Make level paths for your feet, and all your ways will be sure.
I. LIFE CENTRED IN THE HEART. (Ver. 23.) Physically, we know this is so. It is a self-acting pump, a fountain of vital force. All the physical activities are derived from it. Spiritually, it is so. The connection of the heart with emotion is recognized in all languages. It is feeling in the widest sense that makes us what we are.
II. THE HEART MUST BE, THEREFORE, THE PECULIAR OBJECT OF OUR SOLICITUDE. (Ver. 23.) The sentiments, to put it in another form, are the important elements in character. These lie so close to opinion, that we commonly say either "I feel" or "I think" in expressing our opinions. To instil right sentiments about the important points of behaviour, the relation of the sexes, business, honour, truth, loyalty, is the great work of moral education, and here lies its immense value as distinguished from the gymnastic of the intellect.
III. THE EXTERNAL ORGANS MUST AT THE SAME TIME BE DISCIPLINED. (Vers. 24-27.) Education must not be one-sided. The heart supplies the organs and channels of activity; but these again react upon the heart. The impulses of feeling are in themselves formless; it is the definite organs which give to them peculiar shape and determination. Hence the organs themselves must be trained to receive true impressions and to give them back.
1. The mouth - the lips. They are to be corrected of every "crooked," false expression. What wonderful variety of expression is the mouth capable of - firmness, laxity, tenderness, scorn, love, irony, hate! In controlling the mouth we do something to control the heart. Its contents must be purified from falsehood, coarseness, foolish jesting, malicious gossip, all of which tell upon the central consciousness, and disturb and obscure it.
2. The eyes. (Ver. 25.) They are to be trained to a direct and straightforward expression. The leer of lust, the oblique glance of cunning expressed on the faces of others, or the clear honest light beaming from the eyes of the pure and open-hearted, not only mirror the heart, but remind how the heart may be reached by the self-discipline of the eye.
3. The feet. (Ver. 26.) In like manner, they are to be trained to a straightforward walk. Even in moments of relaxation 'tis well to have an object for a walk. The mind needs self-direction and discipline even in its pleasures; otherwise it becomes dissolute, and waywardly falls into evil through sheer laxity in the spring of wilt.
(1) Action and reaction, between the inward and the outward world, expression and impression, constitute a great law of our spiritual activity.
(2) Hence self-discipline and moral education should be founded on the recognition of it. We must work from the centre to the periphery, and back again from every point of the periphery to the centre of life. - J.
the feet: —
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Homiletic Magazine.Mystery surrounds me. I find myself a resident of the illimitable realm of the unknown. The commonest objects touching me on every side start unanswerable questions. But amidst these enveloping mysteries, like a rock in the central ocean, emerges this certainty — "I am." That means, I know I am. I am dowered with self-consciousness. There is a chasm wide and awful between myself and everything which is not myself; the "me" is other than the "not-me"; I am a separate, solitary soul. Amid all the mystery surrounding me, there emerges this other certainty — "I ought." That means, I have the power of referring what I am to the judgment of the moral sense. There is, and must be, an irreversible distinction between what I ought and what I ought not. There is both a standard and an ability of discrimination. There is a law of right and wrong of which the moral sense takes cognisance. Amid the mystery there arises another certainty — "I can." That means, I dwell in the sphere of moral freedom; the helm of my being is in the hand of an unenslaved volition; I possess a self-determining and sovereign will. I am not a thrall, a thing; I am a power. There emerges this other certainty — "I will." That means, I exercise my power in this direction or in that. I will to do the thing I ought not, or the thing I ought. Man is a moral being, capable of choice, and actually choosing. You should ponder the path of your feet —
I. BECAUSE YOUR FEET ARE PRESSING TOWARD AN END BY WHICH YOUR WHOLE PREVIOUS PATH IN LIFE IS TO FIND FINAL TEST. Thomas Carlyle says, "It is the conclusion that crowns the work; much more the irreversible conclusion wherein all is concluded; thus is there no life so mean but a death will make it memorable." As you are going now what will that final test of the end declare?
II. BECAUSE THIS MOMENT YOU ARE CHOOSING YOUR PATH. You should ask yourself whether it be the right one.
III. BECAUSE THE LONGER YOU WALK IN THE WRONG PATH THE HARDER IT WILL BE TO GET OUT OF IT INTO THE RIGHT, The awful law of habit; the binding power of bad companionships, etc.
I. THEIR NATURAL COURSE.
1. Found in the way of evil
2. Which has diverse paths.
3. These paths fatal in their termination.
II. TRANSITION OF THE FEET TO THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
3. Abandonment of evil way.
III. THE FEET CONSECRATED TO DIVINE SERVICE.
1. They stand on a rock.
2. Enjoy liberty.
3. Established by the Lord.
4. Guided in the way to life eternal.
(J. Burns, D.D.)
Homiletic Monthly.1. Unique, difficult, momentous.
2. This path, this journey, will be travelled but once — there is never a retracing of our steps.
3. A false guide, a false step, may prove eternally fatal.
4. The path is intricate, and nothing short of the utmost care, and constant watchfulness, and thorough discipline of heart and life can carry one safely through it.
I. WE MUST BEFOREHAND ORDER ALL WELL THAT WE GO ABOUT.
1. Lest we show our folly to all men by our indiscreet actions.
2. Lest we run ourselves into danger.
3. Because our actions are dangerous as well as our thoughts, looks, and words; and these were all to be ordered. Bring all your actions to the touchstone before you do them. Weigh them in a just balance.
