The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday.
I. SIN AND DARKNESS. (Ver. 19.) We may say that:
1. Sin is darkness. It is
(1) the ignorance of the mind; it is
(2) the error of the heart - it is the soul's supreme mistake, misreading, misunderstanding every one and everything from the highest to the lowest.
2. Sin spreads darkness
(1) over the soul of the sinner himself, blinding his eyes, distorting his vision, confusing his perceptions;
(2) over the souls of others, leading them into the darkness of folly, superstition, wrong doing.
3. Sin leads to the ruin which attends darkness; it ends in making the sinner blind to the true character of his own transgressions: "They know not at what they stumble;" blind, also, to the final issue of his guilt: they know not into what they stumble - into what a "blackness of darkness."
II. WISDOM AND LIGHT. (Ver. 18.) By "the just" in this verse we understand not particularly the man who is equitable in his dealings with his fellows, but the good and wise man - the man who, in the fear of God, seeks to act with rectitude in all his relations. This man is closely associated with the light.
1. Knowledge is light, and heavenly wisdom is the truest and best knowledge - that of God, and of the human soul, and of the path of eternal life.
2. That which reveals is light, and heavenly wisdom is the best and most beneficent revealing power. The wise, the "just" man is "making manifest" (see Ephesians 5:13) the highest, the most far-reaching, deep-descending truths. He does this
(1) by his direct endeavour to instruct;
(2) unconsciously, by the influence of his life. "The life is the light of men" in our case as in his who was "the Life made manifest."
3. The light of the just man grows ever stronger and more illuminating: it "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." With added opportunities of inquiry and acquisition, with multiplied privileges, with more of Divine discipline, with increase of power resulting from the exercise of spiritual faculty, there is
(1) growing light within, burning more steadily and lustrously; and
(2) advancing influence for good which flows forth in wider, deeper, and larger streams. - C.
The path of the just is as the shining light.
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
I. AS TO ORIGIN. The shining light emerges from the darkness at the dawn of the day, and so does the path of the just, or the believer on the morning of conversion. There is a great spiritual crisis, call it by whatever name you will. Our Lord speaks of it as a new birth.
II. AS TO PROGRESS. There should be progress —
1. In knowledge of Divine things.
2. In holiness of heart and life.
3. In Christian usefulness and activity.
4. In growing meetness for heaven.
III. AS TO PERFECTION. Progress ending in perfection, but not here. The perfect day is not for earth, but for heaven. As to knowledge of Divine things, here we know in part, there we shall know even as we are known. Here the feeble intellect is soon exhausted in its search after knowledge, there it shall soar with untiring wing. As to purity, what a change! There are spots on the disc of the brightest sun that ever shone, but there are none on the spotless robes that have been made white in the blood of the Lamb. As to useful activity, it will assume a more exalted character, it will embrace a wider range.
(A. Wallace, D. D.)
II. THE STARTING-POINT OF HIS LIFE-COURSE — from dawn.
1. The believer is likened to the light, inasmuch as now he has attained to wisdom, holiness, and happiness. Light, as symbolical of the good, speaks to us of the enlightenment of the understanding, the purity of holiness, and true happiness. Light is also significant of natural good, of happiness.
2. The believer is likened to the shining light, or the bright dawn of morning. This figure speaks to us of the transcendent beauty of holiness. It is the heavenly ideal of all that is bright and fair and fresh.
III. HIS ACTUAL COURSE — shineth more and more. Growth is the one grand law in the kingdom of light. The believer at his new birth is but a babe in Christ. The children of the kingdom grow from strength to strength. Where there is no growth there is no life. Perfect manhood, "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," is the goal short of which no child of the Father dare stop. Every being grows according to the measure of his own inward nature, and so does the child of God. This Divine necessity of the Christian's growth is symbolised by the figure of the text. The Christian's growth, like all growth, is gradual; it even proceeds often by means of apparent retrogressions. Often the Christian seems to retrograde. Yet even from a sad eclipse he will come forth, shining with a fuller splendour of blessed light.
IV. HIS GOAL — everlasting noon — the "perfect day." From the path of the just all shadows of the darkness shall pass away. Children of light though we be, we are often doing the deeds of darkness and walking in the dark and cloudy day of trial. But it shall not be so always. A Godlike purity, and God Himself as our joy, constitute the two elements of the light of the perfect day, into which our faith and patience grow more and more.
(James Hamilton, M.A.)
The National Preacher.I. THE BELIEVER'S NATURAL STATE OF DARKNESS AND MISERY.
II. THE BRILLIANT COURSE HE PURSUES AFTER BEING TURNED FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT. His way is as the "shining light."
1. Beautiful in its appearance. The light of grace begins from the first to adorn the actions of the righteous. Their simplicity of mind and teachableness of spirit endear them to all their brethren; their lowliness and humility attract universal notice, while the fervour of their love excites admiration and esteem. The very shades in their character serve as a contrast to the excellency of the change that has passed upon them. As they proceed, their graces are more matured, and even thus early they "adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour."
2. They shall continue to be beneficial in their influence. They have a work to do, and God will ensure them in a course of well-doing, or the Divine purpose would fail.
3. Believers, like the sun, are constant in their progress. The sun invariably pursues his wonted course. The believer's progress is directed by the same power.
III. THE GLORIOUS CONSUMMATION OF THE TEXT.
(The National Preacher.)
I. THE BEAUTY OF THE SIMILE. The reference is evidently to the light of day, the sunlight. It suggests —
II. THE PROGRESSIVE ASPECT. From dawn to full day. The life of the just is not completed at once. All progress. Not all at the same rate.
III. THE WORDS "PATH OF THE JUST" INCLUDE CHARACTER, CONDITION, AND DESTINY. The light of goodness, of joy, and of glorious destiny. And these three things are involved in one another.
(John Thomas, M.A.)
1. The way of the just, morally considered, is a regular scheme formed according to one model, and under one uniform direction. The principle of virtue is always an unvarying guide, admirable for its simplicity, without a mixture of interfering counsels, without a diversity of inconsistent views.
2. The path of the just is accompanied with inward serenity and satisfaction. The principles of religion, diffusing their influence through the whole scheme of life, set everything about us in a fair and amiable light.
3. The path of the just sends light abroad — that is, communicates profitable instruction to, and hath a useful influence on, those who have the opportunity of observing it. The path of the just is like the spring of the day animated by an inward undecaying principle; it rises in splendour from its low and more obscure beginnings, going on gradually to perfection.
(J. Abernethy, M.A.)
I. BECAUSE OF THE INCREASING DEMONSTRATION WHICH IT FURNISHES OF THE TRUTH AND EXCELLENCY OF RELIGION. There are many proofs of that excellency, some argumentative, others experimental. These last have always an increasing power.
II. PERSEVERING PIETY POSSESSES AN INCREASING ASSURANCE OF THE DIVINE FAVOUR. This is the very light of the soul, the only source of peace in the conscience. At first it is obtained by faith; but in the case we are supposing faith grows into a habit, and keeps the soul in perfect peace.
III. PERSEVERING PIETY HAS INCREASING PLEASURES. There can be no growing happiness without a preserved sense of Divine acceptance. Piety opens sources of mental pleasures: pure, because not applied to sinful objects; rich and constant, because flowing from sources of real good. All these have in them a principle of increase. Increasing pleasures are opened by the Word and ordinances of God, by Christian communion and religious exertions. All these, to a spirit prepared for them by the salvation which is of grace, through faith, present pleasures which never cloy, which afford richer and still richer satisfaction.
IV. PERSEVERING PIETY HAS THE ADVANTAGE OF AN INCREASING EVIDENCE OF THE WISDOM AND CARE OF GOD IN HIS PROVIDENTIAL ARRANGEMENTS. The man who perseveres in piety is more wise to see, and more careful to mark, the abounding instances of Divine interposition.
V. PERSEVERING PIETY HAS BRIGHTER AND MORE CHEERING VIEWS OF THE ETERNAL STATE. The conviction of the world's vanity, experience of the world's trials, are designed to quicken the progress of the affections towards man's heavenly home. Everything in piety moves towards God; but it is God in heaven, as fully revealed there.
1. See, then, that your path be indeed the path of the just. Walk in it by the strength of regenerate habits, fed by prayer, and by communion with God.
2. Remember that the way of the wicked is darkness; it is all error and perplexity.
3. Recollect, for your encouragement, that, bright and cheering as is the light upon your path, it is but the light of the morning.
I. THE PATH OF THE JUST. The path of "light" is that which discloses to those who pursue it their own motive of action; to others who examine them, their principles; and both to themselves and to others who assume the same standard of judgment, the consequences of those actions. Ignorance of what is personally, relatively, socially, or even politically right, can never co-exist with a genuine belief in the gospel of Christ Jesus. By the "just" we understand the man who has determined to do right simply because it is right; resolving all first principles of right into the expressed and recorded will of God. By the "path" of such a man we understand the habitual tenor of his course and conduct among mankind.
II. THE WAY OF THE WICKED. By the "wicked" we understand the man who is indifferent to that which is good; who acknowledges, or at least obeys, no law of action but his own pleasure, or his own interest, or his own inclination, or his own appetite. The way of such a man is "darkness," from the absence of any fixed principle or of any certain end. If peace is essential to happiness, on Scriptural principles happiness never can be realised by the ungodly. All nature is full of enemies to him who hath not God for his friend. See, then, the importance of making the right choice in early life.
(Thomas Dale, M.A.)
I. INCREASE OR GROWTH OF GRACE. That real grace does increase is evident from three things. Scripture testimony. God has appointed a certain stature that His children shall grow to. This is the end of Divine influences and the effect of Divine ordinances.
