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Saturday, June 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 15

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verse 1

WHAT a mine of practical wisdom is this Book of God! Let us ponder this valuable rule for self-discipline, family peace, and Church unity. Scripture often illustrates the different effects of the tongue. The soft answer is the water to quench†1 — Grievous words are the oil to stir up, the fire.†2 And this is, alas! man’s natural propensity, to feed rather than to quench, the angry flame. We yield to irritation; retort upon our neighbour; have recourse to self-justification; insist upon the last word; say all that we could say; and think we "do well to be angry." (Jonah 4:9 .) Neither party gives up an atom of the will. Pride and passion on both sides strike together like two flints; and "behold! how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (James 3:5 .) Thus there is the self-pleasing sarcasm; as if we had rather lose a friend, than miss a clever stroke. All this the world excuses as a sensitive and lively temper. But the gospel sets before us our Savior’s example;†3 imbues with his spirit;†4 and imparts that blessed "charity, that is not easily provoked;"†5 and therefore is careful not to provoke a chafed or wounded spirit. If others begin, let us forbear from continuing the strife.†6 ’Patience is the true peace-maker.’†7 Soft and healing words†8 gain a double victory — over ourselves†9 and our brother.†10


†1 See Jacob with Esau, Genesis 32. 33. : Aaron with Moses, Leviticus 10:16-20 : the Reubenites with their brethren, Joshua 22:15-34 : Gideon with the men of Ephraim, Judges 8:1-3 : David with Saul, 1 Samuel 24:9-21 ; 1 Samuel 26:21 : Abigail with David, 1 Samuel 25:23-32 .

†2 See the instances of Jephthah, Judges 12:1-6 : Saul, 1 Samuel 20:30-34 : Nabal, 1 Samuel 25:10-12 : Rehoboam, 1 Kings 12:12-15 : the Apostles, Acts 15:39 . Compare Proverbs 30:33 .

†3 1 Peter 2:23 .

†4 2 Corinthians 3:18 . Philippians 2:3-5 .

†5 1 Corinthians 13:5 .

†6 Proverbs 17:14. Even a Heathen could give this excellent advice — ’Let dissension begin from others, but reconciliation from thee.’ — Seneca.

†7 Bishop Sanderson’s Sermon on Romans 15:5 .

†8 Proverbs 25:15. Compare Ecclesiastes 7:8 . James 3:17-18 .

†9 Proverbs 16:32.

†10 Romans 12:19-21.

Verse 2

Before we had the tongue of love. Here is the tongue of wisdom. The tongue shews the man. The wise commands his tongue. The fool — his tongue commands him. He may have a mass of knowledge in possession. But from the want of the right use, it runs to waste. Wisdom is proved, not by the quantum of knowledge, but by its right application. Observe "the Spirit of knowledge resting upon our Divine Master."†1 In condescending to the ignorance of the people;†2 in commanding their respect;†3 in silencing the gainsayers;†4 in alluring sinners to himself†5 — how did his wise tongue use knowledge aright! Thus did his great Apostle give to all the same knowledge, but wisely — not the same form or gradation. (1 Corinthians 3:2 .) Instead of exasperating his Heathen congregation by an open protest, he supplied their acknowledged defect, by bringing before them the true God, "whom they were ignorantly worshipping." (Acts 17:23 .) He pointed an arrow to Agrippa’s conscience, by the kindly admission of his candour and intelligence. (Acts 26:27-29 .) This right use of knowledge distinguishes the "workman approved of God, and that needeth not to be ashamed." (2 Timothy 2:15 .) The want of it often gives out truth so loosely and unsuitably, as to open, rather than to shut, the mouth of the gainsayer; rather to bring discredit upon the truth, than conviction to the adversary. Specially will the tongue of the wise direct a right application of knowledge to those, who have newly entered the path of God. May we not sometimes in our present stature, forget our former feeble infancy? If now we "strike our roots as Lebanon," was it not once with us only "the least of all seeds"? (Hosea 14:5 . Matthew 13:32 .) Let our considerate instruction pluck the thorn out of their tender feet, "lest that which is lamed be turned out of the way; but rather let it be healed." (Hebrews 12:13 .)

But to judge of the waters flowing from a fool’s fountain; listen to Baal’s worshippers;†6 Rabshakeh’s proud boasting;†7 the fretting murmurings of the people of God†8 all pouring out foolishness. Oh! for a large infusion of sound knowledge in the treasure-house within, that the tongue may be at once disciplined and consecrated!


†1 Isaiah 11:2.

†2 Mark 4:33.

†3 Matthew 7:29. John 7:46 .

†4 Matthew 22:15-46.

†5 Matthew 11:28-30. John 4:1-26 .

†6 1 Kings 18:26 .

†7 2 Kings 18:26-29 .

†8 Numbers 14:2-10; Numbers 16:13 .

Verse 3

Adored be this All-seeing God!†1 His inspection of the universe so minute, exact, unwearied!†2 The first mark of the apostasy was a dread of his presence.†3 The ungodly try to forget it,†4 and often succeed in banishing him out of their thoughts. (Psalms 10:4 .) Yet in despite of all their efforts to hide, he does see them. His eyes are in every place. Heaven, hell, the secret places of the earth, are all open before him.†5 He beholds the evil; whether the king on his throne;†6 or in his palace;†7 or the servant indulging his secret sin.†8 Yes — he may shut out the sun from his retreat, but he cannot shut out the eye of God, "from whom the darkness hideth not."†9 Reckless indeed is he to do or think what he would hide from God; and then — such is the secret root of atheism!†10 — thinking he can do so. (Isaiah 29:15 .)

But his eyes also behold the good. He sees them in outward destitution,†11 in secret retirement,†12 in deep affliction.†13 He pierces the prison walls.†14 He "covers their heads in the day of battle."†15 He is with them in the furnace,†16 and in the tempest.†17 His eye guides them as their journeying God, and will guide them safe home;†18 full of blessing,†19 protection,†20 and support.†21 ’He fills hell with his severity, heaven with his glory, his people with his grace.’†22

But how shall I meet these eyes? As a rebel or as a child? Do they inspire me with terror, or with love? Do I walk carefully under their lively impressions? (Genesis 17:1 .) Conscious corruption leads me to shrink from the eyes of man. But oh! my God! I would lay myself naked and open to thee. Search me; try me; shew me to myself. Bring out my hidden iniquities, and slay them before thee. (Psalms 139:24 .) How is the overwhelming thought of this piercing eye more than counterbalanced by the view of the great High Priest, who covers and cleanses all infirmities and defilements, and pleads and maintains my acceptance notwithstanding all discouragement! (Hebrews 4:13-14 .)


†1 Psalms 139:1-6.

†2 Jeremiah 23:24. Psalms 11:4 .

†3 Genesis 3:8.

†4 Psalms 10:11. Ezekiel 8:12 .

†5 Proverbs 15:11. Psalms 139:8 .

†6 Acts 12:23.

†7 Daniel 5:5.

†8 2 Kings 5:20 .

†9 Job 34:21-22. Jeremiah 16:17 .

†10 Psalms 14:1.

†11 Genesis 16:7, Genesis 16:13 .

†12 John 1:48.

†13 Exodus 3:7. Psalms 91:15 .

†14 Genesis 39:21. 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 .

†15 Psalms 140:7.

†16 Daniel 3:25.

†17 Acts 27:23.

†18 Psalms 23:4; Psalms 48:14 . Isaiah 42:16 .

†19 Genesis 26:3.

†20 2 Chronicles 16:9 . 1 Peter 3:12 .

†21 Isaiah 41:10.

†22 Charnock.

Verse 4

Wisdom is finely portrayed as a tree of life. (Proverbs 3:18 .) So is also the genial influence of the righteous (Proverbs 11:30 ) — here the fruitfulness of this "little member." A high image of what it ought to be; not negative, not harmless, but wholesome. As the salt, cast into the spring, cleansed the bitter waters (2 Kings 2:21 ); so when there is grace in the heart, there will be healing in the tongue. (Proverbs 12:18 .) "The speech will be with grace, seasoned with salt." (Colossians 4:6 .) Large indeed is the sphere, and abundant the blessing. When employed in soothing the afflicted, calming the troubled waters with words of peace, it creates a paradise around. It is not like ’the thorny bush, pricking and hurting those that are about us, but a fruitful tree — a tree of life.’†1

But if the gracious tongue be healing, the evil tongue is wounding. The meekest of men felt perverseness a breach in the spirit. (Numbers 16:8-15 .) The tongue of Job’s friends broke "the bruised reed," which needed to be bound up. (Job 13:1-5 .) Even our Beloved Lord, who never shrunk from external evil, keenly felt the piercing edge of this sword to his inmost soul. (Psalms 69:19-20 .) May "grace be poured upon my lips," as upon my Divine Master’s (Psalms 45:2 ), so that it may be a wholesome tongue, full of blessing and of good fruits! ’Everlasting benediction be upon that tongue, which spake, as no other ever did, or could speak, pardon, peace, and comfort to lost mankind! This was the tree of life, whose leaves were for the healing of the nations.’†2


†1 Leighton’s Exposition of the Ninth Commandment, vol. iv.

†2 Bishop Horn’s Sermon on the Tree of Life.

Verse 5

Alas! we cannot wonder at this folly. Remember the birth of the fool, "as a wild ass’s colt" (Job 11:12 ), despising discipline and restraint. Yet subjection to parents is the law of nature, recognized by the most uncivilized nations. Much more is it the law of God.†1 The authority of parents is the authority of God. ’The wayward resistance of the ungodly will be fearfully scourged.’ (1 Samuel 2:22-25 .) And even the Christian penitent has felt the smart of the rod to the end of life.†2 If example would put this folly to shame, do we not read of One child, able to teach, yea to command, his parents, who yet exhibited the lovely pattern of filial subjection?†3 But pride must be broken down, and the "clothing of humility" worn (1 Peter 5:5 ), before the child will see that his parents know better than himself, and that to count their word law, — to "bear the yoke in his youth" (Lamentations 3:27 ), — and to regard reproof, is the path of prudence (Proverbs 15:31-32 ; Proverbs 19:20 ), no less than of honour. (Proverbs 13:18 .) Solomon’s wisdom, though the special gift of God, was doubtless connected with is filial regard to his father’s instruction. (1 Chronicles 22:11-13 ; 1 Chronicles 28:9, 1 Chronicles 28:20 .) Will those, who despise their earthly father’s instruction, listen to their Heavenly Father? How surely therefore will this untractable spirit exclude from the Kingdom of God! (Matthew 18:3-4 .)


†1 Exodus 20:12. Ephesians 6:1-2 . Compare Deuteronomy 21:18-21 . Greek words here. Arist. Eth. ix. 12. Proverbs 8:14 . Plato De Leg. Lib. iv.

†2 See Memoirs of Mrs. Hawkes, p. 524. — A most instructive biography.

†3 Luke 2:49-51. ’Who was subject? And to whom? God to men.’ Bernard, Homily i.

Verse 6

The comparison between the righteous and the wicked, always turns in favor of the righteous. Even in treasure (Proverbs 15:16-17 ; Proverbs 3:33 ), the world’s idol, he exceeds. For though his house may be destitute of money, yet is there much treasure; often unseen (2 Corinthians 6:10 ), yet such, that the revenues of the wicked, compared with it, sink into nothing. Divine Teaching alone can convey any just apprehension of it. (1 Corinthians 2:9 .) Even eternity cannot fully grasp it; as throughout eternity it will be progressively increasing. ’Drop millions of gold, boundless revenues, ample territories, crowns and scepters; and a poor contemptible worm lays his One God against all of them.’†1 The treasures of the wicked are too much for their good, and too little for their lust. They cannot satisfy their senses, much less their souls. (Ecclesiastes 5:10 .) They may "take wings" (Proverbs 23:5 ) at any moment; and, while they continue, unlike the treasures of the righteous (Proverbs 10:22 ), they are burdened with trouble. (Ecclesiastes 4:6 .) But is it not the crown of the Christian’s crown, and the glory of his glory, that his portion is so full, that he cannot desire more? All the excellences of the creation are only dark shadows of its more substantial excellency. What a mercy to be delivered from the idolatrous bait, so ruinous alike to our present peace and eternal welfare! (1 Timothy 6:9-10 .) But a greater mercy still, to be enriched with that treasure, beyond the reach of harm, that raises to heaven; a portion in God, his favor, his image, his everlasting joy.


†1 Bishop Hopkins’ Works, i. 43. Treatise on Vanity of the World.

Verse 7

The "right use of knowledge" is, first to "lay it up" in a storehouse (Proverbs 10:14 ); then out of the store-house to disperse it. The sower scatters the seed in the furrow, and calculates upon a proportionate harvest. (2 Corinthians 9:6 .) Thus the lips of the wise disperse the precious seed, "giving a portion to seven, and also to eight;" not discouraged by trifling difficulties, but "sowing morning and evening," and committing the result to God. (Ecclesiastes 11:2, Ecclesiastes 11:4, Ecclesiastes 11:6 .) Our Lord thus dispersed the heavenly knowledge of his gospel. (Matthew 4:23 ; Matthew 9:35 .) He commanded his Apostles to scatter the seed through the vast field of the world. (Matthew 28:19-20 .) The persecution of the Church was overruled for this great end. (Acts 8:4 .) The Reformers widely dispersed their treasures both by preaching and writing, and rich indeed was the fruit. Do we remember, that our gifts and talents are the riches of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7 . 1 Peter 4:10 ); that, like our father Abraham, we are blessed, not for our own sakes, but to "be a blessing"? (Genesis 12:2 .) And does not conscience speak of the waste of many, even important, opportunities of intercourse with our fellow-sinners or fellow-Christians, when not an atom of knowledge has been dispersed? We contend for no eccentric irregularity, no passing of our proper boundary, no entrenchment upon paramount obligations. But be careful, lest in quenching unnatural fire, we inadvertently quench some genuine spark of holy flame. Be mindful of small opportunities. The careful cultivation of the smallest field ensures an abundant harvest. The acceptance is not to the number, but to the improvement of the talents; not only "where much has been given;" but where we "have been faithful in a few things." (Matthew 25:21 .)

The sin of the wicked is not always, that they "pour out foolishness" (Proverbs 15:2 ); but that they do not so. They neglect to disperse. If they do not abuse their talent, they omit to improve it. If not blots, they are blanks in the Church. If they do no harm, they do nothing. (Matthew 25:25-28 .) Indeed, they can disperse nothing from their empty storehouse. They can only trade with the trash of the world, not with the commerce of substantial knowledge — The end of both is according to their works — "Unto every one that hath (actively improves) shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not (uses not) shall be taken away, even that which he hath." (Matthew 25:29 .)

Verses 8-9

Let the reader ponder this awful question — ’What am I — what is my service — when upon my knees before God? an abomination or a delight!’ Man judges by acts; God by principles. The sacrifice of the wicked, though it be part of God’s own service, yet ’will be found in his register in the catalogue of sins to be accounted for.’†1 At best little is said or done, where nothing would be lost. But it is "the sacrifice of fools" (Ecclesiastes 5:1 ) — heedless and unreflecting, performed without interest, with the heart asleep. Nay more — where the heart is deliberately and habitually absent (Isaiah 29:13 ) — it is the acting of a lie. And whether it be smoothly fashioned to impose on man, or whether it be forced by the sting of an awakened conscience — instead of possessing the virtue of a sacrifice, it is an insulting provocation; not only vain (Matthew 15:7-9 ), but abominable — yea abomination itself. (Proverbs 21:27 .) That is wanting, "without which it is impossible to please God;" the lack of which stamped the sacrifice of Cain as an abomination. (Genesis 4:3-5, with Hebrews 11:4 .) It is a ’work, that doth not flow from a lively faith, and therefore hath in it the nature of sin.’ (Art. xiii.)

Not that prayer itself is a sin. ’It is,’ as Archbishop Usher expounds — ’a good duty, but spoiled in the carriage.’†2 And far indeed would we be from discouraging the wicked from prayer. (Acts 8:22 .) We would only press the awakening conviction, that it must be done in God’s order and way; else never can it find his acceptance.

But not only the sacrifice but the way, of the wicked; not only his religion, but his common course, natural as well as moral, is abomination. (Proverbs 21:4 . Titus 1:15 .) All is the course of a rebel against God. All his doings are the corrupt stream from a corrupt fountain. Awful, indeed, is the thought of every step of life as being hateful to God!

Is he then finally rejected? Far from it. His desire to seek the Lord would be the beginning of the prayer, that ensures acceptance. The prayer of the upright, from its first, feeblest utterance, is not only acceptable to the Lord, but his delight. (Song of Song of Solomon 2:14 ; Song of Song of Solomon 4:11 . Daniel 9:23 ; Daniel 10:12 .) Here is that which brings acceptance — not the perfection, but the simplicity of uprightness. The man feelingly knows his own defilement. If he has not fathomed the depths of his corruptions, he has made the discovery, that to him at least they are unfathomable. (Jeremiah 17:9 .) This consciousness of hidden sins only makes him more concerned to tear them from their hiding-place. His sacrifice therefore is that of truth, as contrasted with that of falsehood. That was the service of the outer — this of the inner — man. That seems what it is not, and covers what it is. This "cometh to the light," and "the deed is made manifest," with all its infirmities, "that it is wrought in God." (John 3:21 .) This prayer of the upright is the Lord’s delight. It is suited to his own spiritual nature. "The father seeketh such to worship him." (John 4:23-24 .) The golden censer above (Hebrews 10:19-22 ), and the gracious intercession within (Romans 8:26-27 ), combine with fragrant odour before our God. Never could we faint in prayer, did we realize more habitually this pure ground of acceptance. Not less pleasing to him is the course of the upright. He has given him a measure of righteousness, and an effort for more. And though he fulfills it not, he follows after it, cheered with the smile of his Father’s gracious love. (Proverbs 21:21 . Philippians 3:12 .)


†1 Bishop Hopkins’ Works, ii. 481. Compare Isaiah 66:3 ; Haggai 2:12-14 .

†2 Eighteen Sermons on Ephesians 2:1 .

