiness which will attend him after death--a state of joy unspeakable and full of glory. What the upright man has done shall then be vindicated and approved, and what he has suffered shall be abundantly made good. (S. Clarke, D.D.)
The centre of gravity
The term “upright,” as applied to character, seems eminently direct and simple; yet in its origin it is as thoroughly figurative a word as any can be. It is a physical law declared applicable to a moral subject. When a man’s position is physically upright, he can stand easily or bear much. He is not soon wearied; he is not easily broken down. But if his limbs are uneven, or his posture bent, he is readily crushed by the weight of another; he is soon exhausted even by his own. There is a similar law in the moral department. There is an attitude of soul which corresponds to the erect position of the body, and is called uprightness. The least deviation from the line of righteousness will take your strength away, and leave you at the mercy of the meanest foe. There is evidence enough around us that righteousness presides over the government of the world. Although men are not righteous, yet righteousness is in the long run the sweetest way to success even among men. As an upright pillar can bear a greater weight than a leaning one, so moral rectitude is strong and obliquity weak. A true witness will bear an amount of cross-questioning which is sufficient to weigh twenty false witnesses down. Truth stands longer and bears more among men than falsehood. This law, operating in the world, is a glory to God in the highest. It visibly identifies the moral Governor of mankind with the Maker of the world. (W. Arnot, D.D.)
The safety of religion
The term “walk” signifies a course of conduct. To walk uprightly is to pursue a course of uprightness, or integrity. He who pursues such a course walks safely. God is righteous. Being such, He must regard the righteous with approbation and complacency.
I. What sentiments are safe, or what may we safely believe?
1. It is safe to believe the Scriptures are a revelation from God.
2. To believe in the immortality of the soul and in a future state of retribution.
3. To believe that men are naturally destitute of holiness, or in other words, wholly sinful.
4. That a moral renovation or change of heart is necessary to salvation.
5. In the proper Divinity of Jesus Christ.
6. That Christ has made an atonement for sin, and that we must be justified by faith in Him, and not by our own works.
7. That all men will not be saved.
II. What practice is safe? All who are called Christians may be divided into two classes. One is distinguished by a strict, the other by a lax interpretation of the Divine precepts. Which of these two classes pursues the safe course? Which is most dangerous--to have too little religion or too much? Surely he only who walks strictly walks safely. (E. Payson, D.D.)
The upright walker
The man who walks uprightly is relieved from all fear, and is inspired by the very spirit of courage. He knows that he means to be right, to do right, and therefore he can challenge the world to find fault with him. He glories in an honest purpose. The man who goes through life by crooked paths, sinuously endeavouring to avoid royal thoroughfares, will be discovered, and because he has a consciousness of this ultimate detection he lives a life of perpetual unrest. The man who perverts his ways shall be instructed by misfortune. He would not listen to more genial teachers, he put away from him the spirit of counsel and understanding, so the grim monitor known by the name of Misfortune, comes and conducts his schooling, compelling him to read hard words, and to undergo severe discipline. Honesty is a child of the daylight, and true honour works for no advantage, but submits itself to the most searching analysis and criticism. “The righteous are bold as a lion.” (J. Parker, D.D.)
How to be strong, safe, happy, and eternally progressive
This is a practical maxim which, if generally adopted and carried out in action, would change the whole aspect and condition of the world, producing order, peace, and happiness where now reign only disorder, misery, and crime. What is it to be right? It is to have our feeling, sentiments, and conduct conformed to the will of God, the eternal rule of right; or it is to think, feel, and act in accordance with the immutable standard of truth and right revealed in the Word of God. How extensive a thing right is! It takes in both the inner and outer man; both the duties which we owe to ourselves, and those which we owe to our fellow-men and to God.
I. To be right is to be strong. All the various faculties God has given us attain their most perfect development, activity, and strength only when they are nurtured and trained, and are exercised in accordance with the laws of right. This is true of body, mind, and heart. This is supported by Bible examples. This is a source of strength which can be found nowhere else. It brings the whole man into harmony with himself, reason, conscience, will--and all these into harmony with God and the great forces of His moral government and providence. Strength in being right is real strength.
II. To re bight is to be safe. This must be true, since God and His government are on the side of right, and all His perfections are pledged for the safety and ultimate well-being of them that obey His laws. He walks in the light who is right. It is true, even in regard to our temporal interests, that to be right is to be safe. We sometimes see a man apparently prosperous and happy in a course of wrong-doing. But he is all the while in danger. The path of rightness may not always be the shortest way to temporal prosperity, it is always, in the long run, the surest. Much more, to be right is to be safe in regard to our spiritual and eternal interests.
III. To be right is to be happy. This might be inferred with entire certainty from the design of the Creator in making us free moral agents; from the faculties He has given us, and the laws He has impressed on our being and ordained for our obedience; and also from the various provisions of His providence and grace, as well as from the abundant teachings and promises of His Word. The happiness of God consists in His being right. He is infinitely happy because He is infinitely righteous, true, just, and good.
IV. To be right is to be in a position of eternal progress in all that adds dignity and blessedness to an immortal nature. What have we to do, in this state of probation, to secure the highest good of our souls? how rise to the highest dignity and happiness which our immortal natures are made capable of attaining? Only one answer can be given. It is by being right: right with God, right with our own moral and immortal nature, and right with the principles of that eternal government which the Creator has ordained, and under which we are to live for ever and ever. The man who is right has God on his side, and the laws of the universe on his side, and all good beings on his side; and into whatever part of the universe he may remove, God is there, surrounding him with His everlasting favour, and he cannot be otherwise than safe and happy. Practical lessons:
1. God exercises a moral government over this world. He has made us free moral agents. He has placed us under wise and benevolent laws, sanctioned by rewards and punishments, which are sure to follow, in the line of right or wrong-doing. Results are not complete in this life. Things are nosy in progress; the full consequences of human conduct lie in the future. But what we see here is sufficient to convince us that God reigns over this world as a righteous moral Governor.
2. We may learn what is true policy. It is always and in all circumstances to do what is right. Cunning, compromise, artifice, expediency, and fraud may seem to work well for a time, but mischief and evil are sure to come in the issue. The effect always is to corrupt moral principle, to weaken conscience, to darken the mind, and to arm providence, and the course of nature, and the Word of God against those who thus sacrifice right for expediency, and principle for policy.
3. No change in a man’s life is so great as when he is truly converted from sin to holiness, and comes under the law of right as his ruling principle of action. It changes his whole state and prospects for eternity.
4. How urgent, then, are the reasons for seeking to be right above all things else--right with ourselves, right with our fellow-men, right with God and the eternal laws and principles of His government. (J. Hawes, D.D.)
The practice of religion enforced by reason
Walking represents an active principle in an active posture. As the nature of man carries him out to action, the same nature renders him solicitous about the issue and event of his actions. A man must take care not to be deceived in the rule which he proposes for the measure of his actions. This he may be--
1. By laying false and deceitful principles.
2. In case he lays right principles, yet by mistaking in the consequences which he draws from them. He who guides his actions by the rules of piety and religion lays these two principles as the great ground of all that he does.
(1) That there is an infinite, eternal, all-wise mind governing the affairs of the world, and taking such an account of the actions of men as, according to the quality of them, to punish or reward them.
(2) That there is an estate of happiness or misery after this life, allotted to every man, according to the quality of his actions here. Consider these principles under a threefold supposition.
I. As certainly true. It is necessary that there should be some first mover; and if so, a first being; and the first being must infer an infinite, unlimited perfection in the said being. All other perfection must be derived from it, and so we infer the creation of the world. If God created the world, He must govern it, and this by means suitable to the natures of the things He governs, and to the attainment of the proper ends of government. As man is a moral agent, he must be governed by laws, and these sustained by sanctions. While a man steers his course by these principles he acts prudentially and safely. The presuming sinner can have only two excuses.