II. HOW A CHRISTIAN GROWS IN GRACE.
1. Inward, into Christ.
2. Outward, in good works, in all the parts of a holy life, piety towards God, and righteousness towards men.
3. Upward, in a heavenly disposition.
4. Downward, in humility, self-denial, self-loathing, resignation to the will of God.
III. THE CAUSES OF THIS GROWTH.
1. Union with Christ.
2. Communion with Christ in His ordinances and in His providences.
IV. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRUE AND FALSE GROWTHS.
1. True Christian growth is universal.
2. The hypocrite soon comes to a stand, the Christian goes on to perfection.
V. TRUE GRACE GROWS ALWAYS.
1. It does not always grow, nor at every particular season.
2. It never decays utterly.
3. A Christian may be growing and yet not be sensible of it. This may cause fear and trembling.
I. WHAT THIS PERSEVERANCE IS. To persevere is to continue and abide in a state into which one is brought.
II. HOW IS THIS PERSEVERANCE TO BE UNDERSTOOD.
1. Not of all who profess Christ.
2. Of all real saints, those who are endowed with saving grace. Saints may lose the evidence of grace, so that they cannot discern it in themselves. They may lose the exercise of grace. They may lose much of the measure of grace they have had.
III. THE SAINTS SHALL PERSEVERE TO THE END.
IV. WHAT ARE THE THINGS WHICH MAKE HYPOCRITES FALL AWAY?
1. Satan's temptations.
2. The world's snares.
3. The corruptions and lusts of the heart.
V. THE GROUNDS OF THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS.
1. The unchangeable decree of God's election flowing from the free and unchangeable love of the Father to them.
2. The merit and intercession of Christ the Son.
3. The perpetual abiding of the Spirit.
4. The nature of the covenant of grace.
VI. THE MEANS OF PERSEVERANCE.
1. God's ordinances and providences.
2. The duties of religion, and exercise of the graces, faith, fear, watchfulness, etc.Then look well to the foundation of your religion, for sincerity will last, but hypocrisy is a disease in the vitals that will end in death. Let those whose care it is to be found in Christ be comforted amidst all their temptations, snares, and corruptions, in that God has begun the good work and will perfect it.
(T. Boston, D.D.)I. IT IS IN EVERY MAN'S POWER TO MAKE HIS LIFE A PROGRESSIVE STATE. If we trace the progress of the human mind from the first dawnings of sense and reason, we may see from what small beginnings it acquires a prodigious store of intellectual knowledge. The moral powers, like the natural perfections of the body, are more equally distributed than the intellectual; and in them there is as large a field laid open for our advancement towards perfection as there is in the intellectual. No man knows what he can do till he is firmly resolved to do whatever he can. There are often abilities unknown to the possessors which lie hid in the mind for want of an occasion to call them forth. One can scarcely have too high an opinion of the powers of the human soul, especially in the affair of our salvation, and scarce too low an opinion of men's inclinations to exert these powers in that important case. But God gives to every man adapted and effectual grace. We have the same natural power, the same gracious aid and assistance, for persevering and improving in every virtue and grace, as we had originally for attaining them. What, then, should restrain or hinder our continual progress? One reason why men do not quicken their pace more in the ways of goodness is the mistaken judgment they form by using a deceitful standard. They are not at any trouble to get exact notions of perfection and goodness, and to examine their lives by such truly imitable patterns. So far, then, from considering this life as a dull round of the same insignificant trifles, we ought to look upon it as an indefinite line wherein every step we take is, or ought to be, an important and valuable advance in goodness.
II. SOME REASONS AND CONSIDERATIONS TO ENGAGE US IN SUCH A PRACTICE.
1. This progressive state is our duty. God's design is to make men as virtuous and pious as possible. It is in our power to make a constant and continued progress in the kinds of these perfections, and thence arises our obligation to advance in the degrees as far as the sum of our faculties, exercised and improved to the utmost, can carry us. Our condemnation will not lie in this, that we did not exactly transcribe the original, but that we did not make the copy so complete as was in our power. If a man thinks himself already as virtuous and good as he needs to be, it is a certain sign that he has not yet arrived at any eminence in virtue.
2. The advantages we shall reap from the progressive state.(1) It will supersede the trust and confidence which too many are apt to repose in repentance.(2) It is the best means for bringing us to a uniform and unreserved obedience.(3) It is the only security for our preservance in such obedience.(4) It is the best testimony we can have of our being in a salvable condition.Reflections:
1. How groundless and unreasonable are all complaints of human life as an insignificant, capricious, and wayward state.
2. If the progressive is the right state of life, what shall we think of those who are pursuing an opposite course?
(J. Seed, M. A.)
I. THE PATH OF THE JUST, AS HE SEES IT HIMSELF. "As a shining light."
1. Because it is the path of Christ. He is the true light. Whatever light exists upon earth, whether physical, intellectual, or spiritual, comes from Him as the Creator by whom all things were made. By Him the lights of reason and of conscience were lit up in the soul of man to guide him to a knowledge of God and duty. And after the candle of the Lord had been so dimmed and defiled by sin as to become comparatively useless, then did He, as the Sun of Righteousness, arise with healing in His beams, to restore in the minds of His believing people that light which sin had so grievously obscured and beclouded. To this light the eyes of God's people were from the earliest ages of the world directed, for its dawn was coeval with the fall of man. Taking the Lord Jesus as his guide and exemplar in the ways of salvation, the path of the just is as a shining light.
2. In respect of the increasing certainty and confidence wherewith he walks in it. As the rays of light move in straight lines, so also the path of the just is a straight-forward path — free from those perplexing turnings and windings which mark the ways of worldly wisdom and carnal policy. It is also a path of security in which he can walk without fear of danger. The path is moreover pleasant and joyful. So far, then, as his own understanding and feelings are concerned, the analogy between the path of the just and the shining light is evident and exact.
II. THE PATH OF THE JUST AS IT APPEARS TO HIS NEIGHBOURS. As the light of Divine truth and love is reflected to us from the person and character of our Lord Jesus Christ, in like manner the light of His grace and holiness is reflected to the world from the lives and characters of His faithful disciples. As a comet increases in brilliancy in proportion to the nearness of its approach to the sun, so the Christian's light will always be more conspicuous in proportion to the closeness of his communion with the Sun of Righteousness. As light is the most plain and conspicuous object in nature, so the Christian, walking in the integrity of his heart, is so transparent and straightforward a character as to be known and approved of all. As the same light shining upon a smooth and polished surface is reflected with greater lustre than from a rough and muddy one, so the same grace is reflected with greater brilliancy by some Christians than by others. As a professed follower and disciple of the Son of God, the Christian is imperatively called upon to let his "light shine before men." If we are the children of light, we are called upon to walk as such. Beware, then, of continuing in the dim twilight of a lukewarm and unstable profession. Look to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Sun of Righteousness. Take Him for your guide and exemplar, and He will assuredly lead you to everlasting joy.
(William Ford Vance, M. A.)
I. IN QUIET TIMES WE SEE MORE OF THE TRUTH.
II. IT SHOWS US MORE IN TRUTH. Not only more of it, but more in it.
III. IN QUIET PROGRESS WE MAKE MORE USE OF TRUTH. Through quiet progress in our lives, we are extending Christ's kingdom.
IV. IN THIS QUIET PROGRESS YOU WILL BE MORE RECONCILED TO CHANGES THAT MUST COME.
V. WE ARE MORE RESTFUL IN THE INNER EVIDENCES OF TRUTH.
(W. M. Statham.)
I. THE CHARACTER WHICH IS HERE DENOTED BY THE TERM "JUST." "Just" expresses a person who has, without omission or fault, fulfilled every branch of moral obligation. The same word is employed to denote that character which extends not its virtuous exertions beyond the discharge of the demands of strict justice. A distinction is made between justice and goodness. "Just" also characterises the person who, having adopted right principles, directs his conduct by them, as far as is compatible with human infirmity. The term is also employed to signify those who, through the merits of Jesus Christ, and the means of grace and salvation which He hath instituted, are restored to the favour of God. The two last of these meanings come into the text. The just man here is he who, with an understanding as much enlightened as his situation will permit, and with a heart impressed with the importance of religion, endeavours to fulfil the law of God, through the whole of his conduct, and renders the cultivation of holiness and virtue his grand and predominant object.
II. ALL THE FACULTIES OF MAN ARE OF A PROGRESSIVE NATURE. The human faculties ascend to the most sublime attainments; but for this progressive and boundless improvement, culture and discipline are necessary. The faith of the just man, though founded on rational convictions, will, at first, be weak and wavering. Whether he contemplate nature or revelation, he will meet with obscurity to perplex, with difficulties to embarrass, and with objections to stagger him. But though these obscurities hang over the path of the good man, and these obstacles start up, as he advances, they neither involve him in complete darkness, nor even retard his progress. As the faith of the man truly pious advances with increasing brightness, his works observe the same tenor. From the frailties and defects incident to humanity, the man of piety and virtue is not exempt. But the good man sins from infirmity alone, loathes himself on account of every fault he commits, and strives to acquire greater firmness and resolution against future temptations. Advancing in his virtuous progress, he acquires, at every step, fresh vigour and alacrity, and, at last, arrives at that confirmed habit of obedience, which places him beyond the power of such temptations as seem to other men irresistible, and enables him, through Divine grace, to triumph, in some measure, over nature herself. The good man having the principles of virtue lodged in his soul, and gradually brought forward by Divine energy, begins his course with difficulty, and amidst obscurity and temptation. Gradually doubts and difficulties disappear, and he rises at last to that settled temper of virtue and holiness which makes him "a light shining in a dark place."
(W. L. Brown, D. D.)
I. HOW SHALL WE KNOW IF WE HAVE MADE PROGRESS IN THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS?
1. Are you sensible of your faults and imperfections? The first indication of wisdom is to confess our ignorance, and the first step to virtue is to be sensible of our own imperfections. Till we feel our own weakness we can never be strong in the Lord; we can never rise in the Divine sight till we sink in our own estimation.
2. What is the strength of your attachment to the cause of righteousness? Are you enamoured with the beauty of holiness? Men will never imitate what they do not love. If, then, you are not lovers of goodness and virtue, you never will be good and virtuous.
3. Are your resolutions as firm and your application as vigorous now as when you first set out in the spiritual life? True religion does not consist in fits and starts of devotion. He alone is a good man who perseveres in goodness. Are you as much in earnest now as when your first love to God began to bring forth the fruits of righteousness? As you advance in years, all the passions will gradually cool. You will not feel that degree of ardour in your devotions which you experienced in your early years. But your devotions may continue as sincere, though not so inflamed, as before, and religion may be as effectual as ever in the regulation of your life.
4. Another mark of increasing grace is when you obey the Divine commandments from affection and love. He alone will make progress in the path of the just who is drawn by the cords of love.
II. DIRECTIONS HOW TO MAKE FURTHER PROGRESS IN THE PATH OF THE JUST.
1. Make a serious business of a holy life. The true Christian will not be deficient in his attention to the externals of religion; but he will not rest there. We must make a study of the holy life, in order to advance from strength to strength in the ways of the Lord.
2. Never rest satisfied with any degrees of holiness or virtue which you attain. The law of the spiritual life is to aim at perfection. Absolutely perfect we can never become in this life; but we must be always aspiring and endeavouring after perfection.
3. Be alway employed in the improvement of your souls. Evil habits may be weakened; inclinations may be counteracted. You may call forth graces that have not yet made their appearance, and bring forward to perfection those that have.
4. Abound in prayer to God for the assistance of His Holy Spirit.
III. EXHORTATION TO A LIFE OF PROGRESSIVE VIRTUE.
1. It is your duty to make progress in the ways of righteousness. You must "abound in the work of the Lord" if you expect your labours to be attended with success.
2. Be assured that you will be successful in the attempt. Here, all who run may obtain.
3. Think of the beauty and the pleasantness of such a progress. These are pleasures that time will not take away. While the animal spirits fail, and the joys which depend upon the liveliness of the passions decline with years, the solid comforts of a holy life, the delights of virtue and a good conscience, will be a new source of happiness in old age, and have a charm for the end of life.
4. Let me exhort you to this progressive state of virtue, from the pleasant consideration that it has no period. There are limits and boundaries set to all human affairs; but in the progress of the mind to intellectual and moral perfection there is no period set. On what you do, on what you now do, all depends.
I. PROGRESSION THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ON EARTH. Is it a remarkable thing that we should look for the growth of the Divine life in man? Ought we to expect progress in ourselves as Christians? It is a reasonable thing for the parent to look for growth in his child; and he is greatly concerned if he does not discover it. It is a reasonable thing for the farmer to look for growth in the seed which he has scattered upon the prepared soil. It is a reasonable thing that men should expect the sun to shine more and more unto the perfect day. But let us put it to our own hearts whether we have looked for this progress in ourselves. What is God's thought, expressed in His Word, about this progression? Paul's prayer on behalf of the Ephesians, that they might be strengthened with might by God's Spirit in the inner man; that they might be rooted and grounded in love; that they might comprehend more fully the love of Christ; that they might be filled with the fulness of God — certainly implies the possibility and desirability of progression. Then again, the words of the same apostle concerning the same people, that they "be no longer children but growing up unto Him in all things, who is the Head, even Christ;" coming "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ": these again imply the possibility and desirability of progression. And again, Paul desires for the Colossians that they "be filled with the knowledge of His will unto all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that they might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might according to His glorious power unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness." Shall we not be concerned about our own growth? Shall we not be grieved if we do not grow in our views and feelings in reference to sin? The older we are as the children of God, the longer we have had fellowship with the Pure and Holy One, the more we should hate everything which is sinful. Shall we not be grieved if, as the months go by, we do not find ourselves more decided and resolute and settled in our religious convictions and habits? Shall we not be concerned if we are not gaining greater power over the sin which easily besets us? Shall we not be concerned if we are not more humble, more heavenly-minded, more gentle and forgiving, more Christlike than we were?
II. PERFECTION THE CHARACTERISTIC OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN HEAVEN. Progression here; perfection there. Perfection there according to progression here. Is it so? We think so. If we mistake not, the ordinary notion is — no matter what our life may be here, if only we have faith in Christ, the moment this mortal shall put on immortality we shall be perfect in heaven. We ordinarily think of our perfection there as apart from our progression here. But the teaching of Scripture is not the stagnant pool here becoming the gushing fountain there; it is the well of water here, and there springing up into everlasting life. It is not the babe, or rather the dwarfed child here, appearing there the strong, wise, well-proportioned man; it is the babe growing up here, till there he attains the stature of the perfect man. We know it is very true, though the "well of water" spring up here ever so continuously and copiously, it shall there in comparison gush forth like a fountain of living waters. If we search the Scriptures with this design in view, to discover whether a careless, inactive Christian will attain the same perfection in heaven as a man like the apostle Paul, we shall quickly see that progression here has something to do with perfection there. What glories are these which are set before us! To be without sin; to know as we are known; to love as we are loved; to have ourselves possessed with the peace of God. Every one of us will reach the perfect day. There will be no imperfection in heaven. Yet those who grow more here shall have larger capabilities there. Those who are the more faithful here shall have the larger range for faithfulness there. Here is something to fill us with joyful anticipation.
I. SO LET ME ASK YOU TO LOOK, FIRST, AT THE GREAT POSSIBILITY OPENED HERE FOR US ALL. Now, it is true that every life, of whatever kind, tends to completeness in its own kind; that the good becomes better, and the bad worse. Single actions consolidate into habits, just as the minute grains of sand, beneath the pressure of the ocean, are hardened into rock. Convictions acted on are strengthened. Light stands as the emblem of three things — knowledge, purity, and joy. The Christian life is capable of continual increase in all three.
1. It is capable of continual increase in knowledge. Of course, I do not mean merely the intellectual apprehension of certain propositions which are received as true. We know a book or a science or a thought in one way; we know a person in another; and Christian knowledge is the knowledge of God in Christ, and of Christ in God. That knowledge is something a great deal more warm-blooded and full-pulsed than an intellectual perception of the truth of a statement. And it is this knowledge which it is intended should grow unceasingly in Christian experience, and in our daily life. We have an infinite object on whom to fix our minds and hearts. A man begins to be a Christian when perhaps through many a cloud, and with many hesitations and doubts, and with a very inadequate apprehension of the truth that he is receiving and the Person that he is grasping, his faith puts out an empty hand, and lays hold of Christ as his hope and his all. But as his days go on, if he be truly in possession of that initial truth, he will find that it opens out into splendours, and discloses depths and assumes a power controlling all life and thought, which he never dreamt of when he first apprehended it. We begin, like gold-seekers, with surface-washings; we end with crushing quartz. We begin on the edge of the great continent, we travel onwards and inwards, through all the leagues of its mountains and plains and lakes, and we never shall traverse it altogether. Life interprets Christ, if we let Christ interpret life. When the night of sorrow closes in over our heads, there are truths that shine out bright and starry, like the light points in a keen, frosty winter's night, which never could be seen in the garish day.
2. Again, the Christian life is capable of a perpetual increase in purity. And if a man be truly a Christian, there is nothing more certain than that, day by day, his conscience will become more sensitive and quick to discriminate between good and evil. The more we rise in the moral scale, the more solemn, sovereign, and far reaching we discern the commandment to be, that we shall be like our Lord. Depend upon it, all of us have things in our characters, and acts in our daily ordering of our lives, which, if we had advanced further along the path, we should avoid as a pestilence.
3. Again, the Christian life is capable of a continual increase in gladness. Yes! "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." All other kinds of gladness fade, and all other sources pass away. But Jesus Christ's gladness, as He said Himself, is given to us that our "joy may be full," because His joy remains in us. Time takes the gloss off most things. It does not take the brightness out of the Christian life.
II. LET US MARK THE FREQUENT FAILURE TO REALISE THIS POSSIBILITY. What I have been saying must sound to many of us liker irony than a description of fact, when we turn our eyes from the possibility for which provision is made by the gift of an infinite Christ, and an infinite Spirit, to the facts of Christian experience as we see them lying round us. Progress! Stagnation is the truth about hosts of us. A path! Well, it is a circular path if it is a path at all. They mark time, as the soldiers say, one foot up and the other down, but the feet are always planted in the same place. Sure I am that in a tragically large number of cases a professing Christian's early days are his best. Many of us seem to have gone to school to the Japanese gardeners, that will take you an oak, and stick it into a flower-pot, and stunt it there, so that it is warranted never to break the flower-pot, and never to grow an inch. There is another kind of opposite to that steady incease in brightness only too common amongst us, and that is — spasmodic growth by fits and starts; brief summer followed by a dreary winter, and no continuous and steadfast advance.
III. LASTLY, LET ME ASK YOU TO CONSIDER THE CURE OF THE FAILURE, AND THE WAY OF REALISING THE POSSIBILITY. What made a man who is a Christian in reality light at first? The apostle tells us, "Now are ye light in the Lord." The reason why so many Christian people do not grow is because there is no depth and reality of union between them and Jesus Christ; and there is no depth or reality of union between them and Jesus Christ because they have no strength of faith. It is not merely for getting escape from some hell, or forgiveness for sins, that the faith is essential, but it is needful that there may be flowing into our hearts that which will change our darkness into radiance of light. Take a lesson from your electric lights. The instant that you break the contact, that instant the flame disappears. The first requisite, then, is to kep our union with Christ, and that is done by thinking about Him by the occupation of mind and heart with Him. And the second requisite is, to bring all our life under the influence of Christ's truth, and to bring all Christ's truth to bear upon our life. And then, we shall be "as the sun shineth in his strength."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. The poetic: which employs facts according to their impressions on the senses.
