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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 29

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verse 1

THIS is indeed an awful word. The intractable ox, hardening his neck against the yoke,†1 is but too apt a picture of the stubborn sinner, casting off the restraints of God. This was the uniform complaint against Israel,†2 a true picture of the mass of the ungodly before our eyes. Conviction follows upon conviction, chastening upon chastening. Still the rebel hardens his neck, stops his ears against the voice of God, and invites his threatened judgments.

Awfully frequent are these instances among the children of godly parents, or the hearers of a faithful minister.†3 Every means of grace is a solemn, but despised, reproof. Aggravated sin makes the judgment of a righteous God more manifest. The more enlightened the conscience the more hardened the neck. Every beating pulse is rebellion against a God of love.

Sometimes it is more the immediate voice of God. An alarming illness, a dangerous accident, or the death of a companion in wickedness, is "the rod and reproof" intended to "give wisdom." (Proverbs 29:15 .) But if the "fool" continue to despise all God’s reproof, his destruction will be sudden,†4 and without remedy.†5

Such was the destruction of the old world, and of the cities of the plain, long hardened against the forbearance of God.†6 Pharaoh grew more stubborn under the rod, and rushed madly upon his sudden ruin.†7 Eli’s sons "hearkened not unto the voice of their father, and in one day died both of them."†8 Ahab, often reproved, by the godly prophet, hardened his neck, and "the bow, drawn at a venture," received its commission.†9 How must Judas have steeled his heart against his Master’s reproof!†10 Onward he rushed, "that he might go to his own place."†11 Truly Divine patience has its end. And this fearful moment once arrived, "the vessels of wrath, endured with much long-suffering," are now shewn more manifestly, as "fitted for destruction." (Romans 9:22 .) No remedy — not even the Gospel — can remedy the case. As they lived, so they die, so they stand before God — without remedy. No blood — no advocate, pleads for them. As they sink into the burning lake, every billow of fire, as it rolls over them, seems to sound — without remedy.

Sinner — Oh! that thou wouldst be wise to consider thy guilt, thy state, thy prospect, while yet "thy judgment and damnation linger"!†12 Is not "the Spirit of grace" pleading with thine heart? Would he not now save thee, wouldst thou but obey his call? Thou art standing upon mercy’s ground, betwixt heaven and hell. O thou God of almighty sovereign grace, shew "a pattern" of thy "long-suffering." (1 Timothy 1:16 .) Let the sinner sing thy everlasting praise, as "a brand plucked out of the fire," a monument of thine over-abounding grace. (Zechariah 3:2 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Jeremiah 31:18.

†2 Exodus 32:9. 2 Chronicles 36:13-16 . Nehemiah 9:29 . Isaiah 48:8 . Jeremiah 17:23 . Zechariah 7:11-12 . Acts 7:51 .

†3 Proverbs 5:12-13. 1 Samuel 2:12 .

†4 1 Thessalonians 5:3 .

†5 Proverbs 1:22-30; Proverbs 6:15 ; Proverbs 28:14, Proverbs 28:18 . Isaiah 30:12-14 .

†6 Luke 17:27-29.

†7 Exodus 9:27, Exodus 9:34 ; Exodus 10:27-28 ; Exodus 14:28 .

†8 1 Samuel 2:25, 1 Samuel 2:34 ; 1 Samuel 4:11 .

†9 1 Kings 18:18 ; 1 Kings 21:20 ; 1 Kings 22:28, 1 Kings 22:34 .

†10 John 6:70; John 13:10-11, John 13:18-27 .

†11 Matthew 26:14-16. John 13:30 . Acts 1:25 .

†12 (It is not known if this quote is from a hymn, a poem, or some other source - because there is no reference or footnote in the book. One verse in Scripture that uses three key words found in the quote ("judgment", "damnation", "linger") is 2 Peter 2:3, so perhaps Mr. Bridges had this in view(?). The Scripture has "lingereth not" however, whereas the quote has it positively: "linger", so if this is the verse he had in mind, it is more of an allusion to it than it is a direct quote.)

Verse 2

’The robes of honor to the righteous are the garments of gladness to the people. The scepter of authority to the godly is the staff of comfort to the people. On the other hand, the vestments of dignity to the wicked are the weeds of mourning to the people. The throne of command to the one is the dungeon of misery to the other. The titles of honor given to the one are sighs of sorrow wrung from the other.’†1 The contrast of the government of Mordecai and Haman illustrates this joy and mourning.†2 The special rejoicings at the accession of Solomon might probably be connected with the confidence, that he would "walk in the ways of David his father."†3 The reigns of the righteous kings of Judah were pre-eminently distinguished by national happiness.†4 The glorious era yet in store for the world, is, when "the Lord shall bless" his own kingdom, "as the habitation of justice and mountain of holiness."†5 For what but righteousness can truly bless either an individual, a family, or a nation?†6

When therefore the wicked bear rule — the people — not the godly — only mourn. The depth of the mourning is surely the joy at the removal of the scourge. Meanwhile it is borne by "the faithful in the land" as a national scourge.†7 And ’if tears be their drink, patience will be their bread, till God have mercy on them.’†8 What need have we to thank God, that our guilty country, with so much to humble us in shame, should have been so long spared from the curse of wicked rulers! The tyrant rules for his own sinful ends. The Christian sovereign for the good of the people.

Footnotes:

†1 Jermin. Compare Proverbs 28:12, Proverbs 28:28 . Sirach 10:3 .

†2 Esther 8:15-16; Esther 10:3, with Esther 3:15 ; Esther 4:1-3 .

†3 1 Kings 1:39-40, with 1 Kings 3:3 . Compare 1 Kings 4:20 .

†4 2 Chronicles 15:12-15 ; 2 Chronicles 20:27-30 . 2 Chronicles 29:36 ; 2 Chronicles 30:21 .

†5 Jeremiah 31:23. Isaiah 1:26 .

†6 Psalms 72:1-7. Isaiah 32:1 . ’It is no peculiar conceit, but a matter of sound consequence, that all duties are by so much the better performed, by how much the men are more religious, from whose abilities the same proceed. For if the course of politic affairs cannot in any good sort go forward without fit instruments, and that which fitteth them be their virtues, let polity acknowledge itself indebted to religion, godliness being the chiefest, top and well-spring of all true virtue, even as God is of all good things.’ Thus admirably does our great Hooker insist, that ’religion, unfeignedly loved, perfecteth man’s abilities unto all kind of virtuous services in the commonwealth.’ - Eccl. Pol. Book v. c. 1.

†7 Ecclesiastes 10:5-6. Isaiah 3:4-5 . Micah 3:9-12 .

†8 Jermin ut supra.

Verse 3

These Proverbs in substance have been given before.†1 Yet the variations are instructive. The wisdom is here more distinctly described as loving wisdom. For ’he is wise not only, who hath arrived at a complete habit of wisdom, but who doth as yet love it, or desire it, and listen to it.’†2 Do not we hang off too loosely from its heavenly influence? Let it be manifestly our great object, not as a good thing, but the best — "the principle thing."†3 The awakened sinner loves it from the sense of want; the Christian from its satisfying delight. The taste gives a keen edge to the appetite. What we have grasped of the blessing bears no comparison to what remains. The day-dreams of a world of vanity engage our affections no longer.

Let the young man consider "wisdom’s pleasantness and peace,"†4 her light and security,†5 her "durable riches,"†6 and glorious inheritance;†7 and "wilt thou not from this time cry" to the God of wisdom — "My Father! thou art the guide of my youth"? (Jeremiah 3:4 .) Let him have the flower of thine age. Is not the best sacrifice due to him, who is above the songs of heaven, who has obtained a kingdom for those that love him? No worldly honor, no success of talent, will rejoice a godly father, as will this choice for eternity. (Proverbs 23:23-25 .)

Folly brings its own shame and sorrow. "The companion of the riotous and vain persons" is readily found in fellowship with harlots, saddening his father, by spending his substance. (Proverbs 28:7, Proverbs 28:19 .) One course of vanity leads to another. All end alike in ruin.†8 He may possess the external endowment. But the love of wisdom is the only preservative from "besetting snares."†9

Deep indeed is the anxiety — the joy or the sorrow — connected with children.†10 May it give a deeper tone of simplicity and pleading in dedicating them to God,†11 and training them up for his service! Let us early present them, as "the children, whom the Lord hath given us;" but as his, more than our own — his property — his inheritance. (Psalms 127:3 .) Here are our springs of diligence, of hope, and of ultimate reward.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 15:20 ; Proverbs 23:15, Proverbs 23:24-25 ; Proverbs 27:11 ; Proverbs 28:7 .

†2 Basil, quoted by Bp. Patrick. Preface to Proverbs.

†3 Proverbs 4:7. See the beautiful description, Sirach 6:18-31 ; Sirach 6:24 . Bp. Lowth’s elegant translation. - Lect. On Heb. Poetry, 24.

†4 Proverbs 3:17.

†5 Proverbs 8:20; Proverbs 4:11-12 .

†6 Proverbs 3:14-15; Proverbs 8:18-19 .

†7 Proverbs 3:35.

†8 Proverbs 5:9; Proverbs 6:26 . Luke 15:30 .

†9 Proverbs 4:6; Proverbs 7:4-5 .

†10 Proverbs 17:21, Proverbs 17:25 .

†11 1 Samuel 1:26-28 .

Verse 4

Of what avail are the best laws, if they be badly administered? Partiality and injustice absolutely make them null and void. And yet it requires great integrity and moral courage to withstand the temptations of worldly policy and self-interest. God’s own throne is built and established by judgment.†1 This then can be the only establishment of the land.†2 The compromise of it to some private ends provokes the anger of God to the chastisement, if not the overthrow, of the land. The article in our Magna Charta — ’We will sell justice to none’ — is but too plain evidence of the recklessness of all social principles, ere the great standard was erected among us.

Under the godly government of Samuel the land was established by judgment.†3 "But his sons walked not in his ways." They were men of oblations. They received gifts; and the Theocracy — the great palladium of the land — was overthrown.†4 The righteous administration of David "bore up the pillars" of the land, at a time of great national weakness.†5 The same principles in the godly successors were the source of strength and prosperity.†6 The want of uprightness in Saul shook the kingdom from his grasp;†7 and the covetousness of Johoiakim†8 destroyed its foundations, and buried him in its ruins. Let the same consistency pervade every grade of official responsibility. No respect will be paid to dignity, temporal or spiritual, except it be established with judgment. Let men of God be in our high places; and "righteousness will exalt a nation," and our Church will be "the joy and praise of the whole earth." (Proverbs 14:34 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 89:14; Psalms 97:2 . Isaiah 9:7 .

†2 Proverbs 29:14; Proverbs 16:10-12 ; Proverbs 20:8, Proverbs 20:26 ; Proverbs 25:5 . 2 Chronicles 9:8 .

†3 1 Samuel 7:3-12, 1 Samuel 7:15-17 .

†4 1 Samuel 8:2-7 .

†5 Psalms 75:2-6, Psalms 75:10 . 2 Samuel 8:15 .

†6 2 Chronicles 1:1 ; 2 Chronicles 14:2-7 ; 2 Chronicles 19:6-7, with 2 Chronicles 20:27-30 ; 2 Chronicles 31:20-21 . Isaiah 32:1-2 .

†7 1 Samuel 13:13 .

†8 Jeremiah 22:13-19.

Verse 5

Most wisely were Bunyan’s pilgrims warned — ’Beware of the flatterer.’ Yet ’forgetting to read the note of directions about the way,’ they fell into his net, and, even though delivered, were justly punished for their folly. The doctrine of man’s goodness, strength, or freedom; innocent infirmities; venial offenses; softening down the statements of man’s total corruption; a general gospel, without close application; its promises and privileges, without the counter-balance of its trials and obligations — all this is frightful flattery — ’the black man clothed in white’ — "Satan himself transformed into an angel of light, and his ministers transformed as ministers of righteousness." (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 .) Unwary souls are misled. Even unwatchful Christians fall into the net. And while they have to thank their faithful God for deliverance, they cannot forget his sharp and needful chastening of their folly. Where "the root of the matter" is not, heresy, or apostasy, is the baneful fruit of the flatterer. (Romans 16:17-18 . 2 Peter 2:1-3 .)

But let us guard against this net in our daily path. Too readily do the flatterer’s words pass current. Even when conscious of not possessing the loveliness attributed to us; when we know the flatterer to have no faith in his own words; instead of a just indignation at his smooth hypocrisy, is there not sometimes a secret self-satisfaction at being thought of sufficient importance to tempt to the deceit? Nay — even when it is so gross as to create disgust, is this disgust always unaccompanied with pleasure? Besides — What else is much of the language of smooth courtesy, or lively interest and affection? Who would venture to act with confidence on this heartless profession? Always is the net spread to allure into some devious path; often into the grossest wickedness. Thus the flattering woman beguiled her prey.†1 The parasites of Darius deified him for a month, to make him the tool of their malicious plot. (Daniel 6:6-9 .) The enemies of Christ spread the flatterer’s net for his feet. But here the wisdom of God was infinitely above them, and "took the wise in their own craftiness."†2

The feet of many strong men have been entangled in this net. Indeed seldom has the frailty of the man of God been more painfully exposed. David honored his God in the endurance of Shimei’s curse. But Ziba’s smooth words drew him to an act of gross injustice.†3 Usually some want of integrity has predisposed the mind for this poison. David was struggling to discover a plea for leniency to his murderous son, when the woman of Tekoah plied him with her flattering lips. The bribery of passion was far more powerful than her arguments.†4 But bitterly did the misguided parent reap the fruit of thus entering into the net spread for his feet.†5 Willful infatuation fully prepared Ahab, by listening to the flattery of his lying prophets, to his own ruin.†6

Does a man thus load us with immoderate commendation? It is the flatterer’s net. "Ponder the paths of thy feet."†7 Exchange confidence for suspicion.†8 Fearful is the snare to those, whose rank or influence dispose them to walk rather before men, than before God. Indeed religious flattery is a common snare to a Christian profession. It may be natural, perhaps well-intentioned, to be willing to profit by more advanced experience, and to enquire of a brother, by what means he has been able to rise above the ordinary level; nay — even to express our envy at his higher knowledge, faith, or love. But all this tends to cherish self-complacency, "a confidence in the flesh" — the bane to that self-renouncing confidence in his Savior, which is the clear stamp of the faithful follower of his Lord. (Philippians 3:3 .) Too often is the same net spread for the feet of the Minister of Christ, whether to gain his good opinions, or from the genuine but imprudent warmth of affection. But oh! — think — "He is a man as thou art" — beset with temptation — perhaps even "besides those that are common to men." His heart, like thine, is fully susceptible of self-exalting imaginations. And to know that he has a reputation for holiness; that he is a man of influence; that his character is looked up to; that his opinion is valued — this is indeed "a fiery trial," that brings out to view much base dross of vanity. (Proverbs 27:21 .) Far better would it be, that our Christian intercourse with each other should be molded by the wise resolution to refrain from "flattering titles," as hurtful to the creature, and provoking to God.†9

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 7:21 ; Proverbs 26:28 .

