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The ancients believed that the pyramids were so constructed that they cast no shadow; but few things in this world are wholly free from shadows. Wellnigh all circumstances and events, however propitious some may be, entail disadvantages. Absolute perfection is rare in any direction. Yet it is now our privilege to offer unqualified advantage, a gift without a backdraw, a blessing that is an unalloyed joy. In its most definite sense the blessing of the Lord is the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ; and we hope to show that a truly Christian life can bring men good, only good; that it implies no abatements whatever, but is a rich and an unadulterated blessing.
I. The influence of true religion upon character affords a proof of this. Here eminently 'the blessing of the Lord maketh rich'. On the banks of the Humber we have seen a vine growing in the open air. In the summer it put forth leaves, the fruit began to fashion, and one might have supposed that it was; going to ripen into purple clusters; but it never came to perfection: the grapes remained paltry and green, withering on the tree. A vine planted in the open air in the North of England is always a pathetic spectacle. How different with the vine as it is seen growing in Italy. Its branches are flung abroad as though in conscious triumph, every leaf upon it is a poem, and the clusters gleam like purple constellations set in a firmament like unto an emerald. Here is the rapture of the poet, the dream of the artist, the joy of the vintner. Yet wide as is the distinction between the vine of the Humber and the vineyards of Italy, the difference is yet infinitely greater between character as it struggles in the chill air of secularism and as it ripens in the sunshine of Jesus Christ. 'I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit.' The true Vine is incomparable in the wealth and beauty of moral fruition; and the branches, sharing in His fatness, bear the richest fruits of holiness that ever ripened beneath the sun.
'And He addeth no sorrow therewith.' We are bold to maintain that the gain in character in Christ is attended by no drawback. It implies no sacrifice of strength; the active elements of mind and will are in nowise sapped by the passive. Our Master is foremost in the line of heroes, and He inspires His followers with His own strength and courage. The Christian character implies no sacrifice of tenderness. The passive qualities essential to the completeness of human nature are not invalidated by the active; multitudes follow in Christ's train who combine the tenacity of steel with the softness of silk. No sacrifice of self-respect is exacted. Whilst the Christian faith abases us for our sins, it assumes our greatness and respects our greatness at every step. No sacrifice of rationality is involved in Christian discipleship. No error is greater than to suppose that our faith puts any arbitrary limit to reason; the New Testament enlarges the human spirit without imposing upon it any narrowing or humiliating limitations. Nor are we called to make any sacrifice of practicability. Our aspirations are not mocked nor our strength wasted in the pursuit of unattainable standards. No sacrifice of individuality is implied. True piety destroys none of the charm of personality; on the contrary, it elicits, most fully, the special glory of the individual soul. And, finally, the moral ideal and discipline of the faith of Christ does not prejudice the humanness of its disciples. Whilst disclosing a higher world it does not forget that we are citizens of this, and members one of another. Looking to Jesus, and simply following Him, the integrity of our spirit can suffer in no respect or degree. In His own character is nothing defective or unbalanced; nor is there in the believer who is complete in Him.
II. The influence of true religion on society and its material conditions is equally benign. 'The blessing of the Lord' makes rich the community and its whole practical life. For generations the faith of Christ has purified public life; not a generation passes without some blighting thing passing with it.
III. The precious influence of the Christian faith on human experience is the last instance we will adduce of the truth of our text. Here 'the blessing of the Lord maketh rich'. The New Testament has little to say about the world we figure on the map, or the worlds around us with which astronomy is concerned; but it concerns itself largely with the world within us the sphere of the spirit, the realm of thought, imagination, and feeling. As the ages progress this inner world, the world of self-consciousness, is ever seen more clearly to be the most important world with which we have to do. To enrich this world Christ came.
Nietzsche predicts that 'the religion of the future will be the religion of golden laughter'. The religion of the future, then, will be the religion of Jesus Christ. No better definition could be given of it. Laughter devoid of sorrow. That does not bespeak the vacant but the noble mind. That is without stain or folly. That is not like the crackling of thorns under a pot, but steady as a star. The laughter that comes last. Such are the peace and cheerfulness of the pure in heart.
W. L. Watkinson, The Fatal Barter, pp. 213-27.
References. X. 22. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 183. X. 23. J. Parker, Studies in Texts, vol. i. pp. 177, 187. X. 24, 25. Ibid. p. 190. X. 26. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 194. X. 26, 27. B. G. Hoskyns, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 115. X. 27. W. C. Magee, Sermons at the Octagon Chapel, Bath, p. 302. X. 29. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 143. XI. 1. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Lessons for Daily Life, p. 159. Henry Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vii. p. 34. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 197. XI. 2, 3. Ibid. p. 201. XI. 9,13. Ibid. p. 204. XI. 14. G. Monks, Pastor in Ecclesia, p. 37. XI. 15. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 206. XI. 17, 18. Ibid. p. 212. XI. 21. J. H. Newman, Sermons Bearing on Subjects of the Day, p. 89. XI. 22. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 215. XI. 23. Ibid. p. 218. XI. 24. Ibid. p. 220. G. L. Richardson, Sermons for Harvest, p. 50. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 220. XI. 25. Ibid. p. 223. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 626. XI. 26. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 226. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi. No. 642. XI. 28. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 229. XI. 30. Ibid. p. 233. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 850; see also vol. xxii. No. 1292.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 10". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany