But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or height, for I have rejected him; the LORD does not see as man does. For man sees the outward appearance, but the LORD sees the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7. (BETHLEHEM)
(1) the bodily life;
(2) the spiritual-psychical life - will and desire, thought and conception, the feelings and the affections; and
(3) the moral life, so that all moral conditions - from the nighest mystical love of God to the self-deifying pride and the darkening and hardening - are concentrated in the heart as the innermost life circle of humanity (Delitzsch, 'Bib. Psychology,' p. 295). The declaration that "Jehovah looketh on the heart" is profitable for -
I. THE CORRECTION OF ERRORS into which we too commonly fall in relation to others.
1. The adoption of an imperfect standard of human worth: - "the outward appearance," personal strength and beauty; wealth and social position; cleverness, education, and refinement of manners; external morality, ceremonial observances, and religious zeal. These things are not to be despised, but they may exist whilst the chief thing is wanting - a right state of heart. "One thing thou lackest."
2. The assumption that we are competent judges of the character and worth of others. But we cannot look into their hearts; and what we see is an imperfect index to them, and liable to mislead us.
3. The formation of false judgments concerning them. How common this is our Lord's words indicate (Matthew 7:1).
II. THE INCULCATION OF TRUTHS which are often forgotten in relation to ourselves.
1. That we are liable to be deceived concerning the real state of our hearts, and to think of ourselves "more highly than we ought to think" (Romans 12:3).
2. That the heart of each of us lies open to the inspection of God: certainly, directly, completely, and constantly. He beholds its deepest motive, its supreme affection and ruling purpose. However we may deceive ourselves or others, we cannot deceive him (1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 44:21; Proverbs 15:11; Jeremiah 17:9, 10; Luke 16:15; Revelation 2:23).
3. That only a right state of heart can meet with his approval. It is the effect of his grace, and he cannot but take pleasure in his own work; but "the heart of the wicked is little worth" (Proverbs 10:20).
III. THE ENFORCEMENT Or DUTIES which ought to be diligently fulfilled in relation both to ourselves and others.
1. To seek supremely that our own hearts be set right; and kept right - by self-examination, self-restraint, and fervent prayer to him "who searcheth the reins and the hearts" (Psalm 51:10; Psalm 139:23, 24; Jeremiah 31:33).
2. To endure patiently the wrong judgments that others may form and utter concerning us. If we sometimes judge wrongly of them, need we wonder that they should judge wrongly of us? "Unto God would I commit my cause" (Job 5:8).
Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature.
I. LET US TRY TO ANALYSE THE STATEMENT ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE, TO BEGIN WITH. The Lord does not look upon the outward appearance in fixing His judgment of any human soul. It so happens that this very narrative actually specifies many of those particulars which men are wont to regard as highest in value.
1. For example, the Lord does not look upon one's social rank. The family of Jesse had no conspicuousness or remarkableness, as the world reckons. Moreover, David was the one that made it royal, and when he was chosen he was by no means the head of it. Good Lady Huntingdon used to say she thanked God for the letter M, for he did not tell Paul to say "not any," but "not many." Now it is certainly true that the best part of the world's highest worth has risen from what would by some be called its lowest sources. It is usual to sneer at the plebian birth of Oliver Cromwell as well as that of Napoleon Bonaparte; but this had nothing to do with any vices they displayed or any virtues they possessed. These men were kings of other men by reason of a manhood which Charles the First; never got from the contemptible Stuarts, nor Louis the Sixteenth from the more contemptible Bourbons. The pride of rank is prone to run into an extreme of superciliousness, of self-seeking, and of oppression. Cornelius Agrippa actually institutes an argument to prove that there was never a nobility which had not wicked beginning.
2. Furthermore, the Lord does not look upon one's family history. The lineage of Jesse, Obed, and Ruth was quite humble in its origin. David's mother is not even mentioned by name in the Scriptures. It is pitifully mean and conceited for anyone to set himself up as meritorious because his family once had a hero among its members.
3. Again, the Lord does not; look upon one's fortune. If anyone supposes that the wealth of the "rich kinsman" Boaz had come down by inheritance into this family estate, we are surely without hint that the property had anything to do with the lot of the shepherd boy David.
4. Nor does the Lord look ripen one's appearance. It is interesting to notice that in the margin of our English Bibles the words in the seventh verse of this chapter, "the outward appearance," are rendered more literally "the eyes;" and also the words in the twelfth verse, "a beautiful countenance," are rendered "fair of eyes." That is to say, David is not chosen for his good looks, nor is Eliab rejected because of his; they may both have had fine eyes, but; the Lord doth not regard such things in His selection of men for high service of Himself. John Milton was blind, and Thomas Carlyle was not considered attractive in showy company. Paul was diminutive and half blind, in bodily presence weak and in speech contemptible; "but," says , "this man of three cubits' height became tall enough to touch the third heaven."
