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by us with coldness and neglect? Surely such a conduct may well expose us to the most severe of all reflections.] “Suffer then a word of EXHORTATION”.
[The wisdom here spoken of is not the only thing in the world that is desirable; nor the only thing that you may laudably pursue. There are innumerable other things which demand our attention; and which our several conditions in life render necessary. The text itself supposes, or rather enjoins, that we should labour to get other things; but wisdom is indisputably “the principal thing;" and " with all our getting we must be mindful to get understanding.". Whatever else be neglected, this must not: it is “the one thing needful.” Therefore, “get it, get it, get it, get it b." “ Forsake it not, neither forget it; exalt it, love it, and embrace it; so shall it be an ornament of grace to your head, and a crown of glory to your soul.” For whoso findeth it findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.]"
a Prov. xvii. 16. b Four times is this repeated, ver. 5, 7. c Prov. viii. 35.
d If this were the subject of a Commemoration Sermon, the intention of the founder, and the obligations necessarily attaching to every member of the society, might be urged as a fourth and more appropriate consideration to enforce the royal precept given in the text.
THE CHRISTIAN'S PATH COMPARED TO THE LIGHT. Prov. iv. 18. The path of the just is as the shining light, that
shineth more and more unto the perfect day. HABITS, of whatever kind, are strengthened by exercise ; the more congenial they are with our natural feelings, the more easily are they confirmed. Hence the wicked, without any express purpose on their part, are daily more and more riveted to the world and sin. The righteous too increase in love to the ways of God in proportion as they endeavour to fulfil his will. They have indeed a bias, which, if they were left to themselves, would soon turn them aside. But God will not leave them destitute of needful succour: he pledges himself that their path shall resemble the shining light. This is found true by happy experience. Their path is, I. Beautiful in its appearance
The rising sun is as beautiful an object as any in the whole creation
[At its first approach it tinges the distant clouds with light. On its first appearance it gilds the summits of the woods and mountains: then, dispelling all the shades of night, it illumines the whole horizon. How delightful is this to every one that beholds ita !]
Thus is the path of the righteous exceeding beautiful
[" The just” are they who are renewed and sanctified by the Spirit of God. Their path in the very outset is beautiful to behold. Their simplicity of mind, and teachableness of spirit, endear them to us; their lowliness and humility attract the notice of the very angels themselves. The fervour of their love engages both our admiration and esteem. The very shades in their character serve as a contrast to shew the excellence of the change that has passed upon them. As they proceed their graces are more matured. Their course is justly described by the Apostle Paul. Surely such a conduct must be beautiful in the eyes of God and man. They are justly spoken of as “ beautified with salvation d: they even reflect a lustre upon the Gospel itself.]
While their path is so amiable, it resembles the light further, in that it is II. Beneficial in its influence
The sun does not shine with unproductive splendour
[It enables the several orders of men to return to their respective callings. In the darkness they could not go without stumbling"; but now they follow their occupations without fear or difficulty. The productions of the earth also feel the genial influence of the sun, and are matured by means of its invigorating beams.] Nor is the Christian unprofitable in his course
[The wicked are stumbling on every side of him8; but the Christian affords a light to the benighted souls around him". He shines in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation': he is an epistle of Christ, known and read of all menk. The account given of Job, describes his course, as far as his situation and circumstances will allowl. Thus by his conduct he a Eccl. xi. 7. b Luke xv. 10.
c Phil. iv. 8. d Ps. clxix. 4 e Tit. ii. 10.
f John xi, 9, 10. 8 Prov. iv. 19. h Matt. v. 14.
i Phil. ii. 15, 16. k 2 Cor. jii. 2, 3. 1 Job xxix. 11-16.
puts to silence the ignorance of foolish menm. He even wins some, perhaps, whom the word alone would never have converted", and causes many to glorify his heavenly Fathero.]
