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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 19

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verse 1

1 Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.†a

POVERTY is never a disgrace, except when it is the fruit of ill-conduct. But when adorned with godly integrity, it is most honourable. Better is the poor man, than he whom riches lift up in his own eyes, and he is given up to his perverseness and folly. (Proverbs 28:6 .) Often man puts under his feet those, whom God lays in his bosom. He honours the perverse for their riches, and despises the poor for their poverty. ’But what hath the rich, if he hath not God? And what is a poor man, if he hath God? Better be in a wilderness with God, than in Canaan without him.’†1 Was not Job on the dunghill, walking in his integrity, better than ungodly Ahab on the throne? (Job 2:7-8 .) Was not Lazarus in his rags better than Dives with his "fine linen and sumptuous fare"? (Luke 16:19-21 .) Calculate wisdom by God’s standard, who judges not by station, but by character. Estimate things in the light of eternity. How soon will all accidental distinctions pass away, and personal distinctions alone avail! Death will strip the poor of his rags, and the rich of his purple, and bring them both "naked to the earth, from whence they came." (Job 1:21 . Ecclesiastes 12:7 .) Meanwhile let us hear our Lord’s voice to his despised people — "I know thy poverty; but thou art rich." (Revelation 2:9 .) How glorious the stamp upon the outcast professors walking in their integrity — "Of whom the world was not worthy"! (Hebrews 11:37-38 .) For such is prepared "the honour that cometh from God only" — his seal, his smiles, and his everlasting crown.

Footnotes:

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

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

Verse 2

2 Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.†a

Also — seems to trace the fools perverse ways to their source. His soul is without knowledge. Ignorance gives perpetuity to folly. Knowledge is valuable even to the mind. It expands and sharpens its reasoning powers, and, when rightly directed, preserves from many besetting temptations. ’Be assured’ — says a late eloquent Preacher — ’it is not because the people know much, that they ever become the willing subjects of any factious or unprincipled demagogue. It is just because they know too little. It is just because ignorance is the field, on which the quackery of a political impostor ever reaps its most abundant harvest.’†1 Knowledge also opens much wholesome enjoyment. The intelligent poor are preserved in their home-comforts from the temptations of the ale-house. The most educated are raised above the frivolities of dissipation. Thus both classes are restrained from the sensualities of ungodliness.

But much more that the soul made for God, should be without knowledge, is not good. The blessing is not merely expansion of mind, or restraint of evil, but light and life eternal. (John 17:3 .) Without it, all is thick darkness — the darkness of death. Man has no directory for his ways. He knows not "how to walk and to please God." He knows nothing of spiritual duties, heavenly affections, the life of faith, the entire surrender of heart, or the living to the glory of God. Hence he substitutes services of his own, carnal and unprofitable. He "walks in darkness, and knows not whither he goeth." (John 12:35 .) He has no remedy for his sins. Hence he devises penance, or at least repentance or reformation. Not knowing the mystery of the gospel, he cannot come to God by Christ, and wash in "the fountain opened," and therefore can obtain no peace with God, or in his own conscience. (Romans 9:31-32 .) He has no support in his trouble, nothing better than vain philosophy, or natural hardness. He knows not whence it comes, the love of God in it, its true intent, its humbling, quickening, and sanctifying operation. He cannot "glory in tribulation" from a sense of its beneficial effects (Romans 5:3-5 . Hebrews 12:11, with Hebrews 12:5 ); and therefore he either despises it, or hardens himself against it, or faints under it. He has no strength for his duties — none but his own, which is perfect weakness. He knows not how to be "strong in the Lord," to be "strengthened by the Spirit," to use the Christian armour, to mortify sin, to resist Satan, or to overcome the world. He might be endued with unconquerable strength, and be able to "do all things through Christ strengthening him." (Philippians 4:13 .) But he knows not Christ. He has therefore no interest in him; and, "separate from him, he can do nothing." (John 15:5 .) He has no hope in his end. All is fearful uncertainty. He has no knowledge of the free grace of the gospel, no reliance on its promises, no confidence in the Savior, no title which he can bring to God for acceptance, and no view of God’s faithfulness. And thus "fools die for want of wisdom." (Proverbs 10:21 .) They "perish for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6 .) "It is a people of no understanding; therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favor." (Isaiah 27:11 .) The terror of the great day will be, that "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God." (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 .)

What then must we think of the thoughtless trifler, immersed in pleasure, playing with trifles, and despising this inestimable knowledge? What is he, but a man "without understanding," justly compared to "the beasts that perish"? (Psalms 49:20 .) Is ignorance then the mother of devotion? Is it not the worst of evils, the center of all evil (Isaiah 1:3-4 . Acts 3:17 ), the parent of irreligion, and the precursor of ruin? (Luke 19:42 .) Awful indeed are its aggravations — to be ignorant in a time of knowledge, blind in a land of light, unenlightened in "the valley of vision"!

But let us mark the evil of the want of soundly-disciplined knowledge in temporal matters. The uninstructed child or savage acts rashly. The man of impulse is impatient to finish his work before the time, and therefore crowds into the day far more than belongs to it, forgetting that ’things are not done by the effort of the moment, but by the preparation of past moments.’†2 Our wise moralist has well remarked — ’He that is in a hurry proves, that the work in which he is engaged is too much for him.’†3 Certainly this hasting with the feet may be considered to be sin, inasmuch as it proceeds from a want of simple trust in God, and submission to his orderly arrangements and claims of regular duty.

The true method is to do "the thing of the day in the day." (1 Kings 8:59, margin={1) Heb the thing of a day in its day}) This is all that God requires to be done. The affair of one day at a time is as much as can be quietly committed to God in the daily exercise of faith. This principle should be carried into all important responsibilities. Bp. Burnet’s account of Sir M. Hale is most valuable in this view. ’Festina lentè’ was his beloved motto, which he ordered to be engraven on the head of his staff. He was often heard say, that he had observed many witty men run into great errors, because they did not give themselves time to think; but, the heat of imagination making some notions appear in good colors to them, they, without staying till that cooled, were violently led by the impulses it made upon them; whereas calm and slow men, who pass for dull in common estimation, could search after truth, and find it, as with more deliberation, so with greater certainty.’†4

But far more serious is this evil in spiritual matters. ’Where no discretion is, there the soul is not well.’†5 The man therefore without knowledge, instead of "pondering his path" (Proverbs 4:26 ), hasteth with his feet, and sinneth. Haste, as opposed to sloth, is the energy of Divine grace. (Psalms 119:60 . Luke 19:6 .) Here, as opposed to consideration, acting hastily in sin. This impatience is the genuine exercise of self-will, not taking time to enquire; "not waiting for the counsel of the LORD." Godly Joshua offended here. (Joshua 9:14-15 .) Saul’s impatience cost him his kingdom. (1 Samuel 13:12 .) David’s haste was the occasion of gross injustice. (2 Samuel 16:3-4 .) The prophet, not taking time to ponder the evidence contradicting his own message, was without a right knowledge. He hastened with his feet, and sinned. (1 Kings 13:18-19 .) Jehoshaphat’s precipitancy asking counsel after, instead of before, was sharply rebuked. (2 Chronicles 18:1-4 ; 2 Chronicles 19:2 .) Rash experiments, the result of haste, often threaten serious evils in the state. The same spirit rends the Church with schism. The heady professor wanders from Church to Church, and from sect to sect, without pondering. In common life how much sin has been the fruit of a few rash words or hasty lines! A sudden impulse has taken the place of considerate principles. Let us ever remember, that without self-discipline there can be no Christian consistency or stability. In a thousand cases haste may plunge our feet into sin (Proverbs 28:20-22 ), if not into ruin. The best-intentioned purposes, unwarranted by the will and word of God, are only blind impulses, to be checked, not followed. The real peace of faith, is to stand or sit still, and see how God will appear on our side, to make a way for us through many a deep water of perplexity. (Exodus 14:13 . Isaiah 30:7 .) "He that believeth shall not make haste." (Isaiah 28:16 .)

Footnotes:

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

†1 Chalmers’ Commercial Discourses, p. 375.

†2 Cecil’s Remains.

†3 Dr. Johnson.

†4 Life of Sir M. Hale.

†5 Bishop Coverdale’s Translation.

Verse 3

Such was the foolishness of Adam! First he perverted his way; then he charged upon God its bitter fruit. "God, making him upright," made him happy. Had he been ruled by his will, he would have continued so. But, "seeking out his own inventions" (Ecclesiastes 7:29 ), he made himself miserable. As the author of his own misery, it was reasonable, that he should fret against himself. But such was his pride and baseness, that his heart fretted against the LORD, as if he, not himself, was responsible. (Genesis 3:6-12 .) Thus his first-born, when his own sin had brought "punishment" on him, fretted, as if "it were greater than he could bear." (Genesis 4:8-13 .) This has been the foolishness of Adam’s children ever since. God has linked together moral and penal evil, sin and sorrow. The fool rushes into sin, and most unreasonably frets for the sorrow; as if he could "gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles." (Matthew 7:16 .) He charges his crosses, not on his own perverseness, but on the injustice of God. (Ezekiel 18:25 .) But God is clear from all the blame (James 1:13-14 ): He had shewn the better; man chooses the worse. He had warned by his word and by conscience. Man, deaf to the warning, plunges into the misery; and, while "eating the fruit of his own ways," his heart frets against the LORD. ’It is hard to have passions, and to be punished for indulging them. I could not help it. Why did he not give me grace to avoid it?’ (See Jeremiah 7:10 .) Such is the pride and blasphemy of an unhumbled spirit. The malefactor blames the judge for his righteous sentence. (Isaiah 8:21-22 . Revelation 16:9-11, Revelation 16:21 .)