1. That God is merciful, and will not be so severe as His word.
2. That a future repentance is possible. But, upon supposition of the certain truth of the principles of religion, he who walks not uprightly has neither from the presumption of God’s mercy reversing the decree of His justice, nor from his own purposes of a future repentance, any sure ground to set his foot upon, but in this whole course acts as directly in contradiction of nature, as he does in defiance of grace.
II. As probable. Probability does not properly make any alteration, either in the truth or falsity of things; but only imports a different degree of their clearness or appearance to the understanding. The first rudiments and general notions of religion, natural religion, are universal. These consist in the acknowledgment of a Deity, and of the common principles of morality, and a future estate of souls after death. But if there were really no such things, how could this persuasion come to be universal? Can we conceive that the whole world has been brought to conspire in the belief of a lie? It is sufficient to render unbelief inexcusable, even upon the account of bare reason, if so be the truth of religion carry in it a much greater probability than any of those ratiocinations that pretend the contrary. Proved by two considerations.
1. That no man, in matters of this life, requires an assurance either of the good he designs or of the evil which he avoids from arguments demonstratively certain, but judges himself to have sufficient ground to act upon, from a probable persuasion of the event of things.
2. Bare reason will oblige a man voluntarily and by choice to undergo any less evil, to secure himself from the probability of an evil incomparably greater. Since probability, in the nature of it, supposes that a thing may or may not be so, for anything that yet appears, or is certainly determined on either side, we will here consider both sides of this probability.
(1) It is one way possible, that there be no such thing as a future state of happiness or misery for those who have lived well or ill here. Then he who, upon the strength of a contrary belief, abridged, himself in the gratification of his appetites, sustains only this evil--if it be evil--that he did not please his senses as he might have done.
(2) But, on the other side, it is probable that there will be such a future estate, and then how miserably is the voluptuous, sensual unbeliever left in the lurch!
III. As false. Even on this account he who walks uprightly walks more surely than the wicked and profane liver.
1. In reputation or credit.
2. In respect of the case, peace, and quietness which he enjoys in this world.
3. In the health of his body. Virtue is a friend and help to nature. It may be said that many sinners escape the calamities of life. But this may be due to their luck, or benign chance. Many more sinners are plunged into calamities by their sins than escape them. And sin has in itself a natural tendency to bring men under all evils, and if persisted in, will infallibly end in them. (R. South.)
Happiness is the favourite wish and the alluring object which every living creature pursues. In pursuing the end all are agreed, but in the ways of securing the end they differ widely. The choice of these means shows a man to be wise or foolish, religious or wicked. Man, besides his innate appetite for happiness, has a superior principle in him, which is reason; and reason will inform him that happiness, all joy and no sorrow, is unattainable and impossible under present conditions. The only way to obtain true happiness is to walk uprightly. It may, however, be said, that although the position in the text should be allowed to be true, yet it contains a truth of very little use or comfort to us, and a promise which none of us can apply to his own person; seeing that we are all sinners in various degrees. Two observations take off the force of this objection.
1. Though uprightness means goodness, and an upright man is a perfect and righteous man, this is not the character here represented. Here uprightness is a social virtue, producing a good conduct towards others. He who in all his dealings is honest, sincere, charitable, candid, and friendly, will in return receive good-usage and escape ill-usage. The promised reward of safety is also of the social kind, namely, security and peace, honour and reputation, esteem and favour, encouragement and assistance, rather than the future rewards of righteousness. Any person, therefore, may apply this encouragement to well-doing to himself.
2. Though we should suppose the uprightness mentioned in the text to mean goodness in general, and a goodness to which we cannot pretend, yet we may hope to make some advances towards it, and consequently may hope to come in for some share of the reward. If he who walketh uprightly in all respects, walketh surely in all respects, he who endeavours to do so, and on several occasions does walk uprightly, will obtain some degree of safety and security, proportionably to his moral improvements.
I. The ways of the righteous are plain, direct, even ways. Nothing is less difficult than to know our duty, and our interests also, if there be a sincerity of intention, and an integrity of heart. Christian faith and Christian practice are plain and perspicuous so far as they are of universal importance and of absolute necessity. The ways of the unrighteous are dark, crooked, rough, and slippery ways. What is to be said beforehand for the obtaining of criminal pleasures? And how much is to be given up? What are the consequences of such proceedings? and what the vain hopes on which such a person relies?
II. He who walks uprightly acts upon good moral principles, which will stand the test of the strictest scrutiny. The belief of these principles is absolutely necessary even for upholding civil government and preserving human society. All other springs and motives of action, besides reason and religion, are fickle and various. An upright person in all cases and conditions is the same person and goes the same way. By this he is secured from diffidence and self-distrust and distraction of mind.
III. He that walketh uprightly has taken the proper way to attain all that a man can reasonably hope and desire in this world. This proper way Scripture calls the straight and the plain way, viz., the way of diligence and benevolence, of honour, honesty, and integrity, which may seem to be slow, but is both sure and speedy also.
IV. He who designs only what is just and reasonable can run no great hazard. He is not likely to receive any great injury from intriguing men, or trouble from the vain and busy world. Nor is he likely to raise up adversaries. Serenity, satisfaction, and a just confidence always attend upon him. Good dispositions of the heart, like great abilities of the mind, are open, free, unsuspicious, courageous, and liberal. The upright person is constant and consistent with himself; his heart and his face, his mind and his speech, his professions and his deeds agree together. So men place confidence in him. He is secure as to the final result of affairs, the main end, and the considerable purposes of human life. If prosperity consists in a satisfaction of mind upon the whole, he cannot fail of being prosperous.
V. Either there is a future state or there is not. In either case the upright man is safe. He alone can make the best of both worlds. Do not, then, be weak enough to grieve or repine at the seeming prosperity of the wicked sons of fortune, who obtain a greater influence of worldly favours than many persons far better than themselves. (J. Jortin, D.D.)
The upright walker
His walk may be slow, but it is sure. He that hasteth to be rich shall not be innocent nor sure; but steady perseverance in integrity, if it do not bring riches, will certainly bring peace. In doing that which is just and right we are like one walking upon a rock, for we have confidence that every step we take is upon solid and safe ground. On the other hand, the utmost success through questionable transactions must always be hollow and treacherous, and the man who has gained it must always be afraid that a day of reckoning will come, and then his gains will condemn him. Let us stick to truth and righteousness. By God’s grace let us imitate our Lord and Master, in whose mouth no deceit was ever found. Let us not be afraid of being poor, nor of being treated with contempt. Never, on any account whatever, let us do that which our conscience cannot justify. If we lose inward peace, we lose more than a fortune can buy. If we keep in the Lord’s own way, and never sin against our conscience, our way is sure against all comers. Who is he that can harm us if we be followers of that which is good? We may be thought fools by fools if we are firm in our integrity; but in the place where judgment is infallible we shall be approved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Integrity most successful
A straight line is the shortest in morals as well as in geometry. (Isaac Barrow.)
An upright posture
An upright posture is easier than a stooping one, because it is more natural, and one part is better supported by another; so it is easier to be an honest man than a knave. (T. Skelton.)
The mouth of the righteous is a well of life.
Streams in the desert
A man who receives, professes, and obeys the truth, is like a well of water; while a man who retains the form of religion, but denies its power, is like a waterless well.
I. The true believer is like a well. The likeness between the natural and the spiritual may be thus traced.
1. In the manner of its flow. It is an overflow. When the well flows for the benefit of others, itself is full. Itself is satisfied, and out of its abundance it flows over to satisfy the wants of others. When a Christian has not much for himself, he has nothing for his neighbours. As the full well must run over, so the satisfied soul must make known in some form the Saviour’s love.
