Isaiah 32:8

The liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand, or, "be established." It is quite possible that Isaiah had in mind the good King Hezekiah, of whom very noble and generous things are narrated in 2 Chronicles 30:22-26. Passing away to Messianic times, we are to see that the true subjects of Messiah, the ideal Prince, the King who reigns in righteousness, will be distinguished by a noble-minded benevolence, contriving and persevering in the execution of enlarged schemes of charity. In Psalm 110:3 they are very strikingly described as "a people of voluntarinesses." The term here used, "liberal," is a comprehensive one and may fairly include -

I. THE NOBLE-MINDED MAN. That is the man who takes high, generous views; who does not make himself, and his own small interests, the measure of all his opinions and judgments. The man who is, everywhere and in everything, ruled by what is right, and not by what will pay. That man may often seem to be at disadvantage. Keenly self-interested men push him aside and push before him. It is not really so. God will give him the only true and eternal prosperities. He deviseth liberal things; in liberal things he perseveres; and by liberal things he shall stand.

II. THE BROAD-MINDED MAN. Who is not limited in his views by the sect or school to which he belongs, the class in society of which he forms part, or even by the bias which follows his own preferences in reading. The man who knows the "world is wide," and has room for all kinds of men and all varieties of opinion. The man who is quite sure there is a "soul of good somewhere, even in things evil." That man makes the best of life, gets honey everywhere. He is a "liberal soul, that shall be made fat."

III. THE CHARITABLY MINDED MAN. One who accepts cheerfully the great "law of service," and recognizes that all he has is for the use and benefit of others. It is all for spending, none for hoarding. "Even Christ pleased not himself." He could say, "I am among you as one that serveth." One who is sensitive to the wants and woes of his fellows, and has in him the soul of the Samaritan, who pities and hefts, rather than the soul of priest or of Levite, who pity and pass on. Such a man puts contrivance, care, and serf-denial into his service. And such a man "shall stand." "The providence of God will reward him for his liberality with a settled prosperity and an established reputation. The grace of God will give him abundance of satisfaction and confirmed peace in his own bosom" (comp. Psalm 112:5, 6). - R.T.

The liberal deviseth liberal things.
The liberal man is one who is generous and benevolent in his feelings — a man of large views and public spirit — one far above covetousness and selfseeking — ever desirous to promote the welfare of his country, and the best interests of his fellowmen.

1. There is a certain kind of liberality which may be considered natural and constitutional. Some there are who, from their earliest days, evince a benevolent and generous disposition. The liberality which is natural will be found to operate chiefly, if not exclusively, in promoting the temporal welfare of mankind. And in this department of philanthropy the labours of such are often entitled to highest commendation. But such rarely evince any interest about the precious undying soul, and the eternity towards which we are all so rapidly hastening.

2. The person described in the text, we may well suppose, is indebted to a higher source than himself for a mind so enlightened and a heart so enlarged. As water cannot rise higher than the fountain, so man cannot in himself develop a character higher than he has inherited. There are some feelings of natural amiability which have survived the ruin of the fall. These may, along with certain external causes, form a character in which there is much to admire and love. But just as, to borrow the words of a great writer, "all the complexional varieties of the human countenance, from exquisite beauty to revolting deformity, have the one universal attribute of decay, so, amid all the varieties of human character, from the most lovely to the most hideous, there is a heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." There is a constant tendency In the world to overlook the agency of God s Spirit, and to put to the credit of something human — such as good education, or good example, or sound philosophy — what, in reality, is the fruit of the Spirit.

(W. Runciman.)

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE LIBERAL MAN. "He deviseth liberal things." It is not said he doeth liberal things. This is implied. If he has the means, he has the heart and the will to practise large and wide liberality. There is a far greater expenditure both of mind and labour in devising, than in doing liberal things. It is an easy thing for one who has abundant wealth to give largely in aid of any scheme of philanthropy. But to originate and carry forward any plan for the improvement of mankind, requires much wisdom, and energy, and patience, and benevolence. The one is liberal; the other directs and stimulates the liberality of others. The one is as the hand, the other the mainspring of the watch. Of the multitude who cheerfully give, how few have the capacity to devise! And one intelligent head, conjoined with a benevolent heart, can open the purses of a whole community.

II. THE SECURITY OF THE LIBERAL MAN. "By liberal things shall he stand"; or, as rendered in the margin, "shall he be established." This statement does not mean that there is anything about the most enlightened and generous liberality which has anything meritorious, and which in any way is the procuring cause of God's favour.

