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This psalm was probably written by David in his old age, and contains his experience in reference to the providential dealings of God with men. It acknowledges the transient prosperity of the wicked, but places in sublime contrast therewith the confidence and destiny of the good, and proves clearly that the latter have little cause to envy the former. It is folly to envy a man because be is clothed in the garb of a king; he may, after all, be only a pauper in disguise.
THE TRANSIENT PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED UNWORTHY THE ENVY OF THE GOOD
I. That there is apparently much in the prosperity of the wicked to excite the fretful envy of the good.
It cannot be denied that wicked men are often in great prosperity even while the pious are poor and despised. They are eminent in social position and fortunate in commercial speculation; hence they are surrounded by all that heart could wish. This is a matter of history. It is also a matter of everyday experience. In this life the wicked are prosperous. They live for this life alone, they are often cunning and selfish; hence it is not to be wondered at that they succeed in it. And they always take good care to display their grandeur, so that it may be universally seen and admired. Hence they are the occasion of perplexity to the good, and often of desponding thoughts and envious feelings. It is hard to understand how it is that so many good things should fall to the lot of characters so unworthy of them, while the children of God are in comparative need. At such a sight it is difficult to realise that Heaven is just in its providential dealings with men. But this thought will come with devotion (Psalms 73:16-17).
II. That it is foolish to envy the prosperity of the wicked, because it is only of temporary duration.
It is impossible not to regard the temporary prosperity of the wicked; the good cannot be indifferent to it; it is thrust upon their attention. But the good are not obliged to envy it, or to be ill-tempered at it. Their envy will do no good. It will not alter things, or make them better. This social condition is permitted by Heaven. It must, therefore, be accepted by the devout mind as appropriate, as a token of the beneficence of God in that He will permit such distinguished mercy to attend a wicked life. But the prosperity of the wicked will only be transient, as the beauty of the grass, or as the momentary bloom of the flower. And, therefore, it is not worthy of envy, as it is prosperity of the lowest kind, and will soon wither in the grave; whereas, though the good may endure a long period of want, yet it will only be as a prelude to the eternal wealth and enjoyment of heaven. Surely, then, they have no need to envy the temporal prosperity of the wicked.
III. That it is sinful to envy the prosperity of the wicked, because it is contrary to the command of God.
The Bible clearly reveals the fact that envy is a sinful passion, and that it is the outcome of an impure heart. A good man cannot indulge envy, or he will soon be little better in moral character than those whose prosperity he may contemplate. Envy is forbidden by God. It is an unhallowed flame within the soul. It hinders prayer. It leads to oppression. It is contrary to the example of Christ. Hence if good men would keep their souls in harmony with the law of God; if they would be contented in spirit and happy in life, they must not yield to the dire sentiment of envy.
IV. That it is injurious to envy the prosperity of the wicked, because it awakens the lower sentiments of the soul.
There is no lower passion of which man is capable than that of envy. It is a mean and unhappy companion. It looks askance at every one it meets. In its light a friend may be turned into an enemy. And for a good man to give himself up to it, would indeed be to allow the lower feelings of his soul to gain the mastery over all that is true and magnanimous within him. A pure soul cannot indulge envy.
V. That it is presumptuous to envy the prosperity of the wicked, because it is rebellion against the providence of God.
God has a certain method of providence in the universe, and it ill becomes good men to rebel against it. It is just. It is disciplinary. It will ultimately be adjusted to all the moral requirements of the universe. The good should therefore be patient, not fretful. They can afford to wait. They have moral prosperity, they need not therefore envy secular pride. They must fall in with the providence of God, even though at times it may be of difficult interpretation.
1. Not to cultivate an envious outlook upon the social conditions of men.
2. To trust in God during the enigmas of the present, and wait the final adjustment of all things.
THE DISPOSITIONS AND BENEDICTIONS OF THE GOOD
In the opening verses of this psalm we are told of the dispositions which should and should not characterise a pious soul It should not be fretful or envious. It should be trustful. It should be joyous. It should be meek. These dispositions win the benediction of Heaven The blessings of the soul are intimately allied to its moral dispositions. Men find the world what they make it by their own inner spirit.
