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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Proverbs 27

 

 

Verse 1

DISCOURSE: 811

A CAUTION AGAINST DEPENDING UPON FUTURE TIME

Proverbs 27:1. Boast not thyself of to-morrow: for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

THE opinions of men are not less opposite to the mind of God in what relates to practice, than in the most mysterious doctrines of our holy religion. We are told, that “the things of the Spirit are esteemed as foolishness by the natural man:” and to what an extent they are so, is visible in the commendation universally given to a worldly spirit, and in the contempt poured upon heavenly-mindedness, as though it were the offspring of folly and enthusiasm. But in the judgment of God there is no truer mark of wisdom than to consider earthly things as transient and worthless, and to place one’s-self continually as on the brink and precipice of eternity. To this effect Solomon speaks in the passage before us: in discoursing on which, we shall,

I. Explain the caution here given—

It is of great importance to distinguish between providing for to-morrow, and presuming upon to-morrow: the former is necessary for our very existence, since without it, the whole world would be in a state of stagnation: but the acting as if we were certain of another day, is the error against which we are cautioned.

Now we do this,

1. When our affections are inordinately moved by present things—

[If we feel eager desires after any earthly thing, so as to envy the possessors of it, and account the attainment of it necessary to our happiness; or, if we take such delight in what we do possess, as to forget that this world is not our rest, and that infinitely higher joys are prepared for us above; or if we grieve exceedingly on account of some loss we have sustained; we manifest that we have been promising ourselves many days, and even years to come: for, would a person be very solicitous about a vanity that he thought might very probably last but a day? Or would he so congratulate himself on a possession which he apprehended to be of such short continuance? or would he lay so much to heart the loss of any thing which he had expected to enjoy but a little time? We cannot but see that in proportion as he was impressed with a sense of the shortness and uncertainty of time, and its nothingness in comparison of eternity, his affections would be moderated towards every object of time and sense: he would “rejoice as though he rejoiced not, and weep as though he wept not, and use every thing as not abusing it.”]

2. When we are but little interested about eternal things—

[Every one knows that sin must be repented of; and that, if the guilt of it be imputed to us, we must perish. But this is not all; we must be born again and be made new creatures in Christ Jesus: and though this be not generally understood, every one has an idea that he must become religious before he die, if he would find acceptance with God in the world to come. Now if persons be deferring the great work of religion, whence can that delay arise but from their expectation of some more convenient season, when they shall execute their purposes of reformation and amendment? Or if they commit sin, whence can they be emboldened to do so, but from a secret confidence that they shall live to repent of it; and to rectify what they know to be amiss? Would any man deliberately do what he knows must be undone, or leave undone what he knows he must do in order to his eternal salvation, if he were assured that he had not one day more to live? And would not the probable nearness of death influence him in like manner in proportion as it was felt?]

The whole world standing greatly in need of this caution, we proceed to,

II. Enforce it—

The reason urged by Solomon commends itself immediately to our hearts and consciences:

1. We know not what shall be on the morrow—

[We are to-day perhaps enjoying all that our hearts can wish; our bodies are rigorous, our spirits gay, our friends numerous, our means of gratification greatly diversified, and accessible at all times. To-morrow we may be cast down from our pinnacle of happiness; our honour may be laid in the dust: we may be languishing on a bed of sickness; and deprived of all the comforts of life; and our reverse of fortune may be yet further aggravated by the loss of all our friends. The case of Job, if more recent instances were wanting, would sufficiently shew what may happen to us all [Note: Job 1. See, in spiritual concerns, the case of David. Psalms 30:6-7.]. Shall we then be promising ourselves years of happiness in the enjoyment of earthly things, when we consider how unstable they are? Again: to-day we are sinning in expectation that we shall, at some future period, repent. To-morrow possibly we may, like Nebuchadnezzar, be deprived of reason; or, like Pharaoh, be sealed up by God under final impenitence. Now is it not madness to risk the salvation of our souls upon the hope of having every thing that can conduce to our eternal welfare continued to us to the latest period of our lives? Should we not rather set ourselves to redeem the present time, and to “work while it is day, lest the night should come wherein no man can work [Note: Ephesians 5:16. John 9:4.]?”]

