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Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 24

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verses 1-2

THIS counsel has been lately given. (Proverbs 23:17 .) But it is very difficult in the false glare of this world’s glory to "walk by faith, as the evidence of things not seen." (2 Corinthians 5:7 . Hebrews 11:1 .) In the confined atmosphere of impatience and unbelief, "the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy." (James 4:5 .) This evil spirit, if it does not bring the scandal of open sin, curses our blessings, withers our graces, cankers our peace, clouds our confidence, and stains our Christian profession. The full cup in the house of evil men stirs up the desire to be with them. (Psalms 73:10-14 .) But if their fearful end did not restrain, their awful character is warning enough.†1 It is the malignity of Satan himself, studying destruction in their heart; mischief in their lips.†2 Take away then the delusive veil; and who would envy them? When Haman was studying the destruction of the holy nation, the barbed arrow of discontent was corroding his vitals.†3 Who would envy Judas, studying his Master’s destruction? In the agony of remorse, his "soul chose strangling, rather than life."†4 "Gather not my soul with sinners" — is the prayer of the child of God — "nor my life with bloody men, in whose hands is mischief."†5 Let me, instead of studying the destruction, study the salvation, of my fellow-sinners — what can I do to win them to Christ? Let me desire to be with the man of God, employed in this God-like work. The Christian is the only enviable person in the world. The seeming blessings of evil men are God’s heavy curses; and the smart of the stripes is a favor too good for them to enjoy. To judge wisely of our condition, it is to be considered, not so much how we fare, as upon what terms. If we stand right with heaven, every cross is a blessing; and every blessing a pledge of future happiness. If we be in God’s disfavor, every one of his benefits is a judgment; and every judgment makes way for perdition.†6 Instead of envying sinners in their successful wickedness, dread their character more than their end, and rejoice that your Father never counted the poor vanities of this world a worthy portion for you.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 23:18. Compare verses Proverbs 24:19-20, infra.

†2 Proverbs 1:11-14; Proverbs 4:16 ; 6:18. 1 Samuel 23:9 . Job 15:35 . Psalms 7:14 ; Psalms 114:2-6 . Micah 7:3 .

†3 Esther 3:8-9; Esther 5:13 .

†4 Matthew 26:16; Matthew 27:3-5 . Job 7:15 .

†5 Psalms 26:9; Psalms 28:3 .

†6 Bp. Hall’s Works, viii. 206.

Verses 3-6

Why should we envy the prosperity of the wicked? Even if their house be built,†1 it cannot be established,†2 by iniquity. ’It is only the snow-palace built in the winter, and melting away under the power of the summer’s sun.’†3 "The wise woman buildeth her house" (Proverbs 14:1 ) upon piety and prudence — a far more solid establishment. Let every chamber of the mind be enriched with these precious and pleasant endowments. Without them the man is without strength of character; the creature of accident, circumstance, or society, thinking and living upon the opinion of others. A general irresolution marks his insignificant course; the soul, when consecrated as God’s house (2 Corinthians 6:16 ), is built on an enlightened understanding of divine truth: and every chamber is filled with the precious and pleasant riches of godliness. (2 Peter 1:2-4 .) Heresy is restrained by conceding supreme authority to the Bible. The crude professor acts under feverish impulse, a sickly sentimentalist in religion. Instead of retaining a firm hold of truth, he imbibes with ease the most monstrous opinions. He is "carried about with divers and strange doctrines," instead of exhibiting "the good things of an heart established with grace." (Hebrews 13:9 .) "Growth in" spiritual, as distinct from speculative "knowledge," will always be accompanied with "growth in grace." (2 Peter 3:18 .)

And may we not observe, how God has laid the foundations of the spiritual house, shaped and framed the materials by his own divine wisdom, and filled all the chambers with his precious and pleasant riches? Delightful is the contemplation of the building, as it is rising, and as it will be, when it is finished. ’Oh, the transcendent glory’ — exclaimed the heavenly Martyn — ’of this temple of souls; lively stones, perfect in all its parts, the purchase and work of God!’†4

In passing from the universal Church to one section of it, we cannot but remark the wisdom and understanding with which our spiritual house is builded and established. It called for no common wisdom in such jarring times, and such imperfect light, to avoid extremes on both sides, and to frame a system, fraught with solid instruction, yet glowing with spiritual exercise; popular yet reverential; conducive to "prayer" alike "with the spirit and with the understanding." (1 Corinthians 14:15 .) Our Reformers were indeed wisely taught, while they cast away the superstition and idolatry of Rome, to apply her primitive treasures for godly use, and when needed, to purify them from their drossy alloy, and to mold the gold in evangelical purity. Truly the chambers of our house are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. And did the mass of our worshippers only imbibe the spirit of their house what a prevailing influence of godliness would spread over our land!

But we take another view of the high advantage of wisdom. A wise man is strong.†5 Every view confirms Lord Bacon’s far-famed aphorism — ’Knowledge is power.’ The discovery of the mechanical forces, and the power of steam, has increased strength in an hundred-fold proportion to physical force. Intellectual knowledge, wisely applied, has immense moral ascendancy. It restrains the King from unadvised wars (Proverbs 20:18 ); and, if forced into the field, instead of treading his perilous path alone, he ensures the safety of his kingdom by multitude of counselors.†6 The man of spiritual knowledge is a giant in strength. He combines the power to draw the bow, with a steady hand and eye to guide the mark. Conscious ignorance is the first principle of knowledge. "I am but a little child" — said the wisest of men; and this humility of wisdom was the establishment of his kingdom.†7 The Christian, "filled with wisdom and spiritual understanding," is also "strengthened" in his warfare "with all might according to the glorious power of his God." (Colossians 1:9, Colossians 1:11 .) For "the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits." (Daniel 11:32 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Micah 3:10.

†2 Proverbs 12:3. Jeremiah 22:13, Jeremiah 22:18 . Amos 5:11 .

†3 Geier in loco.

†4 Life, chapter iii.

†5 Proverbs 21:22. Ecclesiastes 7:19 ; Ecclesiastes 9:16 .

†6 Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 15:22 .

†7 1 Kings 3:7 ; 1 Kings 5:12 ; 1 Kings 10:23-29 . 2 Chronicles 27:6 .

Verse 7

7 Wisdom†a is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate.

The commendation of wisdom is here continued. The man richly endowed with it comes forth with authority, and speaks at the gate among the wise. The fool, destitute of wisdom, is debarred from this honor. The simple†1 and diligent†2 prove, that the treasure is not really out of reach. But it is too high for the fool. His groveling mind can never rise to so lofty a matter. He has no apprehension of it;†3 no heart to desire it;†4 no energy to lay hold of it.†5 And therefore, though in the Gospel "it is nigh him, even in his mouth, and in his heart,"†6 it is inaccessible. Its holy spirituality is too high for his reach. He commands therefore no respect in his own station of society.†7 His counsel is not sought. His opinion, if given, is of no account. Though he may have a babbling tongue in the street, yet he openeth not his mouth in the gate; utterly unfit to give judgment in the presence of wise and judicious men. Nor is this from natural defect, but from willful perverseness. His Lord had committed at least one talent to his trust. But he had frittered it away, not traded with it. (Matthew 25:24-30 .) Oh! let wisdom be sought, while it is within reach; while it is so freely promised. (James 1:5 .) When found, let it be diligently improved for the great end of life. What! if we should die without it, under the fearful responsibility of having done nothing for our God or fellow-creatures, of having neglected the way of life: and "in the greatness of our folly gone astray" to everlasting ruin? (Proverbs 5:23 .)

Footnotes:

†a Wisdoms. Heb. Psalms 49:4 . Schultens, &c.

†1 Proverbs 8:9; Proverbs 14:6 . Matthew 11:25 .

†2 Proverbs 2:1-6. John 7:17 .

†3 Psalms 10:5; Psalms 92:5-6 . 1 Corinthians 2:14 .

†4 Proverbs 17:16, Proverbs 17:24 .

†5 Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 21:25 .

†6 Romans 10:6-8.

†7 Contrast Job 29:7-10 .

Verses 8-9

What a picture is here of human depravity, in its active working, its corrupt fountain, and its fearful end! Talent, imagination, active mind, is so debased, as to be all concentrated upon Satan’s own work — devising to do evil.†1 He was the first deviser (Genesis 3:1 ), and he practices his children, till he makes them, like himself, masters of mischief; contriving new modes of sinning, ways of trickery and deceit; like the degraded heathen, "inventors of evil things." (Romans 1:30 .) To do evil is the principle; devising to do evil is the energy, of his service. In this craft of evil, Balaam was a mischievous person.†2 Abimelech has earned for himself the same reputation. (Judges 9:1-55 .) Jeroboam’s subtle mischief has stamped his name with the black mark of reprobation — "who made Israel to sin."†3 Jezebel,†4 and others of less note, equally industrious in evil, will appear in the same ranks at the great day.

Even when it is not brought out into action, the thought of foolishness — giving it lodgment (Jeremiah 4:14 ), instead of casting it out as loathsome — is sin. ’But what guilt’ — it is asked — ’can there be in a thought? It is but an airy notion; next to nothing. It can make no impression. A malicious thought cannot hurt. A covetous thought cannot rob. What guilt or danger can belong to so minute a being?’ Perhaps did we deal with man, these might be trifling evils. But as the thought is the fountain of the act, God counts it in the act, and holds us responsible for it.†5 The smallest sin involves us in the breach of the whole law. (James 2:10-11 .) This is his decision; and who can answer against it? The most spiritual Christians lay their hands upon their mouths, "and their mouths in the dust."†6

The awakened sinner admits his total depravity upon the same demonstration as his own existence — consciousness. One sin gives birth to another. Countless multitudes follow in rapid and continuous succession. "Every imagination of the thoughts of the heart is only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5 .) Did we fully realize this apprehension, the flitting moments of the day, each bringing with it an increase of guilt, could not slide away so pleasantly from us; not at least without shame and humiliation; without habitual application of the divine remedy. Job’s sensitive conscience carried his sons continually to the atoning sacrifice. (Job 1:5 .) Bunyan (unlike many loose professors, who are never troubled about their thoughts) was deeply afflicted in the remembrance of one sinful thought. Nor let this be condemned as a morbid temperament. Is it not rather the tender sensibility of a heart humbled by the continual view of the great sin-offering? Our sensibilities rise in proportion to our spiritual apprehensions. Even a passing shade of sin, did we suitably realize it — it might well be a matter of poignant bitterness. A believing sorrow for heart-sins — however involuntary — is a clear mark of divine grace and teaching: issuing in deep humiliation, not with despondency. (Romans 7:15-25 .)

But let us follow out this thought of foolishness unrestrained. It commits an immensity of folly. The thinking faculty is never wearied out. It is the fruitful principle of sin, which, ’the more it is committed’ (as it has been no less truly than philosophically remarked), ’the more it acquireth in the quality of evil.’†7 The thought therefore gathers strength in every acting, till its full influence is developed in the "scorner’s seat" (Psalms 1:1 ) — an abomination, not only to God, but to man.†8 For however misused wit and talent may gain for the fool a bad pre-eminence; he secures no respect, and is generally avoided or dreaded, and ultimately brought to shame.†9

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 24:2. Psalms 36:3-4 .

†2 Numbers 31:16. Revelation 2:14 .

†3 1 Kings 12:26-33 ; 1 Kings 15:30 .

†4 1 Kings 21:25 . Revelation 2:20 .

†5 Compare Proverbs 15:26 . Psalms 94:11 . Matthew 9:3-4 ; Matthew 15:19 . Acts 8:22 . Romans 2:15 .

Even an Heathen moralist could write —

Nam scelus intra se tacitum qui cogitat ullum,

Facti crimen habet. — Juv. xiii. 209, 210.

†6 Proverbs 30:32. Job 40:4 . Lamentations 3:29 .

†7 Sir T. Browne, Rel. Med. p. 101. Edit. 1642.

†8 Proverbs 21:24. Malachi 2:8-9 .

†9 Jeremiah 36:23, with Jeremiah 22:19 .

