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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 14

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verse 1

WE have seen the wife to be a blessing or a curse to her husband. (Proverbs 12:4 .) Such is she to his house. Her wisdom may supply many of his defects; while all the results of his care and prudence may be wasted by her folly. The godly matron is the very soul of the house. She instructs her children by her example, no less than by her teaching. She educates them for God and for eternity; not to shine in the vain show of the world, but in the Church of God. Her household order combines economy with liberality (Proverbs 31:13, Proverbs 31:18-27 ); strict integrity in the fear of God. (Proverbs 31:30 .) Thus, as godly servants bring a blessing to the house (Genesis 30:27 ; Genesis 39:5 ) so does the wise woman build her house (Proverbs 24:3 ) under the blessing of God, ’establishing it in a firm and durable state.’†1 Who can estimate the worth of a Christian mother — a Hannah†2 — an Eunice?†3

But mark the foolish woman — her idleness, waste, love of pleasure, want of all forethought and care, her children’s wills allowed, their souls neglected, their happiness ruined! We see her house plucked down in confusion. A sad issue, if an enemy had done this! But it is the doing, or rather the undoing, of her own hands. In proportion to her power and influence is her capability of family mischief. Such was Jezebel, the destroyer of her house.†4

What responsibility then belongs to the marriage choice, linked with the highest interests of unborn generations! If ever there was a matter for special prayer and consideration, this is it. Here to err once, may be an undoing of ourselves and of our house. Of how little account are birth, fortune, external accomplishments, compared with godly wisdom!†5

Footnotes:

†1 Diodati.

†2 1 Samuel 1:27-28 .

†3 2 Timothy 1:5 ; 2 Timothy 3:15 .

†4 1 Kings 16:31-33 ; 1 Kings 21:24-25 . Compare 2 Kings 11:1 .

†5 Mr. Scott here aptly quotes the proverb — that ’a fortune in a wife is better than a fortune with a wife.’ ’For the building of a house three things are principally necessary; first, a holy coming together; secondly, a special fitness in the head of the family; and lastly, a holy living together. As many order the matter, they so provoke God by the first entering upon a family, that the family travels ever after under the burden of God’s anger.’ — Byfield on Colossians 3:18 .

Verse 2

There can be no stream without the fountain. Grace in the heart is the spring of the upright walk. (Proverbs 4:23 . Matthew 12:33-35 .) The proof that we believe the reality of religion, is that we walk in the power of it. The proof of the influence of the fear of God is, that we "are in it all the day long" (Proverbs 23:17 ); not saints in our prayers, and worldlings in our conduct; not substituting active zeal for personal devotedness; not teaching our families half of religion, to read and pray; but "whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, to think on these things." (Philippians 4:8 .) Man may boast of his moral uprightness, that he would scorn a mean action. But the heart-searching Savior lays open the root of worldly selfishness, and shews his way to be perverse before him. (Luke 16:14-15 .) Does he remember, or does he know, while he slumbers in the delusion of external decency, that the allowed supremacy of any earthly object (1 Samuel 2:29-30 ), or the indulgence of a secret lust (2 Samuel 12:9-10 ), brings him under the fearful guilt of despising God?

Verse 3

How many figures does the wise man employ to shew the destructive evils of the tongue! Here it is a rod Ezekiel 7:10-11 ), a rod of pride. The rod in the mouth is often sharper than the rod in the hand. (Jeremiah 18:18 .) Sometimes it strikes against God (Exodus 5:2 . Psalms 12:3-4 . 2 Kings 19:10 ); sometimes it is "the rod of his anger" (Isaiah 10:5 ) against his people; permitted (Revelation 13:5 ), yet restrained. (Psalms 125:3 .) Always in the end is it the rod for the fool himself. (Psalms 64:8 .) Yet when the heart is humbled, and filled with wisdom, the tongue becomes the preservative from imminent dangers (Proverbs 12:6 ), even from the threatened scourge of the rod of pride. (Job 5:21 . Psalms 31:20 .)

Were this iron rod to rule the earth, who could tolerate the abodes of men? (Psalms 57:4 ; Psalms 120:5 .) But adored be the grace, which converts this unruly boasting member of unrighteousness, to be "an instrument of righteousness unto God!" (Romans 6:13 .)

Verse 4

Oxen are used in husbandry. (Deuteronomy 25:4 . 1 Kings 19:19 .) Where, therefore, no oxen are, to till the ground, the crib is clean. (Amos 4:6 .) Because, where is no labour, there can be no food wherewith to supply it. God works by means, not by miracles. There must be good husbandry, in order to an abundant harvest. Let the ox be put to his work, and much increase will be by his strength. (Psalms 144:14 .) In the spiritual husbandry, where there are no labourers, all is barrenness and desolation. But see the much increase — the harvest of precious souls — the fruit of their strength and effectiveness.† "In all labour," both in the natural and spiritual husbandry, "there is profit." (Proverbs 14:23 .) But God will never acknowledge a slothful servant.

Footnotes:

†1 1 Corinthians 3:9 ; 1 Corinthians 9:9-10 . 1 Timothy 5:18, and the image of the Minister, Revelation 4:7, seem to warrant this application of the proverb.

Verse 5

This might seem to be a truism, unworthy of inspiration. But a closer inspection brings out a valuable maxim of practical wisdom. A faithful witness is moved neither by entreaties nor bribes, neither by promises nor threats, to swerve from truth. He is the man to trust. He will not lie. But a false witness has lost all principle of truth. He will utter lies, without any inducement but his own interest or pleasure. Flee from his very breath. (Proverbs 25:19 .)

The faithful witness answers God’s requirements. (Psalms 51:6 .) He is therefore his delight. (John 1:47 .) He is the citizen of the heavenly Zion (Psalms 15:2 ; Isaiah 33:15 ), and the ornament of godliness. (Philippians 4:8 .) In the Sacred Office he will not lie. His spirit is firm and independent. His message is full and transparent truth. (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 .) But the false witness is a true child of "the father of lies." (John 8:44 . 1 Kings 21:13 .) Awful indeed is his utterance in common life (Proverbs 25:18 ); more awful in the profession of the gospel (Acts 5:1-4 ); awful beyond conception in the Sanctuary. (Jeremiah 5:31 .) A minister of God in his commission! a minister of Satan in his work! (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ) delivering a lying message; "subverting the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:7 ), to the destruction of his people, to the double destruction of his own soul.

Thus "the good and the corrupt tree," each brings forth its own fruit. (Matthew 7:17-18 .) Let us remember, that our principles, good and evil, are exemplified in the most trivial transactions, and gather strength from the slightest, as well as from the most important, exercise. (Luke 16:10 .)

Verse 6

What then? — Is the promise belied — "He that seeketh findeth"?†1 The failure lies at the scorner’s own door. He seeks indeed, but without seriousness;†2 without honesty of purpose;†3 without delight;†4 solely for his own interest.†5 He ’finds therefore matter enough for his humour, but none for his instruction!’†6 He charges the darkness upon the Scripture, not — where it really belongs — to his own heart. He feels himself able to comprehend the subject, and therefore free to reject what is beyond his conception, or contrary to his prejudices. He scorns the humbling submission of faith, so that the glory even of the wisdom of God is foolishness with him. (Romans 9:31-32 ; Romans 10:3 .) No wonder that, while he makes an effort to seek, he findeth not. (Proverbs 24:7 . 2 Timothy 3:7 .) He seeks his object, but neglects the means, and perishes in the scornfulness of his own unbelief. (1 Corinthians 3:19 .)

To another class of seekers, knowledge is easy. (Proverbs 8:9 .) The Ethiopian Eunuch gathered his knowledge from simplicity. (Acts 8:31 .) God gave him a ready will, a right taste; and in "doing his will he knew his doctrine." (John 7:17 .) Obedience is the path of understanding. "Whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:4 .)

Shall not we thus unite with our Divine Master in adoring the gracious Sovereignty of this dispensation? — "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." (Matthew 11:25 .) Shall not we seek for deeper humility, as the pathway to higher instruction? While we "are in our Father’s hands" as the object of his love, think of the privilege of "sitting down at his feet, every one to receive of his words." (Deuteronomy 33:3 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Matthew 7:7-8. Isaiah 45:19 .

†2 John 18:38.

†3 Jeremiah 42:1-3; Jeremiah 43:1-4 . Ezekiel 14:1-4 ; Ezekiel 20:1-3 . Matthew 22:15-16 .

†4 Proverbs 17:16; Proverbs 18:2 .

†5 Acts 8:18-23.

†6 Lord Bacon, quoted by Bishop Patrick.