1. The possession of this beauteous character is a clear indication of possessing God's favour, and an important means of preserving that privilege.

2. A liberal man is, by liberal things, established in the estimation of the wise and good.

3. Devotion to the good of others establishes and secures much happiness to the liberal man. The greater the outgoing of benevolence, the greater the influx of peace.

(W. Runciman.)

The picture drawn has a twofold aspect.


1. The liberal man is he whose mind has been freed and enlarged by the truth of the Gospel. You cannot make a man liberal so long as a violent craving for more sways his heart; neither will a man be liberal, though he may count himself rich, if he disintegrate himself from the great community of which he is a member. We are made free indeed by the Son when we see that all things are ours, and that it is ours also to fulfil our mission as part of that all of which God is the sum and substance.

2. The liberal man is he whose mind premeditates acts of liberality — "he deviseth liberal things." There are instincts of pity and charity in human nature which may be brought into accidental action. There are moments of weakness which make the miser even to relax his hold of his hoardings. Many are terrified by the approach of death to make large bequests. There are others who are naturally tender-hearted, and they give alms most feelingly, but not from thought. There are some seasons of the year, such as Christmas-tide and harvest, when many make a small display of their charity. These are the once-a-year liberal folk. The text refers to a much higher class of liberality than such can possibly be — the liberality of thought. The goodness of God is not fitful or forced, but the outcome of His Fatherly care and providence. Liberality in thought emanates from the Spirit of Christ in us.

3. The liberal man is he whose acts are liberal. The subject is far wider than almsgiving. Our Sunday-school teachers and the leaders of religious and temperance movements; our tract distributors, and those who visit the poor, the afflicted, the dying, and the sinful — are greater benefactors than those who can spare silver and gold. Alexander gave, not according to the merit of the man, but according to the honour and resources of a king. Jesus gave. How much? Time, and energy, and wisdom, and sympathy, and power? Much more. He gave Himself. Let all yours be love-gifts.

II. THE REFLEX INFLUENCE OF LIBERALITY. "And by liberal things shall he be established." There is a power in liberality which strengthens our faith and character. Whatever Christian work we engage in, the influence on ourselves is as great as on others.

1. The liberal man, by his liberality, cultivates the Spirit of Christ in himself.

2. The liberal man, by his liberality, increases the store of his wealth (Proverbs 11:24). Many Christians are poor because they are not liberal.

3. The liberal man, by his liberality, obtains the approval of God. That approval we now receive in our consciences, but hereafter the judgment will demonstrate it, when the Judge will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

4. The liberal man, by his liberality, will conquer the hardness of the human heart. If we look forth to the mission field, liberality has been the vanguard of civilisation and religion. Or if we look nearer home, at the liberal changes which have been made in the punishment of criminals, we have ample proofs that crime has decreased in proportion as we have humanised jurisprudence. The highest note of liberality is this, "For God so loved the world," &c.

(T. Davies, M. A.)

I. THE SUBJECT, or person spoken of.

II. THE PROPERTY ascribed to him. "He deviseth liberal things."

1. The act. "He deviseth" — the bent and inclination of his mind is set this way. The word may denote two things. Either —

(1)Serious deliberation about it; or

(2)readiness of mind to it. Such an one doth not stay till he be provoked or necessitated by others to such kinds of work.

2. The object. "Liberal things," such as become a person of a large and bountiful heart, redounding to the good of mankind.

III. THE BENEFIT or advantage of it. "By liberal things shall he stand." Such persons shall not only be not ruined by their bounty, but shall hereby be confirmed and advanced in all kinds of prosperity.

(Bp. J. Wilkins.)

I. THE NATURE OF THIS VIRTUE: what it is and wherein it consists.

1. The several names whereby it is described — generosity, &c. The periphrastical descriptions of it are such as these, — Opening our hands wide (Deuteronomy 15:8); drawing out our souls (Isaiah 58:10); dispersing abroad (2 Corinthians 9:9); being enriched in everything to all bountifulness (2 Corinthians 9:11); to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate (1 Timothy 6:18).

2. The nature of it. Extended to persons in a state of suffering and misery, it is styled mercy or pity. To persons in a condition of want it is styled alms or charity.