2. We know not whether we shall even live to see the morrow—

[What man is there that has “made a covenant with death, and an agreement with the grave” so as to be assured he shall live another day? Has he this assurance from within himself, or from those around him, or from God? Not from within himself, since neither youth nor health is any security against the stroke of death: not from others, since physicians, however useful in their place, can afford us no help, when God shall call away our souls: not from God; for though he promised to protract Hezekiah’s life for fifteen years, he has not engaged to preserve ours so many minutes. If, with the Rich Man in the Gospel we are saying, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years,” God may say to us, “Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee [Note: Luke 12:19-20.].” Who then, that knows the uncertainty of life, will presume upon its continuance? Let us look at the many thousands who, though but lately they seemed us likely to live as ourselves, are gone into eternity, gone too, before they had prepared to give up their account to God; and surely we shall cry with the Psalmist, “Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may instantly apply our hearts unto wisdom [Note: Psalms 90:12.]?”]

This subject naturally leads us to address,

1. The careless—

[Is it not sufficient that God has exercised such long-suffering towards you, but will you still continue to provoke him [Note: James 4:13-16.]? “O be wise, and consider your latter end.” “To-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts;” lest while you are saying, Peace and safety, sudden destruction come upon you [Note: Hebrews 3:7-8; Hebrews 3:13. 1 Thessalonians 5:3.].]

2. The lukewarm—

[Lukewarmness in religion is as odious to God as an utter neglect of it [Note: Revelation 3:15-16.]. It is not by a round of formal duties, but a strenuous exertion of all your powers that you are to obtain the prize: for though heaven is the gift of God through Christ, it is bestowed on those only who labour for it [Note: John 6:27.]. Whatever then your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.].]

3. The zealous—

[Endeavour to realize more and more the uncertainty of life, that, like the Apostle, you may “die daily.” And, as you know not but that on the morrow you may be numbered with the saints in glory, let nothing be deferred till to-morrow, which you can do for God to-day. Thus will death, however sudden, be welcome to you.]


Verse 4

DISCOURSE: 812

ENVY

Proverbs 27:4. Who is able to stand before envy?

MAN is an enemy to his fellow man: nor is there any one who does not on some occasion experience reason for this complaint. But, if some find means of aggression, others obtain means of defence; some in their own powers; others in the assistance of friends; others in the arm of the law: others, where all these powers fail them, derive a measure of consolation from submission or flight. The most “cruel wrath, and most outrageous anger,” may, by one or other of these means, be withstood, or tolerated, or escaped. But there is one weapon from which there is no flight, and against which there is no protection; and that is, envy: “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who can stand before envy?”

In order to bring the subject of envy fully before you, I will shew,

I. What an odious principle it is—

1. Consider what envy is—

[Envy, as existing in the soul, is a sense of pain arising from the real or supposed excellence of another, accompanied with a desire to deprive him of it, and to possess it ourselves. The excellence may be either natural or acquired. Any faculty of body or mind which renders a man estimable in the world is a proper object for envy to fix upon, and against which to direct its shafts. So, in like manner, any attainment of wealth or honour will call forth its malignant efforts against the person in whom such a distinction has been found, especially if the distinction so obtained has been an object of desire to the person beholding it, and apparently within his reach: for envy finds scope for operation only between persons amongst whom some kind of rivalry exists. A peasant does not envy either a king or a philosopher; because the dignity of the one, and the wisdom of the other, are altogether beyond a hope, I had almost said a possibility, of his attainment. Envy includes in it a desire of the distinction that calls it forth, and a pain of seeing it possessed by another, when by possibility it might have been possessed by one’s-self.]