†2 Matthew 22:15-23, with 1 Corinthians 3:19 .

†3 2 Samuel 16:1-12 .

†4 2 Samuel 14:4-24 .

†5 2 Samuel 15:1-14 .

†6 1 Kings 22:11-12 .

†7 Proverbs 4:26.

†8 Proverbs 26:24-25; Proverbs 27:14 .

†9 Job 32:21-22. Compare LXX 22, with Acts 12:22-23 . ’Surely it is enough for us to have foes within and without to contend with, without having snares for our feet laid by our fellow-pilgrims. Oh! it is a cruel thing to flatter. The soul is often more exhausted and injured by disentangling itself from these nets, than by the hottest contest with principalities an powers. Those who have once known the torture the believer undergoes, while this poison is pervading his soul, the bitter, lowering medicines he must take as antidotes, the frightful oblivion of lessons of humility which he has been studying for years, will, I think (unless much under the influence of the enemy of souls), not administer the noxious potion a second time.’ - Helen Plumptre’s Letters, pp. 43, 44 - a most profitable volume.

Verse 6

There is always a snare in the ways of sin; always a song in the ways of God. Which then are "the ways of pleasantness and peace"?†1 The light-hearted sinner goes on in his flowery path. Soon he is "taken captive in the snare of the devil;"†2 often in a snare of his own toil.†3 Transgression is in fact the snare of the soul. Is it not wisdom to avoid a snare? Sinner — Think a moment. What are "the pleasures of sin" to the pleasures of Paradise? Remember — Sin and ruin are bound together; and who can put them asunder?

The righteous may be in the same outward lot with the evil man. But wide indeed is the gulf between their respective states. (Isaiah 65:13-14 .) Joseph’s brethren in prison, under the sting of conscience, sink in despondency. Paul and Silas in prison did sing and rejoice.†4 Little, however, can be judged by their external state. The ungodly are in prosperity, and the children of God "chastened every morning" (Psalms 73:14 ); yet rising triumphant in the deepest exercise — "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; though I fall, I shall rise again; though I sit in darkness" — my cause apparently forgotten, my light obscured, my character defamed — "the LORD shall be a light unto me." (Micah 7:8 .) What is it to be possessor of all the promises of God? The wealth of this golden mine no tongue of man can express; no mind of angel comprehend. And how abundant is the solid ground and material of this rejoicing! The completeness of the Savior’s work; his constant love; the fullness of his Spirit; the sufficiency of his grace; his faithful promise; his watchful eye; his ready help; his perpetual intercession; and all this joy — not like that of the world, flowing and ebbing; but heightening and overflowing through all eternity.

But the righteous also sing — and only they. Yet often they have no skill for the song. Their harp is upon the willows, as if they could not "sing the LORD’s song in a strange land." (Psalms 137:4 .) Unbelief remains unchecked. The promises therefore are so faintly applied, that distrust outweighs all encouragement. Their brighter seasons were enjoyed rather than improved. No materials were laid up as principles of life, love, and devotedness. And therefore "in the cloudy and dark day" they lose their time in feeble complaints, instead of striving for life.

Is it not worth pursuing this dishonorable evil to its sources, whether remote or proximate? Are we incapacitated, or only disinclined, to sing? Seek a clearer exercise of faith, to rouse from indolence, and to remove mistaken apprehensions. And in the active energy of faith, repent, return, watch and pray, mortify besetting sins. Enquire seriously — Are the materials for our song passed away? our stated grounds for praise sunk? Are there not a countless number of mercies yet remaining, and preserved entire, sufficient to swallow up the smart of the most bitter dispensation? Let faith be employed in putting them together, and counting them over; and surely under the deepest gloom that ever could rest upon the soul, the harp would be taken down from the willows, "and the righteous would sing and rejoice."†5

Add to which — Not only are these mercies left, while others are removed. But to the watchful eye of dutiful, affectionate faith, the value of our heavenly Father’s kindness continued to us, is seen in a clearer light, and more deeply enjoyed. And never is his grace seen so cheering , so triumphant, as when it raises us above our trials, and enables us to take up the song of victory on the field of battle;†6 rebuking unbelief far away, and strengthening our confidence for renewed conflict.

And indeed even in the most sinking frame, when wounded and disheartened with the sense of our own guilt and follies — Oh! we must be ignorant of the alphabet of the gospel; if, when we have told up the fearful account, and magnified it to its utmost — we do not grasp the glorious word — "Where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound." (Romans 5:20 .) Can we then want materials for our song? Shall not our harp reach an higher pitch? Praised be God! We are hasting to a world, where it will never be unstrung, the heart never out of tune, and the song ever new, when we shall rejoice and sing without one faltering note in our song; without one jarring note in the song of our brethren.†7

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 3:17, with Proverbs 13:5 .

†2 2 Timothy 2:26 . Job 18:9-11 .

†3 Proverbs 5:22; Proverbs 11:5-6 ; Proverbs 12:13 . Job 17:8 .

†4 Genesis 42:21, with Acts 16:25 .

†5 To some Christians of a morbid temperament, Bernard’s advice may be important - ’Let us mingle honey with wormwood, that the wholesome bitter may give health, when it is drunk tempered with a mixture of sweetness. While you think humbly of yourselves, think also of the goodness of the Lord.’ - In Cant. Serm. xi. ’Always are there evil days in the world; always good days in the Lord.’ - Augustine on Psalms 33:1-22 .

†6 Romans 7:24-25. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 .

†7 Isaiah 35:10. Revelation 5:8-10 .

Verse 7

The original gives to the Proverb a judicial aspect.†1 To "respect the person of the poor" is no less unjust, than to "honor the person of the mighty."†2 But the righteous judge or advocate will consider his cause, judge it as for God, investigate it thoroughly, and take care that it be not lost from his own inability to defend it. (Psalms 82:3-4 .) This was the considerate administration of the great King of righteousness.†3 The man of God will walk after this divine Exemplar.†4 ’Let him have the conscience first’ — says Bishop Sanderson — ’and then the patience too (and yet if he have the conscience, certainly he will have the patience), to make search into the truth of things, and not be dainty of his pains herein, though matters be intricate, and the labor like to be long and irksome.’†5

Selfishness however, not truth, justice, or mercy, is the standard of the wicked. He considers, first the poor man’s person, then his cause. "The unjust judge" would not have "avenged the widow of her adversary," but to save trouble to himself. (Luke 18:2-5 .) Felix regarded not to know the Apostle’s cause, only that he might indulge his own covetousness. (Acts 24:26-27 .) But fearful is it to sit in the place of God†6 as his representative, only to pervert his judgment for selfish aggrandizement.†7 For ’He that rejecteth the complaint of the poor, and beateth them off with big words, and terror in his looks, either out of the hardness of his heart or the love of ease, when he might have leisure to give them audience (if he were so minded) and to take notice of their grievances, cannot justly excuse himself by pleading — "Behold, we know it not."’†8

The maxim however obviously applies more generally to the considerate regard of the righteous, and the cruel disregard of the wicked, towards the poor. The ordinance, that "the poor shall never cease out of the land;" and the inequality of rank, prevailing throughout the œconomy of Providence, were doubtless intended as an incitement to Christian sympathy and enlargement.†9 Consideration of the poor is the true spirit of Christian sympathy; putting ourselves as far as may be in their place.†10 Oh! how different is this from the impatient, ungracious temper, in which the suit of the poor client is sometimes dispatched, as if we grudged our time and pains. Our beloved Lord not only "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38 ), but he did it so tenderly, so considerately. Always was he ready to yield his own convenience and even necessary comfort to the call of need. (Mark 6:31-34 .) The same considerate regard for the poor marked the Apostolic administration.†11 Sympathy with the poor is the practical acknowledgment of our own undeserved mercies: specially remembering the Lord’s poor, as the representatives of Him,†12 who is First and Last, and All to us; and who, "though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9 .)