Verse 10

Let this be a word of strengthening encouragement. The marvel is, that those who know not where to look for refuge, when the storm is breaking over their heads, do not always faint. But natural courage and buoyancy, or a deeper plunge into the world, as a diversion from sorrow, raises them above their troubles for a while, estranging them yet further from God.

But why should the child of God, contrary to his Father’s injunction,†1 faint? Look at thy privilege — "The eternal God is thy refuge; and underneath are the everlasting arms;"†2 thy duty — "Call upon me in the time of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me;"†3 — thy security — "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee."†4

Yet we "speak not parables." Every Christian’s heart responds to the confession, that he is apt to faint. ’The strongest and holiest saint on earth is subject to some qualms of fear;’†5 not from the greatness of the danger, but from the weakness of his faith. (Matthew 14:30 .) Even those who had "endured a great fight of afflictions, who had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods," still needed stirring exhortations and encouragements to Christian steadfastness.†6 If they had borne the brunt of one battle, there are heavier conflicts before them.†7 Let each of us be awake to the besetting danger. Remember — when we seek strength from our own resources;†8 when faith gives way to distrust;†9 praise to murmuring,†10 hope to despondency;†11 when relinquished pleasures vividly come to mind,†12 and protracted toils press heavily†13 — then we faint in the day of adversity.

For this day we must prepare. "Man is born to trouble,"†14 as his portion inherited from his first father. He may be called to drink a deep draught of the bitter cup, requiring much strength, that "patience may have its perfect work." (James 1:4 .) The day is needful for the trial of our principles. What seemed more promising, than the confidence of the stony-ground hearers, or than the longer endurance of the apostle’s companions? But the day of adversity exposed their hollow profession.†15 Often also, even when "the root of the matter is found," a painful exhibition of faintness,†16 unable to weather out a bad day, proves the smallness, not the vigour, of strength.

But why — again we ask — should the child of God faint? If "affliction came from the dust, and sprung out of the ground" (Job 5:6 ), he might be discouraged by his ill-fortune. But where every minute circumstance has been the fruit of eternal counsel, where "the hairs of his head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30 ), well may he "stay himself upon his God." If his soul, like Israel of old, "be much discouraged because of the way" (Numbers 21:4-5 ), it leadeth to his Father’s house. If he be wearied with his burden, soon will he rest eternally in his Savior’s bosom. Never will he be called to a martyr’s trial, without a martyr’s faith.†17 The chastening rod is the seal of everlasting love.†18 The temporal cross comes from the same hand as his everlasting crown. ’Never believe’ — Christian — ’that thy tender-hearted Savior, who knows the weakness of thy constitution, will mix the cup of affliction with one drachm weight of poison.’†19 If thy strength be small, go to the strong for strength. "He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength." (Isaiah 40:29 .) Commit thyself daily to him, for his supply of "grace is sufficient for thee." So go onward, weak and strong at once; weak in order to be strong; strong in thy weakness, "his strength being made perfect in it;" and thou at length "glorying even in thy" depressing "infirmity, that the power of Christ may rest upon thee" (2 Corinthians 12:9 ); not only sustained, but "strengthened unto joyfulness." (Colossians 1:11 .)

Oh! — hasten the time, when the dark and cloudy day shall be changed for unclouded sunshine; the crown of thorns for the crown of glory; "the spirit of heaviness" for the garment of "everlasting praise." (Isaiah 61:3 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 3:11.

†2 Deuteronomy 33:27.

†3 Psalms 50:15; Psalms 91:15 .

†4 Hebrews 13:5. Isaiah 54:7 .

†5 Bishop Hall’s Contemplations, B. xviii. Cont. 8.

†6 Hebrews 10:32-36; Hebrews 11:1-40 .; Hebrews 12:1-3 .

†7 Hebrews 12:4.

†8 Isaiah 40:30.

†9 Psalms 78:19-20.

†10 Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:24 ; Exodus 17:3 .

†11 Numbers 14:3.

†12 Exodus 16:3. Numbers 11:4-6 .

†13 Job 7:1-4.

†14 Job 5:7.

†15 Matthew 13:20-21. 2 Timothy 4:16 ; 2 Timothy 1:15 .

†16 Abraham, Genesis 12:10-13 ; Genesis 20:2 . Moses, Exodus 4:10-13 ; Numbers 11:11 ; Joshua, Joshua 7:6-10 ; David, 1 Samuel 27:1 ; Psalms 31:1, Psalms 31:22 ; Psalms 116:11 ; Elijah, 1 Kings 19:3-4 . Jeremiah, Jeremiah 20:7-18 ; Jonah, Jonah 4:8-9 ; Peter, Matthew 26:35, Matthew 26:69-74 ; the disciples, ib. verse Matthew 26:35, Matthew 26:56 .

†17 ’Be of good heart,’ said Ridley to his brother Latimer, with a wondrous cheerful look running to him, and embracing and kissing him — ’for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.’ — Foxe, vii. 548.

†18 Proverbs 3:12. Isaiah 48:10 .

†19 Rutherford’s Letters.

Verses 11-12

11 If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;†a 12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?

(Proverbs 24:12 is quoted in the NT: Romans 2:6 [Note, this sentence is found serveral times in the Old Testament so it is not certain if Romans 2:6 is quoting Proverbs 24:12 specifically])

Suppose a fellow-creature in imminent danger — as it were drawn unto death, and ready to be slain unjustly,†1 or from wickedness. (Luke 10:30 .) The magistrate standing in the place, and invested with the power of God†2 — If he forbear to deliver, on the false pretense that he knew it not, the Lord will require it. This obligation, with all the responsibility of its neglect, is the universal law of the Gospel. (Luke 10:29-36 .) Whoever knows his brother’s danger, and forbears to deliver — doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? Will he not render? The Hebrew midwives,†3 and Esther in after-ages,†4 thus delivered their own people drawn unto death. Reuben delivered Joseph from the pit. Job was the deliverer of the poor in the extremety,†5 Jonathan saved his friend at imminent risk to himself.†6 Obadiah hid the LORD’s prophets.†7 Ahikam and Ebed-melech saved Jeremiah.†8 Johanan attempted to deliver the unsuspecting Gedaliah.†9 Daniel preserved the wise men of Babylon.†10 The Samaritan rescued his neighbor from death. Paul’s nephew delivered the great Apostle, by informing him of the murderous plot.†11 The rule includes all oppression, which has more or less of the character of murder.†12