I. The dispositions that should characterise a godly life.
1. Trust. “Trust in the Lord.” If men would avoid a fretful spirit, they should trust in the Lord. Faith is the noblest disposition of the soul, and is an antidote for envy. It has an elevating influence upon the moral character of those who exercise it. The Lord is worthy of the confidence of men. He is omnipotent, and cannot fail. He is faithful, and will never forsake. The good may therefore confide their life, temporal circumstances, their reputation, and the government of the universe to Him, knowing that He will order all for their ultimate spiritual welfare. Trust not in man, not even in yourself. Trust in God must also be followed by appropriate effort; only they who “do good” have any right to expect Divine help.
2. Joy. “Delight thyself also in the Lord.” Hence the joy of the good is not carnal and sinful, but spiritual and pure. It is delight in the Supreme Being, in His character and perfections, in the noblest love, and in the highest wisdom; hence it is eminently real and secure. In what better object can the soul delight? In uncertain riches? In fleeting pleasure? In dying friendship? The joy of the Lord is our strength both in sorrow and in service. God delights in the good, and what more reasonable than that they should rejoice in Him. The life of the Christian is one of holy delight in the Eternal. Faith inspires delight.
3. Devotion. “Commit thy way unto the Lord.” The good are not to take the sole guidance and responsibility of their own life. They are to commit their way, their sorrow, their moral imperfections, their mental perplexities, their domestic cares, and their temporal circumstances, entirely into the hands of the Lord. They are to do this by prayer, with faith, in delight In this consists true piety. Though the great God has the vast concerns of the universe to watch over, He is willing to direct the individual life committed to His care. Some men commit their way unto reason; some to impulse; and some to passion. But God is the only true guardian of the way of an immortal soul.
4. Rest. “Rest in the Lord.” This is the duty and privilege of the good. This is not a world for much repose; men are anxious and active; they make haste to be rich; they pursue pleasure ardently; they are tormented by care: they are unrestful. But religion gives moral quietude. It calms the soul. It silences the voice of complaint. God is the only true resting-place of the soul; but what a sweet rest is found in Him! See, then, the accompaniments of faith, joy, devotion, rest Faith bears blessed fruit.
5. Patience. “Wait patiently.” The good must be patient in suffering, in service—under adverse circumstances, when their reputation is maligned, and when the mystery of life presses heavily upon them. God is worth waiting for. His time is the best. Men tarry for the king. Time should not be considered in waiting for the King of heaven. The splendour of His advent will more than compensate for the delay.
6. Meekness. “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” The good should be meek and contented with their lot, not haughty, defiant, or restless. Hence we see the dispositions which should characterise a pious soul, and the benedictions they attain, and the admiration they win.
II. The benedictions that are bestowed upon a godly life.
1. That a godly life is watched over by the beneficent providence of God. “Thou shalt dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” The Divine providence enables the good to feel at home in this world, even though they do not regard it as their home. They dwell in the land because it is the property of their Father in heaven, and He gives them the right to reside in it. Thus their temporal and moral requirements will be met. They will be fed with the bread that perisheth, as also with the bread that cometh down from heaven. Truth is the sustenance of the soul, and it shall never be lacking to the good.
2. That a godly life is privileged by the gratification of its best desires. “He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” The desires of the good are the outcome of their trust and delight in the Lord, and therefore may safely be granted. Man is a creature of desire. He often longs for that he can never attain. His aspirations are often ambitious, and, if realised, would prove injurious. But the inclinations of the good are pure and spiritual, they are in harmony with the will of God and the welfare of the soul. Religion alone can give true satisfaction to human desire.
3. That a godly life shall be vindicated from the slander and calumny of men. “And He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light.” The good are often maligned in this world by those who envy the beauty of their characters and the glory of their reputation. Sometimes this is the outcome of sheer malice, and occasionally of wanton mischief. But from the darkness of calumny God will bring the good into the light of day, when men shall see the untarnished beauty of their characters, the injury that has been done them, and the tender solicitude of Heaven for the public vindication of the pure.
4. That a godly life is enriched by a true ownership of the earth. “But the meek shall inherit the earth.” The world is not inherited by the busy or by those who are given to speculation, but by the meek. They inherit it by their contented spirit, and because they enjoy it. It is the gift of their Father to them, and they possess its title-deeds in Christ. The meek are the true and permanent inheritors of the soil; they will inherit the new heaven and the new earth.
5. That a godly life shall experience a sweet and affluent peace. “And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” A godly life is generally characterised by peacefulness. It is at peace with self, with God, and with the universe. Its peace is affluent; it is a delight; it is divinely given to the pure. “My peace I give unto you.” Weak men are agitated by the storms of earth, while good men know the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and anticipate a destiny of peace which shall never be broken by sorrow or sin.