2. In the effects of its overflow. It refreshes and fertilises the surrounding barrenness. Travellers always take special notice of the effects produced by springs on certain spots in the desert. They make oases. So the neighbourhood feels the effect of the presence of Christians. There cannot be a lively Christian in a godless family, or a lively Church in a godless neighbourhood, without some spiritual commotion among those who are near.
3. As to source whence the well gets its supply. Though the water springs up from beneath, the supply has come down from above. So the Christian says, “All my springs are in Thee.” The facts in nature are well known. For Christians, all depends on the supply they get from a covenant God. The Spirit poured out reaches by hidden paths the veins of the heart, and fills it--then it can overflow in blessing. This truth is taught as a doctrine (John 7:37-39), and manifested in the experience of the disciples (Luke 9:54).
II. A hypocrite is like a well without water. He who has neither the profession nor the power, is not a well at all. He who has the profession but not the power is a well, but there is no water in it. Counterfeit Christians are not simply useless, they are destroyers (compare Jude 1:12 : “Clouds without water”). Christian professors need to see well to it that they are not deceiving and destroying their neighbours. Their profession constitutes them wells, but what if they are wells without water? When God finds us dry, we have cause to fear lest He visit us in judgment, and cut off from us our own supply. Practical lessons:
1. Some wells are not empty, and yet are as useless as if they were. They are filled with bitter water. Some professing Christians with knowledge and correct principles, nevertheless are of an angry, biting, censorious, malicious, proud, selfish spirit. Let Christians imitate the gentleness as well as the faithfulness of Christ.
2. Some wells are not empty, and yet are as useless as if they were. They are filled, or nearly filled, with stagnant water. The water is stagnant, for none has found its way in for a long time from the secret channels, and none has run out over the brim. Secret, earnest, constant getting of the fulness that is hid in Christ is the only sure way of being blessed yourself and becoming s blessing to others. (Christian Treasury.)
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
The hiding work of love
Love is not a New Testament virtue or grace, nor is it left for the New Testament to praise it in high strains of music. From the beginning love has been an angel in the world, gladdening men by its brightness, soothing men by its persuasiveness, and luring souls with infinite gentleness towards all that is true and beautiful. Love takes the largest view of life--it does not vex itself with temporary details, with transient aberrations; it looks down into the very core and substance of the soul, and, knowing that the heart is true in its supreme desires, it covers many flaws and specks, yea, even faults and sins, in the hope that concealment may destroy their influence and their very existence. There is a covering up which is a vain concealment, a merely deceitful trick; no such covering up is meant here: this is rather the covering up with which God covers the iniquities of the pardoned man, the sins of him who has confessed all his guilt, and desired an exercise of the Divine mercy. Love is not mere sentiment, an easy-going action of the mind, too self-complacent and self-indulgent to enter with energy into any moral inquiry. The love which is commended in Scripture is an ardent love, keen, critical, sagacious, far-sighted, not imagining that things are destroyed because they are concealed; it is the love of God which at all costs must expel sin from the universe, and set up the kingdom of God among men. (J. Parker, D.D.)
Charity like the orchid
In tropical forests the orchids thrust out long floating roots into mid-air, from the impure vapours of which they draw their nourishment. They live on trunks of huge decaying trees, which, as decomposition proceeds very rapidly, would, if left alone, fill the air with poisonous gases. But the orchid swings in rich festoons over the rotting boughs: covers the deformity with its own loveliness, absorbs all foul exhalations and turns them into the perfume of its own sweet flowers. Charity is this beautiful orchid, covering human frailty, clearing away harsh, suspicious, and cruel slanders; breathing forth merciful judgments, com- passionate sympathy. (James Neil, M.A.)
In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found.
I. An intellectual contrast.
The difference existing between men in relation to the amount of knowledge is of vast variety. The disparity arises from a difference in mental constitution, and in educational opportunities. The intelligent man--
1. Communicates wisdom. When he speaks men are enlightened, their minds are set to think, and their spirits are refreshed.
2. Accumulates wisdom. It is a characteristic of knowledge in the mind that with its increase there is an increase both in the mind’s desire for larger intelligence, and in its capacity for it. Of the man void of understanding Solomon says two things. There is a “rod for his back,” and “his mouth is near destruction.” He is the subject of coercion; he has not intelligence enough to be swayed by argument. Hence his language is so mischievous, he babbles and blabs so recklessly, meddling, perhaps, with other men’s concerns, that he brings ruin on himself, his mouth is always near destruction.
II. A social contrast. Social differences among men are as great as the mental. The rich man’s confidence is in his “strong city.” But he cannot shut out disease, bereavement, death, or care. The tendency of wealth is to dispose its possessors to trust to safety where no safety is.
III. A moral contrast. According to the constitution of things righteous labour tends to life, bodily, mental, and spiritual. Sin is here put in contrast with life, and it is the true antithesis. Sin is death, the death of the true, the divine, and the happy. (Homilist.)
Wise men lay up knowledge.
Experience kept for use
Another brief definition of wisdom. Many get knowledge, and let it go as fast as they get it. They put their winnings into a bag with holes. The part of wisdom is to treasure up experience, and hold it ready for use in the time and place of need. Everything may be turned to account. Even losses may be converted into gains. Let nothing trickle out and flow away useless. None of the wisdom comes for nothing, either to old or young. Our Father in heaven gives us the best kind; and the best kind is that which is bought. The saddest thing is when people are always paying, and never possessing. The cleverest people are in many cases the least successful. A man of moderate gifts, but steadfast acquisitiveness, lays up more than a man of the brightest genius, whether the treasure sought be earthly substance or heavenly wisdom. Men, looking on the outward appearance, make great mistakes in judging of men. Those who give out little noise may have laid up much wisdom. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
Wise men lay up knowledge
In Eastern countries men lay up garments, and pride themselves in the number of their suits of apparel. In our land men lay up money. But this is not “wisdom.” In Egypt Joseph laid up corn for the day of famine; and in Syria men lay up water for the summer in cisterns under their houses. This is wisdom; but still it is not the wisdom of which Solomon speaks. The astronomer lays up the knowledge of the stars; and the botanist lays up the knowledge of plants and flowers. This is wisdom, but it is not that of which the text speaks. The knowledge that is best for us is the knowledge of God Himself; and though the knowledge of His works is good, the knowledge of Himself is far better. It is only this knowledge that can make you happy, or bring blessing to your soul. A poor woman, that could not read a word, once said to me, “You see I’m no scholar; but I’m Christ’s scholar, and that will do.” Yes, it was enough; for it made her “wise unto salvation.” She was one of the wise women that “lay up knowledge.” This is the knowledge which you must have; you will find it in the Bible; and the Holy Spirit is most willing to become your teacher. (Christian Treasury.)
The rich man’s wealth is his strong city.