Excuses are always at hand for slightly passing over their sad condition — We knew it not — we knew not your state, how you came into it, or how to help you out of it. But the true reason is, as Bishop Sanderson has stated it — ’We want charity, but abound in self-love. Our defect in that appeareth by our backwardness to perform our duties to our brethren; and our excess in this by our readiness to frame excuses for ourselves.’†13 But doth not God, who hath a balance for every thought, know thy brother’s wants, the sorrow of his heart, and the grief that presses down his soul? Doth not he consider the excuse of ignorance to be the mere cover for selfishness? Vain is it to plead ignorance before the All-seeing God. He that pondereth the heart will thoroughly sift; his Omniscience will perfectly know; his retributive justice will render. Disinterested kindness will be considered.†14 But to forbear deliverance — whether from cruelty,†15 selfishness,†16 or fear of personal consequences†17 — involves an awful account.

But how much more guilty to forbear the deliverance of immortal souls! — in ignorance, ungodliness, or unbelief, drawn unto death, and ready to be slain! Ought they not to be the objects of our most yearning anxiety? What shall we then say to that frozen apathy, which forbears to deliver? ’We have no right to judge — we knew it not — "Am I my brother’s keeper?" (Genesis 4:9 .) It is no concern of mine.’ But might not many a soul have started back from ruin, had but the discovery of his danger been made, ere it was too late? Yet the one word, that might have saved, was forborne. Is there no brother, child, or neighbor, who may pierce the conscience to eternity with the rebuke — ’Hadst thou dealt faithfully with my soul, I had not been in this place of torment.’ (James 5:19-20 .) If others may charge us with the bodies of our fellow-creatures, God commits their souls to our care. The Lord preserve us from an indictment in the court of heaven for the murder of our brother’s soul, by forbearing to deliver!

And does not this ring a solemn peal of warning to those, whose special office it is to deliver them that are drawn unto death?We knew it not.’ But ought we not to have been "watching for souls, as those that must give account"? (Hebrews 13:17 .) And what will be the tremendous reckoning for those, who perish by the neglect of their pledged and divinely-appointed guardians! "While thy servant was busy here and there" — upon his own pleasure — the soul "was gone!" "But his blood will be required at the watchman’s hand."†18

Footnotes:

†a ’To deliver them that are ready to be slain. If thou forbear. First — he layeth down the duty. Then he adds the warning, armed with a thunderbolt of retributive judgment upon the forbearance.’ — Schultens.

†1 1 Samuel 24:11 ; 1 Samuel 26:18-20 . 1 Kings 21:8-13 .

†2 Psalms 82:3-6. Compare Baruch, Baruch 6:35-38 — where the idols are proved to be no gods, because they cannot do the work of God here delegated to the magistrates as his representative.

†3 Exodus 1:13-17.

†4 Esther 3:6-13; Esther 4:13-14 ; Esther 8:4-6 .

†5 Job 29:12-13, Job 29:16-17 .

†6 1 Samuel 19:4 ; 1 Samuel 20:26-33 .

†7 1 Kings 18:4 .

†8 Jeremiah 26:24; Jeremiah 38:11-13 .

†9 Jeremiah 40:13-16.

†10 Daniel 2:12-15.

†11 Acts 23:16-22.

†12 Compare Sirach 34:21-22 .

†13 Bishop Sanderson’s Assize Sermon on this text.

†14 Jeremiah 38:7-13; Jeremiah 39:16-18 .

†15 1 Samuel 22:9-18 .

†16 1 Samuel 25:10-11 . Luke 10:30-32 .

†17 John 19:4-13.

†18 1 Kings 20:39-40 . Ezekiel 33:8 . See Doddridge’s striking Sermon on this text given from his works in Williams’s Christian Preacher.

Verses 13-14

Honey was the choice procuct of Canaan;†1 the food of its inhabitants,†2 even of children;†3 good and sweet to the taste. ’So,’ when "the spiritual senses were exercised,"†4 ’shalt thou find the knowledge of wisdom unspeakably delectable to thy soul;’†5 — that knowledge of Christ, without which we are undone, and in which we are supremely happy.†6 Eating only can convey, what the most accurate description fails to give, a just perception of the sweetness of the honey-comb. (Judges 14:18 .) Experimental knowledge alone gives spiritual discernment, and proves the gospel to be, not a golden dream, but a divine reality. And who ever mistakes honey for any other substance? Who would not instantly detect a counterfeit? And what intelligent Christian would mistake the semblance of heavenly wisdom for its substance? ’Lord! I have long wanted the true manna; all my former food was nothing but empty husks.’†7 Truly indeed the soul, hungering for bread, and feeding upon an experimental apprehension of Christian doctrine, realizes solidly what no formalist ever knows. He possesses a plausible shadow — emotion, impulse, conviction, external reformation. (Hebrews 6:4-5 .) But the living faith carries its own witness with it. ’It is all true — "I believed, and therefore have I spoken."’ (2 Corinthians 4:13 .) The treasure is found with the transport of Archimedes — bringing its own reward.†8

The expectation of the finder, so far from being cut off, shall be infinitely exceeded. "The love" that is manifested "passeth knowledge." (Ephesians 3:19 .) "The peace" that is sealed "passeth all understanding." (Philippians 4:7 .) "The joy" that is felt is "unspeakable, and full of glory." (1 Peter 1:8 .) Shall we then timidly exhibit these privileges, as if they would lower the obligations of holiness, or paralyze exertion? They are not opiates, but cordials. They invigorate, while they refresh. Depression unnerves; fear enchains; but "the joy of the LORD is strength." (Nehemiah 8:10 .) It inspires energy, elevates hope, and makes our ’service perfect freedom.’

Footnotes:

†1 Exodus 3:8 . Ezekiel 20:6 .