Well do those, who regard not to know, deserve their name — the wicked. Like Cain, they acknowledge no interest in their brother. (Genesis 4:9 .) Like Nabal — "It is no concern of mine."†13 ’If the poor must be fed rather than starve’ — it is casting food to a dog, rather than holding out an helping hand to a fellow-sinner.†14 This total absence of the image of a God of love†15 — this utter casting off his royal law†16 — surely he will require it.†17

Footnotes:

†1 Holden. Geier. Bp. Patrick.

†2 Leviticus 19:15. Exodus 23:3 .

†3 Psalms 72:2-4, Psalms 72:12-14 .

†4 Job 29:11-16; Job 31:13, Job 31:20 . Jeremiah 22:16 .

†5 Sermon on Exodus 23:1-3 .

†6 Psalms 82:6. Romans 13:1-2 .

†7 Proverbs 24:11-12. Jeremiah 5:28-29 . Ezekiel 22:7, Ezekiel 22:29-31 . Micah 3:1-4 .

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

†9 Deuteronomy 15:7-11. 2 Corinthians 8:14-15 . Compare Sirach 4:8 .

†10 Psalms 41:1. Most striking was the consideration of the poor in Bp. Ridley, imploring in his last moments at the stake the queen in behalf of certain poor men’s leases in his bishopric likely to become void by his death. Foxe, vii. 545, 546. In the same noble spirit was the remembrance of the dying Scott to his son, of the arrival of the season, when he had been used to plant a root for the supply of the poor.

†11 Acts 4:34-35; Acts 6:1-6 . 1 Corinthians 16:2 . 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 . Galatians 2:10 .

†12 Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:40 .

†13 1 Samuel 25:10-11 .

†14 Luke 16:21.

†15 1 John 3:17 .

†16 James 2:8. Leviticus 19:18, with Luke 10:31-32 .

†17 Proverbs 24:12.

Verse 8

The comparison is here between a "proud and haughty scorner,†1 and a wise man." The one is a public injury; the other a public blessing. The one raises a tumult; the other quells it. The man, who scorns to be bound by common restraint, will bring the city into a snare by his presumption,†2 or set it on fire ’by blowing the fire of divine wrath upon it.’†3 Happily wise men are scattered through the land: and their energy and prudence turn away wrath.†4 ’Proud and foolish men kindle the fire, which wise and good men must extinguish.’†5

Another instructive illustration of the Proverb suggests itself. Not the tyrant over his fellow-creatures, but the scorner against his God, is the public trouble. Many of the kings of Judah and Israel thus brought the city into a snare. Their provocations of divine wrath did more to further its ruin, than the most powerful foreign enemies. Their influence led the people into deeper aggravations of sin, and ripened them for judgment.†6

But wise men stand in the gap, and turn away wrath.†7 Surely it was wisdom in the king and people of Ninevah, instead of bringing their city into a snare by scornful rebellion, to avert by timely humiliation the impending destruction. (Jonah 3:5-10 .) Let the people be gathered; let the Ministers of the Lord gird themselves to their work of weeping and accepted pleaders for the land. (Joel 2:17 .) Surely "except the LORD of Hosts had left us a very small remnant" of these powerful intercessors, "we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." (Isaiah 1:9 .) Praised be God! The voice is yet heard — "Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it." (Isaiah 65:8 .) The salt of the earth preserves it from corruption. (Matthew 5:13 .) Shall not we then honor these wise men with reverential gratitude — "My father — my father! the chariots of Israel, and the horseman thereof"?†8

Footnotes:

†1 Heb. Men of scorn. Proverbs 21:24 .

†2 1 Samuel 11:2, 1 Samuel 11:11 . 2 Samuel 10:4 ; 2 Samuel 12:31 .

†3 LXX. Durell.

†4 2 Samuel 20:1, 2 Samuel 20:15-22 . Acts 19:23-41 . Compare Virg. Æn. i. 143-153.

†5 Henry.

†6 2 Kings 21:9-15 ; 2 Kings 23:26-27 . Isaiah 28:14-22 . 2 Chronicles 36:16-17 . Jeremiah 36:23-32 . Matthew 21:33-43 ; Matthew 23:34-39 . 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 .

†7 Moses - Exodus 32:10-14 . Deuteronomy 9:8-20 . Psalms 106:23 . Aaron - Numbers 16:48 . Phinehas, Proverbs 25:11. Psalms 106:30 . Elijah, 1 Kings 18:42-45 . James 5:16-18 . Jeremiah 18:20 . Daniel 9:3-20 . Amos 7:1-6 . The righteous remnant - Isaiah 1:9 ; Isaiah 6:13 . Compare Genesis 18:32 ; Job 22:30 ; Jeremiah 5:1 ; Ezekiel 22:30-31 . Ezekiel 13:5 . ’Nothing therefore can make a man so good a patriot as religion.’ - Bp. Hall.

†8 2 Kings 2:12 . This acknowledgment is sometimes forced from the consciences of the ungodly. Proverbs 13:10-16 .

Verse 9

It would generally be far better not to meddle with such a fool as is here described. We can only deal with him on very disadvantageous terms, and with little prospect of good.†1 If a wise man contend with the wise, he can make himself understood, and there is some hope of bringing the debate to a good issue. But to contend with a fool, there is no rest, no peace or quiet. It will go on without end. He will neither listen to reason, nor yield to argument. So intractable is he, that he will either rage or laugh; either vent upon us the fury of an ungoverned temper, or laugh us to scorn. This contention was a point of poignant trial to our Divine Master. What could be more revolting than sometimes their murderous rage,†2 sometimes their scornful laugh,†3 both "rejecting his counsel against themselves"? (Matthew 11:16-17 .) And what if a contention with such fools should be appointed for me? Let me remember my days of perversity and folly. And while this vivid impression brings me back to their level; can I return their unreasonable provocation, save with tenderness and compassion? (Titus 3:2-3 .) Yea — when, as the most effectual means for their benefit, I would commend them to the Almighty and Sovereign grace of God; can I forget, that if this grace has healed my deep-rooted stubbornness, it is not less rich, not less free, not less sufficient, for them?

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 17:12; Proverbs 26:4 . Ecclesiastes 10:13 . Matthew 7:6 .

†2 Luke 4:29. John 7:1 ; John 8:59 ; John 11:53 .

†3 Luke 16:14.

