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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 28

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verse 1

The wicked may appear bold in facing danger, so long as they drown reflection, and stupefy conscience. But when conscience is roused, guilt is the parent of fear. Adam knew no fear, till he became a guilty creature. Then, to the searching question — "Where art thou?" — he replied — "I was afraid, because I heard thy voice in the garden, and I hid myself." (Genesis 3:9-10 .) But the wicked flee, not only when their enemies pursue,†1 but when no man pursueth.†2 Yet is not conscience an invisible pursuer, following close, the harbinger of the wrath of God? And there are times, when "the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them;"†3 when "the shadows upon the mountains" shall make their hearts melt away.†4 Cain was terrified with the apprehension of murder, when there was no man, save his own father, living on the earth. (Genesis 4:13-14 .) Many a daring infidel has shewn himself a coward in a moment of sudden danger. In unwelcome thoughts of judgment to come, conscience has turned pale at the question — "Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18 .)

But if guilt brings fear, the removal of guilt gives confidence.†5 The wicked flee; the righteous are bold as a lion. Fearless as the King of the forest,†6 they dare to do anything but offend their God. The fear of him has drowned every other fear. "Though an host should encamp against me" — saith the man of God — "mine heart shall not fear."†7 Moses "feared not the wrath of the king."†8 Caleb and Joshua stood firm against the current of rebellion.†9 Elijah dared Ahab’s anger to his face.†10 Nehemiah in a time of peril exclaimed — "Should such a man as I flee?"†11 The three confessors stood undaunted before the furious autocrat of Babylon.†12 The Apostles’ boldness astonished their enemies.†13 Paul before the Roman governor,†14 and even before Nero himself, "witnessed a good confession."†15 Athanasius before the Imperial Counsel of Heresy; Luther at the Diet of Worms, finely exemplified the lion-like boldness. Nor is this the character of individuals only. The faithful and constant Christian will be bold to walk contrary to the course of this world; outfacing the scorn of men; valiant for despised truth; glorying in a persecuted name. Fearless is he of men. "For if God be for him, who can be against him?"†16 Not less fearless is he of Satan. If he be a "roaring,"†17 he is a chained, lion. "Resist him," and — coward-like, "he will flee from you." (James 4:7 .) If there be a want of boldness, is there not a wound of conscience, neglect of prayer, or want of faith? The boldness itself is the sense of weakness, and divine "strength made perfect in it." (2 Corinthians 12:9 .) When God intends to do great things, he makes us feel, that "without him we can do nothing." (John 15:5 .) Thus pride receives its death-blow, and he receives all the glory to himself.†18

Footnotes:

†1 Deuteronomy 28:25.

†2 Leviticus 26:17. Psalms 53:5 .

†3 Leviticus 26:36. Job 15:21 .

†4 Judges 9:36.

†5 Hebrews 10:22. 1 John 3:21 .

†6 Compare Proverbs 30:30 . 2 Samuel 17:10 . ’This noble animal is the most perfect model of boldness and courage. He never flies from the hunters, nor is frightened by their onset. If their number forces him to yield, he retires slowly, step by step, frequently turning upon his pursuers. He has been known to attack a whole caravan, and when obliged to retire, he always retires fighting, and with his face to his enemy.’ — Paxton’s Illustration of Natural History of Scripture, pp. 295, 296. Pindar refers to the lion as the figure of courage, Isth. iv. Antistr.

†7 Psalms 27:3; Psalms 3:6 ; Psalms 46:2 ; Psalms 112:7 .

†8 Hebrews 11:27. Exodus 10:28-29 .

†9 Numbers 14:6-10.

†10 1 Kings 18:10, 1 Kings 18:17-18 ; 1 Kings 21:20 . 2 Kings 1:15 .

†11 Nehemiah 6:11.

†12 Daniel 3:16.

†13 Acts 4:13.

†14 Acts 24:1-27. Acts 26:1-32 . Romans 1:15-16 .

†15 2 Timothy 4:16-17 .

†16 Romans 8:31.

†17 1 Peter 5:8 .

†18 Bishop Hall has finely worked out this contrast — ’The wicked is a very coward, and is afraid of everything; of God, because he is his enemy; of Satan, because he is his tormentor; of God’s creatures, because they, joining with their Maker, fight against him; of himself, because he bears about with him his own accuser and executioner. The godly man contrarily is afraid of nothing; not of God, because he knows him his best friend, and will not hurt him; not of Satan, because he cannot hurt him; not of afflictions, because he knows they come from a loving God, and end in his good; not of the creatures, since "the very stones in the field are in league with him;" not of himself, since his conscience is at peace.’ — Medit. and Vows, Cent. ii. lxxiv.

Verse 2

Is God concerned in the falling of a sparrow? (Matthew 10:29 .) Surely then much more in the control of kingdoms. (Daniel 4:25 .) Did we realize more deeply our national dependence, we should see the clouds of anarchy and confusion working his wise, mysterious, or gracious purposes. Rival princes desolate the land with the horrors of civil war. (1 Kings 12:16-21 .) A quick succession of princes rises by treason, usurpation, or natural course. (Zechariah 11:8 .) Hence a change of laws, spoliation of privileges, imposition of new burdens, or wasteful expenditure of treasure or blood. Man traces these evils to political causes. But God’s voice speaks from the cloud — "This thing is from me." (1 Kings 12:24 .) For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof. The bloody contentions in our early history, which swept away the flower of our nobility; and those of a later date, which overturned for a time our long-established institutions — did they not betoken the same awful scourge of national transgression? Would that the nation had learnt from her own records of by-gone days, the sound and practical lessons of repentance with all its blessed fruits!†1

But not less must we acknowledge the Divine Hand in the prolongation of the state by men of understanding and knowledge. By a man of this high character the state of Egypt was prolonged by preservation from famine. (Genesis 41:38-39 .) The long and prosperous reigns of the godly kings of Judah strongly contrast with the records of Israel after the revolt.†2 And perhaps this may be a mark of the Lord’s controversy with us; that the detached political parties present few — if any — master-minds — men of understanding and knowledge — men — like Mr. Pitt — of surpassing power or grasp of mind; evidently raised up at a grand national crisis for the prolongation of the state. Such men guided by Christian principle, we would pray might be the counselors of our beloved Sovereign, that her state be prolonged "in all godly quietness." (1 Timothy 2:1-2 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Thus wrote Jeremy Taylor of his own sorrowful times, in his fervid coloring, and deep-toned instructiveness; and with some solemn application to later times. ’It is a sad calamity to see a kingdom spoiled, and a Church afflicted; priests slain with the sword, and the blood of nobles mingled with the cheaper sand; religion made the cause of trouble, and the best of men most cruelly persecuted; government turned, and laws ashamed; judges decreeing in fear and covetousness, and the ministers of holy things setting themselves against all that is sacred. And what shall make recompense for this heap of sorrows, when God shall send such swords of fire? Even the mercies of God, that shall then be made public, when the people shall have suffered for their sins. For I have known a luxuriant vine swell into irregular twigs and bold exrescences, and spend itself in leaves and little rings, and afford but little clusters to the wine-press. But when the Lord of the vine has caused the dressers to cut the wilder plant, and make it bleed; it grew temperate in its vain expense of useless leaves, and knotted into fair and juicy branches, and made account of that loss of blood by the return of fruit. It is thus of an afflicted kingdom, cured of its surfeits, and punished for its sins. It bleeds for its long riot, and is left ungoverned for its disobedience, and chastised for its wantonness. And when the sword hath let forth the corrupted blood, and the fire hath purged the rest, then it enters into the double joys of restitution, and gives God thanks for his rod, and confesses the mercies of God in making the smoke to be changed into fire, and his anger into mercy.’ — Works, vi. 182.

†2 1 Kings 15:25-34 ; 1 Kings 16:8-29 . 2 Kings 15:8-31, with 1 Kings 15:10 . 2 Chronicles 17:1-5 ; 2 Chronicles 32:20-26 .

Verse 3

Unrestrained power is often an engine of oppression;†1 never more so, than when in the grasp of the poor. Place an unprincipled spendthrift in power, and he is a destructive flood in his sphere: greedily serving every advantage by oppression to redeem his substance. A poor man suddenly raised to power, instead of sympathizing with grievances familiar to his former recollection,†2 is usually pre-eminently distinguished by selfishness. Only a fool will admire the splendor of his power, reckless of the mischief, that it is spreading all round. Esther, when raised to a throne from an obscure station, was well reminded to use her power for God; for that some great work was surely intended by the remarkable Providence. (Esther 4:14 .) But a base mind becomes more corrupt from a hasty elevation. The man’s necessities inflame his desires; and being without a spark of generous humanity, he is only bent upon improving his uncertain opportunities for selfish aggrandizement.†3 Some of the rulers in the French Revolution were raised from the lowest ranks. And their oppression was indeed a sweeping rain, leaving no food in fertile districts.

Cheering is the contrast of Him, once poor himself by his voluntary abasement, now raised to honor and glory; yet pitying, not ashamed of, his "poor brethren."†4 Truly his administration is not the sweeping rain of desolation, but "the rain upon the mown grass," rich in mercy. "He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence; and precious shall their blood be in his sight." (Psalms 72:12-14 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Genesis 31:29. Ecclesiastes 4:1 .

†2 Matthew 18:28-30.

†3 ’It is in matter of power’ — as Bp. Sanderson admirably observes — ’as it is in matter of learning. They that have but a smattering of scholarship you shall ever observe to be the forwardest to make ostentation of those few ends they have; because they fear there would be little notice taken of their learning, if they should not now show it when they can. It is even so in this case. Men of base spirit and condition, when they have gotten the advantage of a little power, conceive, that the world would not know what goodly men they are, if they should not do some act or other, to shew forth their power to the world. And then, their minds being too narrow to comprehend any generous way whereby to do it, they cannot frame to do it any other way, than by trampling upon those that are below them; and that they do beyond all reason, and without all mercy.’ — Sermon on Proverbs 24:11-12 . Compare also on 1 Samuel 12:3 .

†4 2 Corinthians 8:9 . Philippians 2:7-11, with Hebrews 2:11-12 .

