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AIDS TO THE DEVELOPMENT
REV. J. BALDWIN BROWN, B.A.
“ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end
of that man is peace.”—Psalm xxxvii, 37. The end of what-of the man himself, or of his discipline, his groanings, watchings, weepings, sufferings, sicknesses, and death? I do not think that David would have troubled himself to ask whether a man's end were a stormy or a peaceful one if it was the final end of him. What matters a gasp, a pang, a throb, more or less, if the final end, the oblivious darkness, is so near? We are wont sometimes to think and speak lightly of the thoughts which these men had of immortality. There are many illustrious proofs in the Old Testament Scripture that some of them, at any rate, had a firm and realising grasp of it. Hezekiah's song must not be taken as the gauge of the view which such men as Abrabam, Moses, David, and Isaiah, were able to take of death and the immortality beyond. And to me it is one of the very grandest proofs of their faith in the great truth which was brought out into the clear daylight by the gospel, that they were able to speak of it as the crown of
a godly life that the end of it is peace. Who cares what the end is, if it is to be extinguished at once and for ever? Who ever cared to chronicle the dying experience of the brute ? Whether it dropped
“As an eagle on the plain Drops, when the life deserts her brain,
And the mortal lightning is veiled again;" or pined away through long, wasting sickness; or agonised for a few moments under the butcher's knife-who cares to write its history? It is but a few moments, more or less, be it of the worst agony that a creature can endure, and then it is over, and there is the long rest of annihilation to balance the account. Let us be sure that if the great ones of old could exult in the thought that the end of an upright man was peace, it was because they knew that that end was but a beginningthat the peace was prophetic—that the men who had thus ended their course with joy had reached the shore of the great ocean, calm, sunlit, infinite, over which lay their life course of eternity, whose waves broke softly and lovingly at their feet. It was a man who, from some mountain summit to which his believing soul had climbed, could strain bis gaze far over that broad and placid ocean of eternity, and who had lost for a moment the sight and the sound of the moaning and rushing life-river at his feet, who wrote these words :—“ I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not : yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright : for the end of that man is peace.” (Psalm xxxvii, 35-37.)
There would not be much in his spirit in tune with Hezekiah’s moan-the cry of a weak man in a degenerate age-when he had come forth from the pear vision of death. We are
much too prone to take such words as his as the key to the thoughts of the wise and the great of old about eternity instead of the glorious inspiring words of David :-“ I have set the Lord always before me : because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth : my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell ; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm xvi, 8, 11.) “ From men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure : they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Psalm xvii, 14, 15.) Or the still deeper and more solemn utterance of Job, which struggles out of a sorely tried and, but for that hope, a desperate heart :-“ O that my words ,
0 were now written! oh that they were printed in a book ! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth : and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God : whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another ; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job xix, 23—27.) And, now, brethren, “ mark the perfect man, and
. behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."
I. The character here presented for our study. II. What is prophesied of his end.
I. The character here presented :-" The perfect and upright
And this is in a book which declares that in " many things we offend, and in all come short of the glory of God.” “ That there is none good but one, that is God.” - That there is none that doeth righteousness ; no, not one.”
It is an interesting and important question, what is the Bible definition of human perfectness ? What does the book mean when it speaks of a man as perfect and upright, while, on the other hand, it contains, and not sparingly, such passages as these? Do the words “ All have sinned” admit of limitations ? Does the Bible use these words vaguely and generally, allowing of certain exceptions from the universal charge ? Does it allow that there are those on earth who are absolutely free from the taint of imperfection, in whom the evil one finds nothing by which he can lay hold of them and lead them into sin, while the great mass of their fellow-creatures round them are the confessed children of darkness and of the devil, on the way rapidly to their own place? Do we, as matter of fact, find these broad, absolute distinctions among men—a sinless class, palpably pure; a sinful class, palpably impure; sons of God and children of the devil, to be distinguished as clearly at a glance as midnight and noon?
I answer, in the first place,
1. That the Scriptural term, “ the perfect man,” whatever it may import, does not set before us, at any rate, the model man of the imagination, as portrayed in fiction and song. The man of angelic qualities, who moves among his weak and sinful fellows as Una among the “salvage folk," as Arthur amid the intrigues and corruption of his realm, or as the angels among the reprobates of Sodom, or the Lord among the publicans and sinners of the world. Alas! for us, friends, if the only man whose end is peace be the man of ideal loftiness, purity, and nobleness; whose transparent soul is stained by no tinge of
evil, whose life is all lustrous with the radiance of benignity, virtue, holiness, and truth. The world holds not these model One it had, and one alone. We
dream of them, but we find them not around us here. The perfect man of the Psalmist was not a man shut off from us by a gulf over which we have no hope of passing ; no angelic spirit dwelling serenely on eminent heights of holy meditation while we are left to struggle, suffer, and alas ! sometimes grovel in the dust and darkness of this lower world.
2. The proofs of this are abundant in the Bible. Not one of its holy ones is a “model man.” There is not one of them who did not prove by some great lapse his exposure to the temptations and experience of the sins which make up so much of the history of our lives. It will be enough to point to Job, David, and Peter as exemplars. Whatever be the definition of "the perfect and upright man," at any rate it must include these. The Lord bore witness to them that they were men whom he approved and loved. Of Job it was testified that he was perfect and an upright man," in the most explicit terms; of David, that he was “a man after God's own heart;" while Peter occupied the position of eminent honour under the new dispensation, and was marked by the special confidence of the great Head of the Church. And yet there are few passages in literature so terrible as the chapter in which Job curses his day, and dooms it to oblivion in a perfect frenzy of despair, hurling in the sharpness of his agony furious and almost atheistic defiances at God. Let any one read carefully the third chapter in the book of Job, and the earlier portion of the nineteenth, if he would understand the depths of unbelief and despair into which one named "perfect and upright" by God's own lips may fall. David at one dark moment became one of the world's chief sinners, as he was surely also one of the world's chief saints ;