Verse 10

This bloody hatred is the fulfillment of the first prophecy from the mouth of God. (Genesis 3:15 .) The first history of the fallen world puts the seal to the prophecy — "Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." (Genesis 4:5-8 .) Ever since has the same testimony been given.†1 "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" (was the indignant remonstrance of Stephen to his countrymen) until they "filled up the measure of their fathers," by being "the betrayers and murderers" of the Son of God.†2 The noble army of martyrs stand before us. Such intensity of malice in the contrivance of the variety of their torture! The bloodthirsty hate the upright. (Hebrews 11:36-37 .) Their innocency was the only ground of hatred; and, on the threatened apprehension of any outbreak of evil, the swelling cry of the bloodthirsty multitude was — ’The Christians to the lions!’ The next picture downward in the annals of the Church is not less illustrative — "I saw the woman" — awful sight! — "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." (Revelation 17:6 .) We cannot doubt but the fierce elements of the cruelty still lie in slumbering concealment. Nothing but the Gospel can kill the principle. Everything short of this only chains down the violence. In a softer mold it still retains all its substance and power, and waits only for the removal of present restraints to develop the same bloodthirsty hatred as ever.

Scripture explains this murderous vindictiveness. "Wherefore slew Cain his brother? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous." (1 John 3:12-13 .) Darkness cannot endure the light.†3 The condemning light†4 of godliness excites the enmity of the ungodly. They cannot bear the picture. Thus the bloodthirsty Ahab hated his upright prophets,†5 and the Jews the holy Savior.†6 Conformity to him is the great offense still. ’Such precise fools, contrary to every one beside, "turning the world upside down" — how can they be endured?’ Their removal is a rejoicing riddance from the earth. (Revelation 11:9-10.)

And yet their God is not unmindful of their threatening troubles. The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul. Saul sought to murder David; Jonathan covered him.†7 Jezebel was thirsting to destroy the prophets of the LORD; Obadiah "hid them in a cave, and fed them with bread and water."†8 The enemies of Jeremiah plotted against him; Ebedmelech saved his life.†9 Herod was proceeding against Peter’s life; the Church shielded him with their prayers.†10 The bloodthirsty Jews bound themselves to murder Paul; "Pricilla and Aquila" were ready to "lay down their own necks for his life."†11

What a life of conflict is this world of sin! Need we be dissuaded from loving it? Need we not rather patience to endure it? But while we are in it, let us be found decidedly on the Lord’s side,†12 "partakers," if needs be, "of the afflictions of the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:8 .) Never let us stand aloof from our brethren’s cause. (2 Timothy 1:16, 17.) To help them, is to be fellow-workers with God himself. If union is so effective against the Church, surely its influence would not be of less moment on the Church’s side; "strengthening her stakes," establishing her foundations, and enlarging her usefulness.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 29:27. Psalms 37:12-14, Psalms 37:32 . Galatians 4:29 . 2 Timothy 3:12 .

†2 Acts 7:52. Matthew 5:12 ; Matthew 23:32 .

†3 John 3:19-20.

†4 Hebrews 11:7.

†5 1 Kings 21:20 ; 1 Kings 22:8 .

†6 John 7:7.

†7 1 Samuel 18:11, 1 Samuel 18:25, with 1 Kings 18:1-4 .

†8 1 Kings 18:1-4 .

†9 Jeremiah 38:1-13.

†10 Acts 12:5.

†11 Acts 23:12. Romans 16:4 .

†12 Matthew 12:30.

Verse 11

"There is a time for everything" — the wise man elsewhere writes — "a time to keep silence, and a time to speak."†1 It is a mark of true wisdom to discern the times.†2 Indeed the discipline, or the want of discipline, upon the "little member," is a sound test of character. The man, who speaks hastily and with conceit, will be put to shame in his folly.†3 He might have been "counted" wise in his silence.†4 But silence is beyond his power — He uttereth all his mind — tells all he knows, thinks, or intends, and runs on, until he has "poured out all his foolishness." (Proverbs 15:2 .) It is sometimes thought a proof of honesty to utter all our mind. But it is rather a proof of folly. For how many things it would be far better never to speak; indeed to suppress in the very thought!†5 How much of "foolish talking and jesting;"†6 how many angry, detracting, uncharitable words do we utter, because we have neglected to watch, or rather to entreat "the LORD to set a watch upon, our lips," as the door of our hearts! (Psalms 141:3 .) And what wrong judgments we often pass upon men’s actions, because we utter all our mind as it were in one breath, without pondering, or perhaps without materials to form a correct judgment!

Indeed the words of the fool — as an old Expositor remarks — ’are at the very door — so to speak — of his mind, which being always open, they readily fly abroad. But the words of the wise are buried in the inner recess of his mind, whence the coming out is more difficult.’†7 This is the wisdom to be valued and cultivated. Many things we may keep in till afterward, which will then be far better spoken than at the present moment. (1 Samuel 25:36 .) We may find reason afterward to suspect what at the time we were fully persuaded of. There is often a lightness of faith — the fruit of sudden impulse, breaking out in sudden profession. Beware of a loose foundation. Men under the present excitement run through all the sects and parties of the Church, everywhere uttering their whole mind; "tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" — "seeking rest, and finding none." (Ephesians 4:14 .) How much better to take time for second thoughts, to wait, and weigh again! We should then, instead of exhibiting a changing and doubtful face, gain that "good thing — a heart established with grace." (Hebrews 13:9 .)

This godly prudence holds in common life. Samson fell a victim to the folly of uttering all his mind. (Judges 16:17 .) Samuel was restrained by God from this imprudence, from a regard to his own safety. Never speak against our mind. But it is not always necessary to utter our whole mind. Take care that we speak nothing but the truth. But the whole truth (as in the instance of Samuel) may sometimes be legitimately restrained. (1 Samuel 16:1-2.) The Apostle was two years at Ephesus, without uttering all his mind against the worship of Diana. But was this cowardice shrinking from the truth? His weeping ministry, and unceasing efforts, proved his faithfulness.†8 His open protest kept in till afterwards was self-discipline, consistent with Christian courage and decisiveness.

Footnotes:

†1 Ecclesiastes 3:1-7.

†2 Ecclesiastes 8:5. Amos 5:13 .

†3 Proverbs 18:13.

†4 Proverbs 17:28.

†5 Proverbs 30:32. Micah 7:5 .

†6 Ephesians 5:4.

†7 Cartwright. Compare Proverbs 10:14 ; Proverbs 12:16, Proverbs 12:23 ; Proverbs 13:16 ; Proverbs 14:33 . Compare Sirach 28:25 .

†8 Acts 19:10, Acts 19:23 ; Acts 20:31 .

Verse 12

The influence of the ruler’s personal character upon his people involves a fearful responsibility.†1 A wicked prince makes a wicked people.†2 In his more immediate sphere, if he hearken to lies, contrary to the laws of God and of charity;†3 he will never want those about him ready to minister to is folly. ’Lies will be told to those that are ready to hearken to them.’†4 Envy, ambition, malice, self-interest, will always be at hand for prejudice and scandal. The credulous ruler becomes the tool of all manner of wickedness. His corruption pushes away the godly from his presence; and all his servants are wicked. Exceptions there are to this maxim (as Obadiah in the court of Ahab,†5 Ebedmelech in the service of Zedekiah,†6 Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar’s court.†7 But this is the natural tendency, the general result, to his own disgrace and ruin. If he would therefore rule in uprightness and in the fear of God; instead of lending himself to detraction or flattery, he must carefully close his ears against doubtful characters, lest he should countenance wicked servants, and discourage those, that will boldly speak the truth.