II. THE MEANEST MEMBERS OF THE BODY MUST BE WELL-ORDERED. The foot is lowest, yet must not be left at liberty to go where it will.
1. Because the meanest members are of necessary use.
2. Because they, being disordered, bring much hurt.
III. ENDEAVOUR TO ACT SURELY IN WHAT YOU DO. Show your wisdom by your sure and just acting according to God's Word, and it will stand.
(Francis Taylor, B.D.)
I. EXPLAIN THE PRECEPT OF THE TEXT: "Ponder the path of thy feet." This includes —
1. A serious inquiry — into our past conduct, i.e., of the general tenor of our conduct; whether it has been agreeable to our character as men and as Christians, agreeable to the dictates of right reason, and the precepts of the gospel.
2. A diligent examination of the motives of our conduct, and the principal ends we have pursued in life; whether they are those which religion points out, or those which are recommended by the example of the world around us. Let us particularly attend to the state of our mind. Our chief motive is to be the "glory of God." This motive is of all others the most extensive, and where it has its due place in the mind, will prove the most effectual means of regulating the conduct.
3. Considering attentively what our ruling passion is, and what influence it has had in determining our conduct. Every man has something peculiar in the make or constitution of his mind, which inclines him more strongly to some pursuits than to others, and which consequently lays him more open to temptation from that quarter than from any other.
4. A diligent inquiry into the present temper and state of our minds; the settled purpose and resolution of the mind, the prevailing bent of the will and affections. In what light does sin appear to us? What are our sentiments of the law of God? How do we stand affected towards the great objects of faith?
5. The examination recommended in the text must be accompanied with a sincere resolution and a correspondent endeavour by Divine assistance to reform the errors of our past life, and to make continual advances in virtue and goodness.
II. THE ADVANTAGES THAT WILL ATTEND THE PRACTICE OF IT. Steadiness and uniformity of conduct is the result of habitual consideration and reflection.
1. This will be a probable means of securing us from all fatal errors and miscarriages, or of restoring us to the path of duty, if we have wandered from it.
2. The habit of reflection will confirm and strengthen the mind, and enable us to make continual advances in holiness.
III. SOME DIRECTIONS THAT MAY ASSIST US IN THE PERFORMANCE OF WHAT HAS BEEN RECOMMENDED.
1. Set yourself as in the presence of God.
2. Implore the Divine direction and assistance.
3. Be upon your guard against the deceitfulness of your own hearts, while you are conversing with them.
4. Fear not to know the worst of your case.
5. Pursue the inquiry till you have brought it to some conclusion, and faithfully observe and comply with the admonitions which conscience may give you.
6. Frequently renew the exercise of self-examination according to the directions laid down. Improvement —
1. See the great end we should propose to ourselves by this self-inquiry.
2. The great importance of self-examination to the Christian life.
The Congregational Pulpit.I. PONDER THAT PORTION OF OUR PATH WHICH WE HAVE ALREADY TRODDEN.
1. Has it been the way of evil?
2. Have we visited Calvary?
3. Has it been a path of usefulness?
II. PONDER THE PORTION OF THE PATH WHICH WE ARE NOW TREADING.
1. Is it lawful ground?
2. Are we following the footprints of Jesus? These are found, and found only, in heavenly paths.
3. Is there a light shining upon the road? "The way of the wicked is as darkness," because it is their own evil, dismal, unhappy, and dangerous way; but the path of the justified is that of increasing holiness and joy.
III. PONDER THAT PORTION OF OUR PATH WHICH WE HAVE YET TO TREAD.
1. It is beset with snares and dangers.
2. It passes through the valley and shadow of death. There is now no other way to immortality.
3. It leads either to heaven or to hell.
(The Congregational Pulpit.)I. WE OUGHT TO PONDER OUR STEPS IN REGARD TO THE PRINCIPLE FROM WHICH THEY PROCEED. An action good in itself may become criminal if it proceed from a bad principle. The little attention we pay to this maxim is one principal cause of the false judgments we make of ourselves. Would you always take right steps? Never take one without first examining the motive which engages you to take it.
II. WE OUGHT TO PONDER OUR STEPS IN REGARD TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH ACCOMPANY THEM. An action, good or innocent in itself, may become criminal in certain circumstances. This maxim is a clue to many cases of conscience in which we choose to blind ourselves. We obstinately consider our actions in a certain abstracted light, and do not attend to circumstances which change the nature of the action.
III. WE OUGHT TO EXAMINE THE MANNERS THAT ACCOMPANY OUR WAYS. Actions, good in themselves, become criminal when they are not performed with proper dispositions.
II. AN ACTION, GOOD IN ITSELF, MAY BECOME CRIMINAL BY BEING EXTENDED BEYOND ITS PROPER LIMITS. "Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise."
1. In regard to the mysteries of religion.
2. In regard to charity.
3. In regard to closet devotion; in regard to distrusting yourselves and fearing the judgments of God.
V. AN ACTION, GOOD WHEN IT IS PERFORMED BY A MAN ARRIVED AT A CERTAIN DEGREE OF HOLINESS, BECOMES CRIMINAL WHEN IT IS DONE BY HIM WHO HATH ONLY AN INFERIOR DEGREE. If we wish our ways to be established, let us weigh them with the different judgments which we ourselves form concerning them. Set the judgment which we shall one day form of them against that which we now form. In order to obey the precept of the wise man, we should collect our thoughts every morning, and never begin a day without a cool examination of the whole business of it.
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