The Essence of Life - Charles Bridges Post Log to Proverbs

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Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
A good Lord, His Day morning to you,

This morning I completed Bridges' commentary on the Book of Proverbs. And what a study it was. Then, to my surprise, I found the post log at the end. The title, "The Essence of Life," is mine. Bridges calls it simply, "[A] brief summary of a few prominent points involved in the study of this most instructive Book."

It's a little long for a post, and not all of you will read it. But for some, it just might be the heart encouraging word you need for today--and the rest of your life. It reminds me of the next to last verse in Ecclesiastes.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Ed Walsh

We would conclude with a brief summary of a few prominent points involved in the study of this most instructive Book.

Let us observe the connection between inward principle and outward conduct.
Never let it be forgotten, that the exercises, here described or inculcated, suppose an internal source. It is the light within, that shines without. The hidden life is thus manifested. The fountain sendeth forth its wholesome waters. The good tree bringeth forth good fruit. “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things.”[1] These therefore are the manifestations, not the innate principles. They flow from the cultivation of the source within. Nothing permanent is produced by change of opinion, excitement of feeling, conviction of conscience, but by a new mould of the heart. The “soft answer”[2] is the outward exhibition of the softened and humbled heart. The religion of sincere purposes, however promising, withers away, “having no root in itself.”[3] The ways and fashions of the world therefore rule with a far mightier power, than the dictates of God’s word, or the voice of conscience. The external apprehensions of the Christian system also are powerless without the internal principle. They exhibit a body of truth indeed, but a body without life, without any spring of influence or consolation. Religion grounded in the heart will regulate the outward conduct, and put every thing in its proper place and proportion.

Let us mark also the flow of true happiness throughout the whole sphere of godliness.
Often has the wise man painted this connection in the most glowing interest.[4] Most important is it to leave this impression upon the minds of all—specially of our young—readers—that religion is a joyous thing. With the world it is a matter to be endured, not to be enjoyed. The Pharisaic professor conceives of much to be done, but nothing to be enjoyed. With him it is a serious and most weighty concern. But no gleam of sunshine has he ever found in it. The man of pleasure has no conception of religion, except as the atmosphere of gloom—as absurd as to speak of the darkness of noon-day. But notwithstanding all these misconceptions, no reality is more undoubted than this—Holiness is happiness. It is not indeed the mirth of the fool, or the giddy gaiety of the thoughtless. But it is the only thing, that deserves the name of happiness—the only solid—permanent principle of enjoyment. The unenlightened mind associates it with restraint, never with freedom or confidence. But in fact actions that are valued according to their conformity with the will of God, though they be secular in their character, are a part of his service, and ensure his acceptance. Taking up this right standard, we shall be able to resist our ruling passion. We shall occupy no doubtful position. We shall adopt no questionable course. We shall not lend the influence of our character to the spirit of this world. We shall feel, that we have only one object—only one obligation—to maintain the honor of our God. And yet this yoke of strict discipline is our happiness, not our burden. It is linked with a foretaste of heavenly happiness, of which none of us have an adequate conception. Speculative religion is indeed dry and barren. Practical godliness is rich in its delights.[5] And while the defect of earthly joy is, that it comes to an end; the perfection of this happiness is, that it will endure throughout eternity. Truly we have far more reason for joy than for mourning, and we are hasting onward to the home, where “the days of our mourning will be ended”[6] for ever.

It is of great moment to remark the wise man’s estimate of real good.
Every particle of the chief good he centres in God. To find him is life.[7] To fear him is wisdom.[8] To trust him is happiness.[9] To love him is substantial treasure.[10] To neglect him is certain ruin.[11] Now man is naturally an idolater. Himself is his centre, his object, his end. Instead of submitting to guidance, he guides himself. He disputes the sovereignty with God. He would amend the laws of the Great Lawgiver. Need we add—“This his way is his folly?”[12] What then is the true good? “Acquaint thyself with God, and be at peace.”[13] Not real, but known excellence quickens the desire. Our known God will be our portion.[14] He will claim our entire service.[15] He will show himself to us as our chief good—a privilege worth ten thousand worlds to know—a satisfying portion for eternity.

Let us study Christian completeness and consistency.
The elements of this character will be brought out by a diligent and prayerful study of this important Book. Let them be put together in their due connection and proportion; and “the man of God will be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”[16] We want religion to be to the soul, what the soul is to the body—the animating principle. The soul operates in every member. It sees in the eye, hears in the ear, speaks in the tongue, animates the whole body, with ease and uniformity, without ostentation or effort. Thus should religion direct, and regulate every thought, word, and act. In this day of light and knowledge, ignorance of our duty too often implies neglect of the means of instruction, and therefore is our aggravation, rather than our excuse. The grand object is, that the conscience be intelligently instructed under Divine teaching. Then let the daily course be carefully regulated by it. Never turn aside a single step from its guidance. Never admit the maxims or habits of this world. Guard against every thing, that damps vital spirituality, lowers the high Scriptural standard, or slackens the energy of unremitting Christian watchfulness. Let our path be steadily balanced between compromising concession and needless singularity. Let the Christian only walk with God in the way of the Gospel. He will never be satisfied with appearing to maintain his ground. But he will acknowledge the wisdom of the discipline, which allows him no enjoyment at the present moment, except in grasping at something beyond him.[17] We want not a profession, that will give us a name in the Church, or even a stamp of reproach in the world; but which places the Divine image before our eyes, and animates us to a growing conformity to our standard.[18] The conscience thus enlightened, and the heart readily following its voice—the sins that carry less reproach with the world will be resisted not less, than those which are more revolting. We shall no more indulge an uncharitable spirit than a course of profligacy. An angry tone, lowering look, sharp retort, or disparaging word, will cause grief to the conscience, and will be visited by its rebuke, as severely, as those gross ebullitions, which disgrace our character before men. “Walking thus before God”—not before men—is Christian perfection.”[19] His eye is our restraint—his judgment our rule—his will our delight.

But “Who is sufficient?”
Child of God! let the trembling of insufficiency in thyself be stayed by the recollection of all-sufficiency in thy God.[20] What he demands of thee, that he works in thee. His covenant secures thy holiness, no less than thine acceptance—thine holiness—not as some would have it, as the ground—but as the fruit—of thine acceptance. Let the one then be primarily sought; and the other will assuredly follow.

“I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.… for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more.”[21]

the end.
1 Matt. 12:33, 34.
2 Prov. 15:1.
3 Matt. 13:5, 6, 20, 21.
4 Prov. 3:13–18; 4:4–13; 8:17–21, 32–36.
5 See Ps. 19:11; 119:14, 127, Isa. 32:17, James 1:25.
6 Isa. 60:20.
7 Prov. 8:35.
8 Prov. 1:7.
9 Prov. 16:20.
10 Prov. 8:18–21.
11 I Prov. 8:36.
12 Ps. 49:13.
13 Job 22:21.
14 Ps. 16:5, Lam. 3:24.
15 Ps. 45:11, Matt. 22:37.
16 2 Tim. 3:17.
17 See Phil 3:12–14.
18 Matt. 5:48.
19 Gen. 17:1.
22 Comp. 2 Cor. 2:16, with 2 Cor. 3:5; also 2 Cor. 12:9.
12 Jer. 31:33, 34. Comp. Ez. 36:26, 27.
Bridges, C. (1865). An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs (pp. 533–536). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.
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