3. The qualifications or conditions required to the due exercise of it.(1) It must be done willingly, with spontaneity, with forwardness of mind (2 Corinthians 9:2). Not grudgingly, but cheerfully (ver. 7). "Thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest to thy brother" (Deuteronomy 15:10).(2) It must be done freely, without expecting reward. "Do good — expecting nothing again; freely you have received, freely give." He that is liberal upon design may be styled mercenary. Such kind of gifts are not benevolence, but a bargain; not a dole, but a bait. That is a remarkable place (Proverbs 22:16), "He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want."(3) It must be done readily, without delay (Proverbs 3:28).(4) Besides these several qualifications for the manner, it must likewise be done freely and liberally for the measure — according to our several abilities. 'Tis for a brother of low degree to give sparingly: they that are rich in this world must be rich in good works also. Goats' hair and badgers' skins may be a suitable gift for the people, and a mite for a poor widow; but the rich are to give purple, and gold, and jewels. And in this sense is that Scripture to be fulfilled, that "to whom much is given, of them much shall be required."

4. The opposites to it, which (as of all other moral virtues) are of two kinds — redundant, and deficient.(1) The exceeding extreme is styled prodigality, profuseness, riotousness, which observes neither the due manner nor measure in keeping or giving.(2) The deficient extreme is churlishness, tenacity, shutting up the bowels of compassion, being greedy of filthy lucre. It hath these particular characters given to it in Scripture; it is a kind of idolatry, inconsistent with religion. "No man can serve God and mammon." He that "loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him." It is the root of all evil, leading men into temptations and snares. It is hateful to men, amongst whom it will render a person vile and contemptible; and it is abominable to God (Psalm 10:3).

II. THE NECESSITY OF IT, or the grounds of our obligation to it from Scripture and reason.

1. Scripture proofs.(1) The precepts for it (Deuteronomy 15:7, 8, 10, 11; Ecclesiastes 11:1; Matthew 5:42; Luke 6:33; 1 Timothy 6:18; Titus 3:8).(2) The commendations of it. That which we translate "a liberal soul" (Proverbs 11:25) in the Hebrew is "the soul of blessing." As the virtue of charity is frequently celebrated for one of the most excellent amongst all the rest, and set forth by many peculiar commendations as being better than sacrifice; the fulfilling of the law; the bond of perfectness; the great commandment; the royal law: so is bounty one of the top branches of charity. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is both the evidence and the ornament of our religion. It is the chief fruit whereby we are to judge of our sincerity. Men do vainly pretend to faith and religion, without the proof of such good works. Obadiah doth urge this to the prophet as an evidence of his fearing God, that he had been careful to relieve others in distress. And the centurion was for this reason styled a man of worth. "Pure religion and undefiled," is to abound in works of this nature, "to visit the fatherless and the widow" (James 1:27).(3) The promises made to it.(4) The threats and judgments denounced upon the neglect of it.

2. The arguments from reason.(1) From equity.(a) In respect of God, who bestows upon us all that we have, and therefore may well expect that we should be ready to lay out some of it for His use, according to His appointment.(b) In respect of the poor, who by reason of their relation to us, and their need of us, may reasonably expect assistance from us.(c) In respect of ourselves. We can hope for nothing from God but upon the account of bounty. Now, the rules of congruity require that we should be as ready to show mercy to others as to expect it for ourselves.(2) Justice. In God s law, the not doing a kindness when we have a fitting occasion is counted injustice, and He will arraign us for the omission of such occasions. The apostle, having said (Romans 13:7), "Render to all their dues," subjoins in the next verses, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another," implying that, in the Scripture sense, charity is a debt, and the not paying of it an injustice. It is such a debt as we can never fully discharge, but though we are always paying it, yet we must still be in arrest whilst there shall remain any ability and occasion for our exercising it.(3) Advantage. "By liberal things shall he stand."


1. Doctrinal inference.

2. Practical inference.

(Bp. J. Wilkins.)

I. FOR THIS LIFE. It is the most effectual way both to improve and preserve our estates, and to render us honourable and amiable in the esteem of others.

1. For the increasing of our estates, the apostle compares it to sowing, which refers to a harvest.

2. For the .preserving them safe. The Jews call alms by the name of salt, for its preserving power. It is laying up treasures in heaven, where rust cannot corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. Saith the epigrammatist, "A man can be sure only of that wealth which he hath given away."

II. FOR THE FUTURE LIFE. Works of beneficence are called by St. Paul, Θεμέλιον — the foundation of that reward we shall receive in the world to come (1 Timothy 6:19).