5. Once more: the Lord does not look upon one's age in making His choice of men. He sometimes selects children, and then trains them at His will. Polycarp was converted at nine years of age, Matthew Henry at eleven, President Edwards at seven, Robert Hall at twelve, and Isaac Watts at nine. God chooses His best workers often in the beginning of their intelligent existence; they that seek Him early are sure to find Him.
II. TURN TO THE POSITIVE SIDE OF THE STATEMENT CONCERNING THE DIVINE CHOICE OF MEN. The Lord does not look upon the outward appearance: what does he look upon? What is meant here by the word "heart?" "The Lord seeth not as man sooth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." It is not necessary that we try to be abstruse and philosophical in giving an interpretation to this familiar word "heart." The entire nature of the individual is brought into view.
III. IN A SOBER REVIEW OF WHAT HAS ALREADY BEEN SAID, IT SEEMS AS IF THERE MIGHT BE WISDOM IN PICTURING OUR OWN LIVES FOR A LITTLE WHILE, IN HOLDING THEM OUT BEFORE CAREFUL AND DISCRIMINATING ANALYSIS. Then we can put some fair questions.
1. For example, this. Do we hope for God's favour on the ground of a long line of personal recommendations? Some there are who conceive of their advantages as far higher than those of others, although many men with whom they compare themselves are on much superior elevations both in experience and in communion with God.
2. Then again: this subject leads us to inquire whether our personal salvation is to be settled by what the world around us thinks about, our showy piety, or by what the Lord Himself thinks. There is an outward sanctimoniousness which looks very like sanctity: will it all end the same way?
3. Finally, in view of this subject, there would follow this question: How much of what worldlings prize will vanish when the Lord makes known His register of actual worth? Calmly does that eye of God keep gazing down upon men: it registers us all justly; end that estimate will stand forever undisturbed.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
1. God has created us in order that we may acquire true beauty. If we are honest, we shall admit that in heart we are not beautiful. The New Testament, confirms this; but the gospel is good news, revealing that every man may be transformed into the children of light by the indwelling of the beautiful spirit of God. When governed by the new nature, which God gives to everyone that asks, all mankind shall become beautiful. He is still a man, but he has received the nature of a God. Do you think God sent you into the world only to stitch at that machine, or to go up a ladder with bricks, or to sweep that gutter? He sent you into the world to be made a beautiful being, with a holy character, a sweet disposition, an angelic life. Let us live for our high destiny. Do not be troubled though it takes many years to grow beautiful.
2. If we would be beautiful in the sight of God, and exhibit this character to our fellow men, we must learn His will, and do it, and on no account grieve Him.
3. Another foundation for a beautiful character is that you are not only to love God, but also love your fellow men. If you would be beautiful in your life, you must copy the disposition of Jesus, Who lived for one great object, namely, to bless and save mankind.
Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.I. GOD'S PURPOSE CLAIMS A SPECIFIC DIRECTION: the "Lord looketh on the heart." What, does this mean? David's own understanding of the examination through which he in company with his brothers passed in this instance comes to view afterward in the rehearsal of one of his historic Psalms for the temple use: "The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me." The chief of all the words he here employs is "integrity:" this he accepts cordially for himself and repeats with equal candour for the aid of others. Now we know that the word "integrity" is derived from the Latin integer; and the meaning of integer is "whole;" and wholeness is our old strong Saxon for holiness. That is to say, what God means by stating that He looks upon, not the outside of a man, but his "heart," is, that He considers the wholeness of one's nature, and desires it to become holiness. He looks at each man through and through, and registers him by his soundness, his genuineness, his entire character.
II. GOD'S PURPOSE ERECTS A FIXED STANDARD. A man's "heart," as thus understood in the religious sense and as worthy of the Divine regard, depends upon the thoroughness with which the man adjusts each exertion of his will to the Divine wall. That is to say, God's heart is the test of man's heart, God's wish, God's plan, God's purpose — in a single word, God's law — showing the perfect standard.