Verse 7

Fellowship with the ungodly is absolutely forbidden, and it is never safe to contradict a plain command. (Proverbs 9:6 . 2 Corinthians 6:17 .) Let us labour to win their souls to Christ. But the rule of prudence directs — "Cast not your pearls before swine." ’Avoid’ — says the holy Leighton — ’the mixture of an irreverent commonness of speaking of holy things indifferently in all companies.’†1 Therefore when we perceive not in the foolish man the lips of knowledge, go from his presence. Some may be called to dispute with him. But take care that the call is clear. It is at least the safest path to dispatch your business with him as in a shower of rain, and not to loiter in his society.

Sweet indeed is the glow of the Savior’s name upon the young Christian’s lips. Its warmth may put elder Christians to shame. But we must warn him — Harm may be got in an imprudent endeavour to do good. Confess your Master, wherever he may open your door and your mouth. But better retreat from cavillers. (Proverbs 26:4 . 1 Timothy 6:4-5 .) You may be foiled by specious reasonings. Beware of tampering with your simplicity by the hazardous experiment, how much poison your constitution may bear. (1 Corinthians 15:33 .) If our Lord exposed himself to moral danger; yet think of the impenetrable cover of his sanctity, his perfect self-government, his rules of godly prudence. Do we feel secure in the strength of our Christian habits? None are so confirmed, as to be safe in relaxation of watchfulness, and wanton rushing into danger. There is a perpetual warfare with the old principles of corruption. No dependence can be placed upon any habits, that do not produce right conduct, and right apprehension of present duty. The path of sin is much more easily avoided than relinquished. We can far more readily keep out of the course of the stream, than stem the torrent. Walk closely with God; and under his cover and shield bear a protest against the ungodly. (Psalms 119:114-115 .) Commune much with his people. The very sight of a man of God is refreshing. (Proverbs 27:9 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Matthew 7:6. Leighton in loco, vol. iii.

Verse 8

This is not the wisdom of the learned, but of the prudent; not abstract and speculative, but sound and practical. It is self-knowledge and self-control looking upward for Divine guidance. And how much is this wisdom needed to understand our way! The restless professor eagerly follows his own impulse. His constitutional bias interprets Providences, and makes openings for himself. Everything is out of place. He is so "fervent in spirit," that he becomes "slothful in business." He conceives himself to be doing good; the more so, because it is different from his brethren. He pleads the constraint of zeal as an excuse for indiscretion; as if religion was meant to destroy, and not rather to rectify, his judgment.

But "God hath made everything beautiful in his time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11 .) Religion is an orderly thing, as wise as it is warm. Whatever be the excitement to an irregular course, more good is done in steady consistency. To break the ranks in disorder; to "busy ourselves in other men’s matters" (1 Peter 4:15 . 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 ); to be eager to understand our neighbour’s way (John 21:21-22 ), obscures the light upon our own. The true wisdom is to understand what belongs to us personally and relatively. (1 Kings 3:6-9 . Ecclesiastes 8:5 .) "As God hath distributed to every man, so let him walk, and abide with God." (1 Corinthians 7:17 ) Let the eye do the work of the eye, and the hand of the hand. If Moses prayed on the Mount, and Joshua fought in the valley (Exodus 17:10-11 ), it was not because the one was deficient in courage, or the other in prayer; but because each had his appointed work, and understood his own way. Many steps of our way are different from our neighbour’s, and may often be difficult to discern; being rather involved in the principles, than expressed in the detail, of Scripture. But the wisdom of the prudent will "understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:17 . Colossians 1:9-10 .) "A single eye" and a sound heart will make our way plain. (Matthew 6:22 .)

But while the attention of a truly wise man is occupied in understanding his way; ’the arts of deceit engross the polluted minds of the wicked.’†1 Their wisdom of deceit is really folly. Gehazi’s overreaching wisdom proved folly in the end. Daniel’s accusers "were taken in their craftiness." (Daniel 6:24 . 1 Corinthians 3:19 .) Ananias and Sapphira vainly endeavoured to hide their covetousness under the cover of liberality. (Acts 5:1-10 .) Who can deceive a heart-searching God? The attempt to do so is fearful provocation, certain confusion.

Footnotes:

†1 French and Skinner’s Translation of Proverbs.

Verse 9

What ! Are there such, as will count sin a sport? They have never seen the sight, never felt the weight. Look into eternity. It is thought a grave matter in heaven. It is felt so in hell. Why should it be made a mockery on earth? ’It brought death into the world, and all our woe.’†1 And is this a worthy matter of jest? How does God feel it?†2 Go to Gethsemane. Go to Calvary. Learn there what sin is. Shall we make a mock at that, which was a crushing burden to the Son of God?†3 Ask converted souls, awakened consciences, dying sinners — do they speak lightly of sin? How will the wretched mocker call himself in eternity what God calls him now — a fool! The mocking cannot be beyond the grave; except it be the sport of the cruel enemy at the unchangeably hopeless torments of his deluded victim. The damnation of souls is sport in hell. Is not then the poor mocker, rushing into this woe, the object of our pity and prayer? We warn, we weep, we would yearn over him.

The righteous cannot mock, like this hardened fool. While ’he makes himself merry with his sin, and scoffs at the reproof and judgment which pertains thereunto;’†4 "they have the mark of those that sigh and cry for the abominations of the land" — the sure seal of the Lord’s favour.†5 Soon does the sport of the fool come to an end. Here is favour abundant and unchangeable. Our God looks over, pities, bears with, guides, loves, saves, eternally. What are crowns and kingdoms compared with such a portion!

Footnotes:

†1 Milton.

†2 Isaiah 43:24. Jeremiah 44:4 . Ezekiel 6:9 . Amos 2:13 .

†3 Matthew 26:37-38. Matthew 27:46 .

†4 Bishop Hall.

†5 Ezekiel 9:4-6. 2 Kings 22:19-20 . Daniel 9:4-21 . See the contrast set out by God himself. Isaiah 66:2-5 .

Verse 10

A graphical illustration of man’s proper individuality! "What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man that is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11 .) The history of the soul is only fully known and felt by the conscious subject. Each knoweth his own bitterness, deep, interior.†1 The most poignant sufferings often arise from causes, which cannot be told to our dearest friend.†2 No two of us are framed alike; and this diversity of mind and character precludes a perfect reciprocity even in the warmest glow of human sympathy. Each only knows where the heart is wrung. Each therefore must in a measure tread a solitary path, and in that path often submit to be misunderstood. Hannah, knowing her own bitterness, was rashly rebuked by him, who ought to have been her comfort. (1 Samuel 1:10-13 .) Gehazi harshly repelled the Shunamite, through ignorance of her bitter sorrow. (2 Kings 4:27 .) Job’s friends, from misconception, proved to be "miserable comforters, physicians of no value." (Job 13:4 ; Job 16:2 .)

But think of Him, who made himself "a man of sorrows," that he might be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." (Isaiah 53:3 . Hebrews 4:15 .) This is not the common love to the whole family, but an individual interest of fellowship, as if each had his whole heart, and each was loved alone. The heart’s bitterness is experimentally known, and effectually relieved. (Isaiah 50:4-5 .) Man — very man as he is even on the throne of God — he is alive to all our sorrows. (Isaiah 63:9 .) None of his members are too low for his highest and most endearing thoughts. Into this bosom we may pour the tale of woe, which no ear besides can receive. We may not be able to comprehend it. But he will make us feel, that his sympathy with sorrow is no fiction, but a precious reality. My Savior! Has my heart a bitterness, that thou dost not know, that thou dost not feel with me, and for which thou dost not provide a present cordial and support?

No less individual is the heart’s joy. It lies deep within itself. A stranger doth not intermeddle with it. Michal could understand David’s bravery, not his joy. She knew him as a man of war, not as a man of God. (1 Samuel 18:20 . 2 Samuel 6:16 .) Indeed, joy is a plant in "a garden enclosed," a stream from "a fountain sealed." (Song of Song of Solomon 4:12 .) It is "the secret of the LORD, which is with the righteous." (Proverbs 3:32 . Psalms 25:14 .) It is the indwelling "Comforter, whom the world cannot receive." (John 14:16-17 .) Yes truly — that is the highest joy, that the man hides in his own bosom, covered from observation. There is no noise, or froth on the surface. But they are deep waters of a Divine spring. Christ takes the believer apart from the crowd, feeds him on hidden manna (Revelation 2:17 ), and makes him partaker of his own joy. Whatever cause there may be for mourning, there is "joy from our sorrow" (Jeremiah 31:13 ), in the midst of it (Romans 5:3 ), and as the everlasting fruit of it. (Isaiah 60:20 .)

Footnotes:

†1 1 Kings 8:38-39 . ’Every one is inwardly the only true and faithful judge of his own joys and sorrows, and none else can truly perceive them.’ — Diodati in loco. ’Each mind has an interior apartment of his own, into which none but itself and the Divinity can enter.’ — Foster On a Man writing Memoirs of himself, Letter vii.