Verse 4

How responsible is the influence of our profession, acting upon all around for evil or for good! Congeniality of taste directs the choice of our companions. Those who love sin, naturally "have pleasure in them that do it." (Romans 1:32 .) They praise the wicked, because, like themselves, they forsake the law, and "cast it behind them."†1 "The world loveth its own."†2 Each countenances his brother in sin. (Isaiah 12:6 .) Each makes the other’s conduct, not the forsaken law, the standard of action. The wicked may possess some praiseworthy qualities. (Luke 16:8 .) But to praise them for their wickedness, identifies us with them. ’It is fearful to sin; more fearful to delight in sin; yet more to defend it.’†3

The servants of God maintain the same unity of spirit. They cannot call sin by smooth names, and gloss over an ungodly character. If they keep the law, they contend with them that forsake it. Noah thus contended with the ungodly in his day, condemning them not merely in word, but in life; and though "a preacher of righteousness," he preached more powerfully by his life, than by his doctrine.†4 But this contention must be aggressive. We must "reprove," as well as separate from, "the unfruitful works of darkness."†5 Our Divine Master’s open testimony was the grand offense.†6 So let us plainly shew, that his enemies are ours;†7 that we hold neutrality in his cause to be treason. For "he that is not with me is against me." (Matthew 12:30 .)

Oh! the appalling recollection of our former influence for evil! the deadly, perhaps the eternal, injury, which all our subsequent labors have never undone! the encouragement, which our praise of the wicked gave to sin, hardening our companions in their wickedness! What would Manasseh have given to have undone his sin in all its evil consequences upon his son and his kingdom!†8 Intolerable would be the thought of the past, but for the blood which covers the guilt, while it deepens shame and self-abhorrence. (Ezekiel 16:63 .) But let it ever be present before us, as our constraining obligation to redeem what has been lost, as far as may be, by a holy contention against sin, and by the convincing protest of consistent godliness.†9

Footnotes:

†1 1 Samuel 23:23 . Nehemiah 4:17-19 . (E-compiler’s note: these references may be mistakes as they do not seem to correspond with the point being made at this place(?). In performing a search, the only Scripture found that mentions the law being cast behind the back is: Nehemiah 9:26 .)

†2 John 15:19.

†3 Bp. Hall’s Works, 8:36.

†4 2 Peter 2:5 . Hebrews 11:7 .

†5 Ephesians 5:11. Elijah — 1 Kings 18:18 ; Elisha — 2 Kings 3:13 . John — Matthew 3:7 ; Matthew 14:3-4 .

†6 Matthew 15:10-12. Luke 20:19 . John 7:7 .

†7 Psalms 139:21-22. See the rebuke given to a godly king, 2 Chronicles 19:2 .

†8 2 Chronicles 33:15-17, with 2 Chronicles 33:22. 2 Kings 23:26 . Mr. Cecil had deep cause to regret his ineffectual labor to reclaim from infidelity more than one, whom he had plunged into that gulf of ruin.

†9 Philippians 2:15-16. 1 Peter 2:12 ; 1 Peter 3:16 .

Verse 5

Ignorance and knowledge are here contrasted, and each traced to their proper source. The Apostle draws the same contrast. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things." (1 Corinthians 2:14-15 .) This unity of statement is beautiful and instructive. ’The two Testaments, like our two eyes, mutually enlighten us, and assist each other.’†1

Evil men understand not judgment.†2 They know not the true standard of right and wrong, the true way to God, or the end of God’s dealings with them. Their ignorance is willful. (Job 21:14 .) "Having the understanding darkened; because of the blindness of the heart. Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. They call darkness light, and light darkness."†3 The most distinguished scholar is a very fool in understanding judgment; and, except he be humbled in the consciousness of his ignorance, and seek light from above, he will perish in gross darkness. What a curse are learning and intellect without an humble heart!

Nay — sometimes knowledge, no less than ignorance, hinders a right understanding. Where the knowledge of the truth goes before or beyond the power of it, the mind is often perplexed with difficulties, which the less intelligent, but more simple, escapes. When knowledge stands in the stead of faith; when the man reasons, instead of submitting to Divine teaching; knowledge abused becomes a positive hindrance to a correct understanding. Nothing is more revolting to our evil nature, than the study of Scripture, with an earnest and sincere desire to follow its light and teaching.

An undisciplined imagination is also a great hindrance to a spiritual judgment. Let this bright faculty be exercised in giving vivid apprehensions of divine things, and clothing the picture with brilliant but truthful coloring. It may thus, within its own province, be a valuable handmaid to the Gospel. But a ray of faith is better than a rainbow of fancy. The picture, if it be not in immediate connection with the reality, fades away without permanent influence. The feeblest faith, grounded upon the fundamentals of the Gospel, proves a steadfast principle of endurance and triumphant energy, even when under the prostration of natural and intellectual power, "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint."

But pride fastens upon every faculty of man. And this is indeed the general cause. The source of light is despised. (Psalms 10:4 .) Hence "there is none that understandeth," because "there is none that seeketh after God."†4 They that seek the LORD, babes though they may be in intellect, and ignorant in worldly things — shall have an accurate understanding of all things profitable, such as no "natural man" can attain.†5 "The words are plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge." (Proverbs 8:9 .) Many things, dark to human reason, are simplified to humility.†6 The harmony of the divine attributes staggers reason, and can only be apprehended by humble faith. ’In thinking of the justice of the Deity’ (as a reclaimed infidel†7 describes his own conflict) man ’is at first ready to doubt his compassion. But the gospel answers him by the voice of an Apostle — "God so loved the world" that "he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all." — It is then that the penitent sinner apprehends this ineffable mystery. His proud and blind reason had rejected it. His humble and contrite heart profoundly feels it. He believes, because he loves; because he is grateful; because he sees all the goodness of the Creator proportioned to the miseries of the creature. Oh my God! all thy mysteries are mysteries of love, and therefore are they indeed divine.’†8

Again — God’s working is the spring of diligence, not of inertion. Man works, but under the Master-worker. He is free, but under the free-making Spirit, giving him a will for the service. Thus, while active, he is kept dependent.†9 He works with deeper humility, and more assured confidence. (Philippians 2:12-13 .) This is a mystery to reason. But they that seek the LORD understand it. Practical experience shews it to them. Again — how dark are the LORD’s ways to man’s proud reason! Hard dispensation! a world of sorrow! But the child of God, seeking to know "the end," understands them "all to be mercy and truth."†10 Is it not the sharp trial, to probe the wound; the bitterness, to wean from the creature comfort; the burden, to prove "the patience and faith of the saints;" the sifting, to separate the chaff from the wheat; the furnace, to purify the gold? Thus does seeking the LORD expound the mysteries of Providence and grace! We are neither stumbled by the stones, perplexed by the labyrinths, or "discouraged because of" the length and weariness of the way. Those who desire the light shall have it. (John 7:17 .) To those who improve it more shall be given.†11

But — ’I cannot seek — that is — I cannot pray.’ Nor can you do anything right of yourself. But does this discharge you from the obligation? Does it not often mean — if the heart would speak out — ’I have no care for the blessing.’ But suppose the confession to be sincere — ’I cannot pray.’ Then do as you are taught. Carry this confession to the Lord. Repeat it again and again upon your knees. Let not inability be indolence, but faith. Not one of the Lord’s people, but sympathizes with the complaint. The connection of your utter helplessness is most profitable, as confirming the divine testimony. (2 Corinthians 3:5 .) Yet remember the help provided for weakness and ignorance. (Romans 8:26 .) If you cannot pray as you would, pray as you can. Desire — sincere and supreme — is the heart’s real prayer, God’s own work upon the soul.†12 Is this manifest? Wait in the constant use of the means. Be found in the way. (Isaiah 64:5 .) "Light is sown," and the seed in God’s best time will bring the harvest. (Psalms 97:11 .) No one fails to make progress, who is really in earnest. It is a grand mistake to suppose, that some impression must be felt, as the warrant to seek. The only true warrant is the free invitation and promise of the gospel. You must come, if at all, as a sinner, not as a saint; as you are, not as you would be; now, not waiting for some better time or preparation; seeking your fitness in Christ, not in yourself. And then plead his promise — "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37 .) Tell him that you are come on the ground of this promise, and to claim the fulfillment of it — "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." (Psalms 119:49 .) This must prevail. "He cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:13 .)

But if as yet you cannot come thus boldly, do not reason or despond about your state. Ask for divine teaching to understand, and divine grace to follow, the light vouchsafed. No depth of learning, no extraordinary inspiration, is needed. Simplicity, humility, diligence, will bring the unction "from the Holy One, by which ye shall know all things." (1 John 2:20 .) In God’s best time the heart is given, as well as the mind. "The senses are exercised to discern between good and evil." (Hebrews 5:14 .) All is light, because the creative word has been given anew — "Let there be light; and there was light."†13 Are Christians then to be despised as fools? They are the most intelligent people in the world. Fixed at Wisdom’s gate, their religion is divine wisdom; and "Wisdom is justified of her children."†14

Footnotes:

†1 Serle’s Horœ Solitarœ, vol. i. 565.

†2 Psalms 82:5. Jeremiah 4:22 .

†3 Ephesians 4:18. John 3:19 . Isaiah 5:20 .

†4 Psalms 14:2. Romans 3:11 . ’Wickedness’ — Bp. Taylor justly observes — ’corrupts a man’s reasoning, gives him false principles, and evil measuring of things.’ — Sermon before University of Dublin. ’I regard it as a fundamental error in the study of Divinity’ — remarks Professor Franke — ’for any one to persuade himself, that he can study divinity properly without the Holy Spirit. As long as he remains in this error all labor is lost on him.’ — Lect. Paræn. p. 184. ’A grain of true faith is more estimable than a mass of mere historical knowledge.’ — Ib. Idea. Studiosi Theologiæ. A man may as soon read the letter of Scripture without eyes, as properly understand their mysteries without grace.’ — Bp. Beveridge.

†5 Psalms 25:9, Psalms 25:12 ; Psalms 119:98-100, Psalms 119:130 . Matthew 11:25 .

†6 Psalms 25:14, with Proverbs 24:7 .

†7 The French poet and philosopher, De La Harpe.

†8 Quoted in Sheppard’s Thoughts on Devotion, pp. 308-310.

E-compiler’s note: there is a close-quote after the last word in this sentence, but no open-quote (?). I cannot guess from the context & words where the quote might begin & could not find this work by Sheppard on the internet.