How wise was David’s determination — both as the sovereign of his people, and the ruler of his house — to discountenance lies, and uphold the cause of faithful men! (Psalms 101:2-7 .) Contrast Ahab surrounded with his wicked prophets; all combining in one lie to please their weak and ungodly master. We see how ready he was to hearken to lies, and how well the flattery worked; when he punished the only man who was "valiant for the truth," and who persisted in declaring it — "not fearing the wrath of the king."†8

But all in authority may learn a lesson of responsibility. Let Ministers especially, not only hold the truth in its full integrity, and take heed that their character will bear the strictest scrutiny; but let them turn away from the fawning flattery of those, of whose uprightness there is at best but doubtful proof.

Footnotes:

†1 . . . . . . . Componitur orbis

Regis ad exemplum; nec tantum inflectere sensus

Humanos edicta valent, quàm vita regentis.

Mobile mutatur semper cum principe vulgus.

Claud. De Honorii Consul.

†2 1 Kings 15:30 ; 1 Kings 16:2 .

†3 Exodus 23:1. M.R. Compare Proverbs 13:5 .

†4 Henry.

†5 1 Kings 18:3 .

†6 Jeremiah 38:7-13.

†7 Daniel 2:48-49.

†8 1 Kings 22:6, 1 Kings 22:26-27 . Compare Hosea 7:3 . ’Many kings have been destroyed by poison; but none has been so efficaciously mortal, as that drunk in by the ear.’ - South. Massillon well taught his young prince, that the flattery of the courtier was little less dangerous than the rebellion of the traitor.

Verse 13

The doctrine of this proverb, as of one similar to it (Proverbs 22:2 ), seems to be the real equality of the divine dispensations under apparent inequalities. The rich seem to be intended by the deceitful; so called, from the deceitfulness of riches,†1 and of the means, by which they are too often obtained.†2 The usurer†3 appears to point to the same purport; implying the oppression too often connected with riches.†4 Both these classes, so distinct in their relative condition, meet together on the same level before God. However men may differ; however one may oppress and despise, and the other envy or hate; however the poor may be tempted to murmur because of the oppressions of his richer neighbor; however the rich by usury or unjust gain may take advantage of the necessities of the poor — the LORD enlighteneth both their eyes — "He is no respecter of persons." (Acts 10:34 .) Both are partakers of his providential blessings. (Matthew 5:45 .) Both are the subjects of his Sovereign grace; ’members of the same body, animated by the same spirit, appointed for the same inheritance; partakers of the same "great and precious promises." There was not one prize for the soul of the poor, and another for the rich. There was not one table for the meaner guests, and another for the greater.’†5 The poor Lazarus and the usurer Zaccheus have long met together in one common home; both alike the undeserved monuments of wondrous everlasting mercy; — the eyes of both enlightened, spiritually, eternally. (Luke 16:22 ; Luke 19:9 .)

Is it not presumption to judge hastily the ways of God; or to judge them at all by the plummet of our own reason? (Ezekiel 18:25 .) Let us wait the appointed time, and all will be clear, as all is right. How far beyond our narrow conceptions is every exercise and display of this manifold wisdom, grace and love!

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 23:5. Matthew 13:22 .

†2 1 Timothy 6:9 .

†3 Compare Proverbs 22:7 .

†4 Psalms 62:9-10. James 5:1 . For the same reason our Lord denominates riches generally by the distinctive term of "the mammon of unrighteousness." Luke 16:9 .

†5 Bp. Reynolds’ Vanity of the Creature, Sect. 8.

Verse 14

This maxim has often been repeated in substance. (Proverbs 29:4, Proverbs 29:7 ; Proverbs 20:28 .) The writer of this book was a king. He was naturally led to write for his own benefit, while the Divine Spirit guided his pen for the use of rulers to the end of time. May every king — specially may our own beloved Sovereign — place this picture of a godly ruler constantly before the eyes! It is natural for the king to desire the establishment of his throne; but not natural for him to seek it in God’s own way. Jeroboam sought it by wickedness;†1 Rehoboam by worldly policy;†2 Ahaz by worldly alliances.†3 The far more sure mode is the faithful administration of justice, not neglecting the rich, but specially protecting the poor, who from their weakness were in the greater need of a covering.†4 David appears to have been a poor man’s king, giving the lowest of his people familiar access to him for judgment. (2 Samuel 19:8 .) Solomon, and many of his godly successors, ordered their kingdom in the same principles of justice, and were abundantly honored of their God.†5 The maladministration of the rulers never failed to bring a curse upon the government.†6 "Them that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." (1 Samuel 2:30 .)

When our Great Savior King walked upon earth, his enemies bore testimony, whether in flattery or conviction, to his righteous character. (Matthew 22:16 .) Not less beautiful than accurate is this description, as applied to the principles of his government, in the connection with the promise of the establishment of his throne.†7

Footnotes:

†1 1 Kings 11:26 .

†2 2 Chronicles 11:22-23 ; 2 Chronicles 12:1 .

†3 2 Chronicles 28:16-20 .

†4 Proverbs 31:9. Psalms 82:3-4 .

†5 1 Kings 3:16-28 . Jehoshaphat - 2 Chronicles 19:5-11 ; 2 Chronicles 20:30 . Josiah - Jeremiah 22:14-19 . Compare Daniel’s advice to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:27 .

†6 Isaiah 3:13-14; Isaiah 10:1 . Jeremiah 22:13-19 . Zephaniah 3:3 .

†7 Psalms 72:7, Psalms 72:11, Psalms 72:15 . Isaiah 9:7 ; Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 11:9 .

Verse 15

Discipline is the order of God’s government. Parents are his dispensers of it to their children. The child must be broken in to "bear the yoke in his youth." (Lamentations 3:27 .) Let reproof be first tried; and if it succeed, let the rod be spared. (Proverbs 17:10 .) If not, let it do its work. Eli gave the reproof, "but spared the rod."†1 The rod is evidently to be taken literally, not metaphorically; corporal, not spiritual chastisement.†2

Some give the rod without reproof, without any effort to produce sensibility of conscience. From this tyranny or caprice nothing can be expected. The combined influence not only "drives foolishness far away," but, as a positive blessing, gives wisdom. (Proverbs 22:15 .) God’s own children grow wiser under correction. They see their folly, and in genuine shame turn from it, blessing him for his rod of faithfulness and love,†3 and teaching us the folly of rejecting medicines because they are bitter.

But look at the child left to himself — without restraint. A more perfect picture of misery and ruin cannot be conceived. His evil tempers are thought to be the accident of childhood. ’They will pass away, as his reason improves. Time only can mend them.’ But in fact time of itself mends nothing. It only strengthens and matures the growth of the native principle. This, being a decided bias to evil, must tend to deadly injury. The mother cannot conjecture the future stature, health, talents, or prospects of her new-born infant. But of one thing she may be absolutely certain — a corrupt and wayward will. The poison however does not appear at first. No special anxiety is excited. The child is not nurtured in wickedness, or under the influence of bad example. He is only left to himself. Left! The restive horse, with his rein loosened, full of his own spirit, plunges headlong down the precipice. The child, without government, rushes on under the impetuous impulse of his own will;†4 and what but Almighty sovereign grace can save him from destruction? Many a hardened villain on the gallows was once perhaps the pleasing, susceptible child; only left to himself, to his own appetite, pride, and self-willed-obstinacy.†5

The sound discipline of heavenly guidance is our Father’s best blessing. His most fearful curse, is to be given up to our own ways, "to walk in our own counsels." (Psalms 81:12 .) A child thus left is at the furthest point from salvation, in the very jaws of the devouring lion.

