A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
By George Lawson, 1821
In this chapter, Solomon renews his exhortations to us to get wisdom, verses 1-13, and to avoid temptations, verses 14-19.
The chapter concludes with a short sum of practical religion.
In his exhortation to wisdom, Solomon makes use of many of the same motives by which he had already recommended it. Solomon had a heart filled with knowledge, beyond all the sons of men; and he could have charmed and astonished us by the discoveries of new truths in every sentence. But he had wisdom to manage his knowledge, and therefore prefers those discourses which are solid and useful — to those which, by their dazzling brilliancy, are fitted only to produce admiration and wonder. He desires not our applause — but our benefit. His aim is not to shine — but to instruct. He was a wise householder, instructed into the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, and brings out of his treasure old things as well as new.
God speaks to us more than once or twice by this inspired penman, and shall we not listen to his voice? We have precept upon precept, and line upon line — and if we do not receive instructions pressed upon us so warmly — we must go and fall backwards, and be broken, and snared, and caught. May God open our hearts to hear what is said by him who was the wisest of men, and who spoke under the guidance of unerring Wisdom.
Verse 1."Listen, my children, to the instruction of a father; pay attention and gain understanding." Our Lord teaches us to pray to God, as children to a father. Have we such confidence toward God — and shall we not attend with the reverence and love of children, to him who addresses us with the infinite tenderness of a heavenly Father?
Some have lost their fathers; some have fathers who give no food to the souls of their children. There is a Father who will take up these orphans, and supply than with the best and kindest instructions. He calls upon all of us to attend to his understanding, for he still opens his mouth in wisdom through Solomon.
That blessed God who makes the sun to shine upon our world, has caused this luminary still to shine for enlightening the souls of men. It was in mercy to Israel that the sun was made to stand still upon Gibeon, that the people might avenge themselves of their enemies. But it is a richer favor, that this light still shines, to direct our paths in wisdom and safety.
Let us hear what he can say in recommendation of what he inculcates upon us.
Verse 2."For I give you good doctrine, do not forsake my law." There are many who say, "Who will show us any good?" But they do not know what is good for them, and allow themselves to be deceived with shadows rather than realities. Here God shows us what is good, and gives it to us.
All the things that men can desire, are not to be compared to good doctrine. But is it befitting in a wise man to commend his own discourses? Solomon might well commend them, for they are not his — but God's, and God is graciously pleased to commend them to our acceptance. He calls us to buy wisdom without money, and reveals as much earnestness in recommending this precious merchandise, as if he were to be enriched by the price.
Were a thousand volumes to be written in commendation of this holy book, they could not say so much for it, as it can say for itself in a few words. God is not only the author — but the recommender of it. He calls it good doctrine, and requires us not to forsake it in our practice. To despise it, is to despise the authority and love of him who guided the pen of Solomon in writing and commending it to us. To forsake his law, is to forsake the king's highway, which is ever under his eye and protection — and to turn into those paths which are haunted by ravenous beasts.
The words of Wisdom here sounding in our ears, are the words, not only of Solomon the wise — but of David, the man after God's own heart. He delivers to his children, what he heard from his blessed father, by whom also the Spirit of the Lord spoke.
Verse 3, 4."When I was a boy in my father's house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said: Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live." His parents had, in his tender years, instructed him in the principles of religion; and the reason why they did so, was, that they loved him — for the best evidence of parental love is to instruct, and when necessary, to correct children.
Solomon was the best loved son in the family, and the greatest pains were employed in training him up in the way wherein he should go. Of him, accordingly, we find, that his parents had more joy than of all the rest. His mother gave him instruction, as well as his father. Her sin had lost her a child — but her religious care was rewarded with double comfort in the best and dearest of her sons. Were there more women of the spirit of Bathsheba, and Lois, and Lemuel's mother — we might hope to see a greater number of Solomon's, and Timothy's, and Lemuel's in the world.