The money power
Here he is describing what is, rather than prescribing what ought to be. In all ages and in all lands money has been a mighty power, and its relative importance increases with the advance of civilisation. It does not reach the Divine purpose; but it controls human action. The Jews wield this money power in a greater degree than any other people. Over against this formidable power stands the counterpart weakness--“the destruction of the poor is their poverty.” This feebleness of the body politic is as difficult to deal with as its active diseases. If pauperism be not so acute an affection as crime it is more widely spread, and requires as much of the doctor’s care. Besides being an ailment itself, it is a predisposition to other and more dangerous evils. We are under law to God. The wheels of His providence are high and dreadful. If we presumptuously or ignorantly stand in their way, they will crush us by their mighty movements. We must set ourselves, by social arrangements, to diminish temptations, and by moral appliances to reclaim the vicious, if we expect to thrive or even to exist as a community. Money answereth all things in its own legitimate province of material supply, but when beyond its province you ask it to stop the gaps which vice is making, it is a dumb idol--it has no answer to give at all. A large proportion of the penniless are in a greater or less degree reckless. Partly their recklessness has made them poor, and partly their poverty has made them reckless. When a multitude who are all poor combine for united action, rash and regardless spirits gain influence and direct their course. Money, though a bad master, is a good servant. Money to the working man would answer all the ends which a strike contemplates, if each, by patient industry and temperance, would save a portion for himself. The whole community of rich and poor, linked together in their various relations, may be likened to a living body. The promiscuous mass of human beings that are welded together by their necessities and interests in this island is like a strong swimmer in the sea, and alas! it is too often like “a strong swimmer in his agony.” Two truths stand out conspicuously from all the confusion. The world has a righteous Ruler, and the Ruler has a dislocated world to deal with. (W. Arnot, D.D.)
The destruction of the poor is their poverty.--
The destruction of the poor
1. Poor people mostly remain poor, for want of the means of rising.
2. The poor are sometimes despised and downtrodden by the proud.
3. They are often reckless, spending their little foolishly. But for this numbers would be richer.
4. They are especially tempted to dishonesty. (Wesleyan S. S. Magazine.)
He that uttereth a slander is a fool.
The folly of slander
I. Slandering is foolish, as sinful and wicked. All sin is foolish upon many accounts. To lie simply is a great fault, being a deviation from that good rule which prescribeth truth in all our words. Of all lies those certainly are the worst which proceed from malice, or from vanity, or from both, and which work mischief; such slanders are. To bear any hatred or ill-will towards any man is a heinous fault. Of this the slanderer is most guilty in the highest degree. Incurable are the wounds which the slanderer inflicteth, irreparable the damages which he causeth, indelible the marks which he leaveth. All injustice is abominable; and of this the slanderer is most deeply guilty. The slanderer may indeed conceive it no great matter that he committeth; because he doth not act in a boisterous and bloody way, but only by words, which are subtle, slim, and transient things. Tis only an imaginary stain that he daubeth his neighbour with; therefore he supposeth no great wrong done. But these conceits arise from great inconsiderateness or mistake.
II. The slanderer is a fool, because he maketh wrong judgments and valuations of things. And accordingly driveth on silly bargains for himself, in result whereof he proveth a great loser. The slanderer may pretend that what he does is for the sake of orthodox doctrines, or for advantage of the true Church. This indeed is the covert of innumerable slanders; zeal for some opinion, or some party, beareth out men of sectarian and factious spirits in such practices; they may do, they may say, anything for those fine ends. This plea will in no wise justify such practices. Truth does not need, and it loathes and scorns the patronage and the succour of lies. To prostitute the conscience, or sacrifice our honesty, for any cause, in any interest whatever, can never be warrantable or wise.
III. The slanderer is a fool, because he useth improper means and preposterous methods of effecting his purposes. The straight way is always shorter than the oblique and crooked. The plain way is easier than the rough and cragged. Using strict veracity and integrity, candour and equity, is the best method of accomplishing good designs.
IV. The slanderer is a very fool, as bringing many great inconveniences, troubles, and mischiefs on himself.
1. A fool’s mouth is his destruction. If any kind of speech is destructive and dangerous, then is this slander kind most dangerous of all. Men will rather pardon a robber of their goods, than a defamer of their good Dame.
2. The slanderer is apprehended as a common enemy; all men are rendered averse from him, and ready to cross him.
3. All ingenious and honest persons have an aversion from the practice of the slanderer, and cannot entertain it with any acceptance or complacence. It is only ill-natured and ill-nurtured, unworthy and naughty people, that are willing auditors or encouragers thereof.
4. The slanderer doth banish himself from all conversation and company.
5. He derogateth wholly from his own credit in all matters of discourse.
6. This practice is perpetually haunted with most troublesome companions, inward regret, self-condemnation, fear and disquiet.
7. The consequence of this practice is commonly shameful disgrace, with an obligation to retract, and render satisfaction; for seldom doth calumny pass long without being detected and confuted.
8. He can never have sound quiet in his mind, he can never expect pardon from heaven, without acknowledging his fault, repairing the wrong he hath done, restoring that good name of which he dispossessed his neighbour.
9. This practice doth also certainly revenge itself, imposing on its actor a perfect retaliation, an irrecoverable infamy to himself, for the infamy he caused to others.
10. The slanderer doth banish himself from heaven and happiness, doth expose himself to endless miseries and sorrows. Is not he, then, who, out of malignity or vanity, to serve any design, or soothe any humour in himself or others, involves himself in all these great evils, a most desperate and deplorable fool? Persons of a generous and honest mind cannot but scorn to debase and defile themselves by so mean and vile a practice; and so do those who seriously profess Christianity; that is, the religion which peculiarly above all others prescribeth the constant truth, strictest justice, and highest charity. (I. Barrow, D.D.)
Sent by his master to purchase the best dish the market could supply, AEsop provided only tongues, which were served up with different sauces for every course; ordered afterwards to provide the worst things he could find, he again appeared with a supply of tongues. The moral is obvious.
I. The language of deceit (Proverbs 10:18). Lying is a sin committed by--
1. The false witness (Proverbs 14:5).
2. The dishonest tradesman (Proverbs 20:14).
II. The language of slander (Proverbs 10:18). “The safe rule as to the government of the tongue in society,” says Dean Goulburn, “is to stand at a very respectful distance from all such topics as our neighbour’s conduct and character.”
III. The language of profusion (verse 19). It is better to say nothing than that what we say should be nothing to the purpose. Profuse talkers often transgress the law of--
1. Reverence (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
2. Courtesy. Conversation is not merely talking to people, but talking with people (Romans 15:2).
IV. The language of instruction (Proverbs 10:20-21). Two figures are used. “Choice silver” represents worth, Good words are a choice heritage. They are valuable because they create good thoughts and often lead to good acts (Psalms 34:11). The 21st verse gives us the thought of food (“feed many”). The words of the true man of God are food for the soul. The lips of the righteous utter the words of wisdom (Proverbs 10:30), for there is a vital connection between what a man is and what he says and does (Acts 4:20; Corinthians 4:13). (H. Thorne.)
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin
The sin of gab
Carlyle says, “There is a great necessity indeed of getting a little more silent than we are.
It seems to me that the finest nations in the world--England and America--are going away into wind and tongue; but it will appear sufficiently tragical by and by, long after I am away out of it (the world). Silence is the eternal duty of a man. ‘Watch the tongue ‘ is a very old precept, and a most true one.” The most thinking men of all ages have felt a similar conviction of the enormous evil of garrulousness.
I. It is a sin against the speaker himself. A man whose tongue is always wagging, is doing a serious injury to his own intellectual and spiritual nature.
1. Great volubility is a substitute for thought. The man mistakes words for thoughts. Plato says, “As empty vessels make the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest babblers.”
2. Great volubility is a quietus to thought. The man who has the power of talking without thinking will soon cease to think; his mental faculties fall into disuse under the constant pressure of verbositors.
II. It is a sin against the hearer. Such men--
1. Waste the precious time of the hearer.
2. They foster self-deception. The most ignorant as well as the largest congregations attend the ministry of the garrulous preacher.
3. They propagate crude opinions instead of divine principles. “We have two ears and but one tongue, that we may hear much and talk little.” (D. Thomas, D.D.)
The heart of the wicked is little worth.
