I. HASTE OF TEMPER AND LONG SUFFERING. (Ver. 18.) Quarrelsomeness, irritable words (would that we could recall them!), a thousand stabs and wounds to the heart of our friend and to our own, the result of the former. For the latter, read the exquisite descriptions of the New Testament wherever the word "long suffering" occurs, and see the matchless beauty, and learn to covet the possession of that character - the impress of God in human nature - and those best gifts which belong to "the more excellent way."
II. IDLENESS AND HONESTY. (Ver. 19.) The way of the former beset with difficulty. Lazy people take the most trouble, in the affairs of the soul as in everything. The honest path is the only easy path in the long run. We must remember that it is a long run we have to pass over, and must make our choice accordingly. Life is no mere picnic or excursion. For amusement of the leisure hour we may strike into a by-path, but never lose sight of the high road of faith.
III. PARENTAL JOY AND SORROW. (Ver. 20.) On the whole, these are one of the best indices of a man's character. A truly good parent may not understand his child, as Mary misunderstood Jesus; but at the bottom of the heart, when there is filial goodness there is parental sympathy and approval.
IV. SPURIOUS JOY AND QUIET PERSISTENCE IN RIGHT. (Ver. 21.) This is a good contrast. The fool is not content with saying or doing the foolish thing; he must needs chuckle over it and make a boast of it, often gaining applause for his mere audacity. But the man of true sense is content to forego the momentary triumph, and goes on his way. Ever to forsake the way we know to be right, even in momentary hilarity, brings its after sting.
V. FAILURE AND SUCCESS IN COUNSELS. (Ver. 22.) Wild tumultuous passion causes the former; and calm deliberation, the comparison and collision of many minds, brings about sound and stable policy. To lean upon one's own weak will, to act in haste or under impulse, how seldom can a prosperous issue come of this! See how individuals rush into lawsuits, nations into war, speculators into bankruptcy, - all for want of consultation and good advice. We need the impetus of enthusiasm, not less the direction of cool prudence; if one or the other factor be omitted, disaster must ensue.
VI. SEASONABLE WORDS. (Ver. 23.) We must consider not only the matter, but the manner, of our utterances. This requires "a mind at leisure from itself" to seize the happy opportunity, to refrain from introducing the jarring note, to turn the conversation when it threatens to strike on breakers. Oh, happy art! admirable and enviable in those that possess it, but cultivable by all who have the gentle heart. We cannot conceive that the conversations of Christ were ever other than thus seasonable. - J.
Without counsel purposes are disappointed.1. Disappointments are the common lot of man. Prince and peasant, prophet and people, wise and unwise, rich and poor, young and old — all have suffered disappointment. Eve was disappointed in the good promised her if she ate of the tree of knowledge. The builders of Babel were disappointed. Solomon sought to find happiness in all human inventions, but had to write on them all, "Vanity!" So we might pass through the whole range of human history, from Alexander to Napoleon, and find disappointment the common lot of all.
2. The number of disappointments are incalculable.
3. The variety of disappointments which men suffer is very great. Men are disappointed in carrying out schemes of ambition, in securing preferment, in amassing and holding wealth; yes, even in carrying out plans of good, benevolence and charity.
4. The bitterness and melancholy results of these disappointments are worthy of note. Many a bright and happy life has been for ever clouded and depressed by early disappointment. Many a life has been shortened, and many another tragically ended, because of some overpowering disappointment.
5. The sources of disappointments are many. In general terms we may say they belong to a sinful world, where all is confusion, uncertain, and deranged. Disappointments arise from man's shortsightedness, mistakes, failures, and weakness. The connection of our text reads: "Without counsel purposes are disappointed." We cannot control events, or foresee contingencies that may intervene or insure the capacity, integrity, and fidelity of others. We are constantly taken by surprise at things springing up that we never dreamed of, and made no provision for.
6. The use to be made of disappointments.(1) They teach us the uncertainty of all human expectations and our absolute dependence upon God (James 4:13-15).(2) Our own impotence.(3) We are to expect disappointments.(4) When they come accept them resignedly, not stoically but look at them rationally.(5) Disappointment may sometimes be better than success.(6) There is one thing that can make all disappointments blessings. It is said that Croesus had some magic power about him by which he turned everything he touched to gold. There is more than a magic power which the believer wields over the trying dispensations of life; there is a Divine power. "All things" — disappointments included — "work together for good to them that love God."
(G. Hutchinson Smyth.)
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