Solomon communicates to his children the instructions which his father had given him. We do injustice to our children, if we do not endeavor to leave them that estate which our forefathers acquired for their posterity. It is a more grievous iniquity, if the fathers do not transmit to their children those pious instructions, which in their tender years they received from their own parents. Families are reckoned honorable, when a rich estate passes from father to son, through many generations. But it is a far more lovely sight, to behold the same faith dwelling in a rising family — which dwelt in their mother, and father, and remote ancestors.
We have a specimen of David's instructions to Solomon in the twenty-eighth chapter of the first book of Chronicles. The reading of it is sufficient to warm our hearts, and make us wish to hear more of the venerable king's instructions to his son. Solomon, who did not forget what his affectionate father said, gives us more of them in this place. Let us hear them with reverence, that we may not be found despisers of him — by whose direction David spoke, and Solomon wrote.
Verse 4."Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live." Children must attend to the words of their pious parents, and treasure them up in their hearts, to be observed in their lives; for it is no vain thing — but their life, to which they are called to hearken. When our fathers leave us money or land, we will not part with these gifts of their love — but the instructions of life are more precious than any earthly heritage. The wisdom which Solomon learned by his father's counsels, was better than his kingdom. When tested by God, it appeared that he valued an increase of wisdom, above an addition to his dominions, or his wealth, or even to the years of his life.
Verse 5."Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them." How earnestly are we called to seek after wisdom, until we find it! It would be a happy token of getting it — were we so deeply convinced of its value; as to make the attainment of it our grand concern. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, they shall be filled. If we cry for wisdom, and lift up our voice for understanding — our cries shall not remain unanswered. The success of Solomon's petition is recorded as an encouragement to our prayers and our hopes. It is not enough to get wisdom — we must also use it, and walk in its ways. They are all pleasantness and peace — but pain and misery will meet us, if we turn either to the right hand or to the left.
Verse 6."Do not forsake her, and she shall preserve you; love her, and she shall keep you." There are some who think it necessary, in particular cases, to forsake wisdom, lest their strictness should expose them to damage. But David here tells Solomon and us, that this must be a dangerous error. The way of duty and of safety is still the same. Those who walk by faith will believe this, though it appears to such as walk by sight, an absurdity contradicted by a thousand facts.
It is incomparably safer and happier, to lose our credit and our life, by cleaving to the truths and ways of Christ — than to preserve both by base compliances with the enemies of the truth.
That we may not forsake wisdom, we must embrace and love her. A miser will never forget where his treasure lies, and he will lose his life sooner than be robbed of his precious store. The love of wisdom will in like manner induce us to lay it up in our hearts, and to keep fast hold of it in defiance of every danger. When people receive not the truth in the love of it — they provoke God to leave them to the influence of strong and soul-ruining delusions. When we receive it into our hearts, it makes us strong and victorious over the wicked one.
Verse 7."Wisdom is the principal thing — therefore get wisdom; and with all your getting get understanding." David had got wisdom and understanding by meditating on God's testimonies, and he found it the principal thing. His crown and palace were not comparable to it in his eyes. Setting so high a value upon it himself, it was his great desire that his beloved son should get it also. And those parents who are possessed of David's spirit, would rather see their children wise unto salvation, than rich and great in the world. Evil parents are not so bad as to refuse bread and fish to their children. Good parents use every means to make them sharers of that wisdom, which they have found to be their own happiness.
Whatever we get, let us get wisdom. I remember to have read of two religious women in the reign of Queen Mary of England, who parted with a considerable portion of their estate, for a few leaves of the Bible. Those who look upon the bargain as a foolish one, have little knowledge of the worth of the scriptures. If a man has acquired thousands of gold and silver, and is without wisdom — he has but gained thousands of shining nothings. If he has acquired wisdom, and nothing besides — he has gained the one thing needful. Having gained wisdom, we ought to value her as she deserves to be valued.
Verse 8, 9."Esteem her — and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor." All that truly know wisdom, must embrace and exalt her. The only reason why any treat her with indifference, is that they are entire strangers to her. None knew her better than David and Solomon — and we hear how eloquent in her praises they are. We must prize wisdom as a pearl of inestimable value, and we must testify our regard for her:
Those who honor wisdom, obtain the noblest honors; for by wisdom, they are promoted. Their heads are adorned with a diadem of beauty, and a crown of glory is delivered to them. None are so apt to be vain of earthly honors as those who, like David, are unexpectedly raised to the possession of them; or who, like Solomon, surpass in majesty all their contemporaries. Yet we find, that neither David nor Solomon was greatly charmed with the luster of a crown.
The reason is obvious — their eyes were open to the glories of true wisdom — and all the glories of earthly kingdoms were lost in the superior brightness! They would rather have exchanged conditions with the poorest saint in Israel — than with the most magnificent monarch in a land where God was not known.
Solomon received and readily assented to his father's good doctrine; we need not wonder therefore that he prayed for wisdom rather than for long life, or glory, or power. He had learned not only that wisdom was a nobler possession than any of these things — but that it brings these along with it. If we receive in faith and love these instructions of the holy man — then our desires will be like his.
He who is told of a rich treasure hidden in his ground, will soon make it appear whether he believes the report. He who believes the report of God concerning the excellency of wisdom, will dig for it as for hidden treasure.
These are the instructions of David to Solomon, which he communicates to us. Solomon now appears again to address us in his own person.
Verse 10."Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of your life shall be many." Who is the man that desires to live long, that he may see good? Let him hear and receive the sayings of David and of Solomon. There are few men that do not wish to live long — but there are few also, who can trust as much to the counsels of the sovereign arbiter of life an of death — as to the counsels of a good physician. Many shorten their days by seeking to the physicians, rather than to the Lord. A wise man would not chose, for the sake of a long life, to expose himself to guilt and misery. But Solomon, in his prescription, consults our holiness and happiness, as well as the length of our lives.
Verse 11-13."I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life." In our journey through life we have great need of one to guide us — for it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. God alone can lead us in a safe way, and he does it by his Spirit through his word.
This inspired writer does not only teach — but guide us. He is like a companion in our journey, who points out every step that we should take, and every step that we ought to avoid. The way in which he leads us, is the way of wisdom — for we are taught to keep our great end constantly in view and to adopt the proper methods for reaching it.
It is a right way, for our personal interest and duty are jointly pursued — and every point is gained, when these two most important objects are combined. Our duty to God and to man, and to ourselves, are all clearly explained by this divinely instructed teacher.
It is a straight way — a way in which we shall not be hampered, and in which we shall not stumble.
Those who walk in the ways of sin and folly, imagine themselves to be the only people that enjoy liberty. But how vain the thought! They are very slaves, for they are in bondage to impetuous passions, which prescribe service hard and impossible to be performed. One of the tyrants contradicts the orders of another; and though one should gain the sovereignty, and crush every insurrection of the rest — the servant of sin is still straightened, because conscience terrifies him, or divine providence crosses him in his pursuits.
He, on the contrary, that walks in the way of God's precepts, is at liberty; for though he is in the strait way that leads to life, that way is broad enough to allow him all the room that a reasonable being can desire.
We taught to manage our civil and spiritual business with ease and safety, and to avoid everything that might encumber or ensnare us.
Stumbling-blocks lie before us in our journey through life, and those who have not a skillful guide often fall upon them to their hurt. Sometimes we are under the necessity of running, and there is then most danger of falling into sin and mischief, when, without being allowed time to deliberate, we must instantly resolve upon one of two courses that lie before us — or must act with vigor and alacrity, at the risk of being hurried forcibly along by our passions, without time to take due care of our steps. In such cases as these, it is needful to have religious principles rooted in our hearts, and religious knowledge stored up in our minds, which through divine grace will prevent us from adopting any course of action displeasing to God, and enable us to determine by what means we may best consult the glory of God and our own real interest.