†9 Psalms 119:4-5, Psalms 119:8, Psalms 119:10, Psalms 119:32, Psalms 119:173 .

†10 James 5:11, with Psalms 25:10 .

†11 Matthew 13:12; Matthew 25:29 . Compare Sirach 1:26-27 .

†12 Psalms 38:9. Isaiah 26:8-9 . See Homer’s fine description, ’Prayers the daughters of Jove’ — perhaps the most remarkable view of prayer to be found in Heathen literature — as Cowper in his Notes writes — ’well worthy of observation, considering where it is found.’ — Il. I. 502-514.

†13 Genesis 1:3. 2 Corinthians 4:6 .

†14 Luke 7:35. Proverbs 8:34 . Compare Wisdom of Solomon 6:11-16 .

Verse 6

This Proverb is repeated†1 for its valuable instruction. One part of the comparison, implied before, is here expressed — though he be rich. Before, he was described as perverse in is lips. A deeper trait of character is here given — perverse in his ways, or his principles. This is one of those paradoxes, that sometimes stumble the feet even of God’s children. (Psalms 73:2-16 .) A man may walk in his uprightness, and yet be poor. He may be perverse in his ways, and be rich. And yet the poor man, with all his external disadvantages, is better; more honorable, more happy, more useful than the rich, with all his earthly splendor.†2

To come to a solid scriptural decision on this point is of great practical moment. For if we are dazzled with the glitter of this world’s glory, we shall reverse the golden rule (Matthew 6:33 ); and "seek" first the world as our grand object: and "the kingdom of God," the interests of the soul, the stake of eternity, will occupy only the second place; that is — virtually they will be thrust out.

This is a just balance, however counter it may be to common opinion. Dishonesty is the besetting temptation of the poor. (Proverbs 30:9 .) Yet in despite of this temptation, he walks in his uprightness. Is there not a glory around his poverty, infinitely beyond the vain show of this world? The rich man is perverse in his ways; "a double-minded man," endeavoring to walk in two ways;†3 outwardly following godliness, inwardly deceit; pretending to go one way, walking in another. Who can trust him?

So far then as concerns character, the comparison is in favor of the poor. As regards condition — Who would not prefer the lot of Elijah, subsisting upon his barrel of meal, to Ahab in all the glory of his throne?†4 Who does not see a dignity in Paul standing at the bar, that throws the worldly rank of his judges into utter insignificance?†5

But the truth is of general application. Outward superiority only affects our state before God, as increasing proportionably our responsibilities. (Luke 12:48 .) How many will wish, that they had lived and died in obscure poverty, with "a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man" (Acts 24:16 ); rather than have been entrusted with riches; only in the perverseness of their ways to embolden them to sin with a high hand against God and their own souls!

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 19:1. The LXX. translation of this verse, 28:6, is — ’A poor man is better than a rich lie’ — the abstract for the concrete. Compare Proverbs 19:22 . Psalms 62:9 .

†2 There is a fine passage from Cicero, which it is difficult to translate without losing much of its spirit — ’A contented mind is as good as an estate. Frugality is itself a revenue. To be satisfied with one’s lot is to be really and infallibly rich. If landed possessions are most highly valued by shrewd judges of human affairs, as a property, which is least liable to injury; how inestimably precious must true virtue, which cannot be snatched from us by force or by fraud; which cannot be damaged by shipwreck or by fire; which no tempests or political disturbances can change! They alone, who are endowed with this treasure, can be said to be truly rich. They alone possess what is fruitful and durable. What is allotted to them they deem sufficient. They covet nothing. They really want nothing. They require nothing. The wicked and the avaricious, on the contrary, so far from being rich, are in reality miserably poor; inasmuch as they have no certain treasure, and are always impatient for some addition to their stores, never satisfied with their present possessions.’ — Paradox, vi. 3.

†3 Heb. perverse in two ways, James 1:8 .

†4 1 Kings 17:13-15, with 1 Kings 21:1-4, 1 Kings 21:19 .

†5 Acts 24:24-26; Acts 26:27-29 . 2 Timothy 4:16-17 .

Verse 7

Keeping the law is national wisdom and honor. (Deuteronomy 4:6 .) Invaluable is that training, which leads young persons, under the Lord’s blessing, to this happy personal choice. (Isaiah 56:6-7 .) Such are manifestly taught of God, and guided by his Spirit into true wisdom. For suppose a son of polished manners and intellectual endowments, yet without right principle; or one of moderate ability, in an humble walk of life, yet deeply imbued with practical godliness; could we hesitate, which was the wise son, bringing honor to his father’s name? (Proverbs 23:24 .) Yet how often is shame instead of honor, the father’s bitter exercise! For how is his name blotted, when the depraved son, bent upon his own gratification, chooses the companionship of the ungodly, and shortly becomes one of them!†1 Young man! in thy noisy mirth hast thou found solid enduring peace?†2 Let the man of God direct you in the "cleansing thy way, by taking heed thereto according to the word."†3 Let his choice be thine — "I am a companion," not of riotous men, but "of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts."†4 Meet the enticements of thy former companions with a decided protest — "Depart from me, ye evil-doers; I will keep the commandments of my God."†5 Here is honor to thy father, happiness to thyself, usefulness to the Church, meetness for heaven.

Parents! Do we shrink from this overwhelming shame? Let us more diligently, more prayerfully cultivate that wise and holy training of our children, which is God’s appointed ordinance; and which, however long or severely he may try our faith, he will not fail to honor in his fittest time. (Proverbs 22:6 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 19:26; Proverbs 23:19-22 ; Proverbs 29:3, Proverbs 29:15 . Luke 15:13 .

†2 Proverbs 14:13. Ecclesiastes 2:2 ; Ecclesiastes 7:6 .

†3 Psalms 119:9, Psalms 119:11 .

†4 Psalms 119:63.

†5 Psalms 119:115.

Verse 8

What a deadly curse is it to be under the spell of covetousness! Everything that is "honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report," is sacrificed to this idolatrous principle. No laws can bind it. God had fenced in the rights of his poor people with solemn and plain obligations.†1 And he will not suffer their rights to be lightly regarded. "I know" — saith the man of God — "that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor." (Psalms 140:12 .) As a God of equity, often does he make selfishness to punish itself, and even to turn to the advantage of the oppressed.†2 Ill-gotten gains are a dangerous and uncertain possession.†3 A man labors for himself, and his harvest falls into better hands; ’not intending anything of himself; but it is so done through God’s secret Providence.’†4 In this, as in every view, godliness "has the promise of the life that now is." (1 Timothy 4:8 .) It brings "the great gain of contentment" (1 Timothy 6:6 ), and restrains those inordinate desires for wealth, which ruin all right principles, and "drown men in destruction and perdition." (1 Timothy 6:9 .) "A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Luke 12:15 .) Why should we seek to increase our substance by unjust gain, when we have our Father’s promise — "All things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33 ) — yea, when his divine power hath given unto us all things pertaining unto life and godliness? (2 Peter 1:3 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Exodus 22:24. Leviticus 25:36 . Deuteronomy 23:19-20 . Ezekiel 18:13 .

†2 Proverbs 13:22. Job 27:13, Job 27:16-17 .

†3 Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 21:6 .

†4 Diodati. Ecclesiastes 2:26 .

Verse 9

This does not mark the frailty, infirmity, or temptation, that too often interrupts the hearing of the law, and damps the attentive interest; or even the occasional rebellion against the divine commands. The case described is that habitual and obstinate rejection of God, that despises his ordinances, and refuses the instruction of his Ministry. Awful indeed is it, that there should be such a rebel. Yet thus do "the ungodly, while they take God’s covenant into their mouth, hate instruction, and cast his words behind them." (Psalms 50:16-17 .) Nay, even in his church will "they come before him as the people come, and sit before him as his people; they hear his words, but they will not do them." (Ezekiel 33:31-32 .) If the subject thus turneth away his ear from the law of his Sovereign, every prayer that he may present in time of distress his Lord will regard as an abomination. (Proverbs 1:28-29 . Zechariah 7:11-13 .) A fearful thought, that, however speciously and smoothly fashioned, in order to impose upon man, it is no less in the sight of God than a blessing judiciously cursed. Justly is the door of audience closed against the presumptuous hypocrite. ’Great reason that God shall refuse to hear him, who refuseth to hear God.’†1 And what if his language now — "Depart from me" — should be taken out of his mouth at the great day, as the seal of his everlasting doom! (Job 21:14 ; Job 22:17, with Matthew 25:41 .)

A strange contradiction, that this open rejection of God should be connected with any form or semblance of religion! And yet often would the self-deceiver compensate for the disobedience of a plain command by the performance of some external duty. Israel presented "the multitude of sacrifices" as a price for the neglect of practical obligations. "Vain oblations! Incense that was abomination!" (Isaiah 1:11-15 . Psalms 66:18 .) Often now praying at home is an excuse for turning away from hearing the law in God’s own house. Such prayer is solemnly declared to be abomination. Often also is the law of charity and even of bounden duty evaded, to maintain a profession of godliness, hateful in his eyes, who will bring to open shame every hypocritical service. (Matthew 15:8 .) Does God trifle with man? Assuredly he will not suffer man thus to trifle with him.

Be it ever remembered, that godliness is God’s whole service; that "the wisdom from above is without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17 ); that to extol one ordinance at the expense of another; to decry preaching for the sake of commending prayer; is proof alike of a false judgment and an unsound heart. To reject any divine ordinance is proud will-worship; a plain proof, that the privilege has never been enjoyed. For no beggar would slight the door, where he had been used to receive his blessing. Oh my God! let me lie in thine own bosom, or at thy feet, that my will may be lost in thine, and my happiness found in a whole-hearted devotedness to thyself!

Footnotes:

†1 Bishop Reynolds on Hosea 14:8 .