But let us look a little into this bold impeachment of God’s righteousness. ’Why did he not give me grace?’ Is then God bound to give his grace? Have we any claim upon God? Is not God’s grace his own? (Matthew 20:15 . Romans 9:19-21 .) Is not the fool following his own will, and therefore responsible for his doing? Why cannot he turn to God? He will not listen or obey. The means are free before him. No force of natural impossibility hinders. His stubbornness alone is his impotency. He cannot, because he will not; and therefore, if he perish, it is not in his weakness, but in his willfulness. (Matthew 23:37 . John 5:40 .) The worst part of his wickedness is his wicked will. It is not only that his nature is wicked, but that he is willing that it should be so. Did he but feel his moral inability, would he but look to him who is "eyes to the blind," "ears to the deaf," "feet to the lame," his healing would be sure.

This perverseness shews itself in every rising of corruption. The Pharisee mocks God by his hypocritical service, and then frets, because no good comes out of it. (Isaiah 58:3 . Malachi 3:14 .) The proud worm cherishes a discontented humour with Providence. Either the desired comfort is withheld, or the will has been crossed. If his tongue is quiet, his heart frets. Had he been placed differently, he would have succeeded better. God therefore has the blame of his failure. Whereas it is obvious, that if he is not ready now to serve God, he needs a change of heart, not a change of place. The disease is within, and therefore would follow him through altered circumstances with the same result; leaving him as far as ever from happiness. The constant struggle of the will is to be anywhere, but where God has placed us for our best welfare.

Humbling it is to see this foolishness in the Lord’s people. Our carelessness or waywardness provokes the rod; yet the heart fretteth under the rebuke. (2 Samuel 6:8 .) While we shun what is positively sinful, too often we allow occasions of sin. We are found in circumstances or society, which, as experience has taught us, hinder prayer, damp the spiritual taste, and wound the conscience. If therefore we allow this willful indulgence, at least let us charge on ourselves, not on God, the bitter consequence. Often also we quarrel with what we cannot alter; thus doubling the burden, by adding guilt to our trouble. If "a fool’s contention" with his brother "calleth for strokes" (Proverbs 18:6 ), much more does the "murmurer and complainer" of God (Judges 1:16 ); "the man striving with his Maker" (Isaiah 45:9 ); or rather the child kicking against his Father’s rod, instead of "humbling himself under his mighty hand." (1 Peter 5:6 .) Did he but know himself, could he but trust his God, he would look, not at the rod, but at the hand that holds it.†1 Could the heart fret to see it in his father’s hands? Should he not kiss it, even while it smites him; peacefully, yea thankfully, "accepting the punishment of his iniquity"? (Leviticus 26:41 .)

This turbulent insurrection against Divine Sovereignty brings its own torment. It sets all the powers of the soul out of course. There is no peace or tranquillity, but in complacency with the will of God, being fully reconciled to his disposals and dispensations. While "Ephraim was as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke," it was only the more fretting. After that he "was turned, and instructed," and "quieted himself as a weaned child," he found ease. (Jeremiah 31:18-19 .)

Always, therefore, let us be ready with the cry — "Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me. That which I see not, teach thou me. If I have done iniquity, I will do so no more." (Job 10:2 ; Job 34:32 .) Instead of "complaining for the punishment of our sins; let us search and try our ways, and turn again unto the LORD." "I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him." (Micah 7:9 .) The extent of the evil is little known, till we are brought under the hands of God. It requires no less than his Almightiness to break the stubborn will into ready obedience. "Thy will be done" — is easily repeated, but hardly learned. If things are not "according to our mind," too often is there a struggle to break loose from the affliction; professing indeed to live by faith, yet repining at our hard condition.

So far as we regard our own happiness, our great desire should be, ’that our own will may be annihilated, and the will of God placed in its room.’†2 The discipline, therefore, that schools the will into subjection, brings with it nothing to excite one murmuring thought. So much does it lay open to us of the secrets of God’s heart towards us, and of our hidden corruptions; that, both as coming from his hand, and operating upon us, it is an invaluable blessing. Well satisfied are we, that all that God does, will appear to be right and best when the mystery is finished; that every leaf of his Providence will be expounded with the full manifestation of his glory. It will then be seen that the cross of disappointed wishes was the gracious means of saving us from ruining ourselves, and of exercising us for endurance,†3 and ultimately for enjoyment. Joy and delight indeed will it be to look back upon every step of "the right way, by which our Father has led us to the city of habitation" (Psalms 107:7 ), and to mark, how needful was the discipline at every point, how suited to every exigency; and what abundant matter of praise does it furnish for that unwearied patience, with which our loving Father "suffered our manners in the wilderness." (Acts 13:18 .) Meanwhile let us study God more closely in all his gracious dispensations. ’O Lord, remove our ignorance, that we may know thee; our idleness, that we may seek thee; our unbelief, that we may find and enjoy thee.’†4

Footnotes:

†1 1 Samuel 3:18 . 2 Samuel 16:11 . Psalms 39:9 .

†2 Leighton on the Lord’s Prayer.

†3 ’Quos Deus amat, indurat et exercet.’ — Seneca De Providentiâ, c. 4.

†4 Bishop Hall.

Verse 4

We have had the substance of this Proverb before. (Proverbs 14:20 . Compare Proverbs 19:6 .) It is nominally true, that wealth maketh many friends. But generally they are little worth. ’Riches have them’ — says Bishop Hall — ’not the man.’†1 The principle is selfishness; no earnest of true and permanent friendship. Few among them will be found "loving at all times, brethren born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17 .) God has made poverty a gradation of rank; and as such we are bound to regard it. Man makes it a wall of separation. It tries our own faith and patience, and not less the love and sincerity of our faith.†2

This want of sympathy with the poor is a serious evil. It separates those, whom God has linked together by a mutual bond of reciprocal interest; the rich being the guardians and protectors of the poor; the poor being the strength and support of the rich. But too often the poor know their wealthier neighbors, only as living in the most luxurious indulgence, while they themselves are left in the sense of their poverty, unaided and uncared for. This could never be, if the gospel had leavened the mass with its own Divine principle of love. But what — if the LORD’s poor be separated from his selfish neighbor. (Proverbs 19:7 .) There is One that "knoweth his soul in adversity" (Psalms 31:7 ), and that hath pledged his word — "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 13:5 .) Yes — this is the joy and the stay of his confidence — "I am poor and needy; but the LORD thinketh on me." (Psalms 40:17 .) Poverty may separate him from his neighbor. But who or what shall separate him from his God? (Romans 8:38-39 .) "Joint-heir as he is with him, whom God hath appointed heir of all things," what can he want?†3 ’If it were possible for him to stand absolutely in need of the use and service of the whole creation, all the creatures in the world would surely wait on him, and be appropriated to him.’†4 With such an inheritance as his, why should he fret for a few years’ poverty or neglect? Earth’s short vision will soon be past; and then comes the eternal reality of unclouded joy.

Footnotes:

†1 Works, viii. 77. Compare Sirach 13:22, Sirach 13:32 .

†2 Amicus certus in re incertâ cernitur. — Cicero.

†3 Romans 8:17. Hebrews 1:2, with 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 .

†4 Bishop Reynolds’ Works, p. 11.

Verse 5

If "a true witness delivereth souls" (Proverbs 14:25 ), a false witness destroyeth them. Fearful guilt and responsibility! reaching, without the atoning sacrifice, throughout eternity. Can we wonder that the detection should bring him under certain condemnation? (Deuteronomy 19:16-21 .) It is an offense against both tables of the law. The perjurer takes "God’s name in vain." The false witness is a direct transgression against the law of our neighbor. This wickedness does not however come to this height at once. But the habit of speaking lies, the allowance of untruth under the pretense of a good end (Romans 3:8 ), or only in play, grows to this aggravation.†1

In this view a strict attention to truth forms a primary point in a Christian education. The boundary line must never be trifled with. Not even a child can pass it with impunity. It will soon lose its respect, if it be not reverenced at any sacrifice, and under all circumstances. A child must never be suffered to play with a falsehood. Ever press upon him that anything less than truth is a lie. Even if no one is deceived by it, a habit is fostered, of which we cannot tell to what it may grow. "He that is unfaithful in that which is least, is unfaithful also in much." (Luke 16:10 .) The indulgence of a lie soon banishes all fear of an oath. The careless liar, if occasion needs, scruples not to become a false witness. But neither in the higher or lower indulgence will falsehood be forgotten. It may escape detection from man. But it lies open and unveiled before the eye of God. It shall not be unpunished; it shall not escape there. The liar may perhaps have thought or intended no harm. But no palliation is admitted at the bar of God. "All liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." (Revelation 21:8 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Jeremiah 9:3-5. There is much instruction in the wise reply of Solon on first seeing the rude theatricals of Thespis. Asking him, how he dared to tell so many lies before the people, and receiving for answer, that he only did it in play — ’Yes’ — said the legislator, striking his staff with force into the ground, — ’But if we begin with telling lies in play, we shall end with telling them in earnest.’