2. The scientific: which employs facts according to their best ascertained laws, with respect to sensible impressions.
3. The composite: which unites the poetic and scientific; applying facts in accordance both with the laws that govern them and the manifestations which accompany them. The poetic method is generally employed in the Bible. The scientific method would have required a scientific revelation, and the time for this had not yet come. The text is an example of poetic illustration.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE JUST. It is distinguished by these two facts —
1. Its elements are pure and complete. They are matters of intellect, sentiment, propensity, conscience, and will. The intellect of the just man is always thoughtful of moral principles. The sentiments of the just man admire moral principles. He sees that they sustain self-respect, and claim, rightly, the respect of the community. The propensities of the just man cling to moral principles. As thought excites admiration, so admiration excites love. The conscience of the just man is responsive to moral principles. Its instant intuitions of virtue and vice, and its instinctive excitments, consequent upon these intuitions, aid the intellect in its studies, encourage the sentiments in their admiration, and confirm the propensities in their attachment. Not vain, however, of its natural sagacity, it acknowledges the necessity and superiority of revelation, and corrects its own errors by the infallible decisions of the Word of God. The will is faithful to moral principles. This is his grandest distinction.
1. These elements are well proportioned in their combination, in the character of the just. What is wanted is a balance of powers: all the faculties and principles in equal and harmonious action. The elements of chaacter in the just man are pure, complete, and well-proportioned.
II. THE DESTINY OF THE JUST. What are the distinctions of the sun's path?
1. It is a high path. Far too high for any earthly obstruction.
2. It is a radiant path. It is glorious because it is radiant. The glory of the just is from within. It is a radiation.
3. It is a triumphant path.
4. It is a benignant path.
(T. H. Stockton.)I. The path of the just resembles the shining light in being PRECEDED BY A STATE OF DARKNESS (Ephesians 5:8). The darkness of ignorance gives way to spiritual knowledge. The darkness of depravity gives way to the light of grace (1 Peter 2:9).
II. The path of the just resembles the shining light in its PROGRESSIVE CHARACTER. Sanctification is a work which, beginning in conversion, is carried on gradually. And where there is true grace in the heart, there is a desire and a capability of geater perfection, just as in the seed there is an ability and tendency to vegetate and spring up into a plant or a tree. The pleasure, too, felt in the way of righteousness, naturally leads a man to aim at greater attainments.
IV. The path of the just resembles the shining light in AT LENGTH REACHING TO THE PERFECT DAY.
(Jas. Kirkwood, M. A.)I. THE JUST.
II. THEIR PATH.
1. Of penitence.
2. Of prayer.
3. Of self- denial.
4. Of humility.
5. Of struggling, yet of peace.
6. Of weakness and strength.
III. PERFECT DAY.
1. Possessors (Revelation 8:13, 14).
2. Of full revelation.
(1) (2) IV. THE CROWS OF LIFE. Certainty in truth, pardon, joy, peace. (Henry Bennett.) II. THE BEAUTY AND EXCELLENCE OF A HOLY LIFE. III. THE PLEASANTNESS OF A HOLY LIFE. 1. Pleasures of action. 2. Pleasures of reflection. 3. Pleasures of hope. IV. ITS INSTRUCTIVENESS. V. ITS PROGRESSIVE NATURE. The good man improves — 1. In knowledge of Divine things. 2. In the adhesion of his will to Divine things. 3. In the perfection of his example. 4. In the ease and pleasure of well-doing. VI. IT WILL AT LAST ISSUE IN CONSUMMATE PERFECTION — a perfection of holiness and happiness. (H. Grove.) II. HIS HUMILITY IS DEEPENING. The knowledge of his unworthiness prostrates him who is enlightened. As the genius who has arrived at the highest proficiency in any art or science finds it hardest to please himself with his own work, and sees best the inferiority of his attainments to the standard of perfection, so the saint who entertains the loftiest views of the holy character of God will form the most lowly estimate of his own strength and performances. III. HIS DESIRE AND ALACRITY TO DO THE WILL OF GOD ARE BECOMING MORE ARDENT. This is the result of all that he knows of the Sovereign of the Universe, since He delights in righteousness. This is the natural result of the unreserved admission of gospel truth into the mind, since those who believe in God must be careful to maintain good works. IV. HIS AFFECTION FOR THE THINGS OF TIME IS DIMINISHING. Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also. As any body rises above the ground, up into the regions of space, that which philosophers call the attraction of gravitation affects it less and less; and if it could be elevated sufficiently, the earth would at length lose its power over it altogether, and it would be drawn away towards some other planet. This explains, in the way of illustration, the process which takes place with respect to the human soul. V. BY HIS INCREASING LOVE FOR GOD AND HIS PEOPLE, HE EVINCES HIS PROGRESSIVE MEETNESS FOR THAT HEAVEN WHICH IS LOVE. (David Strong.) (J. Halsey.) (H. G. Salter.)
