« PreviousContinue »
that is suited to his most urgent necessities. Conceive of the Israelites, when pressed with hunger, or perishing with thirst; with what interest must they have beheld the manna that was showered about their tents and with what avidity must they have bowed down to drink of the streams that issued from the rock! Or, if it be said that these things are objects of sense, and therefore inapplicable to the point in hand, take the instance of the brazen serpent, which was exhibited to their faith. They felt themselves dying of the wounds which had been inflicted by the fiery serpents: they were perfectly conscious that no physician on earth could help them: and they were informed, that, by God's appointment, a brazen serpent had been erected, in order that, by looking to that, they might be restored to health. Would they hear of that with sceptical indifference, or behold it with an uninterested curiosity? No: it would be to them a matter of life and death : the very first tidings of such an instrument would make them eager for the exposure of it to their view; and when they saw or heard others attesting its efficacy, they would look to it with a desire to experience in themselves its healing power. Now this is the way in which divine truth should be viewed by us. To the ungodly world it is most unwelcome, because it bears testimony against them, and against all their ways: hence " they hate the light, and will not come to it, lest their deeds should be reproved." But to us it should be an object of ardent desire and supreme delight. We should look to it, not for the purpose of critical discussion, but of grateful application to the soul. Our spirit should be precisely that of the blind man whom Jesus had healed. Our Lord put the question to him, “ Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" To which he replied, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him a ?" Here he finds no disposition to speculate upon the subject, as on a matter of mere critical inquiry ; but shews a readiness to admit the truth the moment it should be revealed to him, and to embrace it as the one ground of all his future conduct. Such should be the disposition of our minds also. And when we have attained clearer views of divine truth, we should “rejoice as one that findeth great spoil b."]
That we may be stirred up to seek divine truth in this way, let us consider, II. Its salutary influence when duly received
“ Discretion will preserve us, and understanding will keep us." This is the testimony of God himself. But it may be asked, “If common knowledge be not effectual to keep us, or even divine knowledge when a John ix. 35, 36.
b Ps. cxix. 162.
received only into the head, how can the circumstance of receiving knowledge into the heart be productive of any such effect ? I answer, “It is this very circumstance which makes all the difference : divine knowledge, when it resides merely in the head, is speculative only; whereas, when it enters into the heart, it becomes practical. 1. It rectifies the judgment
[On every subject connected with the soul, the judgment of mankind is in direct opposition to the mind of God. In their eyes, the things of time and sense are of the first importance ; but in the sight of God they are all lighter than vanity itself: in his eyes, the concerns of the soul and of eternity are alone worthy of the care of an immortal Being. To the ungodly, even the Gospel itself, that unrivalled production of divine wisdom, is " foolishness;" but to an enlightened mind, it is "the power of God and the wisdom of God.” To the stout-hearted infidel, to follow the commands of God is to “be righteous over-much:” but to one who is taught of God, obedience to God's commands appears his highest honour and felicity. But the truth is, he once was in darkness, but is now “ brought into marvellous light:” he once saw only through the distorting medium of sense; he now beholds with the eye of faith, which brings him within the vail of the sanctuary, and discovers every thing as it is beheld by God himself. Nor should this appear strange to us. The difference made in the aspect of any object by its being viewed through glasses of different construction, may easily convince us how different an appearance every object must assume, according as it is viewed through the medium of sense, or by the penetrating eye of faith. The person who turns to God has the very law of God written in his heart; and needs only to look within, and he will see the correspondence between the divine records and his own actual experience: so that he does not merely believe the divine testimonies to be true and good, but “has within himself a witness” of their transcendent excellence : : or, as it is said in the verse before our text, “ he understands righteousness, and judgment, and equity, yea, every good path."] 2. It infuses sensibility into the conscience
[The conscience of an unenlightened man is blind, partial, and in many respects seared; since, in relation to the dispositions of the soul towards God, which is of far greater importance than any thing else, it never reproves at all. But when divine wisdom has entered into his soul, a man will not be satisfied with a freedom from great and flagrant transgressions: he will
examine his duties towards God as well as those towards man: he will mark his defects, no less than his excesses : he will observe his thoughts, yea, and “ the very imaginations of his thoughts;" and will be more grieved for an evil propensity or desire, than the world at large are for an evil act. He endeavours to have his conscience as much alive to the least evils, as to the greatest; and to keep it tender, as the apple of his eye: and if but a mote assail it, he will take no rest, till he has wept it out with tears of penitence and contrition. See this in the Apostle Paul. Before his conversion, he could find no evil in himself, though he was “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious ;” but after his conversion, he did but utter a disrespectful word to a judge who was violating the plainest rules of justice, and he made it a matter of humiliation in the presence of the whole court.]