When we act with resolution, and show our fervent zeal in religion — this knowledge and wisdom will preserve us from those dangerous extremes which have so often brought dishonor on religion and the professors of it.
Many temptations surrounded David in the days of his youth and he was sometimes ready to slip with his feet; but he meditated on God's testimonies, and in all his ways acknowledged God, and the Lord directed his steps and enlarged them under him. If at any time he stumbled, the reason was, that he lost sight of that word which was the light of his path — but he was never left to turn aside from following the Lord.
Let us therefore receive the instructions of life with all the desire of our hearts. Let us value them as our life, and abhor sin and folly more than death!
That we may keep fast hold of instruction, and walk in this straight way in which we shall not stumble, it is necessary to keep out of the way of evil men.
Verse 14, 15."Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way." We must not have fellowship with wicked men. Their course and company are to be avoided. We must not much as enter into their path, or if we have entered, we ought instantly to turn out of it.
Their path is to be avoided by us when we are at a distance from it. It is unsafe to pass by it, lest we should be tempted to take a step or two in it. When we find ourselves near, it is our duty to hasten away until we get at a distance from danger. This wise leader calls out to us with a loud voice, to keep at a great distance from the way of evil men. He calls as if it were a haunt of robbers and murderers — and so indeed he may, for those who would rob us of our purity and peace, are more dangerous than those who would rob us of our money!
The sins to which they would tempt us by their example and persuasions, may prove the destruction of our comforts and our souls. We pray to be kept from temptation, and our practice ought not to contradict our prayers. Otherwise it is evident that we mock God, by asking from him what we wish not to have.
No wonder that the wise man is so peremptory in urging us to avoid the society of the wicked,
Verse 16, 17."For they cannot sleep until they do evil; they are robbed of slumber until they make someone fall. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence." These are faithful servants of him who is a murderer from the beginning, and their pleasure lies in doing evil. It is their food and their drink to do the will of the wicked one. They exist on robbery and spoil, and if they have not been eating the bread of wickedness, they retire to their beds with the reluctance of those who have been unable to procure for themselves necessary food.
These wicked people may teach us how zealous we ought to be of good works. Why should the servants of the best Master labor in his service with less fidelity and resolution than those who serve the devil, and work for his poor wages? If we have David's spirit, we will not give sleep to our eyes, nor slumber to our eye-lids, until we have done the work of the day for God. The faithful followers of Christ will count it their food and their drink to do the will of their heavenly Father.
He was a heathen — but he had the soul as well as the heart of an Emperor, who said on the evening of a day in which he had not done any good, "Friends, I have lost a day."
There are many whom it would be difficult to persuade to manifest the same zeal in the service of righteousness, which these profligates discover in the service of iniquity. But it may reasonably be expected, that we should flee their company when their wicked character is laid before us. Let us not form the mistaken idea, that the worse they are, we are in the less danger of imitating them — for the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Of little sins we are not afraid — but say within ourselves, "These sins are attended with little danger, are they not little ones? Surely our souls shall not die though we fall into them."
We are as little afraid of great sins, because we think them so shocking that we cannot fall into them.
Frequently does it happen, that laboring under such misapprehensions as these, men lay down their heads upon the lap of temptation, and awake like Sampson with their locks shorn, in the hand of their enemies!
To these enemies they are captive, and to this punishment God has given them up for neglecting to follow his counsels, and preferring to them the instructions of those who cause to sin.
There is as great a difference between the path of the just and that of the wicked, as there is between light and darkness.
Verse 18, 19."The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." The righteous man possesses an understanding brightened by the rays of divine truth, for the Sun of righteousness has shone into his soul. His heart is beautified by the light of purity, diffusing a pleasant luster around him in his conversation. His spirit is cheered with the light of joy and consolation from the countenance of God. This light is not like that of a candle which burns itself away into darkness — but like that of the morning sun, which shines brighter and brighter, until it blazes with meridian splendor.
Christians increase in knowledge, and grace, and happiness, in this world, and are perfected at death and the resurrection. Clouds may indeed obscure their brightness, and thick darkness may occasionally cover them. Their progress may be suspended, like that of the sun in the days of Joshua; or they may go backward, as the same glorious luminary did in the days of Hezekiah — but these days of threatening aspect shall not extinguish their light. The Lord will make their light to spring forth speedily, and their darkness as the noonday. He will remove or turn back in their progress, the causes that obstructed them, and he who began the good work in them will perform it until the day of Christ.
Then shall they shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, for the Lord shall be to them an everlasting light. They shall see God as he is; they shall love him to the utmost extent of their capacity, and enjoy full satisfaction in the presence of him who is the fountain of life.
The wicked travel in darkness all their days. This is true, not only of those rebels against the light who abandon themselves to all manner of wickedness — but of all who do not follow him who is the light of the world, and live without that love which is the distinguishing mark of the disciples of Christ. Unbelievers may have some glimmerings of light in their minds and consciences — but these are not sufficient to keep them from walking in darkness. Their eyes are evil, and their whole course of life is full of the darkness of ignorance and error, of misery and sin. So great is this darkness, that they often stumble and wound themselves without knowing the cause of it, or even that they are wounded. Hence arises their ignorance of their need of healing.
The wise are not ignorant of Satan's devices, and when they fall they are instructed to avoid the stumbling-block by which their fall was occasioned. But it is the misery of fools walking in darkness, that being insensible to the means of their seduction into sin, they fall again and again by the same instruments of temptation! Instead of learning caution by their sins, one fall is the occasion of another, and perhaps a worse fall.
There is indeed a great difference between the darkness of their path — and that region of darkness to which it leads. Their minds being blind, there is no light within them; still, however, the light of Christ shines around them, and they are called upon to give it admission. Arise, shine, for your light is come, O you who long dwell in darkness! If you are deaf to the voice of him who has come to shed light into your souls — you know not when your feet may stumble upon the dark mountains, and your souls drop into the regions of eternal darkness, where there is not the light of a candle to mitigate the horrors of the gloom!
If, after all that our wise instructor says, we still chase the path of evil men, let us hear the sentence of our Judge.
This chapter is concluded with a short but comprehensive sum of practical directions — but before addressing them to us, the preacher again summons us to attend:
Verse 20-22."My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body!"
When a preacher has truths of great importance to communicate, and sees many of his hearers asleep, he endeavors to rouse them up. Just so, this wise man, knowing that we are dull of hearing, frequently renews his calls to us to hear and treasure up his words. It is our duty to be frequently summoning the powers of our souls to attend with reverence to the word of God, our Maker and our Judge, and to pray to God that he may open our ears to discipline, and seal our instruction.
He who has ears, let him hear. Let him place these necessary instructions before his eyes, that they may be a rule to his life, and let him lay them up in the midst of his heart, believing them to be the faithful sayings of God, and loving them with a cordial affection, because they are more precious than gold, and sweeter an honey from the comb.
The motives that call for our attention are exceedingly powerful. It is a father who speaks. The things which are spoken are of quickening and invigorating virtue. They are life to such as find them, and health not only to the soul but to the body; not to a particular part of it — but to all the flesh.
A medicine effectual to the cure of a single member might soon enrich the inventor of it. Here is a medicine for all the body — and yet the physician who prescribes it without reward, and finds so few willing to make use of it, that he must proclaim its virtues again and again. He speaks once and again — but man perceives it not.
Are we then dead not only to every generous principle — but to every feeling of self-interest? Have life and death become matters of indifference to us? Is it all one in our eyes, whether we enjoy health in our bodies and souls — or pine away under the power of deadly distemper? Here is healing balm. Here is a physician of infinite value. Attend to the directions which he gives for the management of our whole life.
