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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 20

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verse 1

THE history of the world from the days of Noah (Genesis 9:21 ) proves, that the love of wine and strong drink is a most insidious vice. The wretched victims are convinced too late, that they have been mocked and grievously deceived. Not only does it overcome them before they are aware, but it promises pleasures which it can never give. And yet so mighty is the spell, that the besotted slave consents to be mocked again and again, till "at last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." (Proverbs 23:29-32 .)

Its raging power degrades below the level of the beasts. The government of reason is surrendered to lust, appetite, or passion.†1 Ahasuerus, with his merry heart, shewed himself most irrational.†2 The conqueror of the East murdered his friend. All is tumult and recklessness. The understanding is gradually impaired.†3 "The heart uttereth perverse things." (Proverbs 23:33 .) Other sins of the same black dye follow in its train,†4 often hurrying into the very jaws of destruction.†5 Surely then whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Humbling indeed is it to human nature, to see, not only the mass of the ignorant, but splendid talents, brutalized by this lust; that which was once "created in the image of God," now sunk into the dregs of shame! Yet more humbling is the sight even of God’s own people "wallowing in this mire." The examples of Noah and Lot are recorded (Genesis 19:33 ), not as a laughing-stock to the ungodly, but as a beacon to the saints. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12 .) Even an Apostle had practically learnt, that his security lay not in the innate strength of his principles, but in the unceasing exercise of Christian watchfulness. (1 Corinthians 9:27 .) "Take heed to yourselves" — is the needful warning of our Divine Master — "lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and so that day come upon you unawares. Be not drunk with wine" — said the great Apostle — "wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." (Luke 21:34 . Ephesians 5:18 .)

Footnotes:

†1 1 Samuel 25:36 . Isaiah 56:12 . Hosea 7:5 .

†2 Esther 1:10-12.

†3 Isaiah 28:7. Hosea 4:11 . Plato determines that not only old men, but drunkards, come to childhood. — De Legibus, I.

†4 Genesis 19:33. Isaiah 5:11-12, Isaiah 5:22-23 . See the fine description, 1 Esdras 3:13-24.

†5 2 Samuel 13:28 . 1 Kings 16:8-10 ; 1 Kings 20:16 . Jeremiah 51:39, Jeremiah 51:57 . Daniel 5:1-4 . Nahum 1:10 .

Verse 2

The wrath of the king has been before mentioned under this figure. (Proverbs 19:12 .) Here his fear is described, the effect for the cause. Even Joab with all his valor, trembled at this roaring of the lion, and fled for refuge to the horns of the altar.†1 Jonathan felt the strong necessity for appeasing it.†2 Such was the power of the king (unknown in our happy land) the sole, the uncontrolled arbiter of life and death;†3 whosoever therefore provoked him to anger, sinned, as Adonijah found to his cost (1 Kings 2:23 ), against his own soul. What must then be the fear of the Great King! ’Armies of terrors and doubts are nothing to a look of his angry countenance. "O LORD," says that holy man (concerning the frailty of poor man, and the power of God) "who knoweth the power of thine anger? According to thy fear, so is thy wrath."’†4 Even "a little kindling" is ruin past conception, and without remedy. (Psalms 2:12 .) Nay — his very "enduring long-suffering," kindles the fire more fiercely for "the vessels of wrath," whose aggravated provocations of it have "fitted them for destruction." (Romans 9:22 .) ’Miserable sinner! deprecate his wrath. Seek a Mediator. Beware of continuing in sin.’†5

Footnotes:

†1 1 Kings 2:28-34 .

†2 1 Samuel 19:4-6 . Ecclesiastes 10:4 .

†3 Proverbs 16:14. Esther 7:8 .

†4 Leighton’s Sermon on Jeremiah 10:23-24 . Psalms 90:11 .

†5 Geier in loco.

Verse 3

The opposition of this precept to the maxim of the world proves it to be from God. A world of sin must always be a world of strife, because governed by "the wisdom that descendeth not from above," the parent of "strife, confusion, and every evil work." (James 3:14-16 .) And yet an evil world is a fine theater for the display of the grace of God, in the fruits of "the wisdom that is from above" — meekness, gentleness. (James 3:17-18 .) We have been before reminded, that "it is the glory of a man to pass over transgression" (Proverbs 19:11 ); here — to cease from strife. Many from the love of quiet, if not from a better motive, would overlook an injury. Yet if they were embroiled in strife, they would feel their honour at stake, not in ceasing from it, but in following it up, striking the last blow. Far more difficult is it to gather back the waters once let out, than to restrain them within their proper bounds. To "leave off contention,"†1 especially when we see that we are in the wrong; or — if in the right — that no good will come from it — this "is an high honour for a man, a noble triumph over the flesh."†2 Abraham thus ceased from strife by disinterested concession. (Genesis 13:8-9 .) Isaac shewed himself a man of peace under the vexatious annoyance of the Philistines.( (Genesis 26:17-31 .) The prophet "went his way," to prevent a further kindling of anger. (Jeremiah 28:11 .) But how much more commonly is strife fed by the folly of man’s pride, than extinguished by a peaceful and loving spirit!†3 The meddling fool rushes into strife as his element:†4 and thus becomes a torment to himself, and a plague to those around him. To return "a soft answer" to "grievous words,"†5 and to keep out of the way of an angry person,†6 is the path of wisdom. To "put on meekness and long-suffering," and to "let the peace of God rule in our hearts" — these are the marks of "the elect of God," following the example of our Divine Master. (Colossians 3:12-15 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 17:14. Indeed — as Schultens remarks — ’Solomon is here giving full significance to this former proverb, which however’ — he adds — ’considered by itself, strongly sets out the disgraceful and most dishonorable lust of quarreling.’

†2 Proverbs 16:32. Romans 12:21 .

†3 Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1 .

†4 Proverbs 18:6; 2 Samuel 10:1-14 ; 2 Kings 14:8 .

†5 Proverbs 15:1.

†6 Proverbs 25:8.

Verse 4

Again (Proverbs 19:15, Proverbs 19:24 ) are we instructed by a vivid picture of a most baneful vice. The sluggard always has his excuses ready to shift off any work, that requires exertion. He will not plow by reason of the cold; although the season (our autumn) offered no hindrance, where the heart was in the work. And does not the most trifling difficulty hinder, where the heart is cold in the service of God? Let the professor ask himself — Have his prayers during his whole life cost him exercise answering to one hour’s plowing? What has he given to God but the shadow of duties, when the world has had his full glow and energy? The flesh flinches from suffering; and even, under the wakefulness of temporary conviction, the heart is "sorrowful" at the requisitions of Christianity, which it cannot admit.†1 Farewell heaven for ever, if it must be obtained at such a cost. How affecting is the contrast between our work for Christ, and his work for us — We grudging exercise for him; He so filled with the absorbing interest of his work — "How am I straightened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50 .)

But the sluggard must reap the fruit of his sin. If he will not plow in the seed-time, he cannot reap in harvest. At that happy season — the recompense of the laborer’s toil — he shall beg, and have nothing. ’Men’s hearts are justly hardened against that man, who by his own sloth and sinfulness hath brought himself to want.’†2 And what else can the spiritual sluggard look for? The cold keeps him heartlessly from the house of God. His soul is therefore perishing for lack of good. If wishing would secure heaven, who would miss it? But heartless wishes, without the crucifixion of the flesh, will stop short of the promise. Millions have perished in serious religion, from want of diligence and self-sacrificing devotedness. And what will it be to beg in the great harvest, and beg in vain;†3 then to have all wicked excuses silenced, and the fearful doom pronounced upon the unprofitable servant!†4

Christian professor! is it time to stand idle, when we stand at the door of eternity? — to be slack, when so near our great salvation? (Romans 13:11 .) ’Blessed are those, who have sown much for God in their lifetime. Oh! the glorious harvest that those shall have! The very angels shall help them to take in their harvest at the great day. And oh! the joy that there shall be in that harvest! The angels will help to sing the harvest-song, that they shall sing, who have been sowers of righteousness!†5

Footnotes:

†1 Matthew 19:21-22. The shrinking from the cold — (as Melancthon observes in his brief comment on this verse) — is the avoiding the cross.

†2 Poole’s Annotations.

†3 Matthew 25:3-9. Luke 16:24 .

†4 Matthew 25:26-30.

†5 Burroughs on Hosea 10:12 .

Verse 5

The depths in the heart of man are not easily fathomed. Often are they the subtilty of evil.†1 David was duped by the smooth promises of Saul,†2 and afterwards by the religious hypocrisy of his ungodly son.†3 The counsel of Daniel’s enemies was too deep for Darius to see the bottom of it.†4 The counsel of Herod probably blinded the wise men as to his real intentions.†5 And yet a man of understanding will often draw out the subtle counsel, and set it in its true light. David described the deep counsels of his enemies, as one who had penetrated the bottom.†6 Job accurately discovered the true, but indirect, counsel of his mistaken friends. (Job 21:27-28 .) Paul drew out the secret counsel of selfishness in the schismatical preachers of the gospel. (Philippians 1:15 .)

But let us look at the bright side. Observe a man of God, instructed by God. Natural sagacity of intellect is deepened and enlarged by spiritual light. His mind is enriched with the fruits of scriptural study and meditation. Here are the deep waters of heavenly counsel.†7 The talkative professor in his superficial judgment sees nothing. But a man of understanding will discover and draw out valuable instruction. The Queen of Sheba thus drew out from the wise man’s capacious well deep and wholesome water. (1 Kings 10:1-7 .) Often, however, men of comprehensive mind have little sympathy with general society. We may be in contact with them, without consciousness of their worth. The waters are deep; but there is no bubbling up. Yet a well-directed excitement will draw out flowing water from the well-spring of wisdom. And often the intercourse, hitherto lost, with a godly and experienced minister, or a soundly-instructed Christian, becomes most precious — "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise." (Proverbs 13:20 .) But above all is to be prized familiarity with the deep waters of the counsel of God. Say not — "I have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep." (John 4:11 .) A thinking habit in the exercise of prayer will enable you "with joy to draw water from the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 12:3 .) Nay — will it not bring into your own soul "a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life"? (John 4:14 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Jeremiah 17:9.

†2 1 Samuel 18:17-26 .

†3 2 Samuel 15:7-9 .

†4 Daniel 6:4-9.

†5 Matthew 2:8.

†6 Psalms 64:5-6; Psalms 119:98 .

†7 Proverbs 18:4. Contrast Proverbs 26:7, Proverbs 26:9 .

Verse 6

The last Proverb shewed the depth of the heart; this its deceitfulness and pride. Hear a man’s own estimate of himself, and we need no further proof of his want of self-knowledge. (Proverbs 16:2 .) Even the ungodly proclaims his own goodness. "Jehu took no heed to walk in the way of the LORD." Still — said he — "Come, see my zeal for the LORD."†1 Absalom, while treason was at work within, "stole the hearts" of the people by his loud pretensions to goodness.†2 The whole nation, while given up to all manner of iniquity, boasted of its integrity.†3 The Pharisee proclaimed his goodness at the corner of the streets;†4 yea — even in the presence of his God.†5 Such is the blindness of a self-deceiving heart! Lord! teach me to remember — "That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God."†6

After all, however, does not this glass, honestly used, exhibit more resemblance to our own features, than we would readily admit? We all condemn the open boasting of the Pharisee. But too often we eagerly catch at the good opinion of the world. Contrivance is made to gain the shadowy prize! A seeming backwardness is only, in order that others may bring us forward. Care is taken, that it be known that we were the authors, or at least, that we had a considerable part in some work, that might raise our name in the Church. Sometimes we are too ready to take a degree of credit to ourselves, which we do not honestly deserve;†7 while we shrink from real reproach and obloquy for the gospel’s sake.

In opposition to this self-complacent goodness, Solomon, an accurate observer of human nature, exclaims almost in despondency — A faithful man — as a parent — a reprover — an adviser — one "without guile" — who can find? (Micah 7:1-2 .) Look close. View thyself in the glass of the word. (Psalms 101:6 .) Does thy neighbor, or thy friend, find thee faithful to him? What does our daily intercourse witness? Is not the attempt to speak what is agreeable often made at the expense of truth? Are not professions of regard sometimes utterly inconsistent with our real feelings? In common life, where gross violations are restrained, a thousand petty offenses are allowed, that break down the wall between sin and duty, and, judged by the Divine standard, are indeed guilty steps upon forbidden ground. Never let it be forgotten, that the sound influence of the social virtues can only be maintained by the graces of the gospel. Never let the Christian professor deem moral integrity to be a low attainment. The man of God bursts forth into fervent praise for upholding grace in this path. (Psalms 41:11-12 .) For indeed, what can bring greater honour to God, than the proof manifested in the conduct of his people, that their daily transactions are animated with the soul of integrity, that their word is unchangeable? Never does godliness shine more bright, than in "shewing all good fidelity in all things." (Titus 2:10 .)

Footnotes:

†1 2 Kings 10:16, 2 Kings 10:19-31 .

†2 2 Samuel 15:1-6 .

†3 Jeremiah 2:23, Jeremiah 2:35 ; Jeremiah 5:1 . Compare Romans 2:17-23 .

†4 Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16 ; Matthew 23:5 . Compare Proverbs 27:2 .

†5 Luke 18:11-12.

†6 Luke 16:15.

†7 Proverbs 25:14. Thus Lysias, the chief captain, represented to the governor, that he had interposed for Paul from his zeal for a Roman citizen, when the simple truth was, that he was ignorant of the fact at the time, and was about to scourge him as a rebel. Acts 23:27, with Acts 21:38 ; Acts 22:24 .

Verse 7

The faithful man is here fully drawn, rich in the blessing of his God. Take the history of the father of the faithful. Abraham was the just man, accepted with God, and "walking before him" in his integrity. And did not the covenant of his God engage an everlasting blessing for his children after him? (Genesis 17:1-2, Genesis 17:7 .) And thus does every child of Abraham, walking in the same integrity, secure "an inheritance for his children’s children."†1 It is ’not however for the merits of the parent, that they deserve it: but such is the mercy of God to the root and the branches; that, because the fathers are loved, their children also are embraced.’†2 But we must shew our integrity, as did our father Abraham, in the practical habit of faith; not only "taking hold of the covenant" on our children’s behalf, but bringing them under the yoke of the covenant.†3

Christian parents! — let integrity, as before God, be the broad stamp of our family religion. Walk not according to the maxims of the world yourselves, nor allow them in your children. Let us make God’s word — his whole word — our universal rule; his ways, however despised, our daily portion. "Let us seek first," for our children as for ourselves, "the kingdom of God and his righteousness."†4 Thus walking in our integrity, we may look for the honored blessing of being the parents of a godly race. Our children are blessed after us; perhaps "after we, having served our own generation by the will of God, shall have fallen asleep." (Acts 13:36 .) But well may we be content to wait the coming of that great disclosing day, when "the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed." For then surely will the children’s blessing be found in the secret records of Heaven, linked with the prayerful, practical exercises of the parents’ faith and love.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 13:22. Compare Exodus 20:5-6 . Psalms 25:12-13 ; Psalms 37:26 ; Psalms 112:2 .

†2 Muffet in loco. ’The branches fare better for the sap of grace in the root.’ — Swinnock’s Christian Man’s Calling, p. 383. ’When God saith — He will be a God to the godly man and to his children, I believe he intended more in that promise for the comfort of godly parents than most of them think of. Acts 2:39 . Genesis 17:7 . The children of believers are heirs apparent to the covenant of grace in their parents’ right.’ — Ib. The True Christian, p. 193.

†3 Proverbs 22:6, with Genesis 18:19 .

†4 Matthew 6:33. This was Mr. Scott’s grand rule of education; and the manifest honor, which his Master vouchsafed to his singleness and integrity in acting it out, is well known. 1 Samuel 2:30 . See Life, pp. 611-614.

Verse 8

This is the picture of a godly king, such as the wise man’s father described and exemplified; "just, ruling in the fear of God;"†1 making it his great care and business to execute judgment. In those days he sat himself on the throne of judgment, and decided the law.†2 And such might be conceived to be his influence, that the wicked dared not come and sin in his presence. "Will he force the queen also before me? " (Esther 7:8 ) — was the indignant exclamation of a sovereign, on feeling not only his own rights, but the reverence for royalty, grossly outraged. David, as a man of God, and a sovereign of his people, could not endure the wicked in his presence. (Psalms 101:3-8 .)

At present, "God standeth in the congregation of princes" (Psalms 82:1 ), observing the manner, in which they execute the power delegated to them; but hereafter he shall sit as "a judge" even of them, who, by reason of that delegated power, are styled "gods." The care then of the Magistrate, when he goeth up to the judgment-seat, will be to put on righteousness as a glorious and beautiful robe, and to render his tribunal a fit emblem of that eternal "throne," of which "justice and judgment are the habitation."†3 And always in proportion as the ruler realizes his solemn responsibility, evil will be made to flee, and scattered away from him.†4

But what is to be ever standing before the Great King, who scattereth away all evil with his eyes? "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight. All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (Hebrews 1:13 . Psalms 5:5 . Hebrews 4:13 .) May the High Priest ever stand between the sinner and the Holy God, that, while we walk in reverence, we "may not be afraid with any amazement!"

Footnotes:

†1 2 Samuel 23:3, with 2 Samuel 8:15 . 1 Kings 15:5 .

†2 1 Kings 3:16-28, with 1 Kings 10:9 . A Roman commentator (Corn. à Lapide) mentions the custom of St. Louis of France to sit twice a-week in the throne of judgment, and his dying charge to his successor, not only to appoint the most upright judges, but to overlook them in the discharge of their office. Does not the Court of the Queen’s Bench suppose the Sovereign to be sitting there in determination of judgment?

†3 Psalms 89:14. Bishop Horne’s Sermon on the Great Assize.

†4 Proverbs 20:26; Proverbs 25:4-5 . Compare 2 Chronicles 15:16 . Plutarch relates of Cato, that such was the reverence of his character, that the bad women of Rome could not bear his look.

Verse 9

Behold the Great King sitteth on the throne of judgment, and challenging every child of Adam — "Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee; and answer thou me." (Job 38:3 .) The question is confounding. The answer humbles us in the dust — Who can say — truly say — I have made my heart clean? A sinner in his self-delusion may conceive himself to be a saint. But that a saint should ever believe that he made himself so, is impossible. Who can say — I am pure from my sin? What! no vain thoughts, no sinful imaginations, lodging within! No ignorance, pride, wandering, coldness, worldliness, unbelief indulged! The more we search the heart, the more will its impurity open upon us. "Turn thou yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations" (Ezekiel 8:13 ), evils hitherto unsuspected. Vain boasters there are, who proclaim their good hearts. But the boast proves, not their goodness, but their blindness; that man is so depraved, that he cannot understand his own depravity.†1 What say they, who have entered into the presence of the King, whose holiness scattereth away all evil? "Behold! I am vile!" said one. "Now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself." "Woe is me" — said another — "for I am a man of unclean lips, for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."†2 Take again one — counted as the foremost of the saints of God; a very flame of love for Christ and his Church; "in labors more abundant than all;" in tenderness as a mother for her new-born child; in walk "holy, just, and unblameable" — does he speak of his purity from sin? Verily in his highest state of Christian attainment he feels himself to be the chief of sinners — a wondrous "pattern of Divine long-suffering." (1 Timothy 1:15-16 .) Such was the mighty power of depravity, mingled with such shining grace, that but for a miracle of instant Almighty help, he might have been thrown from "the third heavens into the snare of the devil."†3 To descend to the level near to our own day. ’Once I thought’ — said a holy man of God — ’some humiliating expressions of the saints of God, too low for me — proud, blind wretch as I was! Now I can say with Edwards — ’Infinite upon infinite only reaches to my sinfulness.’ ’†4 And indeed there is not a conscious child of God, that does not drink into this self-abased spirit. But for the clear manifestation of gospel grace, should we not have cause to tremble, lest our sins — after such multiplied engagements on our part, and such tender long-suffering on God’s part — should remain in all their hundredfold aggravations uncanceled in the great account, and consign us in just demerit "to everlasting punishment"? The clean heart therefore is not the heart pure from sin, but the heart cleansed and renewed by grace. And truly, if none can say — I have made my heart clean, myriads can witness to the blood of him, who is the Son of God, cleansing it from guilt (1 John 1:7 ), and to the mightiness of the Creator to renew it unto holiness.

But are there not many, who in the house of God will confess themselves miserable sinners, and at the holy table will acknowledge ’the burden of their sin to be intolerable,’ who yet will go back to the world, and boast or comfort themselves in the confidence of their goodness? confessing indeed, that they are sinners, but stoutly warding off every charge of sin? Ah! such are not "the heavy-laden," to whom Christ hath promised "rest" (Matthew 11:28 ); not "the lost, whom the Son of Man is come to seek and to save." (Luke 19:10 .) They will lie beside the cleansing fountain, but never care to "wash and be clean." But observe in this proverb the fundamentals of the gospel — man’s total corruption; his inability to make his heart clean; and his grievous tendency to self-deception. Hence his need. Hence, when that need is felt, the value of the cleansing remedy. "If thou wash thee not, thou hast no part in me." If this be so, then, Lord, "not my feet only, but my hands and my head." (John 13:8- .) "Wash me throughly from my transgressions, that I may be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalms 51:2, Psalms 51:7, Psalms 51:10 .)

Footnotes:

†1 1 John 1:8 . Compare 1 Kings 8:46 . Ecclesiastes 7:20 . Jeremiah 2:35 . Hosea 12:8 .

†2 Job 40:4; Job 42:5-6 . Isaiah 6:5 .

†3 2 Corinthians 12:2-7, with 1 Timothy 3:6-7 .

†4 Venn’s Life, p. 183.

Verse 10

This probably refers to the iniquitous custom of having different weights and measures for buying and for selling — one stone too heavy — the other too light. Such practices seem to have been among the crying sins of the nation, that brought down the judgment of God upon it.†1 So opposite are they to the character of "a God of truth and without iniquity,"†2 that the very stone and ephah were abomination to him.†3 The disuse of barter, and the more accurate system of inspection, have in some measure restrained this gross form of fraud. But the cheats of trickery and close dealing, the evasion of legal duties, taking advantage of the ignorance of the unwary — all those deviations from the scriptural standard are alike abomination to the LORD. ’A very grievous thing it is to think of the several kinds of frauds and deceits, wherein men are grown wondrous expert, and so shameless withal, that they think it rather a credit to them, as an argument of their perfect understanding in their several mysteries and particular professions, than any blemish to them in their Christian profession.’†4 What a fearful disclosure will the great day make, to the "shame and everlasting contempt" of the ungodly trafficker! Every man of moral integrity will scorn the flagrant breach of the golden rule. But let this, as every other temptation, be a matter of prayerful watchfulness. And be not satisfied with abstaining from this hateful vice. But blot out its darkness by the bright, steady shining of an upright profession, full of simplicity, love, self-forgetfulness, and active sympathy with our neighbor’s wants. "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee." (Psalms 25:21 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Hosea 12:7. Amos 8:4-5 . Micah 6:10-11 .

†2 Deuteronomy 32:4.

†3 Proverbs 20:23; Proverbs 11:1 ; Psalms 5:6 .

†4 Bishop Sanderson’s Sermon on 1 Samuel 12:3 .

Verse 11

11 Even a child is known by his doings,†a whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

Let parents watch their children’s early habits, tempers, and doings. Generally the discerning eye will mark something in the budding of the young tree, by which the tree in maturity may be known. The child will tell what the man will be. No wise parent will pass over little faults, as if it was only a child doing childish things. Everything should be looked at as the index of the secret principle, and the work or word should be judged by the principle. If a child be deceitful, quarrelsome, obstinate, rebellious, selfish, how can we help trembling for his growth? A docile, truth-loving, obedient, generous child — how joyous is the prospect of the blossom and fruit from this hopeful budding! From the childhood of Samuel,†1 Timothy,†2 much more of the Savior,†3 we could not but anticipate what the manhood would be. The early purity and right principles promised abundant and most blessed fruit.

But do we mourn over the evil of our child, specially when tracing it to its original source? Oh! let it be our stimulus to earnest and persevering prayer, and to the diligent use of the appointed means for that entire change of heart and nature, which we so intensely desire. Take the child to the covenant of grace. Put the finger on the parental promise (Genesis 17:7 ), and plead — "Remember the word unto thy servant, whereunto thou hast caused me to hope." (Psalms 119:49 .) The answer may be delayed. But "though it tarry, wait for it. For at the end it shall come; it shall not tarry." (Habakkuk 2:3 .) Meanwhile "live by faith" (Hebrews 10:38-39 .); work in faith. Never forget that we serve "the God of Hope." Despair not of his grace. Doubt not his faithfulness. Hold on in active energy and patient hope. The tears of despondency shall be changed into tears of joy, giving a happy glow of warmth to every tender remonstrance, and animating every prudential effort. Thus the prodigal shall yet return. "The end of the LORD" will put unbelief to shame. (James 5:11 .) Sore indeed was the trial of the faith of Augustine’s mother. But most glorious was the crown of her patient wrestling constancy. And ever since has the judgment of the godly Archbishop — ’It is impossible that the child of so many prayers could ever perish’ — been treasured up in the Church, as an axiom of accredited warrant, and cheering support.

Footnotes:

†a ’A child is known by his conversation.’ --- Bishop Coverdale.

†1 1 Samuel 1:28 ; 1 Samuel 3:19-20 .

†2 2 Timothy 3:14-15, with 2 Timothy 1:5 . Philippians 2:20-21 .

†3 Luke 2:50-52.

Verse 12

Seeing and hearing are the two senses, by which instruction is conveyed to the mind. They are component parts of that Divine structure, so "fearfully and wonderfully made."†1 The natural senses are gifts common to all. The spiritual senses are the special gifts of sovereign power and grace.†2 It was left for man to make the ear that cannot hear, and the eye that cannot see; and then to degrade himself to the senseless level, by worshipping the work of his own hands. (Psalms 115:4-8 .) But the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made both of them.

Man is deaf and blind in the things of God — "Having ears, he hears not; having eyes, he sees not." (Matthew 13:13-14 .) The voice of mercy is disregarded. To his need, and to his remedy, he is alike insensible. His ear is open to sound advice, to moral doctrine, to the dictates of external decency. But as to the gospel, he is a mere statue, without life. All his senses are blinded, deadened, chained. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 .) His moral disabilities can only be removed by that Almighty power, which on earth gave ears to the deaf, and sight to the blind.†3 As soon could we create our natural, as new-create our spiritual, self. ’The hearing ear, which Solomon intends, is that which believeth and obeyeth what it heareth. The seeing eye is that, which so seeth, as that it followeth the good which it seeth.’†4 But who of us, whose ears are wakened, and whose eyes are opened, will not rejoice in the adoring acknowledgment — the LORD hath made both of them? Would Lydia have ascribed "the opening of her heart" with a new power of attention and interest to her own natural effort? (Acts 16:14 . Compare Isaiah 1:4 .) O my God — may the ears and eyes which thou hast made be for thyself alone! to hear thy voice (1 Samuel 3:9 . Psalms 85:8 ) — to "behold thy beauty." (Psalms 27:4 ; Psalms 63:2 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 139:14. Compare Psalms 94:9 . Exodus 4:11 . The celebrated Galen is said to have been converted from Atheism by an attentive observation of the perfect structure of the eye.

†2 Matthew 13:16, with Deuteronomy 29:2-4 .

†3 Mark 7:34; Mark 8:22, Mark 8:25, with Isaiah 35:5 .

†4 Caryl on Job 34:3 .

Verse 13

Use ’sleep, as tired nature’s sweet restorer.’†1 So man requires it. So God graciously gives it. (Psalms 3:5 ; Psalms 4:8 ; Psalms 127:2 .) Without it "man" could not "go forth to his work and to his labor." (Psalms 104:23 .) Thus recruited for the active diligence of the day, he opens his eyes, "in the sweat of his brow he eats his bread (Genesis 3:19 ), and is satisfied with it." But love not sleep for its own sake. ’Let your sleep be necessary and healthful, not idle and expensive of time beyond the needs and conveniences of nature.’†2 Otherwise may it become a baneful and ruinous habit, by which the man of talent, who has much responsibility upon his hand, and no heart to act up to it — cometh to poverty. Valuable opportunities for improvements are let slip, and "the strong man armed" readily takes possession of his prey. (Proverbs 5:9-11 .) Strange inconsistency and delusion! Man wishes for a long life, and yet willfully shortens the life given to him, by dozing it away in sleep!†3 The time given for eternity is wasted. The talent entrusted for trading is hid in a napkin. Nothing is done for God, for the soul, for his fellow-creatures, or for heaven. Justly is he cast out as a wicked, because a slothful, servant. (Matthew 25:14-30 .)

Unquestionably the Christian degrades himself from his proper level by needless indulgence; choosing a state common to him with the brutes, before that which elevates him to fellowship with angels. Nor can he set his heavenly privilege of communion with God at a very high estimate, if he be not willing to sacrifice fleshly pleasure for the enjoyment of it. The evil however does not end with the present indulgence. The habits of the day are enervated. The mind is — at least partially — asleep, during the routine of occupation. What is idle, or calling for little effort, is alone agreeable. Every exercise of self-denial is revolting. It is sufficiently obvious that this spirit has little sympathy with the genuine spirit of religion — life and spirit, and joy and energy. It sinks far below the step and obligation of those, whose profession is — "temples of the Holy Ghost,"†4 "children of the light and of the day,"†5 "virgins with their lamps trimmed"†6 for the bridegroom’s coming, animated candidates for an incorruptible and eternal crown.†7

Specially should those of us, who are of a drowsy habit of body, listen to the call — Love not sleep. Here perhaps may be the Christian conflict, often most painful in the house of God. But in this solemn assembly — the gate of heaven — may we not hear the gentle rebuke, "What! could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." (Matthew 26:40-41 .) When resisted, it is an infirmity; when allowed, or only feebly opposed, it is sin. At all events, in the service of God it is safer to consider it, not as a weariness to be encouraged, but as an indulgence to be mortified, and that with vigorous energy of conflict. Else, whilst the self-denying Christian will open his eyes, and be filled with bread, the power of the flesh may impoverish the spirit by the indulgence of a lifeless habit of prayer, hearing, and meditation.

Footnotes:

†1 Young.

†2 Bishop Taylor’s Holy Living, Chapter I. Sect. i.

†3 Proverbs 19:15. Dr. Doddridge’s life, though far from reaching the age of man (Psalms 90:10 ), was yet, by the resistance of this besetting temptation, virtually extended to the ordinary bounds. By his successful energy in redeeming time from sleep he accomplished his invalable work in the midst of multiplied engagements. See Family Expositor on Romans 12:13 . ’I take it for granted, that every Christian, who is in health, is up early in the morning. For it is much more reasonable to suppose a person up early, because he is a Christian, than because he is a laborer, or a tradesman, or a servant, or has business that wants him.’ — Law’s Serious Call.

†4 1 Corinthians 6:19 .

†5 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 .

†6 Matthew 25:7.

†7 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 .

Verse 14

The Bible gives abundant proof, that man has always been the same in every generation since the fall. Where is the market, in which the counterpart to this disclosure of fraud and selfishness centuries ago is not found? Commerce, the LORD’s providential dispensation to bind man to man, is marred by his depravity. The wise man had before detected the iniquity of the seller. (Proverbs 20:10 . Compare Sirach 27:2 .) Here he lays bare the buyer, and, to bring it home more closely, he gives even the market-language — It is naught — it is naught — ’The article is of an inferior quality. I can get it cheaper elsewhere. If it is worth so much, yet not to me; I have no present want of it, no particular care about it.’ And when by these convenient falsehoods he has struck a shrewd bargain, he is gone his way; he boasteth, laughing at the simplicity of the seller, and is probably highly commended for his cleverness. (James 4:16 .)

The same principle of fraud applies to the seller. If the one says — It is naught — it is naught — the other no less eagerly cries — ’It is good — it is good’ — ’when neither of both speaketh, either as he thinketh, or as the truth of the thing is.’†1 The one is bent on buying cheap; the other on selling dear. The one decries unjustly; the other praises untruly. He asks one price, when he means to take another, and takes advantage of the confidence of his customer to impose on him a worthless article.†2 In fact, ’no man’s experience would serve him to comprehend, no man’s breath to declare, the infinite variety of those more secret and subtle falsehoods, that are daily invented and exercised everywhere under the sun.’†3

All of us are engaged in pecuniary transactions. With many it is the main business of life. Yet such are the temptations from our own interest or self-defense, the selfishness of others, and the general example of the world, to deviate from the straight line; that we should be most thankful for this probing analysis of deceit. The man of God stands on the frontier of the line of demarcation, and warns against a single step of encroachment. Passing over the line is bidding defiance to the Great King. The gain may be trifling, but the sin is vast. Enough of guilt was included within the dimensions of a single apple, to ’bring death into the world and all its woe’ to successive generations. And here the law of God is deliberately broken;†4 conscience is violated; deceit is practiced; "evil is called good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20 ); our duty to our neighbor transgressed; and all this — perhaps without a moment of remorse — only to feed man’s covetousness.

But do Christian professors always prove themselves clear in this matter? Yet how can we be Christians really, if not relatively and universally; if not in the week, as well as on the Sabbath; if not in our dealings with men, as well as our communion with God? What is our title to the name of disciples of Christ, unless we yield to his authority, and in heart, hand, and tongue, are governed by his laws? Let us each ask — Have we trembled before the solemn warnings of the great Lawgiver?†5 Are we ready to be tried by his rules of guileless simplicity (Matthew 5:37 ), and reciprocal justice? (Matthew 7:12 .) Have we always acted as under the eye of God? Are there no money transactions, that we should be ashamed to have "proclaimed upon the house-tops"? Are we prepared to go to the bar of a heart-searching God, with "a conscience void of offense both towards God and towards man"? (Acts 24:16 ) — Let us never forget the gospel, as the only principle, expulsive of selfishness, in its active exercise of grateful devoted love, and in its indefatigable spirit of "doing all to the glory of God."

Footnotes:

†1 Bishop Sanderson’s Sermon on 1 Samuel 12:3 .

†2 Amos 8:6. Contrast the disinterested transaction Genesis 23:3-18 . Augustine mentions a somewhat ludicrous, but significant, story. A mountebank published in the full theater, that in the next entertainment he would show to every man present what was in his heart. An immense concourse attended, and the man redeemed his pledge to the vast assembly by a single sentence — ’Vili vultis emere, et caro vendere’ — ’You all wish to buy cheap, and to sell dear’ — a sentence generally applauded: every one, even the most trifling (as Augustine observes) finding the confirming witness in their own conscience. De Trin. Lib. xiii. c. 111.

†3 Bishop Sanderson, ut supra.

†4 Compare Leviticus 19:11 ; Leviticus 25:14 .

†5 Colossians 3:25. 1 Thessalonians 4:6 .

Verse 15

This is not the standard of the world. There gold and rubies are far above the lips of knowledge. So the young man made his choice, and preferred his "great possessions" to those gracious words, that arrested the admiration of the multitude.†1 But when "gold is our hope and confidence," it will surely be our ruin.†2 Solomon’s estimate was that of one, to whom "the LORD had given a wise and understanding heart."†3 Gold and precious rubies were abundant in his days†4 Yet all these earthly treasures were as nothing in his eyes in comparison of heavenly teaching. The lips of knowledge were a more precious jewel.†5 It is Divine knowledge only, however, that stands out in this high preeminence. Human wisdom may captivate the imagination, and furnish its measure of useful information. But the words for the most part die away upon the ear. They do not feed the heart. They furnish no comfort to the afflicted, no hope to the desponding, no teaching to the ignorant in "those things that belong to their" everlasting "peace." (Luke 19:42 .) If therefore they be "goodly pearls," at least they are not "the pearl of great price" — that precious jewel, which dims the luster of earth’s most splendid vanities. (Matthew 13:45-46 .)

How precious a jewel are the lips of knowledge, when the messenger of the gospel "brings glad tidings of great joy" to the burdened conscience — to him "that is ready to perish!" Truly the very sound of his "feet" is welcome for the sake of his message.†6 Precious also will be the communications of Christian fellowship. Though falling infinitely short of the grace that dwelt in our Divine Master; yet in proportion as we are taught of him, will our "tongues be as choice silver" (Proverbs 10:20 ), and our "lips will disperse knowledge" (Proverbs 15:7 ) as a precious jewel, enriching, and adorning with the glory of our heavenly Lord.

Footnotes:

†1 Matthew 19:22, with Luke 4:22 .

†2 Job 31:24, with 1 Timothy 6:9-10 .

†3 1 Kings 3:9 .

†4 1 Kings 10:27 .

†5 Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:10-11, Proverbs 8:19 ; Proverbs 16:16 . Job gave the same verdict, Proverbs 28:12-19 .

†6 Isaiah 52:7. Romans 10:14-15 . Such was the delight of hanging upon the lips of the golden-mouthed Chrysostom, that the common proverb was — ’Rather let the sun not shine than Chrysostom not preach.’

Verse 16

16 Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman. (Proverbs 27:13 .)

Again and again are we warned against suretyship for a stranger,†1 — any new acquaintance, whose company may entice; much more for a strange woman, whose character has lost all credit. This is the sure road to beggary and ruin. If a man is so weak as to plunge into this folly, he is not fit to be trusted. Lend nothing to him without good security. Nay, if needful, take his garment as his pledge. The letter of the Mosaic law forbade this extremity.†2 But the spirit and intent of the law pointed at the protection of the poor and unfortunate, who were forced to borrow for their own necessity, and therefore claim pity. The command here touches the inconsiderate, who deserve to suffer for their folly, in willfully plunging themselves into ruin. Nor does it in any degree incur the just suspicion of covetousness or close dealing. The love of our neighbour does not involve the forgetfulness of ourselves. The path of godly prudence is the safest for all parties. It never can be wise to assist, where kindness only gives advantage to hurry on to ruin. The refusal may be an exercise of self-denial. It is well that it should be so. Let it be clearly seen to be the sacrifice, not the indulgence, of self-prudence, not selfishness. This grace is one of the combined perfections of Immanuel. (Proverbs 8:12 .) Let it not be wanting in the profession of his people. It is necessary to the completeness of the Christian profession, and to avoid many occasions of offense to the Gospel.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 6:1-5; Proverbs 11:15 ; Proverbs 17:18 .

†2 Exodus 22:26-27. Deuteronomy 24:12-13 . Compare Job 22:6 . Amos 2:8 .

Verse 17

Holiness is sweet in the way and end too. Wickedness is sometimes sweet in the way, but always bitter in the end.’†1 It is with deceit, as with every other sin, Satan always holds out a bait; always promises gain or pleasure as the wages of his service, and as surely disappoints the victims of his delusion.†2 If corn be thrashed upon a gravelly floor, the grating soil would spoil the sweetness of the bread. Oh! how many has this arch-deceiver allured by the sweetness of his bread, whose mouths have been afterwards filled with gravel!The bread, which a man hath got by fraud and cozenage, seems sweet and pleasant at the first taste of it; but by that time he hath chewed it a little, he shall find it to be but harsh gravel, that crasheth between his teeth, galls his jaws, wounds his tongue, and offends his palate.’†3 ’Everything gotten wrongfully is here implied.’†4 Bitter was Achan’s sweet, deceitfully hid in the tent, which brought ruin upon himself and his family. (Joshua 7:21-24 .) Look at Gehazi. What profit had he from his talents of silver and changes of garments? Bitter indeed was the bread of deceit to him. (2 Kings 5:20-27 .) Look even at Jacob, a true servant of God; and yet chastened heavily almost to the end of his days with the bitter fruits of deceit. (Genesis 27:1-46 ; Genesis 42:36-38 .) To the mass of such blinded sinners it is eternal ruin. Whatever be the tempter’s proffered advantage, his price is the soul, to be pain in the dying hour. Oh! the undoing bargain! an eternal treasure bartered for the trifle of a moment! Charmed we may be with the present sweetness; but bitter indeed will be the after-fruits, when the poor deluded sinner shall cry — "I tasted but a little honey, and I must die." (1 Samuel 14:43 .) So surely is the bitterness that springs out of sin the bitterness of death.

Not a single step can be trodden in the way of godliness, without an entire renunciation of every accursed practice. Not even the smallest violation of the law admits of palliation. To venture on what we fancy the lesser shades of sin is a most dangerous experiment. The smallest sin breaks down the fence; and this once overstepped, the impulse is beyond our restraint. Universal uprightness is the mark of the true servant of God. Let the man of doctrine exhibit the holiness of doctrine. Never let our religion be one thing, and our business another. But let the image and glory of the Lord give the pervading expression to our whole history. Every turning aside from the straight path "grieves the Holy Spirit of God," darkens the sunshine of our soul, blasts the consistency of our profession, and wounds the church of God.

Footnotes:

†1 Caryl on Job 20:14 .

†2 Proverbs 9:17-18; Proverbs 23:31-32 . Job 20:12-16 .

†3 Bishop Hall. Compare Lamentations 3:16 .

†4 Bishop Patrick.

Verse 18

This is true wisdom — to deliberate before we act, and to establish our purpose by sound and experienced counsel. Even the wisest of men valued this strengthening resource. (1 Kings 12:6 .) God has placed us in society more or less dependent upon each other. And therefore, while it is most important to possess a calm and decided judgment; it is not less so to guard against an obstinate and exclusive adherence to our own opinions. (Proverbs 15:22 .) Especially in the national counsels the rule is most weighty. With good advice make war. (Proverbs 11:14 ; Proverbs 24:6 .) Wars for the purpose of ambition or aggrandizement can never be wisely made. Fearful may be the result of inconsiderate, self-willed measures. David took counsel of the LORD;†1 Nehemiah, while supporting his courage by faith,†2 established his purpose by counsel, and called his counsel to deliberate in all emergencies.†3 Ahab, asking counsel of his false prophets;†4 Amaziah, despising the sound counsel given to him†5 — both with bad advice made war to their own ruin. Even godly Josiah — making every allowance for his circumstances, was probably chargeable with precipitation; and, neglecting to establish his purpose by the counsel of the LORD’s prophets then living among his people, was chastened with temporal destruction.†6

Now ponder Bishop Hall’s description of the spiritual war. ’It admits of no intermission. It knows no night, no winter. It abides no peace, no truce. It calls us not into garrison, where we may have ease and respite, but into pitched fields continually. We see our enemies in the face always, and are always seen and assaulted; ever resisting, ever defending, receiving and returning blows. If either we be negligent or weary, we die. What other hope is there, while one fights, and the other stands still? We can never have safety and peace, but in victory. Then must our resistance be courageous and constant, when both yielding is death, and all treaties of peace mortal.’†7 Does not this war bring the greatest need of deliberate counsel, carefully counting the cost (Luke 14:31-32 ); cleaving to our All-wise Counselor (Isaiah 9:6 ) and Almighty Helper? Yet fear not, under the conscious direction of his counsel, and support of his grace, to take up the song of praise — "Blessed be the LORD, my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight!" (Psalms 144:1 .)

Footnotes:

†1 2 Samuel 5:17-23 .

†2 Nehemiah 2:17-20; Nehemiah 3:1-32 ; Nehemiah 4:1-23 .

†3 Nehemiah 4:19-20.

†4 1 Kings 22:6 .

†5 2 Kings 14:8-12 .

†6 2 Chronicles 35:20-24 . Scott in loco.

†7 Holy Observations, xxv.

Verse 19

Never let us forget that all intercourse of social life must be based on love. Any breach of this is highly displeasing to God. Witness the talebearer. Unhappily he has much time on his hands unemployed for any good purpose. Hence he spends it on other people’s business; ferreting out secrets, or diving into family arrangements. All this is material for scandal, or for idleness. In his visit he talks of the affairs of the last family. His present visit will furnish matter for idle talk in the next house. And thus his name describes his work, indulging an impertinent curiosity; making a tale of everything he sees or hears. It is the business of his life, for which all other business is sacrificed, as if the whole man were one tongue, as if, in its restless babbling, it had discovered the grand secret of perpetual motion. Such a one — meddle not with him. We would not wish him to look over our wall; much less to enter into our houses; least of all, to associate with our family circle, where his whole employment would be, either to draw out, or to put in, what "was not convenient."†1

The flagrant blot, however, in this contemptible, yet dangerous character, is his unfaithfulness — going about — revealing secrets. (Proverbs 11:13 .) This is peculiarly offensive to a God of truth. Even when matters have been given to him under a seal, his restless irritation breaks through the feeble bond. He ’dismantles and rends the robe from the privacies of human intercourse. Who entrusts a secret to his friend, goes thither as to a sanctuary; and to violate the rites of that, is sacrilege and profanation of friendship.’†2 Never let us think this to be a trifle. Never let us undertake a trust without the most resolute determination of Christian faithfulness.

Observe his other names — flattering with his lips. Thus he insinuates himself into the secrets of the unwary, and gains his materials for talebearing; flattering the present at the expense of the absent. Watch and pray earnestly against this deadly evil. Keep thine own vineyard carefully.†3 Else if thine eye be abroad, when it ought to be at home, it will be, like "the vineyard of the slothful, full of thorns and nettles" (Proverbs 24:30-31 ); like the ’curious people,’ whom Augustine rebuked, who ’pry into another’s heart and life, but are slothful to amend their own.’†4 Be diligent in your own calling, serving the Lord and his church. Study the obligation of Christian character, according to the standard of the Divine Exemplar, whose every word was fraught with the flowing of love. Oh! how many in self-indulgence and forgetfulness of their own obligations, because they have no employment for their hands, set their tongues to work! (1 Timothy 5:13 .) Such men bring, as it were, the plague of flies with them (Exodus 8:24 ); buzzing from house to house, from one neighbor to another, all the report of evil heard or done. A sharp reproof is their just desert, and an effectual means of driving them away. (Proverbs 25:23 .)

Footnotes:

†1 ’Hic niger est: hunc tu, Romane, caveto’ — is the indignant warning of the Roman Satirist. — Hor. Sat. lib. i. 4, 81-85.

†2 Bp. Taylor’s Sermon on the Good and Evil Tongue.

†3 Mark the complaint, Song of Song of Solomon 1:6 . Compare our Lord’s probing advice, Matthew 7:3-5 .

†4 Confess. book x. c. 3.

Verse 20

If darkness be the punishment, is it not also the cause, of this atrocious sin? For surely even the light of nature must be extinguished, ere the child should curse even those, who under God have taught it to speak — the authors and preservers of its existence; its greatest earthly benefactors. Even an undutiful look, much more a word, is an offense against the commandment. What then must be the weight of guilt involved in the cursing of them! The deepest reverence is due to them when they are dead. (Jeremiah 35:1-10 .) What then must be the provocation of sinning against them, while they are living for their children, in all the active, self-denying energy of love and service! This cursing, according to our LORD’s standard, includes "setting light by father or mother;"†1 willful disobedience — a fearful, palpable mark of the last days.†2 How God regards it, let his own curse on Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:16 ), and his judgment of temporal death,†3 testify. The present degradation of Africa is a witness, on the confirming page of history, of the frown upon an undutiful son (Genesis 9:22-25 ) — his lamp put out in darkness.†4 And if the temporal sentence of death is repealed, the more awful judgment still remains unchangeably upon the Divine statute-book — obscure darkness — "the blackness of darkness" — darkness eternal without a ray of light, of which "blackness" is only the shadow, to shew what the substance must be.

Footnotes:

†1 Matthew 15:3-6. The original words in Deuteronomy 27:16 (infra) precisely correspond.

†2 2 Timothy 3:2 . See also the black mark, Romans 1:30-31 .

†3 Exodus 21:15, Exodus 21:17 . Leviticus 20:9 . Deuteronomy 21:18-23 . Compare Proverbs 30:17 . The Roman punishment for a parricide was to be sewed up in a sack, and cast into the sea. — Cicer. pro Sext. Rosc. Amorino, xi.

†4 Proverbs 13:9. Job 18:5-6, Job 18:18 . Judges 1:13 . ’The pupils of his eyes shall behold darkness.’ — LXX.

Verse 21

The wise man obviously limits his observation to an inheritance gotten dishonestly. The advancement of Joseph in the glory of Egypt,†1 of Mordecai in the Persian†2 courts, of Daniel in Babylon†3 — was gotten hastily; in a moment; yet under the special Providence of God. The evil eye, hasting to be rich†4 or great, may get an inheritance at the beginning; but the end thereof shall be blasted,†5 not blessed. Absalom†6 and Adonijah†7 reached after a kingdom to their own ruin. One king of Israel succeeded another, treading on each other hastily; and each hurrying on to destruction. (1 Kings 16:8-22 .) In our own history, Richard the Third ended his hastily gotten crown in shame. In our own day, Napoleon rose with astonishing rapidity to a magnificent inheritance. Yet he finished his course in disgraceful banishment. Less splendid possessions end in the same disappointment. What a curse was that hastily gotten inheritance of Naboth’s vineyard to the reckless oppressor!†8 Let not the warning be in vain — "They that will be rich" What is the fruit? — "Many foolish and hurtful lusts, many piercing sorrows." What is the end? — "Destruction and perdition." (1 Timothy 6:9-10 .) Place the cross and crown of Jesus in view. The world fades, selfishness dies, at the very sight. One object only attracts and satisfies. "O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord; the portion of mine inheritance." (Psalms 16:2, Psalms 16:5 .) Here is blessing beyond conception; without end.

Footnotes:

†1 Genesis 41:14-45.

†2 Esther 6:11; Esther 8:15 ; Esther 10:3 .

†3 Daniel 2:46, Daniel 2:48 .

†4 Proverbs 28:20, Proverbs 28:22 .

†5 Proverbs 10:2-3; Proverbs 21:5 ; Proverbs 28:8 .

†6 2 Samuel 15:10 ; 2 Samuel 18:9-17 .

†7 1 Kings 1:5-9 ; 1 Kings 2:25 .

†8 1 Kings 21:1-15, 1 Kings 21:19 . Compare Job 15:29 ; Job 20:18 . Amos 6:4-8 .

Verse 22

"Vengeance belongeth unto me" — is the awful proclamation of God.†1 Most reverently do his people adore this high prerogative.†2 Who besides is fitted to wield it? He is Omniscient; we know but imperfectly. He is without passions; we are blinded by our selfish lusts. He is just, "without partiality;" we are prejudiced on our own side. What presumption, therefore, not to say impiety, for the angry worm to entrench upon his prerogative! Revenge is indeed a cherished lust of the flesh.†3 Were it not for the Divine restraint upon it, this world would be an "Aceldama — a field of blood." But never did the LORD allow it in his people.†4 Not even an Edomite, their most bitter enemy; not even the Egyptian, their most cruel oppressor — was to be abhorred. (Deuteronomy 23:7 .) The folly and sin of this passion are alike manifest. ’He that studieth revenge, keepeth his own wounds open.’†5 His enemy could not do him a greater injury. The tongue, "speaking like the piercings of a sword" (Proverbs 12:18 ; Proverbs 25:18 ), is here the instrument of this passion. Yet often, when the open purpose is restrained, the passion broods only the more fiercely within.†6 Or at least it is only a reluctant obedience, not the glorious victory exhibited in the history of the men of God — "overcoming evil with good."†7

What then is the remedy? In humility and faith lay our matters before the LORD. Put them in his hands. Wait on him, and he shall save us. Revenge rises, only because we have no faith. For did we believe that God would take up our cause, should we not leave ourselves implicitly in his hands? How did he plead the cause of "the meekest man upon earth!"†8 With what confidence did David rest himself in the midst of reproach,†9 thus warranting his rule of faith by his own experience!†10 And thus did David’s Lord "commit himself unto him that judgeth righteously." (1 Peter 2:23 .) After this blessed example therefore, "let those, that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:19 .) ’Let it suffice thee for the "possessing thine own soul in patience," to know, that all shall be righted one day. God will set all straight at the last; but that day is not yet.’†11 Be satisfied then with his management. Suffice it, that "he shall deliver and save, because we put our trust in him." (Psalms 37:39-40 .) Let us stay our souls, as his praying people, on the great consummation. "Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you, that he will avenge them speedily." ((Luke 18:7-8 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Deuteronomy 32:35. Romans 12:19 . Hebrews 10:30 .

†2 Psalms 94:1. Revelation 6:10 .

†3 So even the Heathen acknowledged it —

Est vindicta bonum, et vitâ jucundius ipsâ.

Juven. Sat. 13:180.

†4 Proverbs 24:29. Leviticus 19:18 . Observe the identity of this standard with that of the New Testament — the teaching of our Lord — Matthew 5:38-39, and his apostles, Romans 12:17, Romans 12:19-21 . 1 Thessalonians 5:15 . 1 Peter 3:9 . Compare Sirach 28:1-8 .

†5 Lord Bacon.

†6 Genesis 27:41. 2 Samuel 13:22 .

†7 Romans 12:21. Compare Joseph, Genesis 45:5 ; Genesis 50:20 . David, 1 Samuel 24:18-21 .

†8 Numbers 12:1-10.

†9 2 Samuel 16:12 . Psalms 38:12-15 .

†10 Psalms 37:5-6.

†11 Bp. Sanderson on Proverbs 24:10-12 .

Verse 23

Here let us search into the mind of God. Thrice does he bring home one point of practical detail. (Proverbs 20:10, Proverbs 20:14, Proverbs 20:23 .) Yet doubtless this is not a "vain repetition." (Matthew 6:7 .) There is a "needs-be" for it. Instead of "precept upon precept, and line upon line" (Isaiah 28:10 ), the infinite "treasures of wisdom and knowledge" might have poured forth endless variety of instruction. We wonder not to see the apostolic ministry once and again upon the same argument of a sinner’s justification before God.†1 And we gather from this repetition the primary importance, and the peculiarly offensive character of the doctrine. (Romans 10:2-3 .) Does not then this continuous inculcation similarly teach the great weight of the principle involved, and the innate resistance to its full operation? If we feel, that we cannot be too often gladdened with the manifestation of the grace of God; and yet shrink from a frequent and probing application of practical obligation; if we love to be told, what we owe to God on the Sabbath, but revolt from the minute detail of a week, the market and the shop; we do not receive the whole revelation of God, and therefore do not savingly receive any part of it. Ours is not "the wisdom that is from above, without partiality and without hypocrisy." (James 3:17 .)

Most palpable is the need for this particular illustration. The evil runs throughout our commercial system. The divers weights, though continually declared to be abominable — yea, an abomination (Proverbs 11:1 . Micah 6:10-11 ) — to God, yet how often are they palliated, as of daily occurrence, perhaps even of necessity! But ’the scant measure will fill up a full measure of guilt, and the light weights bring upon the soul an heavy weight of judgment.’†2 If Job was fearful, lest his "land and furrows cry against him" (Job 31:38 ), let the trader beware, lest his weights and measures bear witness against him. Cause, indeed, have we for watchfulness! What means this cumbrous and expensive machinery of administration, with all its checks and counter-checks, its fearful multiplication of oaths, but the humiliating declaration, that man cannot trust his fellow-man? Oh! let me not forget, that of all this deceit my heart is the native soil; that nothing but the culture of Divine principle keeps down these poisonous weeds, and nourishes in their room "the fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of my God." (Philippians 1:11 .) ’The love of God constrains his servant. God is true to him; and he will not be false to others. God is merciful to him, and he will not be unjust to others.’†3 This is the practical influence of the Gospel.

Footnotes:

†1 See Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians.

†2 Bp. Reynolds’ Sermon on Micah 6:6-8 .

†3 Polhill’s Speculum Theologiæ, p. 438.

Verse 24

God’s uncontrollable power and sovereignty; man’s absolute dependence and helplessness — let these be foundation principles. Here is no infringement of liberty on the one side; no excuse for indolence on the other. Man often acts, as if he were the master of his own purposes; as if his goings were of himself. Or else, in the crude notion of the predetermination of every event, instead of diligently working out the LORD’s purposes, he fancies "his strength is to sit still." (Isaiah 30:7 .) But the humble, heaven-taught Christian exercises free agency in the spirit of dependence. Though utterly powerless for obedience, he is ever putting forth the effort, as the exercise in which he looks for the strength. The consciousness that his goings are of the LORD, gives energy to his faith. It is written again — "This is the way; walk ye in it." (Isaiah 30:21 .) Thus does Scripture guard against Scripture. Here is dependence without passive inertion; diligence without presumption or self-confidence. Antagonal principles thus work together in harmonious combination.

The true liberty of the will is the power of acting according to choice, without external restraint. Divine agency, so far from hindering its freedom, removes the obstacle of a corrupt and tyrannizing bias. This let removed, it acts more freely, and more powerfully. The man is not moved as a machine, unconscious of its operations and results, but acted upon by intelligent principles. He is not carried along the way, but enabled to walk. He is "drawn," not driven, "with the cords of a man," not of a beast; and those cords are so wisely applied, that they are felt to be "bands of love." (Hosea 11:4 .) He is enlightened, so that he sees; softened, so that he turns; "drawn, so that he runs." (Song of Song of Solomon 1:4 . Psalms 119:32 .) He is moved effectually, but willingly; invincibly, but without constraint. Divine grace acts, not as in a lifeless machine, but as in a purposing, willing, ever-working creature. Nothing is therefore distorted. There is no unnatural violence. It is "the day of the LORD’s power," who "worketh in him to will and to do of his good pleasure."†1 His goings are of the LORD, who at once inspires the effort, and secures the success.

The world of Providence shews the same over-ruling agency. Man determines and acts freely in the minute circumstances of the day. Yet the active pervading influence, disposing every step at the right time and place, makes it plain, that his goings are of the LORD. Rebekah came to the well just at the moment, that Abraham’s servant was ready to meet her. "He being in the way, the LORD led him." (Genesis 24:27 .) Pharaoh’s daughter goes out to bathe just at the crisis, when the infant Moses was committed to the water. (Exodus 2:1-5 .) Was this the working of chance, or some fortunate coincidence? Who can doubt the finger or the leading of God? A curse of extermination was pronounced against Eli’s house. The word was fulfilled by a combination of apparently casual incidents. David fled to Abimelech for relief. That very day Doeg was there; not in the ordinary course, but "detained before the LORD." He gives information to his cruel master, and in a moment of anger the curse was accomplished.†2 Who can doubt but the goings of Doeg and of David meeting together were of the LORD? All parties acted freely. What was false in Doeg was righteous in God, whom we adore as a sin-hating God, even while, as in the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:23 ), he makes use of sin for the fulfillment of his own purposes.

Man’s goings therefore being of the LORD, they must often be enveloped in mystery. How then can he understand his own way? Often does it run counter to his design. The Babel-builders raised their proud tower to prevent their dispersion: and it was the very means of their dispersion. (Genesis 11:4-9 .) Pharaoh’s "wise dealing" for the aggrandizement of his kingdom issued in its destruction.†3 Haman’s project for his own glory was the first step of his ruin. (Esther 6:6-13 .) Often also is the way, when not counter, far beyond our own ken. Little did Israel understand the reason of their circuitous way to Canaan. Yet did it prove in the end to be "the right way."†4 As little did Ahasuerus understand the profound reason, why "on that night could not the king sleep;" a minute incident, seeming scarcely worthy to be recorded, yet a necessary link in the chain of the LORD’s everlasting purposes of grace to his Church. (Esther 6:1 .) Little did Philip understand his own way, when he was moved from the wide sphere of preaching the gospel in Samaria, to go into the desert, which ultimately proved a wider extension of the gospel.†5 As little did the great Apostle understand, that his "prosperous journey" to see his beloved flock at Rome, would be a narrow escape from shipwreck, and to be conducted a prisoner in chains.†6 Little do we know what we pray for. "By terrible things wilt thou answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation." (Psalms 65:5 .) We go out in the morning not understanding our way; "not knowing what an hour may bring forth." (Proverbs 27:1 .) Some turn, connected with our happiness or misery for life, meets us before night. (John 4:7 .) Joseph in taking his walk to search for his brethren, never anticipated a more than twenty years’ separation from his father. (Genesis 37:14 .) And what ought those cross ways or dark ways to teach us? Not constant, trembling anxiety, but daily dependence. "I will bring the blind by a way that they know not: I will lead them in paths that they have not known." But shall they be left in the dark perplexity? "I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." (Isaiah 42:16 .) Often do I look back amazed at the strangeness of my course, so different, so contrary to my way. But it is enough for me, that all is in thine hands; that "my steps are ordered of thee." (Psalms 37:23 . Compare Proverbs 16:9 .) I dare trust thy wisdom, thy goodness, thy tenderness, thy faithful care. Lead me — uphold me — forsake me not. "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory."†7

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 110:3. Philippians 2:13 . Compare Daillè in loco, and Disputation between Eck and Carlstadt. — D’Aubigne’s History of Reformation, Book v. chap. 4.

†2 1 Samuel 2:30-32, with 1 Samuel 21:6-7 ; 1 Samuel 22:9-18 .

†3 Exodus 1:8-10, with Exodus 14:30 .

†4 Exodus 13:17-18, with Psalms 107:7 .

†5 Acts 8:5-12, Acts 8:26-27 .

†6 Acts 27:1-44; Acts 28:20, Acts 28:30, with Romans 1:10 .

†7 Psalms 73:24. Augustine mentions the weeping prayers and deprecations of his godly mother, on account of his voyage from Carthage to Italy. Her anxiety was grounded probably on his absence from her control, and the natural apprehension, that, when removed from her influence, he would plunge deeper into sin. But it proved in the end to be the Providential purpose for his conversion — ’In thy deep and hidden counsel’ — writes the pious Father — ’listening to the cardinal point of her desire, thou regardest not what she then implored, in order to accomplish in me what she ever implored.’ — Confess. Lib. v. c. 8.

Verse 25

In every path has the great fowler laid his snares. Perhaps, however, the most subtle are reserved for the service of God. Offerings made holy to the Lord often were devoured by the hypocritical worshipper, and sacrilegiously appropriated to his own use. Thus Achan, robbing the treasury of the LORD, found a snare to his ruin. (Joshua 6:19 ; Joshua 7:1 .) This was the sin of "the whole nation;" and fearful indeed was the judgment — "Ye are cursed with a curse." (Malachi 3:8-10 .) Voluntary vows were commonly practised;†1 and often inquiry was made after, which ought to have been made before. They were at full liberty not to vow; but having vowed, they were bound to pay.†2

As the counterpart to this hollow, half-hearted profession — ’a man vows in distress to give something to God: but having obtained his desires,’ devoureth that which is holy, and after vows makes inquiry, ’how he may be loosed from this obligation.’†3 Often too in a moment of excitement — perhaps under the glow of a religious meeting — has a sacrifice been pledged to God; and, the impulse having subsided, after the vow inquiry is made how the bond may be retracted. Such evasions — what a revolting exhibition do they present of man’s deceitfulness! ’He entangleth his soul in the snares of death, who resumeth unto a profane use that which is once consecrated unto God, and who, after he hath vowed aught unto the LORD, argues within himself, how to alter that holy purpose, and to defeat God of his due.’†4 Alienation of the gift proves the prior alienation of the heart. Let Ananias and Sapphira testify that God is a jealous God.†5 Take care of rash — be faithful to upright — engagements. Before entering into the service of God, make inquiry into its full requisitions. Beware of a religion of temporary excitement; far different from deep, solid, permanent principle. And whatever be the cost, be true to the consecration of thyself as "a living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1 ) on the altar of thy God.

Footnotes:

†1 Leviticus 27:9-10, Leviticus 27:28-33 .

†2 Deuteronomy 23:21-22. Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 .

†3 Bishop Patrick.

†4 Bishop Hall.

†5 Acts 5:1-10, with Deuteronomy 4:24 .

Verse 26

Solomon, as a wise king, was constantly eyeing his own responsibilities. His standard was not to commit wickedness himself,†1 nor to allow it in his people; to scatter, not to encourage, the wicked. As the husbandman’s wheel, brought over the grain, cut the straw, and separated the chaff;†2 his sifting administration of justice brought the wheel of vengeance on the wicked, and scattered them as worthless chaff (Psalms 1:4 ), or crushed them in ruin. (1 Kings 2:25-46 .) In the same spirit did his father David destroy them, when they boldly claimed his countenance.†3 Godly Asa removed wickedness from the high place nearest his own throne and heart.†4 Amaziah justly punished it with death.†5 Nehemiah — that true reformer — rebuked it even in the family of the high-priest.†6 Our own Alfred appeared to maintain this standard as a witness for God in an age of darkness. But it is the King of kings alone, that can make this separation complete. Often does he sift his church by trial, for her greater purity and complete preservation. (Amos 9:9 .) But what will it be, when he shall come "with his fan in his hand, and shall throughly purge his floor!" (Matthew 3:12 .) What a scattering of chaff will there be! Not an atom will go into the garner. Not a grain of wheat will be cast away. Oh my soul! what wilt thou be found at this great sifting day! "Who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth?" (Malachi 3:2 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 20:8. Proverbs 16:12 . Compare the contrast 1 Kings 14:16 .

†2 Isaiah 28:28-29. This is an obvious allusion to the way of threshing in the East. One mode was by a wain, which had wheels with iron teeth like a saw. The axle was armed with serrated wheels throughout. It moved upon three rollers armed with iron teeth, or wheels, to cut the straw. — See Bishop Lowth’s note on Isaiah 28:27 . Compare Amos 1:3 .

†3 2 Samuel 1:2, 2 Samuel 1:16 ; 2 Samuel 4:5, 12. Compare Psalms 101:7-8 .

†4 2 Chronicles 15:16 .

†5 2 Chronicles 24:25 ; 2 Chronicles 25:3-4 .

†6 Nehemiah 13:28-29.

Verse 27

We are placed under a solemn dispensation of Divine government. An infallible judgment is in constant exercise, discerning our principles, estimating their standard, and pronouncing sentence. There ought evidently to be in the soul some sense, that acknowledges the judgment of the Great Sovereign. Such is conscience, aptly called — ’God in man.’ Thus "God hath not left himself without witness" in his own benighted world. (Acts 14:16, 17.) He brings the searching light of his candle into the darkness. At the first creation bright indeed was this candle of the LORD, shining in the little world — Man. (Genesis 1:26 .) But every faculty partook of the ruin of the fall. Still enough is left in the inner mind and conscience, to shew even in the thick darkness of heathenism the Divine perfections, the just desert of sin,†1 and even some faint glimpses of the standard of right and wrong.†2 Yet dim indeed is this candle, except it be lighted at God’s lamp.†3 But when the word and Spirit of God give light to it, it will effectually perform its important offices — (as Bishop Reynolds defines them) — ’direction, conviction, and consolation;’†4 not only exhibiting the outward acts, but searching the innermost parts of the belly — all the hidden acts and conduct of the inner man. (1 Corinthians 2:11 . Compare Job 32:8 .) This unwelcome intruder follows everywhere, interpreting the dispensation of the rod, not — as men would have it — as the incidents or phænomena of the day, but as penal retribution. Glad indeed would the man of ungodliness be to extinguish this candle. He is too great a coward to venture into his secret chamber in the dark. He "hates the light" (John 3:20 ), which, in spite of all his opposition, drags forth into day many secret lurking evils; never allowing the plea — "Is it not a little one?" Whatever may have been his gay and thoughtless pleasures, the time will come, when he must leave them, and be alone. And then — as the question has been stated in a manner not to be answered — ’What is all that a man can enjoy in this way for a week, a month, a year, compared with what he feels for one hour, when his conscience shall take him aside, and rate him by himself?’†5

Most valuable also is this candle, throwing the light of God upon the narrow path; so that we ’are not scrupulous and nice in small matters, negligent in the main; we are still curious in substantial points, and not careless in things of an inferior nature; accounting no duty so small as to be neglected, and no care great enough for principle duties; not so tything mint and cummin, that we should forget justice and judgment; nor yet regarding judgment and justice, that we should contemn mint and cummin.’†6

Now let me ask — when God causes his candle to shed a clearer light, can I abide it? Do I welcome the hateful discoveries which it brings out? Do I value its light, as opening the secret business of communion between a sinner and a holy jealous God? Do I exercise myself to preserve the light from being dimmed in the atmosphere of sin, and to guard its purity, as the means of establishing my confidence with God?†7 Oh! let there be no inward part of my soul, where I am not most willing, most earnest, to bring the candle of the LORD, that all secret indulgences may be searched out and mortified. "He that doeth good cometh unto the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God." (John 3:21 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Romans 1:20-21, Romans 1:32 .

†2 Romans 2:14, 15.

†3 Proverbs 6:23. Psalms 119:105 .

†4 Treasise on the Passions, chapter 41.

†5 South’s Sermon on Proverbs 3:17 .

†6 Bishop Hall’s Works, viii. 112.

†7 Acts 24:16. 1 John 3:20-21 .

Verse 28

Punishment is indeed a necessary security against the infringement of the law. (Proverbs 20:26 .) Yet a wise King will follow the example of the Great Sovereign, and "make judgment his strange work," and mercy his "delight."†1 And so long as truth inviolable is his guiding principle, the abuse of mercy need be little feared. Nay, mercy is the upholding pillar of his throne. (Isaiah 16:5 .) But who does not know, that, while truth commands reverence, it is mercy that wins the heart? Solomon himself had a strong body-guard around him, for the safety of his person. (Song of Song of Solomon 3:7 .) Yet were the mercy and truth of his government not only the most splendid jewels of his crown, but ’the best guard of his body, and supporters of his throne.’†2

How lovely is this combination in the administration of the Great King! "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne; mercy and truth shall go before thy face." (Psalms 89:14 .) Much more bright is the manifestation of these glorious perfections in that great work, by which he sacrificed even his Beloved Son, that man might be saved without the tarnish of one spot upon his infinitely adorable name. (Psalms 85:10 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Compare Isaiah 28:21 . Micah 7:18 .

†2 Trapp in loco.

Verse 29

Every stage of life has its peculiar honor and privilege. ’Youth is the glory of nature, and strength is the glory of youth. Old age is the majestic beauty of nature, and the grey head is the majestic beauty, which nature hath given to old age.’†1 Yet these pictures describe the use, not the abuse. It is their youth usefully exercised, especially consecrated to God, and employed for his glory. Otherwise, as an occasion of wantonness,†2 or vain-glorious boast,†3 its strength is its shame, and will end in vanity.†4 The silver crown brings honour, and reverence, and authority — only "in the way of righteousness."†5

Yet the beauty of the grey head is most likely to be found, where the strength and glory of youth have been dedicated to God. The young plant, stunted, and deformed in its youth, will generally carry its crookedness into advancing growth. But who can calculate upon the extent of fruitfulness, where "the beginning of our strength" — "the dew of our youth" — has been given to the LORD? (Psalms 92:13-15 .) Let youth and age however each beware of defacing their glory. Each takes the precedence in some things, and gives place in others. Let them not therefore envy or despise each other’s prerogatives. The world — the state — the church needs them both — the strength of youth for energy, and the maturity of age for wisdom.

Footnotes:

†1 Jermin in loco.

†2 2 Samuel 2:14-16 .

†3 Jeremiah 9:23.

†4 Isaiah 40:30.

†5 Proverbs 16:31, and references. Compare Sirach 25:6-7 .

Verse 30

Chastisement is the LORD’s ordinance — the pain of the flesh for the subjugation of the spirit; sometimes even "the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Corinthians 5:5 .) It describes not the gentle stroke, but the severity of parental discipline; not in pleasure or caprice, much less in anger, but for profit. (Hebrews 12:10 .) The diseased body needs medicine no less than food, and indeed to give nourishment. The diseased soul needs chastening no less than consolation, and as the main preparation for consolation. But if the blueness of the wound — the mark of severe chastisement — cleanseth away evil, is it not the lesser evil, as the means of subduing the greater? Do not the Lord’s stripes cleanse the inward parts? Misery beyond measure miserable is the untamed stubbornness of self-will. A gentle stroke is first tried. When this remedy is ineffectual, the blueness of the wound is needful. Manasseh’s Babylonish chains doubtless prevented the "everlasting chains of darkness."†1 Similar discipline was effectual with the holy nation, the prodigal son,†2 and the incestuous Corinthian.†3 Multitudes have borne witness to the love, wisdom, and power of their Father’s discipline — "chastened of the Lord, that they might not be condemned with the world."†4 The evil was cleansed away; and those, who groaned under the stripes, to all eternity will tune their harps to the song — "I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me." (Psalms 119:75 .)

Child of God! Think of your Father’s character. "He knoweth your frame. He doth not afflict willingly." (Pslam 103:14. Lamentations 3:33 .) Nothing will be given in weight or measure beyond the necessity of the case.†5 But truly blessed are the stripes, that humble and break the proud will.†6 Rich indeed are "fruits of righteousness" from the conflict and suffering of the flesh.†7

Footnotes:

†1 2 Chronicles 33:12-13, with Judges 1:6 .

†2 Luke 15:16-20.

†3 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 .

†4 1 Corinthians 11:32 .

†5 Isaiah 27:8. Jeremiah 10:24 .

†6 Jeremiah 31:18-20.

†7 Job 34:31-32; Job 36:9-10 . Isaiah 27:9 . Hebrews 12:11 .

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-20.html. 1846.
 
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