Verses 6-7

The fourth verse is here further opened with too accurate a description of man’s native selfishness. ’A prince never wants suitors for his favour.’†1 Every one loves, or professes to love those from whom they expect a benefit, "having men’s persons in admiration, because of advantage" (Judges 1:16 ), valuing them for their possessions, not for their virtues. Yet if "riches make to themselves wings, and flee away" (Proverbs 23:5 ), will not they take their flight with them? If the same person, now fawned on for his gifts, were by Providence brought to poverty, the same friends would hate or neglect him. ’Which of them’ — asks Bishop Hall — ’would dare acknowledge him, when he is going to prison?’†2 As the winter brooks, filled from the opening springs and the torrents from heaven, are dried up and vanish before the summer heat; so these friends of the poor go far from him, cold, distant, and vanishing in the day of his calamity. If he pursueth them with words, yet they are deaf to his entreaties for help and sympathy. Job found these "summer" friends a great aggravation to his affliction.†3 Jerusalem in its days of prosperity was "the joy of the whole earth." In the time of after-destitution "they called thee" — said the mournful prophet — "an outcast, saying — This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after." (Psalms 48:2 . Jeremiah 30:17 .)

But how ought we to entreat the favour of our Prince? What gifts does he give to his beloved people? And shall not those who are enriched with them exhibit his rule of mercy to their poorer brethren (Galatians 6:10 . Hebrews 6:10 ), specially to his poor, the princes and heirs of his kingdom? (James 2:5 .) ’Lord! in my greatest plenty help me to mind and feel others’ poverty; and in my most prosperous condition keep me from forgetting the afflictions of thy Joseph.’†4

Footnotes:

†1 Bishop Patrick.

†2 Works, xiii. p. 77.

†3 Job 6:15-22; Job 19:13-19 . Job 29:1-25 . Job 30:1-31. Compare Sirach 37:1-4 .

Donec eris felix, multos numerabis amicos;

Tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris.

Ovid, Trist. Lib. i. viii. 9, 10.

†4 Swinnock’s Christian Man’s Calling, Part ii. 338.

Verse 8

It would seem that self-interest might win us to religion. Careless sinner! little do you know your loss of solid happiness. If anything is worth getting, and, when got, worth keeping — "Wisdom is the thing: therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding." (Proverbs 4:5-7 .) How this blessing is to be obtained, Solomon had before explained. Apply thine heart diligently to the search; then bring thy heart to God for his light and teaching; and the treasure is thine own. (Proverbs 2:1-6 .) Yet it requires as much care to keep the blessing as to get it. Soon may it slip away from a negligent hand. "Keep thy soul diligently" (Deuteronomy 4:9 ), and thou wilt keep thy treasure; as the man, who, having found the hidden treasure in the field, buys the field to secure it. (Matthew 13:44 .) It is no carnal good, however, that is found here. The Christian’s present portion involves the sacrifice of all. (Luke 14:26, Luke 14:33 .) And yet, as a compensation, abundantly overpaying for all that can be endured, it is real, infinite, heavenly. To get wisdom therefore, whatever be the cost, is to love our own soul. "Whoso findeth me, findeth life" (Proverbs 8:35 ) — all in me, all with me. Is not this the chief good, above every earthly good (Psalms 4:6-7 ); the eternal good, when every earthly good shall have passed away? (Psalms 73:25-26 .) Whether Christ or the world shall have our highest love, our supreme trust, our first time, and our choicest talent — one should be ashamed to admit the question. Is not the very mention of it a sufficient answer? It is like comparing pebbles with pearls, dust with diamonds, dross with gold. To follow our own way is then to destroy, not to love, our own souls. "Whoso sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul; all they that hate me love death." (Proverbs 8:36 .)

Verse 9

"A God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he — A God that cannot lie — Faithful and True." (Deuteronomy 32:4 . Titus 1:2 .) Such is the revealed character of Jehovah! We cannot wonder at the repeated denunciations against deceit. So gross a dishonor is it to his unchangeable attribute! One addition is here made to the former sentence. (Proverbs 19:5 .) The punishment shall not only be certain — "he that speaketh lies shall not escape" — "but it shall be utter ruin — He shall perish."†1 "Lies and desolation" are linked together. (Hosea 12:1 .) "I will be a swift witness against false swearers — and them that fear not me — saith the LORD of Hosts." (Malachi 3:5 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Jeremiah 28:15-17; Jeremiah 29:31-32 . 2 Peter 2:1-3 . Revelation 22:15 .

Verse 10

What has a fool to do with delight? This world’s prosperity, so far as he knows it, can only be a curse to him. (Proverbs 1:32 .) Delight "is comely to the righteous" (Psalms 33:1 ), suitable to his character. He has a right and title to it. (Psalms 32:11 .) But it is not seemly for the fool. He has indeed his merriment and folly.†1 But solid joy he knows not. Far more suitable to him is a chastening rod.†2 And should the Lord graciously sanctify this dispensation — as in how many instances he has done so! — it will introduce him to that "delight which will then be seemly to him."†3

Much less seemly is the exhibition of a servant having rule over princes. Such an elevation is dangerous to the individual.†4 In the kingdom, it is one of the "things which the earth cannot bear." (Proverbs 30:22 .) The servant has indeed the same rational power with his Sovereign. But contracted habits of mind unfit him to rule. Exceptions there are, as in the case of Joseph. (Genesis 41:39-45 .) But seldom is God’s order reversed without anarchy and confusion.†5 Such was the reign of our second Edward, when worthless minions had rule over the prince; chosen either for their external accomplishments, or for their subserviency to his folly. Peace and happiness belong to godly contentment. (1 Timothy 6:6 .) "Let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." (1 Corinthians 7:24 .) To those whom he has placed in a subordinate station, our Father’s voice is full of instruction — "Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not." (Jeremiah 45:5 .)

Footnotes:

†1 1 Samuel 25:25 . Ecclesiastes 7:5-6 . Isaiah 5:11-12 ; Isaiah 22:12-14 . Hosea 7:3-5 . Amos 6:3-6 .

†2 Proverbs 10:13-14; Proverbs 26:3 .

†3 2 Chronicles 33:11-13 . Luke 15:14-24 .

†4 Esther 3:1-2; Esther 7:10 . ’Ex insolentiâ, quibus nova bona fortuna det, impotentes lætitiæ insanire.’ Liv. Lib. 30. c. 42. Compare Lib. 23. c. 18.

†5 2 Samuel 3:24-25, 2 Samuel 3:39 . Isaiah 3:5 .

Verse 11

What is anger, but temporary madness? To yield therefore to its paroxysm, to act without deliberation under its impulse, is to do we know not what, and what will surely bring work for repentance. (Proverbs 14:17, Proverbs 14:29 .) An interval between the inward rising and the outward manifestation of the anger is most important. The discretion of a man deferreth his anger. Mindful of his own infirmity, he will guard against indecent sallies of temper, taking time to weigh, and careful not to overcharge the offense.†1 An affront therefore is the test, whether he has discretion, or whether he is the slave of his own passion. The standard of common usage is — ’To be even, and to return one insult by another.’ The Christian standard is to be above; "not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing.†2

Again — To pass over a transgression — such is the proud folly of man’s judgment! is disgrace, want of courage and proper spirit. But Solomon, a wise man and a King, declares it to be weakness, not strength or greatness, to be able to bear nothing.†3 It is glory to pass over a transgression. So it must be, because it is likeness to God. What a motive! ’Let it pass for a kind of sheepishness to be meek. It is a likeness to him, that was "a sheep before the shearers, not opening his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7 .) It is a portion of his spirit.’†4

And what a pattern is his long-suffering with such willful daily, hourly, provocations! (Ephesians 4:31-32 . Colossians 3:13 .) If he create us anew, it must be, as before, in his own image. Forbearance and forgiveness will therefore take the place of resentment and malice. Moral strength may, in some men, curb the outward expression. But the poison lurks within. Forbearance from a pure motive, passing over transgression in free love, is a noble triumph of grace, most honorable to God, fraught with the richest spoils to our own souls.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 16:32. Ecclesiastes 7:9 . James 1:19 . Compare 1 Samuel 10:27 . Even Heathen moralists acknowledge the value of this discretion. - ’I would have beaten thee, if I was not angry,’ - said the philosopher to his offending servant. Augustus under the impulse of anger was requested to repeat the alphabet, to give him time to cool. ’It is easier’ - as Seneca wisely observed - ’not to admit the passion, than, when admitted, to govern it.’ Justin Martyr, when asked what was Christ’s greatest miracle, named his so great patience in such great trials.

†2 1 Peter 3:9 . The example of Joseph, Genesis 45:4-15 ; Genesis 50:21 . David, 1 Samuel 24:7-19 . Psalms 35:7-14 ; Psalms 38:12-14 . The prophet, 1 Kings 13:4-6 . Mr. Scott justly remarks upon the identity of the Old Testament standard with that of Christ and his apostles, Compare Matthew 5:38-42 ; Matthew 18:21-22 . Romans 12:17-21, with Proverbs 25:21-22 .

†3 The Roman moralist could say: -

Infirmi est animi exiguique voluptas.

Juven. Sat. xiii. 190, 191.

†4 Leighton on 1 Peter 3:3-4 .

Verse 12

The monarch of the forest is a just comparison to the monarch of the land.†1 "The lion hath roared; who will not fear?"†2 The rocks and hills echo the terrific cry. The whole race of the animals of the forest are driven to flight, or petrified to the spot. Such is the king’s wrath in a land of despotism;†3 reigning without law, above law, his will his only law; an awful picture of cruelty,†4 tyranny,†5 and caprice!†6 Unlimited power is too much for proud human nature to bear, except with special grace from above. Just so is the king’s favour a reviving blessing, as dew upon the grass — the nourishment of vegetative life in the East, where the more powerful influence is only partially or periodically known.†7

But if the wrath of a king be so terrible — Oh, my soul, what must be the wrath of God! (Luke 12:4-5 .) If it be so terrible in this world, where every drop is mixed with mercy; what will it be in eternity, where it is "poured out without mixture" and wthout cessation (Revelation 14:10-11 ); where his power is so fearfully manifested, not only in tormenting, but in preserving and "establishing for correction"? (Habakkuk 1:12 .) Oh! let this wrath be the grand object of my reverential fear. Let me flee from it by the only way of escape, while escape is open to me; and seek his favour, as the enriching "dew" unto Israel, invigorating and fertilizing my barren soil. (Hosea 14:5-7 . Psalms 72:6 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Compare Jeremiah 4:7 ; Jeremiah 50:17 . 2 Timothy 4:17 .