Verse 10

To delight in the enticing of sinners in an evil way, is the very image and aspect of the tempter. But the chief delight, the main effort, is to cause the righteous to go astray. No rejoicing is so great, as when "a standard-bearer fainteth." (Isaiah 10:18 .) Because, while it shews the seducer’s enmity to the truth, it countenances him in his sin. Yet how transient is his joy! Success is his ruin. By the retributive justice of God, he often falls into his own pit. (Proverbs 26:27 .) The snare of Balaam for the people of God ended in his own ruin.†1

The malice of Satan and his emissaries sets out the faithfulness of our Almighty Keeper. "Thou preparest a table fur us in the presence of our enemies," who gnash their teeth at the sight. (Psalms 23:5 .) Even if they succeed for awhile in leading the righteous astray, recovering mercy is in store for them;†2 and brought out of the snare in deep humiliation, the upright, instead of the evil meditated against them, have good things in possession. What good things they are, can never be fully written or thought of. For "eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man." (1 Corinthians 2:9 .) But whatever they be — Christian — take them to thee, claim thy right, and be not robbed of thy portion. And if we have good things in possession, much more we have in reversion "an inheritance undefiled, unfading," of which none can spoil us. (1 Peter 1:4 .) "Who shall separate us from our Father’s love? Neither life, nor death; neither earth nor hell." (Romans 8:39 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Revelation 2:14. Numbers 31:15-16, with Numbers 31:8 .

†2 Psalms 23:3. Luke 22:31-32 .

Verse 11

To be truly wise, and wise in our own conceit, are two things often confounded, but essentially opposite. But though riches do not always bring wisdom (Job 32:9 ), the rich man often pretends to it, and ascribes his success to his own sagacity, though he may be manifestly simple and foolish. The Apostle therefore, with a reference to this besetting temptation, directs a "charge to them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded." (1 Timothy 6:17 .) The prophet brings the wealthy prince of Tyrus on the stage, and shews him to us in all the folly of his conceit. (Ezekiel 28:2 .) Obviously indeed the rich man has many advantages above the poor, in leisure and opportunities of instruction. Yet on the other hand, worldly elevation operates unfavorably. He is shut out from many opportunities of Christian instruction. The atmosphere of flattery clouds that faculty of self-knowledge, which is the basis of true wisdom. And how natural is it to think himself as wise as his flatterers represent him; as much above his neighbors in understanding as in station! Hence he becomes dogmatical in over-weening conceit; fond every way of displaying his fancied superiority. Yet, as in the case of Naaman’s servants (2 Kings 5:13 ), the intelligent good understanding of a poor man may search him out, and see through this false gloss. Specially, when endued with a measure of spiritual understanding, the poor man may expose his superior to just mortification. (John 9:30-34 .) Indeed the universe possesses not a more dignified character than the poor wise man. Did not the incarnate Lord honor this station supremely, by taking it on himself? (Philippians 2:7 .) To walk in his footsteps, in his spirit, is wisdom, honor, and happiness, infinitely beyond what this poor world of vanity can afford.

Footnotes:

Verse 12

"We are made" — said a righteous man — "as the filth of the earth, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day."†1 Yet these are the men, who "bear up the pillars of the state."†2 When therefore they rejoice — when they are raised to honor, — there is great glory.†3 The whole kingdom feels more or less the influence of this national blessing. Godliness is countenanced. Men are protected in the free exercise of their religion. "When Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in the king’s royal apparel, the city of Shushan rejoiced, and were glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor; in every province a feast, and a good day." (Esther 8:17 .) The same result is seen in the experience of the Church. When "the Churches had rest" from the fiery trial, "they were edified and walked in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 9:31 .) And what glory so great, as the sunshine of the enjoyment of their God!

But when the wicked rise to honor, how is this glory eclipsed! The people of God are removed into corners, silenced, hidden. (Proverbs 28:28 .) The light of upwards of an hundred prophets, and even Elijah himself, was hidden for awhile under the tyranny of Ahab.†4 And in every age the power of the wicked, especially under a despotic rule, hides much valuable influence. Yet it is hidden only to the eye of sense. For of those, who "wander about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, in deserts, and caves of the earth," what greater glory could we give, than the divine inscription stamped upon them — "Of whom the world was not worthy"?†5

Footnotes:

†1 1 Corinthians 4:13 .

†2 Psalms 75:3.

†3 Proverbs 11:10; Proverbs 29:2 .

†4 1 Kings 17:2-3 ; 1 Kings 18:4 ; 1 Kings 19:1-4 .

†5 Hebrews 11:37-38. Revelation 12:6 .

Verse 13

God and man each cover sin; God, in free unbounded grace (Psalms 85:2 ); man, in shame and hypocrisy. The sinners here contrasted are chargeable with the same guilt. But how opposite are the remedies adopted, and their several results! The contrast is not between great sins and small, but between sins covered, and sins confessed and forsaken. Whoso covereth the smallest sin, shall not prosper. Whoso confesseth and forsaketh the greatest, shall find mercy. "Love covereth" our neighbor’s sins (Proverbs 10:12 ); pride our own. The proud sinner naturally wishes to be thought better than he is. His sin must have some cover.†1 He must at least give it a good name. (Isaiah 5:20 .) He would cover it, if possible, from himself; putting it out of mind; banishing all serious thoughts; stifling conviction; and then trying to persuade himself that he is happy. To escape evil consequences, a lie is resorted to.†2 Or if the facts are too plain to be denied; ’the worst part is unfounded. We were not in it so much as our neighbor.’ Ignorance, good, or at least not bad, intentions, custom, necessity, strong temptation, sudden surprisal, the first offense; constitutional infirmity; even the decrees of God†3 — one or more are pleaded in palliation. Or to save our honor — rather our pride — the blame must be shifted on another.†4 Even God himself is made accountable — a secret but daring charge! carrying with it its own self-contradiction. Indignantly he challenges the proof, and lays the sin at the right door. (Isaiah 50:1 . James 1:13 .) More commonly, but most wrongfully, it is laid upon Satan. The most of his power is, that he is a tempter. And no claim could he have ever established, had not we willingly sold ourselves to his service. Our father Adam — again — must bear the burden. ’Must our "teeth be set on edge" for the "sour grapes which he ate"?’ (Ezekiel 18:2 .) Must the unborn children be held responsible for the inheritance, which their father lost?’ But it was the nature that sinned, of which we are a component part. We "were in his loins" (Hebrews 7:10 ) at the time, and therefore we share his responsibility. Our own personal sin has ratified the deed by our own free and repeated consent. All these attempted transfers are vain coverings. Conscience bears witness to the truth, that no man takes harm but from himself.

But even this admitted — man with ceaseless ingenuity still attempts to frame a cover for his sin. Some supposed good deeds are put forth as a compensation. (Micah 6:6-7 .) And by balancing good and evil respectively against each other, he hopes to establish some preponderance in his favor. Yet all these fig-leaf coverings (Genesis 3:7 ) for his nakedness only shew his determination to hold his sin, and his pride of heart, which would rather hide it from God himself, than submit to receive free mercy as a self-condemned sinner.

These attempts however to cover sin shall not prosper. The voice of an offended God summoned Adam from his hiding-place to receive his sentence. (Genesis 3:9 .) "The voice of Abel’s blood cried from the ground," and the murderer became "a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth." (Genesis 4:10-12 .) Conscience lashed Joseph’s brethren with the sin of bye-gone days. (Genesis 42:21 .) Saul’s covering his sin cost him his kingdom.†5 "The leprosy of Naaman clave to Gehazi and his seed for ever."†6 The proud accusers of their fellow-sinner were "convicted by their own conscience."†7 "There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves."†8 Their darkest deed is wrought in the open face of an all-seeing God, and "set in the light of his countenance,"†9 to "be proclaimed upon the house-tops" before the assembled world.†10

This unsuccessful attempt to cover sin, while it adds to the guilt,†11 is fraught with misery.†12 The love of sin struggles with the power of conscience. The door of access to God is barred.†13 Christian confidence is clouded;†14 and, unless Sovereign mercy interpose, it must end in the sting of "the never-dying worm." The covering of the disease precludes the possibility of the cure. Only the penitent confessor can be the pardoned sinner.

Long indeed is the struggle, ere every false cover is cut off; ere the heartless general confession — ’We are all sinners’ — is exchanged for the deep-felt personal acknowledgment, "giving glory to God. Thus and thus have I done. Behold I am vile. What shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth."†15 But glorious is the divine victory over pride and sullenness, when the first act of repentance, this first step of return (Luke 15:17-18 ), is heartily accomplished. God needs not confession for his own information. But he demands it for our good. It brings no claim on his mercy. But it is a meetness for the reception of it. Christ has fully satisfied the claims of justice. But the claims must be acknowledged in the humble acceptance of the benefit. The mercy is ready; but the sinner must sue it out — "Only acknowledge thine iniquity." (Jeremiah 3:13 .) Our yearning Father is "waiting" for this moment, "that he may be gracious."†16 There is no further keeping of anger. He shall have mercy, instant reconciliation.†17 Words may be few, while the heart is full. With David it was but a single sentence; but the closet workings of his heart witnessed to the enlargement and ingenuousness of his sorrow.†18 Thus man confesses the debt; God crosses it out from his book; and sweet is the penitent’s song — "Blessed is he, whose sin is covered." (Psalms 32:1 .) The dying thief confesses, and the condemned malefactor is crowned with life eternal. (Luke 23:43 .)

But we must not overlook the distinctive feature of this confession. It is not that of Pharaoh, extorted on the rack;†19 or of Saul and Judas,†20 the stinging of remorse; or of the Pharisees and Sadducees,†21 mere formal profession; or of the harlot,†22 a cover for sin. Penitent faith confesses in the act of laying the hand upon the great sacrifice,†23 and hence draws strength of purpose to forsake all that has been here confessed. For while the hypocrite confesses without forsaking,†24 the hearty forsaking is here the best proof of the sincere confessing.

And this first act of the penitent is matured into the daily habit of the saint. The further we advance, the deeper will be the tone of confession.†25 The moment sin is seen to be sin, let it be laid on the Surety’s Head. Every moment of unconfessed sin adds to its burden and guilt. The thought of a nature estranged from God; a heart full of corruption; sins of youth and age; before and after conversion; against light and conviction, knowledge and love; the sins of our very confessions, their defilement, coldness, and too often self-righteous tendency; all supply abundant material for abasing acknowledgment. Plead the greatness, not the smallness of our sin.†26 Never deem any sin so trifling, as not to need the immediate application of the blood of atonement. Genuine conviction gives no rest, until by the believing apprehension of this remedy the peace of God is firmly fixed in the conscience. As Bunyan so accurately pictured — not at the wicket-gate, but at the sign of the cross, did the Christian find the grave of sin. Here it is lost, forgotten, never found. (Jeremiah 50:20 .)