1. To cultivate the dispositions of soul commended by God.
2. To expect the benedictions of Heaven promised to a trustful soul.
THE PLOTTINGS OF THE WICKED AGAINST THE GOOD
That the wicked plot against the just is matter of history, and also of everyday experience. They envy the moral character of the good, with the respect it wins and the influence it wields. They cannot interpret its inner meaning or understand the secret of its modest power. They are also rebuked by the quiet dignity of the Christian character, and hence, through sheer hatred, seek to persecute and remove it out of their sight. To this end they employ their best genius and cunning, and await the result with the utmost complacency, little thinking that Heaven holds them and their schemes in derision.
I. The plottings of the wicked against the good are wrathful. “And gnasheth upon him with his teeth.” The wicked show by their gestures the rage they indulge against, and injury they would inflict upon, the good if it were in their power. They gnash with their teeth, thus indicating their angry but curbed rage. They have not the ability or the opportunity to accomplish the mischief their violent passion would devise. Sinners are held in check by the restraining providence of God, by legal penalties, and often by the sheer force of public opinion, which favours the welfare of the good. But if the wicked cannot always execute their plottings against the just, they do not disguise their anger; they little think how morally impotent and vulgar their puny gnashing makes them appear. They show that they are the creatures of a passion they cannot vent.
II. The plottings of the wicked against the good are cruel. “The wicked have drawn out the sword.” They have drawn the weapon out of the sheath and await the time to use it. They do not seek to overcome the just by Scripture truth, by logical argument, or by cultured means, but by the cruel and deadly instrument of war. They employ no half measures, as they vainly imagine. They repose more confidence in the physical and material agency than in the intellectual and the moral. In seeking the injury of the good, they would prefer a sword to any other instrumentality. They shrink not from murder if their rage can only achieve its malicious design. They are of the lowest type of mind.
III. The plottings of the wicked against the good are determined. “And have bent their bow.” They not merely carry a sword, but also a bow; nor would they refuse any other instrument likely to accomplish their mischievous design upon the good. They bend the bow with all the determination of will they can possibly summon. They take steady aim that they may wound a vital part. And thus the wicked, in their plottings against the just, make use of all the instrumentalities they can command, exercise all the talents they possess, and are strong in their determination to achieve the end they contemplate.
IV. The plottings of the wicked against the good are cowardly. “To cast down the poor and needy.” The wicked do not seek to engage in conflict with the strong amongst the good, who would be competent to expose and vanquish their plottings, but with the poor and needy. They attack the feeble who are too meek in spirit to suspect their mischief, or to defend themselves from it; they attack the poor who have not wherewith to protect themselves from the assaults of their imperious enemies. Wicked men are generally cowardly. They have not the courage of their rage, or the valour of their determination.
V. The plottings of the wicked against the good are self-destructive. “Their sword shall enter into their own heart.” The very weapon intended for the destruction of the good, under the mysterious but retributive arrangements of Divine Providence, shall be employed in the defeat of the wicked. The wicked are often hung upon gallows built by themselves. Their plottings are self-destructive; they are vain; they are useless; their bows are broken; their agencies are cut off; their plans are defeated; they outwit themselves; they invite the derision and retribution of heaven.
1. That it is foolish for the wicked to plot against the good.
2. Such plottings are intelligible to the good, being explained by the enmity of the world to Christ.
3. Such plottings are not to be feared, but are to be outlived by trust in God.
THE RIGHTEOUS AND HIS LITTLE BETTER THAN THE WICKED WITH HIS MUCH
It is a fact of everyday observation that the righteous often have little, while the ungodly have much. The little may be better than the much. This is the arithmetic of Heaven, not of the world. Why is the little better?
I. Because it is honestly gained. The little that a righteous man hath is sure to be honestly gained. It will be either the product of healthy labour, of commendable skill, or of lawful inheritance. This cannot always be said of the riches of the wicked; they are often got by fraud, by cunning, from the orphan, and the widow. The way in which wealth is obtained has much to do with its real value.
II. Because it may be safely retained. The little that a righteous man bath is far more likely to be safely retained than are the riches of the wicked. The former are careful in the use, prayerful in the investment, and unselfish in the gift of their little; while the latter are spendthrift, godless, and selfish in the use of their much. Prayer and benevolence are a great preservative to wealth.