(2) IV. THE CROWS OF LIFE. Certainty in truth, pardon, joy, peace. (Henry Bennett.) II. THE BEAUTY AND EXCELLENCE OF A HOLY LIFE. III. THE PLEASANTNESS OF A HOLY LIFE. 1. Pleasures of action. 2. Pleasures of reflection. 3. Pleasures of hope. IV. ITS INSTRUCTIVENESS. V. ITS PROGRESSIVE NATURE. The good man improves — 1. In knowledge of Divine things. 2. In the adhesion of his will to Divine things. 3. In the perfection of his example. 4. In the ease and pleasure of well-doing. VI. IT WILL AT LAST ISSUE IN CONSUMMATE PERFECTION — a perfection of holiness and happiness. (H. Grove.) II. HIS HUMILITY IS DEEPENING. The knowledge of his unworthiness prostrates him who is enlightened. As the genius who has arrived at the highest proficiency in any art or science finds it hardest to please himself with his own work, and sees best the inferiority of his attainments to the standard of perfection, so the saint who entertains the loftiest views of the holy character of God will form the most lowly estimate of his own strength and performances. III. HIS DESIRE AND ALACRITY TO DO THE WILL OF GOD ARE BECOMING MORE ARDENT. This is the result of all that he knows of the Sovereign of the Universe, since He delights in righteousness. This is the natural result of the unreserved admission of gospel truth into the mind, since those who believe in God must be careful to maintain good works. IV. HIS AFFECTION FOR THE THINGS OF TIME IS DIMINISHING. Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also. As any body rises above the ground, up into the regions of space, that which philosophers call the attraction of gravitation affects it less and less; and if it could be elevated sufficiently, the earth would at length lose its power over it altogether, and it would be drawn away towards some other planet. This explains, in the way of illustration, the process which takes place with respect to the human soul. V. BY HIS INCREASING LOVE FOR GOD AND HIS PEOPLE, HE EVINCES HIS PROGRESSIVE MEETNESS FOR THAT HEAVEN WHICH IS LOVE. (David Strong.) (J. Halsey.) (H. G. Salter.)
IV. THE CROWS OF LIFE. Certainty in truth, pardon, joy, peace.
(Henry Bennett.)I. THE CERTAINTY AND EVIDENCE AFFORDED BY A RELIGIOUS LIFE. Its subject is sure that it is the path of God's commandment. He sees that it is the path of life.
II. THE BEAUTY AND EXCELLENCE OF A HOLY LIFE.
III. THE PLEASANTNESS OF A HOLY LIFE.
1. Pleasures of action.
2. Pleasures of reflection.
3. Pleasures of hope.
IV. ITS INSTRUCTIVENESS.
V. ITS PROGRESSIVE NATURE. The good man improves —
1. In knowledge of Divine things.
2. In the adhesion of his will to Divine things.
3. In the perfection of his example.
4. In the ease and pleasure of well-doing.
VI. IT WILL AT LAST ISSUE IN CONSUMMATE PERFECTION — a perfection of holiness and happiness.
(H. Grove.)I. HIS KNOWLEDGE IS GRADUALLY INCREASING. It must be very evident, that the more a heaven-taught man devotes himself to serious meditation, that he will obtain clearer views of the subtle and disguised workings of corruption — he will be more thoroughly satisfied of the desperate alienation of the human heart from God. He will, accordingly, be conducted to a more profound view of the value and importance of that work which was finished at Calvary, to a more unreserved renunciation of every claim to Divine favour on the ground of his own good works, and to a more heartfelt conviction that he must be justified by faith alone.
II. HIS HUMILITY IS DEEPENING. The knowledge of his unworthiness prostrates him who is enlightened. As the genius who has arrived at the highest proficiency in any art or science finds it hardest to please himself with his own work, and sees best the inferiority of his attainments to the standard of perfection, so the saint who entertains the loftiest views of the holy character of God will form the most lowly estimate of his own strength and performances.
III. HIS DESIRE AND ALACRITY TO DO THE WILL OF GOD ARE BECOMING MORE ARDENT. This is the result of all that he knows of the Sovereign of the Universe, since He delights in righteousness. This is the natural result of the unreserved admission of gospel truth into the mind, since those who believe in God must be careful to maintain good works.
IV. HIS AFFECTION FOR THE THINGS OF TIME IS DIMINISHING. Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also. As any body rises above the ground, up into the regions of space, that which philosophers call the attraction of gravitation affects it less and less; and if it could be elevated sufficiently, the earth would at length lose its power over it altogether, and it would be drawn away towards some other planet. This explains, in the way of illustration, the process which takes place with respect to the human soul.
V. BY HIS INCREASING LOVE FOR GOD AND HIS PEOPLE, HE EVINCES HIS PROGRESSIVE MEETNESS FOR THAT HEAVEN WHICH IS LOVE.
(H. G. Salter.)