This evangelical humiliation lays the only solid ground for practical godliness. It is a sorrow full of joy, and not less full of holiness. No Achan will be reserved;†27 no Agag spared;†28 no right hand or right eye favored.†29 It will not be "the unclean spirit going out, and returning to his house with sevenfold influence;"†30 or the man, who leaves his home, but forsakes it not, all his heart and joy being still there. Here the forsaking will be without the thought of returning; yea, with the fixed determination never to return. (Job 34:32 .) It will not be the exchange of one path in the broad road for another more attractive; but the relinquishment of the whole road with all its bye-paths. The inner principles as well as the outer walk; "the unrighteous thoughts," no less than "the wicked ways" will be forsaken heartily and for ever. (Isaiah 55:7 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Cicero stamps confession of wickedness as disgraceful and dangerous (turpis et periculosa. Cont. Verrem, Lib. iii.) Thus does Heathen morality develop the pride of depraved nature.

†2 Cain, Genesis 4:9 ; Rachel, Genesis 31:34-35 ; Joseph’s brethren, Genesis 37:31-35 ; David, 2 Samuel 11:15, 2 Samuel 11:25 ; the adulteress, Proverbs 30:20 . Compare Jeremiah 2:23 ; Peter, Matthew 26:70 ; Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-8 . Is not this a sad propensity in children? The first offense may be trifling. But the fear of punishment induces a lie. Another lie is necessary to cover the first. Every step adds to sin.

†3 Jeremiah 7:10. Compare Calvin’s Institutes b. iii. c. xxiii section 12-14.

†4 Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:12-13 . Compare Job 31:33 ; Aaron, Exodus 32:21-24 ; Saul, 1 Samuel 15:20-21 ; Pilate, Matthew 27:24-26 .

†5 1 Samuel 15:21, 1 Samuel 15:23 .

†6 2 Kings 5:27 .

†7 John 8:9.

†8 Job 34:22.

†9 Job 34:21. Psalms 90:8 .

†10 Luke 12:2-3. Ecclesiastes 12:14 . 1 Corinthians 4:5 .

†11 Isaiah 30:1.

†12 Isaiah 28:20.

†13 Psalms 66:18.

†14 Psalms 32:3-4.

†15 Joshua 7:19-20. Job 40:4 .

†16 Luke 15:20. Hosea 5:15 .

†17 Psalms 32:5. Compare similar examples, 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 ; Jeremiah 31:18-20 ; Jonah 3:5-10 ; Luke 15:21-24 ; Luke 23:40-43 . See also the promises, Leviticus 26:40-42 ; 2 Chronicles 7:14 ; Job 33:27-28 ; Isaiah 1:16-18 ; Isaiah 55:7 ; Ezekiel 18:21-22 ; 1 John 1:9 .

†18 2 Samuel 12:13, with Psalms 51:1-19 . See also his tender dread of covering sin. Psalms 139:1, Psalms 139:23-24 .

†19 Exodus 9:27, Exodus 9:34 .

†20 1 Samuel 24:16-17 ; 1 Samuel 26:3-4 . Matthew 27:4-5 .

†21 Matthew 3:7.

†22 Proverbs 7:14.

†23 Leviticus 16:21.

†24 Pharaoh and Saul, ut supra.

†25 Job 40:4; Job 42:6 . Ezekiel 16:63 .

†26 Psalms 25:11, with Luke 18:11 . Compare Isaiah 43:24-26 .

†27 Joshua 7:1.

†28 1 Samuel 15:20 .

†29 Mark 6:17-20; Mark 9:43-48 .

†30 Matthew 12:43-44.

Verse 14

This Proverb fitly follows the last. Confession precedes, godly fear follows, the reception of mercy, as the end for which it is given, and the proof of its reception. (Psalms 130:4 .) It implies no uncertainly of our safety; but, by guarding us against fresh wounds of conscience, it more firmly maintains our confidence. If we believe and rejoice in the Lord as "our Sun," we would fear him alway as "a consuming fire."†1 This fear is our security.†2

We may here profitably glance at some Christian paradoxes. How is happiness to be found in constant fear? Is fear to be the atmosphere or the spirit of a child of God? Where "love makes perfect," there can be no unquiet rollings or doubtings of heart. (1 John 4:18 .) But godly fear preserves the sunshine, and seals our special acceptance. (Isaiah 66:2 .) We walk with our Father in holy watchfulness and peace. Again — We readily conceive the happiness of trust. (Proverbs 16:20 .) How do we link with it the happiness of fear? So far from fear being contrary to faith, it is a component part of it, or at least its inseparable adjunct (Hebrews 11:7 ); the discipline, that preserves it from presumption. Faith without fear is self-confidence and self-delusion. Nay — the assurance of our "standing by faith" is balanced by an instant and most needful exercise of fear. (Romans 11:20 .) Who grasped a more triumphant confidence than Paul? Yet without presuming upon a long and consistent profession, self-distrust, watchfulness and diligence established his confidence.†3 ’If there be truth in the Christian’s assurance, not sin itself can disappoint him, it is true. But it is no less true, that if he does not fear sin, there is no truth in his assurance.’†4 Instead of being afraid to mix faith and fear, dread their separation. Again — the righteous is bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1 ); yet he feareth alway. But Christian courage, though opposed to slavish, forms the very essence of godly fear. The three confessors were bold before the Babylonish autocrat; yet they so feared to offend against God, that "the burning fiery furnace" was the better alternative in their eyes.†5

Thus is holy fear every way identified with happiness. It is a fear of reverence, not of bondage; of caution, not of distrust; of diligence, not of despondency. In proportion as we are raised above tormenting fear, we cherish a deep reverence of the majesty and holiness of God, a child-like fear of displeasure, a jealousy over our motives, desires, and the risings of our evil propensities, and an abhorrence and shrinking, not only from sin, but from the temptations and occasions of sin. Well does the Christian know the value of this conservative principle; as far removed from legality as from presumption. One, whose mournful experience gives additional weight to his words, warns us, as "sojourners" in a world of evil, and with hearts so often betraying our steps, to "pass our time in fear."†6 If we be surely, we are "scarcely, saved." (1 Peter 4:18 .) Though there be no uncertainty in the end, there is appalling difficulty in the way — "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12 .) The man who stands in his own security, requires the caution more than any. Guard against an unheeding confidence. Keep the sentinel at the door. Watch for the enemy at every turn. Suspect a snake in every path, a snare in every creature. "Feed with fear."†7 "Rejoice with trembling." Yea — "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."†8 None are so established in grace, but in unwatchfulness they may fall into the greatest sin. Live then in constant fear of yourself. This godly fear proves self-knowledge, preserves from self-confidence, produces self-distrust. In wariness against a fall we are most likely to stand. If weakness be our frailty, the consciousness of it is our strength. "When I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10 .) The importance of this principle will be seen by the contrast with its opposite. Fear keeps the heart tender, and the soul safe. Security and presumption harden the sinner, and he falls into mischief. Pharaoh’s hardness of heart, and its consequences, were but the bravery and ruin of the devil.†9 When David’s self-indulgence and carelessness had swept away his tenderness, fearfully did he fall into mischief. (2 Samuel 11:2 .) The latter history of his wise son reads the same awful warning. (1 Kings 11:1-11 .) Peter’s fearlessness, though the fruit of ignorance rather than willfulness, brought him to the very brink of destruction. (Matthew 26:33-35, Matthew 26:41, Matthew 26:74 .)

A deep sensibility of sin is a special mercy. To think what it is; what it may be; that, indulged only in thought, if the Lord restrain not, it will end in apostasy — Oh! dare we trifle with it? The man, who presumes upon it, as too harmless for eternal punishment, and promises himself peace in the way of his own heart — a voice from heaven could scarcely describe the tremendous horrors of his case. Every word of God is a thunderbolt leveled at him.†10 Scarcely less pitiable is the man, who makes light of his eternal state: living without prayer; so much better in his own eyes than his more ungodly neighbors; and fully satisfied with a mere external preparation for eternity. Forget not — Christian Professor — we may be strong in confidence, only because we are sleeping in delusion, or hardened in insensibility. From all the mischief of self-ignorance and ’hardness of heart, Good Lord, deliver us!’†11

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 84:11, with Hebrews 12:28-29 .

†2 Habakkuk 3:16.

†3 Romans 8:33-39, with 1 Corinthians 9:27 .

†4 Leighton on 1 Peter 1:17 . The Romanists — and how many Roman Protestants with them! — have no other idea of fear, than as excluding the certainty of acceptance; whereas its true influence is not fluctuation in doubt, but carefulness in preservation.

†5 Daniel 3:16-18. Genesis 39:9 . Nehemiah 5:15 .

†6 1 Peter 1:17 ; and Leighton in loco.

†7 Contrast Judges 12:1-15 .

†8 Psalms 2:11. Philippians 2:12 .

†9 Exodus 14:5-8, Exodus 14:23 .

†10 Proverbs 29:1. Deuteronomy 29:19-20 .

†11 Litany. Compare Sirach 5:5-7 .

Verses 15-16

15 As a roaring lion, and a ranging†a bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people. 16 The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.

A godly ruler is to a land the clear sunshine of an unclouded morning; the fruitfulness of the springing grass after the rain.†1 But what a curse is a wicked ruler, where arbitrary despotism takes the place of right! We might as well live among the savage wild beasts of the forest. The lion roaring for the prey, and the bear ranging†2 in hunger — the terror of their weaker race — are apt emblems of this tyrant over a poor people.†3 ’No sentiment of pity softens this bosom. No principle of justice regulates his conduct. Complaint only provokes further exactions. Resistance kindles his unfeeling heart into savage fury. Poor and miserable indeed are the people, whom divine anger has placed under his misrule.’†4

Thus indeed injustice is suffered to reign upon a wide scale. A whole nation is afflicted by the ruthless tyranny of one man. Perhaps the scourge extends from the wicked ruler downwards, through all its gradations, to the petty minions of his caprice, delegated with the sword of power. The wise man, in pondering all the material that makes up a world of vanity, could not but take this desolating curse into his account. And so bitter was the view to his own mind, that he would have preferred even death itself or non-existence to the alternative of all virtuous sensibilities crucified by the contemplation of this remediless misery. (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 .)