(Bp. J. Wilkins.)




(J. Donne.)

I. STATE THE TRUE NOTION OF LIBERALITY. True liberality by no means intends profuseness, or a wasteful, thoughtless scattering of our substance, without judgment or economy. Neither is it consistent with the account the Scriptures give us of liberality, nor indeed with the laws of nature and reason, that a man should abound in acts of generosity to more remote objects, while he neglects those under his special care (Matthew 15:3-6; 1 Timothy 5:4, 8; Galatians 6:10). But it is most of all inconsistent with the liberality recommended in the Word of God, that we should give that to others which is not our own; or distribute among the poor that which should pay our just debts.

1. By a liberal man, we are to understand a man of a kind, compassionate, benevolent disposition; one who observes, with admiration and delight, that profusion of bounty with which the great Creator of the world blesses the works of His hands; is truly thankful for the share he enjoys of it; and as he sees his "heavenly Father makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust," so he is charmed with the Divine pattern, and labours, according to his measure, to imitate it.

2. But his benevolence must, according to his ability, be put in practice.

3. His charity is very diffusive; indeed, it can bear no limits but such as are prescribed by Scripture and sound reason. The stranger must partake of it as well as those of his own country and kindred.

4. To finish the character of the truly liberal man, it is necessary that his disposition and practice should be founded in religious principles, and be the blessed fruit of the saving work of the Spirit upon his heart.

II. CONSIDER THAT PART OF THE LIBERAL MAN'S CHARACTER WHICH IS, IN A SPECIAL MANNER, RECOMMENDED IN THE TEXT. He "deviseth liberal things." It is commendable to have a readiness of soul to such works as these, when they are proposed and marked out to us by others. It is well to have a mind easily impressed with the condition of the indigent, and willing to submit to the dictates of conscience, the importunity of the necessitous, and the advice of good men. But the charitable character rises much higher when we devise liberal things ourselves. It supposes a heart greatly set on doing good.

1. The liberal man wisely manages his own affairs to this good end.

2. He employs all his wisdom and prudence in order to dispose of his bounty in the best manner and to the most advantageous purposes. He is so far from hiding his face from his brother who is in want, that he searches diligently to find him out. He will lay himself out in the service of every community to which he stands related, and will labour what in him lies to promote the true peace and welfare of the whole world.

3. He will also call in all proper assistance in this good work. He will consult about these things with such of his pious friends as have generous souls and good judgments.

4. The liberal man contrives how he shall diffuse and promote the spirit of liberality.

5. He persists in this course.


1. In some good degree in this life.(1) In the opinion and regard of mankind.(2) This temper and conduct are the most likely way both to secure and enlarge our estates, as well as give us the truest enjoyment of them.(3) This conduct will certainly afford him a pleasure in his own mind that cannot easily be described.(4) What is still more valuable, he shall be supported, maintained, and established by the liberal things of Divine grace.

2. What will crown all, is the blessedness which shall follow in the life to come.

(Joseph Stennett.)




(A. Brandram, M. A.)

The name liberal comes from the Latin word liberalis, meaning free, open-handed, generous-hearted, and well-bred; it implies also a nature which acts according to its own desire, and yet is neither selfish nor narrow, being of pure mind and noble soul.

1. The genuine, Christ-inspired liberal loves freedom in the highest sense of the word.

2. He embraces other interests than his own.

3. He should be unselfish, broad, and catholic in his character.

4. To be liberal-natured after the standard of Christ is not so easy as it seems; it is the work of a life-time.

(W. Birch.)

He that locks up may be a good jailer, but he that gives out is His steward. The saver may be God's chest, the giver is God's right hand.

(J. Donne.)

One of the most liberal and lavish givers to charitable objects said to a friend who spoke of his generosity, "You mistake: I am not generous. I am by nature extremely avaricious: but when I was a young man I had sense enough to see how mean and belittling such a passion was, and I forced myself to give. At first, I declare to you, it was hard for me to part with a penny; but I persisted until the habit of liberality was formed. There is no yoke like that of habit. Now I like to give."

(W. Baxendale.)

Tinling's Illustrations.
Sir Thomas Sutton, the founder of the Charter House, was one of the wealthiest merchants of his day. Fuller tells how he was overheard one day praying in his garden: "Lord, Thou hast given me a large and liberal estate; give me also a heart to make use of it.

(Tinling's Illustrations.)

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