III. GOD'S PURPOSE STARTS A PERMANENT REVOLUTION IN A HUMAN CHARACTER. The most interesting verse in this narrative, as well as the most valuable, is that which announces how "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward." If, is wonderful to think of these changes now wrought upon thin anointed stripling. Henceforth he is to be the shepherd of Israel; so he continues to manage his father's flocks a while longer, in order that he may learn the shepherd's duty. Henceforth he is to be the sweet singer of Israel; so he lingers out under Bethlehem sunsets and Syrian stars, in order that he may seek poetic images a while longer for some additional Psalms. Henceforth he is to be the monarch of Israel; so he is led a while longer among fierce outlaw experiences, consorting with the oppressed and the poor, in order that he may learn to understand his own subjects before he has hold of the sceptre by which be is to rule them wisely. And during this entire period this crownless king is hastening unconsciously forward in the lines of God's unfaltering purpose. The Unseen One is the All-seeing One. He does not look on the outward appearance at all, save as one of His ways of knowing the man's heart. This leads to another question: What is the use of wasting years of weary life in just trying to keep up appearances before men and women and before God? Oh, how full this old world is of those who spend their time and energy in fashioning parades of unreality and hypocrisy and emptiness, not one of which is looked on by God, not one of which is respected by meal. And this, too, to the neglect of the heart, upon which are grounded the decisions of present favour and future destiny. What disappointments at the day of final reckoning there will be for men and women who have fought for a title, a star, or a ribbon, in the vain hope of being looked upon because of it! What disclosures of folly, what revelations of surprise! How ignoble their aims, how empty their achievements, how absurd their ambitions, how fierce their rivalries, how useless their victories, how unimportant even their worst defeats! The call of God does not confer on any one the privilege of pride or the indulgence of haughtiness; it calls a servant to service, and kingship comes further on. It only makes a true soul more knightly and more bumble to know that he has been summoned in secret into the grand purposes of God.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
II. THEN WE LEARN THAT APPEARANCES ARE OFTEN DECEITFUL. Our race has had bitter lessons of this truth. Our first parents learned that the glittering folds of the serpent only covered the malignant spirit of the devil. How often have we learned "one may smile and smile and be a villain." I remember that the grandest man I saw in the war, grand in the splendour of his military equipment, was an ignorant and presumptuous corporal; and the plainest and most unpretentious man was the greatest general. In the Saviour's time the most pretentious men, who "thanked God they were not like other men," were the Pharisees, who paraded their virtue and advertised their pride before the ignorant and astonished multitude.
III. WE LEARN THAT HONOUR BELONGS TO NO STATION. This man was a shepherd. His brothers were warriors. God put the shepherd over the soldiers. When He would select a man to write the immortal "Pilgrim's Progress," where did he find him? A noble from the English court? A professor from the Oxford faculty? No; but a tinker from Bedfordshire. Here is his own description of himself: "I was of low and inconsiderable generation; my father's house being of that rank that was meanest and most despised of all families in the land. I never went to school to Aristotle or Plato, but was brought up in my father's house in a very mean condition among a company of poor countrymen." James A. Froude says of this man: "This is the account given of himself and his origin by a man whose writings have, for two centuries, affected the spiritual condition of the English race, in every part of the world, more powerfully than any other book or books except the Bible." God saw the heart of a kingly man beneath the tinker's coat of John Bunyan. Do you wonder at the astonishment of the people when a poor peasant stood up in the synagogue in his own village and said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." Do you wonder that they said, "Is not this a carpenter, the son of a carpenter?" That is the language of men.
IV. FINALLY, LET US BE CONTENT WITH AN HUMBLE STATION. David's life is an illustrious example of this: He was, doubtless, never so happy or contented as when following his father's sheep over Judea's hills. His greater honours only brought him greater cares and greater sorrows. Then let us learn humility and contentment in our lot.
(E. O. Guerrant, D. D.)
I. First of all it is to be observed, that, when the Scriptures speak of persons as ordained and predestinated to future blessings, IT IS ONLY EITHER BECAUSE THEIR LIVES AND CONVERSATION ARE PLEASING TO GOD, OR, IF NOT BE, BECAUSE HE FOREKNOWS THAT THEY WILL AFTERWARDS PROVE SO. When it is said of Abraham that "he shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him;" a reason immediately follows: "For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment." When the honour of giving existence to John the Baptist is bestowed on Zacharias and Elizabeth, the sacred historian takes pains to inform us that "they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." When Cornelius was chosen to be the first- fruits of the Gentile harvest, we are told: "He was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always." The case of St. Paul, which is ordinarily brought forward as an especial proof of God's arbitrary selection, is, indeed, a confirmation of what we are now saying. The heart of Paul was especially adapted for receiving, embracing, and diffusing the mercies of the Gospel. Man, who looked on the outward appearance, judged otherwise; — Ananias, who knew him only by the fame of his persecutions, would remonstrate with God: "Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy name." But the Lord replied as he did to Samuel; he confuted the proud self-complacency of human penetration, with "go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me." Similarly in the text, the reason given for the selection of David from all the sons of Jesse is, "the Lord looketh on the heart." The Lord knew the sincerity and the piety of his intentions, and therefore, although he was despised of men, he was accepted of God This conduct of the Lord, with respect to David, is especially important, because it is only a sample of His dealings in regard to ourselves. The Lord is now looking on the heart of everyone amongst us. It should be remembered that the greatest sinner may be anxious to preserve a good reputation with the world, because without this, it would be impossible to maintain a comfortable existence: but it should also be remembered that reputation is not virtue, but only its semblance: and those who strive to obtain a good name are generally successful, since man looketh only on the outward appearance. Doubtless, a good name is a valuable possession; but we are not to suppose that we are good precisely in proportion as we are so reputed. We may act from a desire to stand well with the world, instead of a wish to approve ourselves to God. Regard not the opinion of the world as any standard of your situation in respect of God. Like Eliab, you may win the admiration and affection of the world, and yet not be accepted by God.