Verse 10

But is it not also "grievous for the present" to the child of God? He knows his need of it, kisses the rod, bows his will, and reaps a fruitful blessing. (Hebrews 12:11 .) But grievous indeed is it to him that forsaketh the way. He is humbled by force, not in spirit. He kicks at it, and, like an untractable child under the rod, only increases his own chastisement. There is no surer step to ruin than this hatred of reproof.†1 How do "the spots of God’s children" (2 Chronicles 16:10 ) here warn us — "Cease ye from man!" (Isaiah 2:22 .)

But correction turns back him, who had forsaken the way. Then it is grievous no more. Had not Manasseh more cause to bless God for his fetters than for his crown, for his dungeon than for his palace?†2 "This man was born there." We would always look hopefully at a sinner under correction. For surely so long as the physician administers the medicine, there is no ground for despondency.

Child of God! Dost not thou still need the correction, to perfect thee for more difficult and refined obedience? This costly teaching brings us on wonderfully. The Lord teach thee, when the thorn is in the flesh, to pray for grace in the heart! (2 Corinthians 12:7 .) Seek thy Father’s favor, more than thine own ease. Desire the sanctifying, rather than the removal, of his rod. Mock him not by the empty ceremonial of repentance. But in true penitence look up to thy smiter to be thy healer (Hosea 6:1 ); yet not till his correction has fully accomplished his gracious work. Lord! let me know the smart of thy rod, rather than the eclipse of thy love. Shew me thy love; then do with me what thou wilt.


†1 Proverbs 1:30; Proverbs 5:11-12, Proverbs 5:23 ; Proverbs 29:1 : Pharoah, Exodus 10:24-29 : Ahab, 1 Kings 18:17 ; 1 Kings 21:20 ; 1 Kings 22:8, 1 Kings 22:37 : Amaziah, 2 Chronicles 25:15-16, 2 Chronicles 25:27 : Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28:22-23 : the Jews, 2 Chronicles 36:15-17 . Jeremiah 6:16-19 .

†2 2 Chronicles 33:11-13 . Compare David, Psalms 119:67, Psalms 119:71 : Ephraim, Jeremiah 31:18-20 : the Prodigal, Luke 15:12-20 .

Verse 11

Once more (Proverbs 15:3 ) behold we an Omniscient — Omnipresent God. Hell and destruction; every recess of the vast Hades; the state of the dead, and the place of the damned — are before the LORD,†1 before his eye; open to his cognizance. How much more, then, the hearts of the children of men (1 John 3:20 ), unsearchable though they be! (Jeremiah 17:9-10 .) No depth is there within, that he cannot fathom; no manner of deceit so complicated, that he cannot track them. Words are not necessary with him to lay open the heart. Aaron’s rebellious feelings were as cognizant to his eye as Moses’ angry words. (Numbers 20:12, Numbers 20:24 .) The inward hypocrisy of his people was as open before him, as if it had been stamped upon their foreheads. (Deuteronomy 5:28-29 . Zephaniah 1:12 .)

Yet what a mass of practical unbelief is there in this plain demonstrative truth! For would men dare to indulge their vain thoughts, their light notions, their trifles, their impurities, did they really believe that the LORD searched their hearts? Would they attempt a forced concealment from his eye (Isaiah 29:15 ); as if outward service, lip-worship, would avail, while the heart was cherishing its unrepented sin? Would they not be afraid to think before him what they would shrink from doing before men? Oh! is it not an awful moment in privacy to stand the test of this searching eye? Awful indeed is the thought to the idolatrous sinner, to the lover of pleasure, distinction, or low ambition. Thine heart is open before thy God. Never will he stoop to occupy the second place there. Thy covering of deceit is swept away. The refuges of lies are pierced and laid bare.

The conscious sinner shrinks from this appalling view. The believer walks undismayed in the sight of this "consuming fire." His godly fear is the exercise of filial confidence. (Hebrews 12:28-29 .) The sins, that are opened to his Father’s knowledge, are covered from his justice. (Hebrews 4:13 . Psalms 32:1 .) When he "finds the law, that when he would do good, evil is present with him;" he can look up — "All my desire is before thee." (Romans 7:21 . Psalms 38:9 .) Thus does the Gospel clothe the Divine attributes with light and love.

And see we not here a testimony to the Divine Glory of Immanuel? For are not hell and destruction before him (Revelation 1:18 ) as his vast empire? And did not he often prove his prerogative of searching the hearts of the children of men; charging sin in the inner world, beyond the ken of any, but the One all-seeing eye? And this indeed is the confidence of his people. Each of them appeals to this Omniscient eye, in despite of all accusing from the enemy — "Lord! thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee!" (John 21:17 . Revelation 2:23 .)


†1 Job 26:6. Psalms 139:7-8 . Destruction, Heb. Abaddon. Compare Revelation 9:11 .

Verse 12

How different from David’s spirit, thankful for the "kind smiting of the righteous" (Psalms 141:5 ); and from the lovely humility of an Apostle, who shewed before the Church his honour and love to his reprover! (Galatians 2:11-14, with 2 Peter 3:15 .) Yet he had need to be wise with "the wisdom that is from above" to give reproof aright. So closely does the mixture of our own spirit cleave to every Christian exercise! Not less grace and wisdom does it require, instead of revolting from our reprover, to go unto him, and ask the continuance of his faithful offices. That most sensitive, delicate, and unvarying of all feelings, self-love — has been wounded, and the wound is not easily healed. The scorner has been his own flatterer so long, that he cannot bear to be brought down to his proper level. The truth-telling friend therefore he counts as his enemy. (Galatians 4:15-16 .) He loveth not — yea — he hateth — one that reproveth him,†1 though before he might have reverenced him. (Mark 6:17-20 .) "The Pharisee derided" our Lord with external scorn, when he struck at the right eye, and reproved their hypocrisy.†2 "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light; neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." (John 3:20 .)


†1 Proverbs 9:8. 1 Kings 21:20 ; 1 Kings 22:8 . Amos 5:10 ; Amos 7:10-13 .

†2 Luke 16:13-14. exemukthrizon, from mukthr, nostril — contempt shewn by the nostrils — mussw, to blow the nose — ’They blowed their nose at him.’ See Leigh’s Critica Sacra, and Parkhurst on mukthrizw. (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English).

Verse 13

How close is the sympathy between the body and soul, though framed of such opposite elements! A man’s countenance is the index of his spirit. In the sensation of joy ’the heart sits smiling in the face, and looks merrily out of the windows of the eyes.’†1 Yet too often this high exhilaration, this countenance lighted up, is a matter of sadness rather than of pleasurable contemplation; as connected with a happiness, that estranges the heart from God. Who has a true right to a merry heart, but he that is walking in the joy of Divine acceptance? (Psalms 32:1-2, Psalms 32:11 .) This spring of joy lighted up Hannah’s sorrowful countenance into godly cheerfulness. (1 Samuel 1:18 .) Stephen stood before his judge, with his heavenly prospects beaming in his "angel face." (Acts 6:15 ; Acts 7:55 .) Everywhere does the hearty reception of the gospel "give beauty for ashes," sunshine for gloom. (Isaiah 61:3 .)

Sad, indeed, is the contrast of a heart broken by worldly sorrow. (1 Samuel 28:16 . 2 Corinthians 7:10 .) Too often does a mischievous gloom worm itself into the vitals of the child of God. (Proverbs 18:14 .) The melancholy victim drags on a weary, heavy-laden existence, clouding a distinct feature of his character (Philippians 3:3 ), and one of the most attractive ornaments of his profession. (Psalms 33:1 . Philippians 4:4 .) His hands slacken; his whole energies are paralyzed for the work of God; and he sinks into desponding apathy and indolence, as if he had taken leave of life and the sun. (Proverbs 17:22 .)

Every effort should be made to sweep away this black hovering cloud. Let sense and feeling be kept within their bounds; and the Savior’s voice, encouraging confidence, will be practically regarded. (Isaiah 50:10 .) Even our very "sighing and crying for the abominations of the land" (Ezekiel 9:4 ) must not issue in heartless complaints, but rather stimulate to the diligent improvement of present opportunities. Did we realize, as we ought, our present privilege, and grasp our eternal prospects; no sorrow of the heart would break our spirit. ’I wonder many times’ — says Rutherford — ’that ever a child of God should have a sad heart, considering what his Lord is preparing for him.’ The gleam of the present sunshine is the earnest of what it will be, when — as he again beautifully observes — ’we shall be on the sunny side of the Brae.’†2 Meanwhile the first step in religion is, not only beginning to be serious, but to be happy. To maintain our Christian balance, even "godly sorrow" must be disciplined; lest it break the heart which it was intended only to humble; lest it give advantage to the enemy, and bring hindrance to the Church. (2 Corinthians 2:7 .)


†1 Trapp in loco. This merriment, however, widely differs from the noisy mirth of the ungodly. (Proverbs 14:13 .) The word is of frequent use among our old writers. It is Foxe’s favorite description of the holy joys of the martyrs. Compare Ecclesiastes 9:7 .

†2 Rutherford’s Letters.

Verse 14

Observe the man of natural understanding. Every apprehension quickens the thirst to seek knowledge. He is ready to learn from any quarter, even from a child. He is all eye, all ear, all heart, for his object. Much more will spiritual understanding stimulate the desire. (Proverbs 1:5 ; Proverbs 9:9 .) Repress the appetite to be "wise above what is written." But make vigorous effort to be wise to the full extent of the Revelation. David, with his high attainments, was ever crying for Divine Teaching.†1 His wise son sought knowledge upon his knees,†2 and not less in the diligent habit of application.†3 The Queen of Sheba, "coming from the utmost parts of the earth;"†4 Nicodemus and Mary, "sitting at the feet of Jesus;"†5 the Eunuch, journeying to Jerusalem;†6 Cornelius and his company, drinking in the precious message of salvation;†7 the Bereans, carefully "searching the Scriptures"†8 — all these shew the understanding heart, seeking a larger interest in the blessing.

Invaluable, indeed, is the gift. Warm affections need the discipline of knowledge to form Christian consistency and completeness (Philippians 1:9 . Psalms 119:66 ): seeking for wholesome food, not intoxicating draughts; not deeming novelty the most desirable thing; but rather, with the wise Sir M. Hale, desiring ’to be impressed and affected, and to have old and known truths reduced to experience and practice.’

But while the man of understanding is never satisfied with knowledge, the fool is fully satisfied with folly. His brutish taste feeds upon foolishness, as his meat and his drink. His spirit "is of the earth, earthy." Young people! guard against this folly at every turn. Avoid trifling amusements, frivolous reading, profane merriment. In religion, beware of preferring empty speculations and disputings on matters indifferent, to the rich pasture of the children of God. (Proverbs 15:21 ; Acts 17:21 .) Let us all ponder the responsibility of "going on to perfection; that, being of full age, we may have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 6:1 ; Hebrews 5:14 .)


†1 Psalms 119:98-100, with Psalms 119:33-34, &c.

†2 1 Kings 3:5-10 .

†3 Ecclesiastes 12:9-10.

†4 1 Kings 10:1 . Matthew 12:42 .

†5 John 3:1-2. Luke 10:39 .

†6 Acts 8:28.

†7 Acts 10:33.

†8 Acts 17:11.

Verse 15

Affliction, as the fruit and chastening of sin, is an evil. Hence all the days of the afflicted are evil. (Genesis 47:9 . Psalms 90:7-9 .) Yet a solid principle of inward satisfaction will bring real comfort in most trying circumstances. Though therefore the abounding consolation of Christian affliction does not blot out his penal character; yet the child of God is not so miserable as he seems to be. (2 Corinthians 6:10 .) The darkest of these evil days can never make "the consolations of God small with him."†1 He can sing in the prison, as in a palace.†2 He can "take joyfully the spoiling of his goods."†3 He can praise his God, when he hath stripped him naked.†4 He can rejoice in him as his portion in earthly destitution.†5 ’Who is it’ — said the heavenly Martyn in a moment of faintness — ’that maketh my comforts to be a source of enjoyment? Cannot the same hand make cold, and hunger, and nakedness, and peril, to be a train of ministering angels conducting me to glory?’†6

What real evil then can affliction bring? Or rather, what does it bring, but many feast days? (Ecclesiastes 9:7 .) A few days’ feasting would soon weary the epicure. But here the merry heart hath a continual feast. His temporal mercies are fraught with cheerfulness. And ’all his trouble is but the rattling hail upon the tiles of his house,’†7 not disturbing his enjoyment. Fed with this heavenly portion, shall I not thank my God, that he hath rooted me up from present satisfactions? "Let me not eat of this world’s dainties. Thou hast put gladness into my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased." (Psalms 141:4 ; Psalms 4:6-7 .)


†1 Job 15:11.

†2 Acts 16:25.

†3 Hebrews 10:34.

†4 Job 1:21.

†5 Habakkuk 3:17-18.

†6 Life, Chapter ii.

†7 Leighton on 1 Peter 1:2 ; 1 Peter 3:17 .

Verses 16-17

Here are the sources of the merry heartthe fear of the LORD, and love to man. And here also is the continual feast, so satisfying, that the saint’s little is better than the worldling’s all.†1 It is his Father’s gift;†2 the fruit of his Savior’s love;†3 enjoyed by special promise,†4 and sweetened with the "great gain of godly contentment."†5 If it be only little, it is not from lack of his Father’s care and love; but because his wisdom knows what he really needs,†6 and that all beyond would be a temptation and snare. Truly "a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."†7 ’Riches and poverty are more in the heart than in the hand. He is wealthy, that is contented. He is poor, that wanteth more.’†8 The universe will not fill a worldly,†9 while a little will suffice for an heavenly,†10 heart. "The children of light" content themselves willingly with the small pittances, which their Father allows them during the time of their minority; knowing that their main portion is reserved for them in safe keeping unto the "full age." (1 Peter 1:4 .) They are well satisfied on their way home to live rather more scantily by the way; like Joseph’s brethren, who were provided with food for their journey; but their full sacks were unopened, till they reached their home. (Genesis 42:25 .) Here their God compensates for everything. But what would compensate for him?

On the other hand, there must be trouble with great treasure, without the fear of the LORD. (Ecclesiastes 4:6 ; Ecclesiastes 5:12 .) And far more destitute is its possessor in his unsubstantial happiness, than the man of God, who is "eating his bread in the sweat of his brow." ’Jacob’s ladder, which conveys to heaven, may have its foot in the smoking cottage.’†11 And as to this world’s comforts — the dinner of herbs, the homely meal of love, is better than the stalled ox, preparing for a sumptuous, but unbrotherly, feast.†12 Love sweetens the meanest food. Hatred embitters the richest feast.†13 How did the presence and converse of the Lord of angels dignify the humble fare!†14 How much more refreshing were the social meals of the Pentecostal Christians, than the well-furnished tables of their enemies!†15 When the Lord’s ordinance of marriage is marred by man’s selfishness; when wealth, rank, or adventitious accomplishments govern the choice of life’s companion, rather than the fear of the LORD; what wonder if the stalled ox, and hatred therewith, be the order of the house? Mutual disappointment is too often the source of criminal indulgence abroad; always the bane of peace and unity at home.

Few, alas! practically believe this divine testimony. Parents! do you seek the solid happiness of your children? Then lead them to expect little from the world; everything from God.


†1 Proverbs 16:8. Psalms 37:16 .

†2 Matthew 6:11.

†3 2 Peter 1:3 .

†4 Psalms 34:10; Psalms 37:3, Psalms 37:19 . Isaiah 33:15-16 .

†5 1 Timothy 6:6 . Philippians 4:11-12 .

†6 Matthew 6:32.

†7 Luke 12:15.

†8 Bishop Hall.

†9 Ecclesiastes 1:8.

†10 Genesis 28:29.

†11 Bishop Reynolds’ Sermon on 1 Timothy 6:17-19 .

†12 Proverbs 17:1; Proverbs 21:19 ; Proverbs 23:6 .

†13 1 Samuel 20:24-34 . 2 Samuel 13:23-29 .

†14 John 21:9-12.

†15 Acts 2:46. Compare Psalms 133:1-3 .

Verse 18

18 A wrathful man†a stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.

This Proverb requires no explanation. But observe the principles of hatred and love, contrasted in active exercise. Some persons make it their occupation to sit by the fire, to feed and fan the flame, lest it be extinguished. An useful and friendly employment, were it a fire to warm. But when it is an injurious, consuming, and destructive element, it would seem difficult to discover the motive of these incendiaries (Proverbs 10:12 ; Proverbs 16:27-28 ; Proverbs 26:21 ), did we not read, that "out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, wickedness, an evil eye, pride, foolishness." (Mark 7:21-22 .)

What then is the Christian’s exercise? Instead of stirring up, to appease, strife; to bring water, not fuel, to the fire; by "a soft answer to turn away wrath;"† by a yielding spirit to melt, subdue, and bring peace. (Genesis 13:7-9 . Ecclesiastes 10:4 .) Let me remember, that I owe my very salvation to this attribute, slow to anger. (Psalms 103:8 . 2 Peter 3:15 .) And shall I not endeavour to imbue my profession with this lovely adorning, and to "be a follower of God, as his dear child, walking in love"? (Ephesians 5:1-2 .) Will not this temper of the gospel secure my earthly enjoyment of godliness? (Matthew 5:5 .) Will it not also seal my title as a child of God? (Matthew 5:9 .)


†a ’A man of wrath. Heb. constantly indulging it; unwilling to put it away; a firebrand, Vir flagrantiæ.’ — Schultens. Compare Proverbs 29:22 .

†1 Proverbs 15:1. References.

Verse 19

19 The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain. {is made...: Heb. is raised up as a causey†a}

Another picture of the slothful man drawn to life! He plants his own hedge, and then complains of its hindrance. He is always at a stand. Every effort is like forcing his way through a hedge of thorns, where every thorn-bush tears his flesh. Indecision, delay, and sluggishness, add to his difficulties, and paralyze his exertion; so that after a feeble struggle of conscience, with much to do, but no heart to do anything, he gives up the effort.

This sloth is ruinous in temporals. One or two hills vigorously climbed make the way plain for future triumph. But to put half the soul to the work; to drag to it as an unavoidable task; to avoid present difficulties in order to find a smoother path, makes a hedge of thorns, harassing to the end of the journey.

Much more ruinous is this evil in the Christian life. The sluggard in religion is never at ease. He knows that he needs a change. He makes and effort to pray; or he takes up a good book. But all withers for want of purpose of heart. Exertion is to him impossible. He sees no hope of overcoming, and sinks again.

Nor is this merely the beginning of his path. It is his way — his whole course. The righteous may loiter or decline, but it is not his way. The slothful man may have a fit — sometimes an astonishing fit — of exertion; but he relapses to his former state (Proverbs 12:27 ), still surrounded by a hedge of thorns, unable to force his way, pierced, disheartened to the end.

Observe God’s estimate of him. He contrasts with him, not the diligent, but the righteous; marking him as a "wicked, because a slothful servant." (Matthew 25:26 .) The difficulties are far more in the mind than in the path. For while the slothful sits down by his hedge-side in despair, the way of the righteous, in itself not more easy, is made plain. He does not expect God to work for him in an indolent habit. But he finds that God helps those that help themselves. Working with diligence, he finds that he can work in comfort. Following his commands, feeding upon his promises, continuing in prayer, in waiting and watching for an answer to prayer — his way is raised up, before him. He believes what is written, and acts upon it without disputing, without delay. As soon as ever the light comes into his mind — at the very first dawn — this determines the direction of his steps, and the order of his proceedings. Thus his stumbling-blocks are removed. (Numbers 13:30 ; Numbers 14:6-9 . Isaiah 57:14 .) Industrious wisdom performs what lazy foolishness deemed impossible. Thorns there are doubtless in the way, but not an impassable hedge of thorns; only such, as while they pierce his flesh, are overruled as a blessing to his soul. (2 Corinthians 12:7-8 .)

Now to apply this to myself — to my great work. Of infinite moment it is for me to have my way made plain. For this — confidence of success is indispensable. Let me then examine my ground. Suppose up to this moment I have been living in enmity with God; yet now he "willeth not my death;"†1 he invites me to come to him;†2 he assures my acceptance.†3 I have his word to depend upon. Why should "I stagger in unbelief"? His truth claims my confidence, and warrants my expectation of the certain blessing. I do not begin, hoping to amend for past neglect, but believing in him for free pardon and strength. The physician heals my helplessness. Faith expels slavish fear, and "the way of the LORD," instead of a hedge of thorns, is "strength to the upright." (Proverbs 10:29 .) The prospect brightens, and instead of "the hard man," which the slothful pictures to himself, a reconciled God appears before me. (Matthew 25:24 . 2 Corinthians 5:19 .)

This is no easy way. What fluctuation of faith! — What weariness and discouragement! But at length the way is made plain. Difficulties are faced, surmounted, carried by assault, and what cannot be removed is endured. The mountains are leveled before Zerubbabel. (Zechariah 4:7 .) The feeble worm threshes them by the energy of faith. (Isaiah 41:15 .) Hope, love, and joy, are conquering principles. Religion, with all its crosses, is found to be a practicable thing. (Philippians 4:13 .) The victory over sloth opens a happy and triumphant way to heaven. (Matthew 11:12 .)

The slothful man has enjoyed the same advantages. But he has not gone through the thorn-hedge of his own corruptions. He has never learnt, that the cross is the discipline to the end of the way. He does not think what is spoken to faith, but what is agreeable to feeling. He has never broken through the thorn of unbelief. He has compromised and failed in the unreserved trust and surrender of himself to his Savior. He never therefore comes to God in confidence. All his service is with a festering conscience, and with that timidity and delay which ensures defeat. His way at every turn is restless trouble; struggling with a hedge of thorns to the very last.

Child of God! beware of a sluggish spirit. Even the morbid, scrupulous strife about your state may sometimes be a slothful indulgence in direct opposition to the plainest declarations of God. Let not unbelief wrest the promise from your hand, or paralyze the hand that holds it. If the way has been made plain, sit not down in the indulgent comfort of it. But "go in this thy strength" to more important advantage. Prize every particle of success obtained by exertion. Oh! it is worth everything, if we have suffered ourselves to be entangled by spiritual sloth, to rise, though it be at the setting of the sun, and clear away the clouds, that "in the evening time there may be light." (Zechariah 14:7 .) Happy indeed will it be to be quickened, though at the last, to a firmer confidence; to be brought, though only a step nearer to Christ, — to have one thorn less to conflict with in the struggle of death.


†a ’A highway — a path so formed, as to be easy to the foot of the traveler’ — French and Skinner. Compare Isaiah 35:8. Also 2 Chronicles 9:11, margin.

†1 Ezekiel 33:11.

†2 Matthew 11:28.

†3 John 6:37.

Verse 20

Do not the brightest joys,†1 and the bitterest sorrows†2 in this world of tears, flow from parents’ hearts? Whatever be the delight to see a son prospering in life; the Christian father finds no rest, until a wise son maketh him glad. And here we need not any development of talent, or superior attainment, but the true wisdom; humble and docile, marked (as the contrast suggests) by filial reverence, specially by the cordial choice of that, which "is the beginning of wisdom — the fear of the LORD." Such a son does indeed rejoice his father, as he watches, with equal pleasure and thankfulness, the daily growth and healthiness of his choice vine.

But what if folly, instead of gladdening, despise a mother†3 — her, whose tender love,†4 and yearning faithfulness,†5 are a faint picture of the heart of God? The law of God commands honour†6 and reverence,†7 and the transgression of the law will not be forgotten.†8 But is not this neglect a chastening rebuke for capricious indulgence? What grace and wisdom is needed, that the parents may be a valuable blessing to their children for their highest interests! A single eye is the primary concern.


†1 Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 23:24 . 1 Kings 1:48 .

†2 Proverbs 17:25. 2 Samuel 18:33 .

†3 Proverbs 19:26. Proverbs 23:22 .

†4 Isaiah 66:13.

†5 Isaiah 49:15.

†6 Exodus 20:12.

†7 Leviticus 19:3.

†8 Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 30:17 . Ezekiel 22:7 .

Verse 21

This Book of instruction probes our profession. What think we of folly? Not only does the ungodly practice it. But it is joy to him. He sins without temptation or motive. He cannot sleep without it.†1 It is "the sweet morsel under his tongue."†2 He "obeys it in the lusts thereof."†3 He "works it with greediness."†4 He hates the gospel, because it "saves from it."†5 But hear the humbling confessions of a child of God — "I am carnal, sold under sin. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" Verily would he sink under his hated burden, but for the confidence — "I thank God — There is no condemnation." (Romans 7:24-25 ; Romans 8:1 .)

This appetite for sin proves the man to be destitute of wisdom. That which hath turned this fair world into a sepulcher; nay — that which hath kindled "everlasting burnings," is his joy. And thus he goes on, intent upon the trifles of the day; and trifling with eternal concerns; preferring shadowy vanities to everlasting glory. Will he not open his eyes to the discovery, that "they that observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercy"? (Jonah 2:8 .) The Lord save him, ere it be too late, from reaping the bitter fruit of his foolish choice!

But the man of understanding gives himself to the word of God. He has joy in wisdom (Proverbs 21:15 ), as the sinner in folly. Even his painful discoveries of indwelling corruption ground him deeper in solid religion, than those who know only the surface. He is taught of God, and his upright walk is a bright "shining path." (Proverbs 4:18 .) Give me, O my God, understanding, that my joy may be in thy wisdom, not in my own folly.


†1 Proverbs 4:16-17.

†2 Proverbs 15:14; Proverbs 9:17 . Job 20:12 .

†3 Romans 6:12.

†4 Ephesians 4:19.

†5 Matthew 1:21. Acts 3:26 .

Verse 22

The value of this proverb as a political truth is sufficiently obvious. A nation without counsel can never be established. (Proverbs 11:14 .) A multitude of counselors is an indispensable advantage to the Sovereign for his own purposes. (Proverbs 20:18 ; Proverbs 24:6 .) And by the neglect of them many good purposes have been disappointed.†1 In the Church, also, combined counsel has greatly tended to Christian establishment. (Acts 15:6, Acts 15:31 .) Its influence also in our religious institutions is of the highest moment. Clear and commanding is the duty of godly and able men as a multitude of counselors, to take an active part in their purposes. In many individual perplexities we are led highly to estimate this advantage. For how weak and ignorant we are! Were our judgment perfect, the first impressions would be infallibly right. But feeble and shaken as it is by the fall, every dictate needs pondering. How much evil has been done by acting upon impulse in a hasty moment, or by a few warm words or lines without consideration! (Proverbs 19:2 .) Our wisdom lies in self-distrust; at least leaning to the suspicion that we may be wrong. Yet, while guarding on the other side, against that indecision of judgment, which is carried about by every person’s opinion; the expediency, especially in important matters, of experienced counsel will be generally felt. But even here the wisest is fallible, and often erroneous. In the use of human means, let us mainly look up to the great "Counselor" (Isaiah 9:6 ) of his Church for guidance, and in reverential thankfulness take "his testimonies as the men of our counsel." (Psalms 119:24, Marginal Reading: "men of my counsel"}) Blessed be God for this special privilege of counsel always at hand! In humility and confidence we shall not materially err. (Proverbs 3:5-6 .)


†1 Rehoboam, 1 Kings 12:13-19 . Ahab, 1 Kings 22:18-39 . Even David, 2 Samuel 24:1-4, 2 Samuel 24:15 .

Verse 23

This is a true Proverb, when the mouth is under Divine discipline. A word for our Great Master to our fellow-sinners he will condescend to bless. The remembrance — "Who made man’s mouth?" (Exodus 4:11 ) — puts away pride. But have we not joy by the answer of our mouth? (Proverbs 12:14 ; Proverbs 13:2 .) The pain that every right-minded Christian feels in giving "open rebuke," is abundantly compensated by the joy of the happy issue. (Proverbs 27:5 . 2 Samuel 12:1-13 .) Even an unsuccessful effort brings the joy in "the testimony of our conscience." It must however be a word spoken in due season (Proverbs 25:11 ), though it be from feeble lips.†1 For — though ’there are some happy seasons, when the most rugged natures are accessible;’†2 yet many a good word is lost, by being spoken out of season. Obviously a moment of irritation is out of season. We must wait for the return of calmness and reason. (1 Samuel 25:37 .) Sometimes indeed the matter forces itself out after lengthened and apparently ineffectual waiting. It has been long brooded over within, and must have its vent. But his explosion sweeps away every prospect of good, and leaves a revolting impression. Instead of a fertilizing shower, it has gathered into a violent and destructive tempest.

It is most important, that our whole deportment should bring conviction , that we yearn over the souls of those whom we are constrained to reprove. The general rule is, to give reproof privately (Matthew 18:15 ); not exasperating, except when the occasion calls for it (1 Timothy 5:20 . Acts 13:6-11 ), by public exposure. Never commence with an attack; which, as an enemy’s position, naturally provokes resistance. Study a pointed application. A word spoken for every one, like a coat made for every one, has no individual fitness. When "the wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment" (Ecclesiastes 8:5 ), the word is doubly effective. Manoah’s wife upheld her husband’s faith.†3 Abigail restrained David’s murderous intent.†4 Naaman’s servants brought their master to sober reason.†5 Paul withheld the jailor’s hand from self-destruction, and opened salvation to his soul.†6 Sweet indeed also is the Minister’s joy from the answer of his mouth, when the "gifted tongue of the learned speaks a word in season to him that is weary." (Isaiah 50:4 .) And will it not be an element of his consummating joy "at that day," when he shall welcome those instrumentally saved by the answer of his mouth, as his "glory and joy?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 .)


†1 Proverbs 24:26. Thus Luther after the patterns of the great Apostle, gladly acknowledged his obligation. — ’The word of a brother, pronounded from Holy Scripture in a time of need, carries an inconceivable weight with it. The Holy Spirit accompanies it, and by it moves and animates the hearts of the people, as their circumstances require. Thus Timothy and Titus, and Epaphroditus, and the brethren who met St. Paul from Rome, cheered his spirit; however much they might be inferior to him in learning and skill in the word of God. The greatest saints have their times of faintness, when others are stronger than they.’ — Scott’s Continuation of Milner, i. 332. See the ministry of Christ, Isaiah 7:4 .

†2 Bishop Hopkins’ Works, iv. 485. ’Mollissima fandi tempora.’ — Virg. Æn. 293, 294.

†3 Judges 13:23.

†4 1 Samuel 25:32-33 .

†5 2 Kings 5:13-14 .

†6 Acts 16:28-31.

Verse 24

Another beam of light and immortality here shines upon the Old Testament Dispensation. For if the life above is beyond animal sensation, it must be the life eternal. The hell beneath, opposed to it, must stretch beyond the grave into eternity. But the way of life — the way in which alone life is found, the way to God, the way to glory — is but one. That way is Christ. (John 14:6 .) If therefore I come to him, renouncing all other hope, casting all my hope on him, and every step of my way "looking unto him" (Hebrews 12:2 ) — am not I in this way? And if I follow him in "the obedience of faith," is not my course, my daily walk, advancing in that way? (John 8:12 .)

This way is above — of heavenly origin — the fruit of the eternal councils — the display of the manifold wisdom of God. Fools rise not high enough to discern it, much less to devise and walk in it. Their highest elevation is grovelling. God does not allow them even the name of life. (1 Timothy 5:6 .) Cleaving to the dust of earth, they sink into the hell beneath. But this way of the wise is above. They are born from above; taught from above; therefore walking above, while they are living upon earth. A soaring life indeed! The soul mounts up, looks aloft, enters into the holiest, rises above herself, and finds her resting-place in the bosom of her God. A most transcendant life! to be "partaker of the Divine nature!" (2 Peter 1:4 ) the life of God himself (Ephesians 4:18 ); in humble sublimity, ascending above things under the sun, above the sun itself. Not only is it out of the reach of carnal men, but beyond the comprehension of all. (Job 11:7-9 .) It is such a way as neither men nor angels could ever have cast up, such as can never be contemplated but with reverential faith. The wise in their most favored moments cannot fully conceive their present privileges; how much less the glorious unfolding, when the clouds shall never more be known.

The further we walk in this way above, the further we depart from hell beneath. Heaven and Hell are here before us. Soon will our state be fixed for eternity. — What then am I? Where am I? Those "who mind earthly things, their end is" the hell beneath. Those who walk in the way above — "their conversation is in heaven;" their hope is fixed on the Lord’s coming from thence; their everlasting joy will be the complete transformation into his own image.†1 There is no downward tendency. It is still upwards. It is all rising ground. Mount ever so high, the ascent is ever before us; an immense distance still appears, ere we gain the summit. Yet the moment we desire this heavenly state, we have begun to know it, and we shall rise higher and higher heavenward, till we take our place before the throne of God. Thus ’he that is truly wise, in this holy way of obedience, walketh to eternal life.’†2

Children of God! walk like yourselves; with "your hearts lifted up in the ways of the LORD;"†3 with a holy loftiness above the debasing pleasure of earth; "looking at the things that are unseen;"†4 "having respect unto the recompense of the reward;"†5 walking in the way above, where your hope is,†6 where your treasure,†7 where your home,†8 above all — where your ascended Savior is;†9 and where one golden ray of his favor, one reflected beam of his glory, will outshine all the glare of a shadowy world. Had we more of heaven in our hearts, we should have more of its spirit in our profession. We should think less of the roughness of the way, if we more fully realized the rest beyond. But except we know — in its measure — heaven as our state now, how can we hope to enjoy it as our everlasting home? ’Grant, we beseech thee, that, like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell.’†10


†1 Philippians 3:19-21. Compare Psalms 17:14-15 .

†2 Bp. Hall.

†3 2 Chronicles 17:6 . Compare Isaiah 33:16 ; Isaiah 40:31 ; Isaiah 58:14 .

†4 2 Corinthians 4:18 .

†5 Hebrews 11:24-26.

†6 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 . Colossians 1:27 .

†7 Matthew 6:20.

†8 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 . Hebrews 11:19 ; Hebrews 13:14 .

†9 Colossians 3:1.

†10 Collect for Ascension day.

Verse 25

The administration of the Divine Government is to humble the proud, and to exalt the humble. (Luke 1:51-52 .) The contrast marks the proud oppressor, an usurper of God’s rights. Therefore as a traitor, he destroys not only his person, but his house.†1 And who can but acknowledge the retributive vengeance of the Judge of the earth?†2

But the widow, whom many care not for, many are ready to trample on — what a Friend and Protector has she!†3 "Let thy widows trust in me."†4 God condescends to link himself with them in a special relation; concentrating all his care and tenderness on their bereaved condition.†5 Did not he provide for sorrowing Naomi a staff in her faithful daughter, and ultimately establish her borders in Israel?†6 Did he not supply the pressing need of the Minister’s widow†7 (a cheering warrant of faith in similar affliction), and take up the Shunamite’s oppression, and again establish her border?†8 And shall we forget how he teaches the returning penitent to plead the gracious manifestation — "In thee the fatherless findeth mercy"? (Hosea 14:2-3 .)


†1 Esther 7:10; Esther 9:10 . Jeremiah 22:13-30 .

†2 Psalms 10:14, Psalms 10:18 ; Psalms 12:5 ; Psalms 58:11 .

†3 Proverbs 23:10-11.

†4 Jeremiah 49:11. Compare 1 Timothy 5:5 .

†5 Psalms 68:5. Psalms 146:9 . Deuteronomy 10:17-18 .

†6 Ruth 1:7-18; Ruth 4:14-17 .

†7 2 Kings 4:1-7 .

†8 2 Kings 8:1-6 .

Verse 26

How lightly do most men think of the responsibility of their thoughts! as if they were their own, and they might indulge them without restraint or evil. One substantial sin appals men, who quietly sleep under the mighty mass of thinking without God for months and years, without any apprehension of guilt. But thoughts are the seminal principles of sin.†1 And as the cause virtually includes its effects; so do they contain, like the seed in its little body, all the after fruit. They are also the index of character. Watch their infinite variety; not so much those that are under the control of circumstances, or thrown up by the occasion, as the voluntary flow, following the habitual train of our associations. "For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7 .) Let the Christian yield himself up to the clear radiance of "the word, as a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart:"†2 and what a mass of vanity does only one day, one hour, bring to account! As to the wicked? "Evil thoughts" are the first bubbling of the corrupt fountain. (Matthew 15:19 .) The tide of evil rolls on unceasingly in "thoughts of iniquity" (Isaiah 59:7 ), in order to give effect to the malevolent temper; dwelling on wickedness with complacency; pursuing it with determined purpose. What can such thoughts be, but an abomination to the LORD?

Very different is his mind towards his own people. The words of the pure, as the expression of their thoughts (Matthew 12:34 . Psalms 37:30-31 ), are pleasant words. How pleasant, is manifest from his inviting call to their intercourse with him (Proverbs 15:8 . Song of Song of Solomon 2:14 ); yet more from the open reward prepared for them before the assembled world. "They that spake often one to another — and thought upon his name — they shall be mine, saith the LORD, in that day when I make up my jewels." (Malachi 3:16-17 .)


†1 Proverbs 24:9. Genesis 6:5 . Even an Heathen accurately described them. AutocJonaV phgaV thV kakiaV. ’The indigenous fountains of evil.’ Plutarch. Moral — Again — ’If thou wouldest unlock the door of thine heart, thou wilt find a storehouse and treasury of evils diversified, and full of numberless passions.’ Ibid. (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English).

†2 Hebrews 4:12-13. kritikoV — a critic, censuring the errata with the most minute accuracy. (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English)

Verse 27

What an awful stamp has God fixed upon covetousness! Idolatry;†1 abomination;†2 an evil eye: the cause of poverty;†3 "the root of all evil!"†4 Not only is it a curse to the sinner, but often a trouble to his house. So did Lot,†5 Achan,†6 Saul,†7 Ahab,†8 Gehazi,†9 Jehoiakim,†10 and the Jews,†11 find it. And often in our own day, has greediness of gain plunged whole families into misery by ruinous speculations!†12 For where the enriching blessing of God is not desired or sought, we cannot wonder that it is withheld!

Can the man of God do so? Not only would he refuse, but he hateth gifts, not only in the corruption of bribes,†13 but in any case, that would bring dishonour upon his God. Abraham refused the gifts of the king of Sodom,†14 and Peter the enticement of Simon.†15 The man who thus walks in integrity, lives on high in the special favor of his God.†16 He, who hateth this world’s gifts for the affliction of the cross, "shall receive an hundred-fold recompense in this life, and in the world to come, everlasting life." (Hebrews 11:24-26 . Matthew 19:29-30 .) ’Let their money perish with them’ (was the noble confession of the Marquis of Vico, nephew to Paul V.) ’that prefer all the world’s wealth before one day’s communion with Jesus Christ, and his despised people.’†17


†1 Ephesians 5:5. Colossians 3:5 . Job 31:24 .

†2 Psalms 10:3.

†3 Proverbs 28:22.

†4 1 Timothy 6:9-10 .

†5 Genesis 13:10-11; Genesis 14:12 ; Genesis 19:14, Genesis 19:30 .

†6 Joshua 7:1, Joshua 7:15, Joshua 7:24 . Deuteronomy 7:26 .

†7 1 Samuel 15:19-26 .

†8 1 Kings 21:1-14, 1 Kings 21:19-22 . 2 Kings 9:24-26 .

†9 2 Kings 5:20-27 .

†10 Jeremiah 22:13, Jeremiah 22:18-30 .

†11 Jeremiah 6:12-13; Jeremiah 8:10 .

†12 Habakkuk 2:9-10.

†13 Exodus 18:21; Exodus 23:8 . Deuteronomy 16:19 .

†14 Genesis 14:22-23.

†15 Acts 8:18-20.

†16 Psalms 15:5. Isaiah 33:15-16 . Ezekiel 18:5-9 .

†17 See his interesting history in Dr. M’Crie’s Reformation in Spain.

Verse 28

Consideration is an important part of the Christian character; nowhere more important than in the discipline of the tongue. Think twice, before we speak once. "The wise man’s heart is at his right hand" (Ecclesiastes 10:2 ), that he may weigh his words, and study how to answer (Proverbs 10:31-32 ; Proverbs 16:23 ), and "be ready always to give an answer to him that asketh a reason of the hope that is in him." (1 Peter 3:15 .) Though there may be "good treasure" within, yet we must carefully ponder to draw from it "a word in due season." (Proverbs 15:23 .) Often may we reflect upon ourselves for speaking hastily. And indeed, when that comes out which is uppermost, nothing but the dross of evil can be looked for. Many stumblings have been made by speaking from the impulse of the moment, from warm feelings, rather than from a well-balanced and considerate judgment. (Psalms 31:22 ; Psalms 116:11 .) In this haste, Joshua was beguiled by the Gibeonites;†1 David indulged a burst of murderous revenge;†2 Peter would fain have dissuaded his Master from the work,†3 which he came down from heaven to do, and without which we should have been a world eternally lost. Cultivate a pondering mind. If ever asked to open an important subject, throw it not off hastily, nor give an answer, till we have obtained it from God. For the heart’s study to answer necessarily implies prayer, the only medium of receiving the "wisdom that is profitable to direct." (Proverbs 2:1-6 . Ecclesiastes 10:10 . James 1:5 .) Nehemiah darted up his prayer; and how graciously was the answer for the moment vouchsafed! (Nehemiah 2:1-6 .) This is especially a ministerial responsibility for the many cases of conscience, that require "the tongue of the learned" — a word of wisdom, conviction, or consolation. How can "the priest’s lips keep knowledge" (Malachi 2:7 ), unless the heart under his Master’s teaching studieth to answer?

The wicked has no such restraint. He cares not what he says. It is of little consequence to him, whether it be true, or well-timed, or whom it wounds. His poisoned fountain poureth out poisonous waters. (Ecclesiastes 10:3, Ecclesiastes 10:12-14 .) Yet fearful is it to think, how every light word brings its account (Matthew 12:36 ), and will be found a ’hot coal to make the fire of hell burn more fiercely.’†4 Such a plague often infests the Church. (Titus 1:10-11 .) "From such withdraw thyself." (1 Timothy 6:5 .) Separation is the keeping of the soul.


†1 Joshua 9:14-15.

†2 1 Samuel 25:13-21 .

†3 Matthew 16:22.

†4 Cartwright, in loco.

Verse 29

Such is the LORD’s difference between these two classes! He is equally near to them both in his essence.†1 But in his favor he is far from the wicked,†2 and rejects their prayer.†3 He is near to the righteous, and heareth them.†4 His distance from the wicked is to their hearts’ desire.†5 Yet does he sometimes make them groan,†6 as they will sink hereafter, under its everlasting curse.†7 But who can estimate the grace, that calls these "stout-hearted, that are afar off, to hearken, and brings near righteousness and salvation to them"?†8 Inexpressible must be the guilt of despising such abounding mercy.†9

But to the righteous, he is most graciously near.†10 He heareth their breath, when there is no voice;†11 their desire and weeping, when there are no words;†12 their stammering, when there is no gift.†13 Wonderful indeed is it, that he should hear such prayers, polluted as they are in their very breath. Yet does our compassionate High Priest wait for these vile offerings at the door of the oracle; and in his golden censer they appear spotless before the throne.†14 For his sake we are not only borne with, but accepted. Our sighs are the breathings of faith. Our broken words his own Spirit has indited. (Romans 8:26-27 .) How then can he turn away from them?

Yet the enemy will suggest the doubt. Does he hear? Well he knows, what a shelter prayer is from his assault; and gladly would he drive us from it. ’Am I righteous?’ Be it so, that thou art not. But is not thine advocate so? (1 John 2:1 .) Then put thy prayer in his hands. Thou canst not doubt his access to God; that the ear, if it be shut to thee, is open to him. "Wouldst thou be spoken for to the king?" (2 Kings 4:13 .) Stammer out the prayer to thy Friend — "O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me." ’It would tire the hands of an angel to write down the pardons, that God bestows upon one penitent sinner.’†15

’But I see no answer.’ Correct the errors of sense by faith in his word, which declares, whatever appearances may be — He heareth. Judge not by thy feelings or conceptions, but by his own unchangeable word, by the manifestation of his name (Psalms 65:2 ); that he will refuse thee nothing that is really good; that thou dost obtain, if not what thou desirest, yet what upon the whole is best and fittest for thee. Have patience with God. Dictate nothing. Commit thy will to him. Say not — "I will that thou give me by and by." (Mark 6:25 .) Leave time and all to him. If he does not answer in thy time, he will in his own far better season. (Isaiah 30:18 .) He has clearly shewn his Sovereign appointment, that those who pray must wait his time, and his will. (Luke 18:1-7 .)

Yet let us look out, and see how our prayers speed. The husbandman looks for his harvest. And when we have sown in a fruitful soil — in the very bosom of God — shall not we look for the return, wait in hope, strengthen our heart in the Divine promises, and never cease to look up, till the answer come down? No prayer will be without God’s fruit.

Study the character of God. It is not the judge on his seat; or the king on his throne of state; but the Father in the full flowing of his love. Is not this attraction? In the sharpest trial, not all the world, not all the power of hell, can bar thine access to him. No child runs to his father with such a confidence as thine. Never will he chill the heart, that throws itself upon his love.

Then honour him in this confidence. Shew that you really mean what you say. Bring to him no general petitions (the signs of an heartless frame), but definite objects. Tell him what you want, and all that you want. Shew that prayer is no penance, or irksome endurance, but a pleading exercise; a conscious reality, a living soul speaking to a living God. Prize his presence supremely — the pleasures of the closet above all privileges. No creature, not even the company of Apostles, can compensate for the loss of him. Wrestle in prayer, but sit still in faith. He has bound himself by his own promises. And the fulfillment of them in answer to prayer will quicken confidence and praise.