†2 Judges 14:9. 1 Samuel 14:27 . Matthew 3:4 . Luke 24:41-42 . Compare Sirach 39:26 .

†3 Isaiah 7:15.

†4 Hebrews 5:14.

†5 Bp. Hall. Proverbs 16:24 . Psalms 19:10 ; Psalms 119:103 .

†6 Philippians 3:8. ’Lo! this’ — says good Bishop Hall — ’is the honey that I desire to eat. Give me of this honey, and I shall receive (like Jonathan of old, 1 Samuel 14:29 ) both clearness to mine eyes and vigor of my spirits, to the foiling of my spiritual enemies.’ — Soliloquies, liv.

†7 Augustine.

†8 Compare Jeremiah 15:16 .

Verses 15-16

Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place: 16 For a just man falleth seven times,†a and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

The wise man breaks off his affectionate counsel to the children of God, with a solemn warning to the wicked man. Should we exclude him from the circle of instruction? If he be left unconverted, it is his own guilt. But if he be unwarned, uninstructed, beware lest "blood-guiltiness" be charged.

Hatred to the righteous is deeply rooted in the wicked man.†1 He imagines, especially if he be in power,†2 that he can tyrannize over them with impunity. But it is venturing upon a hazardous course — "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye." (Zechariah 2:8 .) "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest!" — struck the most relentless persecutor "trembling"†3 to the earth. The plots against their dwelling, the spoiling of their resting-place, may prosper for a while;†4 but if the just man falleth seven times, overwhelmed with the assault, he riseth again (Psalms 37:24 ), falling into trouble, not falling under it; yea, rather standing firm under it. Courage, then, — poor afflicted soul! Look thy foe in the face, and sing triumphant — "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, though I fall I shall rise again. (Micah 7:8 .) He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea in seven shall no evil touch thee. Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust, that he will yet deliver. Cast down, but not destroyed."†5 Here is our conflict, and our security. The life is untouched; yea — it is strengthened, and "made manifest," by the successive supplies of upholding mercy.†6 Many trials cannot overwhelm the righteous.†7 But one is sufficient to sweep away the wicked. He falleth into mischief;†8 and there is no rising again;†9 no recovery, no remedy. He lies where he falls, and he perishes where he lies. Sinner! whatever be thy wickedness; the LORD save thee from the millstone of condemnation — the persecuting of the saints of God!†10

Footnotes:

†a The common quotation of this is seven times a day; for which Bp. Patrick observes there is no authority but some corrupt edition of the Vulgate.

†1 Proverbs 29:27. Genesis 3:15 . Psalms 37:12, Psalms 37:32 . 1 John 3:12 .

†2 1 Samuel 19:11 . Acts 12:1-3 .

†3 Acts 9:5-6.

†4 Psalm 59. Title ({For the Chief Musician; set to Al-tashheth. A Psalm of David. Michtam; when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him.}. Acts 8:3-4 .

†5 Job 5:19. 2 Corinthians 1:10 ; 2 Corinthians 4:9 .

†6 2 Corinthians 4:11 .

†7 Psalms 34:19; Psalms 37:39-40 . 1 Corinthians 10:13 .

†8 Psalms 7:13-16; Psalms 9:16 .

†9 Job 15:30. Amos 8:14 .

†10 The just man rising from his fall is most unwarrantably applied to the perseverance of the saints. The word fall frequently occurs in this book; but always in reference to trouble, not sin. (Proverbs 11:5, Proverbs 11:14 ; Proverbs 13:17 ; Proverbs 17:20 ; Proverbs 26:27 ; Proverbs 28:10, Proverbs 28:14, Proverbs 28:18 .) The antithesis obviously fixes this meaning. ’There are plain texts enough to prove every scriptural doctrine. But pressing texts into any particular service, contrary to their plain meaning, not only serves to deceive the inconsiderate, but to rivet the prejudices, and confirm the suspicions, of opposers; just as bringing forward a few witnesses of suspicious character would cause all those, however deserving of credit, who should be examined in the same cause, to be suspected also, and create a prejudice against it in the minds of the court and of all present.’ — Scott.

Verses 17-18

Yet did the chosen people of God rejoice with divine exultation in the fall of their enemies. (Exodus 15:1 .) Nay — is not this joy the triumph of the righteous?†1 Is it not the adoration of heaven, as the manifested glory of God?†2 But how different is this sublime sympathy in the triumph of the Church, from the malignant joy of private revenge! A secret, if not an avowed, pleasure in the fall of an enemy, is nature’s impulse.†3 But what has grace done for us, if it has not overcome nature by an holier and happier principle? David "wept and chastened his soul" in his enemy’s affliction.†4 David’s Lord wept in the prospective ruin of the infatuated race, fraught with malignity against himself. To rejoice in the fall of an enemy, would be to fall deeper than himself; to fall not into trouble, but into sin; to break the commandment, which enjoins us to "love our enemies" (Luke 19:41-44 ), and to repay cursing with blessing and prayers. (Matthew 5:44 .) This selfish cruelty is most hateful to God. (Proverbs 17:5 . Zechariah 1:15 .) It has often turned away his wrath from the criminal to the mocker at his calamity.†5 Does the glass of the word shew our character in the sin that is rebuked, or in the contrast of our compassionate Lord?

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 11:10 . Job 22:19 . Psalms 58:10 .

†2 Revelation 15:3-4; Revelation 18:20 ; Revelation 19:1-6 .

†3 Psalms 35:15-16; 2 Samuel 16:5-7 .

†4 Psalms 35:13-14. 2 Samuel 1:11-12 . Compare Job 31:29 .

†5 ’Lest the LORD be angry, and turn his wrath from him to thee’ — Bp. Coverdale. Compare Judges 16:25-30 . Micah 7:10. Edom, Lamentations 4:21-22 . Ezekiel 35:15 ; Ezekiel 36:5-7 ; Obadiah 1:10-14 ; Tyre, Ezekiel 26:2 ; Babylon, Psalms 137:7-9 ; Isaiah 51:22-23 ; Lamentations 1:21 . Moab, Jeremiah 48:26-27 ; Ammon, Ezekiel 25:1-7 .

Verses 19-20

This fretting must be a deep-rooted disease, to need such repeated discipline. (Proverbs 24:1 ; Proverbs 23:17 .) One moment’s recollection of our mercies might shew, how little reason there is for it. Mercies infinitely more than we discover might be sufficient to sweep the clouds from our sky, and to make us ashamed of our despondency. Before — the envy of the wicked was checked by the remembrance, that there was an end — surely an happy end to the righteous. (Proverbs 23:18 .) Let them wait for it. It will not disappoint them. Here we are further reminded, that there is no end,†1 no reward, to the evil man. Leave him to his judge. His candle, notwithstanding all his efforts to keep it burning,†2 shall be put out.†3 Sometimes in bold daring he puts out his own candle. ’I give’ — said the infidel Hobbes — ’my body to the dust, and my soul to the Great Perhaps. I am going to take a leap in the dark.’ Alas! — was it not a leap in the dark, — into "the blackness of darkness for ever"?

Take then the balance of eternity. Learn neither to overvalue the fancied sunshine of the wicked, nor to undervalue our own real happiness. Envy not his lot. Repine not at our own. Ours is far beyond his reach. His is far below our envy. ’His candle burneth; his prosperity flourisheth, until it hath kindled hell-fire; and then it is extinguished; whereas the lamp of the godly is put out here, to shine as a star in heaven.’†4

Footnotes:

†1 Same word in Hebrew as Proverbs 23:18 . ’There shall be none end of plagues to the evil man.’ — Old version.

†2 1 Kings 21:21, with 2 Kings 10:1-7 .

†3 Proverbs 13:9; Proverbs 20:20 . Job 18:5-6 ; Job 21:17 .

†4 Jermin in loco.

Verses 21-22

(Proverbs 24:21 quoted in the NT: 1 Peter 2:17 )

We have another affectionate exhortation to the fear of God. (Proverbs 23:17 .) And what wonder? Is it not the substance of our holiness and our happiness? Oh! reverence his majesty. Acknowledge thy dependence upon him. Be as careful in "walking before him" in thy secret thoughts, as in thy outward conduct. No more allow the indulgence of a sinful motive, than a gross sin. If there be no rod of outward shame, will not the thought keenly pierce thy heart — how unkindly does this defilement requite such unspeakable love!

The connection between the fear of God and the King is not local or accidental. Our Lord and his Apostles have thus linked together the throne of his supremacy in heaven, and the throne of his majesty on earth.†1 The one principle indeed is the spring of the other. Disloyalty has often been a libel upon godliness. But the Christian is loyal, because he is godly. (1 Samuel 24:6 .) "Subjection to the powers that be" is repeatedly inculcated,†2 and revolt is visited with the most heavy condemnation.†3 Yet there is no interference with the primary obligation. Solomon ’puts God before the king, because God is to be served in the first place, and our obedience is to be given to the king only in subordination to God, and not in those things, which are contrary to the will of God.’†4

Man’s independence however naturally kicks against submission. The popular cry is for the voice and sovereignty of the people; a plain proof, that "there is no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ); since the picture of those demagogues has been drawn to the life nearly two thousand years ago — "walking after the flesh, despising government, presumptuous, self-willed, not afraid to speak evil of dignities."†5 Such men love change for the sake of change. To become leaders of a party, they disturb the public peace by proposing changes, without any promise of solid advantage.†6 They would prefer a storm which would bring them into note, to a calm in which they were already quietly secure. They are more eager to fish for a name in troubled waters, than to cultivate those quiet and social virtues, which, if generally cultivated, would restrain the commotion. "O my soul, come not thou into their secret." (Genesis 49:6 .) It is dangerous to meddle with them. To oppose all change, indeed, is to set up a plea of perfection. Every improvement (and where is there not room for improvement?) is a change. But public evils are not to be mended by railing. To be given to change; to undo all that has been done; to alter for the sake of altering; to be weary of the old, and captivated with the new, however untried; to make experiments upon modes of government — is a fearful hazard. It is losing the substance of real good in the dream of imaginary improvements; as if we must undo everything, rather than be idle. This waywardness we see in Korah’s sin;†7 in Absalom’s rebellion;†8 in the continual struggle for royalty in the Israelitish kings.†9 How suddenly did their calamity rise, even when they seemed to be within the grasp of their object!†10 Who knoweth the ruin, which both the Lord and the king†11 may inflict on the despisers of their authority;†12 often fearful beyond precedent, without remedy?

Footnotes:

†1 Matthew 22:21 . 1 Peter 2:17 .

†2 Matthew 17:24-27. Romans 13:1-7 . Titus 3:1 . 1 Peter 2:13-17 .

†3 Romans 13:2. See two valuable sermons by Bishops Horne and Horsley on this text. Agricola’s testimony to the submissive obedience of our uncivilized ancestors is interesting. See Tacitus’ Life of Agricola.

†4 Poole in loco. Compare 1 Samuel 22:17-18 . Daniel 3:16-18 . Acts 4:18-19 ; Acts 5:27-29 .

†5 2 Peter 2:10 . Judges 1:8 . Compare 1 Samuel 10:27 .

†6 ’He that goeth about,’ saith our judicious Hooker — ’to persuade men that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want attention and favorable hearers.’ Ibid. Book i. Sallust admirably remarks of these turbulent innovators, that ’they thought the very disturbance of the established order of things a sufficient bribe to set them at work. That which is wanted in the aptness of their speech is supplied by the aptness of men’s minds to accept and believe it.’ See the whole paragraph opening Hooker’s great work, Eccl. Polit.

†7 Numbers 16:1-13.

†8 2 Samuel 15:10-13 .

†9 1 Kings 16:8-22 .

†10 2 Samuel 15:13 ; 2 Samuel 18:9-16 .

†11 French and Skinner. The best critics (Geier, Dathe, Lavater, &c.) most naturally apply the distinctive term (them both) to the separate persons. The ruin foreboded is thus connected with the persons, who had been described separately as the objects of fear. ’Do not disobey either of them, who knoweth their vengeance?’ — LXX.

†12 2 Samuel 18:7-8 ; 2 Samuel 20:1-2, 2 Samuel 20:22 . 2 Kings 17:21, 2 Kings 17:23 . Ecclesiastes 8:2-5 . Acts 5:36-37 .

Verses 23-26

We have had a solemn exhortation to the people. (Numbers 16:29-33 .) We have now a word to the wise, specially to those in authority. God has given many laws against respect of persons in judgment.†1 It is not good.†2 Nay — rather he rebukes it as an hateful abomination.†3 Let truth be considered, not favor. This is an evil in the Church, as much as in the State. No responsibility is more momentous in our sacred high places, than "doing nothing by partiality."†4 Man, corrupt as he is, often abhors unrighteous judgment.†5 A bad magistrate deprives us of the blessing of good laws.

On the other hand, there is no greater national blessing, than a government rebuking the wicked.†6 This was a part of Job’s God-fearing character.†7 The good blessing that came upon Nehemiah’s upright administration is abundantly manifest.†8 Indeed generally every one will kiss — pay the homage of love and respect†9 — to him who giveth a right answer in judgment. He is a public treasure; "a blessing in the midst of the land." Is not then the responsibility of rulers, and the welfare of thousands depending on them, a quickening impulse to prayer? And may not our want of "godly quietness" be traced to this neglect? (1 Timothy 2:1-2 .

But we are not rulers. Yet are not many of us in authority — Parents — Heads of Families — Teachers and Guardians of the young? Uprightness and consistency alone can maintain that influence so essential to usefulness. For a spiritual ruler to say to the wicked — Thou art righteous, is indeed perfidious dealing with his Divine Master; cruel deceit to immortal souls; hiding the ruin, which he is bound to reveal; acting the part of a minister of Satan under the cover of a minister of Christ. His people will live to curse and abhor him, perhaps throughout eternity. Even the very people that hate both his Master and his message, will kiss his lips that giveth a right answer — a reluctant but honorable witness to his faithfulness.

Footnotes:

†1 Exodus 23:6-8 . Leviticus 19:15 . Deuteronomy 1:17 ; Deuteronomy 16:19 .

†2 Proverbs 18:5; Proverbs 28:21 .

†3 Psalms 82:2-4.

†4 1 Timothy 5:21 . Hooker — in ’reverence and awe unto the prelates, whom Christ hath placed in seats of higher authority over me’ — suggests, that ’the ancient canon be specially remembered, which forbiddeth a bishop to be led by human affection in bestowing the things of God.’ — Eccl. Pol. book vii. c. xxiv. 3, 7.

†5 1 Samuel 8:1-5 .

†6 2 Samuel 23:3-4 .

†7 Job 1:1, Job 1:8 ; Job 29:7, Job 29:11-17 .

†8 Nehemiah 5:7-9; Nehemiah 13:8-11, Nehemiah 13:25, Nehemiah 13:28, with Nehemiah 13:31 .

†9 Compare 1 Kings 19:18 . Psalms 2:12 . Hosea 13:2 .

Verse 27

This rule of prudence applies to all worldly matters. Religion, so far from forbidding, inculcates care and forethought. Much of our domestic comfort hangs upon it. Much inconvenience and suffering flow from its neglect. Acting upon this useful direction, the wise builder first prepares his work without. He collects his materials, calculates upon the quantity required; then he makes his work fit by shaping and bringing them into their place; and afterwards, having all things in readiness, he builds his house. The work was thus prepared for Solomon’s magnificent temple, before the house was built. (1 Kings 5:18 ; 1 Kings 6:7 ) The spiritual house is similarly raised of materials prepared and fitted; and thus it "groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." (Ephesians 2:21-22 .)

But ponder well the care, with which the great work should be prepared. Count the cost anxiously. Consider whether the profession will stand the storms. (Luke 14:28-30 .) Lay the foundation deep upon the Rock. (Luke 6:48 .) Be much in prayer for divine strength. Avoid that outward display, which shames the inconsiderate builder, who begins to build his house, without having thoroughly prepared his work.

Has not the minister of the Gospel special need of preparing his work? An unfurnished minister cannot be "a wise master builder." Even when the foundation is laid, "Let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." Let him look well to the day at hand. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 .) And let all the Lord’s servants weigh deeply their responsibility. Indigested haste, and crude judgment, have blasted many a Christian project. Let us be guided by the well-considered wisdom of experienced men (Matthew 18:17-18 ), and collect our materials from their prudence, forethought, and sound-judging energy. A house will thus be built to the honor of our God, and for the service of his Church.

Verses 28-29

The welfare of society may sometimes constrain to be witness against a neighbor. But never let it be without cause. Yet when compelled to this revolting duty, whatever be the temptation or consequence, deceive not with thy lips. Speak plainly, truthfully, the whole truth. Doeg’s witness against his neighbor was without cause; not from conscience, but from malice. The main fact also was concealed of David’s imposition upon Abimelech, which would have cleared him from the suspicion of treason, and saved his life. (1 Samuel 22:9-10 ; 1 Samuel 21:1-2 .) This garbled witness thus far deceived with his lips, and bears the black stamp of "a deceitful tongue." (Psalms 52:3-4 ; Psalms 120:2-4 .)

Profit is the bait to the thief, lust to the adulterer, revenge to the murderer. But it is difficult to say, what advantage redounds to this evil witness, or what allurement belongs to the sin, save that which Satan himself feels — the love of sin for its own sake, or for the satisfaction that is vainly anticipated from the commission. Should we however be clear from the grosser forms of this sin; yet do we resist the unkind witness against our neighbor, in magnifying his failings, and measuring them with a far stricter basis than our own; rashly censuring his indifferent or doubtful actions; and censuring even his sins with an unchristian intention?

And then — as to indulging personal resentment — it is natural to say, though only in the heart — I will do as he hath done to me. But shall we dare thus to take the sword out of God’s hands, and place ourselves upon his tribunal? "Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will repay — saith the Lord."†1 ’Let wisdom and grace be set to work to extinguish the fire from hell, before it gets head.’†2 Far sweeter will be the recollection of injuries forgotten than revenged. But grace alone can enable us to "forgive from the heart."†3 And yet too often its exercise is so feebly cherished, that natural feelings gain the ascendancy; and, if there be not an actual recompense of evil, there is merely a negative obedience to the rule, a refraining from the ebullition, rather than an active exercise of the opposite principle. The wise man sets out in this book the true rule,†4 more lovely, more constraining, as enforced by the divine example.†5 Humility and tenderness mark the self-knowing Christian, who forgives himself little, his neighbor much.