II. Moreover the Christian will acquire another important lesson from the text, AS REGARDS THE CONSIDERATION OF HIS OWN CONDITION. No one among us ought to esteem himself unhappily circumstanced, whatever may be his situation, or whatever his afflictions. Remember that of the sons of Jesse seven were honoured and esteemed by their father, add among men; one was neglected and despised; yet were all the former rejected by the Lord, while the poor unhonoured David was taken from the sheepfold to be a king and the ancestor of the blessed Messiah. But at the same time remember, that David was not chosen because he was despised among men, but, because his heart was right towards God; poverty and lowliness of estate in themselves give us no title to the favour of God; but the poor who endeavour to do their duty in their station, and the afflicted who bear their afflictions patiently, have no reason to repine: the Lord has looked on their hearts, and pronounced concerning them.
III. WHAT THE TEXT INSTRUCTS US WITH REGARD TO OUR JUDGMENTS OF OTHERS. The text shows the extreme unreasonableness, no less than wickedness of such conduct. We can only judge by outward appearance after all: Samuel, a religious man, chosen by God to be His minister and interpreter, is mistaken in his estimate of Eliab: and, after this, we must acknowledge that the wisest among us have little chance of an insight into the character of others, so long as our opinions must be guided by outward appearance. But above all, this incapability of seeing the hearts of men should restrain us from all curious speculation on the characters of those with whom we have no concern. Could we see their hearts as clearly as we can observe their outward conduct, we should still be inexcusable, as frail and fallible creatures, in passing judgment on our brethren: but, as it is, our judgments may be false as they are cruel and criminal: like Jesse, nay, like Samuel, we may despise those whom God has not despised.
(H. Thompson, M. A.)
(C. R. Brown.)
Homilist.I. IT IS EXCLUSIVELY DIVINE. It is not given to man, not given perhaps to the highest created intelligence, to peer into the depths of another spirit, and there sound all the motives and impulses of action. In sooth, man is unable to detect or ascertain all the varied forces even within himself, which prompt his own actions. "Who can understand his errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults." Still less able is he to penetrate into the motives of his fellow men.
II. IT IS MANIFESTLY JUST.
1. To judge from appearance would be very inaccurate judgment.(1) Some of our external actions have no intentions at their root. They start from blind impulse, break forth from a sudden rush of passion. Such actions are scarcely ours. From a sudden gust of feeling the soul has lost its balance, and an act is performed which is regretted the moment after its execution. Surely it would be wrong to judge a man from these sudden outbreaks of impulse, the rare exceptions of his life.(2) Actions apparently bad spring sometimes from good intentions. Saul persecuted the Church of God from good intentions.(3) Sometimes actions apparently good have their rise in bad intentions.
2. To judge from appearance would be a very partial judgment. Suppose it were possible to catalogue all your external actions, say for one week of your existence, and then catalogue also the unembodied desires, wishes, volitions, cravings, aspirations of the soul during that week, what would be the one compared to the other? A page to a volume. Our inner activities are incessant, varied, and almost innumerable. Therefore to judge a man by his external conduct would be a very partial judgment. From this it seems clear that God's method of judgment is after all the true method.
III. IT IS ALARMINGLY SUGGESTIVE.
1. It suggests the imperfection of the best of us in the sight of Heaven.
2. It suggests terrible revelations at the last day.
3. It suggests the necessity of a heart's renovation.
I. WITH A VIEW, THEREFORE, TO CORRECT THIS EVIL, ALLOW ME TO ILLUSTRATE IT BY A REFERENCE TO SEVERAL FACTS OF SCRIPTURE. The Scripture supplies us with some very striking cases which exemplify this impartial judgment of the Lord.
1. The judicial decision in the garden of Eden is a remarkable instance of it. Both Adam and Eve throw the blame from themselves. But how wisely and justly does the holy Lord God discriminate between them, and so fairly apportion to each their due measure of punishment, as to leave it beyond all question that "the Lord searcheth the heart."
2. There are some striking instances in which God marks and discerns the wickedness that is unseen by man. The instance of Enoch is one of these. The ungodly men of his days had spoken hard speeches against him, and decided him and his prophecies: but, in the meantime, "Enoch walked with God;" and the eye of God was upon him, and he saw not as men seeth.
3. The history of Moses presents to us a similar instance. In his early endeavours to benefit his people, he was misunderstood; and, having interfered for their welfare at the risk of his life, he was driven by the treacherous conduct of those whom he laboured to serve, to leave the palace and seek shelter in the wilderness. But there the Lord recognised him as a chosen servant; and from hence, at length He called him to be the leader and commander of His people and the law-giver to the whole world.
4. There is a still more striking case in the mysterious dealing of God with Job. The misfortunes which burst simultaneously upon him, deceived his best friends; and, judging from outward appearances, they pronounced him a wicked man. But, in the midst of all these trials, the Lord knew him to be "a just man, one who feared God and eschewed evil;" and, in the end, He brought forth his judgment as the light and his righteousness as the noon-day.