2. Next mark its odiousness—

[Nothing excites it but what is either really, or in the person’s estimation, good; nor does it ever exert itself, but for the destruction of the happiness of him in whom that good is found. It is the happiness of another that gives pain to the envious man; and the destruction of that happiness is the great object that would afford him pleasure. Its actings, indeed, are not open, like those of wrath and anger: on the contrary, they are as secret as possible; and they put on, as far as possible, a specious garb, a garb of candour and of equity. But its inseparable attendants are of the same odious character with itself: namely, “debates, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:20.].” Indeed, it is very nearly allied to murder: for, as it is invariably connected with, anger, it is murder in embryo [Note: 1 John 3:15.]: and hence in the Scriptures it is generally associated with murder: “The works of the flesh,” says the Apostle, are hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders [Note: Galatians 5:20-21.]:” and in another place he says of unconverted men, that they are “full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters,” and so on [Note: Romans 1:29-30.]. It indeed may appear harsh to load this principle with such horrid accusations; but they are true, and all verified by experience. Wherefore did Cain slay his brother? it was because he saw his brother receiving from God tokens of approbation which were denied to him [Note: Galatians 4:5; Galatians 4:8.]. And whence was it that Joseph’s brethren took counsel to slay him? it was on account of his enjoying higher favour with his father than they, and his receiving more remarkable communications from God [Note: Genesis 37:11; Genesis 37:18-20.]. But, in truth, we do not view this principle aright, unless we see in it the very image of the devil himself. No other principle in the heart of man bears so strong a resemblance of the devil as this. See our first parents in Paradise, as happy as it was possible for creatures in a state of probation to be. The devil saw and envied them their bliss, and never rested till he had robbed them of it [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3.]. Nor does he behold one of their descendants turning to the Lord, without using every effort in his power to divert them from their purpose, and to destroy their souls [Note: 1 Peter 5:8.]. And what does he gain by this? Is he himself rendered happier by depriving others of their bliss? No: he only augments his own guilt and misery!; and yet such is the malignity of his disposition, that he can find no employment to his mind but this: and, so far as he is capable of a momentary mitigation of his pains, he finds it only in robbing man of his happiness, and God of his glory. This is the very character of the envious man, whose “wisdom,” as St. James says, “is not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish [Note: James 3:14-16.].”

The fact is, that so odious is this principle in the estimation of the whole world, that there is not to be found on earth a person who will acknowledge himself to be actuated by it: though the real truth is, that there is not an unconverted man in the whole universe who is not, as I shall have presently to shew, under its baneful influence. But the very circumstance of all persons disavowing it, whilst they will readily acknowledge that they are led captive by pride, or anger, or impurity, is sufficient to shew how odious it is in itself, and how despicable in the eyes of every living man.]

The evil of envy will yet more strongly appear, whilst I shew,

II. What a destructive principle it is—

There is not a person in the universe able to stand before it. Its workings are inconceivably subtle—

[Persons are not always aware what principle it is which stirs within them, when they are under its influence. Joshua conceived that he was only shewing a commendable regard for the honour of Moses, when he desired that Eldad and Medad, who were prophesying in the camp, should be silenced. But Moses reproved him, saying. “Enviest thou for my sake? Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets [Note: Numbers 11:29.]!” And doubtless those who, in order to grieve the Apostle Paul, preached Christ of envy and strife [Note: Philippians 1:15.], gave themselves credit for a purer motive in their performance of that duty. There are a variety of ways by which men contrive to hide it from themselves. They see some evil in the conduct which they blame: or, if it was not evil in itself, it was faulty in the time, or manner, or measure, in which it was done: or, if no fault attach to it in any of those respects, it was from an improper motive. In short, something shall be found in every thing that a person does, either to make it appear blame-worthy, or, at all events, to abate its excellence: and the person judging of these things will not openly condemn them, but only utter praise in a fainter tone, and in more qualified terms, that so the measure of praise accorded to the agent may be diminished, and his merits be comparatively obscured. This, to the person forming the judgment, shall appear only strict justice: but God, who sees the heart, will designate it envy.]

It finds an advocate in every bosom—

[There is in all a wish to be exalted among their equals: and it there be any who have raised themselves by their own merits above the common standard, every mind will be gratified with hearing of something which shall divest them of their imputed excellence, and reduce them to their former level. Hence the envious man finds an ally in every bosom, and a readiness in all around him to listen to any representation that is of an unfavourable nature; because every one seems to himself elevated in proportion as others are depressed. The means of misrepresentation are infinite in number: and if every statement were carefully investigated before it was received, a man of wisdom and discretion might defy them all: but when every misrepresentation that envy can suggest is listened to with pleasure, and received without inquiry, who must not fall before it?]