†2 Amos 3:8. Revelation 10:1-3 . See Homer’s fine picture, Iliad, Y. 164-171.

†3 Proverbs 16:14; Proverbs 20:2 ; Proverbs 28:15 .

†4 Matthew 2:16-18.

†5 Exodus 5:4-9. Daniel 3:1-19

†6 Daniel 2:5-12.

†7 Proverbs 16:15. 2 Samuel 23:3-4 .

Verse 13

’Many,’ observes on old commentator — ’are the miseries of a man’s life; but none like that, which cometh from him, who should be the stay of his life.’†1 As "a wise son maketh a glad father" (Proverbs 10:1 ; Proverbs 15:20 ), so a foolish son is the father’s calamity†2 — a multitude of calamities meeting in one, such as no earthly portion, no riches, honour, or station, can alleviate or balance. The denunciation — "Write this man childless"†3 — would be to his heart a comparative boon. The throne of grace to the Christian father will be the only refuge for his grief. There will he pour out the bitterness of his soul in humiliation for himself, and supplication for his child; and find rest. (2 Samuel 23:5 .) Oh! can we be too earnest for the prevention of this calamity? Shall we not seek early grace for our children, and — combined with this — special grace for ourselves (Judges 13:12 ), to preserve us from unwittingly sowing the seed in their young hearts, that will afterwards spring up with such deadly fruit?

Another domestic calamity is mentioned, not less poignant. The contentions of a wife are as a continual dropping (Proverbs 27:15, also Proverbs 21:9, Proverbs 21:19 ; Proverbs 25:24 ) of rain through the roof of an old house. Such a dropping utterly destroys a man’s household comfort, and "wears away" a heart firm as a "stone." This trial is the more fretting, because there is no lawful escape. The foolish son may be cast out. (Deuteronomy 21:18 .) The contentious wife must be endured. (Matthew 5:32 ; Matthew 19:9 .) Yet would this cross have been had the plain Scriptural rule of subjection been duly honoured?†4 Or is it not the just chastening for the neglect of the Divine injunction, so essential to secure happiness in the yoke?†5 Or may it not be the "thorn in the flesh," the needful restraint from some imminent, subtle, and fearful danger? (2 Corinthians 12:7 .) Self-will and impatience would flee from the cross. Faith will seek strength to bear it meekly to the honour of God, extracting a solid blessing out of a heavy trial. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 .) And who knoweth but the contentious wife may be given to persevering prayer and patient forbearance, as an help-meet to her husband, and both shall ultimately "dwell as heirs together of the grace of life"?†6

But surely our God teaches us a valuable lesson of this world’s vanity, by fixing disappointment on its most substantial comforts. Let his children beware of building their rest on an earthly portion, of being ensnared by their best blessings; else will their jealous Father embitter their sweetest sources of enjoyment, and teach them by painful discipline to look to enter into no rest but his.

Footnotes:

†1 Jermin in loco.

†2 Heb. Plur. Proverbs 17:21, Proverbs 17:25 .

†3 Jeremiah 22:30. Augustus in a burst of grief in his domestic trials, is said to have applied to himself Hector’s exclamation against his effeminate brother — ’Would that thou hadst never been born, or never married!’ Iliad, G. 40.

†4 Proverbs 13:22. Numbers 27:7 . Deuteronomy 21:16 . 1 Kings 21:3-4 . 2 Corinthians 12:14 .

†5 1 Samuel 25:39-42 .

†6 1 Peter 3:7 . Genesis 2:18 . 1 Corinthians 7:16 .

Verse 14

"Every good gift is from the Lord" (James 1:17 ); only, some in the ordinary course; others more directly from him. Houses and riches, though his gifts, come by descent. They are the inheritance of fathers.†1 The heir is known, and in the course of events he takes possession of his estate. But the prudent wife is wholly unconnected with the man. There has been no previous bond of relation.†2 She is often brought from a distance.†3 "The LORD brought her to the man"†4 by his special Providence, and therefore as his special gift. The history of Ruth beautifully illustrates the train of matrimonial Providence. The Moabitess married, contrary to all human probability, a man of Israel, that she might be brought into Naomi’s family, return with her to her own land, and in course of filial duty be brought under the eye, and drawn to the heart of Boaz, her appointed husband. (Ruth 1:1-4 ; Ruth 4:13 .) Often do the wheels of the LORD’s working in this interesting matter constrain the admiration of men not well exercised in spiritual observation. (Genesis 24:50 .) And how much more endearing and secure is a special gift of God! The bread coming down from heaven was more valued, than if it had been the fruit of labour. Thus is the prudent wife honoured, as ’a special blessing of God’s immediate choosing, and therefore to be obtained by our prayers at the hand of the giver.’†5 The prudence, however, here described, implies not only her wise governing of her household,†6 but that godly consideration connected with Divine wisdom,†7 by which she becomes the joy and confidence of her husband:†8 as the contentious wife is his trouble and disgrace.

But is not the husband, no less than the wife, from the LORD? Let each prospectively seek the blessing of God’s ordinance; never trusting to his own judgment and affections, without primary reference to his guidance. (Proverbs 3:6 .) Let us realize the responsibility, as well as the indulgent comfort, of the union; ever counting it a talent for God, for his service and glory; and not doubting for ourselves, that ’all things shall turn to our commodity and comfort, if we draw the yoke in one concord of heart and mind.’†9

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 13:22. Numbers 27:7 . Deuteronomy 21:16 . 1 Kings 21:3-4 . 2 Corinthians 12:14 .

†2 1 Samuel 25:39-42 .

†3 Genesis 24:4-5.

†4 Genesis 2:22.

†5 Bishop Hall.

†6 Proverbs 31:27.

†7 Proverbs 8:12.

†8 Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 31:11, Proverbs 31:23, Proverbs 31:28 .

†9 Homily on Matrimony.

Verse 15

All experience and observation attest the fact, that slothful habits destroy mental energy, and idleness is the road to want. What could we expect from a sluggard lying in his bed all the day? As little from the slothful, who goes about his work, as if he was cast into a deep sleep. (Proverbs 6:9-11 .) And even where the slumber is not a deep sleep, its partial influence is the dead palsy upon active perseverance. He has not the thorough use of his wakeful faculties. And if he has (as who has not?) made a false step, there is no energy of effort to repair it.†1 And if there be any reward of perseverance, sloth will never find it; the idle soul will suffer hunger.

Thoughtless sinner! Think how this applies to the work of God. You persuade yourself that all is well, because you will not trouble yourself to open your eyes to the truth; and you are content to let things run their course. You do not rebel against the Gospel. But has not our Divine Master said — "He that is not with me is against me"? (Matthew 12:30 .) You conceive that you have done no harm. But is it no harm to have hitherto wasted every opportunity for eternity? to have wandered about in vanity from your cradle, instead of living to God? You are determined to sleep at any rate. And though the two grand treasures — the favor of God, and your own soul — are in imminent peril; yet still you "say to your soul — Soul, take thine ease." (Luke 12:19 .) Instead of weeping love, wrestling prayer, and working diligence — you are cast into a deep sleep. "Awake, thou that sleepest" (Ephesians 5:14 ); else wilt thou sleep the sleep of eternal death.

Often do we find men active and laborious, all eyes, all ears, all heart in worldly matters, hating sloth, yet themselves devoured by it. They know that something must be done. But in the vital exercises of denying self, crucifying the flesh, coming to Christ, loving the Lord, and devotedness to his service — here it is a deep sleep. Is then the grace of God to work as a charm, without, or independent of, means? This were a deadly delusion, casting into the deep sleep of presumption. Such an idle soul shall suffer hunger! (Proverbs 10:4-5 ; Proverbs 20:4 .) The enduring meat is the gift of God; but, like every other blessing of the Gospel, it is given only to labour.†2 The idle mouth — full only of heartless complaints, perhaps sending up a dull prayer for the present quiet of conscience — shall suffer hunger. The soul can never flourish, if it be not in earnest with God. It may be roused for a while; but only to be cast into a deeper sleep than ever. For godliness can never thrive with this deadly malady. If the slothful may be sincerely religious; so far as he is slothful, he deducts from the privilege and sincerity of his religion. And undoubtedly a slothful habit is utterly inconsistent with the vitality of true godliness. Soon nothing will remain, but the dead form of religion, the bare walls of the house, instead of the temple filled with his glory.

And now let us look at the child of God awakened out of a deep sleep. He has set out in good earnest for the kingdom; he has begun to fight — yea — to conquer. But sleep has followed; and, instead of improving the advantage, a sudden assault of the enemy has laid him low.†3 Mind thy work and thy conflict more than thine ease and comfort; else wilt thou be, not a conqueror, but a captive. In time of ease, how naturally, as Bunyan’s pilgrim found it, does the air of the plain tend to make us drowsy! And then the soul, instead of being "satisfied as with marrow and fatness" (Psalms 63:5 ), suffers hunger, and becomes faint for want of its proper nourishment. The heartless externals of godliness will abide. But the spirit that breathed life into them is gone. Nothing but the unceasing prayer and exercise of a mortified spirit can shake off this "evil disease that cleaveth to us." Be thou, Lord, our Helper, our Strength, our Physician!

Footnotes:

†1 Marshall Turénne expressed his warm obligation to a friend, who had given him the following advice, when first setting out in life — ’When you have made a false step, spend not a moment in vexing yourself, and moaning over it; but think how it may best be repaired, and instantly set about it.’

†2 John 6:27, with Hebrews 6:11-12 . 2 Peter 1:5-11 .

†3 Invadunt urbem somno vinoque sepultam. — Virg. Æn. ii. 265.

Verse 16

The fearing of the commandment is the path of honour. (Proverbs 13:13 .) The keeping of it is our security. Keep the word, and the word will keep us securely. Our duties are thus identified with our privileges. (Psalms 19:11 ; Psalms 119:165 .) This is the first successful effort to shake ourselves from the deep sleep of slothfulness; when we "stir up ourselves to take hold of God, choosing the things that please him, and joining ourselves to him, to serve him, and to love his name."†1 Yet the power to keep the commandment is not in a man’s self.†2 Is it not God working in us, through, by, with us?†3 Thus "all our deeds are wrought in him;"†4 and nothing is left us, but the thankful, humbling acknowledgment — "Yet not I, but the grace of God that is with me."†5 Let then the world know, that we do not exercise obedience in a covenant of works, nor reject it as a system of bondage and despondency; but that keeping the commandment evangelically is keeping our own souls†6 — the way of present happiness,†7 the seal of everlasting mercy,†8 the pathway to heaven.†9

But alas! the multitude, instead of keeping the commandment, "go at all adventures,"†10 careless of their ways, reckless of their end. It is with them scarcely worth looking into, whether God is displeased or not; whether they be walking in the narrow or broad path; and what the end of that path may be. The sight before our eyes defies illustration. The most momentous realities, that could ever attract the attention of an immortal being, stand before him, not in dreaming visions, but in actual demonstration — the favor or the curse of the ever-blessed God — salvation or damnation. They confront him in the presence of God. He sees them in the light of God. He acknowledges the stamp of God upon them; and yet with this tremendous sight, this fearful responsibility, not a serious thought fixes in his mind. Instead of being overwhelmed with the consciousness of his own interest in it (enough — were it apprehended — to suspend almost the power of thought) he is ready for any trifle or vanity that crosses his path. He despises his ways, and dies.

Sometimes men come into this thoughtless world, fresh from the influence of a religious education. For a while they yield alternately to their conscience and their corruptions. They are touched a moment under the convictions of the word, or the corrections of the rod. Yet the want of steadiness and consistency soon sweeps all away into "worse" hardness than before. (2 Peter 2:20-22 .) They are "carried away unto their idols, even as they were led" (1 Corinthians 12:2 ); and, slaves of their wills, their lusts, their fancies, they know not, they care not to know, "that for all these things God will call them to judgment."†11

Young people — "Ponder the path of your feet." Look to it well at every step, that "your ways may be established" (Proverbs 4:26 ) in converting grace, the only security for Christian steadfastness. (2 Peter 3:17-18 .) Keep the conscience tender, the Divine rule before your eyes, and the promise in the heart. Cherish a pliable spirit for your Father’s guidance. How solemn the warning — He that despiseth his ways shall die! Sinner! would that thou wouldest ponder this death! It is no creation of a distempered fancy. It is the death, which sin bringeth forth to perfection. (James 1:14-15 .) It is the harvest from that seed. (Galatians 6:7-8 .) It is the death such as a soul can die — an eternal reality of infinite, unchangeable misery; the extinction, not of thy being (that were a boon indeed!) but of thy happiness. What must it be to be immovably linked with the wrath of God! Yea — to have the wrath of an immortal God filling the conscience of thine immortal soul, with all its power eternally enlarging to receive the full and eternal impression! And whilst thou art "going on frowardly in the way of thine heart" (Isaiah 57:17 ), remember "there is but a step" — who knows how short a step — how soon taken? — "between thee and this death." (1 Samuel 20:3 .) "Why" then "wilt thou die," when the oath of thy God testifies, that "he hath no pleasure in thy death," when his gracious voice to thee is — "Turn and live.†12 Consider thy ways."†13 Oh! listen, ere thou learn the wisdom of fools, to be wise too late.

Footnotes:

†1 Isaiah 64:7; Isaiah 56:4-6 .

†2 Jeremiah 10:23.

†3 Isaiah 26:12. Philippians 2:12-13 .

†4 John 3:21.

†5 1 Corinthians 15:10 .

†6 Proverbs 10:17; Proverbs 16:17 ; Proverbs 22:5 .

†7 Isaiah 64:5. John 14:21-23 .

†8 Psalms 103:17-18.

†9 Isaiah 35:8-10. Revelation 22:14 .

†10 Leviticus 26:21, margin={contrary...: or, at all adventures with me}

†11 Ecclesiastes 11:9, with 2 Kings 10:31 . Jeremiah 44:17 .

†12 Ezekiel 33:11; Ezekiel 18:32 .

†13 Haggai 1:5, Haggai 1:7 .

Verse 17

The ordinance of God is, that "the poor shall never cease out of the land."†1 Hence the universal obligation is, to have pity upon the poor. This is according to the New Testament standard, which inculcates the spirit, no less than the act.†2 We must open our heart as much as our hand (Deuteronomy 15:7, Deuteronomy 15:10 ), "draw out our soul" as well as our bread, "to the hungry" (Isaiah 58:10 ); thus doubling the alms, by giving a part of ourselves. It is possible to "give all our goods to feed the poor," without one atom of the true charity of the heart. (1 Corinthians 13:3 .) But whatever we give, "if we shut up the bowels of compassion from our brother, how dwelleth the love of God in us?" (1 John 3:17 .) The good Samaritan shewed true practical pity. Never let us forget our Lord’s application — "Go and do thou likewise." (Luke 10:33-37 .)

The appointment of the Deacons in the Primitive Church (Acts 6:2-6 ); the anxiety of the Apostles when delegating a commission to their brethren (Galatians 2:9-10 ); the high commendation of the Macedonian churches (2 Corinthians 3:1-18 . 9:1-15.), the weekly rule of charity, laid down (not enforcing a fixed standard, but "as God hath prospered") (1 Corinthians 16:2 ) — all this shews the acceptableness of this Christian service. Sir Thomas More used to say — ’There was more rhetoric in this little sentence, than in a whole library.’ The worldly philanthropist however has no conception of the Divine honour of the principle involved in it. If our brother is the object of pity, in truth the majesty of Heaven is concerned. The Lord considers it as a loan to himself. It is lending to the LORD. Selfishness would evade the obligation under the cover of prudence. But what we give is only a loan, to be paid again, and that with such security, as can never fail. The Lord of heaven condescends to be the Surety for the poor. He takes the debt upon himself, and gives us the bond of his word in promise of payment. Though he has a right to all, and is beholden to none,†3 he becomes a debtor to his own. Many acts of kindness have been buried and forgotten. The witness of our conscience is the only fruit. But here is a safe deposit in the very heart of God. It can never be lost or forgotten.†4 ’If then’ — as Bishop Hall writes — ’we will needs lay up, where should we rather repose it, than in the Christian’s treasury? The poor man’s hand is the treasury of Christ. All my superfluity shall there be hoarded up, where I know it will be safely kept, and surely returned me.’†5

And yet would not many rather lend to a rich man of known integrity, than to the LORD? It is indeed an act of faith, often of naked faith, when there seems no hope of return. (Luke 6:38 . Compare Proverbs 28:27 .) But this is the principle, which "the King delighteth to honour." Franke’s Orphan Institution stands out before us.†6 Doubtless if the experience of the Lord’s people were fully brought out, it would declare many similar manifestations of his faithfulness to his word. The resurrection-day will bring all to light. (Matthew 25:34-40 .) Meanwhile let us admire this his wondrous grace. He puts the desire into the heart, disposes the heart, opens the opportunity, and after all accepts the act, as if it had been his own work, without spot or pollution!

Footnotes:

†1 Deuteronomy 15:11.

†2 Luke 6:30-36. Colossians 3:12 . Compare Proverbs 14:21 .

†3 Psalms 16:2. Romans 11:35 .

†4 Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:40 . Hebrews 6:10 .

†5 Works, viii. 32. No man is a better merchant, than he that lays out his time upon God, and his money upon the Poor. — Bp. Taylor’s Holy Living, Chapter i.

†6 See his interesting Life. (Seeleys.)

Verse 18

Christian parents! carefully study the word of God. See here our Father’s wise and loving discipline with his children. "Like as a Father, he pitieth his children." "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you."†1 Yet when his children need chastening; though the flesh cries — Spare; though every groan enters into his heart,†2 he loves so well, that his soul spares them not for their crying.†3 He uses the rod; yea, if need be, heavily.†4 He will wither their brightest comforts, children, or property, if they turn them to idols; and this, "not for his pleasure, but for their profit."†5 And what child has not blessed him, that he did not refrain his discipline, till it had done "its perfect work"?

Is not this then our pattern and our standard; setting out the sound principle of a Christian education? "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; lest they be discouraged." (Colossians 3:21 .) But let not the rule — chasten — spare not — be "a hard saying." Is not tenderness for the child a cover for the indulgence of weak and foolish affections? There is much more mercy in what seems to be harshness, than in false tenderness. (Proverbs 23:13-14 .) Let the child see, that we are resolved; that we are not to be diverted from our duty by the cry of weakness or passion. Far better that the child should cry under healthful correction, than that parents should afterwards cry under the bitter fruit to themselves and children, of neglected discipline. ’Eli could not have devised which way to have plagued himself and his house so much, as by his kindness to his children’s sin. Parents need no other means to make themselves miserable than sparing the rod.’†6 Yet much less of it would be needed, did they govern, as they ought to do, by the steady decision of a word, a frown, or a look.

But the great force of the rule is its timely application — while there is hope. For hopeless the case may be, if the remedy be delayed. The cure of the evil must be commenced in infancy. Not a moment is to be lost. "Betimes" (Proverbs 13:24 ; Proverbs 22:15 ) — is the season, when the good can be effected with the most ease, and the fewest strokes. The lesson of obedience should be learnt at the first dawn. One decided struggle and victory in very early life, may, under God, do much towards settling the point at once and to the end. On the other hand, sharp chastening may fail later to accomplish, what a slight rebuke in the early course might have wrought.

But is there not too often a voluntary blindness, that does not choose to see what it is painful to correct? The false notion — ’Children will be children’ — leads us often to pass over real faults, and consider their tempers and waywardness as too trifling to require prompt correction. And thus sin, winked at in its beginnings, hardens in all the strength of deep-rooted corruptions. Whereas — who would neglect their most trifling bodily ailment, which might grow into serious results? If they cannot be argued with, they must be controlled. How often have we found in after-life the evil of fixed habits, which early correction might have subdued with far less cost of suffering! (1 Kings 1:6 ; 1 Kings 2:24 .) Oh! what grace and wisdom is needed to discipline our minds, judgment, and affections to that tone of self-government, which will enable us to train our children practically for the service of God, and for their own happiness!

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 103:13. Isaiah 66:13 .

†2 Exodus 2:23-24. Judges 10:16 .

†3 Psalms 89:30-32.

†4 Psalms 39:10. 1 Peter 5:6 .

†5 Hebrews 12:10. Compare Lamentations 3:33 .

†6 Bishop Hall’s Contemplations, Book xi. xii.

Verse 19

How often does the unchastened child grow up to a man of great wrath, bringing himself into trouble by his boisterous and ungoverned passions! Adonijah, whom "his father had not displeased at any time," rebels against his brother, and suffers punishment. (1 Kings 1:5 ; 1 Kings 2:25 .) The wretched victim gained nothing by experience. Delivered from one broil, he plunges into another. Indeed who knows what will be the end of undisciplined passion? Cain — a man of great wrath — the murderer of his brother — the punishment that he suffered was "greater than he could bear." (Genesis 4:5-8, Genesis 4:13 .) The friendly efforts to restrain this wrath must be repeated again and again. (1 Samuel 19:1-11 ; 1 Samuel 20:32-33 ), even though too often ineffectually. Meanwhile the man suffers his own punishment — the miseries of a fierce intestine war, driven about by the fury of his raging lust. Truly "it is a man’s discretion to defer his anger" (Proverbs 19:11 ), as the first, often the successful, effort to restrain a passion, the indulgence of which leaves him degraded and defenseless. (Proverbs 25:28 .)

After all that a man boasts of his self-government, there is no fermentation within, which restraint may bind, but cannot subdue. Wounded pride and unquelled resentment leave the wretched criminal in his brooding chamber within, suffering an intolerable burden of self-inflicted punishment. What then is the radical cure? "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." (Matthew 11:29 .) The glory and encouragement of the gospel is, that religion, with all its difficulties, is a practicable thing. (2 Corinthians 12:9 .) "My grace is sufficient for thee" — is the cheering word of Him, who sealed the faithfulness of the promise with his blood. Doubt not then, that "he will perfect that which concerneth us" (Psalms 138:8 ), even to the molding of the man of great wrath into his image of meekness, gentleness, and love.

Verse 20

We have just had a word for parents, directing their Christian discipline. Here the children are exhorted to humility. Again are they awakened to hear counsel and instruction.†1 And constantly do they need the word. "Childhood and youth are vanity."†2 Present gratification is the main object. Oh! remember that the seed, now sown in the season of youth, will produce either blessed or bitter fruit in the latter end. Rich indeed was the harvest from Timothy’s early attention to instruction.†3 Fearful indeed was the judgment upon the scoffers,†4 the awful death of the profligate,†5 the ruin of the holy nation†6 — all the fruit of despising timely wisdom and instruction. Might not Rehoboam†7 and Amaziah†8 have escaped the ruin of their kingdom, had they heard counsel, and thus obtained wisdom in their latter end? ’I am going to die,’ said a thoughtless King on his death-bed; ’and yet I have not begun to live.’ How does the wisdom of mature age depend upon diligence in hearing counsel and instruction! Hence we value "the yoke" — specially of affliction — "borne in youth" — a "good" thing indeed, fraught with profit. (Lamentations 3:27 .) In this yoke Joseph heard from his God much counsel and instruction, that eminently qualified him with wisdom for his high responsibility. (Genesis 37. 39.-41.) Daniel, thus early instructed, found wisdom in the latter end of a life protracted beyond the ordinary term, that enabled him to superintend a hundred and twenty provinces with singular honour to his profession. (Daniel 1:4-9 ; Daniel 6:3-4 .)

And then as regards the latter end — "the end of all things," — the wisdom to meet the great crisis is not to be found in thoughtless disregard. Counsel and instruction are largely given. But alas! of the most the Lord is constrained to complain — "My people doth not consider." (Isaiah 1:3 .) And who, in the sight of the mass of ungodliness, can refrain from the weeping lamentation of the man of God, — "Oh! that they were wise! that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" (Deuteronomy 32:29 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 4:1-2; Proverbs 5:1-2 ; Proverbs 7:1-2 .

†2 Ecclesiastes 11:10.

†3 2 Timothy 3:14-15 .

†4 Proverbs 1:26; Proverbs 29:1 .

†5 Proverbs 5:9-14.

†6 Matthew 23:37-39. Luke 19:41-42 .

†7 1 Kings 12:12-19 .

†8 2 Chronicles 25:15-20 .

Verse 21

Here is a fine contrast between man and God, setting out the just relative disproportion between the worm and his Maker. Man’s most serious, well-digested thoughts are only devices — imaginations — uncertainty — a poor nonentity. God’s mind is counsel,†1 firm and full purpose. Man’s devices are many; God’s counsel is like himself — Unity. Man’s devices are full of anxiety. Many are eventually fruitless.†2 All of them are vain.†3 God’s counsel is immutable, and shall stand for ever.†4 "I will work and who shall let it — My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."†5

Now when God and man were at one, man’s devices were identified with God’s counsel. Then it was "as the days of heaven upon earth." But ever since the fall, man’s devices and God’s counsel are at opposite. Which will triumph, who can doubt? "There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the LORD." (Proverbs 21:30 . Hebrews 6:17 .)

We mark this conflict in every day’s life. Man’s own way is a way devised by human weakness and folly; and it is impossible to make a solid road out of such frail materials. Even in the most plausible path — a well-calculated moderation in their earthly projects, he is only preparing for himself certain disappointment, and increasing the certainty and perplexity of that disappointment by his every movement. He devises his whole way, when not a single step is under his own control; not one step can he take, for one moment in opposition to the LORD’s counsel. (Lamentations 3:37 .) That shall stand, though it may be reluctantly to give him up his own devices; still — even after he has left him — seem to send a longing, lingering look after him.†6 The malice of Joseph’s brethren was the means of fulfilling the Divine counsel in the salvation of his Church.†7 The plot laid for the destruction of Israel furthered their prosperity.†8 The vain attempts at opposition to Christ were subservient to the great end of "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God."†9 The device of man to prevent the Apostle’s journey to Rome was signally defeated.†10

How vain the impious attempt to "fight against God!"†11 "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!"†12 Our liberty does not interfere with his secret purpose. But let us be careful, that it does not resist his declared will. As his Providence chooses our lot, let his word discipline our desires, as the best means of bringing them to a prosperous issue. After all, it is a cheering hope. All is clear above, however cloudy it be below. All is calm in heaven, however stormy it may be on earth. There is no confusion there. One will alone reign. Every purpose reaches its appointed end. "He is of one mind, and who can turn him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth." (Job 23:13 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Ephesians 1:11.

†2 Psalms 21:11.

†3 Psalms 94:11.

†4 Psalms 89:2; Psalms 119:89 .

†5 Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 46:10 .

†6 See Psalms 81:11-14 .

†7 Genesis 37:19; Genesis 45:5-6 .

†8 Exodus 1:8-12, Exodus 1:20 .

†9 Psalms 2:1-6, with Acts 4:26-28 ; Acts 2:23 .

†10 Acts 23:12, Acts 23:15, with Acts 23:11 .

†11 Acts 5:39.

†12 Isaiah 45:9.

Verse 22

The privilege of doing good is within the reach of all. For when the power fails, the desire of a man is his kindness, as acceptable as the most expensive proof of love. If there be a willing mind, it is accepted, according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. (2 Corinthians 8:12 .) The dealings of God with his people are grounded on this principle. David’s desire to build the temple was as fully accepted and honoured, as the act itself was appointed for his son.†1 Such also was our Savior’s estimate of the value of the widow’s mite,†2 — of the box of ointment poured upon himself,†3 — of the "cup of cold water given to a disciple."†4 The desire was the kindness, more rich and fruitful than the offerings of self-pleasing abundance.†5 ’It is the comfort of poverty, that our affections are valued, not our presents.’†6

Yet the desire must be active; not indolent excitement, but "the communication of faith effectual" according to the power given to us.†7 Such a desire is far better in the sight of God, in the heart of one of his poor people, than a man with large opportunities and hollow professions, who proves himself to be a liar. (Proverbs 19:1 . Psalms 62:9 .) The poor gives readily. The rich cannot afford. He denies that he has the ability. He promises, and does nothing. The poor man is better than the liar. Only take heed to the motive. Men know not the heart. "The LORD weigheth the spirit" (Proverbs 16:2 ); and "the fire will try every man’s work of what sort it is." (1 Corinthians 3:13 .)

Footnotes:

†1 2 Chronicles 6:8 . 2 Chronicles 7:12-17 .

†2 Mark 12:41-44.

†3 Mark 14:8-9.

†4 Matthew 10:42.

†5 Luke 21:4.

†6 Bp. Hall. ’Rich men’s presents,’ said the Venerable Bede when dying — ’are gold and silver, or other costly things. Mine must be recommended by the affectionate pleasure with which I give them.’

†7 Philemon 1:6. 2 Corinthians 8:11 .

Verse 23

The fear of the LORD as a legal principle, it is a privilege to be exempt from.†1 As a grace of the gospel, cultivate it to the uttermost.†2 Threefold fruit is here set before us — life — satisfaction — security.†3 It tendeth to life — not the mere natural life, common to the ungodly — (though this blessing, so far as is good, is included†4), but a heavenly, yea — an eternal, life†5 in the favor and enjoyment of God. So far as we are under its influence, we speak, pray, think, and deal with man, as if God was standing by. The genial beams of "the Sun of righteousness" nourish this holy principle (Malachi 4:2 ); and soon will it be perfected in the service above. (Revelation 15:3-4 .)

Meanwhile the satisfaction which it imparts is a precious privilege. The service of God is now our delight — our "great delight." The law is no task-master over our heads, but a principle of life and joyous energy within. The worldling’s heart is torn with ’an aching void.’ He travels from one source of happiness to another, crying — "Who will shew me any good?" "LORD! lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me" — is the cry and solid satisfaction of a child of God, above the best portion of earth. (Psalms 4:6-7 .) Instead of being cast from wave to wave, here is quiet rest. Whoever wants, "they that fear the LORD want no good thing. Their souls dwell at ease." (Psalms 34:9-10 ; Psalms 25:12-13 .) He that hath it shall abide satisfied. Is not this fixed repose and trust in his love the very soul of happiness?

If it be said, that an object of fear usually brings dread. ’But add, whom — He that feareth the LORD. That touch turns it into gold. He that so fears, fears not.’†6 He has his "confidence and place of refuge — high and sure, an impregnable fortress." (Proverbs 14:26 .) We do not begin to inquire the way. "God is known in the palaces of Zion as a sure refuge." (Psalms 48:3 .) We go to him as a God, with whom we are acquainted, and who is engaged in covenant to us. And now taking our sanctuary in God, we sit, and sing under his shadow. In this hiding-place how can any evil, properly so called, visit us? (Proverbs 12:21 .) What is evil in itself will turn to good. (Romans 8:28 . Hebrews 12:11 .) It cannot separate from God. It will tend only to bind us closer to him. We can tread upon scorpions unhurt, when our conscience is kept tender, and our heart fixed in his ways. We fear not his uplifted arm. But his frown of rebuke "enters into our soul." His mercy sweeps away the fear of terror. His holiness maintains the fear of reverence. Conscious security only tends more than ever to make us dread departure and separation from his love.

Footnotes:

†1 Luke 1:74. Romans 8:15 . 2 Timothy 1:7 .

†2 Hebrews 12:28. 1 Peter 1:17 .

†3 See Sirach 34:15-17 .

†4 Proverbs 9:11; Proverbs 10:27 .

†5 Psalms 33:18-19; Psalms 34:11-12 .

†6 Leighton’s Sermon on Psalms 112:7

Verse 24

Another forcible figure of the palsy of sloth!†1 It so grows on its victim, that he has no heart to do even necessary things for himself; as if he could not take his hand out of his bosom; and would rather suffer the cravings of hunger, than make the exertion of putting his food into his mouth. A melancholy picture it is of many fair intentions and promises, and apparently good beginnings in religion — all stopped for want of the effort to overcome the least hindrance. Every religious duty is a burden. The struggle necessary for prayer — the only means of receiving our spiritual food — is too hard. The soul, that seemed to have been awakened, sinks into its former lethargy; and the effort to rouse it becomes each time fainter and more hopeless. The hand cannot be stretched out, though it were to lay hold on a crown.

Some, indeed, seem to feel little or no exertion to be necessary; a plain proof, that they have never been really in earnest about this momentous concern. The conflict is not imaginary. "Woe unto those, who," reposing on the lap of indulgence, "are at ease in Zion." (Amos 6:1 .) A religion without sacrifice, without diligence, will never open a way to heaven. It is treasuring up unavailing repentance against the latter days. If the work of the day, much more the work of eternity, calls for all diligence. If the Emperor Titus could mourn, that he ’had lost a day,’ what will be the stinging remorse of having lost a life! To think, that by a right beginning, followed up by "a patient continuance in well-doing" (Romans 2:7 ), we might have effectively "served the will of God in our generation" (Acts 13:36 ), so as to have been missed in the world after we had "fallen asleep;" to think that we might have sown seed for eternity, so that our "memory," instead of "rotting," would "have been blessed" (Proverbs 10:7 ); that all this was wished, contemplated, nay — even resolved; yet not an atom of it accomplished: will not this be a thorn for a dying pillow, perhaps the tormenting worm for eternity?

The mere waste of time is far from being the worst part of the evil. It is fatal alike to our well-being, and our well-doing, to condemn our energies to rust out in inactivity. Thomson’s excuse for reposing in his ’Castle of Indolence’ was, that he had nothing to do. And doubtless the want of an object is sufficient to make an idler of a man of talent. But can this ever be the condition of any one — even the least occupied, or the least influential among us? Are any of us freed from the responsibility of diligence, if not for ourselves, at least in the service of our fellow-creatures. Much less can the Christian plead as an excuse for "standing idle," that "no man hath hired him." (Matthew 20:6-7 .) Is not the great object always in sight, always worthy of all the concentration of mind, talent, and energy — "To me to live is Christ"? (Philippians 1:21 .)

The special time for the resistance of this deadly disease, is when we are most under its power. When the Bible is uninteresting as a common book, then is the time to live in it with patient diligence. When prayer is cold and heartless, instead of giving up, hold on, however feebly, yet with perseverance. When in a state of listless exertion, be employed for God and for his Church. Form habits of early energy. Beware of a dreaming sentimentalism. Cultivate bodily activity. Regard the incursions of sloth as the effects of those poisons, which, while they cause sleep, unless counteracted by constant resistance, must prove fatal. Yet with all these means, never forget the one only principle, that makes them effectual — prayer, unceasing, believing, "looking unto Jesus," who not only gives life, but liveliness. (Hebrews 12:1-2 . John 10:10 .)

Christian! He who hath awakened you from the sleep of death, will keep you awake, till the Lord come. Still even with you much drowsiness remains, trifling away time in a tame, barren profession, such as your Lord will not tolerate. He will make you feel, that life is a solemn reality, that prayer is not a half-hearted work, but a close dealing with the living God, a warm pulse of the hidden life, a continued conflict with mighty enemies.

Are you then struggling in this conflict? Look for repose only in the arms of victory. While the conflict lasts, there is no time for loitering or for slumber. Yet forget not to thank God for every victory, yea, for the continued strength, enabling you to persevere in the fight; for the wise dispensation also, that appoints this holy conflict, as the means of invigorating our faith, our hope, our meetness for the crown, and our joyful expectation of it. If peace with God is our life, "the joy of the LORD is our strength" (Nehemiah 8:10 ), our health, our happiness, yet not to be found in a listless, enervated habit.

Footnotes:

†1 See similar figures Proverbs 12:27 ; Proverbs 26:15 . Ecclesiastes 4:5 .

Verse 25

There is a difference of opinion upon the profit of punishments. Some will have it, that, if the will does not give way to reason, forced obedience is of little use. But God’s word and ordinance is our standard, though great wisdom is required in the measure and adaptation. Two kinds are here mentioned; each measured out according to the character of the offender, but both wholesome in their results. The scorner is a bold sinner. Smite him, that the simple may beware. (Proverbs 21:11 . Acts 13:6-12 .) It may be a timely warning to those that are led by him. The taking the ring-leader of a mischievous party may put an end to the combination. This is the benefit of laws. Often an example made, though the sinner himself continues hardened, is for the good of the whole body. Thus ’God strikes some, that he may warn all.’†1

But a man of understanding reprove. There is no occasion to smite. "A reproof entereth more into a wise man, than a hundred stripes into a fool." (Proverbs 17:10 ; Proverbs 15:5 .) In the scorner’s case, the profit is to others. In the wise man’s, it is to himself. He will understand knowledge. (Proverbs 9:8-9 .) His wisdom enables him to profit, and to be thankful for the seasonable check. (Psalms 141:5 .) Never let us forget the mercy of being kept from sin, or being restored from it, though it be by our Master’s sharp and gracious rebuke — "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore, and repent." (Revelation 3:19 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Bishop Hall. Compare Exodus 18:10-11 . Deuteronomy 13:11 ; Deuteronomy 19:20 ; Deuteronomy 21:21 . Acts 5:1-11 . Revelation 11:13 .

Verse 26

This is, alas! not an ideal picture of recklessness. "Without natural affection" (Romans 1:30-31 ) — is an awful mark of unrestrained depravity. Man is the debased slave of his selfish lust. The profligate may waste his father’s substance by extravagance, and his spirits and health by his ill-conduct. Absalom wasted his father by his undutiful rebellion. (2 Samuel 15:1-14 .) And often has a mother’s tenderness been repaid with crushing unkindness. The insolence of an ungrateful son virtually chaseth her from her home. Her idol has become her curse! Such monsters in human shape, outraging every principle of humanity, have been found in every generation. Yet seldom do they escape without some mark of retributive justice even in this life. (Proverbs 30:11, Proverbs 30:17 .) And though they may be callous to public opinion, while causing shame, and bringing reproach on their names; yet conscience will speak (Isaiah 57:20 ); and, sooner or later, the stroke will fearfully fall. Children! A parent’s sorrows carry a heavy account before the bar of God. If "the commandment be with promise" (Ephesians 6:2 ), will not the breach of the commandment cut off the entail of the promise, with an awful and aggravated weight of condemnation?

Verse 27

27 Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.†a

Hear the same caution from the lips of our Divine Master — "Beware of false prophets. Take heed what ye hear." (Matthew 7:15 . Mark 4:24 .) All instruction is not to life. Teachers of evil, "Ministers of Satan,"†1 abound. And their instruction, causing to err from the words of knowledge, is more palatable to the perverseness of the heart; more alluring to the inexperience of the young, than solid Scriptural teaching.†2 The Apostle reproved the Galatian Church for listening to teachers, causing them to err fatally from the words of knowledge.†3 And would he not have warned us against the same teaching, so fearfully prevalent: placing ordinances in the stead of Christ, or conjoined with him; man’s proud work of "voluntary humility" and external service in the room of pure simplicity of reliance on the Redeemer’s work? When the soul has thus "fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4 ), what ground of confidence can we bring before God? What is his service, but the bondage of outward ceremonies, leading to cheerless despondency?

This instruction is not generally a bold and direct departure from truth. But, as in the first temptation (Genesis 3:1-6 ), it caused to err so gradually, that the deviation from the straight line is scarcely perceptible, till the mischief has been accomplished. Had Eve at once ceased to hear, she would not have erred from the words of knowledge. But the success of the first attempt has emboldened the seducer to deal out his deadly poison to her enfeebled children. And what faithful pastor does not feel a "godly jealousy" for his flock, lest by the same beguilement "they should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ"? (2 Corinthians 11:3 .)

Insinuating infidels, who endeavour to shake the principles of young persons under the pretense of removing needless scruples, and enlarging their minds, and delivering them from the shackles of bigotry — such persons shun them as the plague. Let us sound a caution also against false teachers of a more plausible, and therefore more dangerous character. Let their devices and disguises be fully laid open. It is the "wolf," not in his native dress, but "in sheep’s clothing." (Matthew 7:15 .) "Cunning craftiness" is the distinctive character of the instruction. (Ephesians 4:14 .) All that is pleasing is brought out as a cover for the delusion. Perhaps never was the poison commended in so attractive a form. All the charms of elegant fiction are employed to give effect to it. A lovely picture of practical religion is exhibited. Or the deliverance from the fowler’s open snare is portrayed with glowing color of interest. Superficial readers are captivated by the external loveliness. Parents — sometimes even Christian parents — commend to their children these pictures as models of domestic religion or Church orthodoxy. But the wise watchman would raise his warning voice — Cease, my son, from hearing. — To hear — to regard — is to err. All these beauteous sketches of fancy are the framework, that conceal principles most unscriptural. Weigh them in the balances of the sanctuary, and they will be found wanting. Trace them to their source, and it will be found to be a corrupt fountain. The Church, not Christ, is the foundation principle. A human standard, not the word of God, is the rule. Cease from hearing.†4

Indeed everywhere we would give the warning, that needlessly to tamper with error, is "entering into temptation." Nay, it is most hazardous to deal with it at all, ere our minds are thoroughly grounded in the truth, and we have obtained "the good thing of the heart established with grace."†5 Yet we have senses given for discernment. Use increaseth this discernment.†6 Increasing clearness should be the matter of daily supplication.†7 We are bound therefore to exercise our senses by the plainest commands.†8 Our Divine Master distinctly rebukes indolence.†9 When the words came with the stamp of an apostle, the appeal to the unerring standard was highly commended.†10 Should we give up our judgment to the Church, be it remembered, that "every one of us shall bear his own burden, and shall give an account of himself to God."†11 Be the son, not the slave, of the Church. Reverence her just authority; but maintain that right of private judgment, which constitutes our personal responsibility.

This Christian independence however must be held with humility and simplicity. The duty of private judgment must be felt as one’s own burden, to be cast on none but God. Hence we must carefully restrain self-will. We must attend the ordinances in the spirit of learners rather than as judges; desiring to gather instruction in child-like simplicity, and watching lest the appetite for wholesome food should give place to a spiritual lust. (See 2 Timothy 4:3 .) While the right of judgment is our great privilege, never let us forget, that the licentiousness of it is a cankering evil. If the Romanist enslave the right, let the sound Protestant discipline its exercise.

But what — if our lot be manifestly cast, and our sphere of Christian obligation opened, where words of knowledge are not found? We would suggest at commencement, that particular cases require particular application. There may be cases, when the call would be direct to cease from hearing. If the teaching be heretical, or wholly unevangelical, if the teacher’s life be immoral or scandalously worldly; if the children and servants of the family are manifestly in danger of being caused to err, the path may be made plain to depart. And yet in this case much exercise of mind, much personal sacrifice would be called for to separate from the Minister, not from the Church. And under no circumstances let the ungodliness of the Minister be an excuse for the neglect of Christian ordinances. At the same time, in many more cases than are ordinarily supposed, the mature Christian will remain in his place, continue in prayer, abound in labour of love, meekly use, as occasion may allow, the weapons of admonition and reproof, display a consistent example, and take up his appointed cross. In some cases, when the offense is open, and the error manifest, sound discipline may bring the heretical or ungodly teacher to punishment, and thus open the way for better instruction.

To the mass — who are mainly dependent upon the Ministry for instruction, some forbearance must be admitted, even should they be constrained by hunger to cease from hearing those, who would give them a stone for bread. At least the main guilt lies on "the stranger," not on them, that flee from him, for they "know not his voice." (John 10:5 .) Fearful indeed will be the witness of many a soul neglected, if not "destroyed, for lack" of hearing the words of knowledge. Assured as we are, that the preaching of Christ is the alone preservation from this tremendous evil, if Christ be preached, and sinners are converted to him by other less accredited teachers, "we do rejoice, yea, and we will rejoice." (Philippians 1:18 .) Yet where Christians can abide, let them do so — Let them "trust in the LORD, and do good."†12 The words of knowledge always, will they hear from the Church, if not from her Ministers. The deficiency in privilege will be abundantly supplied. Christian activity will be a quickening means of grace. The constant application of the touchstone will be a preservation from error. The food of the word will be more precious. And who knows but an enlightened Minister may be given to the power of believing prayer, and to the living influence of godly meekness, patience, and consistency?

Footnotes:

†a There is some difficulty upon the rendering of this verse — but Holden concludes the ’least interpretation to be that of our Translators.’ Mr. Scott adds, that ’this translation is of so much importance, that it should not be lightly departed from.’

†1 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 .

†2 Isaiah 30:10. Jeremiah 5:31 .

†3 Galatians 1:6-7; Galatians 3:1-4 ; Galatians 5:7-8 .

†4 Romans 16:17-18. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 . 2 Timothy 2:16-17 .

†5 Hebrews 13:9.

†6 Hebrews 5:14.

†7 Philippians 1:9-10. M.R.={judgment: or, sense}

†8 1 Thessalonians 5:21 . 1 John 4:1 .

†9 Luke 12:57.

†10 Acts 17:11. Compare Isaiah 8:20 .

†11 Galatians 6:5. Romans 14:12 .

†12 Psalms 37:3. See a remarkable instance in the Life of Mr. Walker of Truro.

Verses 28-29

Justly is the man called a witness of Belial. Satan himself hath suborned him for his own malicious purposes.†1 Scorning, instead of regarding judgment, his testimony is worthless. He has "cast the law behind his back." He devours iniquity with greediness, feeds upon it as his proper food, and, sinning without remorse, he is always ready to trade in his deceit, either for gain or revenge.

But in this greedy devouring he has swallowed the hook with the bait. For such scorners judgments are prepared. For such fools as thus "make a mock of sin" (Proverbs 14:9 ) — stripes are ready for their backs, often inflicted by men, the instruments of God. Scorners are warned "lest their bands be made strong" (Isaiah 28:22 ) for judgment, which, however they may despise, they cannot resist. Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the day that I shall deal with thee? Who shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.†2 Oh! that thoughtless, light-minded young persons would lay such words to heart! When they join in the laugh of their more hardened companions, and learn from them to scorn judgment, in spite of the accusings of a conscience not yet silenced; let them tremble, lest from "standing in the way of sinners," they may go on to "sit in the seat of the scornful" (Psalms 1:1 ), and may even exceed their companions in despising the threatenings of God.

And when under these slighted judgments, who is to blame for them? ’Our sin’ — saith Bishop Hall — ’is our own, and the wages of sin is death. He that doth the work, earns the wages. So then the righteous God is cleared both of our sin and our death. Only his justice pays us what our evil deeds deserve. What a wretched thing is a willful sinner, that will needs be guilty of his own death!’†3 Blessed — blessed day! should it ever see him bemoaning himself thus — "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God." (Jeremiah 31:18 .)

Footnotes:

†1 1 Kings 21:13 . Such was the keen description of the Roman Satirist —

Tam facile et pronum est Superos contemnere testes, &c.

Juven. Sat. xiii. 75.

†2 Ezekiel 22:14. Isaiah 33:14 . Hebrews 10:31 .

†3 Works, viii. 156.

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-19.html. 1846.
 
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