Footnotes:

†1 Romans 12:19. Compare Genesis 50:16-19 .

†2 Matthew Henry’s Works, p. 459.

†3 Matthew 18:35, with Luke 17:3-5 . ’The excellency of the duty is sufficiently proclaimed by the difficulty of the practice. For how hard is it, when the passions are high, and the sense of an injury quick, and the power ready, for a man to deny himself in that luscious morsel of revenge! To do violence to himself, instead of doing it to his enemy!’ — South’s Sermon on Matthew 5:44

†4 Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 25:21-22 .

†5 Matthew 5:44, with Luke 23:34 . 1 Peter 2:21-23 .

Verses 30-34

Everything around us reads an useful lesson to an observant eye. Every particle of creation may be taxed to furnish its quota to our store of knowledge. We can extract good even from evil, and "gather grapes of thorns, and figs of thistles." Solomon describes with his usual vigor of thought and strength of coloring, and affecting sight, that had passed before his eyes — the field and vineyard of the slothful, grown over with thorns and nettles, and the wall utterly broken down. Instead of turning away, he considered it well, and received instruction. In the solemn contemplation of this picture of desolation, he could not but turn his thoughts to the wretched proprietor. He fancied himself in his house, beholding the sottish being stretched on his bed, and crying out under the noonday sun — Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. Stimulated by this effusion of the torpid animal, the response almost unconsciously forced itself — So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

And yet by some strange delusion, the slothful conceives himself to be wise. (Proverbs 26:16 .) But how manifestly is he void of understanding; without heart to improve his many advantages! He might enrich himself by his field and vineyard. But he has never cultivated or weeded it. The stone wall, raised by some more industrious hand, is broken down; and he is too indolent to repair it. His vineyard is therefore left a prey to every invader; while he lives as a mere animal, in sensual indulgence, bringing himself gradually, but irresistibly, to poverty.†1 Not that he means to come to beggary. He only wants yet a little sleep, a little slumber more — and then he will bestir himself. But this little insensibly increases. Every hour’s indulgence strengthens the habit, and chains the victim in hopeless bondage. His efforts for exertion are only the struggles of the paralytic, without energy or effectiveness. If his dependence is upon his own industry, manual or mental, sloth must hasten on his ruin. In a higher station, it deprives him of the means of using his influence aright, or of employing his talents to any valuable purpose. There is indeed no higher blessing than usefulness; no more affecting lamentation than that of the worn-out laborer, who is conscious that his usefulness is ended. But the slothful is satisfied, that his usefulness should never begin. He is content with a life of utter uselessness. He willfully gives himself up to it; as if indolence was his supreme good, and every kind of exercise the object of his shrinking dread. Such a life can never approve itself to conscience, and assuredly will never escape the condemnation of God. (See Matthew 25:26-36 .) It is poverty to himself. He becomes his own enemy. The springs of solid happiness are impoverished, and the true end of life frittered away.

But let us look at the spiritual sluggard. If a neglected field is a melancholy sight, what is a neglected soul! a soul which, instead of being cultivated with the seeds of grace, is left to its own barrenness; overgrown with the native produce of thorns and nettles. (Genesis 3:18 .) Time, talents, opportunities have been vouchsafed; perhaps the blessing of a godly education added, every encouragement for hopeful promise. But if diligence is needed; if the man must "labor and strive,"†2 then his field must be left, at least for the present. He must have a little more sleep first.†3 And thus he sleeps on, and shuts both eyes and ears against every disturbance of his fatal slumber. Nothing is done or attempted for God, for his own soul, or for his fellow-creatures. His vineyard is left open. All his good purposes are the stone wall broken down. Satan "goes out, and returns at his will."†4 All is devastation and ruin.

Christian! is there no danger of this evil creeping into our religion? No habit is so ruinous. It enervates, and at length stops, the voice of prayer. It hinders the active energy of meditation. It weakens the influence of watchfulness. The way to heaven is steep, rough, hard to climb, immeasurably long, forbidding in its present exercise and doubtful in its end, full of toil and discouragement, devoid of beaming hope and sunshine. This false apprehension checks every step of progress; so that "the soul" — instead of being "a well-watered garden" (Jeremiah 31:12 ), sending forth refreshing fragrance and grateful fruits — relapses into its former wilderness state; laid open to every temptation; and too often ultimately a prey to sensual appetites.†5

Let our Father’s voice be instantly heard — "Son, go work today in thy vineyard." (Matthew 21:28 .) Dost thou not see, that it is overgrown with thorns? Look forward, not backward. Complain not, but decide. Pray not only, but strive. Always connect privilege with practice. Prove the principles of moral character, as well as spiritual experience. Aim at every active exercise, that may strengthen religious habits. ’Surely, if we look to stand in the faith of the sons of God, we must hourly, continually, be providing, and setting ourselves to strive.’ It was not the meaning of our Lord and Savior in saying — "Father, keep them in thy name" — that we should be careless to keep ourselves. ’To our own safety, our sedulity is required.’†6

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 6:10-11. The Roman Satirist gives a lively description of the stirring of the slothful man’s excitement of lust —

’Mane, piger, stertis? Surge, inquit avaritia: eja

Surge: negas? Instat, surge, inquit. Non queo: surge,’ &c.

Persius, Sat. 5. 132, 133.

†2 John 6:27. Luke 13:24 .

†3 See Augustine’s instructive reference to his own case. — Confess. lib. viii. c. 5.

†4 Matthew 12:45. 2 Timothy 2:26 .

†5 Proverbs 23:21. 2 Samuel 11:2 . Ezekiel 16:49 .

†6 Hooker ’On the certainty and perpetuity of Faith in God’s Elect.’

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-24.html. 1846.
 
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