June 3.—Morning. [Or November 3.]
“In the day of adversity, consider.”
A GOOD name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. (After all, there is something even among men worth the having; something which may well justify the choice of the righteous in walking in his integrity. To be enrolled among the martyrs and confessors, or among the humbler saints, is no mean blessing; he whose memory lives after him, in fresh aroma of holiness and benevolence has not lived in vain. To such men the day of death is the laying of the top stone of their character, and its shoutings are more joyous than those which celebrated the fixing of the foundations.)
2 ¶ It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Experience has proved to all wise men that the solid lessons which they gather in the house of mourning are more valuable, more sustaining, more consoling, and so in the end more fruitful of joy, than the frivolities which merely mask the sadness of the heart, and pass away as in a moment, leaving deeper wretchedness behind them, like the black spots which show where once thorns blazed their little moment.)
5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
7 ¶ Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad; and a gift (or rather a bribe) destroyeth the heart. (By perverting the judgment and killing the conscience.)
8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. (The best man feels the occasional flash of anger, but bad men feed the flame; their wrath smoulders long, and is ready to burst forth whenever the breath of memory fans it. To be “angry and sin not” is a hard matter. May God grant us grace to rule our temper, or it will be our ruin.)
10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.
Those who cry up the good old times should remember that time was never older than it is now, and it is a great question if things were ever better than at this present moment. Let us leave off idle complaints, and try to make our times better, and wherein we cannot alter them, let us leave them to God.
11 ¶ Wisdom is good with an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. (Men who have an inheritance and no wisdom are in a sad position, for they have great responsibilities, but no grace to meet them; the truest profit is true religion. He is the richest man who has God for his inheritance.)
12 For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.
Understand by wisdom, the true wisdom, namely vital godliness, and the meaning of Solomon is clear. There is no real life apart from faith in the Lord Jesus; faith is a defence for our life, as well as the great means of life.
13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.
Trials there must be. This side of heaven there must be thorns with the roses, and clouds with the sunshine. It is our wisdom to act rightly under all circumstances; to bless the Lord when his mercies overflow, and to turn to him penitently when he smites us with the rod. The Lord does not intend that his birds of Paradise should build their nests, on any of the trees of this life’s forest, therefore he sends his roughest winds to rock the branches to and fro, that his chosen may take wing and fly aloft to the heavenly land, where upon the tree of life they may sing for ever, and never more be disturbed.
June 3.—Evening. [Or November 4.]
“Perverse lips put far from thee.”
DEAD flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.
No matter though the vase be alabaster, and the perfume the most delicate, dead flies would destroy the precious nard, and even so minor faults will spoil a fine character. Rudeness, irritability, levity, parsimony, egotism, and a thousand other injurious flies have often turned the exquisite perfume of a Christian’s life into a pestilent odour to those who were around him. Let us pray for grace to avoid the smaller errors, lest they do us and the gospel serious harm. When a thing is really good it is a pity to spoil it by a small neglect. By little things men are made or ruined as to their influence. Be it ours to watch against the little flies.
2 A wise man’s heart is at his right hand; but a fool’s heart at his left. (The wise man is practical, and finds a right hand with which to carry out the desires of his soul: the foolish man is left-handed for all that is good, and while he may purpose and plan a right thing, he fails to carry it out, or does it in a left-handed manner.)
3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.
4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.
5, 6, 7 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth. (Kings are not always wise in the distribution of honours, and thus it happens that the best men often have the pain of seeing inferior persons thrust over their heads. Moreover, by the events of providence, the least worthy men are often thrown up into position and influence, while persons of character and grace are left to pine in the cold shade of poverty and neglect. So has the Lord ordained it, and the Lord has wise ends to answer by it, therefore let us cheerfully submit. Let us neither envy nor flatter the great, nor be discontented at our own condition. Wrongs will be righted by-and-bye: and God’s people can afford to wait. Meanwhile it is better to be in the lowest condition, and enjoy the love of God, than to sit among princes, and live without our Father’s presence.)
8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him. (Never set traps for others, or violate salutary laws, for evil will come of it.)
9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. (In all labour there is some risk; and hence it is well to commend ourselves to the Lord’s keeping every day, however free from peril our work may be.)
10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct. (Knowledge is power: a little common sense will save much toil. It is well to have our wits about us. Christian people should never be stupid: let us sharpen our axes).
11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.
12, 13 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.
14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him? (Still waters run deep, but the babbling brook is shallow. Great talkers are usually little doers. Men of many words are seldom men of great deeds. It is little that we know, and therefore if we talk much we shall most probably enter upon subjects which we do not understand, and so reveal our folly. An ignorant man, if he be quiet, may pass for wise; but a talkative person advertises his own want of wit. A still tongue shows a wise head. We seldom get into trouble by silence; but noisy tongues often bring grief to their owners. Our speech should be seasoned with the salt of grace, and be good for the use of edifying; but this is frequently forgotten, and men talk as if their tongues were their own, forgetting that God will bring them into judgment for every idle word they speak. O Lord, keep thou our lips, that we sin not against thee.)