III. Because it may be truly enjoyed. The little of the righteous is rightfully earned, and, therefore, may be truly enjoyed; whereas the much of the wicked is often unjustly gained, and is, therefore, associated with unhappy deeds, with unwelcome memories, with self-accusation, and with a fear of retribution. It cannot be truly enjoyed.
IV. Because it will be carefully spent. It is just possible that the little of the righteous will go farther than the great riches of the wicked. The righteous are careful but not miserly; they gather up the fragments that nothing may be lost. The wicked are often speculative, and lose more than they win. They are spendthrift; they make a boast of their prodigality; they are well bled by flatterers and by sinful accomplices.
V. Because it will be benevolently used. The little of the righteous will be given to the Lord; to His cause on the earth; to His poor; and to institutions worthy of help. Men lose nothing by giving to the prophet of the Lord (1 Kings 17:14; Proverbs 11:24). The righteous gain by giving. The wicked lose by withdrawing. A running stream inherits the most territory.
VI. Because it will be divinely blessed. The righteous can justly expect the blessing of God upon their little, because it is honestly gained and it is benevolently used. The wicked have no right to anticipate the benediction of Heaven upon their riches. No man is rich without the blessing of God.
1. To be satisfied with little.
2. To make little sufficient.
3. To use little well.
We have in these verses a fine contrast between the wicked and the righteous. It is drawn by unerring skill, after minute observation, and is in keeping with the general experience of mankind. The wicked and the good:—
I. They are contrasted in their possessions. “A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.” The wicked often have greater property and wealth than the good, but they are not content therewith; yea, they are even unrestful in its possession. Whereas the righteous have little, but, by the quietude of their soul, their little becomes much, and is a true enjoyment to them. Wicked men are troubled by their much (Luke 12:16). Good men are grateful for their little (Psalms 103:2).
II. They are contrasted in their strength. “For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous.” The arms are a token of power and strength, and the arms of the wicked shall be broken. They shall be broken by the retributive providence of God, and by the failure of their own schemes. What a pitiable sight they present! Revengeful, yet armless. Like Samson shorn of his strength. The strength of the good man does not consist in his arms, hence there is no reference to them, but in the inspiring energy of God. He is upheld by the Lord, hence his superior power and safety.
III. They are contrasted in their perpetuity. “The Lord knoweth the days of the upright; and their inheritance shall be for ever.” “But the wicked shall perish.” The good are known by God. He knows their present estate and their future glory. He sees their trials, and also the weight of glory in reserve for them. He beholds the sword unsheathed, and the bow bent against them, but no weapon formed against them can prosper. The times of the good are in the hand of the Lord, hence He will deliver them from special calamities, and will feed them when famine is prevalent. But the wicked shall perish,—they have no defence against their enemies, they have no granary in Egypt to which they can flee in the days of famine. They will perish ignobly, irreparably, and eternally. This will be the end of their hatred, cunning, and wealth.
IV. They are contrasted in their integrity. “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous showeth mercy and giveth.” Though the wicked have great wealth, they are often under the necessity of borrowing money, because they are prodigal. They borrow to meet the demands of extravagant habits, of sinful pleasures, and of accomplices in vices. Sin is very expensive. It involves in hopeless debt, and oftentimes to those against whom the sword has been unsheathed. The wicked pay not again. They are not willing to reform their extravagant habits, they are not willing to work, and they are dishonest at heart, and so they pay not their debts, even though they violate their most sacred bonds. The righteous lend to the wicked, they are merciful and generous in spirit. Their wealth was lent to them, and they are willing to lend it again, and to receive their usury from Him who ever rewards a beneficent deed. The plottings of the wicked do not interrupt the benevolent dispositions of the good. It is better to lend than to borrow.
V. They are contrasted in their posterity. “Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. But the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.” David had not seen the seed of the righteous begging bread. He was a king, and would not be likely to meet with such poverty. Yet his experience was wide in the matter, and he was competent to pass an opinion. The children of good men are seen begging; but very seldom. This is the exception, the rule is in harmony with the statement of this verse. The children of the wicked are cut off, they inherit from their parents the seeds of destruction (Proverbs 3:33).
1. Which character is the more inviting, the more prosperous, the more enduring?
2. Which will you cultivate?
The psalmist found congenial employment in writing about good men, and their relation to God, to His government, and to the world at large. He delighted to show the Divine care for the good, their excellencies of character, the protection they enjoyed, and the future they anticipated. The righteous:
I. The land he inherits. “The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.” The righteous inherit the earth, the world in which they now are, they inherit it as the sons of God through Christ, and, standing on Calvary, all that they can see from that hill is theirs. They will dwell eternally in this world by the work they do, by the influences they exert, by the inspiration they impart, and by the silent testimony they leave behind (Hebrews 11:4).