The comparison yet further holds, in that the path of the just, like that of the sun, is, III. Constant in its progressThe sun invariably pursues its wonted course
[From the instant it rises, it hastens toward the meridian. Sometimes indeed its splendour is intercepted by clouds, and sometimes it may be partially, or even totally eclipsed; still, however, it proceeds in its appointed path, and is sure to arrive at its meridian height.] The Christian too goes forward towards perfection
[He never rests as though he had attained the summitp. He determines to be ever pressing forward for higher attainments?. He may indeed for a season be involved in clouds : yea, perhaps, he may through the violence of temptation, suffer an eclipse; but, if he be really “just" and upright, his light shall break forth again. God has ensured this by a solemn
promise". Jeremiah illustrates it by the very allusion in the texts: nor is this progress the privilege of some only. David speaks of it as belonging to Israel of oldu. Paul represents it as enjoyed by every true Christian*; and Peter shews us whence this stability proceedsy. None indeed arrive at absolute perfection in this life?; but soon the just will be changed into Christ's perfect image, and shine above the sun in the firmament for ever and ever.] IMPROVEMENT1. For conviction
[We are in a world that lieth in darkness and the shadow of death ; and, if we be Christians indeed, we are shining as lights in a dark place. Do our consciences testify that this is the case with us? Are we examples of holiness to those of our own age and rank? Do we reprove all works of darkness, instead of having fellowship with them? If not, how can we ever be numbered among the just? Shall we say that we once were such, but are now under a cloud? Or that our light is at the present eclipsed? Let us beware lest we prove only as a
m 1 Pet. ii. 15. n 1 Pet. iii. 1, 2. P Phil. iii. 12.
9 Phil. iii. 13, 14.
o Matt. v. 16.
Eph. v. 11.
fleeting meteor. Our light must be steady and increasing, like that of the sun. The tree is known by its fruit; and the just by their lightd; and a false profession will deceive us to our eternal ruin] 2. For consolation
[There are many true Christians who do not enjoy much comfort, and the darkness of their minds sometimes makes them doubt whether they be upright before God; but they often write bitter things against themselves without a cause. Distress, whether temporal or spiritual, argues nothing against our integrity. Job never shone brighter than in his trouble ; nor Christ, than in the depths of his dereliction. Let him then that is in darkness, stay himself upon his God! It is to such persons that God sends us with words of comfort 6. To them in particular is that delightful declaration addressed". Wait then the Lord's leisure, ye afflicted souls, and trust in him. Soon shall your “light rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon-day;” nor will God be glorified less in your patience, than in more active services.]
d Eph. v. 8. e 1 John i. 6. and ii. 9, 11. f Isai. 1. 10. & Isai. xxxv. 3, 4.
h Isai. liv. 7–10.
KEEPING THE HEART. Prov. iv. 23. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it
are the issues of life. IT is certainly of infinite importance that we be deeply convinced of our utter inability to do any thing that is good, and of our entire dependence upon God for the effectual aids of his Holy Spirit. But we must not imagine, that, because we have no sufficiency of ourselves to do the will of God, we are not bound in duty to do it, or not to be exhorted and stimulated to the performance of it. Our duty is the same, whatever be the circumstances to which we have reduced ourselves; and it is in, and by, our personal exertions, that God has promised to “work all our works in us." Hence, in the Scriptures of Truth, we are continually exhorted to serve our God in the way of his commandments. It is obvious that we cannot preserve the life of our bodies for one single moment; yet God expects, that we keep ourselves from those things which would destroy life, and use all proper means of preserving it: so neither can we, of ourselves, preserve the life of our souls ; yet are we bound to “keep our heart with all diligence; since out of it are the issues of life.”
It is indeed supposed here, that a new heart has been given to us; because from the unregenerated heart no good thing can issue: but inasmuch as even the renewed heart has still innumerable corruptions within it, we must keep it with all diligence.
To impress this duty on our minds, let us consider, 1. The duty enjoined
“ To keep the heart” is indeed an arduous task. To assist you in the performance of it, we will offer such suggestions as appear suitable to the occasion : 1. Fortify it with good principles
[A city unfortified is open to assault on every side: and so is the heart, if not duly fortified by the principles of true religion. As a sinner redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and sanctified by his Spirit, I am the Lord's peculiar property : I live by him; and I must live for him : " having been bought with a price, I am not my own, but his” who bought me: and I have nothing to do but to “glorify him with my body and my spirit, which
are his.” When therefore any thing attempts to gain possession of my heart, I must keep it for Him; for Him wholly; for Him alone. Nothing is to break in upon this principle. Let earth and hell assault
me, I must oppose them in this impregnable bulwark; “Depart from me, ye evil-doers; I will keep the commandments of my Goda." The Christian is furnished by God with armour for this contestb; and, clothed in this panoply, he must maintain the conflict even unto death.] 2. Watch all its most secret motions
[A citadel, however strong, if filled with traitors waiting for an occasion to open it to the enemy, needs to be guarded with peculiar care: the professed defenders of it must themselves be watched. So it is with the heart, notwithstanding it be at present garrisoned for the Lord. It is inconceivably difficult in many instances to distinguish between the loyal and the treacherous. They are both habited in the same uniform ; and both make the very same professions: both too appear actuated by the same holy Zeal. The Apostles, when
a Ps. cxix. 115.
b Eph. vi. 11-16.
c Rev. ii. 10.