The Lord is our keeper; and in the history of Peter we are furnished with a melancholy proof, that unless he keeps us, our care of ourselves will be unavailing. But if we commit the care of ourselves to God by a lively faith, it will not make us careless about ourselves, for God keeps us by his power through faith, by putting his fear into our hearts, and by exciting into activity those beneficial graces. If God keeps his fear alive in our hearts, we shall be powerfully disposed to guard our hearts and tongues, our eyes and feet from evil.
We are here instructed by Solomon in what manner to manage this important affair.
Verse 23."Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." The heart is the fountain of vital action. It is out of the good treasure of the heart, that a good man brings forth good things — and out of the evil treasure of the heart, that the evil man brings forth evil things. No actions can be good unless the heart is good — any more than the fruit can be good, when the tree is corrupt.
The heart of Simon Magus was not right with God, and therefore his professions were hypocrisy. This corrupt fountain must be purified by the Spirit of Christ — or the streams issuing from it will be corrupt and poisonous. But even when purified by renewing grace, it is not altogether pure. Such is the remaining tendency to corruption, that the heart must still be kept with all diligence.
We ought carefully to keep our tongues and hands, our eyes and feet — but above all, we ought to keep our hearts. This will be the best means for keeping all the rest, and without this, however well our external behavior is regulated — we are but corrupt and false-hearted professors of religion.
That our hearts may be kept, we must observe them with a watchful eye, and endeavor to be well acquainted with their leading principles and their inward workings.
It is a shame for one who knows many things, not to know himself; and the chief thing about ourselves to be known is the heart.
With a strong hand must the heart be ruled; and it ought to our constant endeavor to subject to the word of God, our every imagination and reasoning, every opinion and thought, every inclination and affection.
A neglected garden will not be so full of weeds — as a neglected heart will be full of vain thoughts and exorbitant passions, hateful to God, and dangerous to our own happiness and peace.
The heart must also be guarded against those dangers that perpetually threaten our best interests. It is like a besieged city attacked by mighty and cunning enemies, and in danger of being betrayed by a treacherous traitor within.
It is a great encouragement to us in performing this difficult duty, that our labor shall not be in vain. Numerous the promises made to us of assisting grace, and if we suffer from a surprise of the enemy, Christ prays that our faith will not fail.
The tongue is that member of the body which communicates most readily with the heart. For this reason it is to be regarded as its most active instrument, either for good or evil service; therefore, in the next place —
Verse 24."Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips." A twisted mouth is a great deformity to the countenance — and a perverse tongue is a more ugly blemish to the heart. The tongue is a world of iniquity, and needs a world of care to manage it! We must not only refrain from evil discourse — but put it far from us, avoiding every thought and feeling that might set an evil tongue in motion, and refusing to listen to evil speakers, that we may not be tempted by them to spread their corrupting speech. It is a sad thing to think evil, for that corrupts ourselves; but if we have done foolishly in thinking evil — let us lay our hands upon our mouths, lest we corrupt others also.
We must repent bitterly of evil imaginations — but the manifestations of pardoning grace restore complete comfort and calm serenity to the wounded spirit.
But when we have given our tongues a license, whereby others also have been drawn into sin — we must remember that, though pardoning mercy may clear our consciences from the terrors of guilt, deep remorse must still be felt for the irreparable injury done to others. Who can tell how far its baneful influence may have spread?
The commandment of God must also give direction to our eyes.
Verse 25."Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you." Sincere views in the course of our life to the great end of our being, is a necessary part of religion — and without these there is no truth in our religious profession.
The Pharisees abounded in prayers and giving of alms; but the praise of men was in their eye, and our Lord tells us that they had their reward. Their desire was to be seen and honored by men, which they no doubt by their religion obtained — but it was all that they obtained by it.