The more excellent any conduct is, the more obnoxious it is to its assaults—

[Even piety itself is not beyond its reach: for Solomon speaks of it as a peculiar vanity and source of vexation, that “for every right work a man is envied of his neighbour [Note: Ecclesiastes 4:4.].” To say the truth, piety is more the object of envy than any thing else; not because others affect it for themselves, but because, in the common sentiments of mankind, it gives to its possessor a transcendent excellence, and raises him almost into a higher order of beings. This was a peculiar source of Cain’s resentment against his brother Abel [Note: 1 John 3:12.]; as it was of Saul’s against David [Note: Psalms 38:20.]; and of the Jews against Christ himself [Note: John 8:45-48.]. Take an act of Christ’s, the restoring of Lazarus from the grave; a more benevolent act could not be conceived, nor one which more strongly carried its evidence of a divine mission along with it. Was it possible for envy or enmity to be provoked by that? Yes: the very act instantly produced a conspiracy against the life of Jesus;—against the life, too, of the man who had been raised by him [Note: John 8:45-48; John 8:53; John 12:10-11.]. Was it so, then, that all the wisdom, or piety, or benevolence of our blessed Saviour himself could not elude this detestable enemy of God and man? No: not even he could stand before it; but, as the Evangelist informs us, he fell a prey to its insatiate rage [Note: Matthew 27:18; Matthew 27:20.]. Against all his disciples, too, it raged in like manner [Note: Acts 13:44-45; Acts 17:4-5; Acts 17:10-14.]: and it is in vain for any one, who will serve God with fidelity, to hope for an escape from its virulent assaults [Note: 2 Timothy 3:12.].]

Methinks you are now prepared to hear,

III. What a damning principle it is—

God has marked his indignation against it even here

[Greatly does this principle embitter the life of him in whom it dwells. Its operation is not momentary, like that of anger: it lurks in the bosom; it corrodes the mind; it makes a man completely miserable. We may see its operation in Saul. Saul heard the women, out of all the cities of Israel, celebrating the praises of himself and of David; saying, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more, but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. And on the very next day did Saul cast his javelin at David twice, in order to kill him:” and throughout all the remainder of his life used every possible effort to destroy him [Note: 1 Samuel 18:7-12.]. This may enable us to understand what Solomon meant, when he called “envy, the rottenness of the bones [Note: Proverbs 14:30.].” For as the corporeal system must be altogether enfeebled and destroyed when the bones are rotten; so the moral constitution of the soul is rendered one entire mass of corruption, when a man lies under the dominion of this hateful principle. He is, in fact, as near to the consummation of his misery in hell as the other is to the termination of his life on earth.]

But who can tell with what judgments it shall be visited in the eternal world?

[It is not possible that a person under the dominion of it should ever behold the face of God in peace. “God is love:” love is his very nature and essence: but envy is hatred in its most hateful form, as terminating upon an object, not for any evil that is in him, but for the good which he manifests, and for the success he meets with in the exercise of what is good. How can two such opposites meet together? As well might light and darkness coalesce, as God and an envious man delight in each other in heaven. It is said in God’s blessed word, that “without charity, whatever we possess, or do, or suffer for God, we are only as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.].” But in that very place we are told, that “charity envieth not [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:4.].” What, then, are we to infer from this, but that, as envy proves an entire want of charity, so it proves, equally and unquestionably, a state of mind that is wholly incompatible with the favour of God and the felicity of heaven. But, that we may be assured of God’s indignation against it, let us see what God said to Edom by the Prophet Ezekiel: “As I live, saith the Lord God, I will even do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them: I will make myself known amongst them, when I have judged thee [Note: Ezekiel 35:11.].” True indeed it is, that in this passage God is only denouncing temporal judgments: but it amply shews what are his sentiments respecting the principle which we are speaking of, and what will be his judgment upon it in the day that he shall judge the world.]

Having thus exposed, in some measure, the true character of envy, I beg leave to suggest to you some cautions in relation to it. Be careful,

1. Not needlessly to excite it—

[Knowing, as you do, how common an evil it is, and how deeply rooted in the heart of man, you should guard against every thins which may call it into action. Whatever you possess, either of natural or acquired excellence, make not an ostentatious display of it; but rather put a veil over it, as it were, that its radiance may not offend the eyes of those who behold you. The less value you appear to put upon your attainments, and the less you arrogate to yourselves on account of them, the less will others be disposed to grudge you the enjoyment of them, and to despoil you of the honour due to them. It was unwise in Jacob to mark his partiality towards his son Joseph, by “a coat of many colours;” and he paid dearly for it by this sufferings it entailed. For your own sakes therefore, as well as for the sake of others, it will be wise in you to bear your honours meekly, and to shew that you are “little in your own eyes.”]

