Here is, I. An enumeration of four things which are majestic and stately in their going, which look great:—1. A lion, the king of beasts, because strongest among beasts. Among beasts it is strength that gives the pre-eminence, but it is a pity that it should do so among men, whose wisdom is their honour, not their strength and force. The lion turns not away, nor alters his pace, for fear of any pursuers, since he knows he is too hard for them. Herein the righteous are bold as a lion, that they turn not away from their duty for fear of any difficulty they meet with in it. 2. A greyhound that is girt in the loins and fit for running; or (as the margin reads it) a horse, which ought not to be omitted among the creatures that are comely in going, for so he is, especially when he is dressed up in his harness or trappings. 3. A he-goat, the comeliness of whose going is when he goes first and leads the flock. It is the comeliness of a Christian’s going to go first in a good work and to lead others in the right way. 4. A king, who, when he appears in his majesty, is looked upon with reverence and awe, and all agree that there is no rising up against him; none can vie with him, none can contend with him, whoever does it, it is at his peril. And, if there is no rising up against an earthly prince, woe to him then that strives with his Maker. It is intended that we should learn courage and fortitude in all virtuous actions from the lion and not to turn away for any difficulty we meet with; from the greyhound we may learn quickness and despatch, from the he-goat the care of our family and those under our charge, and from a king to have our children in subjection with all gravity, and from them all to go well, and to order the steps of our conversation so as that we may not only be safe, but comely, in going.
II. A caution to us to keep our temper at all times and under all provocations, and to take heed of carrying our resentments too far upon any occasion, especially when there is a king in the case, against whom there is no rising up, when it is a ruler, or one much our superior, that is offended; nay, the rule is always the same.
1. We must bridle and suppress our own passion, and take shame to ourselves, whenever we are justly charged with a fault, and not insist upon our own innocency: If we have lifted up ourselves, either in a proud conceit of ourselves or a peevish opposition to those that are over us, if we have transgressed the laws of our place and station, we have therein done foolishly. Those that magnify themselves over others or against others, that are haughty and insolent, do but shame themselves and betray their own weakness. Nay, if we have but thought evil, if we are conscious to ourselves that we have harboured an ill design in our minds, or it has been suggested to us, we must lay our hand upon our mouth, that is, (1.) We must humble ourselves for what we have done amiss, and even lie in the dust before God, in sorrow for it, as Job did, when he repented of what he had said foolishly (Job 40:4; I will lay my hand upon my mouth), and as the convicted leper, who put a covering upon his upper lip. If we have done foolishly, we must not stand to it before men, but by silence own our guilt, which will be the best way of appeasing those we have offended. 2. We must keep the evil thought we have conceived in our minds from breaking out in any evil speeches. Do not give the evil thought an imprimatur—a license; allow it not to be published; but lay thy hand upon thy mouth; use a holy violence with thyself, if need be, and enjoin thyself silence; as Christ suffered not the evil spirits to speak. It is bad to think ill, but it is much worse to speak it, for that implies a consent to the evil thought and a willingness to infect others with it.
2. We must not irritate the passions of others. Some are so very provoking in their words and conduct that they even force wrath, they make those about them angry whether they will or no, and put those into a passion who are not only not inclined to it, but resolved against it. Now this forcing of wrath brings forth strife, and where that is there is confusion and every evil work. As the violent agitation of the cream fetches all the good out of the milk, and the hard wringing of the nose will extort blood from it, so this forcing of wrath wastes both the body and spirits of a man, and robs him of all the good that is in him. Or, as it is in the churning of milk and the wringing of the nose, that is done by force which otherwise would not be done, so the spirit is heated by degrees with strong passions; one angry word begets another, and that a third; one passionate debate makes work for another, and so it goes on till it ends at length in irreconcilable feuds. Let nothing therefore be said or done with violence, but every thing with softness and calmness.