Turn we now from the ruined child to the disgraced, broken-hearted parent. The mother only is mentioned, as the chief superintendent of the early discipline; perhaps also as the most susceptible of the grievous error. For if the father’s stronger character induces him to "provoke his children to wrath" (Colossians 3:21 ); to rule rather by command than by persuasion; does not the mother’s softer mold tend to the opposite evil? And so far as she yields to mistaken indulgence, she bears the greater share of the punishment. It is not, that she is brought to trouble, or even to poverty; but to that, which is the most keenly-felt of all distress — to shame.†6 Nowhere is God’s retributive justice more strongly marked. The mother’s sin is visited in the proportioned punishment. What greater neglect of obligation, than a child left to himself? What greater affliction, than the shame to which he brings her? Parental influence is lost. The reverence of authority is forgotten, as a by-gone name. (Proverbs 19:26 .) The child rules; instead of being as a corrected child, in subjection. (Hebrews 12:9 .) The parent fears, instead of the child; and thus virtually owns her own degradation. Instead of "the wise son, that maketh a glad father;" it is "the foolish son, that is the heaviness of his mother."†7 The sunshine of bright prospects is clouded. The cup of joy is filled with wormwood. The father’s mouth is dumb with the confusion of grief. The dearest object of the mother’s tenderness, instead of being the staff and comfort of her age, bringeth her to shame. Truly children, thus left to themselves, will mingle the bitterest cup that man can ever have to drink, and stir up the saddest tears, that ever eyes can have to weep.

This is not a trial, which, like many others, she might cover in her own bosom. Alas! the shame is too public to be concealed. What must have been the open dishonor upon Eli’s name, when "the sins of his children made men abhor the offering of the LORD"! (1 Samuel 2:17 .) When the treason of David’s sons brought him to shame in the sight of all Israel; surely his own conscience must have brought his own perverted fondness to mind, as the cause of their ruin; both left to themselves — one palliated in the most aggravated sin;†8 the other having been not even corrected by a word. (1 Kings 1:5-9 .) And if the shame before men be so bitter, what will be the overwhelming confusion at the great consummation, when the evil propensities, cherished with such cruel fondness in the parental bosom, shall produce their harvest "in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow"! (Isaiah 17:11 .)

Oh! as our children’s happiness or misery, both for time and eternity, is linked with our own responsibilities; shall not we "watch and pray," and resist "the weakness of the flesh," in self-denying firmness? ’Take this for certain’ — says Bishop Hopkins — ’that as many deserved stripes as you spare from your children, you do but lay upon your own back. And those whom you refuse to chastise, God will make severer scourges to chastise you.’†9 At whatever cost, establish your authority. Let there be but one will in the house. And let it be felt, that this will is to be the law. The child will readily discover, whether the parent is disposed to yield, or resolved to rule. But however trifling the requirement, let obedience be, in small as great matters, the indispensable point. The awe of parental authority is perfectly consistent with the utmost freedom of childlike confidence. Nay — it is the very foundation of it (for the child can hardly appreciate the kindness of a parent, whom he thinks afraid to strike), while it operates as a valuable safeguard against a thousand follies of uncontrolled waywardness. But ever let us put the awful alternative vividly before us. Either the child’s will, or the parent’s heart, must be broken. Without a wise and firm control, the parent is miserable; the child is ruined.†10

Footnotes:

†1 1 Samuel 2:22-25 ; 1 Samuel 3:13.

†2 Proverbs 23:13-14. Compare Proverbs 19:29 ; Proverbs 20:30 .

†3 2 Chronicles 33:12 . Psalms 119:67, Psalms 119:71, Psalms 119:75 . Luke 15:13-17 . Micah 6:9 .

†4 ’Puer, cui frænum laxatum.’ - Schultens.

†5 Compare 1 Kings 1:6-9 ; 1 Kings 2:23-25 . Rousseau inculcated this system to its fullest extent - ’That no kind of habits ought to be impressed on children; that you should leave them to the natural consequences of their own actions; and that, when reason comes to exert itself in a maturer state, all will be right.’ Upon which the following beautiful apostrophe has been given - ’Emilius! how I tremble for thee, while I see thee exposed to the care of thy too ingenious tutor. I see thee willful to thy parents; domineering in the nursery; surfeiting on meats; inflaming thy body with noxious humours, thy mind with unquiet passions; running headlong into dangers, which thou canst not foresee, and habits which thou canst not eradicate; mischievous to others, but fatal to thyself.’ - See Bp. Horne’s Sermon on Self-Denial. ’We pity orphans’ - remarked a wise Christian parent - ’who have neither father nor mother to care for them. A child indulged is more to be pitied. It has no parent. It is its own master, peevish, froward, headstrong, blind; born to a double portion of trouble and sorrow above what fallen man is heir to; not only miserable itself, but worthless, and a plague to all who in future will be connected with it. What bad sons, husbands, masters, fathers, daughters, wives, and mothers, are the offspring of fond indulgence, shewn to little masters and misses almost from the cradle! Wise discipline gives thought and firmness to the mind; and makes us useful here, and fit for the world of perfect subordination above.’ - Venn’s Life, p. 257.

†6 ’Conturbator matris suæ.’ - Schultens. ’Filius confundens, confusione omni arefaciens, et perplexens.’ - Ib. on Proverbs 10:5 .

†7 Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 17:21, Proverbs 17:25 .

†8 2 Samuel 14:21, 2 Samuel 14:23 ; 2 Samuel 15:6 ; 2 Samuel 18:33 .

†9 Works, i. 450.

†10 ’I earnestly entreat you’ - writes the wise and experienced Josiah Pratt to his children - ’to subdue the wills of your children most tenderly if you can? But if not, your duty and your love require measures, which shall enforce obedience. Commit yourselves as little as may be into a contest with your children. But having once done this, you must maintain the contest till the child yields. Every such victory will make the next easier, and in all likelihood deter the child from entering on another contest. And you must make thorough work of it, if you would bless the child. The guile of the heart is seen in combination with its self-will, in trying to evade your authority. A very young child puts forth perhaps his first approaches to sin in acts of cunning and rebellion. Rely with unshaken confidence on that divine maxim - "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."’ - Memoir, Chapter 19.

Verse 16

The increase of transgression is obviously proportioned to the increase of transgressors. (Hosea 4:7 .) Nor is it merely a numerical increase, but also in power and daring of sin. "The men, who began to multiply upon the face of the old earth, were giants" in wickedness, as in strength, until "the striving of the Spirit of God" could endure no longer. (Genesis 6:3 .) Thus was it with the Babel-builders (Genesis 11:8 ), and the cities of the plain. (Genesis 18:20 .) Combination emboldens in sin. (Isaiah 41:7 .) Each particle of the mass is corrupt. The mass therefore of itself ferments with evil. Hence the prevalence of infidelity in our densely-crowded districts above the more thinly-populated villages. There is the same evil in individual hearts; but not the same fermentation of evil.