The heart not good where the practice is evil
It is a dangerous opinion that however a man may deviate in his general practice from the habits of morality and religion, yet still he may be possessed of a good heart at bottom. If we trace the rise and progress of this baneful opinion, we shall find its origin in the confusion of ideas prevalent relative to the determination of what is to be called good, and what evil. This has given rise to so untoward and irreligious s separation of the heart of a man from his outward actions, as to decide that the former may continue to be good, while the latter are continually evil. This notion is supported by much irreligious literature. There are writers who affect to measure the worth of every action by the standard of sensibility--an ambiguous word, that is made to overleap every fence of judgment, to throw down every bulwark of rational conviction, and to exalt itself above everything that is serious, solid and virtuous. The heart of such an one as pursues wicked courses, notwithstanding all the insinuations, assertions, and misrepresentations of most dangerous and deceitful writers of every kind, “is of little worth,” and yet it is a false and sinful principle to maintain the contrary. If such a heart can be called good, then must virtue and vice have changed their names and qualities; then must religion consist in a total disregard for all serious impression and an absolute forgetfulness of Almighty God; then did our blessed Saviour deliver the admirable precepts of Christianity, to be corrected, revised, altered, and overturned by the maxims of worldly honour. As youthful folly is but too generally the foundation of sin, so is infidelity but too often its superstructure or final result; and the heart is undoubtedly the seat or fruitful parent of both. The heart, in a natural sense, is the seat of life and action. The heart signifies, in a moral sense, the vital principle of all good and evil, of all that purifies or defiles a man, of all that procures him blame or praise, and that renders him justly liable to reward or punishment, either in this life or another. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” so are his actions. Is, then, every one who doeth any evil corrupt at heart? No; every one doth evil at times. But it any one should think he might do much evil without corrupting his heart, he is grievously mistaken, and will soon find himself so. May not a man’s actions be so poised between good and evil, that it is hard to determine which preponderates? There is a mixture of good and evil in every character, but this is seldom in such equal proportions as makes it difficult to ascertain whether the good or evil preponderates. It is hardly possible for any length of time to keep the balance even betwixt the good and the evil. Either good habits will ere long gain the ascendancy in the heart, or evil ones. Another objection is--Do we not say there are no hopes of reclaiming such an one, he is bad at heart; and does not this seem to imply that a man may have committed a great deal of evil before he can be said to be bad at heart? While the heart is balancing between good and evil, we may not call it bad; when it bends down and keeps down on the evil side, it is bad, and most difficult to be reclaimed by any human means. Yet we may not say that any heart becomes so bad as to be beyond all convicting and converting influences. But it may be said--Is there not a degree of evil actions where the heart is manifestly good? The persons hinted at in this objection are those who have the best intentions in the world, the best dispositions, but whose understandings and judgments do not keep pace with the excess of their goodness. Such persons do not always plan with discretion, or execute with prudence. And they are often the dupes of crafty and designing persons. A good heart is liable to error. Since, then, there is no foundation for that pernicious opinion that a man’s heart may be good whilst the general tenor of his actions is immoral and evil, let us earnestly avoid being misled by such idle sophistry, such false reasoning. Let us not listen to the specious allurements of refined sentiment, or to the subtleties of vain philosophy. Let us not set up the imaginations of man above the plain doctrines and precepts of God. (C. Moore, M.A.)
The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.
Riches in God’s blessing
I. God’s blessing gives material wealth. The silver and the gold are His, and He gives them to whomsoever He will. He who rules in the highest, reaches down to the minutest concerns of this world, and controls them all.
II. God’s blessing makes rich His blessing is riches, although the wealth of the world should all flee away. There are two ways of acquiring wealth. Some people grow rich without God’s blessing, and some grow rich by it. The god of this world gives riches to his subjects sometimes, when neither giver nor getter own the supremacy of the Almighty; and God Himself gives riches to some who are His children. Wherein lies the difference, since both the godly and the godless have gotten wealth? It lies here: God addeth no sorrow with it, but that other lord does. Sorrow is sure to come with ill-gotten wealth. It lies like a burning spark on the conscience, which will not out all the rich man’s days. Sometimes the wealth is scattered by public judgments. Sometimes it becomes the source of family strife. There are many arrows of judgment in the Almighty’s quiver. If you take God into your counsels, and so grow rich, there will be no bitterness infused into your gains. A human soul is so made that it cannot safely have riches next it. If they come into direct contact, they will clasp it too closely; if they remain, they wither the soul’s life away; and if they are violently wrenched off, they tear the soul’s life asunder. Whether, therefore, you keep them or lose them, if you clasp them to your soul with nothing more spiritual between, they will become its destroyer. Certain tortures that savages have invented and applied to the human bodies bear an analogy to the process by which his money makes the miser miserable, alike when it abides with him and when it departs. They wrap the body of the living victim all round in a thick impermeable plaster, and then set him free. If the covering remains all the pores of the body are clogged, the processes of nature are impeded, and the life pines away; if it is torn off, it tears the skin with it,--the pain is sooner over, but it is more severe. Thus the soul of a thorough worldling is either choked by wealth possessed, or torn by wealth taken away. Out of that dread dilemma he cannot wriggle. The laws of God have shut him in. The Maker of the soul is its portion. He made it for Himself. When riches are clasped closest to the heart, He is slighted and dishonoured. If you be Christians, if you have put on Christ, great riches may come and go; you will not be clogged while you have them; you will not be naked when they leave. But if the wealth be the first and inner wrapping of the soul, how shall that soul ever get into contact with the Saviour, that life from its fountain may flow into the dead? It is easy for a Christian to be rich, but hard for a rich man to become a Christian. (W. Arnot, D.D.)
New hopes for a new year
Whatever may be your ideas of your own powers and resources--whatever may be the confidence that you put in man, or the trust that you repose in princes--you may be quite sure of this, that it is only the blessing of the Lord that maketh rich, and that addeth no sorrow. The blessings of God are not marred or mixed with evil. Paraphrase the text thus--“All that God gives to do us good really secures our good without any admixture of evil.” Two facts in connection with the Divine blessing.
I. It enriches. Some Divine gifts are granted in displeasure. It is possible to connect sorrow with that which God intends ultimately to prove a blessing. Sometimes the blessing of the Lord is material and temporal wealth, as in the case of Abraham and of Job. Much wealth is, alas! gotten by vanity and dishonesty--by treachery and falsehood and over-reaching, and by that indefinable sin, but that exceedingly common sin, covetousness. Sorrow was added in the case of Lot’s wealth; but then Lot added the sorrow. There was no sorrow with the portion of Abraham. More frequently the blessing is not wealth, but food convenient for us. I know the great number of the poor, but there is a far greater number of persons not poor. Our attention is often directed to the poverty which exists, but I think we do not sufficiently look at the competency which exists. Where poverty is permitted, how often do you see godliness with contentment. You cannot always say of riches, “Godliness with riches is great gain.” The blessing of the Lord turns every possession into wealth. Children, when blessed by God, are a heritage from the Lord. Friends, when blessed by God, are as so many ministers and servants and priests of God to us. Money, when blessed by God, instead of being the root of all evil, is the source and means of much good. Honour and reputation, when blessed by God, instead of being traps and snares and stumbling blocks, are an exalted position upon which light may shine for the good of others, and the glory of our Father in heaven. Some things wrapped up in the blessing of the Lord are of priceless value. He who has the blessing of salvation is rich indeed. To acquire good things is to prevent all misgiving as to the right of possession. Temporal prosperity, if chosen for you by your Father in heaven, is not only a condition in which you may lawfully be found, but one in which you may feel secure and safe. In this state there is no suspicion as to the power of keeping what we have, and there is no alloy in the use or enjoyment. Providence over both material and spiritual things is fully co-operative with a man whose position is created by the blessing of the Lord. He can look his fellow-men in the face concerning his prosperity--even his temporal prosperity--and can speak of all he has without bringing a blush upon his cheek. Then try to get God’s blessing upon everything--body, soul, and spirit; upon the husband, upon the wife, and upon the children, upon your means of livelihood, upon your property, upon your friendships and connections, and upon all your pursuits. (Samuel Martin.)
