Do not be over-righteous!
(George Mylne, "Lessons for the Christian's Daily Walk" 1859)
"Do not be over-righteous!" Ecclesiastes 7:16
How can this be? Can any man be over-righteous?
When zeal oversteps discretion;
when tasks are self-imposed;
when religious forms are trusted in;
when flesh is vainly mortified —
all this is being over-righteous!
God's people unwittingly fall into these very errors.
Prayer, as a task, persisted in — that we may think how long our prayers have been — this is a great mistake. It is wrong in principle, and practice too. Have you ever been more fretful after prayer, more worldly, more inclined to levity? The truth is this — you prayed too long; your mind was over-taxed; your soul responded to your weariness. The enemy rejoiced in your infirmity — you were "over-righteous."
Or you have found refreshment in the house of worship. You have gone a second time, and found the same. You went again (three services, three sermons in a day!) — the third occasion undid the other two. Trying to have too much — you lost all. The wearied brain could not recall its former devotion; the jaded memory broke down — you were "over-righteous."
It is often the same in reading Scripture. The mind is proud of its performances, and reads too much. To read each day so many chapters; in a short time to have gone the whole round of Scripture — rapidly to move from the Law, to History, to the Prophets, to the Gospel in the hurry — my friend, you are "over-righteous!" This is not the way to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Were you to spend a lifetime over a single Psalm, gaining daily refreshment to your soul — would be far better, than to scamper rapidly through the Word.
When household duties are neglected for the sake of devotional exercises — this, too, is being over-righteous.
The same is true when others are inconvenienced by our devotional exercises. The family waiting in the hall, the carriage at the door — while prayers are too lengthy. Is not this being "over-righteous?"
Prayer, meditation, and the Scriptures — how good they are! Yet there is a time for all things. If duties rise so thick, that you are hindered in your prayers — even this is better than prayer persisted in, and duties left undone! Beware, then, Christian friend, and do not be "over-righteous."