II. The wisdom he speaks. “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.” Good men are known by their speech, they talk on good subjects, and talk on them wisely. He converses about moral questions, his tongue talketh of judgment. He speaks not about the follies of the age, he has no interest in the gossip of the weak,—he prefers the deeper and more solemn themes of life and destiny.
III. The law he keeps. “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.” This is the secret of his wise speech. Men who know God, and who search His law, are furnished with themes for noble conversation, and are imbued with a true spirit of wisdom. If men would read the Bible more, they would talk more wisely. The good man not merely reads the law, he not merely knows it, but it is resident within him as a vital and transformative principle (Psalms 119:11). Obedience to this law is elevating, preserving, safe, and sanctifying. It is the highest law, and obedience to it is the most influential and worthy.
IV. The safety he enjoys. “The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand.” The righteous are watched by deceptive and cruel men, they are often unconscious of this peril. But they have another watcher, even the Lord who is their Sun and Shield. The Divine Guardian is greater and more vigilant than the human foe. Jesus was watched by His enemies.
V. The condemnation he escapes. “Nor condemn him when he is judged.” In this world the righteous are often condemned, by secret slander, by cruel hatred, by violent plots, by public opinion, and even by the legal tribunals of the land. But there comes a day when their condemnation will be reversed, their shame will be removed, their characters will be cleared, and infinite justice will receive them into its eternal protection. The good can afford to wait this time, and no doubt many long for it to turn their darkness into light, their sadness into joy. A false sentence is now passed on moral goodness; the future will reveal its injustice. The pure life only can escape condemnation. What a joy to escape the condemnation of God, not through our own merit, but through the cross of Jesus.
VI. The exaltation he expects. “Wait on the Lord and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the land.” The good are to wait on the Lord, because He may be long in coming to them, because He is worth waiting for, and because at His coming they will realise all their long-cherished hopes. The early watchers on the mountain wait for the rising of the sun, and the multitudes wait for the coming of the king. So let the Christian wait for the Lord. The good must not only wait on the Lord, but also keep His way. There must be keeping as well as waiting, and then there will be inheriting. Canaan is the inheritance and the exaltation of the pure.
1. Talk wisely.
2. Obey diligently.
3. Walk carefully.
4. Anticipate joyfully.
THE TEMPORARY PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED AS CONTRASTED WITH THE PEACEFUL DESTINY OF THE GOOD
The first verse contains the pith of the entire psalm. “Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” The following reasons are given as a preventative of an envious spirit: The glory of the wicked is of brief duration (Psalms 37:2); the moral rectitude of the good will be finally manifested (Psalms 37:6); the good are divinely protected from the attacks of evil men (Psalms 37:12-15); they are divinely guided (Psalms 37:23); they are the true inheritors of the soil (Psalms 37:29); their destiny is peaceful. Hence the good have no need to envy the wicked in their bright but transient prosperity, especially when they consider the future. Perhaps, when David wrote this psalm, the image of Saul was floating before his vision. Truly, in reference to that monarch, he could say, “I have seen the wicked,” &c.
I. That wicked men are often in the possession of great power. “I have seen the wicked in great power.”
1. They often have social distinction. It very often happens that the wicked are rich; they have a productive farm, or a good business, which places at their command the luxuries of life. Hence they are surrounded by men of like fortunes, and are largely courted by the multitude beneath them. It is customary in these times to make wealth rather than character the test of companionship; hence rich men are suns in the firmament of our social life, they are surrounded by attendant planets, and stars, hoping to catch the rays of their favour. They keep up appearances, they give grand entertainments, they aid philanthropic institutions, and so gain social popularity. Such men are dangerous. They are, to those who circle near them, as the bright light to the moth: they occasion moral ruin.
2. They often have national distinction. They have gained influence in the local circle in which they move, hence they are elevated to a seat in the legislature; or, it may be, that they are clever as they are wicked, and thus, by sheer intellect, gain the pre-eminence of their fellows. They make an invention, they write a book, they win a battle, and society, not being in an ideal state, is in danger of elevating genius rather than goodness. Again, if they are not clever, they are cunning, and we all know the power of fraud to out-do honesty for a time. They flatter the great men of the age, and so win their help to fame. For even great men are wonderfully open to flattery. But, sometimes their plots are so deeply laid, that even the good are duped by them.