The princely oppressor may justly be charged with wanting understanding. (Isaiah 3:12 .) Even if he had established a previous reputation for wisdom, yet abused power, with all its alluring corruptions, is enough to infatuate his judgment. The struggle of the love of rule with the better principle often shakes the sound balance, till step by step his conduct loses all traits of wisdom, and exhibits a man — if not wholly deprived of understanding — yet — what is near akin to it — swayed by the tumult of passion. As one proof of his want of understanding, often does his foolish choice of wicked ministers alienate the affections of his people from his person, probably to the shortening of his rule. (1 Kings 12:12-19 .) And thus his perverted power fearfully recoils upon himself.

Widely opposite is the character of a considerate ruler, hating covetousness, and living only for the good of his people. (Exodus 18:21 .) He may usually be expected to prolong his days. ’He may hope to reign long and happily, having his throne erected in the hearts of his subjects.’†5

What need then have rulers to seek for understanding, that they may rule as the fathers of their people! (1 Kings 3:6-9 .) And what cause have we to bless God for our mild and happy government; preserved as we are from wicked despots,†6 who would not stop at any tyranny, that might subserve their selfish purposes!†7

Footnotes:

†a Here (and also in the first paragraph - fourth sentence) the book has "raging," whereas the King James and other versions have "ranging." Both occurrences were changed to match the translation. It is not known if this is a printer’s error, if Mr. Bridges originally wrote "raging" by mistake, or if he felt "raging" was a legitmate translation. He has a footnote (partially in Latin) at this second occurrence, which seems to be explaining "raging" rather than "ranging," but, not knowing Latin, this is not certain. Thus, for those that do, if that footnote does not appear to be properly opening up the word "ranging", this is the reason.

†1 2 Samuel 23:3-4 . Compare Sirach 10:4 .

†2 The name seems to be given from his growling noise when hungry.

’Nec vespertinus circumgemit ursus ovile.’

Hor. Epist. 16:51.

†3 Proverbs 29:2. Zephaniah 3:3 . 2 Timothy 4:17 .

†4 Paxton’s Nat. Hist. Of Script. p. 333. Compare 1 Kings 21:1-7 . Nehemiah 5:15 .

†5 Scott.

†6 1 Samuel 22:17-19 . Daniel 3:6, Daniel 3:19 .

†7 Of Tyndal’s celebrated work — ’The obedience of a Christian Man.’ — Henry VIII. declared — ’This book is for me, and for all kings to read.’ He probably only adverted to those parts, that he might turn to accredit his own selfish rapacity. Well would it have been, had he pondered such important instruction as — ’The king is but a servant to execute the law of God, and not to rule after his own imagination.’ He is brought to the throne — ’to minister unto, and to serve his brethren, and must not think, that his subjects were made to minister unto his lusts.’

Verse 17

The first law against the murderer must not be broken down. Like the law of the Sabbath, it was in force from the beginning. ’It was enacted and published before him, out of whose loins the whole world after the flood was to be repeopled; to shew that it was not meant for a national or temporary ordinance, but for an universal and perpetual law.’†1 The reason given for the command confirms its universal obligation. To destroy "the image of God" must be high treason against God himself. (Genesis 9:6 .) Again did God declare his mind in the Levitical law. No satisfaction must be taken for the murderer. Another reason is given — "Blood defileth the land," and only the murderer’s blood can cleanse it. (Numbers 35:33 .) Nay — even the Heathen judged this awful transgressor to be under the divine vengeance. (Acts 28:4 .) The death therefore of the murderer is an imperative obligation. It is miscalled philanthropy, that protests against all capital punishments. Shall man pretend to be more merciful than God? Pity is misplaced here. The murderer therefore of his brother is his own murderer. He shall flee to the pit, hurried thither by his own horror of conscience,†2 by the sword of justice,†3 or by the certain judgment of God.†4 Let no man stay him. Let God’s law take its course.

Yet we must not cast off his soul. Visiting the condemned cell is a special exercise of mercy. While we bow to the stern justice of the great law-giver, joyous indeed it is to bring to the sinner under the sentence of the law, the free forgiveness of the Gospel; not as annulling his sin, but shewing the over-abounding of grace beyond the abounding of sin. (Romans 5:20 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Bp. Sanderson’s Sermon on Proverbs 24:10-12 .

†2 Deuteronomy 19:13.

†3 1 Kings 2:32 . Exodus 21:14 . 2 Kings 11:15 .

†4 1 Kings 21:19 ; 1 Kings 22:38 . 2 Kings 9:33-37 .

Verse 18

This contrast has been lately drawn. (Proverbs 28:6 .) Indeed the Proverb itself in substance has been given. The "security of the upright," before marked, is here included in his salvation. The hypocrite’s "known"†1 ruin is here set out as complete — at once.†2

This upright walk will shew itself in extreme carefulness; in all doubtful points keeping on the safer side; not venturing upon a precipice, when we can walk upon even ground. This is indeed Christian perfection — "walking before God." (Genesis 17:1 .) There is no need for Jacob’s vision†3 to realize his presence. "Faith seeth that which is invisible."†4 This life may seem to miss much temporal advantage. But what — if the upright be not rich, honorable, esteemed? ’If God shall not cease to be; if he will not let go the reins; if his word cannot deceive — he that walketh uprightly doth proceed upon sure grounds.’†5 He is saved. This one blessing includes all. It is the substance of time, and of eternity. All besides is shadow and vanity. To dwell in the presence of God; in the sunshine of his countenance;†6 in the light and gladness of his joy,†7 and at length in his unclouded glory†8 — such is the salvation of the upright. (Psalms 125:4 .) Christian! would you part with this portion for kingdoms? What earthly comforts can be a substitute for it? This supplies the place of all.

Any want of uprightness will bring the child of God under the rod. But he that is perverse in his way will fall at once. None of his many shifts shall prosper. (Psalms 125:5 .) His double ways, and his vain attempt to "serve two masters," only bring him to shame. (Matthew 6:24 .) What need have I in the highest walk of conscious integrity still to cry — "Redeem me, and be merciful unto me"! (Psalms 26:11 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 10:9.

†2 Proverbs 24:16; Proverbs 29:1 .

†3 Genesis 28:17.

†4 Hebrews 11:1, Hebrews 11:27 .

†5 Barrow’s Sermons. Psalms 140:13 .

†6 Psalms 11:7.

†7 Psalms 97:11.

†8 Psalms 15:1-2. Revelation 14:5 .

Verse 19

This Proverb also has been given before. (Proverbs 12:11 .) Such memories and hearts as ours need "line upon line" in the enforcement of practical obligation. (Isaiah 28:13 .) If labor be a penal ordinance,†1 such a blessing is included in it, that its removal would diminish our most substantial source of happiness. Man was not born to be a stone without energy; or a machine, to be moved by mere passive force. Our true happiness is active dependence. Habits of diligence are the means of working it out fruitfully. The earth "bringeth forth of itself only thorns and thistles." But he that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread.†2 The blessing comes, not by miracle, to encourage sloth; but in use of means, to stimulate exertion.

The contrast to this plenty of bread is poverty enough. The prodigal is a warning beacon. "In his father’s house," doubtless engaged in active exercise, "there was bread enough, and to spare." When in his waywardness he left his plenty, and followed after vain persons, soon he found poverty enough — "I perish with hunger." (Luke 15:17 .) Idleness is a sin against God, against our neighbor, against ourselves. "Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord" — is the rule of prosperity in this world’s concerns; much more in the momentous concerns of eternity.†3

Footnotes:

†1 Genesis 3:19.

†2 Genesis 3:18, with Proverbs 14:4 ; Proverbs 27:23-27 .

†3 Romans 12:11. Ecclesiastes 9:10 .

Verse 20

The study of the contrast shews the definite meaning of the terms. A faithful man is opposed, not to the rich, but — mark the careful accuracy — to him that hasteth to be rich. A man may be rich by the blessing of God.†1 He hasteth to be rich by his own covetousness. (1 Timothy 6:10 .) He may be rich, and yet faithful. He hasteth to be rich at the expense of faithfulness.†2 The faithful man makes no loud profession. But he bears to be looked at, even in the veriest trifles. (Luke 16:10 .) He is true to his word. He fulfills his engagements. He has only one principle — "unto the Lord;" under his eye; in his presence; "to his glory."†3 Try his principle by a worldly bait. He will prefer his conscience to his interest. He would rather be poor by Providence, than rich by sin. This is the "man of faithfulness. Who shall find him?"†4 But when you have found him, mark his abounding blessing; blessings covering his head;†5 blessings for both worlds.†6 Is there not infinitely more promise in the ways of God, than in the ways of sin? Be the path ever so tried and perplexed, only let it be a straight path,†7 and the Lord’s sunshine will cheer it. ’In the hand of God’ — saith a wise man — ’is the prosperity of man.’†8

But the man who has no faith, can only walk in a crooked path. He leaps over every bound of principle. He hasteth to be rich. He cannot wait for God in the path of Christian diligence. The promise does not run fast enough for him. He becomes rich too soon; he scarcely knows or cares by what means; by any means, rather than lose his grasp. Yet all this haste is only to his own ruin. Instead of abounding with blessings, he shall not be innocent. Jacob, as a faithful man, was paid with full wages for his work. Though his master dealt hardly, God dealt bountifully with him. He abounded with blessings; while Laban, hasting to be rich, was impoverished. (Genesis 31:7-9 .) ’I will study more’ — said good Bp. Hall — ’how to give account of my little, than how to make it more.’

Hard indeed, if not impossible, is it to hold fast innocency in this path of temptation.†9 ’Yet how does the Scripture combat the vice of covetousness? Not by asserting, that gold is only earth, exhibiting itself under a particular modification, and therefore not worth seeking; but by telling us, that "covetousness is idolatry," that "the love of money is the root of all evil;" that it has occasioned in some even the "shipwreck of their faith," and is always, in whomsoever it obtains, an abomination?’†10 Even if no criminal means be resorted to, yet the immoderate desire, the perseverance in every track of Mammon, the laboring night and day for the grand object, the delight and confidence in the acquisition (Job 31:25 ) — all prove the idolatrous heart (Job 31:24, Job 31:28 ), and will not go unpunished. "They that will be rich — that haste to be rich — fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, that drown men in destruction and perdition. But thou, O man of God, flee these things." (1 Timothy 6:9-11 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 10:22. Genesis 24:35 . 1 Kings 3:13 .