†1 Jeremiah 23:24. Acts 17:27-28 .

†2 Psalms 34:16. Jeremiah 18:17 . Amos 9:4 .

†3 Isaiah 1:11. Jeremiah 14:12 . Ezekiel 8:18 .

†4 Psalms 34:15. 1 Peter 3:12 .

†5 Job 21:14.

†6 Exodus 33:1-7. 1 Samuel 28:6 . Hosea 5:15 . Micah 3:4 .

†7 Psalms 73:27. Matthew 25:41 . 2 Thessalonians 1:9 .

†8 Isaiah 46:12-13.

†9 Acts 13:38-46.

†10 Psalms 34:18; Psalms 145:18-19 .

†11 Lamentations 3:56.

†12 1 Samuel 1:13 . Psalms 38:9 ; Psalms 6:8 .

†13 Isaiah 38:14.

†14 Revelation 8:3-4.

†15 Dr. Bates.

Verse 30

The eye is the medium of the most rational enjoyment. Most elevating is the sight of the wonders of the creation! (Psalms 19:1 ; Psalms 111:2 .) The Psalmist’s hymns of praise finely portray his delight. (Psalms 108:1-13 . Psalms 104:1-35 .) Glowing was the joy, which burst from the wise man’s heart in the sight of the morning glory — "Truly light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun." (Ecclesiastes 11:7 .) Look also at his gracious and unexpected providence — How did the light of the aged Patriarch’s eyes rejoice his heart, when he embraced his long-lost son! A sunbeam truly was it in the cloud of despondency! And when the eye fastens upon the one object of attraction, even one look casts a glory on the soul, and fills it with life and joy. (Genesis 46:29-30 . Proverbs 13:12 .) "They looked unto him, and were lightened." (Psalms 34:5 .) And what will it be, when the whole soul, animated with Divine Power, shall centre in the eye; when the light of the eyes shall present him to unclouded view, whom all heaven adores with everlasting praise!

But let us look at the joy of hearing. How did the Patriarch’s heart bound at the good report of his beloved Joseph! (Genesis 45:27-28 . Proverbs 25:25 .) The absent Minister seems to live again in the good tidings of his thriving people. (1 Thessalonians 3:8 .) ’How delightful must it to the humbled sinner to hear the good report of salvation, and to have his eyes enlightened to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!’†1 The animating delight, with which the Shepherds saw the good report realized before their eyes, can scarcely be conceived. (Luke 2:15-17 .) So joyful is it still to be the humbled sinner, that the very "feet of its messengers are beautiful" in his eyes. (Isaiah 52:7 .) "Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound." (Psalms 89:15 .)


†1 Scott.

Verses 31-32

What a contrast to the "scorner" lately described, who "goeth not unto the wise!" (Proverbs 15:12 .) Naturally we are unteachable, neither knowing, nor caring to know. But the LORD gives humility and self-knowledge. Our unteachableness yields. Light pours in. We learn the meaning of words before familiar to us only in sound. The circumcised ear now heareth the reproof that tends to life (Proverbs 6:23 ), and welcomes the medicine. (Proverbs 15:5 ; Proverbs 12:18 . Psalms 141:5 .) This exercise of reproof is the law of social life; a component part of the love of our neighbour (Leviticus 19:17-18 ); the bounden obligation to be "our brother’s keeper" to the utmost of our power.†1 The mode of receiving reproof is a test of principle. Humility, sincerity, self-knowledge — the exercise or the defect of these graces — is brought out to our honour or dishonour. Beautiful indeed is the sight of "a wise reprover upon an obedient ear."†2 The man of God abode with the wise. He took his meek reprover to be his wife.†3 He honoured the faithful messenger of his Father’s rod with his highest confidence. The Apostle’s affectionate testimony to his reproving brother shewed, that he had heard the reproof of life.†4 This Considerate and humble temper always gets understanding.†5 Nothing teaches like experience; and no experience is more useful, because none so abasing, as rebuke.†6

Reproof indeed may be considered one of the wholesome bitters of life.†7 Thoughtless gaiety may prefer "the song of fools" to "the rebuke of the wise."†8 But after-reflection will shew the wisdom of honouring those, who deal faithfully with our faults, though it may be with somewhat of severity; rather than those, who would soothe us with the poisoned sweets of flattery, and wink at or encourage our wayward follies. (Proverbs 27:5-6 .) Unhappily however for a man, a want of real sincerity is his nature. He has no hearty desire to be set right. He concludes a hollow truce with his conscience, dreading its painful disturbance. He throws a protective cover over all his faults, thus shielding his most dangerous enemies. In this unfavorable state of mind he refuseth instruction, because contrary to flattery, and despiseth his own soul. (Proverbs 15:10 .) Many are the examples of this ruinous folly.†9 The fool will not indeed own the charge. But does he not underrate its high value and imminent danger, when he despises God’s warning and provision for its salvation? (Matthew 16:26 .) "Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee." (Jeremiah 6:8 . Zephaniah 3:2 .)


†1 This obligation was repudiated by the first murderer. Genesis 4:9 .

†2 Proverbs 25:12.

†3 1 Samuel 25:39-42 .

†4 2 Samuel 12:7-12 . 1 Kings 1:32 . Compare Proverbs 28:23 .

†5 Galatians 2:11, with 2 Peter 3:15 .

†6 Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 9:9 ; Proverbs 12:1 .

†7 Proverbs 29:15. Revelation 3:19 .

†8 Compare Ecclesiastes 7:5 .

†9 The young man, Proverbs 5:11-13 ; Korah and his party, Numbers 16:12-14, Numbers 16:31-33 ; Zedekiah. Jeremiah 27:17 ; Jeremiah 38:14-23, with Jeremiah 39:1-7 .

Verse 33

The fear of the LORD is elsewhere described as the substance (Job 28:28 ), and the beginning or principal part (Proverbs 1:7 ; Proverbs 9:10 ; Psalms 111:10 ), of wisdom. Here it is set forth as the instruction of wisdom. The Teachers, inspired by Divine wisdom, inculcated it as a grand subject of their instruction.†1 Nor is it less important under the new dispensation, linked as it is with the full privileges of the Gospel. (Acts 9:31 . Hebrews 12:28 .) The fear of terror melts away. The fear of reverence fills the soul. God rejoices in his mercy; the child of God in his confidence. But as it realizes the presence of a holy God, it must always be connected with humility. Indeed no Christian grace can exist without this conservating principle. Every dispensation of God strikes at the root of self-exaltation, and tends to that real absence of self-esteem and self-sufficiency, which most of us rather long after than attain.

Most wise therefore is our Father’s discipline — Humility before honour. Indeed, without humility, honour would be our temptation, rather than our glory. Had not the Apostle been kept down by a most humbling trial, his honour would have been his ruin. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 .) The exaltation of the Lord’s people in Providence, is therefore often conducted through the valley of Humiliation. Joseph was raised from the prison to the throne.†2 Moses and David were taken from the Shepherd’s fold to feed the LORD’s inheritance.†3 Gideon acknowledged himself to be of "the least of the families of Israel."†4 Ruth was humbled by adversity, ere she was raised to the high honour of a Mother in Israel, and progenitor of the Savior.†5 Abigail confessed herself unworthy to wash the feet of her lord’s servants, before she was honoured to be his wife.†6 And in the daily walk of life, the lowest place is the path-way to honour.†7

The same principle obtains in the dispensations of grace. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted — in due time."†8 Not that in the forgetfulness of our high privileges and confidence, we are to be weighed down in a sense of degradation. The true humility, which realizes our vileness, casts us most simply upon the full resources of the gospel, so that the most humble is the most triumphant believer. ’The lower then any descend in humiliation, the higher they shall ascend in exaltation. The lower this foundation of humility is laid, the higher shall the roof of honour be over-laid.’†8

And was not this the track of our beloved Lord — Before honour, humility — the cross before the crown? How deep was that descent, by which he, who was infinitely more than man, became "a worm and no man!" (Psalms 22:6 .) And yet the honour, which rewarded this humility, what tongue can tell! (Philippians 2:9 .) ’We must not disdain to follow Jesus Christ.’†9 Is it a light privilege to follow in the pathway consecrated by his steps, irradiated by his smile? (Matthew 11:29 ; Matthew 20:28 . John 13:14 .)


†1 Moses, Deuteronomy 10:12 ; Joshua 24:14 ; Samuel, 1 Samuel 12:14, 1 Samuel 12:20, 1 Samuel 12:24 ; David, Psalms 34:9-11 ; Solomon, Ecclesiastes 12:13 .

†2 Genesis 41:14-44.

†3 Exodus 3:1-12. Psalms 78:70-72 .

†4 Judges 6:15-16.

†5 Ruth 2:1-23. Ruth 4:13-22 . Matthew 1:5 .

†6 1 Samuel 25:41-42 .

†7 Luke 14:7-11.

†8 Luke 18:14. 1 Peter 5:6 .

†9 Cope in loco.

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-15.html. 1846.
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