3. The supremacy of the wicked is a matter of history and experience. “I have seen,” &c. History is a record of the wicked who have been in great power. Human society exhibits the same fact. Men of the highest genius, whose names are household words, and whose works will be read to the end of time, are illustrations of this statement. We think of Byron; and also of many kings who have ascended our throne. This outlook upon history and society may be perplexing, but the problem will one day be solved, when it will appear that saints were the true kings of the world, and that ambitious sinners were its paupers.
4. In this supremacy the wicked appear strong and arrogant. “Spreading himself,” &c. They imagine that their foundation is secure, that the effects of their wealth and genius upon the popular mind will never die away; that their smile will win, that their frown will subdue their enemies. Their demeanour is imperious. Their tones of voice are emphatic. They forget that modesty and humility would best serve their end. They are like the swollen stream, which spreads itself throughout the land, to show off its expansiveness, but certainly not its depth.
II. That wicked men often experience unexpected reverses.
1. Severe and complete. “Yet he passed away.” Sometimes these men pass from the highest pinnacle of wealth to abject poverty, through speculation or panic; their true characters are unveiled, and society discards them. No vestige is left of their power.
2. Unlikely and unexpected. Such reverses are not often anticipated. We expect that wealth will protect from them. The wicked are like the rider through the desert, unexpectedly plundered by some stern robber. At the roots of the richest flower there may be an insect eating away its life unseen. The calm often breaks suddenly into storm. The wicked aristocrat may soon become the wicked pauper.
3. Minutely observed. “I sought him.” Men of wealth are talked about by everybody; their houses, clothes, habits, are the staple theme of the neighbourhood. “I sought him.” Men come to the ruin to mock; to search to see if there was anything left they could plunder, and, no doubt, to weep. Some would pity his fall. The world soon hears of the destruction of its powerful ones.
III. That while the wicked experience these reverses, the good are happy in their life, and peaceful in their futurity. “The end of that man is peace.”
1. The good are a great contrast to the wicked just contemplated. The character of the one is impure, that of the other is holy; the circumstances of the one are affluent, those of the other may be needy; the destiny of the one is ignominious, while that of the other is happy. The contrast is not only great, but happy. It is pleasant to turn from the one to the other. Good men are the charm of history and of life. They are welcome as the shady nook during the hot summer day. The contrast is solemn. To think of the wicked in their power and ruin, and then of the good in their peace and hope, must certainly evoke a feeling of regret that one life should lack the beauty and safety of the other.
2. The good are worthy of careful note and imitation. “Mark the perfect man.” He is worthy of note. A perfect man! Are you astonished? Have you never seen one? True, they are not often to be met with,—you should therefore note him the more when you do see him. If you go into a picture gallery, and find a beautiful work of art, you study it from every point of view, its every feature and tint. So with the flower in your garden. But here is not a lifeless picture, a withering flower, but an immortality,—therefore let your study be deeper and truer. Mark his moral bearing, his strict integrity, his untiring zeal, his gentle spirit, his effort for the good of others. But do not look at him merely to admire, but to imitate; not merely that the natural instincts of your soul may be pleased, but that your manhood may catch the glory of his. Men always become like the object they study. Moral character is the highest kind of study If you mark the perfect man you will see that life does not always go easily with him; sometimes the night is dark and rough, but he always has one star to cheer and guide him on his journey.
3. The lift of the good will ultimately come to an end. “The end of that man.” What a pity! We should like their beautiful light to shine on in our midst for ever. Good men are the world’s jewels; they are patterns of life; they are prayers; they are inspirations. We cannot spare them. But death is rude, and takes them from us; they gladly step into heaven. And thus are plucked earth’s choicest flowers, to be removed to the Eden above.
4. The departure of the good will be peaceful in its issue. There may be the pain of disease, but that only touches the surface of the man. In the depths of his soul there is celestial calm. Peace, the end of life! How welcome after the storm. “Come at last, has it?” exclaims the dying saint. “Peace!” “My spirit has found its rest in the home of the Eternal.” We are told that Stephen fell asleep; God turned the angry cries of the murderous mob into the lullabies of a saintly repose.
WHICH WILL YOU HAVE?
1. Wickedness and power; or,
2. Piety and peace.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 37". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter