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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 18

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verses 1-2

DESIRE is the chariot-wheel of the soul, the spring of energy and delight. The man of business or science is filled with his great object; and through desire he separates himself from all lets and hindrances, that he may intermeddle with its whole range. "This one thing" — saith man of God — "I do." (Philippians 3:13 .) This one thing is everything with him. He separates himself from all outward hindrances, vain company, trifling amusements or studies, needless engagements, that he may seek and intermeddle with all wisdom. John separated himself in the wilderness,†1 Paul in Arabia,†2 our blessed Lord in frequent retirement,†3 in order to greater concentration in their momentous work. Deeply does the Christian Minister feel the responsibility of this holy separation, that he may "give himself wholly to" his office. (1 Timothy 4:15 . 2 Timothy 2:4 .) Without it — Christian — thy soul can never prosper. How canst thou intermeddle with the great wisdom of knowing thyself, if thy whole mind be full of this world’s chaff and vanity? There must be a withdrawl, to "commune with thine own heart" and to ask the questions — "Where art thou? What doest thou here?" Much is there to be enquired into and pondered. Everything here calls for our deepest, closest thoughts. We must walk with God in secret, or the enemy will walk with us, and our souls will die. "Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee." (Ezekiel 3:22 .) "When thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee." (John 1:48 .) Deal much in secrecy, if thou wouldst know "the secret of the Lord." Like thy Divine Master, thou wilt never be less alone than when alone. (John 16:32 .) There is much to be wrought, gained, and enjoyed. Thy most spiritual knowledge, thy richest experience will be found here. Men who live without retirement may be fluent talkers, and accurate preachers. But nothing comes as from a broken and contrite heart. The want of unction paralyses all spiritual impression. No intelligent, self-observant Christian but feels the immense moment of combining holy solitude with active life, as the nourishment of his faith, and with it of every Christian grace. Sir M. Hale left this testimony — ’I have endeavoured to husband this short, uncertain, important talent (time) by dedicating and setting apart some portion of it to prayer and reading of thy word; which I have constantly and peremptorily observed, whatever occasions interposed, or importunity persuaded to the contrary.’†4

And then, when we look around us into the infinitely extended field of the Revelation of God, what a world of heavenly wisdom is there to intermeddle with! In the hurry of this world’s atmosphere how little can we apprehend it! And yet such is the field of wonder, that the contemplation of a single point overwhelmed the Apostle with adoring astonishment. (Romans 11:33 .) Here are "things, which even the angels desire to look into." (1 Peter 1:12 .) The redeemed will be employed throughout eternity in this delighted searching; exploring "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height," until they be "filled with all the fulness of God." (Ephesians 3:18-19 .) Surely then if we have any desire, we shall separate ourselves from the cloudy atmosphere around us, that we may have fellowship with these happy investigators of the Divine mysteries.

Yet the fool hath no delight in his understanding. All his desire is to pour out his own frivolity, to come abroad from public observation, that his heart may discover itself — an humiliating discovery, indeed, at once of the scantiness of his knowledge and the vanity of his mind.


†1 Luke 1:80.

†2 Galatians 1:17.

†3 Mark 1:35; Mark 6:31. Luke 6:12 .

†4 The Good Steward. Contemplations, pp. 238, 239.

Verse 3

Selfishness is the character of the wicked. ’Wheresoever he cometh, he is apt to cast contempt and reproach upon every man’s face.’†1 His neighbour’s circumstances or infirmities furnish materials to hold him up to scorn. The word of God has no favor in his eyes. His people are the objects of his reproach. Their seriousness he calls gloom, their cheerfulness levity. (Matthew 11:18-19 .) If "none occasion or fault can be found" (Daniel 6:4 ), invention forges it with unwearied ingenuity. "As saith the proverb of the ancients, wickedness proceedeth from the wicked." (1 Samuel 24:13 .) We must calculate upon this furnace, though the fires of martyrdom are extinguished. Our blessed Lord bore all the evils of the world without flinching. But contempt and reproach pierced his soul more keenly, than the "nails did his hands and his feet." "Reproach," saith he — "hath broken my heart."†2 And must not the servant expect to be as his Master?†3 Often however does retributive justice overwhelm the wicked themselves with ignominy and reproach.†4 A scornful spirit against the godly is never forgotten. Every bitter word is registered against the great day.†5 And what a sight will it then be, when the reviled shall stand forth, clothed with all the glory of "the King of saints," and the faces of their persecutors shall be covered with "everlasting shame and contempt!" (Daniel 12:2 .) The sight of that day will never be blotted out! The rebuke of his people shall be taken away from off all the earth, "for the LORD hath spoken it." (Isaiah 25:8 .)


†1 Bishop Hall. Compare Proverbs 29:16 .

†2 Psalms 69:20. Matthew 27:39-44 .

†3 Matthew 10:25. John 15:20 .

†4 2 Samuel 6:20-23 . Esther 7:9-10 .

†5 1 Peter 4:4-5 . Judges 1:14-15 .

Verse 4

’This sentence expresses the depth, the abundance, the clearness, and the force of the counsels of the wise man.’†1 The last clause gives this restriction to wisdom. When "a man has intermeddled with all wisdom," his words are in themselves deep waters, and in their communication fruitful as a flowing brook. His wisdom is a well-spring, ’which sends up full brooks, that are ready to overflow their banks. So plentiful is he in good discourse and wholesome counsel!’†2 So deep were the waters from the wise man’s spring, that his words nearly overwhelmed the capacity of his royal hearer. (1 Kings 10:4-8 .) One "greater than Solomon" "astonished the people" by the clearness, no less than by the depth of the waters. (Matthew 7:28-29 .) No blessing is more valuable than a "rich indwelling of the word," ready to be brought out on all suitable occasions of instruction.†3 If the wise man sometimes "spares his words,"†4 it is not for want of matter, but for greater edification. The stream is ready to flow, and sometimes can scarcely be restrained.†5 The cold-hearted, speculative professor has his flow — sometimes a torrent of words, yet without a drop of profitable matter; chilling, even when doctrinally correct; without life, unction, or love. Lord! deliver us from this barren "talk of the lips." (Proverbs 14:23 .) May our waters be deep, flowing from thine own inner sanctuary, refreshing, and fertilizing the Church of God!

This well-spring is specially invigorating, when, as in Chrysostom, it gives an heavenly glow to outward eloquence. Consecrated mind and talent are the gifts of God. Oh! let them be improved in simplicity, not for the creature’s honour, but for the glory of the Great Giver.


†1 Calmet.

†2 Bishop Hall. Compare Proverbs 10:11 ; Proverbs 16:22 ; Proverbs 20:5 .

†3 Colossians 3:16; Colossians 4:6 .

†4 Proverbs 17:27.

†5 Job 32:19. Jeremiah 20:9 . Acts 17:16 .

Verse 5

Were not "the foundations of the earth out of course," should we hear of so gross a violation of the rule of right? (Psalms 82:2-5 .) But in a world, of which Satan is "the god and the prince," injustice is a natural principle of administration. The godly king of Judah pointed his judges to the Divine example — ’Look — and be like Him.’ (2 Chronicles 19:7 .) Everything revolting is connected with wickedness. There is no one so noble, that it does not degrade; so lovely, that it does not deform; so learned, that it does not befool. To accept therefore his person, is indeed not good.†1 "Abomination," is its true name — the stamp of God.†2 ’Whatever excuses man may make for its course, it is an offense to God, an affront to justice, a wrong to mankind, and a real service done to the kingdom of sin and Satan.’†3 In judgment let the cause be heard, not the person. Let the person be punished for his wickedness, not the wickedness be covered for the person’s sake. When, as in the case of Naboth, the person of the wicked was accepted, to overthrow the righteous in judgment, it overthrows the throne of judgment in the land. The Shechemites were sharply punished for their sin, in accepting Abimelech to the overthrow of the righteous claims of Gideon’s house. (Judges 9:1-54 .) No wonder. In such wickedness the rights of God are despised; the claims of his justice are cast off. "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." (2 Samuel 23:3 .) Such was our Divine pattern in the flesh: "of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD," and therefore "judging in righteousness." (Isaiah 11:4 .) Such will be his judgment, when "he shall judge the world in righteousness." (Acts 17:31 .) His decision will be exact; his sentence unchangeable.


†1 Proverbs 17:26; Proverbs 24:23 ; Proverbs 28:21 .

†2 Proverbs 17:15. Compare Leviticus 19:15 ; Deuteronomy 1:16-17 .

†3 Henry.

Verses 6-7

It is not a little remarkable, that the Apostle, when giving the anatomy of man’s depravity, should dwell chiefly upon "the little member" with all its accompaniments — the throat — the tongue — the lips — the mouth. (Romans 3:13-14 .) Such a world of iniquity is it, defiling the whole body! (James 3:6 .) We often see its mischief to others; here is the mischief to the man himself. The fool’s lips enter into contention. This is folly indeed. The wise man may be drawn into it by infirmity of temper,†1 or by the force of circumstances.†2 But "as much as in him lies, he will live peaceably with all men,"†3 quenching even the first rising of contention.†4 The fool enters into it, by intermeddling needlessly with strife,†5 or wilfully stirring it up,†6 ’like the alarum of war, and drums beating up to the battle.’†7 And thus he makes a rod for himself.†8 He puts a weapon into the hands of Satan, with which to beat his own head, and hammers him with fearful strokes.†9 The wilful contention of the men of Succoth and Penuel with Gideon called for strokes.†10 The mouth of the little children was their merited destruction.†11 The slanderous lips of Daniel’s persecutors were the snare of their soul.†12 There is no need to dig a pit for the fool. He digs it for himself.†13 The mouths of wild beasts devour each other. The fool’s mouth is his own destruction.†14 The fowler’s snare is not wanted; for "he is snared by the transgression of his lips." (Proverbs 12:13 .) He is not only the cause, but the agent of his own destruction.

And shall not the child of God watch in godly fear, lest his folly should call for his Father’s stroke? Sharply may he "hew" by the sword. (Hosea 6:5 .) He may be as if he would seem to kill, in order to make alive. All this is, that he may embitter sin, and endear returning mercy. Always is it wise and gracious love, as one of the Father’s says — ’threatening, that he may not strike: and striking, that he may not destroy.’ If shewing the rod will effect the purpose, gladly will he forbear to strike. But if our folly — as Leighton speaks — ’pulls punishment out of his hands.’†15 whom but ourselves have we to thank for the smart?


†1 Acts 15:39.

†2 Genesis 13:8.

†3 Romans 12:18; Romans 14:19 .

†4 Proverbs 17:14.

†5 Proverbs 20:3; Proverbs 26:17 .

†6 Proverbs 16:27-28.

†7 Cartwright in loco.

†8 Proverbs 14:3; Proverbs 19:19, Proverbs 19:29 .

†9 Proverbs 26:21.

†10 Judges 8:4-17.

†11 2 Kings 2:23-24 .

†12 Daniel 6:13.

†13 Psalms 7:15; Psalms 64:8 .

†14 Proverbs 10:8, Proverbs 10:14 ; Proverbs 13:3 . Ecclesiastes 10:12-13 .

†15 Works, v. 114.

Verse 8

Do men deny, question, or soften down the depravity of our nature? Mark again how the virulent poison of only one member destroys practical godliness, social order, and mutual friendship. The talebearer was expressly forbidden by the law (Leviticus 19:16 ), and not less is he opposed to the spirit of the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 13:6 .) No Character indeed is more despicable; no influence more detestable. It is right indeed, that we should exercise interference with each other, and mutual inspection. It is a hard selfishness only, that asks the question — "Am I my brother’s keeper?" (Genesis 4:9 .) The rule is clear — "Look not every one on his own, but every man also on the things of others." (Philippians 2:4 .) The rule is at once illustrated and enforced by an example magnificent and constraining. It is "the mind that was in Christ Jesus himself." Had the Son of God "looked at his own things," and not "at the things of others," would he have emptied himself of his divine glory? Would he have humbled himself to the accursed cross? (Philippians 2:5-8 .)

Again — the bond of the interference will be determined by the principle of the love of our neighbour. It is right therefore to "bring an evil report,"†1 for the prevention of sin. Eli was thus enabled, though without effect, to remonstrate with his sons.†2 The life of an Apostle was by this means preserved.†3 Serious evils in the Church were restrained or corrected.†4 But no good results can arise from the spirit of the talebearer, because with him it is pure selfishness,†5 without a principle beyond the love of sin for its own sake. He lives upon the scandal of the place, and makes it his hateful business to carry about tales, or slanders of his neighbour’s faults.†6 Such reports are eagerly devoured, and the mischief-maker feeds with greedy appetite upon the fruit of his cruel indulgence. To him this may appear harmless play. But if it draws no blood, and no outward hurt is shewn, an internal, and often incurable, wound is inflicted. (Proverbs 26:22 .) We may seem to make light of the tale brought to our ears, and wholly to despise it. But the subtle poison has worked. ’Suppose it should be true. Perhaps, though it may be exaggerated, there may be some ground for it.’ The thought indulged only for a moment brings suspicion, distrust, coldness; and often it ends in the separation of chief friends.†7 So dangerous a member in the frame is the tongue without stern determined control!

The tale of an unguarded moment may be a tremendous irreparable injury. The evil humour may meet with a welcome audience in good society, where but for the food which scandal supplies, conversation would drag heavy. But no favor can alter its real character, as an abomination both with God and man. Ah! what but the power of holy love, opening freely the channels of kindness and forbearance, can overcome this mischievous propensity? And what will bring this spirit of love, but a true interest in Christian privileges, and a corresponding sense of Christian obligations? (Colossians 3:12-14 .)


†1 Proverbs 24:11-12. Genesis 37:2 . Leviticus 5:1 .

†2 1 Samuel 2:23-24 .

†3 Acts 23:13. Contrast Jeremiah 40:13-16 ; Jeremiah 41:1-2.

†4 1 Corinthians 1:11 ; 1 Corinthians 11:18 .

†5 Jeremiah 20:10.

†6 The word properly signifies a pedlar, who buys goods (stolen ones it may be) at one place, and sells them at another, taking care to make his own market of them. ’So a talebearer makes his own visits, to pick up at one place, and utter at another, that which he thinks will lessen his neighbour’s reputation, that he may build his own upon it.’ — M. Henry’s Sermon on Friendly Visits. Compare Proverbs 11:13 ; Proverbs 20:19.

†7 Proverbs 16:28; Proverbs 17:9 . 1 Samuel 24:9 ; 1 Samuel 26:19 . 2 Samuel 16:1-4 .

Verse 9

Observe the affinity of the different principles and workings of corruption. The sluggard and the prodigal belong to the same family. The man who "hid the Lord’s talent," was equally unfaithful with him who "wasted his goods." (Matthew 25:25 . Luke 16:1 .) The slothful has no heart for his work. Important opportunities slip by. His stock, instead of increasing by trade, gradually dwindles into penury. ’God hath a bountiful "hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness." (Psalms 145:16 . P.T.) But unless we have a diligent hand, wherewith to receive it, we may starve. He that by the sloth of his hand disfurnisheth himself of the means of getting, he is as near of kin to a waster as may be.’†1 He is the brother of a great waster — the lord of a large estate, who, instead of husbanding, improving, and enjoying it, wastes it away in extravagance and folly.

It is the same in religion. The one is content with heartless orthodoxy. His secret prayer brings no after remembrance. His family worship is a routine of formality, not the influential ordinance of the day. "Communing with his heart" is mere barren generality, bringing no accurate and humbling knowledge of himself. And wherein does he differ from the careless waster of his privileges? Where is the important distinction between him who prays, reads, and works formally, and him, who utterly casts these high privileges away? Both take the same course, though by a somewhat different track. The one folds his arms in sloth. The other opens his hands in wastefulness. The one gets nothing. The other spends what he gets. The one rushes into beggary. The other sits still, and waits its arrival. (Proverbs 6:11 .) The one dies by a rapid and violent disease. The other by a slow, subtle, but sure, consumption. Thus fearful is the guilt, solemn is the account, certain is the ruin, of both. God gives talents, not only to enrich, but to employ. And whether they be selfishly neglected, or carelessly thrown away — "Thou wicked servant" will be the condemnation; "outer darkness" will be the just and eternal doom. (Matthew 25:26-30 .) Servant of Christ! let thy Master’s life be thy pattern and thy standard. Not a moment with him was slothfully neglected; not a moment unprofitably wasted. Equally fervent was he in daily work, as in nightly prayer. Follow him in his work, and thou wilt be honoured with His reward. (John 12:26 .)


†1 Bishop Sanderson’s Sermon on 1 Corinthians 7:24 .

Verses 10-11

Consciousness of danger induces even the animal creation to seek for a refuge.†1 To man, a strong tower offers such a covert.†2 But man as a sinner — does he realize his imminent peril, his threatened ruin? Oh! let him believe his welcome into the strong tower set before him. Such is the name of the LORD; not the bare outward words, operating as a charm, but his character; that by which he is known, as a man by his name. The full "declaration of this name" sets out most powerfully the strength of the tower. Every letter adds confirmation to our faith. (Exodus 34:5-7 .) Every renewed manifestation brings a fresh sunbeam of light and blessing.†3

Take the sinner in his first awakening conviction. He trembles at the thought of eternal condemnation. He looks forward — all is terror; backward — nothing but remorse; inward — all is darkness. Till now, he had no idea of his need of salvation. His enemy now suggests that it is beyond his reach; that he has sinned too long and too much, against too much light and knowledge; how can he be saved? But the name of the LORD meets his eye. He spells out every letter, and putting it together, cries — "Who is a God like unto thee?" (Micah 7:18 .) He runs to it, as to a strong tower. His burden of conscience is relieved. His soul is set free, and he enjoys his safety.

Take — again — the child of God — feeble, distressed, assaulted. ’What, if I should return to the world, look back, give up my profession, yield to my own deceitful heart, and perish at last with aggravated condemnation?’ You are walking outside the gates of your tower; no wonder that your imprudence exposes you to "the fiery darts of the wicked." Read again the name of the LORD! Go back within the walls — See upon the tower the name — "I am the LORD; I change not." (Malachi 3:6 .) Read the direction to trust in it — "Who is there among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant: that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God." (Isaiah 50:10 .) Mark the warrant of experience in this trust — "They that know thy name shall put their trust in thee; for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee." (Psalms 9:10 .)

Thus sense of danger, knowledge of the way, confidence in the strength of the tower — all gives a spring of life and earnestness to run into it.†4 Here the righteous — the man justified by the grace, and sanctified by the Spirit, of God — runneth every day, every hour; realizing at once his fearful danger, and his perfect security. Within these walls, who of us needs to fear the sharpest or swiftest dart that may be shot against us? We realize our security from external trouble,†5 and in trying exercises of faith! We are safe from his avenging justice, from the curse of his law, from sin, from condemnation, from the second death.†6 We joy in our safety†7 — yea — in our exaltation.†8 Our best interests are beyond the reach of harm;†9 and "the righteous nation" takes up the song of triumph — "We have a strong city; Salvation will God appoint for walls and for bulwarks."†10

But only the righteous are found here. What know the ungodly of this refuge? ’Our God’s mercy is holy mercy. He knows how to pardon sin, not to protect it. He is a sanctuary to the penitent, not to the presumptuous.’†11 Yet what joy is it, that the gates of this city are always open! No time is unseasonable. No distance, no feebleness, hinders the entrance. The cripple may run, like "Asahel, swift of foot." (2 Samuel 2:18 .) All that enter are garrisoned to salvation. ’Satan is raising batteries against the fort, using all means to take it, by strength or stratagem, unwearied in his assaults, and very skillful to know his advantages.’†12 But notwithstanding all his disturbing power, "the peace of God" daily fortifies our hearts from fear of evil.†13 Such is our strong tower! What owe we to our gracious Savior, who has made our way to it so free, so bright?†14 We repose in the bosom of God, and are at peace.

But the rich man has his strong city — yea — and his high walls. (Proverbs 10:15 .) Well does the wise man add — in his own conceit. Little does he think, that in a moment they may crumble to the dust, and leave him in the fearful ruin of an unsheltered state. ’Trouble will find an entrance into his castle. Death will storm, and take it. And judgment will sweep both him and it into perdition.’†15

The histories of David and Saul contrast most strikingly trouble with or without a refuge.†16 An affecting contrast does our Lord draw between a real and an imaginary refuge!†17 Every man is as his trust. A trust in God communicates a divine and lofty spirit. We feel that we are surrounded with God, and dwelling on high with him. Oh, the sweet security of the weakest believer, shut up in an impregnable fortress! A vain trust brings a vain and proud heart, the immediate forerunner of ruin.


†1 Proverbs 30:26. Psalms 104:18 .

†2 Judges 9:51. 2 Chronicles 14:7 ; 2 Chronicles 26:9 .

†3 See the New Testament names of God. Romans 15:5, Romans 15:13 . 2 Corinthians 1:3 ; 2 Corinthians 5:19 . 1 Peter 5:10 .

†4 See the examples of Jacob, Genesis 32:11, Genesis 32:28-29 . David, 1 Samuel 30:6 . Psalms 56:3 . Asa, 2 Chronicles 14:11 ; Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20:12 . Hezekiah, 2 Kings 19:14-19 . The Apostles, Acts 4:24-33 .

†5 Deuteronomy 33:27-29. Psalms 61:3 ; Psalms 91:2 . Isaiah 54:14 .

†6 Job 13:15.

†7 Psalms 18:1-3. Isaiah 25:4 .

†8 M.R. Isaiah 33:16 . (Marginal note={high: Heb. heights, or, high places})

†9 Colossians 3:3.

†10 Isaiah 26:1-4.

†11 Bishop Reynolds on Hosea 14:1-2 .

†12 1 Peter 1:5 . Greek. Leighton on the passage.

†13 Philippians 4:7. Greek. Compare Proverbs 1:33 ; Proverbs 14:26 .

†14 Matthew 11:27. John 1:18 ; John 14:6 .

†15 Scott. Compare Ezekiel 28:1-10. Luke 12:18-20 . See also a fine passage in the Rambler, in Dr. Johnson’s best style of solemn instructiveness. No. 65.

†16 1 Samuel 30:6 ; with 1 Samuel 28:15 . Compare Isaiah 1:10-11 .

†17 Matthew 7:24-27.

Verse 12

We have had both these Proverbs separately. (Proverbs 16:18 ; Proverbs 15:33 .) Surely this repetition, like our Lord’s often-repeated parallel,†1 was intended to deepen our sense of their importance. It is hard to persuade a man that he is proud. Every one protests against this sin. Yet who does not cherish the viper in his own bosom? Man so little understands, that dependence upon his God constitutes the creature’s happiness, and that the principle of independence is madness, and its end — destruction. (Genesis 3:5-6 .) The haughty walk on the brink of a fearful precipice; only a miracle preserves them from instant ruin. The security of the child of God is, when he lies prostrate in the dust. If he soar high, the danger is imminent, though he be on the verge of heaven. (2 Corinthians 12:1-7 .)

The danger of a young Christian lies in an over-forward profession. The glow of the first love, the awakened sensibility to the condition of his perishing fellow-sinners; ignorance of the subtle working of inbred vanity, the mistaken zeal of injudicious friends — all tends to foster self-pleasing. Oh! let him know, that before honour is humility. In the low valley of Humiliation special manifestations are realized.†2 Enlarged gifts, and apparently extending usefulness, without growing more deeply into the humility of Christ, will be the decline, not the advancing of grace. That undoubtedly is the most humbled spirit, that has most of the spirit of Christ. The rule of entry into his school — the first step of admission to his kingdom is — "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." (Matthew 11:29 .)

The spring of this humility is true self-knowledge. Whatever may be seen of a man externally to his advantage, let him keep his eye looking within; and the real sight of himself must lay him low. When he compares his secret follies with his external decency — what appears to his fellow-creatures with what he knows of himself — he can but cry out — "Behold I am vile! I abhor myself!" (Job 40:4 .) The seat of this precious grace is not in words, meltings, or tears, but in the heart. No longer will he delude himself with a false conceit of what he has not, or with a vain conceit of what he has. The recollection — "Who maketh thee to differ?" (1 Corinthians 4:7 ) is ever present, to press him down under the weight of infinite obligations. Its fruit is lowliness of mind, meekness of temper, thankfulness in receiving reproof, forgetfulness of injury, readiness to be lightly regarded. No true greatness can there be without this deep-toned humility. This is he "whom the King delighteth to honour." "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, that he may set him with princes, even with the princess of his people." (Matthew 5:3 . Psalms 113:7-8 .)


†1 Matthew 23:12. Luke 14:11 ; Luke 18:14 . See Hor. Od. i. 34.

†2 Job 42:5-6. Isaiah 6:5-7 . Daniel 9:20-23 .

Verse 13

Too often is this Proverb verified in common life. Men will scarcely hear out what is unacceptable to them. They will break in upon a speaker, before they have fully heard him, and therefore answer a matter, which they have little weighed, and but imperfectly understood. The eager disputant prides himself on his acute judgment. He interrupts his opponent, and confutes arguments, or contradicts statements, before he has fairly heard them.†1 Job’s friends seem to have erred here.†2 Elihu, on the other hand, considerately restrained himself, till he had thoroughly heard the matter.†3 Job himself prudently "searched out the cause that he knew not."†4 This impatient spirit tells little for candor or humility, and only stamps a man’s character with folly and shame. It is fraught with injustice in the court of law. (John 7:45-52 .) Here at least the judge must carefully hear and weigh both sides for a satisfactory verdict. The wise man thoroughly heard his difficult case, before he gave judgment.†5 Job was scrupulously exact in thus "contending with his servant."†6 "The rich man, when his steward was accused to him, that he had wasted his goods," did not turn him away upon the mere report, but he examined his accounts.†7 On the other hand, Potiphar, from the want of this upright considerateness, was guilty of the most flagrant wrong.†8 The Eastern autocrats seldom cared to sift accusations. Even "the man after God’s heart" grievously sinned in this matter. But their hasty decisions brought shame upon them, being either covered over, or virtually retracted.†9 Our Lord’s matter, was answered before it was heard.†10 The Apostle met with similar treatment,†11 though at other times he found a more impartial judgment.†12

This folly was directly forbidden by God’s law.†13 It was no less contrary to his own procedure. He examined Adam, before he pronounced judgment.†14 He came down to see Babel and Sodom, previous to their destruction, for the more clear demonstration of his justice.†15 While on earth, patient investigation marked his decisions.†16 "All his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he."†17


†1 See the wise rules, Sirach 11:7-8 .

†2 Job 20:1-3; Job 21:1-6 .

†3 Job 32:4, Job 32:10-11 .

†4 Job 29:16.

†5 1 Kings 3:16-28 . Compare Proverbs 25:2 .

†6 Job 31:13.

†7 Luke 16:1-2.

†8 Genesis 39:17-20.

†9 Esther 3:8-11; Esther 8:5-13 . Daniel 6:9, Daniel 6:14, Daniel 6:24 . 2 Samuel 16:1-4 ; 2 Samuel 19:26-30 .

†10 Luke 22:66-71.

†11 Acts 22:21-22; Acts 23:2 .

†12 Acts 23:30-35; Acts 24:1-22 ; Acts 25:1-5, Acts 25:24-27 ; Acts 26:30-32 .

†13 Deuteronomy 13:12-14; John 7:24 .

†14 Genesis 3:9-19.

†15 Genesis 11:5; Genesis 18:20-21 .

†16 Matthew 22:15-33, with Isaiah 11:3 .

†17 Deuteronomy 32:4. Compare 1 Samuel 2:3 .

Verse 14

Man is born in a world of trouble, with considerable power of endurance. Natural courage and vivacity of spirits will bear us up even under the pressure of ponderous evils, poverty, pain, sickness, want. Instances of heathen fortitude abound in the records of history.†1 Christian principle strengthens the natural strength. David, in the most fearful extremity, "encouraged himself in the LORD his God." (1 Samuel 30:6 .) Job could bless God under accumulated external trials. (Job 1:21 .) The Apostle "took pleasure in infirmities." (2 Corinthians 12:10 .) The martyrs "were more than conquerors" under the most cruel tortures. (Romans 8:37 .) Outward troubles are tolerable, yea — more than tolerable, if there be peace within. The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmity. But if the spirit be wounded — if the prop itself be broken — all sinks. ’If the strength that is in me be weakness, how great is that weakness.’†2 The wound of the spirit is so much the more piercing, as the spirit itself is more vital than the body. The grief gains the victory, and becomes intolerable.

The most powerful minds are easily vulnerable. Even our great Newton, ’endowed with an intellectual strength, which had unbarred the strongholds of the universe,’ and distinguished also by ’unbroken equanimity,’ in middle life was a prey to mental dejections, that, as he informs us, shook his ’former consistency.’†3 Boyle describes his wounded spirit, as so overpowering for many months, that, ’although his looks did little betray his thoughts, nothing but the forbiddenness of self-dispatch hindered his committing it.’†4 So long as the evil is without us, it is tolerable. Natural courage can bear up. But a wounded spirit who can bear?

In the spiritual system — the pressure is yet more sinking. When he who made the spirit wounds, or permits Satan to wound, we might challenge the whole creation — Who can bear it? The suffering of the soul is the soul of suffering. Spiritual wounds, like the balm that heals them, can never be known, till they are felt. It is sometimes, as if the arrows of the Almighty were dipped in the lake of fire, and shot flaming into the very midst of the soul, more sensitive than the apple of the eye. (Job 6:4 .) The best joys of earth can never soothe the envenomed sting. Mirth is madness and vexation. (Ecclesiastes 2:2 .)

There is a hell for the wicked on this side eternity. Man becomes a burden to himself. Cain’s "punishment was greater than he could bear." (Genesis 4:13 .) Saul was given up to the blackness of despair (1 Samuel 28:15 .) Zimri in rebellious madness threw himself into the flames. (1 Kings 16:18 .) Pashur was made a terror to himself. (Jeremiah 20:4 .) Ahithophel and Judas "chose strangling rather than life." (2 Samuel 17:23 . Matthew 27:5 .) Thus are the torments of eternity antedated. One hell is kindled within, before entering into the other. Such is the foretaste of hell — only a few drops of wrath — for a few moments. What will be the reality — the substance — for eternity!

Observe the poignancy of the wounded spirit in the children of God. Job, delivered "for a small moment" into the enemy’s power, "cursed the day of his birth." (Job 3:1 .) David "roared for the disquietness of his heart." "The arrows of the Almighty stuck in him, and his hand pressed him sore." (Psalms 38:1-8 .) The martyrs†5 in a moment of temporary apostasy, could not endure the anguish of the wounded spirit and chose the flames as the less bitter alternative. Such is the sharpness of the Lord’s sword, and the weight of his hand, that every stroke is deadly. Conscience is the seat of guilt, and its vivid power turns, — so to speak — "the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood" (Joel 2:31 ) — the precious promises of free forgiveness into arguments of hopeless despondency. Many a penitent is thus held back awhile from the full apprehension of Divine acceptance, and from the settled enjoyment of the peace of the gospel. And but for the gracious restraint of the Lord’s power and love, hardened despair would be the successful "advantage of Satan’s devices." (2 Corinthians 2:11 .)

But let us gaze at the meek and glorious sufferer in Gethsemane. Look at the wounded spirit there — the fainting humanity of the Son of God — "his strong crying and tears," his prostrating sorrow, his "exceeding great and bitter cry," under the darkness of desertion. (Matthew 26:38 .) Human nature, even when exalted to a personal union with the divine, is human nature still; forced to confess its native weakness in the conflict with Almighty wrath. If all the support of the indwelling Godhead was demanded for this passion of unknown weight and infinite intensity; with trembling astonishment we cry — A wounded spirit who can bear? Irresistible is the inference — "If they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:31 .) The flame, that could but scorch the one, must consume the other to the uttermost.

Yet is not this wounded spirit the Christian’s first seal of mercy; the preparation for all future and eternal mercy? (Acts 2:37 .) Bitter indeed is the anguish, when the mass of sin is raised from the grave of oblivion, and "set in order before our eyes." (Psalms 50:21 .) But is not this the sight, that makes Jesus and his free salvation inexpressibly precious? (Acts 16:29-33 .) And does not this spirit place us within the sphere of his healing commission? (Isaiah 61:1-2 .) We ask now — not, who can bear, but who can heal? Well did Luther say (and there is no better judge on such matters), ’It is as easy to make a world, as to ease a troubled conscience.’ Both are creation-work, requiring the Almightiness of God. (Genesis 1:1 . Isaiah 57:19 .) To him that "wounded must we return for healing." (Hosea 6:1 .) His remedy is the sight of himself wounded for us. (Isaiah 53:5 .) And that sight — so healing — so reviving — how does it quicken the soul to a cordial and animated faith, issuing in the song of everlasting praise!†6


†1 See Virgil’s fine picture of Æneas. — Æn. i. 208, 209.

†2 Bishop Sanderson’s Sermon on Hebrews 12:3 . Compare Proverbs 15:13 ; Proverbs 17:22 .

†3 Sir D. Brewster’s Life, pp. 224, 232-235.

†4 Jones’s Christian Biography — Article, Boyle.

†5 Bainham — Bilney — Crammer. See Foxe’s Records.

†6 In these days of deteriorated Church doctrine, when other remedies than that of the gospel are applied to the wounded spirit, it is worth putting upon record the mode of healing in the British Church, so far back as the time of the Conquest, which, it will be seen, was not the baptism of tears, auricular confession, penance, or man’s working, but the simple view of the great sacrifice, as the one object of faith. In the form of a prayer for the Visitation of the Sick in the time of Anselm (Abp. of Canterbury, A.D. 1080), — the priest asked the sick person, ’Dost thou believe to come to glory, not by thine own merits, but by the virtue and merit of the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ? Dost thou believe that our Lord Jesus Christ did die for our salvation, and that none can be saved by his own merits, or by any other means than by the merits of his passion?’ On the sick person answering — ’All this I believe’ — the priest is directed to give him the following instruction and comfort, as a true physician of souls — ’Give thou therefore’ — saith he to the sick — as long as thy soul remaineth in this place, thy whole confidence in his death only. Have confidence in no other thing. Commit thyself wholly to this death, with this alone comfort thyself. If he say — ’Thou deservest hell’ — say — ’I put the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and my sins.’ If he say to thee — ’Thou hast deserved damnation’ — say — ’Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between thee and my bad merits; and I offer his merits instead of my merits.’ If he say — he is angry with thee, say — ’Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thine anger.’ — This is indeed the sovereign specific for a case aggravated by the application of any other remedy of man’s devising.

Verse 15

Knowledge is gathering its rays on every side. But all that is intrinsically valuable centers in Divine knowledge. ’All arts’ — as Bishop Hall teaches — ’are Maids to Divinity. Therefore they both vail to her, and do her service.’†1 Indeed it is of the first moment that she should go before, to imbue and impregnate the mass. For while we readily admit the importance of intellectual knowledge; the grand object is the salvation of the soul. And all knowledge that is not grounded upon this primary conviction, or that does not directly or indirectly subserve this great end, is worse than valueless. It is power for evil. It is a weapon of mighty influence, that will ultimately turn against the man’s own self. Never let us forget that unsanctified knowledge is still, what it was at the beginning, gathering death, not life, and that, if "the tree seem to be good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise" (Genesis 3:6 ), it is only the enticement to the unwary, flattering them, that they "shall be as gods," that, "being lifted up with pride, they may fall into the condemnation of the devil." (Genesis 3:5 . 1 Timothy 3:6 .)

And yet in the sphere of Revelation the value of knowledge is estimated by its character. When it is speculative, not experimental; general, without practical influence, it is mere listening to a sound. It is not the sight, like that of the brazen serpent, that brings life from the dead, with its blessed accompaniment of transformation into the likeness of Christ. Lamentable is it to think of the mass of triflers in this heavenly knowledge; hearing without retaining; retaining without intelligence, or without personal application. So often "is the price in the hands of a fool, who hath no heart for it." (Proverbs 17:16 .)

But here is the prudent. He has pondered, and formed a just estimate of the blessing. His heart has fastened upon it (Proverbs 15:14 ), and, as the means are free, and success sure,†2 he has gotten it. As the proof of his possession, he seeks for more. For who that has a treasure, will be satisfied with his store; content with a lesser measure, while a larger is within his reach? His ear is now wakened to seek the ministry of the word, and the conversation of experienced Christians. (Proverbs 1:5 ; Proverbs 9:9 .) Every avenue of instruction is diligently improved.

A word to the young — Think how much important knowledge is to be gotten. Be up early in its pursuit. Let it have your most, your first, your best, time. Begin before your minds are corrupted with false principles; before you have learned too much, that must be unlearned as disciples of Christ. Enquire what is the tone of your prayers? Is it the concentration of the soul, filled with one desire, and carrying it, where it will be accepted and satisfied? The only saving knowledge cometh down from heaven, and is fetched thence upon our knees. What — again — is the pulse of your exertions? Does it shew the heart to be delighted in the object? Or is it only a start for a moment, and then a sinking back to the slumber of the sluggard? Knowledge from heaven leads thitherward. Clearer knowledge sweeps away many clouds. A better sight of your work will make it more easy. With a more intelligent knowledge of the road, you will walk more pleasantly. You will not only guide yourselves, but be "able to admonish one another." (Romans 15:14 .) "Grow in knowledge." (2 Peter 3:18 .) Follow your convictions. Let nothing divert you. In particular — be considerate and prudent in your application of knowledge. Remember its valuable use to regulate the judgment. "Walk wisely" before God "in a perfect way." (Psalms 101:2 .) Let "your love abound more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment." (Philippians 1:9 ) Hasten onwards then. Happiness and usefulness, light and glory, are before you; and while, sitting at your Master’s feet, at every step you will enter more fully into the spirit of the confession of Ignatius — ’I am now beginning to be a disciple.’†3


†1 Works, viii. 107.

†2 Proverbs 2:3-6. Hosea 6:3 . James 1:5 .

†3 Nun gar archn ecw tou sou maJhteuesJai. (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English).

Verse 16

We have before spoken of the corrupting influence of gifts.†1 But we may justly apply this proverb to their legitimate use. Eliezer’s gifts made room for him in Rebekah’s family.†2 Jacob’s gifts made room for him in his brother’s heart.†3 Nor was it inconsistent with his integrity, by sending his present to the governor of Egypt, to bring his sons with acceptance before the great man.†4 Ehud’s gifts made room for his errand:†5 Abigail’s for the preservation of her house.†6 Often indeed were they presented simply as a tribute of respect;†7 as now, in some parts of the East, without them an inferior would scarcely have any claim upon his superior for favor or protection.†8 The Minister of the Gospel recognizes their value, making room for him, perhaps also for his message. Sympathy gives weight to his instruction, when, after the example of his Divine Master, he combines kindness to the body with love for the soul. Great wisdom and discrimination are however obviously required to prevent the serious evil of a well-intentioned charity. A wise consideration may also make room for us with great men for the advancement of the Christian cause. But in this most delicate exercise, let our own principles be fully acknowledged; else even in the service of God, we shall be "carnal, and walk as men" (1 Corinthians 3:3 ); not as the dignified servants of a heavenly Master.

Blessed be God! We want no gifts to bring us before him. Our welcome is free; our door of access ever open; our treasure of grace in his unchanging favor unsearchable.


†1 Proverbs 17:8, Proverbs 17:23 . Compare Proverbs 19:6 .

†2 Genesis 24:30-33.

†3 Genesis 33:1-11.

†4 Genesis 43:11.

†5 Judges 3:17-18.

†6 1 Samuel 25:18-27 .

†7 1 Samuel 9:7 .

†8 See Paxton’s Illustrations, ii. 29.

Verse 17

We have lately had a rule against judging others. (Proverbs 18:13 .) Here we are warned against justifying ourselves. Self-flattery is our cherished nature; highly valuing our fancied excellences; very blind to our real imperfections. So ready are we to place our own cause in a strong light; and sometimes, almost unconsciously, to cast a shade over, or even omit, what might seem to balance on the opposite side. It is so difficult to state facts and circumstances with perfect accuracy, where our own name, or credit is concerned. Hence, our cause, coming first, seemeth just. But, according to the proverb, ’the first tale is good, till the second is heard.’ Our neighbour, acquainted with the real case, cometh and searcheth us, exposes our fallacy, and puts us to shame. Often has the tale of wrongs from a hard-hearted overseer, landlord, or creditor, roused our indignation, and perhaps provoked our remonstrance. But the searching process of the story on the other side has shewn us the wrongness of a hasty, one-sided judgment. Saul made himself appear just in his own cause. The necessity of the case seemed to warrant the deviation from the command. But Samuel searched him, and laid open his rebellion. (1 Samuel 15:17-23 .) Ziba’s cause seemed just in David’s eyes, until Mephibosheth’s explanation searched him to his confusion.†1 Job’s incautious self-defense was laid open by Elihu’s probing application. (Job 33:8-12 .) An eloquent advocate may easily make a bad cause coming first seem just. But the plaintiff is always right, till the defendant’s case has been opened . Yet the true rule of justice would be, to judge neither to be right, till both sides have been heard. Let the whole evidence be sifted; and often the plausible cover is swept away by a more searching investigation. (Acts 24:5, Acts 24:12 .) Judges are bound to "consider, take advice, and speak," (Judges 19:30 ); carefully guarding against prejudging the cause, till the whole has been fully before them; else he that is last in the cause comes with disadvantage, though it may be the cause of right. In our own cause, always be alive to conviction. Watch against a self-justifying spirit. Cultivate the spirit of self-distrust. Balance our enemy’s statement against our own prejudices. Judge as under the eye of God, and with the sincere anxious prayer to lay ourselves open to his searching disclosure of hidden evil. Deceit in any form never answers its end. "A conscience void of offense both towards God and man" must be our great exercise. (Acts 24:16 .)


†1 2 Samuel 16:1-4 ; 2 Samuel 19:26 . Compare Proverbs 28:11 . See Bishop Sanderson’s Sermons on Job, Job 29:14-17 . Proverbs 24:10-12 .

Verse 18

The general use of the lot has been before explained. (Proverbs 16:33 .) It is here adverted to, as an ordinance of peaceful settlement. Whether from the evenness of the balance, or from want of confidence in the judgment, a legal appeal might be of doubtful authority. Contending parties therefore agree to abide by the decision of the lot. Important matters of order under the Divine Theocracy were thus determined.†1 How many contentions would there have been between the mighty, in settling the respective boundaries of the tribes, had not this means been adopted to make them cease!†2 When Saul was thus chosen to the Kingdom,†3 and Matthias "numbered among the Apostles,"†4 the election was acquiesced in, as the voice of God. There seems therefore no scriptural prohibition to the use of this ordinance; provided it be exercised in a reverential dependence upon God,†5 and not profaned for common purposes or worldly ends.

At the same time, as we have before observed, the word of God appears to be more fully recognized as the arbiter of the Divine will. All contentions cease in a simple, childlike, unreserved readiness to be guided by this "more sure rule." The extent of forgiveness is here clearly defined (Matthew 18:21-22 ), and the principle and motive for its exercise effectively supplied. (Colossians 3:13 .) Perhaps it is more easy to abide by the decision of the lot than of the word. The last requires more self-denial, humility and patience, and therefore is more practically useful.


†1 1 Chronicles 6:63 ; 1 Chronicles 24:31 . Nehemiah 11:1 .

†2 Numbers 33:54.

†3 1 Samuel 10:20-24 .

†4 Acts 1:26.

†5 Acts 1:24-25.

Verse 19

Adverting to the ceasing of contentions, how affecting is this case of special difficulty! A brother — not an enemy — is harder to be won than a strong city; as if the nearer the relation, the wider the breach.†1 The thread, once snapped, is not easily joined. ’What a view does it give us of our corruption, that the natural love implanted in us should degenerate into Satanic hatred!’†2 Such was the contention of Cain with Abel; of Joseph’s brethren with himself;†3 of Absolom and Amnon;†4 the civil wars between Benjamin and his brethren;†5 in later times between Judah and Israel;†6 in our own country, the long-continued and ruinous contentions between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Cities in olden times were strongly fortified with bars of iron against a siege. (See Isaiah 45:2 .) What a long siege did Esau’s strong city stand, before it was won by the power of love, and the bars of his castle opened their avenues for conciliation!†7

Nowhere is concord so important as in the Church. Never can she prosper, except she maintain the form of Jerusalem — "a city compact together." (Psalms 122:3 .) Begotten as we are by the same word, living on the same food, animated by the same life, ought we not, with all our lesser differences, to hold "the unity of the Spirit"?†8 If ties so close cannot unite us; at least let our common welfare, and common danger, quench this unholy fire; just as the fear of the enemy without, might allay mutual misunderstanding within. But how painfully did the contentions between Luther and Calvin (not to mention others of more recent date in the Church) shew the fearful difficulty of winning a brother offended!

Yet the extreme difficulty does not diminish the obligation. Let it not therefore paralyze the effort. Nothing can be more plain and decisive than the Gospel rule. Yet so repugnant is it to flesh and blood, to all nature’s pride, feelings, and high notions, that we cry with the disciples of old — "Lord, increase our faith." (Luke 17:5 .) Call in this only principle, that can constrain the heart; and the Christian victory is ensured. Grace reigns triumphant.


†1 ’Acerrima firma proximorum odia sunt.’ — Tacitus.

†2 Geier in loco.

†3 Genesis 37:3-5, Genesis 37:18-27 .

†4 2 Samuel 13:22 .

†5 Judges 20:1-48.

†6 2 Chronicles 13:16-17 .

†7 Genesis 27:41-45; Genesis 33:5-11 . The rooted enmity of the nation seems to render doubtful the cordiality of the reconciliation. See Numbers 20:14-21 . Ezekiel 35:5 . Obadiah 1:10-14 .

†8 Two reasons made a godly and learned man (Strigelius) long to leave the world. ’1. That I might enjoy the sweet sight of the Son of God and the Church of God. 2. That I may be delivered from the cruel and implacable hatred of Theologians.’ Melchior Adam in vita. Chroysostom gives this rule — ’Have but one enemy — the devil. With him never be reconciled; with thy brother never fall out.’

Verses 20-21

Who would not be careful, what seed he puts into a fruitful field when he knows that his harvest will be according to his seed? (Galatians 6:7-8 .) Here is not a field, but "a world" (James 3:6 ), to be cultivated, so that we may be satisfied with the fruit, and filled with the increase. What this fruit and increase may be, is a fearful alternative. The fruit of our lips — the power of our tongue — will be poisonous or wholesome, death or life.†1 Evil words tend to death,†2 good words to life†3 — to the comfort of the speaker, as well as to the blessing of the hearer. There is no mean; nothing but extremes. It is either the worst of evils, or the best of blessings.

This is clearly manifested in public responsibilities. The testimony of witnesses, and the legal decision of the judge, fearfully shew, that death or life is in the power of the tongue. Take even a more important field of illustration — the Ministry of the gospel — the doctrine of false and true teachers. Suppose the sinner’s conscience to be awakened. Eagerly he longs for an answer to that immensely momentous question — "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30 .) Let him be blinded to his own state; soothed with false remedies, or the true remedy concealed or obscured. Or let him be directed to the cross as the one object, compared with which all other objects are vanity and delusion — do not we see, that, according to the use of the tongue, death and life is in the power of it? Nay — in another, — perhaps a more solemn, apprehension of the great work, when all is simply and fully exhibited; when man’s helplessness and Divine sufficiency — sin and the Savior — the ruin and the restoration — are clearly displayed; according as the message is rejected or welcomed, it becomes "a savour of death unto death, or of life unto life." (2 Corinthians 2:16 .) Thus again, death or life is in the power of the tongue.

In the common intercourse of life, also is the tongue "the fountain both of bitter waters and sweet;" as powerful to destroy as to edify; the poison, or antidote, as it may be used. ’A man by using his tongue aright, in talking, exhorting, witnessing, counseling, may save; and, by abusing it in any of these ways, or any other, may destroy.’†4 Either way he will be filled with the fruit. The curse of destroying others will return upon himself. In administering a blessing to his neighbour, is own soul will be fed. (Proverbs 11:25 .) They that love it shall eat the fruit of it. It is, however, the habitual, not the occasional, use of this little member, that determines its fruit. A saint may "speak unadvisedly" — a sinner acceptably — "with his lips." Neither would thus determine his true character.

Born as we are for eternity, no utterance of our tongue can be called trifling. A word, though light as air, scarcely marked, and soon forgotten, may rise up as a witness at the throne of judgment for death or for life eternal. (Matthew 12:37 .) When I think of this awful power, shall I not — as Chrysostom warns ’guard this little member more than the pupil of the eye?’†5 Are not the sins of the tongue an overwhelming manifestation of the long-suffering of God? ’Woe is me’ — exclaimed a man of God, — ’for I am a man of unclean lips.’†6 Shall I not cry to my God, that he would restrain my tongue;†7 yea, cry more earnestly, that he would consecrate it†8 as a sacred gift, stamped with his image, that it might be my glory, not my shame; my organ of praise, my exercise of joy?†9 In the inner man the heart is the main thing to be kept (Proverbs 4:23 ); in the outer man the tongue (Proverbs 21:23 .) O my God! take them both into thine own keeping, under thine own discipline, as instruments for thy service and glory.


†1 Proverbs 18:7. Psalms 50:20-21 . Matthew 5:22 ; Matthew 12:36 . Judges 1:14-15.

†2 Proverbs 13:2 . Compare Sirach 28:18 .

†3 Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 13:2. Psalms 34:12-13 .

†4 Muffet in loco.

†5 Homily 62 on Matt.

†6 Isaiah 6:5.

†7 Psalms 141:3.

†8 Psalms 51:15.

†9 Psalms 57:7-8.

Verse 22

22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing,†a and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

This is obviously to be taken with limitation. Manoah found a good thing in his wife. (Judges 13:23 .) So did not Job. (Job 2:9-10 .) Some find "a crown to their head;" others, "rottenness to their bones." (Proverbs 12:4 .) That which alone deserves the name is indeed a good thing. If in a state of innocence "it was not good for a man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18 ); much more in a world of care and trouble "two are better than one" for mutual support, helpfulness, and sympathy.†1 The good thing implies godliness, and fitness. Godliness is found, when the man marries "only in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39 ), and only one, who is the Lord’s. ’I wish’ — said pious Bishop Hall, ’that Manoah could speak so loud, that all our Israelites might hear him — "Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all God’s people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?" If religion be any other than a cipher, how dare we not regard it in our most important choice? Is she a fair Philistine? Why is not the deformity of the soul more powerful to dissuade us, than the beauty of the face to allure us?’†2

There may however be godliness on both sides, without that mutual fitness which makes the woman "a helpmeet for the man." The good thing is, when he honours her, not as the wisest or the holiest of woman, but as the person, whom God saw to be the best and fittest for himself in the whole world, a comfort for life, a help for heaven.†3 Thus she becomes the one object of his undivided heart. Mutual faith is plighted in the Lord. Such a communion spiritualizes his affections, and elevates him from earth to heaven.

But how is this good thing found? Isaac found it, where every Christian looks for his blessing, as an answer to prayer. (Genesis 24:1-67 .) A man’s choice for his own indulgence will bring a curse upon himself and his family. (2 Chronicles 18:1-2 ; 2 Chronicles 21:1-6 .) "Choose thou mine inheritance for me" (Psalms 47:4 ) — is the cry and confidence of the child of God. Then truly will he obtain the gift, not as the result of fortune, or as the proof of his own good discernment; but, as Adam received his wife, "from the Lord" (Proverbs 19:14 ), a token of his special favour.


†a Dr. Kennicott elaborately insists upon supplying the distinctive limitation from the reading of the LXX Vulgate, and some old Chaldee paraphrase. (Second Dissertation on the Hebrew Text, pp. 189-192.) But, the general term, frequently used by the wise man for the obvious limitation, sufficiently explains his meaning, Proverbs 15:10; Proverbs 16:10; Proverbs 22:1; Proverbs 29:4. Ecclesiastes 7:28. The LXX adds — ’He that casteth out a wife, casteth out good things: but he that retaineth a strange woman is foolish and ungodly.’

†1 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. See the Marriage Service.

†2 Contemplations, x. 3. Bp. Beveridge’s Resolution is well worth recording — ’I shall always endeavour to make choice of such a woman for my spouse, who hath first made choice of Christ as a spouse for herself; that none may be made one flesh with me, who is not made one spirit with Christ my Savior. For I look upon the image of Christ as the best mark of beauty I can behold in her, and the grace of God as the best portion I can receive with her. These are excellences, which, though not visible to our carnal eyes, are nevertheless agreeable to a spiritual heart; and such as all wise and good men cannot choose but be enamoured with. For my own part, they seem to me such necessary qualifications, that my heart trembles at the thoughts of ever having a wife without them.’ Resol. ii.

†3 Luke 1:6. See the beautiful picture. Proverbs 31:10-31 . Compare also Sirach 26:1-3, Sirach 26:13-16 ; Sirach 36:24 .

Verse 23

23 The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.†a

It is natural to the poor, sensible of their dependence, to use entreaties. And this humiliation may be the discipline for that poverty of spirit, which the LORD sealed with his first blessing. (Matthew 5:3 .) Yet shame is it to the rich, that he should often answer these entreaties roughly. Instead of the kindly feelings flowing out, he seems to be bound against them with iron chains. He hears with indifference the tale of woe; and having never himself tasted the bitter bread, he has no heart of sympathy and helpfulness. The well-bred man of the world, who is all courtesy and refinement in his own circle, to those under his feet is often insufferably rude and unfeeling. His good breeding indeed is often only the polish of selfishness. The proud worm knows so little the true use of his power, that the exercise of it only transforms him into a tyrant. Instead of scattering his blessings around, he only makes himself feared and hated by his misused responsibility. (1 Samuel 25:17 .) Would he but study the character of his Divine Master, he would see the exercise of power enlivened with true greatness. Was he not as considerate to blind Bartimeus, as to the nobleman of Capernaum? (Mark 10:49 . John 5:48 .) All ranks alike shared in his tenderest sympathy.

