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Shall things come into thy mind?
The Prince of Meshech; or, thought and sterling character
There is much mystery about the Prince of Meshech. Anyhow, there was much terror spread by him and his people when they overran Israel. Malicious intentions were fostered by the prince. Many things came into his mind, and among them a special “evil thought.” His intention was to go up against the defenceless, “to take a spoil and to take a prey.” God rebuked him and threatened that “Divine fury should come in his face.” Evil thoughts reveal our characters and bring Divine condemnation. God looks at the thoughts, and measures the man by his thoughts. All men have a character of some sort. It is something that attaches itself to us as closely as our shadow. We cannot separate ourselves from the one any more than from the other. The general tone of the thoughts determines the real character, whether of the Prince of Meshech or a peasant of the mountains.
I. The constituents of a really sterling character.
1. In a man of real worth there will be transparency of life. He will be easily seen through,--not in the sense of being detected, but of being so upright that there shall be nothing wrong to detect. Some only pretend to be transparent, like the cobwebbed, unwashed, dust-covered window, opening into some close alley. These affect an openness of life, and yield to practices of which it would be a shame to speak. Others are transparent, because pure; and are like the beautiful rose window in the Cathedral at Amiens, where there is such a charming combination of colours that even the sun’s rays passing through it are tinged with a brighter glory.
2. In the man of sterling character there will be a ready recognition of the supremacy of conscience. Too many have double consciences, one for church life, the other for commerce; one for the sanctuary, the other for the shop and the counting house. They forget that that which they approve in the one must be carried out in the other. If they have principles, let them cling to them; if they claim to be men of sterling worth, let them bow ever before conscience.
3. In the man of sterling character there must ever be a recognition of the value, and the actual possession of real piety. Morality apart from reverence for God is self-glory. It may even produce pride. Pride generally takes up its abode where piety is not enshrined. Pride hides from us our real state in God’s sight. Pride hinders from the acceptance of the Gospel of love and mercy.
4. The man of sterling character must love truth and purity for their own sake. To be good because it brings gain, or pious because it pays, or religious because it is respectable, is hypocrisy. There are inseparable advantages attaching to the possession of good character. Solomon said, “A good name is better than precious ointment.” The Divine approval will be followed by men’s approval, and in this the reward of character will come. But apart from this, we should seek to be true, noble, and pious, for the sake of goodness and truth itself.
II. The way in which true piety of character may be obtained. The desired possession will not be obtained as by some “lucky stroke of business.” It must grow. To obtain it among our fellows is easy when we deserve it. A steady course of uprightness and purity will bring it. We must not be spasmodic in our goodness. We must watch little things, avoid habits that offend in the slightest degree. Getting rid of these things, we must retain our individuality. We must not measure ourselves by other persons, and think because we live just after the same manner, and on the same moral plane as some others, that therefore we are good enough. There are higher possibilities in the nature of each. There is room for, and should be enthusiasm--enthusiasm for the truth, for the welfare of humanity, for the glory of God our Father, and of Christ our Saviour. The Prince of Meshech had those around him who were ready to approve his dastardly intention, when he said, “I will go up,” etc. The mind is coloured by the thoughts and sayings of those surrounding us, even as the lake is blue or greyish according to the qualities of the mountains down the sides of which the streams and torrents flow that fill it. How important then that we should seek to associate chiefly with Christians, and ever keep ourselves surrounded by Christian influences. There is a Persian fable which tells us that a man one day picked up a piece of scented clay, and said to it, “What are you; are you musk?” “No, I am only a poor piece of clay, but I have been near a beautiful rose, and it has given me its own sweet smell.” Keep, therefore, in the society of the good, and live as near as possible to Christ, and then you will gain such purity and nobility of nature that the world will take knowledge of you that you have been with Him. Let me say that we should beware of seeking to build up character in our own strength. Christ’s example, Christ’s sacrifice, Christ’s pardon, Christ’s help, Christ’s love, Christ Himself, in the fulness of His power, these form the only true and safe foundation. (F. Hastings, M. A.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ezekiel 38". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12