5. We pass on to the instance of the Redeemer Himself. Our blessed Lord was regarded by the priesthood and the people as a madman and a deceiver. Men accounted Him a blasphemer; but the Lord declared that "grace and truth were in His lips." Man regarded His death as a satisfaction due to the broken law of His own nation; the Lord accounted Him the spotless victim in the cause of redeeming mercy. There never has been a more striking exemplification of the difference between the judgment of God, and that of man.
6. A similar difference of estimation, also is found with reference to the Apostles, the first preachers of Christian truth. Men thought lightly of their character. He speaks of their being regarded as "reprobates." But what in the midst of this contempt of men, is the judgment of God? "We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish." They were approved by the Divine wisdom as the ministers of God, and in all their varied labours they had his testimony with them.
7. We may just glance at other instances, where those who obtain the favourable estimation of men, stood condemned before Him who searcheth the heart. This was the case with Saul, who was still honoured before the people, long after God had rejected him: with Absalom, whose personal appearance stole away the hearts of the people, and seduced the subjects of David from their rightful sovereign: with Nebuchadnezzar, who, walking in his pride, commanded the adoration of the people to a golden image, which he blasphemously set up to represent himself: and the Lord doomed him seven years to a degraded condition in the wilderness. It was the case also with Herod, who, while the people cried, seduced by his oratory, "It is the voice of a god, and not the voice of a man," was smitten by the angel of the Lord, and was eaten of worms, because be gave not the glory to God.
II. WE OUGHT TO ENDEAVOUR TO PROFIT BY THESE CONSIDERATIONS: and although we cannot impart to ourselves the accuracy of full and unerring observation and judgment, yet, at least, the consideration of the circumstances in which we are placed, and of our tendency to error, ought to lead us to watch with jealousy the judgment we form.
1. In the first place, then, we should suspect the judgment that we form of the outward appearance, and the importance we are sometimes led to attach to it. Why should we estimate so highly that which is so soon to decay? Let us learn from the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and from the destruction that wasteth at noon-day, the madness of priding ourselves on distinctions which a single hour may destroy.
2. How erroneous is the estimate that men in general are disposed to form of character. We are perpetually the slaves of our own prejudices; led by a few general blandishments, we mistake that which is faulty for that which is good, and account all that glitters gold.
3. How much deeper is our error in the defective and partial standard by which we judge ourselves; and yet, we are willing to acknowledge we stand on a very different ground for judgment. Conscience brings us near to God; even we do not bear with the outward appearance. No man can so completely turn away from his inward conscience as not to know something that is passing within — something of his defects; in some measure, in fact, to look at the heart. One of the great sins of man, however, is the settled, resolute habit of looking only to external and superficial merits, and trying to destroy all consciousness of the future by the follies of the life that is present.
4. Consider again, bow this view of the dealings of God exalts the grace of redemption. "The Lord looked down from heaven," we are told; and when he saw there was none righteous — no, not one, then His own arm brought salvation. He knew the amount of the evil that was in the creature He determined to redeem, or the remedy would not have been adequate. But what a thought it is that the Lord should so provide for the cure of sin in all its disgusting forms, and, in His pity, should blot it out forever by the blood of His own Soul. It is almost inconceivable that such a price should be paid for such a race and nothing but such evidence as God has vouchsafed, could make us believe it.
5. "The Lord looketh at the heart." If His inspection is such at all times, how much more solemn is the thought of His coming, when He shall judge the secrets of men's hearts at the last day!
(E. Craig, A. M.)Psalm 78:70, 71.)The principle on which the selection was made is clearly indicated in the words, "The Lord looketh on the heart." What was there in the heart of David to commend him? There was that in the heart of David which in some way or other rendered applicable to him the designation which was thus prophetically given him, and which has clung to him ever since. "Saul had been man's man, David was to be God's man." And yet rash and sinful though Saul was we do not find that he descended to such depths of wickedness as those which David, in his later history, fathomed. We encounter something like the same difficulty here as we are familiar with in the matter of the Divine preference, shall I say? of Jacob to Esau (Malachi 1:2, 3; Romans 9:13). Naturally Esau's was the more generous and open nature, just as there are magnanimous traits in the character of Saul which it would not be easy to find so prominent in the disposition of David. But the truth is that: both in Jacob and in David, with all their faults and failings, there were aspirations after goodness, which were altogether foreign to the natures of the two men with whom, on the page of history, they stand contrasted. We cannot imagine Esau occupying the place, or undergoing the experience of Jacob at Peniel. Neither can we think of Saul as the author of such outpourings of "a broken and a contrite spirit" as the penitential psalms. And one of the best answers that can be given to the question, How comes it that such an one as David could be spoken of as "a man after God's own heart?" is to be found in such words as those of Thomas Carlyle on the subject. The text then presents us with a contrast between human judgments and the Divine judgment of men and things. "The Lord seeth not as man seeth," for "Man looketh on the outward appearance."