Jehu thought himself a very zealous man — but he took no heed to walk in the way of the Lord with all his heart; and it is testified of him that he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam all his days. He did many good things — but his eyes looked aside to his honor and profit. All the splendid actions he performed, were but so many splendid sins.
None of us lives to himself, and none dies to himself. The glory of God must be our great aim — otherwise it appears that redeeming grace has not taken effect upon us.
Heaven is in the Christian's eye — and from it his views must never be turned aside to the world. No doubt the enjoyments of the world may be sought by us — but still in subordination to the hope of our heavenly calling. Heaven is our home — and earth is our inn. If the world is our home — we are not strangers and pilgrims here, neither are we citizens of Heaven.
We must not, under the pretense of serving God, make earthly motives our end — otherwise we are guilty of that kind of sacrilege which is of all others the worst — that which consists in alienating God's own service from him. It is not less dishonorable to God, when in our zeal for the accomplishment of good ends, we have recourse to means disapproved by him — for the command of God combined with his glory, must be ever kept in our eye. Our actions must be all ordered in the word of God.
Verse 26, 27."Ponder the path of your feet, and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." Consideration is one of those things in which man excels the irrational animals, and it is absolutely necessary in the religious life. If we do not think like men, we never please him, who made us wiser than the beasts of the earth! If we do not walk wisely — we can with no propriety be numbered among the wise. Our actions will be weighed by God in an even balance at last, and it is necessary for us to weigh them now in the same balance.
As we ought to compare our past actions with the word of God, in order to know what occasion there is for repentance. So in like manner those actions which we design to perform, that we may know whether it is lawful to perform them or not. This is necessary for the direction and establishment our ways. Those who do not ponder their paths are like a waves of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed hither and thither. But in the hearts of such as receive and apply it to the cleansing of their way — the word of God has an establishing efficacy.
Our ways ought to be stable and consistent. It is disgraceful for men to have their religion modeled and varied by their company and circumstances of life. Let us resemble, not the flexible willow — but the stout oak. Our goodness, if like the morning cloud, is no goodness at all, for the path of the just is as the morning sun. To be unsteadfast in God's covenant, is to be treacherous to God.
The truly righteous man is faithful unto death. His frames of mind may vary, and his steps may sometimes be seduced from the straight way — but the Spirit of God will restore his soul, and make him again to walk in the paths of righteousness.
David slipped with his feet, and he once turned aside — yet he could say in truth that he had not wickedly departed from his God. He finished his course with joy, and received the crown of life.
It is dangerous to turn either to the left hand or the right from the way of God's commandments. On each side of the King's highway are those crooked paths, which are full of precipices and pitfalls.
Men may be destroyed by being over-righteous, as well as by being wicked overmuch. The Pharisees in the days of Christ's flesh, sinned as much by adding to God's law as by taking from it. To add to God's precepts, is a reflection upon the wisdom of the Lawgiver. To violate them, is an insult upon his authority.
It commonly happens, that when men have the presumption to make some new articles of religion, they make compensation to themselves for their additional restraints on their liberty, by straitening the law of God in some other points — and thus make it on the whole much easier to flesh and blood, than it was made by God.
Our foot must be removed from all evil. Sin must not be indulged in thought, word, or action. No degree of this abominable thing is to be allowed in our practice.
Saints have fallen into some of the greatest sins — but is inconsistent with holiness to take liberty in the least sin. Even the garment spotted by the flesh must be hated by us.
From this whole directory, we may see our need of pardoning mercy; for which of us can say, "We have made our hands clean, or kept our tongues from every evil thing?" But the blood of Jesus is a fountain opened to cleanse from all sin. Without renewing grace, our labor in guarding our hearts, and restraining our tongues and feet from evil, will be as vain as to attempt washing an Ethiopian white. The old heart cannot be reformed — but God has promised to give us a new heart, and to put a new spirit within us. With our vigilance — faith and prayer must be joined.