†2 Proverbs 28:22. Proverbs 19:2 ; Proverbs 20:14 . Even the heathen moralists could see this —

OudeiV eplouthse tacewV dikaioV wn. (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English). Menander.

. . . . . ’Nam dives qui fieri vult,

Et cito vult fieri; sed quæ reverentia legum?

Quis metus, aut pudor est unquam properantis avari?’ Juv. Sat. 14. 176-178.

†3 Colossians 3:23. 1 Corinthians 10:31 .

†4 Heb. Proverbs 20:6 . Matthew 24:45 .

†5 Proverbs 10:6.

†6 Psalms 37:37; Psalms 112:1-10 . Isaiah 33:15-16 .

†7 Proverbs 4:26-27. Hebrews 12:13 .

†8 Sirach 10:5.

†9 2 Kings 5:25-27 . Compare Proverbs 13:11 ; Proverbs 20:21 ; Proverbs 21:6 .

†10 Cowper’s cursory Remarks on Carrocioli. Works. Southey’s Ed. vii. 273.

Verse 21

This Proverb has been more than once repeated.†1 The act itself is not good. It is positive transgression. The principle is worse — sordid selfishness. Here is perhaps a man, not of slavish or of naturally degraded mind, but — such is the debasing influence of lust! — a man of weight and influence; and yet abusing his power for his own ends. It is a rich man, or a relation, or he is under some obligation, and therefore he has respect of judgment. Now what is right to the rich, is right to the poor. Thus to trample the poor under foot, the Judge of all counts rebellion against his own just standard.†2 Principle once overpowered seldom regains its ascendancy. Each successive trial proves its weakness; till he, who once thought himself able to resist a large bribe, for the veriest trifle will break with God and his conscience. For a piece of bread that man will transgress.†3

Is not this, alas! a pulpit sin? Is the Minister never drawn away from godly simplicity by some interested motive? — to transgress his broadly-marked obligation for a piece of bread? In olden times this was a besetting temptation of the sacred office.†4 Let the beacon be solemnly regarded.

In ordinary life, a man’s bread hanging upon favor, is a strong temptation to transgress upright principles. Cowardice and unbelief shelter themselves under the cover of prudence. Christian reproof is neglected from fear of losing custom or advantage. Our interest is preferred to God’s. And a plain scripture obligation is put away for a piece of bread. (Leviticus 19:17 .) Are Christians wholly guiltless in this matter? Is not conduct sometimes ruled by the fear of man, rather than by "trust in God"? (Proverbs 29:25 .) Let the temptation be resisted at the first step, manfully, prayerfully, in the Lord’s strength; and the victory is gained.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 18:5; Proverbs 24:23, and references.

†2 Transgression in this place is the same word as rebellion. Isaiah 1:2 . See also 1 Kings 12:19 . 2 Kings 1:1 ; 2 Kings 3:5 .

†3 Amos 2:6. Cato used to say of M. Cœlius the Tribune, that ’he might be hired for a piece of bread to speak, or to hold his peace.’

†4 Ezekiel 13:19. Micah 3:5 . 2 Peter 2:3 .

Verse 22

Another warning word! "Take heed, and beware of covetousness." (Luke 12:15 .) "The lust of the eye" (1 John 2:16 ) is a deadly blast upon the soul. Abraham was rich without haste, with God’s blessing. (Genesis 13:2 .) Little did Lot consider that his haste to be rich was the highroad to poverty. But step by step he "entered into temptation."†1 Every worldly prospect was blasted; and he ends his days, a poor, forlorn, degraded tenant of the desolate cave of Zoar. (Genesis 19:30 .) Thus he who sought the world, lost it; he who was ready to lose it, found it. When Ahab’s evil eye envied Naboth the enjoyment of his vineyard; when Jehoiakim was grasping by unjust means all that came into his reach, little did they consider, how this haste to be rich would end in disgrace.†2 But many and loud are the warnings against covetousness, ending in shame, and filled with the curse of an avenging God.†3

"Man of God! Make a covenant with thine eyes;"†4 else thou canst never hold thy covenant with thy God. Remember — Not he who knows, but who loves, most the things of heaven, will be most deadened to the riches of earth. The evil eye fixed on earth, can never look above. So much as thou lovest earth, thou losest of heaven. Is it not thy shame, that if heaven be thy possession, thou shouldest have so much interest there, and yet so few thoughts, so little love? Keep down most carefully thine anxiety to rise in the world. For in its highest glory there is nothing worthy of thine heart. Keep the things of earth as thy outer garment, which thou canst "lay aside," when it entangles thee in the heavenly race. (Hebrews 12:1 .) But keep heaven next to thine heart — thy treasure — thy love — thy rest — thy crown. Happy to be of the mind of the holy Bishop, who, when he heard of the ruin of all his property by the plunder of the Goths — looked up — ’Thou knowest where my treasure has long been!’†5

Footnotes:

†1 Genesis 13:10-13; Genesis 14:12 .

†2 1 Kings 21:2, 1 Kings 21:18-19 . Jeremiah 22:13-19 .

†3 Proverbs 23:5, with Job 20:18-22 ; Job 27:16-17 . Jeremiah 17:11 . Luke 12:19-20 .

†4 Job 31:1. Psalms 119:36-37 .

†5 Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, in the fifth century.

Verse 23

Too often the flatterer finds more favor than the reprover.†1 ’Few people have the wisdom to like reproofs that would do them good, better than praises that do them hurt.’†2 And yet a candid man, notwithstanding the momentary struggle of wounded pride, will afterwards appreciate the purity of the motive, and the value of the discovery. ’He that cries out against his surgeon for hurting him, when he is searching his wound, will yet pay him well, and thank him too, when he has cured it.’†3

Unbelief, however, palsies Christian rebuke. Actual displeasure, or the chilling of friendship, is intolerable. But Paul’s public rebuke of his brother Apostle produced no disruption between them. Many years afterward Peter acknowledged his "beloved brother Paul" with most affectionate regard.†4 The Apostle’s painful rebuke of his Corinthian converts eventually increased his favor with them, as the friend of their best interests.†5 The flatterer is viewed with disgust;†6 the reprover — afterwards at least — with acceptance.†7 A less favorable result may often be traced to an unseasonable time,†8 a harsh manner, a neglect of prayer for needful wisdom, or a want of due "consideration" of our own liability to fall. (Galatians 6:1 .) Let us study the spirit of our gracious Master, whose gentleness ever poured balm into the wound, which his faithful love had opened. A rebuke in this spirit is more like the support of a friend, than the chastening of a rod.

Footnotes:

†1 1 Kings 22:6-8, 27. Jeremiah 26:7-8 .

†2 Dr. South. See his Life.

†3 Henry.

†4 Galatians 2:11-14, with 2 Peter 3:15 .

†5 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 . with 2 Corinthians 2:1-10 .

†6 Proverbs 27:14.

†7 Proverbs 9:8; Proverbs 27:5-6 . Psalms 141:5 . Compare Sirach 7:5 . Alas! that the example of godly Asa should present an exception to the rule! 2 Chronicles 16:7-10 . When Bernard Gilpin publicly rebuked church abuses before his diocesan, instead of incurring his displeasure, the bishop treated him with marked favor. ’Father Gilpin’ — said he — ’I acknowledge you are fitter to be bishop of Durham, than I am to be the parson of your church.’ Life of Bp. Carleton, p. 58. When the philosopher asked Alexander the reason of his dismissal — ’Either’ — replied the monarch — ’thou hast not marked my error, which is a proof of thy ignorance; or thou hast held thy peace, which is a proof of thy unfaithfulness.’ — Plutarch’s Life.

†8 Proverbs 15:23.

Verse 24

This aggravation of sin is proportioned to the obligation of duty. A murderer is an heinous transgressor; how much more a parricide! To rob a stranger, a neighbor, a friend, is evil; how much more a father and mother! The filial obligation of cherishing care is broken. Ingratitude is added to injustice. What length of wickedness will such an hardened sinner stop at! Could we wonder to see him the companion of a destroyer? This sin is however often committed without sensibility,†1 as if the children might dispose of their parents’ property at their own will. These robbers would ill brook the name of thieves. But God, who sees men as they are, and judges of them in sure balances, ranks them among "the wicked," and will deal with them accordingly. (Proverbs 21:7 .)

Nor is this guilt confined to the grosser outrage. Surely it is no better, when the young spendthrift wastes his father’s property, and counts it no transgression to incur debts on his account without his knowledge or consent. (Proverbs 19:26 .) Our Lord adverts to another species of robbery — the denial of the absolute duty of providing for parents; and this under the pretense of devotedness to God! (Matthew 15:5-6 .) But the gospel admits of no compounding of one duty for another. (Proverbs 28:9 .) The upright Christian will place all duties upon the same ground of Christian obedience. (Psalms 119:5-6, Psalms 119:80, Psalms 119:128 .)

Young people! As you value your soul, your conscience, your happiness — ponder the wide extent of filial obligation; the honor, deference, and consideration included in it; the clear stamp of God’s authority upon it; the mark of his reprobation in despising it (1 Samuel 2:25 ); the certain seal of his blessing upon its practical and self-denying acknowledgment.

Footnotes:

†1 Genesis 31:19, Genesis 31:34-35 . Judges 17:2 .