It is as sport to a fool to do mischief.
Moral phases of life
Human life has its spiritual and moral as well as its material and intellectual side. Five things in these verses of great moral significance.
I. Wealth making happy. Great temporal possessions are often the occasion of mental suffering. They awaken in the mind harassing cares, painful anxieties, and distressing suspicions. Wealth reached in harmony with the will of God, and employed in the service of benevolence and truth, has no sorrow, but tends to happiness in many ways.
II. Mischief done in sport. There is an innocent sport. The sport meant here is that which does injury to the reputation, the property, the peace, the comforts of others. Sport that turns the serious into ridicule, that makes merry in deeds of nefarious wickedness. It is the fool that makes a mock at sin; to the wise man sin is too grave a matter to laugh at.
III. Justice done to all. The anticipation of the righteous, and the forebodings of the wicked, shall both one day be realised. There is at times in every guilty conscience a fearful looking for of judgment. There is, on the other hand, in every godly soul a desire for a higher spiritual good.
IV. Indolence causing vexation. Vinegar sets the teeth on edge, and smoke gives pain to the eyes. Both irritate and annoy, so an indolent messenger provokes his master. Laziness is vexatious.
V. Character revealed in its issues. Good character prolongs life, and yields joy. The character of the wicked abbreviates life, and ends in ruin. How full is the Bible of human life! God has filled it with humanity in order that it might interest men, and improve them. (Homilist.)
The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him; but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
Scripture is a book full of the strongest contrasts. As in the work of an eminent painter, it contains light and shade.
I. Who are the wicked? We must not confine our ideas to the notoriously profligate. As long as a man is uncalled of God, and unregenerate, he is a stranger to all that is truly spiritual, and knows not the true nature of sin. Malachi describes the righteous thus, “He serveth God.” He describes the wicked thus, “He serveth Him not.” The wicked servant “hid his Lord’s talent in the earth.” In the description of the sheep and goats, there is no mark of profligacy fixed on the goats. The great besetting sin of the unregenerate man is pride. Neglect of Christ, contempt of Christ, impenitence, carnality, and worldliness, God declares to be the great condemning sin of the world. Whoever and whatever the wicked may be, they must have their fear.
II. The righteous and their desire. Who are the righteous?? They are the justified. They are the sanctified. A man trusting to his own righteousness cannot be a holy man. The very first elements of holiness are wanting in him--humiliation before God, real acquaintance with God, real desire after God. It is a great delusion to imagine that a justified soul is not also sanctified. The activity of spiritual life shows itself in spiritual desire. It wants pardon, peace, righteousness, happiness. What encouragement does the text give to these desires? There is no limit, no exception, no peradventure. “It shall be granted.” (J. Harrington Evans, M.A.)
The desire of the righteous granted
I. Who is the righteous man?
1. He whom God counts so.
2. He whom God makes so, by possessing him with a principle of righteousness.
3. He who is practically righteous.
II. What are the desires of the righteous man?
1. Communion with God.
2. Enjoyment of holy ordinances.
3. The personal presence of the Lord (Philippians 1:23).
III. What is meant by granting these desires? (Psalms 145:19; Psalms 37:4; Psalms 21:2.) The desires of God and the righteous agree together. They are the life of all their prayers, and God delights in these. (John Bunyan.)
The desire of the righteous
Because it is a righteous desire it is safe for God to grant it. It would be neither good for the man himself, nor for society at large, that such a promise should be made to the unrighteous. Let us keep the Lord’s commands, and He will rightfully have respect to our desires. When righteous men are left to desire unrighteous desires, they will not be granted to them. But then these are not their real desires; they are their wanderings or blunders; and it is well that they should be refused. Their gracious desires shall come before the Lord, and He will not say them nay. Does the Lord deny us our requests for a time? Let the promise for to-day encourage us to ask again. Has He denied us altogether? We will thank Him still, for it always was our desire that He should deny us if He judged a denial to be best. As to some things, we ask very boldly. Our chief desires are for holiness, usefulness, likeness to Christ, preparedness for heaven. These are the desires of grace rather than of nature--the desires of the righteous man rather than of the mere man. God will not stint us in these things, but will do for us exceeding abundantly. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Fears realised and hopes fulfilled
The difference between the righteous and the wicked lies not in the existence of these emotions of fear and hope now, but in their issue at last. In each character there are the same two emotions now; in each, at the final reckoning, one of these emotions will be realised and the other disappointed. It is not difficult to ascertain what are the chief fears and desires of a wicked man. Cleaving to his sins, he is in enmity against God. The terrors of the Lord glance from time to time like lightning in his conscience. He fears the wrath of God, and the punishment of sin. What does he desire or hope? His desire for time is the indulgence of his appetites; his desire for eternity is that there should be no God, or at least, that He should not be just to mark iniquity. What becomes of the fears of the righteous? What becomes of the darkness when the daylight shines? When Christ comes, His coming shall be morning. The saints are subject to fears. The promise to believers is not that they shall never fear; it is that the thing feared will never come upon them. Their desire is that they may be pardoned through the blood of Christ, and renewed after His image. When these are the desires of our souls, how safe we are! (W. Arnot, D. D. )
Look to the end a contrast
The wisest saying of a certain heathen philosopher was, “Look to the end.” God asks, “What will ye do in the end?” We say, “All is well that ends well,” which is true if it ends everlasting well. The text points to the issue, the upshot, the end, of two different classes of men--the wicked and the righteous; it indicates as well as expresses the “end of the wicked”--his hopes perish, his fears come upon him; the “end of the righteous”--his fears are dispelled, his hopes are consummated and realised. What a contrast! If the man hoped for nothing beyond success, prosperity, long life, fortune, fame, distinction, position, rank, renown, pleasure; when he has got them he hath his reward, what he sought, and what he desired. And now what has he left? “Vanity of vanities,” if all ends here. Often such a man’s hope comes to an end with reference to this world only. They try to make hope for themselves; but self-made hopes are but vain hopes. And such a man’s fears are realised and accomplished. The boldest, most hardened, most sensual men, have their fears. What is a man’s fear, when at last it comes upon a man? And there is the contrast in both these respects. The fears of the righteous shall all vanish. Righteous men cannot but have fears, and they are full of fears. The reward of his fears is, that they shall not come upon him. The desires of the righteous shall be granted. They may be, because they are kept in harmony with God’s will, and the righteous stand in God’s favour. (H. Stowell, M.A.)
The fear of the Lord prolongeth days.
Long life a promised blessing
We may wish for one another long life. Every one wishes it for himself. It is a mistake to regard this wish as an infirmity. Strong love of life is not necessarily sinful.
1. Long life is distinctly promised in Scripture as a blessing to God’s people, both in the Old and New Testaments.
2. See why long life is a blessing. Because God rewards the good works of His people. He enables them to do good works, and rewards their work. The reward is not “salvation” but “glory.” Life, like health, intellect, influence, is a talent, lent to us for our Master’s service and our own profit; the greater the loan the larger the profit; the longer it is in trust, the fuller the results. There are difficulties in the way of accepting this truth. One is the seemingly contradictory language of Scripture on the subject. Some passages speak of early departure as a blessing. This is true only in special cases. And we must distinguish between things good and desirable in themselves, and things which become so by God’s appointment. Another objection is this--Admitting that long life is a blessing, and a promised blessing, still we do not see the fulfilment of the promise. We see young saints departing, and old sinners remaining. In reply it may be urged that, if we could take the average of life, we should find it to be in favour of godly men. And the exceptions to the rule are more apparent than real. In many cases we see only the pious death, we are not acquainted with the whole previous life. It may be that the good man, whose early death so distresses and perplexes us, has, in early life, deserved that his days should have been thus shortened. And the cases of early death are simply exceptions to a generally working law.