2. Not wickedly to indulge it—

[Envy is a principle in our fallen nature far more powerful than men in general are apt to imagine. “Do you think that the Scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy [Note: James 4:5. See also Titus 3:3.]?” If you will watch the motions of your own hearts, you will find a sad propensity to it, whenever a powerful occasion arises to call it forth. Suppose a person, whom you have regarded as inferior to yourself in industry and talent, has got before you, and attained a higher eminence than you in your own peculiar line; are you not ready to ascribe his success to chance, or to the partiality of friends, rather than to his own intrinsic merit? and would it not be gratifying to you to hear a similar judgment passed on him by others? Suppose he were by any means to fall from his eminence; would not his degradation give you pleasure? If you praise him, is it with the same decisive tone as you would have wished for, if the praise had been conferred on you? It is when your own honour or interest comes in competition with that of another, that envy betrays its power over you: and if you have been observant of the workings of your own mind, you will be no strangers to the operation of this principle within you. But remember what has been said of its odiousness and enormity; and cry mightily to God to deliver you from its baneful influence. Remember how transitory is all distinction here; and content yourselves with the honour which cometh from God, and will endure for ever.]

3. Not basely to fear it—

[Though you are not to make an ostentatious display of any excellence you may possess, and especially of piety, you are not to put your light under a bushel, through the fear of any hostility which a discovery of it may provoke. Whatsoever your duty is, whether to God or man, that you are to do; and to leave all consequences to the disposal of an all-wise Providence. It should be in your mind “a very small matter to be judged of man’s judgment [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:3.].” If you have “the testimony of your own conscience that you are serving God in simplicity and godly sincerity,” that should bear you up against all the obloquy that the envy or malignity of others can heap upon you. You must expect that “they who render evil for good will be against you, if you follow the thing that is good:” and you must commit yourself to Him who judgeth right, and who will, in due season, both vindicate your character, and make your righteousness to shine forth as the noon-day.]

4. Not angrily to resent it—

[Supposing you to be traduced and injured in a variety of ways; “what temptation has befallen you but that which is common to men?” Instead of grieving that you are persecuted for righteousness sake, you should rather regard the hatred of men as a homage paid to your virtue; and should “rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ’s sake.” You will remember the prayer of our blessed Lord for his murderers: “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do.” This is the pattern which it becomes you to follow. Your envious neighbours really do not know what they do: they are not aware by what spirit they are actuated, or what evil they commit. Instead, therefore, of being angry with them for the evil they do you, you should rather pity them for the evil they do to themselves. This was the way in which David requited Saul, sparing him when he had him in his power, and mourning for him when he was removed to another world [Note: 1 Samuel 24:9-11; 1 Samuel 24:16-18 and 2 Samuel 1:17; 2 Samuel 1:24-27.]. Your rule, under all circumstances, must be this: “Not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.”]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 813

THE HEARTS OF MEN ALIKE

Proverbs 27:19. As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.

THERE are many things which are justly considered as axioms, of the truth of which we are fully convinced, because they are the result of observation and experience: yet, being declared also by the voice of inspiration, they come to our minds with authority, and demand from us an unhesitating acquiescence. Such is the truth which we have just read from the Book of Proverbs. Any man conversant with the world, knows that human nature is, to a certain degree, the same in every age and in every place. But there are, amongst men, so many discrepancies arising out of incidental circumstances, and so many changes too in the same persons, that if the heart-searching God himself had not determined the point, we should scarcely have ventured to speak respecting it in terms so strong and unqualified as Solomon has used in the passage before us. His words, beyond all doubt, are true: but yet, if not well understood, they are capable of much misapprehension and perversion. In discoursing upon them, I will,

I. Explain his assertion—

It needs explanation: for if we were to take it as importing that all men in all circumstances manifest the same dispositions and desires, it would be the very reverse of what we see and know to be true. It is evident, that, though Solomon does not make any distinction, he does not intend to confound all persons in one common mass, and to affirm that, under all their diversified conditions, they are all alike: he supposes, that, amongst the persons so compared, there exists a parity, which may render them proper objects of comparison. He takes for granted, that there is in them a parity,

1. Of age—

[If we take men in the various stages of human existence, from infancy to old age, we know that there exists in them a vast diversity of sentiment. To imagine that amongst them all there should be found the same views, desires, and pursuits, would be to betray an ignorance and folly bordering on fatuity. Old men and children can no more be supposed to accord with each other in such respects, than light and darkness. Children must be compared with children; young men with youths; and old men with those that are advanced in years.]