Verse 25

The contrast between the proud, and him that trusteth in the LORD, is very remarkable. It shews, that pride is the root of unbelief. The man, having cast off God, expects nothing, fears nothing, from him. He lives as if there was no God. His proud heart is large; not, like the wise man’s, in fullness of capacity (1 Kings 4:29 ), but in ambitious grasp, and insatiable appetite.†1 Never is he content within his own bounds. In the world he would be a Haman (Esther 3:1-2 ), in the church a Diotrephes — one "loving to have the pre-eminence." (3 John 1:9 .) It is his nature to stir up strife. Every one that does not accord with his own opinion of himself, is supposed to be wanting in respect. Thus "by pride cometh contention." (Proverbs 13:10 .) And always will there be some thorn of mortified ambition (Esther 5:11-13 ), or some fresh craving of unsatisfied desire (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 ), wasting him, so that he "fadeth away in his ways." (James 1:11 .) What an empty shadow of fugitive happiness! So contrary to the fatness of him, that putteth his trust in the LORD. ays." (James 1:11 .) Wha shall be filled with good and solid things.’†2

Christian! Dread the occasions of stirring up strife — the canker of vital godliness. Keep near to thy Lord. It was when the disciples were talking together by the way, instead of walking in immediate communion with their Master, that strife was stirred up. (Mark 9:33-34 .) Does not this point to the grand preservative? Let it be thine element and thy joy. Here alone we cherish the life of faith. And truly — as Luther says — ’Faith is a precious thing.’ (Compare 2 Peter 1:1 .) It rolls away all disquieting care. (1 Peter 5:7 .) Our cause is with him, and we are at rest. (Psalms 37:5-7 .) How much more, when the great burden is removed! ’Smite, Lord, smite; for thou hast pardoned.’ "Healed with the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, we shall be made fat, as the calves of the stall." (Malachi 4:2 . Isaiah 58:11 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Heb. Holden. Dathe.

†2 Diodati.

Verse 26

Contrast the sound and fruitful confidence just mentioned, with man’s natural trust. Our confidence determines our state. (Matthew 7:24-27 .) To trust an impostor, who has deceived us an hundred times, or a traitor, who has proved himself false to our most important interests, is surely to deserve the name of fool. This name therefore the Scriptures — "using great plainness of speech" — give to him that trusteth in his own heart. Well does Bishop Hall call it, ’The great Impostor.’†1 For has it not been practicing a system of deceit upon us from the first moment of consciousness? Yes, verily, the traitor finds his home in our own bosom, prompting, in concert with our deadly enemy, the most elaborate efforts for self-destruction.

The wise man awfully illustrates his own Proverb. It must have been some bitter root of self-confidence, that prostrated his wondrous wisdom in the lowest degradation (1 Kings 11:1-8 .) Peter also — how did he befool himself in his trust! Presuming upon "the willingness of the spirit," and forgetting his Lord’s most needful caution against "the weakness of the flesh;" though named a Rock, he fell as a reed before the first breath of temptation. Had not the everlasting arms been underneath, it would have been the fall of Judas into the depths of hell. An instructive lesson to shew us, that all dependence upon feelings, impulse, native strength, sincere purpose or conviction — is vain confidence. Sad experience has convinced us of this. Yet in the blindness of our folly, we are ever ready to trust again, if the Lord prevent not, to our ruin.

Truly, as good Bishop Wilson remarks — ’there is no sin, which a man ought not to fear, or to think himself capable of committing, since we have in our corrupt will the seeds of every sin.’ None of us can safely presume, that his heart may not hurry him into abominations, that he cannot now contemplate without horror. (2 Kings 8:13-15 .) If Eve in a state of innocence could believe a serpent before her Maker;†2 if "the saint of the Lord" could worship the golden calf;†3 if "the man after God’s own heart" could wallow in adultery, murder, and deceit;†4 if the wisest of men, and the warm-hearted disciple just referred to, could sink so low — what may not we do? Surely "all men are liars." The best of men, when left to themselves, are mournful spectacles of weakness and instability.

Blessed be our God! our standing is not on the uncertainty of man’s best purpose; but upon the faithful promise, the unchangeable will, the free grace, and almighty power of God; not therefore on ourselves, but on the Rock, on which the Church is immovably built. We value then a deep knowledge of our indwelling weakness and corruption. Painful and humbling as it is, it is establishing to our faith; and grounds us in the gospel far better than walking over the mere surface. This study of the heart strengthens the principle of that holy fear, which enables us to walk wisely, and thus delivers us from the evils of a self-confident state. Indeed in a path, where every step is strewed with snares, and beset with enemies, great need have we of the caution — "Walk circumspectly" — "looking on all sides" — "not as fools, but as wise."†5 A sound confidence is a proof of wisdom. Be willing that the Lord should disappoint us of the most plausible and inviting pleasure, into which we may have been drawn by the dictates of our own heart. Let it be a standing maxim in religion to cultivate self-distrust; never to suppose security, where God warns us of danger, never to trust ourselves with our own keeping. We are too weak needlessly to expose ourselves to hazard. We cannot pray — "Lead us not into temptation" — when we are rushing headlong into it — or — "Deliver us from evil" — when we seem to invite its approach.†6

Footnotes:

†1 Title of Sermon on Jeremiah 17:9 . See Bunyan’s Discourse between Christian and Ignorance.

†2 Genesis 3:1-6.

†3 Exodus 32:2-5, with Psalms 106:16 .

†4 2 Samuel 11:4, 2 Samuel 11:17 .

†5 Ephesians 5:15. Compare Proverbs 3:5-6 .

†6 Matthew 6:13, with Matthew 26:41 .

Verse 27

’There is none that desireth want, nor that wisheth to be poor. And therefore the carnally-minded, to save themselves from it, carefully gather together, and enclose so much wealth as they can by any means possible; and they think that by such means they shall avoid lack. And indeed after man’s judgment, it is the best way that a man can take. But the Holy Ghost doth teach us another means, clean contrary to natural reason. He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack. This is against reason, which saith, that we must gather and hold fast, to avoid poverty. She looketh not to what God can and will do. She is blind in the works of the Lord, and chiefly in those that he worketh according to his free promise.’†1

However close we may hold our substance, who can give security against coming want? But this promise gives a security, that no earthly abundance can afford. Covetousness indeed combines with reason to contradict the word of God. Yet the promise is given by him, who hath full power to make it good; who has a thousand ways of repaying what is done or sacrificed at his command. (Psalms 24:1 .) The fruit is absolutely certain, ’as the best preventive against poverty, putting money into the bank of heaven, which can never forfeit credit.’†2 The best securities on earth will not hinder "riches from making to themselves wings, and flying away." (Proverbs 23:5 .) But when have the promises of heaven ever been falsified?†3 Yet after all, with the carnal mind, covetousness prevails above faith, and a "trust in uncertain riches makes the living God a liar."†4

Do we, the professed followers of Christ, lay these truths really to heart, testing our own principles and practice by them, and honestly intending to take them, instead of selfish prudence and expediency, as our rule and measure of conduct? Most honorable is it to the Christian profession, and a sure seal of blessing upon our family, when we forbear to plead family claims, as an excuse for contracting our liberality. Again and again does God ratify this engagement.†5 Yet many, who are "earnest in contending for the faith" of the Gospel, and who would resist at any cost the invasion of heresy — we fear — would be ashamed to expose the scanty limits of their liberality.

Did we really believe the promise annexed to this duty, we should not so often hide our eyes from a case of distress. Yet not only do we neglect to look out for objects of compassion, but actually we turn away from them, as the servant of God would turn away from sin;†6 and then justify ourselves on the ground of frequent imposition, and the many worthy objects, which may or may not come before us. Many a curse is entailed upon this grudging spirit, both from God and man.†7 And is there no danger here of the everlasting curse?†8 Ponder it well — lest prudence and discrimination check the glow of charity, prove a cloak for selfishness, and obscure the light of Christian benevolence and love, which ought to shine before men in the profession of the true servants of God.

Footnotes:

†1 Cope in loco.

†2 Lawson in loco.

†3 Numbers 23:19. 2 Corinthians 1:20 .

†4 1 Timothy 6:17 . 1 John 5:10 .

†5 Proverbs 3:9-10; Proverbs 11:24-25 ; Proverbs 13:7 ; Proverbs 14:22 ; Proverbs 19:17 ; Proverbs 22:9 . Deuteronomy 15:7-10 ; Psalms 41:1-3 ; Psalms 112:5-9, with 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 . Ecclesiastes 11:1 . Isaiah 32:8 ; Isaiah 58:7-11 . Matthew 5:7 . Luke 6:38 . Observe the glowing exuberance of this last promise — Not only "shall it be given you" — but good measure — justly proportioned to the exercise of love — pressed down — to secure it as full measure — shaken together — as with corn, that it may lie closer in its place — and as if this were not enough — running over — without bounds — given into your bosom — so that you shall taste the large indulgence of the blessing.

†6 Job 31:1, with Genesis 39:10 .

†7 Proverbs 11:26. 1 Samuel 25:17, 1 Samuel 25:25-26, 1 Samuel 25:38 .

†8 Matthew 25:41-45. James 2:13 ; James 5:1-4 .

Verse 28

This Proverb has in substance been given before. (Proverbs 28:12 .) The rise of the wicked to power is indeed a national judgment, greatly to be depreciated, as the engine of cruel malice against the Church of God. Thus has it been in all her Pagan and Papal persecutions. And thus it always will be, while she is in the wilderness.†1 But what a tremendous weight of guilt and punishment is involved in thus fighting against God! (Acts 9:4 .) Little do the wicked know the preciousness of the saints in his sight,†2 their perfect security under his cover,†3 the sovereign restraint which he has placed upon her enemies,†4 and the triumphant issue of all opposition against her.†5

The power of the wicked even here however is but for a moment; and when they perish — as perish they will — the righteous shall increase. A great increase was there to the Church in the days of godly Hezekiah, when the doors of the temple, which his wicked father had shut up, were open from a national profession and consecration to God.†6 The immediate result of Haman’s overthrow, was not only toleration and encouragement of the true religion, but a large increase to the number of its professors. (Esther 8:17 .) In the early ages of the Christian Church, after the death of the persecuting Herod, "the word of God grew and multiplied." (Acts 12:23-24 .) And in our own annals, at the removal of Mary from her ill-used power, the Christian exiles returned from their continental hiding-place, bringing with them a large increase of blessing both to the Church and nation. Thus "out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness." (Judges 14:14 .) The cross is the enriching blessing to the Church, and to every individual member of it.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 29:27. Genesis 3:15 . Revelation 12:6, Revelation 12:17 .

†2 Zechariah 2:8.

†3 Isaiah 26:20.

†4 Psalms 76:10.

†5 Exodus 15:1. Isaiah 51:9-11 . Revelation 18:20 .

†6 2 Chronicles 28:24 ; 2 Chronicles 29:1-36 .; 2 Chronicles 30:13-25 .

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-28.html. 1846.
 
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