3. What practical bearing shall this truth have upon our lives? We have rescued this text from the strained interpretation of those who do not look on long life as in itself a blessing. We have learned the true meaning and use of this longing after life which all men feel. It is no small gain to our peace of mind, when we can see that this love of life is not always an infirmity or a sin, but that the Christian may lawfully desire long life, as a longer time of working and suffering for Christ. And such a lawful desire for long life gives the strongest motive for rightly using life as it passes.
4. The tendency of vice is to shorten men’s days. The text implies that, as life is a talent given to be rightly used, so, if abused, it is taken away from the possessor. We desire a longer life for the ungodly and careless, because we know that life is an opportunity for salvation; we would give the wicked further chance of repentance. (Abp. W. C. Magee.)
The fear of the Lord prolongeth days
There is no doubt about it. The fear of the Lord leads to virtuous habits, and these prevent that waste of life which comes of sin and vice. The holy rest which springs out of faith in the Lord Jesus also greatly helps a man when he is ill. Every physician rejoices to have a patient whose mind is fully at ease. Worry kills, but confidence in God is like healing medicine. We have therefore all the arrangements for long life, and if it be really for our good, we shall see a good old age, and come to our graves as shocks of corn in their season. Let us not be overcome with sudden expectation of death the moment we have a finger-ache, but let us rather expect that we may have to work on through a considerable length of days. And what if we should soon be called to the higher sphere? Certainly there would be nothing to deplore in such a summons, but everything to rejoice in. Living or dying we are the Lord’s. If we live, Jesus will be with us; if we die, we shall be with Jesus. The truest lengthening of life is to live while we live, wasting no time, but using every hour for the highest ends. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The hope of the righteous shall be gladness.
On hopes and disappointments
I. We are not to expect permanence in our acquisitions. On the lot of some men Providence is pleased to bestow a longer continuance of prosperity than on that of others. But as the term of that continuance is hidden from us, all flattering and confident expectations are without foundation. Human life never stands still for any long time. It is by no means a fixed and steady object, like a mountain or rock. Nor is it a still, smooth stream with the same constant tenor. Amid such vicissitudes of time and life, who has any title to reckon upon the future? To faults all are subject, to troubles all are exposed. To look for entire exemption from faults or troubles is to court disappointment. We must not, however, sadden the present hour by dwelling on the thoughts of future disappointment. What is given us, let us cheerfully enjoy, and render thanks to Him who bestows it. Virtue, conjoined with prudence, may reasonably afford the prospect of good days to come.
II. We are not to expect, from our intercourse with others, all that satisfaction which we fondly wish. What the individual either enjoys or suffers by himself, exhibits only an imperfect view of his condition. In the present state of human affairs we are closely interwoven with one another. These associations open a field within which our wishes and expectations find an ample range. Among persons of all characters and descriptions many an expectation must perish, and many a disappointment be endured. All are jealous of the high pretensions of others. Hence the endless mortifications which the vain and self-conceited suffer. Hence the spleen and resentment which is so often breaking forth, disturbing the peace of society and involving it in crimes and miseries. Were expectations more moderate they would be more favourably received. Did we more rarely attempt to push ourselves into notice the world would more readily allow us, nay, sometimes assist us to come forward, in the closer connections which men form of intimate friendship and domestic life there is still more reason for due moderation in our expectations and hopes. For the nearer that men approach to each other, the more numerous the points of contact are in which they touch, the greater indeed will be the pleasure of perfect symphony and agreements of feelings; but, at the same time, if any harsh and repulsive sensations take place, the more grating and pungent will be the pain. From trifling misunderstandings, arising from the most frivolous causes, spring much of the misery of social and domestic life.
III. We are not to expect constant gratitude from those whom we have most obliged and served. Grateful sensations for favours received are very generally felt. When no strong passions counteract these sensations, grateful returns are generally intended, and often are actually made. But then our expectations of proper returns must be kept within moderate bounds. Many circumstances, it is to be remembered, tend to cool the grateful emotion. Time always deadens the memory of benefits. As benefits conferred are sometimes underrated by those who receive them, they are sometimes overvalued by those who confer them. On persons of light and careless minds no moral sentiment makes any deep impression. With the proud spirit, which claims everything as its due, gratitude is in a great measure incompatible. On the other hand--
IV. Whatever course the affairs of the world take, the good man may justly hope to enjoy peace of mind. To the sceptic and the profligate this will be held as a very inconsiderable object of expectation and hope. But surely the peace of an approving conscience is one of the chief ingredients of human happiness, if it be tempered with true humility, and regulated by Christian faith! He, whose study it is to preserve a conscience void of offence towards God and man, will have, in every state of fortune, a ground of hope which may justly be denominated gladness. He has always somewhat to rest upon for comfort.
V. A good man has ground to expect that any external condition into which, in the course of human affairs, he may pass, shall, by means of virtue and wisdom, be rendered, if not perfectly agreeable, yet tolerably easy to him. The inequality of real happiness is not to be measured by the inequality of outward estate. The wise and good man hopes to find, or make, his state tolerable to himself. In some corner of our lot there are always comforts that may be found. And the spirit of man will long sustain his infirmities.
VI. we have ground to expect, from the ordinary course of human affairs, that if we persevere in studying to do our duty towards God and man, we shall meet with the esteem, the love, and confidence of those who are around us. In regard to moral qualifications the world is ready to do justice to character. No man is hurt by hearing his neighbour esteemed a worthy and honourable man. The basis of all lasting reputation is laid in moral worth. Great parts and endowments may sparkle for a while in the public eye. Candour and fairness never fail to attract esteem and trust. The world commonly judges soundly in the end. The good man is likely to possess many friends and well-wishers, and to have few enemies. This subject, in its treatment, has been limited to what the righteous man has to hope for in the ordinary course of the world. But it has to be added that there is a hope laid up for him in heaven. He knows that “in due season he shall reap if he faint not.” For here, or yonder, his hope is perpetual gladness. (Hugh Blair,D.D.)
The hope of the righteous
The righteous here meant are those right with God.
I. Its foundation is good: “The righteous is an everlasting foundation” (Proverbs 10:25), therefore not swept away, as too often the hopes of the wicked.
II. “the righteous shall never be moved” (Proverbs 10:30). Confidence in this brings gladness to the Christian’s heart.
III. No removal by death from God. The character they bear is a security against death. “Righteousness delivereth from death” (Proverbs 10:2).
IV. The fact that the righteous have an almighty keeper and provider makes their hope one of gladness.”The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish” (Proverbs 10:3).
V. Thus we see “the labour of the righteous tendeth to life” (Proverbs 10:16). Careful, thoughtful, systematic in whatever employment he chooses, he so works that the labour itself promotes life.
VI. Thus another reason why the hope of the righteous is gladness is the assurance: “the desire of the righteous shall be granted.”
VII. Thus another reason for his gladness: “the lips of the righteous feed many” (Proverbs 10:21). The righteous man, being a student of the Word of God, and treasuring His precepts in the heart, is able to employ his lips in feeding many.
VIII. In the use of his lips to bless others another reason is found for his gladness: “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable” (Proverbs 10:32) The right words are spoken to the helpfulness of others and to the glory of God.
IX. A final reason for the hope of the righteous bringing gladness is found in that his resources are unfailing: “The mouth of the righteous man is a well of life” (Proverbs 10:11). He has in himself a living well, and a well as drawn from is life-giving. Such is the assurance of the Master: “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). (G. H. Morss.)