2. In character—

[There is in the natural constitution of men a great difference. Infants at their mother’s breast display an astonishing variety of character; some being mild, gentle, placid; others, on the contrary, being filled with the most violent and hateful dispositions. Education, too, will operate very forcibly on men, and lead them to habits widely different from each other. One who is brought up in the unrestrained indulgence of every vicious appetite, cannot be supposed to resemble one who has been well instructed in all virtuous principles, and subjected to all salutary restraints. Still less can the godly and the ungodly be supposed to agree. Divine grace puts men far asunder, and induces sentiments and conduct widely different from any that are found in unconverted men. In comparing these different persons, a due respect must be had to their several characters; or else our judgment concerning them will be extremely erroneous.]

3. In condition—

[What community of sentiment, generally speaking, can there be between a prince and a peasant? or what between an unlettered countryman and a sage philosopher? Take a man under the pressure of disease, poverty, disgrace; and what will you expect to find in him that accords with the feelings of one who is living in the fullest enjoyment of ease, and opulence, and honour? Look at even the same person, when, either in a way of elevation or depression, he is changed from the one condition to the other; and you will find in him, for the most part, a corresponding change of views and habits.

I say then, that, to apprehend our text aright, we must consider it as declaring, not that all persons, whatever their circumstances may be, are alike; but that all persons under the same circumstances, due allowance being made for any difference existing from constitution, age, education, habit and grace, will be found to bear a very strong resemblance to each other.]

Taking the assertion of Solomon in this qualified sense, I proceed to,

II. Confirm it—

The reflection of a countenance from water will bear a strict resemblance to him whose countenance it is. And a similar correspondence will be found between the hearts of men, who, according to the foregoing limitations, are fit objects of comparison. It will be found in all,

1. Whilst in an unenlightened state—

[All unenlightened men agree in this; they affect supremely the things of time and sense. In this also they agree; they disaffect things spiritual and eternal. Here we may range through all the gradations of men, from the prince to the peasant; and through all their ages, from infancy to old age; yea, and through all the different periods of time, from the beginning of the world to the present hour; and we shall not find so much as one differing from the rest, unless indeed a very few, who have been sanctified from the womb. The testimony of Almighty God is this: “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be [Note: Romans 8:5; Romans 8:7.].” Here both of these points are asserted, with equal clearness, and with unquestionable authority. If the point be doubted, look for a person who, from his youth up, has shewn a superiority to the pleasures, honours, interests of this world, and sought his happiness in communion with God, and in the exercises of prayer and praise. Alas! not one such person will you find: the hearts of all have been in perfect agreement with each other, even as the face that is reflected, with the face that inspects the mirror.]

2. When awakened to a sense of their perishing condition—

[Let but the eyes of any one be opened to see his real state, and he will begin immediately to tremble before God. No sense of earthly dignity will uphold a man at that hour. Felix on the throne of judgment, and Belshazzar in his drunken carousals, become weak as other men; and betray the convictions of their mind, that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Not the most obdurate sinners in the universe can any longer defy the arm of justice: the very instant they see themselves obnoxious to its stroke, their spirits sink within them. Even the murderers of our blessed Lord, whilst yet their hands were reeking with his blood, cry out in agony of mind, “Men and brethren, what shall we do [Note: Acts 2:37.]?”

In another thing, too, they all agree: they all, without exception, seek, in the first instance, to conciliate God’s favour by some works of their own. They will repent; they will reform their lives; they will perform the duties which they have hitherto neglected; they will exercise benevolence to the utmost of their power: they will do any thing, if by any means they may recommend themselves to God as objects of his mercy. Those amongst them who have been somewhat better instructed will allow to Jesus Christ the honour of saving them; but still they must do something to entitle them to come to him, and to warrant their hope in him. None, in the first instance, see, nor, if they were instructed, would they approve, the Gospel method of salvation, simply by faith in Christ. To renounce every kind and degree of hope in themselves is, to their proud hearts, an act of humiliation, to which they cannot submit. They think, so entirely to set aside good works, is to disparage them, and to countenance a neglect of them; and therefore they cannot cast themselves wholly and entirely on the merits of a crucified Redeemer. This reluctance to glorify Christ is, indeed, overcome sooner in some than in others: and in this respect “the publicans and harlots for the most part enter into the kingdom sooner than the Scribes and Pharisees [Note: Matthew 21:31.],” because they are sooner convinced that they have nothing of their own to rely upon: but in all is there the same tendency to establish a righteousness of their own, and a difficulty in being brought to “submit to the righteousness of Christ [Note: Romans 9:30-33; Romans 10:1-3.].”]