I. HERE WE HAVE THE SECRET OF THE IMPERFECTION, THE NECESSARY IMPERFECTION OF HUMAN JUDGMENTS.
1. The "outward appearance" may lead us to over estimate the values of things. In small things and in great we are to a large extent at the mercy of the impressions made upon us through the senses. How slow we are to learn that an attractive exterior may conceal a false and faithless heart; that the value of a deed depends not upon the scale on which it was done, but upon the motive which inspired it; that the only true greatness, whether of men or of actions, is that which is moral and spiritual.
2. But, on the other band, we must also remember that we may easily be led by the "outward appearance" to the undervaluing of men's motives and characters. There are a hundred and one facts which ought to be taken into the account before a perfect judgment of any man can be formed, facts of which his fellow men are, and must be, largely ignorant. Again, "The Lord seeth not as man seeth," for "The Lord looketh on the heart"
II. WHILE OUR JUDGMENTS MUST BE PARTIAL AND IMPERFECT BECAUSE OUR KNOWLEDGE IS SO LIMITED, THERE IS ONE WHO KNOWS. The features in any man's life and character, our ignorance of which disables us from appraising at their proper worth his words and actions, are all known to God: the hereditary bias towards some form of evil which has made his life a continual battlefield; the educationary influences which surrounded him in early youth, and which have necessarily done so much to make him, for good or evil, what he is today; all these and many other factors in the problem which every human life presents, are fully known to Him.
III. THIS GREAT AND SOLEMN TRUTH YIELDS US TWO LESSONS: —
1. One of warning. We may impose upon our fellow men, and even delude ourselves, but we can never deceive God.
2. One of consolation and encouragement for all who have been made the victims of the slander and misrepresentation of their fellows, etc. What does He see when He looks upon your heart and mine?
(F. R. Bailey.)
The Lord looketh at the heart
1. The Lord looketh on the heart, — This must be terrible news to a bad man.
2. The Lord looketh on the heart, — This is the joy of all men who live in truth.
3. The Lord looketh on the heart, — Then man's supreme concern should bear upon his spiritual life. Fool is he who filters the stream when he might purify the fountain. How is it with our hearts?
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. GOD'S KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN NATURE. It is —
1. Immediate and direct. His acquaint. ante with us men is not through outward appearance; it is not in any sense by the outward; He looketh on the heart. The body does not intercept His vision. The body is not even a medium, he sees the body, and knows the body as perfectly as He knows the spirit. He is not dependent on our words for His knowledge of sin. He is not dependent upon our actions for knowledge of us, neither upon our history. He has no informant. God's knowledge of human nature is not second-hand or inferential, but immediate and direct.
2. Being immediate and direct, God's knowledge of man is perfect. His eye is upon your thoughts and your thinkings. His eye is upon your reason and upon your reasonings. His eye is upon the emotional part of your nature, and the rising and falling of your emotional susceptibilities. Sin, while being conceived, He sees.
3. Because God's knowledge is direct and perfect it surpasses men's knowledge of each other, and of themselves. It surpasses what call be known by men of themselves, and of each other. Men, with reference to self-knowledge, consult their consciousness. I do not say the conscience. The word consciousness is a more general word, including a state of the entire nature; but I speak not of the state of one faculty, but rather, I repeat, of the whole being. Men consult consciousness, and they consult memory. But then, "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;" so that men, with relation to self-knowledge, are very often self-deceived. Now, on all these grounds, God's knowledge surpasses that knowledge of ourselves, and of each other, that is even possible to us. But yet, more, does it surpass what is actually known; because none of us, or few of us, have the knowledge of human nature, the knowledge of ourselves, or of each other, which we might have, perhaps, if we sought for it. This seems to be the doctrine of the text.
II. NOW LET US CONSIDER THE LIFE LESSONS IT YIELDS.
1. The first practical thing here taught us is, the folly of permitted self-delusion. Now do not call the words permitted self-delusion, a contradiction, for they do not involve a contradiction, or, it they do, it is just one of those contradictions that we so often find in human nature. Permitted self-delusion is not uncommon in other spheres. The case of a man who, in trading, knows perfectly well that he is not solvent, but tries to believe that he is solvent, and goes on as though he were solvent, is a ease of permitted self-delusion. The man does not actually face his business circumstances. I say that is a case of permitted self-delusion, and there is something very much like this in professed religious life. Men more than half know that they are not Christians, but they try to persuade themselves that they are Christians. Now the doctrine we have been looking at, or rather, the fact of God's perfect knowledge of human nature, shows the utter stupidity of all this. Delusions and deceptions with reference to character cannot continue. Just as in the spring and autumn, you have often seen the early mists dispelled by the sun, so all mists on all subjects, and especially on the character of man, will ere long be dispersed by the strong light of God's light, and every man will appear to be just what he is — exactly what he is.