The hope of the righteous best
The expectation of the man who has his portion in this life is continually deteriorating; for every hour brings him nearer to the loss of all his treasures. But “the good hope through grace” is always approaching its realities, and therefore grows with the lapse of time more valuable and more lively. As it is spiritual in its quality, and heavenly in its object, it does not depend on outward things, and is not affected with the decays of nature. Like the Glastonbury thorn, it blossoms in the depth of winter. The hope of the one is a treasure out at interest which is continually augmenting; that of the other resembles stock, the capital of which has been continually invaded, until the last pound is ready to be consumed. (H. G. Salter.)
The hopes of the righteous, and of the wicked
No subject is of so much importance to man as religion. On no subject is it so desirable that right views should be possessed. Yet in religion to what extremes of formalism and folly, absurdity and asceticism, men proceed. Multitudes identify religion with a tiresome routine of forms and ceremonies. And many build their hopes of heaven on the groundwork of austerities. In one direction we see men placing religion in little more than a name, regardless of all the duties and dispositions and devotions of which it consists. In another direction our attention is arrested by people who are so ascetic as to think it sinful to smile. The text contains a powerful corrective of all those false impressions of religion which moody and soured examples of it may have produced.
I. The character depicted. The righteous. Not one who fulfils every requirement of God’s law; nor one strictly honest in dealing with his fellow-men. If sinful man is to be righteous before his Maker, he must be so--
1. By Divine imputation.
2. By spiritual renovation.
3. By habitual practice. We demand a lustrous manifestation of probity as well as piety. Good works are as essential to salvation as a sound creed and a changed heart.
II. The Divine possession of this character. We are justified in describing this hope as Divine, because--
1. It has a Divine Author.
2. A Divine foundation.
3. A Divine tendency.
III. The blessed fruit of this Divine possession. Gladness.
IV. The awful contrast which the text presents. A contrast in character, and in destiny. (E. Dewhirst.)
The way of the Lord is strength to the upright.
The two-fold aspect of the Divine working
The words “shall be” in the second clause are supplementary and unnecessary. They destroy the completeness of the antithesis between the two halves of the verse. It is the same way which is strength to one man and ruin to another, and the moral nature of the man determines which it shall be to him.
I. Put clearly the meaning and bearing of these words. “The way of the Lord” means religion, considered as the way in which God desires a man to walk. But here it means the road in which God walks Himself, the solemn footsteps of God through creation, providence and history. To many modem thinkers the whole drift and tendency of human affairs affords no sign of a person directing these. This ancient teacher had keener ears. But not only does the expression point to the operation of a personal Divine will in human affairs, but it conceives of that operation as one, a uniform and consistent whole. It is “the way.” It is a grand unity. A man can know about this way, though it may be hard to understand. It is all on the side of the good; it is all against every form of evil. God’s actions do not change, but a man’s character determines which aspect of them he sees, and has to experience. The word “strength” is used in a somewhat archaic signification, that of a “stronghold.” Hebrew is “fortress.” This “way of the Lord” is like a castle for the shelter of the shelterless good man; but a castle is a frowning menace to besiegers or enemies.
II. Illustrate and apply the principles taught here.
1. The order of the universe is such that righteousness is life, and sin is death. On the whole, things do work so that goodness is blessedness, and badness is ruin. What modem phraseology calls “laws of nature,” the Bible calls “the way of the Lord,” and the manner in which these help a man who conforms to them, and hurt or kill him if he does not, is an illustration on a lower level of the principle of our text.
2. In our physical life, as a rule, virtue makes strength, sin brings punishment.
3. In higher regions, on the whole, goodness makes blessedness, and evil brings ruin. All the power of God’s universe, and all the tenderness of God’s heart, are on the side of the man who does right. All things serve the soul that serves God, and all war against him who wars against his Maker.
4. This will be made more evident in the future. It is possible that the one manifestation of God in a future life may be in substance the same, and yet that it may produce opposite effects upon oppositely disposed souls. People speak of rewards and punishments as if they were given and inflicted by simple Divine volition, and did not stand in any necessary connection with holiness on the one hand, or with sin on the other.
5. The very crown of the ways of God, the work of Christ, and the record of it in the gospel, have most eminently this double aspect. God meant nothing but salvation for the whole world when He sent us this gospel. We may make of that gospel a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom.
Piety a peculiar ornament to the aged
I. Who may properly be called old people? Old and young are relative terms, and admit of different significations. Children always think their parents are old. They are old who have grey hairs here and there upon them. The distinction in ages has always been considered as an important distinction by all mankind, who have marked it by some peculiar symptoms or visible effects which the different periods of life produce on the body or on the mind. God leaves it to every individual to judge for himself when the precepts to the young bind him, and when the precepts to the old bind him. Every one should judge justly.
II. What is to be understood by the piety of old people? It is called their righteousness. Righteousness is often used in Scripture to denote holiness in heart and life. Righteousness is true holiness, which is the moral excellence of all moral beings, and the essence of all vital piety in mankind. The piety of old people implies two things.
1. Their cordial belief in the great truths of the gospel. All true piety is founded on the knowledge, the belief, and the love of the great and peculiar truths of the gospel.
2. The practice of the duties, as well as the belief of the doctrines, of the gospel. It is generally true that aged Christians have lived a long time in the way of holiness and obedience to the Divine commands. The promises of the gospel are expressly made to those who overcome, to those who continue in well-doing, and to those who endure unto the end. Internal piety always produces external obedience to the precepts of the gospel. Though the oldest Christians never arrive at sinless perfection in this life, yet they generally grow in grace as they grow in years. Though the piety of the young and that of the old are essentially alike, yet the piety of the aged has a specific and superior excellence.
III. In what respects is the piety of the aged their peculiar ornament? Piety adorns the hoary head, and spreads a peculiar beauty over the aged.
1. Their piety appears with peculiar purity. Through the sanctified discipline of a life-experience. Aged piety is tried, purified, refined piety.
2. Their piety hides the infirmities and imperfections which are peculiar to their age. They often become more amiable in their age than they were in their full vigour and activity.
3. Their piety renders them useful, when they would otherwise be useless and burdensome to the world. They are still capable of serving God and their generation, by their examples, their instructions, their admonitions, and their prayers. The pious examples and instructions of aged parents are often tenfold more valuable to their families than all the wealth and respectability they can bestow upon them.
4. Their piety makes them happy in themselves and pleasant to others.
1. There are many more old people than are usually reckoned such.
2. They ought always to be treated with respect.
3. The want of piety is a peculiar blemish in the character of the aged.
4. Aged saints have great reason to be thankful for what God has done for them. (N. Emmons, D..D.)
The speech of the righteous and the wicked compared
Solomon attaches great importance to the power of the tongue to work good or ill.
I. The speech of the good man is valuable, that of the other is worthless. Solomon brings the heart and the tongue into comparison, rather than the tongue of each, to express the idea that speech is always the outcome and exponent of the heart.
II. The speech of the good man is nourishing, that of the other is killing. How one soul can nourish and invigorate another by the language of truth and love. The spiritual destroyer of humanity makes corrupt words his wings to bear him through the world.
III. The speech of the good man is wise, that of the other is foolish. The words of him whose intellect is under the teachings of God, and whose heart is in vital sympathy with Him, are wise words. The policies propounded by the wicked may seem wise at first, but time always exposes their folly, and brings its disciples to confusion and shame.
IV. The speech of the good man is acceptable, that of the other is perverse. The words of truth are always acceptable to God, as they are also to all thoughtful and candid men. There is a “frowardness” in the utterances of the wicked that is distasteful to all consciences, and repugnant to the heart of God and the good. What are the elements of good moral speech? Sincerity and purity. By sincerity is meant the strict correspondence of the language with the sentiments of the heart. By purity is meant the strict correspondence of those sentiments with the principles of everlasting right. (Homilist.).