And yet, as the rich in their conscious superiority may be overbearing, so the poor, in using their entreaties, may shew a servile, crouching spirit (1 Samuel 2:36 ), shrinking from that bold integrity of character, which gives dignity alike to the lowest as to the highest of men. To all of us our Providential circumstances bring their besetting temptations. Close walking with God is our only safeguard.

But surely the rich, in his rough answering of the poor, would do well to consider, how much more dependent is he upon his God, than his meanest brother is upon himself! And when he comes before his God, must he not then wear the garb of poverty, though he be a king (Psalms 40:17 ; Psalms 86:1 ); using entreaties, not advancing claims? Yes — all of us alike are poor before the throne of grace. All of us must use entreaties here. Yet when does our gracious Father answer his poor suppliant child roughly; except as he wisely disciplines his faith, while his heart is full of yearning parental love towards him? (Matthew 15:26 . Compare Genesis 42:6-7 .)


†a This and the succeeding verse are omitted in LXX.

Verse 24

To be without a friend, marks a state of painful desolation. (Psalms 88:18 .) On the other hand, a true friend is no common acquisition. (Proverbs 17:17 .) There are many pretensions, many professions, of friendship. But the jewel itself is as rare as it is precious. Yet what is life without this cheering, enriching blessing? Kings have left awhile their royalties for its enjoyment. (Psalms 55:14 .) To Alexander the conquered world without his Hephæstion would have been a wilderness.†1 But if a man hath friends, and would keep them, he must shew himself friendly. To throw them away by neglect, caprice, unreasonable disgust, or needless offense, is to shew himself utterly unworthy of the blessing. Observe Ruth and Naomi — each with warm reciprocity of interest laying herself out for he other.†2 David practically acknowledged the kindness of his friends in distress.†3 The Apostle dealt most delicately with his friend’s wounded sensibility,†4 and manifested the most considerate care for his companion’s comforts.†5 It is by such kind offices that the bond is mutually cemented. A man having friends shews himself friendly. Love begets love, and is accompanied with love.†6 Not that this will shew itself in extravagant professions, or lavish praise, gratifying to the weak, but revolting to an intelligent, mind. The true expression will be in that unmistakable integrity, which at once shews the man, and makes the Christian shine.

Thus we shall take care to base our friendship upon the true foundation. Otherwise it may be snapped asunder by the veriest trifle, or it may become idolatrous love, usurping God’s place in the heart. Sanguine and affectionate dispositions are much exposed to sudden fancies and mistaken impressions. But the charm is broken by the cold return or empty professions of the misplaced love; and the illusion is swept away in humbling disappointment. Wise men will refrain from the choice of many bosom friends, or involving a multiplication of duties, and too often of entangling difficulties.

The bond of real friendship is often closer than the natural tie. "The friend is as one’s own soul." (Deuteronomy 13:6 .) Such was Jonathan unto David — a friend that sticketh closer than a brother†7 — tender and sympathizing, while his brother was fraught with unkind suspicion.†8 He dared the deadly displeasure of his father by open adherence, while his wife shewed her love at the expense of his name.†9 Hiram’s cordial kindness to Solomon, contrasts with his brother’s unjust endeavour to keep him from the throne.†10 Job’s friends, notwithstanding their harsh misconceptions, abode fast with the afflicted sufferer, when his wife and family were "strange to him."†11 And do we not remember, that when the brethren of Jesus shrunk from the near position to his cross, "there stood by the cross the disciple whom Jesus loved," gladly receiving from his lips the sacred deposit of his bereaved mother? (John 19:25-27 .) Even natural minds of a high tone of feeling may exhibit this strength of friendship. But its surest bond is that, which unites the whole family of God. The identity of sanctified taste; sympathy of union as Members of one body to one Head — hence flow magnetic attraction, heavenly, Divine friendship.

But where shall we find the complete filling-up of this exquisite picture, except in Him, who became our Brother, that he might cleave to us closer than a brother in tenderness and help? (Hebrews 2:11, Hebrews 2:14-18 .) Let his people bear witness, whether he be not the greatest, best, most loving, most disinterested and faithful of friends. Truly he "loveth at all times." He is a friend to them that have no other friend; to those who have been his bitterest enemies; a friend who abides, when all others have passed away. Mark him as a present friend, known and tried, able to enter into all that most deeply affects us; in temptation opening, when needed, "a way of escape;"†12 in affliction cheering with the Divine Comforter;†13 "in sickness making our bed;"†14 in death sustaining us by "his rod and staff;"†15 in eternity "receiving us to himself."†16 What brother sticketh so close as he, esteeming himself more honoured, the more we lean upon him, "having no confidence in the flesh"?

And then, looking on the objects of his love;†17 its freeness;†18 its costliness;†19 its perseverance notwithstanding all the discouragements of our perverseness and folly;†20 "loving us to the end,"†21 as parts and members of himself — how can we duly honour this our faithful, tender, unchanging, unchangeable friend? Are there none, who boast of their faithfulness to the creature, who yet have no sympathy with this Divine friendship, no reciprocal affection to this surpassing friend? Will not our very sensibilities condemn our indifference? For what stronger proof can there be of their depravity and disorder, than that they should be flowing to the creature-objects, cold and dead to the Divine Friend? Oh! let him be the first choice of youth, the tried and chosen Friend of maturing age, the Friend for eternity! Cultivate a closer acquaintance with him. Set the highest value upon his friendship. Live a life of joyous confidence on his all-sufficiency and love. Make him the constant subject of conversation. Avoid whatever is displeasing to him. Be found in those places where he meeteth his people. (Isaiah 64:5 .) Long to be with him forever. Thus testify to all around — "This is my beloved, and this is my friend." (Song of Song of Solomon 5:16 .) Is it not because men have no eyes to see him, that they have no heart to love him? Were but the eyes really opened, they would soon affect the heart; and all would be for him in entire devotedness of service.


†1 . . . . Friendship’s the wine of life.

A friend is worth all hazards we can run.

Poor is the friendless master of a world:

A world in purchase for a friend is gain. — Young.

†2 Ruth 1:16; Ruth 2:11, Ruth 2:18, with Ruth 3:1-14, Ruth 3:16 ; Ruth 4:16 .

†3 1 Samuel 30:26-31 .

†4 Philemon 1:8-20.

†5 Titus 3:13.

†6 Compare Sirach 22:25 .

†7 Bishop Coverdale’s version is very beautiful — ’a friend that delighteth in love, doth a man more friendship, and sticketh faster unto him than a brother.’

†8 1 Samuel 17:28, with 1 Samuel 18:3 ; 1 Samuel 19:2-4 . 2 Samuel 1:26 . It is interesting to observe the reciprocity with one exception (2 Samuel 16:1-4 ) on David’s part to the end of life, 2 Samuel 9:1 ; 2 Samuel 21:7 .

†9 1 Samuel 18:20, 1 Samuel 18:28 ; 1 Samuel 19:12-17, with 1 Samuel 20:24-33 .

†10 1 Kings 5:1-18 . with 1 Kings 1:5 .

†11 Job 2:11-13, with Job 19:13-17 .

†12 1 Corinthians 10:13 .

†13 John 14:17-18.

†14 Psalms 41:3.

†15 Psalms 23:4.

†16 John 14:3; John 17:24 .

†17 Romans 5:8.

†18 John 6:37.

†19 John 15:13. 1 John 3:16 .

†20 Isaiah 42:4. Hosea 11:7-8 . Malachi 3:6 .

†21 John 13:1. See the beautiful Hymn in Olney Collection, B. i. 53.

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-18.html. 1846.
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