2. At the same time it shows us the utter uselessness of all hypocrisy. The two things are so closely connected together that it is only for the sake of giving force to them that I can at all separate them. Say that instead of a man being thus willingly self-deceived, he wears a mask, and does not mind saying, in certain quarters, and to certain persons, that he wears a mask — how utterly useless that mask is! because the eye with which we chiefly have to do, has never rested on that mask, as on a surface; it has always gone right through it — piercing it at every point. On the mask there is the eye of a saint, and on the eye of the real face there is the eye of a lascivious, sensual sinner. But God has never been cheated by that mild saint's eye.
3. Then we learn, further, the exposed position of all our sins. But there is another view we may take of this subject, that may help us in another direction.
4. We see through God's perfect knowledge of human nature, His thorough competency to save us. Men die of diseases with which their medical attendants are unacquainted, as the best physician and surgeon would frankly acknowledge. Every day mistakes are made — unavoidably made, I say, not carelessly made. Men go down to the grave, and all about them are ignorant of what bus taken them down to the tomb. Now, suppose God were in this position with reference to our sins. You see at once that He could not entirely save us. We have accustomed ourselves, therefore, really to look on God's searching the qualifications to redeem us.
5. There is another lesson we may learn here, that is, the duty of being passive under Divine discipline. Troubles may come upon you, and you may perplex yourself as to their intent. You cannot see what faults they are sent to correct. But, generally, you will find, when God chastens, there is a close connection between the sort of chastening and the fault He chastens for, so that you can tell whether the affliction be a correction — whether it be a chastening or not. But very often sorrows are sent not as chastisements. And they are sent for what purpose? They are sent to prevent sin; not to correct you for sin already committed, but to prevent you committing come sin.
6. And we see, the reasonableness of our acting on God's judgment of men. Do let us look upon mankind, brethren, with the light of God's Word about men. You will find here, in the truth of the text, an antidote for disquiet under misconception and misrepresentation; a motive to diligence in keeping the heart. And you will learn, further, the advantageous position of Him who is now our Lord and Master, and Who will come to be our Judge. Let us just recognise our ignorance even of our own nature. There is a sort of rebuke here, or if not a rebuke, God points with His finger at our limited knowledge. "The Lord sooth not as man seeth." That implies that we do not see all; we see only in part; we see only imperfectly. Let us recognise the limit of our knowledge, let us recognise the fact that we do not, except as we see ourselves, in light of God's light, see our own real hearts, and that we are not in a position, alone, even to understand ourselves. Let us apply this rule in judgment of our fellow men, cherishing, at the same time, if we be God's children, a child-like trust in God's knowledge. I see nothing terrible in this truth if a man be sincere. I see everything terrible in it if a man be willing to deceive himself, or if a man be a hypocrite.
I. THAT IT IS THE EXCLUSIVE PREROGATIVE OF GOD TO LOOK UPON THE HEART. The heart is covered with an impenetrable veil, through which no eye can pierce; it is a field of operation into which we cannot look. Within its secrecies the meanest feelings are fostered, and the most generous purposes rise unnoticed and unknown. The knowledge of the human heart is, in fact, a portion of the experimental philosophy, and is only to be acquired by a careful investigation of facts. It is a solemn consideration, but it is possible that our hearts may be filled with enmity or love to the Creator, our minds may be essentially carnal or spiritual, while our nearest earthly friend is wholly ignorant of the relation in which we stand to the eternal world. Were our most intimate friend, to endeavour to unbosom his mind to us, with how little would he make us acquainted; how much must there ever remain wrapt in obscurity, and in all the darkness of secrecy! All we know of the hearts of others is what they are pleased to tell us; but we are frequently deceived; our confidence is often betrayed, and we receive the thrust of an enemy through the professions of a friend. We are not even free from deception and mistake if we turn to our own hearts. We vary frequently persuade ourselves that we are actuated by right motives, whilst a secret principle of selfishness is contaminating the fountain of action. The Lord looketh on the heart, not as implying a curious search, arising from previous ignorance. It is said of the angels concerning the mysteries of redemption, that they desire to look into them, but there are no secrets with the Divine Being. When it is said that "God looketh on the heart," it is implied that He regards the state of the heart: it is not an inoperative knowledge, a passive contemplation, but an influential regard in opposition to the procedure of man, who is only influenced by the outward appearance. The state of the heart is not a matter of indifference to Him, but His watchful eyes are ever engaged in a vigilant inspection of human spirits. No barriers can interrupt His view. He marked the sin of Achan when his covetousness was excited by the wedge of gold, and the Babylonish garment; He detected the same sin when Gehazi robbed Naaman, and lied unto the prophet, and he exposed the guilt of David in the matter of Uriah.
II. THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT PROCEEDS ON THE PRINCIPLE OF MY TEXT. The Lord looketh on the heart, not only in the administration of His laws, but the scheme of Providence in all its ramifications is but an adaptation of His perfections to this truth. However inscrutable His dispensations may appear to us, they are not an unmeaning exercise of power, a blind bestowment of favour, or a tyrannical infliction of pains and penalties, they are the exercise of His power according to the dictates of infinite wisdom and goodness. In selecting instruments to carry into effect these purposes of His will, the Lord looketh on the heart: He sent Samuel to Bethlehem to the family of Jesse, and ordered him to anoint one of Jesse's children, whom He would point out to him, to be king over Israel. In illustration of the same truth, we may refer you to His choice as the messenger of His grace to the Gentile world. Who would have selected the persecutor breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the church of God, to display a warmer zeal and holier courage in building up the temple he once attempted to destroy? Infinite wisdom discerned the fitness of the instrument, and consecrating it to the most hallowed purposes. Whenever the church has revived, and Zion has arisen from the dust and put on her beautiful garments, individuals have been selected eminently calculated to effect the desired object. Witness the holy energy and unconquerable perseverance of Luther. In the field of missionary labour we have a Brainerd and a Swartz, a Morrison and a Milne. The venerable Carey, whose power in acquiring languages has only been equalled by his unpretending piety, and his devotion to the sacred work of his Master, was selected by that God who looks on the heart, and was raised to a dignity and moral elevation which the grace of God could alone enable him to adorn. By the same principle God overrules the machination of wicked, and the errors of good men, for His own glory. In the ordinary dispensations of His Providence He acknowledges the same principles of operation. He has perpetual reference to the state of the heart. He is subjecting us to a moral discipline, by which we are to be trained up for glory, and virtue, and immorality. We must not imagine that affliction is the only way by which God manifests a vigilant attention to the heart. He makes the opposite state of felicity and enjoyment a proving time. How frequently has the accumulation of wealth proved to be the touchstone of a man's character. But not only in the arrangements of our worldly affairs, but in His gracious dealings with us, the Lord looketh on the heart. The discipline to which Christians are subject, arises from the intimate acquaintance which God has with the hearts of all men.
III. WE MUST IMPROVE OUR SUBJECT, WHICH IS FULL OF INSTRUCTION.
1. It teaches us the necessity of uprightness. Does God look upon the heart? How vain will it be, then, to garnish our exterior, whilst the soul remains unclean and polluted!
2. Again, our subject teaches us the nature of all acceptable worship. God is a spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Mere formality must ever appear hateful to Him. Where the heart is not engaged, there can be no true worship.
3. Our subject teaches us the awful condition of the impenitent sinner. He lives forgetful of God, but God is not forgetful of him.
4. Our subject is a source of encouragement to the church collectively, and to the individual believer. Are the affairs of this world managed, and the interests of the church superintended on the principle that the Lord looketh on the heart?
5. But it is not only a source of encouragement, but our text is a motive to holiness. All the dispensations of His Providence, end the operations of His grace should furnish a separate motive to purity.
(S. Summers.)I. THE DIVINE SUPERIORITY TO HUMAN PREJUDICES. The prophet was misled by a mere prejudice. Very frequently the outside show, the mere accidental circumstances of personal appearance, wealth, or position, are taken as criteria of worth. Now we may observe respecting such modes of estimation: —
1. That the standard is obviously false.
2. It is one of which many take advantage. Many avail themselves of this common prejudice for purposes of the darkest villany. It is the convenient cloak of the base and the hypocritical.
3. It is often the cause of great wrong. Much injustice is perpetrated through the force of this prejudice. The wicked are justified while the righteous are condemned.
II. THE CERTAINTY OF THE RIGHT-HEARTED BEING PREFERRED. Those whose hearts are right with God may be contemned by the world, but they may be sure of approval in His sight "who looketh on the heart." That such will ever be the ease may be argued: —
1. From universal conviction. False as are the principles on which men choose to act, their convictions are generally on the side of the right. The common conscience of humanity testifies to the worth of right-heartedness.
2. From the voice of revelation. The Bible is decisive in its assertion of this principle. It pronounces as with a voice of thunder, its indignant repudiation of the prejudice by which human conduct is governed, and maintains the opposite as the eternal rule of Divine preference.
3. From their own consciousness. The. wrong-hearted are self-condemned, while those whose hearts are right with God enjoy a cheering consciousness of His approbation.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF ATTENDING TO HEART CULTURE. It is of vital importance to have the heart made and kept right with God. How is this to be secured?
1. It can be attained only through Christ. The heart will never be right with God till it is made so through the redemptive work of Christ.
2. It requires the operation of the Holy Spirit. To obtain such views of "the truth as it is in Jesus," and such signify for it, as shall issue in the rectification of the heart God-ward, there must be the cooperation of the Spirit.
3. It demands the most strenuous efforts. The most strenuous efforts, on the part of man, are required to become and continue right-hearted. Learn —
(1) (2) (3) (S. A. Browning.) (R. J. Campbell, M. A.)
(2) (3) (S. A. Browning.) (R. J. Campbell, M. A.)
(3) (S. A. Browning.) (R. J. Campbell, M. A.)
(S. A. Browning.)
(R. J. Campbell, M. A.)