†2 Thus the Savior separated himself even from his chosen disciples. Mark 14:32-35 .

Verse 11

The feeblest state of the upright is more stable than the prosperity of the wicked. They build a house. The earth is their home, where they would settle, and take their rest. The upright — knowing the uncertainly of earth, and seeking a better house — only set up a tabernacle (Hebrews 11:9 ) — weak and trembling. Yet the house is overthrown, and the tabernacle flourishes. (Proverbs 3:33 ; Proverbs 12:7 .) The strongest support of man totters. (Job 8:15 . Psalms 49:12 .) The support of God to the weakest is Omnipotence. (Isaiah 40:29 ; Isaiah 41:10 .) The eye of sense seems however to see the contrary — the flourishing of the wicked, and the overthrow of the upright. And a sore trial is it to the servant of God. (Jeremiah 12:1 .) But "we must walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7 .) "The sanctuary" — the word of God — will explain. (Psalms 73:16-17 . Job 18:14-21 .) Wait awhile. The great day will set all in order before us, and show that "the Judge of all the earth doeth right." (Genesis 18:25 . Psalms 58:11 .) Meanwhile let us leave him to do his own work, and to fulfil his own word in his own time.

Verse 12

No one can doubt the end of open ungodliness (1 Corinthians 6:9 . 1 Timothy 5:24 .) But other paths in the broad road, seemingly right, are not less certainly in their end the ways of death. Vice passes under the cover of virtue. Covetousness is disguised under the name of prudence. Indeed it is the fearful property of sin to hide its own character and tendency. The blindness increases in proportion to our familiarity with it. The self-deceiver has often been "a backslider in heart." (Psalms 36:2-3 .) He lost his humility, relaxed his watchfulness, neglected "the diligent keeping of the heart." Sin soon found admission. When it could not be wholly covered, it was excused. Appearances were kept up; misgivings gradually vanished, and the fool mistook death for life. (Deuteronomy 29:19 . Isaiah 44:20 . Revelation 3:17-18 .) But oh! how soon will the cover drop off, and the discovery be made, that all along sin was cherished in self-delusion.

’Take care then’ — as the saintly Leighton warns us — ’of sleeping unto death in carnal ease.’ (On (1 Peter 3:21 .) Look well to the foundation and soundness of thy faith (2 Corinthians 13:5 .) Search carefully both thy Bible and thine heart. Go to the Lord in prayer, and to his Ministers, to shew you the true way. (1 Samuel 12:23 . Malachi 2:7 .) "Prove thine own work." (Galatians 6:4 . Psalms 139:23-24 .) If not a bold rebel against thy God, hast thou yielded freely thine heart to him? If thou be free from open wickedness, art thou not equally free from vital godliness? The most moralized unrenewed professor is the slave of sin. Terrible indeed will it be to meet the bridegroom with a bright, but unfurnished lamp; to fall from high expectations of heaven into the depths of hell! (Matthew 25:1-12 .) The Lord keep our eye steadily on the end of our way, and make that end sure for heaven!

Verse 13

Many a sigh is heaved amid the loud laughter of folly. (Esther 5:9-13 .) As soon might true joy be found in hell, as in the carnal heart. As soon might we "gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles," as this "fruit of the Spirit" (Matthew 7:16 .) from ’nature’s barren soil.’ As soon might the tempest-tossed ocean be at rest, as the sinner’s conscience. (Isaiah 57:20-21 .) He may feast in his prison, or dance in his chains. He may drink away his trouble. But it is a vain show of happiness. Ask him what is in his bosom. Is not his smile a counterfeit to hide a reality of woe? The voice of conscience and experience will make itself heard — "It is mad — what doeth it?" (Ecclesiastes 2:2 .) If he has found a diversion from present trouble, has he found a cover from everlasting misery? It is far easier to drown conviction, than to escape damnation. And to be merry for a day, and to be in torment for eternity — who would envy — who would not flee from — such a portion?

Nor do we speak only of the coarse mirth of the vulgar. Take the fullest cup of earth’s best joys. What is this to satisfy desire, to allay trouble, to meet eternity? Even the present end of this short-lived mirth is heaviness (Amos 6:3-7 ); sometimes so intolerable, that death is fled to, as the cure of the anguish; and to avoid the fear of hell, the wretched sinner leaps into it. (Matthew 27:3-5 .) And at best eternity will change the face of this mirth, when that will remain, which would be the most desirable riddance — the sting of conscience, as enduring as the pleasures of sin were momentary. (Luke 6:24 ; Luke 16:21-24 . Romans 6:21 .)

But the end of that mirth implies another mirth with a different end. Contrast the prodigal’s mirth in the far country, with his return to his father’s house, when "they began to be merry." (Luke 15:13-24 .) The fruit of carnal mirth ends in heaviness. Penitential sorrow begets a mirth, that ends in everlasting joy. (Psalms 126:5-6 . Isaiah 35:10 .) Lord! choose mine inheritance for me among thy weeping people.

Verse 14

Every spot is not the leprosy. Every mark of sin does not prove a backslider. "A man may be overtaken in a fault" (Galatians 6:1 ); or it may be the sin of ignorance (Leviticus 4:2 . Hebrews 5:2 ); or sin abhorred, resisted, yet still cleaving. (Romans 7:15-24 .) Backsliding implies a willful step; not always open, but the more dangerous, because hidden. Here was no open apostasy, perhaps no tangible inconsistency. Nay — the man may be looked up to as an eminent saint. But he is a backslider in heart. A secret canker of unwatchfulness; worldly conformity (Hosea 7:8 ), neglect, or indulgence, has insensibly "devoured his strength." (Hosea 7:9 . Judges 16:20 .) He was once pressing onward. A langour has now stolen upon him. His heart beats unsteadily. He has become formal and hurried in his prayers; lukewarm in the means of grace: reading his Bible to soothe his conscience, rather than to feed his soul. The first steps, instead of alarming, and bringing him to secret weeping (Matthew 26:75 ), hurried him onwards from one liberty to another, till he lost all power of resistance. His unsoundness was known to God, long before it was manifested to the Church. Before the matter of Uriah, indolence and security had probably unhinged the man of God, and laid him open to the tempter. (2 Samuel 11:1-2 .) Perhaps this dispensation may be permitted to teach the child of God his need of watchfulness and dependence. (2 Chronicles 32:31 . Philippians 2:12 .) The backslider’s folly and wretchedness is graphically portrayed, as a merciful warning to the church. He needs no other rod than his own ways. To be filled with them; thus to become the fountain of his own misery, is the most fearful of all Divine judgments.†1

The good man is also filled from himself;†2 yet not as the backslider, with misery, but with solid satisfaction. God has given him a fountain fed from a higher fountain; a living spring within himself (John 4:14 ); the witness of the Spirit (Romans 8:16 ); the life and joy of the Heavenly Comforter (John 14:16-17 ); the rejoicing testimony of his conscience (2 Corinthians 1:12 ); the assured hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27 .) This is not independent of God, the one source of self-sufficiency. But it is Himself dwelling in the heart and filling it with his fulness. Let the sinner compare the satisfaction of sin and godliness — the curse and the blessing; and lift up his heart for the direction of a right choice. Let the backslider return to the gospel to awaken his contrition, and to reanimate his faith. (Hosea 14:1-9.) Let the good man invigorate his soul daily from his well of consolation.

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 32:3-4. Jeremiah 2:19 ; Jeremiah 4:8 . Compare 1 Samuel 28:15 : Matthew 27:3-5 .

†2 autarkhV (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English). Philippians 4:11, self-sufficiency. Compare 2 Corinthians 9:8 . — Gr.

Verse 15

To believe every word of God is faith. To believe every word of man is credulity. Faith is a principle of infinite moment. Eternal life and death hang upon it. (Mark 16:16 . John 3:36 .) But it must be grounded upon evidence, and it can only be exercised according to the character and measure of the evidence. An indiscriminate faith is therefore fraught with mischief. The world was ruined by this weakness. (Genesis 3:1-6 .) And often since has it been the occasion of sin (2 Samuel 16:1-4 . Esther 3:8-11 ), and even of downfall. (1 Kings 13:11-19 .)

Look at the fruit of this folly in the Church, when "our faith stands in the wisdom of men, not in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:5 .) Men become loose in fundamental principles. They are "carried about with divers and strange doctrines," and never know "the good thing of a heart established with grace." (Hebrews 13:9 . Ephesians 4:14 .) The novelties of fancy, accredited by some favorite name, readily pass for the revelation of God. We do not thus sit down to our food blindfolded; not knowing whether we take food or poison. But here men are ready to drink of any cup that is presented to them, like children, who think everything good that is sweet. Thus are "unstable souls beguiled," and "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3 .) Errors, never solitary, are built upon some partial, insulated, or perverted truth. Feeling and excitement come in the place of solid practical principle.

But the prudent looketh well to his going. Cautious consideration should mark our general conduct; trying before we trust; never trusting an uncertain profession. (Nehemiah 6:2-4 . John 2:24 .) Specially in the Church, carefully ponder whom we follow. Sift the most plausible pretensions. (1 Thessalonians 5:21 . 1 John 4:1 .) Never set a great name against the Divine testimony. (Isaiah 8:20 .) Admit only the one standard; like the noble Bereans, who would not believe even an apostle’s word, except it was confirmed by the written testimony. (Acts 17:11 .) Ask wisdom of God. Carefully regulate the energy of religion by the Divine rule. Enlist feeling on the side, under the direction, of sound judgment. This prudent carefulness will exhibit a well-ordered Christian profession.

Verse 16

Fear is sometimes thought to be an unmanly principle. But look at the terrible extent of the evil dreaded. Without — it is vanity and disappointment.†1 Within — it is the sting of guilt.†2 Upward — we see the frown of God.†3 Downward — everlasting burnings.†4 Surely then to depart from this evil,†5 yea — to fear it worse than death,†6 is true wisdom.

The fool however, stout and stubborn in his mind, never fears till he falls. The voice of God is unheard amid the uproar of passion, like a raving tempest. Bravely independent, he sits amid the threatenings of God as unalarmed, as Solomon amid his brazen lions; ’carried by his rash will, and blind passion, without apprehending the end and issue of things.’†7 His character is here drawn to life. He rageth, and is confident. Such a fool was Rehoboam, when his self-willed confidence rejected the counsel of wisdom and experience. (1 Kings 12:13-15 .) Such a fool was the raging Assyrian, blindly confident in his own might, till the God whom he despised turned him back to his destruction. (2 Kings 19:28-37 .) And will not the child of God bless his Father’s painful discipline, so needful to curb his raging will, and bring down his high confidence — "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God"? (Jeremiah 31:18 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Romans 6:21.

†2 Proverbs 13:15. 1 Corinthians 15:56 .

†3 John 3:36.

†4 Psalms 9:17. Mark 9:44 .

†5 Genesis 39:9-10.

†6 Daniel 3:16-18; Daniel 6:10 . Luke 12:5 .

†7 Diodati, 2 Chronicles 25:15-20 .

Verse 17

Different gradations of sin are here opposed to each other — the sudden passion and the deliberate purpose; the gust and the continuance of the storm. A hasty temper convicts us of foolishness before our fellow-men. (2 Kings 5:11-13 .) What frightful mischief may be the consequence of an angry word! (James 3:5 .) How fearfully did the "man after God’s own heart" suffer the fire to burst out! (1 Samuel 25:21 .) Who then, with this example before us, will dare to relax the watch? But are these sins of temper matters of sorrow and humiliation? Does the remembrance of their cost to our crucified Friend exercise our constant watchfulness, and prayerful resistance? Is not our loving Father’s rod sometimes needful to bring conviction of their guilty foolishness? (Numbers 20:10-12 .) Oh, for a rich vouchsafement of that "charity, that is not easily provoked!" (1 Corinthians 13:5 .) ’Let us give our hearts no rest, until we have purged their gall, and tempered them with the sweetness and gentleness of our Lord and Savior.’†1

But sin grows from weakness to willfulness. ’The first makes a man contemptible; the second abominable.’†2 Wicked devices;†3 cherished malice;†4 one act preparing for another; almost aiming at the uttermost†5 — all this shews the true picture of man, "hateful, and hating one another."†6 Such a man is hated of God, as "an abomination."†7 Man holds him up to his righteous scorn.†8 Absalom’s pillar, the monument of his name, is to this day the object of universal contempt.†9 The hatred of Haman’s wicked devices is perpetuated from generation to generation. (Esther 9:23-28 .) Why are these warnings, if we regard them not? Our dignity is our likeness to God! What shame and degradation must there be in this contrariety to him!

Footnotes:

†1 Daille on Colossians 3:8 . Compare Colossians 3:13 .

†2 Diodati.

†3 Psalms 36:2-4; Psalms 64:2-9 . Jeremiah 5:26 .

†4 Genesis 4:8; Genesis 27:41 .

†5 2 Samuel 15:2-12 .

†6 Titus 3:3.

†7 Proverbs 6:16-18.

†8 Psalms 52:2-7.

†9 Calmet mentions the habit of passing travelers throwing stones at Absalom’s pillar, to shew their hatred of a son’s rebellion against his father; and that now the accumulation of stones hides the lower part of the monument. This tradition is confirmed by recent travelers.

Verse 18

The simple and the prudent are again contrasted. The child of Adam is born to folly. (Job 11:12 .) That is his inheritance. He "received it by tradition from his fathers" (1 Peter 1:18 ): yea, from his first father. (Genesis 5:3 . Psalms 51:5 .) So long as he remains simple, he confirms his title. Unlike an earthly inheritance, he cannot relinquish it. He holds it in life; and, when he "returns naked to the earth, from whence he came" (Job 1:21 . 1 Timothy 6:7 ), he still holds it firm in death, and reaps its bitter fruits throughout eternity. Here is no injustice, no just cause of complaint. Sinner! is not wisdom freely offered to thee in asking for it? (James 1:5 .) Dost not thou therefore continue simple only by thy willful neglect? If knowledge is at hand, to be satisfied with ignorance, is to throw away a talent of inestimable price. ’I confess’ — says Doctor South — ’God has no need of any man’s learning; but certainly then he has much less need of his ignorance.’†1 The prudent, instructed in heavenly knowledge, are enabled to behold Divine objects in a Divine light. Is not this knowledge therefore their crown, the light, holiness, joy, and glory of life eternal? This is not that religion of eccentric singularities, which obscures the glory of the Divine image. Steady consistency is stamped upon it, such as enthrones its possessor in the conviction and regard even of those, who are unfriendly to his principles. (1 Peter 2:12 .) Thus "the wise" in this life "inherit glory." (Proverbs 3:35 .) What shall be their glory in eternity, sitting on the throne of God, crowned with the hand of God himself!

Footnotes:

†1 1 Kings 13:33-34 . Vol. i.

Verse 19

This is not the general rule of the present dispensation. Righteous Lazarus bowed at the wicked man’s gate. (Luke 16:20 .) Thus faith is tried (Psalms 73:12 ), and the foundations of our heavenly hopes more deeply grounded. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 .) And yet often has the very letter of the proverb been verified. The Egyptians and Joseph’s brethren bowed before Joseph;†1 the proud Pharaoh and his people before Moses;†2 Saul to David;†3 Jehoram and Naaman before Elisha;†4 Haman before Esther;†5 the magistrates before the apostles.†6 More often still is the spirit of this proverb illustrated in the constrained testimony of the wicked to the pre-eminence of the righteous. (Revelation 3:9 .) The millennial era will exhibit a more glorious fulfillment. (Isaiah 49:23 ; Isaiah 60:14 . Revelation 20:4 .) The grand consummation will set all things right, and shed a Divine splendour over this profound aphorism. "The upright shall have dominion over the wicked in the morning." (Psalms 49:14 . Malachi 4:1-3 .) "The saints shall judge the world." (1 Corinthians 6:2 .) They shall there appear in their suitable rank, exalted with their glorious Head over the whole creation. (Revelation 2:26 .) Oh! let the sunshine of this glory irradiate every clouded morn. If this be not enough to counter-balance the scorn of the ungodly, where is our faith? Had we a clear apprehension of this glory, should we have an eye for anything else? Would not all besides, except as it had a reference to this day, be an utter impertinence?

Footnotes:

†1 Genesis 41:43; Genesis 42:6 .

†2 Exodus 8:8; Exodus 9:27-28 ; Exodus 11:8 .

†3 1 Samuel 24:16-21 ; 1 Samuel 26:21 .

†4 2 Kings 3:12 ; 2 Kings 5:9 .

†5 Esther 7:7.

†6 Acts 16:39.

Verse 20

An humbling, but how common an illustration of native selfishness. Sometimes however we hear of cheering exceptions. "Ruth clave to Naomi" in her poverty;†1 Jonathan to David, when stripped of royal favor.†2 But too generally the poor, instead of being pitied and comforted (Job 6:14 . Isaiah 58:7 ), is hated or neglected of his own neighbour.†3 Yet the rich is not in a more enviable condition. He has many friends indeed to his money and favor, but few to his interest. Many would be the deserters, should a change of circumstance cut off supplies for their appetites, pleasures, or covetousness. (Proverbs 19:4, Proverbs 19:6 .) But how endearing is the love of Jesus! He was emphatically the Poor man’s Friend. (Psalms 72:12, Psalms 72:14 .) He sought his many friends among the wretched and forlorn (Matthew 4:18-22 ); and still does his powerful compassion plead for those hated ones among their fellow-sinners. (Psalms 109:31 .) Shall not we then, like the tried saint of old, learn to look off from earthly destitution in a cleaving confidence on Him, as the Rock of our salvation? (Job 19:13-27 .) The practical exercise of this confidence will be an overcoming of our selfish propensity; cultivating that tenderness, which, instead of shrinking from the sight of misery, hastens, though at the expense of personal sacrifice, to its sympathizing relief. (Luke 10:33-35 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Ruth 1:14, Ruth 1:21-22 .

†2 1 Samuel 19:1-7 ; 1 Samuel 23:16 .

†3 Proverbs 10:15; Proverbs 19:4, Proverbs 19:7 . Luke 16:21 .

Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se,

Quam quod ridiculos homines facit. — Juvenal, iii. 152, 153.

Verse 21

The last proverb shewed the general standard of selfishness. Here we see its positive sinfulness. Some men are so high, that they cannot see their lower brother. Yet infinitely precious and honoured may be this despised one in the Savior’s eyes as the purchase of his blood. And what a span is the distance between him and his most elevated fellow-creature, compared with the infinite space between him and his God! Yet doth he "that dwelleth on high," instead of despising, write his name upon him, "raise him from the dust, and lift him out of the dunghill, that he may set him with the princes of his people." (Psalms 113:7-8 .) The plain command is — "Honour all men" (1 Peter 2:17 ), not all with equal measure; but in all honour our own nature, the remains, however defaced, of the image of God. To look therefore upon the meanest, as if he were made to be despised, shews a want of wisdom, and a want of heart. (Proverbs 11:12 .) ’Because we think we over-top him, therefore to think we may overlook him,’†1 and neglect to have mercy on him (Proverbs 21:13 . James 2:16 ) — this is reflecting on God’s own Providence (Proverbs 14:31 ); forgetting his example (2 Corinthians 8:9 ); setting up our own judgment against his; sinning against his law of love. (James 2:1-9 .) And most fearfully will he visit this sin at the day of recompense. (Job 31:13-15 . Matthew 25:42-45 .)

But oh! the felicities of him that hath mercy on the poor;†2 "hoping for nothing again" (Luke 6:35 ); constrained by love to Christ and his fellow-sinners! ’He shall be happy beyond expression.’†3 Does not every exercise of love enlarge our own happiness? (Proverbs 11:17 .) Do we not ourselves richly feed on the bread, with which we "feed the hungry?" (Isaiah 58:7 .) And will not the great day declare and honour every act of love for our Divine Master? (Matthew 25:35-40 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Bishop Sanderson on Romans 14:3 .

†2 Compare Psalms 41:3 ; Psalms 112:9 . Jeremiah 22:16 . Daniel 4:27 . Matthew 5:7 .

†3 Scott. ’At qui miseretur inopum, O beatitudines illius!’ — Schultens. Holden also marks the peculiar emphasis of this pronoun.

Verse 22

Scripture traces actions to principles. Wicked as it is to do evil, it is far more hateful to devise it. (Proverbs 14:17.) Devising is the incipient working of the principle. Devising evil therefore, if it comes not to the act, shews the purpose. (Proverbs 24:8 .) They may be men of consummate wisdom in other matters; but here at least do they not err? They miss either their object, or their anticipated happiness from it. Witness the shame of the Babel-builders (Genesis 11:9 ); the confusion of Haman’s device (Esther 7:10 ); the over-ruling of the wicked plot against our beloved Lord. (Psalms 2:1-4 . Matthew 21:41-44 .) How did the devisers thwart their own purpose to their fearful cost! How little did Judas estimate the result of his devising of evil — "A little matter kindling an unquenchable fire!" (Matthew 26:14-16 ; Matthew 27:3-5 .)

Children of God! Do you exhibit the same diligence an determination in devising good? Even if your fruit be frustrated, your work will be accepted. (1 Kings 8:18 .) Mercy and truth are often set out as reward of grace, the cheering encouragement to practical godliness. What can be more joyous than the glorious perfections of Jehovah, pouring into the soul the quickening energy of Divine blessing; mercy the fountain-head, truth the pledge and fulfillment of unchangeable mercy!†1

Footnotes:

†1 Genesis 24:27. 2 Samuel 15:20 . Psalms 25:10 ; Psalms 61:7 ; Psalms 117:2 . Micah 7:20 . ’Note’ — says an old expositor — ’that Solomon here is no lawgiver, but an evangelist, leading us unto Jesus Christ. For we can obtain no mercy but in him only. For "the promises of God are yea and amen in him." — Cope in loco.

Verse 23

This is not universally true. What profit is in the labour of sin (Romans 6:21 ), or of ill-timed work? Fruitful also is the talk of teaching lips. (Proverbs 10:21 . Proverbs 15:7 .) But the contrast is intended between what is solid on the one hand and what is shadowy on the other, between lawful, well-directed labour, and empty talk. "Bread eaten in the sweat of the face" is the profit of bodily labour. (Genesis 3:19 .) But the idler is condemned to penury upon the talk of his lips. (Proverbs 20:4 ; Proverbs 21:25 .) Enlargement of mind is also the profit of mental labour. (Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 .) But the "prating fool" (Proverbs 10:8 ) ’cuts himself off from all advantage, except that of being entertained by his own talk; his business in coming into company not being at all to be informed, to hear, to listen, but to display himself, and to talk without any design at all.’†1 Clearly therefore the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury. Rich beyond conception is the profit of spiritual labour. (Proverbs 10:16 .) "The Son of man gives to the labourer enduring meat. The violent take the kingdom of heaven by force. The labour of love God is not unrighteous to forget." (John 6:27 . Hebrews 6:10 .) But the talk of the lips gives husks, not bread. Where there are only shallow conceptions of the gospel, and no experimental enjoyment of Christian establishment, it is ’all running out in noise.’†2 There is no instruction, because there is no "good treasure" within. (Matthew 12:35 .) "What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another?" (Luke 24:17 ) — is a searching question. Ministers, doctrines, the externals, circumstantials, disputations on religion — all may be the mere skirts and borders of the great subject, utterly remote from the heart and vitals. And indeed, the discussion of the substance of religion without reverence, without a sense of the Divine presence, and a single eye to edification, is only a profanation of holy things, and at best must alienate the precious truths from their true purpose. Nothing comes from a broken heart. It is only the deluding indulgence of a refined lust, a religious tongue without a godly heart — all tending only to penury. Take care that the religious conversation deserves the name. Let the stamp of the profession of the saints of God be visible. (Psalms 145:10-12 .) Let the burning theme of the Savior’s love flow from the heart. (Luke 24:14-32 .) Let that "name, which is above every name," be upon our lips, "as ointment poured forth;" so that "the whole house" — all that are living with us — "may be filled with the odour of the ointment." (Song of Song of Solomon 1:3 . John 12:3 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Bishop Butler’s Sermon on the Government of the Tongue.

†2 Henry. 1 Timothy 5:13 . See Bunyan’s graphical portrait of Talkative.

Verse 24

The godly first are made wise by being "crowned with knowledge." (Proverbs 14:18 .) Then the crown of the wise are their riches. For though, as a fearful temptation (Matthew 13:22 ; Matthew 19:23 ), no wise man would desire them; yet as the gift of God (1 Kings 3:13 . Psalms 112:3 ) (the gift indeed of his left hand) (Proverbs 3:16 ) they may become his crown. They enhance his reputation, and enlarge his usefulness as a consecrated talent for God. What a crown were they to David and his wise Son, as the materials for building the temple;†1 and to Job, as employed for the good of his fellow-creatures!†2 So that, though wisdom under all circumstances is a blessing, it is specially pronounced to be "good with an inheritance." (Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 .) ’It is necessary to distinguish between the thing itself, and the abuse of it. Wealth is in fact a blessing, when honestly acquired, and conscientiously employed. And when otherwise, the man is to be blamed, and not his treasure.’†3

But if riches are the crown of the wise, they cannot disguise fools. They only seem to make their folly more open. Wasted on their selfish gratifications they become, not their crown, but their foolishness.†4 The foolish son of this wise father, with all his riches, only exposed his folly more egregiously, and lost ten precious jewels from his royal crown. (1 Kings 12:16 .) Whatever be our talents, let us trade with them for eternity, and they will be our everlasting crown. (Luke 19:13 ; Luke 16:9 . 1 Timothy 6:19 .)

Footnotes:

†1 1 Chronicles 29:1-5 . 2 Chronicles 5:1 .

†2 Job 29:6-17. Compare Psalms 112:9 .

†3 Cowper’s Cursory Remarks on Carracioli. Southey’s Ed. viii. 273.

†4 1 Samuel 25:36-38 . Psalms 49:10-13 . Luke 12:19-20 .

Verse 25

How weighty is the responsibility of testimony! (Proverbs 24:12 .) Every Christian has in him a principle of conscientious faithfulness. As a true witness he would deliver the innocent from oppression or ruin. But an ungodly man would prove a deceitful witness, the agent of Satan (1 Kings 21:13 ), speaking lies for his neighbour’s destruction. (Matthew 26:60 . Acts 6:13 . Compare Proverbs 12:6, Proverbs 12:17 .) What need have we to "walk before God" in our words, ready to hazard all for the interests of truth (Psalms 15:2 ; Psalms 24:3-5 ); considering our obligations to one another (Ephesians 4:25 ); ’mindful of that true and faithful witness, which every man carries in his own bosom, which no gift can blind, no power can silence;’†1 realizing our solemn appearing before the God of truth, when "by our words we shall be justified or condemned!" (Matthew 12:37 ) If the responsibility be so great to the witness in court, how much more to the witness in the pulpit!†2 Oh! is the minister of God a true witness, by the declaration of his message, assured, that no other truth, no adulteration of this truth, will deliver souls? (1 Timothy 4:16 .) Or is he speaking lies, holding back or denying truth, to the ruin of the soul, whom he was charged to deliver? (Jeremiah 5:31 . Exodus 13:17 . Compare Proverbs 14:5 .) ’As they are the most profitable witnesses, which preach to us Jesus Christ; even so, the most exquisite deceivers are they, who under the shadow of religion do set forth men’s traditions.’†3

Footnotes:

†1 Bishop Horne’s Sermon on the Great Assize.

†2 Lavater and Scott in loco.

†3 Cope in loco.

Verse 26

"Fear hath torment." (1 John 4:18 . Acts 24:25 .) It is the trembling of the slave (Romans 8:15 ); the dread of wrath, not of sin. There is no confidence here. It is pure selfishness. It ends in self. There is no homage to God. But the true fear of God is a holy, happy (See Psalms 112:1 ; Psalms 22:18 ; Psalms 147:11 ), reverential principle; not that which "love casts out" (1 John 4:18 ), but which love brings in. It is reverence tempered with love. We fear, because we love. We "fear his goodness" (Hosea 3:5 . Psalms 130:4 ) no less then his justice; not because we doubt his love, but because we are assured of it.(Hebrews 12:28 . 1 Peter 1:17-18 .) We fear, yet we are not afraid. (Psalms 112:1, Psalms 112:7 .) The holiest and humblest is the most fixed and trusting heart. The fear of man produces faintness. (Proverbs 29:25 . Jonah 1:3 . Galatians 2:12 .) The fear of the LORD — such is the Christian paradox — emboldens. Its child-like spirit shuts out all terrors of conscience, all forebodings of eternity. Confidence — strong confidence — issues out of it. Abraham sacrificed his son in the fear of God; yet fully confident, "that God was able to raise him up from the dead." (Genesis 22:12, with Hebrews 11:17-19 .) The fear of God led the Babylonish captives with unshaken confidence into the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:16-18 .) And thus does the child of God, while walking in godly fear, rejoice in confidence, even in the most frowning dispensation.†1 His covenant privilege covers him;†2 "and that wicked one toucheth him not."†3

And how happy is the change wrought on our profession! Before, as criminals, we fled from God — now, as his children, we "flee to him — to hide us." (Genesis 3:8, with Psalms 143:9 .) The atonement, which has "made and end of sin;" the righteousness, which hath brought in the sunshine of favor; the intercession which maintains our standing of acceptance — this is our ground of confidence, strong as death, stronger than hell. (Romans 8:31-39 .) Yes — if heaven and earth shake, God hath ordained and secured, that his children shall have a place of refuge, such as they need, and when they need (Psalms 46:1 ; Psalms 48:3 . Isaiah 32:2 ); when the enemy is most strongly assaulting (Psalms 56:1-4 . Isaiah 25:4 ); at the last extremity, when every other refuge shall have been swept away. (Isaiah 28:16-17 .) Oh! does not every act of faith strengthen our confidence, and realize more sensibly the peaceful security of our refuge? (Proverbs 1:33 ; Proverbs 18:10 . Isaiah 32:18-19 .) But remember — nothing short of a full application of the atonement can establish our confidence, and deliver us from slavish fear and uncertainty.

Footnotes:

†1 Job 1:1, with Job 13:15 . Micah 7:7-9 . Hebrews 3:16-19 .

†2 Jeremiah 32:40.

†3 1 John 5:18 . Compare Proverbs 3:21-26 ; Proverbs 19:23 .

Verse 27

How glowing is this Divine principle! refreshing like the springs of Canaan;†1 full of life;†2 temporal,†3 spiritual,†4 eternal.†5 It is the influence of the heavenly Comforter, as a fountain "springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14 .) Its preserving tendency is invaluable. It is always connected with the fear of sin (Proverbs 3:7 ; Proverbs 16:6 ), as grieving our most beloved friend, and separating from our only happiness; while it keeps us from the snares of death (Ecclesiastes 7:26 ), "the end and wages of sin." (Romans 6:23 .) How complete then is its application! Not only is it a refuge from danger, but a fountain of life. Not only does Christian confidence open a cover from the guilt, but its holy influence roots out the power, of sin. For among the countless throng of the redeemed not one finds a cover from condemnation, who is not renovated unto spiritual life. Thus does this invaluable grace flow with the full streams of gospel blessing. How much of that worldliness that soils our profession, and of the restraint that contracts our spiritual joy, may be traced to the sparing or defective application of this Christian principle!

Footnotes:

†1 Deuteronomy 8:7. Joshua 15:19 .

†2 Proverbs 22:4.

†3 Proverbs 10:27.

†4 Proverbs 19:23. Malachi 4:2 .

†5 Psalms 103:17.

Verse 28

The Bible is a book for all. Even the King is interested in it, and was commanded to treasure it. (Deuteronomy 17:18 .) It describes him as a curse or a blessing to his people, as he is led by his own caprice (1 Kings 12:13 ), or directed by Divine wisdom. (2 Chronicles 9:8 .) ’He is not appointed for luxury or for pleasure; but that as a Head he may preside over his members; as a Shepherd, he may care for his flock; as a tree, he may nourish those who dwell under his shadow.’†1 In the multitude of people is his honour. They are the stay and strength of his kingdom.†2 In the want of people is his destruction. His revenue fails. His strength is enfeebled. His enemies take advantage of his weakness. (2 Kings 13:4-7 .) His interests and his people’s are one. In promoting their happiness, the prince secures his own honour. (Psalms 72:1-20 .) If he be the father of his numerous family, he will always have "a quiver full of arrows to meet his enemies in the gate." (Psalms 127:1-5 .) How great then is the honour of our heavenly King in the countless multitude of his people! How overwhelmingly glorious will it appear, when the completed number shall stand before his throne (Revelation 7:9-10 ); each the medium of reflecting his glory (2 Thessalonians 1:10 ); each with a crown to cast at his feet (Revelation 4:10-11 ), and a song of everlasting joy to tune his praise! (Revelation 5:9 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Geier.

†2 1 Kings 4:20 . 2 Chronicles 17:14-19 . Yet this honour had well nigh proved the destruction of the prince in the chastisement of his pride. 2 Samuel 24.

Verse 29

The world judge very lightly of a hasty spirit, except when it touches themselves. ’It is a fit of passion, soon over and forgotten.’ But does God judge so? See how his word stamps the native rooted principle. It is "giving place to the devil;†1 grieving the Holy Spirit;"†2 contrary to the mind and example of Christ;†3 inconsistent with the profession of the Gospel;†4 degrading human nature;†5 a work of the flesh, that shuts out from heaven,†6 and condemns to hell.†7 Surely then to be slow to wrath — such a fruitful source of sin and misery — is a proof of great understanding. (Proverbs 19:11 ; Proverbs 20:3 . James 3:17 .) It is as if we felt our just dignity, and high obligations. But too often, instead of being slow to wrath, the spirit is hasty, and finds a short way to wrath. It is as tinder to every spark of provocation, and at one step hurries into the midst of wrath. There is often a sourness of spirit, that sits upon men, by which they are angry at they know not what; lighting into a flame at the most trifling matters, such as in cooler moments we shall be ashamed at having contended for. Terrible flames have arisen from these trifling sparks.†8 This is indeed exalting folly on an eminence to be seen by all. (Proverbs 3:35 .) Yet too often passion serves instead of law and reason, and this folly is deemed high-mindedness and proper spirit. Oh! it is a mercy to be delivered from the standard of this world, and to live, act, and judge by the standard of God and his word.

But let the children of God remember that a hasty spirit condemned the meekest of men. (Psalms 106:32-33 .) Never was folly more exalted, than by the fretful selfishness of a prophet of the LORD. (Jonah 4:1-11 .) The gentlest spirit needs to be cast into a deep mold of lowliness and love for communion with God. (Isaiah 57:15 . 1 John 4:16 .) Who can plead inability to resist? Has not God given understanding to shew the temper; reason to govern it; his Word and Spirit to crucify it? Realize our obligations to sovereign grace, as the effective discipline for this baneful propensity. (James 1:18-19 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Ephesians 4:26-27.

†2 Ephesians 4:30.

†3 Matthew 11:29. Philippians 2:3-5 . 1 Peter 2:23 .

†4 Colossians 3:8, Colossians 3:12-13 .

†5 Proverbs 17:12; Proverbs 25:8 ; Proverbs 29:20 .

†6 Galatians 5:19-21.

†7 Matthew 5:22.

†8 See on Proverbs 14:17 .

Verse 30

Many will admit religion to be good for the soul. But they conceive its fancied gloom to be injurious to the body. The wise man, however, teaches, that it is the life of the flesh. (Proverbs 3:7-8 .) And surely a sound heart, freed from corroding passions, and imbued with Christian habits, though it will not bring immortality, must be eminently conductive to health.†1 The contrast, however, here distinguishes a sound heart by the absence of selfishness,†2 and rejoicing in another’s happiness or honour. (Numbers 11:29 .) Envy, on the other hand, is wounded by our neighbour’s prosperity. (Genesis 26:14 . 1 Samuel 18:9 .) His ruin, or at least his injury, would give pleasure. It sickens at hearing of his praises, and repines at his very virtues. Something is always wrong in his conduct, something at least, which, if it does not deserve blame, greatly detracts from his intolerable praise. This evil is indeed the deadliest fruit of selfishness. Nothing flourishes under its shade. (James 3:16 .) Often is it a fretting sickness (Esther 6:6, Esther 6:12 .), or a pining despondency (Psalms 112:10 ), like the destruction of the bodily system by the rottenness of the bones. ’Truly’ — as Bishop Hall observes — ’this vice is executioner enough to itself!’†3 Such a hell does the man carry in his own bosom! Alas! that this plant should be the growth of our own soil.†4 So contrary is it to the mind of Christ (Romans 13:13 ), and to the spirit of his gospel. (1 Corinthians 13:4 .) So surely will it exclude from heaven! (Galatians 5:21 .)

Footnotes:

†1 The soul disburdened of passions and perturbations, helpeth strength an liveliness of body very much. — Diodati.

†2 ’Cor sanator’ — Schultens — a benevolent heart.

†3 Sermon on Romans 12:2 . — Works, v. 251.

†4 Mark 7:22, ’evil eye,’ James 4:5 .

Verse 31

Are not the poor no less than the rich "made in the image of God"? (Genesis 9:6 .) Both "meet together" before the Maker without respect of persons. (Proverbs 22:2 . Job 31:15 .) Both carry the same undying principle in their bosom. Both sink to the same humiliating level of death. Both rise to the same eminence of immortality. Besides — have not the poor a special interest in the Gospel?†1 Was not the Gospel first spread by the poor?†2 Has not the voluntary poverty of the Son of God for us put high honour upon the lowly condition?†3 Then what ground is there to oppress the poor, as if they were of a lower grade than ourselves? This involves the guilt of reproaching our Maker. (Proverbs 17:5 .) It is slighting his own work; despising his own ordinance (Deuteronomy 15:11 ), and charging him with injustice, as if he had formed the poor to be the footstool of their oppressors. (1 Samuel 2:7 .) Would we honour God? We must not only refrain from oppressing; but we must have mercy on the poor. Sure and large is the interest of this mercy (Proverbs 19:17 . Psalms 41:1 ) in the case of the Lord’s poor. High indeed is the privilege, and everlasting the recompense, of honouring the Savior in his own person. (Matthew 25:40 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Matthew 11:5. James 2:5 . Psalms 68:10 .

†2 Matthew 28:19-20. Acts 4:13 .

†3 Luke 2:7. Philippians 2:7 . 2 Corinthians 8:9 . Matthew 8:20 .

Verse 32

We cannot judge men by their outward condition, for "there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked." (Ecclesiastes 9:2 .) Such a judgment would often throw the balance on the wrong side. (Psalms 73:12 .) The standard of the world is not less erroneous. While men rarely give an unqualified commendation of their neighbours in mutual intercourse; yet — as respects God — all are good enough for heaven. A hope is entertained of the most criminal, that they will be taken to mercy at last. And thus the distinctive terms — righteous and wicked — are so confounded, and brought so near each other, that there is little meaning in either.

But now let us turn to this striking picture before us, which sweeps away all human standards. Eternity is here realized before us — the wicked and the righteous — each "going to his own place." (Acts 1:25 .) Let us ponder the sight with deep-toned solemnity. O my soul, "make thy calling sure!" The wicked includes a diversified mass of character. Many are amiable, useful, and in a variety of ways exemplary. Others are absorbed in vanity; or they wear themselves away by the lamp of study; or they are given up to selfish indulgence. But whatever be the external shape or feature, the stamp is every way broad — "forgetfulness of God" — and the condemnation sealed — "turned into hell." (Psalms 9:17 .)

Truly is the wicked pictured as driven away in his wickedness. He is dragged out of life, like a criminal to execution; torn away from his only heaven here, with no joyous heaven beyond. (Job 18:18 ; Job 27:21 .) Dreadful beyond imagination to be thus forced out of the body, to die a violent death. Fain would he stay. But he cannot. He cannot live. He dares not die. Sometimes he departs with a horror that no words can paint. Hell is manifestly begun on this side eternity. (1 Samuel 28:15 .) He is driven out of a world, which has cheated and damned his soul for ever. And even where he has "no bands in his death, but his strength is firm" (Psalms 73:4 ), where do we hear of "a desire to depart"? (Philippians 1:23 .) Though he may fall asleep as softly as lambs, he will wake to live for ever "with the devil and his angels." His few moments of peace are only the respite from hopeless, never-ending torments. His wickedness was his element in life. It will cleave to him still, the sting of the undying worm, the fuel of unquenchable fire.

But is the righteous driven away? He dies by his own consent. It is a glad surrender, not a forcible separation. (Psalms 31:5 .) The tabernacle is not rent or torn away, but "put off." (2 Peter 1:14 .) He can take death by his cold hand, and bid him welcome. ’I can smile on death’ — said a dying saint — ’because my Savior smiles on me.’ There is courage to face "the King of terrors," and delight in looking homeward to his God.†1 There is loveliness and sunshine in his death, such as flashes conviction upon the most hardened conscience. (Numbers 23:10 .) The righteous hath hope in his death. His death is full of hope. Job pierced his dark cloud of sorrow with this joyous hope.†2 David rested his way-worn spirit upon the Rock of salvation.†3 Stephen anchored within the vail, undisturbed by the volley of stones without.†4 Paul triumphed in the crown, as if it was already on his head.†5 And hear we not daily "the voice from heaven," assuring to us the "blessedness of them that die in the Lord"? (Revelation 14:13 .) Praise to our Immanuel! ’When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.’†6 By thee as the way to the Kingdom we go freely, gladly, out of life. We go to what we love, to our native home, to our Savior’s bosom, to our rest, our crown, our everlasting joy. "Now, Lord, what wait I for? I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD."†7

Footnotes:

†1 2 Corinthians 5:8 . Qarroumen — undaunted boldness. Eudokoumen — we are well pleased. (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English).

†2 Job 19:25-27.

†3 2 Samuel 23:5 .

†4 Acts 7:55-60.

†5 2 Timothy 4:6-8 . 2 Corinthians 5:1 .

†6 Te Deum.

†7 Psalms 39:7. Genesis 49:18 . Does not this text clearly prove that while "life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10 ), the dawn of the day beamed upon the Old Testament saints? What could this hope of the righteous be, but the consummating prospect of the Gospel? Bishop Warburton (Div. Leg. B. vi. Section 3) expounds, ’that they shall be delivered from the most imminent danger.’ That sagacious mind could never have confounded two things so essentially distinct, as hope in death, and hope of escape from death, had it not been necessary to subserve a favorite hypothesis. Equally satisfactory and beautiful is the note of a learned German critic — ’A splendid testimony of the knowledge of the Old Testament believer in a future life. The wicked in this calamity is agitated with the greatest terror. He knows not where to turn. But the godly in this last evil has no fear. He knows to whom to flee, and where he is going.’ — Dathe in loco. Again — ’He (the righteous) dieth in God’s grace, and in an assured confidence of the salvation of his soul, and of the glorious resurrection of his body.’ — Diodati.