3. When truly converted to the faith of Christ—

[To every one, without exception, “is Christ precious,” even preciousness itself [Note: 1 Peter 2:7. τιμή.]. Find one to whom he is not “fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely [Note: Song of Solomon 5:10; Song of Solomon 5:16.].” You might as well look for one in heaven itself, as on earth. It is not possible to have “tasted how gracious He is,” and not love him, and serve him, and glory in him. Equally characteristic also of the believer is the love of holiness. Sin is no longer that pleasant morsel which they would roll under their tongue: it is hateful and abominable in their eyes: and they would gladly have it crucified within them. The divine image is that which they now affect; and after which they pant, as the hart after the water-brooks. In all, indeed, these marks are not alike visible, because all are not alike gracious; but in all, according to their measure of the gift of Christ, is this grace found: and if there be a professor of religion in whom it is not found, I hesitate not to say, that he belongs not to the class of whom I am speaking, but must take both his name and portion with the hypocrites. Of course, when I speak of the love of holiness, I comprehend it in all its parts, and consider it as extending equally to both the tables of the Law. The man who has a scriptural hope in the Lord Jesus Christ will not fail to “purify himself, even as Christ is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].”]

Now this subject is not one of curious speculation; but of real use, of most important use,

1. For our humiliation—

[See the portrait of human nature as drawn in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. See it as again exhibited in the third chapter: “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good; no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” But it may be asked, What can these passages hare to do with the more moral part of the community? I answer, that “whatsoever things the Law saith, it saith to them who are under the Law; (as every child of man is;) that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God [Note: Romans 3:10-19.].” Take this glass then, Brethren, and behold your own faces in it; and say, whether you have any reason for self-admiration and self-complacency? The true character of your hearts is this: “They are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked [Note: Jeremiah 17:9.]:” and, if there be any superiority in the conduct of any, you owe it, not to the superior quality of your hearts, but to the preventing and assisting grace of God. And the best amongst you may look upon the vilest of the human race and say, ‘Such an one might I have been, but for the grace of God!’]

2. For our consolation—

[When under peculiar temptations, we are ready to think that there is no one like us, and that no one was ever tempted as we are. But “there has no temptation taken any one of us, but what is common to man [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.].” And when we know this, it is a rich source of consolation to us. Not that the trials of others can do us any good: every man must bear his own burthen, whether it be greater or less: but, when a man supposes that he alone is subjected to any peculiar trouble, he is ready to imagine that he is an outcast from the Lord, and that there is no hope for him in God. The removal of this painful apprehension, however, raises him from his dejection, and emboldens him to maintain the conflict with all the enemies of his salvation. He will then chide himself, and say, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God [Note: Psalms 42:11.].”]

3. For our encouragement—

[If in the Scriptures we see what human nature is, we see also what divine grace is, and what it can effect in the heart of man. After a most horrible description given by the Apostle, of persons who were to be excluded from the kingdom of heaven, he says to the Corinthians, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:10-11.].” And the change wrought, on the day of Pentecost, on the murderers of our Lord, abundantly shews what may be expected by all who believe on him. The same holy joy shall animate their souls; and the same Almighty power renovate them after the divine image. It was to Christians scattered throughout the world that Peter said, “Through believing in Christ, they rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving even now the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls [Note: 1 Peter 1:8-9.].” What, then, may not we also expect, if we truly believe in Christ! Verily, as in water face answereth to face, so shall our hearts respond to the hearts of the primitive saints, in all that is good and great. Our victories shall be the same as theirs, as shall also be our triumphs and our joys. Let this encourage us to go forward in our heavenly way, expecting assuredly that we in due time shall “see the good of God’s chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of his nation, and glory with his inheritance [Note: Psalms 106:5.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/proverbs-27.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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