3. It instils a watchfulness against the occasions of evil
[Those who are destitute of vital godliness will venture themselves any where, without fear and without remorse: but a man of real piety will be afraid to expose himself where the objects around him present only what has a tendency to vitiate his mind: he prays to God “not to lead him into temptation;" and therefore he will not voluntarily run into it; he will select his associates from amongst the excellent of the earth, who will forward, rather than retard, the growth of holy affections within him; and, as far as his situation will admit of it, he will “come out from the ungodly world, and be separate, and not even touch an unclean thing," lest he be defiled, and have “his good manners corrupted by evil communications." This is very particularly insisted on in the following context, in reference both to evil men and evil women. It is said, “ Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee; to deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness ; who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths: to deliver thee also from the strange woman, even from the stranger who flattereth with her words; who forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God: for her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead: none that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life: That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous." Here the conduct of evil men is drawn to the very life, as is the character of the evil woman also, against both of whom the man of piety will be
strictly on his guard, proposing to himself the example of the godly, and availing himself of their aid in his walk before God. He knows, that “ he cannot take fire in his bosom, and not be burned;" and therefore he will use the utmost possible circumspection in the whole of his deportment. The books, the company, the conversation that would defile his mind, he carefully avoids; and, like the Jews at the time of the Passover, he searches the most secret recesses of his soul, to sweep from it the leaven that would offend his God.]
4. It leads us continually to God for direction and support
[Without divine aid all human efforts are vain. But the word of God clearly, fully, constantly directs us to look to him; and an experience of it in our own souls will convince us of the necessity of crying to him continually, " Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe."
It is in this way chiefly that divine wisdom preserves us. The soundness of our principles may prescribe what is right; and our love to those principles may incline us to the performance of it: but divine grace alone can ever prove effectual for us. No "power, but that which raised Jesus Christ himself from the dead,” will be sufficient to carry on within us the work that has been begun. On the other hand, if we really trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall, “ through his strength, be able to do all things,” “nor shall any thing ever prevail to separate us from his love."] Having illustrated the great truth in our text, we
would further IMPROVE it, by suggesting, 1. In what spirit we should hear the word
(We should not come to the house of God in a mere customary manner, for example sake, or to perform a duty, and still less to be amused with what we hear: but, as Cornelius and his friends, when Peter came to minister unto them, said, “Now are we all here before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God;" so should we come up to the house of God to “ hear what the Lord our God shall say concerning us.” We should come to learn our duty, in order that we may practise it. We should bless our God that so sublime a privilege is accorded to us. We should come as a patient to receive the counsels of his physician, with a determination of heart to follow his prescriptions. A mariner, if amongst shoals and quicksands, does not consult his chart and compass for amusement, or with a disposition to dispute their testimony, but with a desire to have every mistake rectified, and to navigate his ship through the dangerous passage, agreeably to their direction. O! when will Christian assemblies meet in this frame? When will God's ordinances be thus improved for their proper end? Brethren, only reflect on the office of true wisdomn, as delineated in the passage before us, and you will never want either a direction or a motive for a profitable attendance on the means of grace.] 2. With what care we should improve it
[The word we hear will judge us in the last day: and if we do not take occasion from it to follow the counsels of the Most High, we shall greatly aggravate our guilt before God. The word we hear, if it prove not “a savour of life unto life, will become to us a savour of death unto death." The lessons of wisdom had better never have been delivered to us, than be suffered to pass away without a suitable improvement of them. Our blessed Lord told his hearers, that if he had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but that now they had no cloak for their sin. And so must I also
unto you. All that you have heard respecting the evil of sin, the sufficiency of Christ, the beauty of holiness, of what use will it be to you, if it do not humble you as sinners, encourage you as penitents, and animate you as believers? I pray you, neglect not the day of your visitation, nor " hold the truth in unrighteousness;" but receive the truth in the love of it; and deliver your souls into it as a mould, that it may fashion you after the image of your God. And never imagine that you have got above the use of ordinances, or that it is of no profit to attend upon them: they are the golden pipes through which, to your latest hour, you must receive the golden oil into your lamps; and through the supplies of the Spirit which you may receive by them, you may hope that your path shall shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.”]
BENEFITS OF TRUE WISDOM. Prov. ii. 10–22. When wisdom entereth into thinc heart, and
knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul, discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee; to deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things : who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked , whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths : to deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words ; which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God : for her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life; that thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the