Verse 33

Often does the wise man shew the blessing of wisdom on the lips. (Proverbs 10:11, Proverbs 10:20-21 ; Proverbs 15:2, Proverbs 15:7 .) Here we trace it to its home. It flows from the head, and rests in the heart. Thus did it rest without measure in the humanity of Jesus (John 3:34 ); and most glorious was its manifestation.†1 When it rests in our hearts, incalculable is its value, as a fixed principle. It preserves us from the tossing of "divers and strange doctrines," and gives us "the good thing of a heart established with grace." (Hebrews 13:9 .) We see now the vital difference between speculation and experience; between the convictions of the judgment and the movement of the will.

It differs widely from mere worldly disputation. This — as Bishop Taylor observes — ’covers no vices, but kindles a great many. Though men esteem it learning, it is the most useless learning in the world.’†2 True wisdom, while it fixes its rest, sets up its throne, in the heart. All is therefore Christian order and holiness.

But there is another fountain always bubbling up.†3 The fool’s multitude of words,†4 selfish indulgence,†5 uncontrolled passions,†6 make manifest what is in the midst of him.†7 Let him stand out as a warning beacon against display, self-conceit, self-ignorance. Never let our prayers cease, until He who is the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24 ) "takes his rest in our hearts." Have we received the precious gift? Then let us seek the increase by a close union with him, and an entire dependence upon him. (1 Corinthians 1:30 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Luke 2:47, Luke 2:52 ; Luke 4:22 . Matthew 22:46 . John 7:46 .

†2 Via Intelligentiæ — Preached before the University of Dublin.

†3 Proverbs 15:2, Proverbs 15:28 ; Proverbs 29:11 .

†4 Ecclesiastes 5:3; Ecclesiastes 10:14 .

†5 1 Samuel 25:10 .

†6 1 Samuel 20:30-34 . 1 Kings 19:1-2 . Compare Proverbs 14:16 ; Proverbs 12:16 .

†7 Proverbs 10:9; Proverbs 12:23 ; Proverbs 13:16 ; Proverbs 18:2 . Ecclesiastes 10:3 .

Verse 34

If it be not beneath statesmen to take lessons from the Bible, let them deeply ponder this sound political maxim, which commends itself to every instinct of the unsophisticated mind. Indeed it would be a strange anomaly in the Divine administration, if the connection between godliness and prosperity, ungodliness and misery, established in individual cases, should not obtain in the multiplication of individuals into nations. The Scripture records however — confirmed by the result of impartial and extended observation — clearly prove this to be the rule of national, no less than of personal, dispensation. The annals of the chosen people, as they were a righteous or sinful nation, are marked by corresponding exaltation or reproach.†1 Not the wisdom of policy, extent of empire, splendid conquests, flourishing trade, abundant resources — but righteousness — exalteth a nation. It is both ’the prop to make it subsist firm in itself, and a crown to render it glorious in the eyes of others.’†2 Greece in her proud science; Rome in the zenith of her glory — both were sunk in the lowest depths of moral degradation.†3 Their true greatness existed only in the visions of poesy, or the dream of philosophy. Contrast the influence of righteousness, bringing out of the most debased barbarism a community, impregnated with all the high principles, that form a nation’s well-being.†4 Thus to Christianize, is to regenerate, the community; to elevate it to a more dignified position; to exalt the nation (Deuteronomy 26:16-19 ), and that, not with a sudden flash of shadowy splendour, but with solid glory, fraught with every practical blessing. But sin is a reproach to any people. No nation is so low, as not to sink low under it; while to the mightiest people, it is a blot in their escutcheon, that no worldly glory can efface. What an enemy is an ungodly man to his country! Loudly as he may talk of his patriotism, and even though God should make him an instrument of advancing her temporal interest; yet he contributes, so far as in him lies, to her deepest reproach.

Beloved Britain! nation highest in the profession of righteousness! For thee we "rejoice with trembling." The combined effort of a little band, to promote the honour of the Sabbath;†5 to resist the encroachments of Popery; to enlarge the usefulness and efficiency of the Church; to train the young in the sound principles of the Gospel;†6 to circulate the word and preaching of the gospel to the ends of the earth — this is thy national exaltation. But the evil example among the Heathen,†7 the accredited influence of Romish heresy:†8 the flood of infidelity, lawlessness, and ungodliness; the want of a full recognition of God in thy public acts — this is thy reproach. Let the little remnant in the midst of thee remember their high responsibility. (Matthew 5:13 .) Let them take care, that their personal and relative profession add to the righteousness, not to the sin, of the nation. Let them plead for their country’s true prosperity with humiliation, faith, and constancy.†9 Let them labour for her exaltation with more entire union of heart.

Footnotes:

†1 Exaltation, Deuteronomy 28:13 . Joshua 10:42 . 1 Kings 4:20-24 . 2 Chronicles 17:2-5, 2 Chronicles 17:11-12, 2 Chronicles 32:22-23 . Reproach, Deuteronomy 28:43-44 . Judges 2:7-15 . 2 Kings 10:31-32 ; 2 Kings 18:11-12 . 2 Chronicles 15:2-6 ; 2 Chronicles 36:11-17 . Jeremiah 7:29 . See the name of reproach given by God himself. Isaiah 1:10 ; Isaiah 57:3 . Hosea 1:6-9 . Zephaniah 2:1 . Compare Wisdom of Solomon 5:23 .

†2 Bishop Sanderson’s Sermon on Exodus 23:1-3 . Even an heathen sage spoke of moral righteousness — greek word here — the pillar and support of the city. — Plato de Legibus, book vi. ’Those princes and commonwealths, who would keep their governments entire and uncorrupt, are, above all things, to have a care of religion and its ceremonies, and preserve them in due veneration. For in the whole world there is not a greater sign of imminent ruin, than when God and his worship are despised.’ Such was the testimony of the infidel and profligate politician — Machiavel. — Discourses on Livy.

†3 Romans 1:22-32, was a picture of the heathen world in the best ages of refinement.

†4 The Missionary Records of New Zealand and the South Sea furnish ample proof of this statement.

†5 See how heavily the honour of the Sabbath weighs in the scale of national dispensation. Nehemiah 13:15-18 . Isaiah 58:13-14 . Jeremiah 17:24-27 . Ezekiel 20:15-24 .

†6 Mr. Addison, in one of his papers, after drawing a lively picture of the procession of children on a day of thanksgiving for the triumphs of the Queen’s arms, gives his decided testimony, that these unprecedented victories were God’s national blessing for the religious instruction of the poor. This was the testimony of a Secretary of State. — Guardian, No. 105.

†7 Ezekiel 36:20-23. Romans 2:23 . ’What a God must he be’ — said a poor Indian, of the Spaniards — ’who had such bloody men for his servants and children.’

†8 What must be the national guilt connected with the annual dedication of 100,000l. of our revenue (including the ungodly grant to Maynooth) to the support of Popery! Who that receives implicitly the Scripture testimony, Revelation 18:4, must not tremble at the consequence of our nation madly going into Babylon, instead of coming out of her? Expediency may plead plausibly. But Burke’s golden maxim is the soundest policy — ’What is morally wrong can never be politically right.’

†9 What a pattern does Daniel 9:1-17 furnish for this exercise of Christian patriotism!

Verse 35

The administration of the wise servant is often the working cause of national exaltation. (2 Chronicles 24:1-16 .) The king’s favour towards him†1 is therefore the rule of sound policy. Not less so is his wrath against him that causeth shame (Esther 7:6-10 ) ’to the office which he beareth, and to the Prince’s choice.’†2

Thus is it with the great King. All of us are his servants, bound to him by the highest obligations;†3 animated by the most glowing encouragements.†4 All of us have our responsibilities, our talents, our work, our account. Towards "the faithful and wise servant," who has traded with his talents, who has been diligent in his work, and who is ready for his account — his favour will be infinitely condescending and honourable. (John 12:26 .) But against him that causeth shame — reflecting upon his Master, neglectful of his work, and unprepared for his account — his wrath will be tremendous and eternal. (Matthew 25:24-30 .) What will the solemn day of reckoning bring to me? May I — may we all — be found wise servants to the best of Kings! looking with confidence for his welcome!

Footnotes:

†1 Genesis 41:38-40. Daniel 6:3 . Compare Proverbs 16:13 ; Proverbs 22:29 .

†2 Diodati.

†3 Psalms 116:16. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ; 1 Corinthians 7:23 .

†4 Matthew 25:21, Matthew 25:23 ; Matthew 24:44-46 .

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-14.html. 1846.
 
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