But for the prospects of faith, the Christian eye could not bear the sight. But the righteous shall see their fall.†1 Noah saw the destruction of the old world,†2 Abraham the ruin of the devoted cities;†3 "Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore." (Exodus 14:30 .) ’Let not the righteous’ — said good Bishop Patrick — ’be discouraged; for the wickeder men are, the shorter is their reign.’ The faithful Minister, conscious of his inability to stem the everflowing torrent of iniquity, would sink in despair, but for the assured confidence, that he is on the conquering side; that his cause, as the cause of his Lord, must eventually prevail. Yes — though now sin seems to triumph, and Satan boasts of his victories; yet "the kingdoms of this world," with all their vast population, shall "become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15 .) This is indeed the supporting joy of faith; to realize the glory of this day, when the righteous shall see the fall of the now triumphing wicked; and one universal shout shall swell throughout the earth — "Alleluia; salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his judgments — Alleluia; for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth."†4

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 37:34; Psalms 58:11 .

†2 Genesis 7:23.

†3 Genesis 19:28.

†4 Revelation 19:1-6, with Revelation 15:4 ; Revelation 18:20 . Compare Isaiah 66:24 .

Verse 17

Once more the wise man returns to the subject of discipline. These repeated inculcations†1 strongly shew its importance. The command is positive — Correct thy son. How can an upright judgment evade or explain away a plain, literal rule? This book of Proverbs is not out of date. Like every other part of the Sacred Volume, it is the Book for every age; "given by inspiration of God; profitable for doctrine, and written for our learning."†2 To try therefore more self-pleasing rules, is to set up our will in opposition to God’s; reason or feeling in the stead of faith. It is making ourselves "wise above that which is written."

The measure and mode of correction indeed must depend upon the age, sex, temper of the child, the character, the aggravation, or the mitigated circumstances, of the fault. But let it be, like our gracious Father’s discipline, never more than can be borne.†3 Make due allowance for any marks of ingenuous confession. Yet with a wise application of the principle, there must be no exception to the rule. Different tempers, like different soils, require corresponding difference of treatment. But discipline there must be; not relaxed in fondness, not pushed on in harshness; but authority tempered with love.†4 If a gentle hand cannot control, a stronger hand must be applied.

We may take rest without correction; but such rest will bring trouble in the end. The true rest is that, which our child will give; and that he may give it, the rule is — Correct.†5 We may be assured, that God would not have so insisted upon it, if a blessing was not with it. If Eli was rejected, it was because in this matter he "honored his sons above God."†6 Those men "that honor him" above their sons "he will honor." Pain is the present exercise both to parent and child,†7 but the after blessing is secured. (Hebrews 12:11 .) Ground well tilled, trees carefully pruned, "bring forth more fruit."

Observe how the objection of parental weakness is anticipated. ’If I put my son to pain, will he not hate me?’ No — when "left to himself," he was a deep and anxious trouble. Now he shall give thee rest. Before — he "brought thee to shame." (Proverbs 29:15 .) Now he shall give delight to thy soul.†8 The momentary feelings of the child under correction will give way to the conviction of the parent’s wisdom and regard for his profit. (Hebrews 12:9 .)

Yet the rule against discouragement would not have been repeated, had there not been some parental evil to be corrected. "Provocation" revolts, transfers confidence to most unworthy associates, and brings into ruinous temptations. Children claim a considerate treatment. They must not be driven by brute force. Authority must be tempered with love. The grounds of extraordinary commands should be explained to them. What is good should be liberally commended. The best construction should be put upon defective efforts. The distinction should be carefully drawn between weakness and willfulness, between heedlessness and obstinacy. Home should be gladdened with the invigorating joy of spring, and replete with every wholesome indulgence. Every attempt should be made to gain confidence, so that the child, instead of a cold trembling reserve, should run into our arms. But in this glowing atmosphere, forget not God’s rule. The completeness of discipline is the father’s firmness combined with the mother’s tenderness; each infusing into the other the quality of each. A wise parent will put his seal to the testimony, that this well-disciplined education is the surest means of securing the children’s affection, gratitude, and reverence.

In fine — on this important subject so often enforced — we are not taught to believe without promises, or to obey without precepts. The Book of Proverbs exhibits cause and effect — the certain consequence of a given course of action, whether good or evil. It sets out promise and obligation — promise fulfilled in the way of obligation. The promised blessing to godly parental discipline is written in beams of living light. If the grace of the promise be lost, it is only by unbelief in the promise, or by a presumptuous confidence in it (separating the end from the means) such as brings shame in the issue. It is not that God is untrue, but that we are unfaithful. God has given the promise. Man either slights, rejects or abuses it. He attempts to put aside the Scripture by an appeal to experience, instead of proving the faithfulness of God by "the obedience of faith." The commands — the directions — the promises — the blessing — all are the Lord’s. Put his word to the test. The simplicity and perseverance of faith will be richly honored in his own best time and way.

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 29:15. Proverbs 13:24 ; Proverbs 19:18 ; Proverbs 22:15 ; Proverbs 23:13-14 .

†2 2 Timothy 3:16 . Romans 15:4 .

†3 Isaiah 27:8; Isaiah 57:16 . 1 Corinthians 10:13 .

†4 See Wisdom of Solomon 6:17 .

†5 Compare Sirach 30:2 .

†6 1 Samuel 2:29-30 . Contrast Genesis 22:12 .

†7 Proverbs 15:10.

†8 Proverbs 23:13-16, Proverbs 23:24-25 .

Verse 18

18 Where there is no vision, the people perish†a (is made naked, marg.) but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

The vision — as appears from the contrast — is divine instruction. (1 Samuel 3:1 .) The Ministry is the appointed ordinance to communicate this blessing,†1 and therefore the main instrumentality of conversion,†2 and subsequent Christian perfection.†3 No greater calamity therefore can there be than the removal of the vision. The temporal famine, affecting only the body, is a light judgment, scarcely to be mentioned, compared with that, by which the people perish — "the famine of hearing the words of the LORD."†4 For ’when there is none that can edify, and exhort, and comfort the people by the word of God, they must needs perish. They become thrall and captives unto Satan. Their heart is bound up. Their eyes are shut up; they can see nothing. Their ears are stopped up; they can hear nothing. They are carried away as a prey into hell, because they have not the knowledge of God.’†5

Often did Israel provoke this most fearful judgment — the removal of the open vision.†6 "The candlestick" of the Apocalyptic Churches has from the same cause been long since removed out of its place; and for the most part little more remains than the ceremonial of bygone days.†7 From the Apostate Church of Rome, the vision is well-nigh withdrawn, and the people perish in ignorance and delusion. For as our Protestant Cranmer nobly testified — ’I know how Antichrist both obscured the glory of God, and the true knowledge of his word; overcasting the same with mists and clouds of error and ignorance through their false glosses and interpretations. It pitieth me’ — he adds, ’to see the simple and hungry flock of Christ led into corrupt pastures, to be carried blindfold they know not whither.’†8

In other bodies also, "having a name to live," the complaint is as real, as in days of old — "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6 .) The sun shines not on more wretched objects, than on the awful masses of our fellow-sinners, growing up in habitual estrangement from God.

It has been calculated, that between four and five millions of our countrymen are living in habitual separation from the worship of God. Whether from the guilty neglect of rulers, the willful neglect of individuals, or from the population having grown far beyond the extent of instruction provided, certain it is, that in the most enlightened country in the world, to vast masses of our poor there is no vision, and the people perish in ignorance — "the things belonging to their peace being hid from their eyes"!†9

Take the most awful illustration of this Proverb that can be imagined. If to be without vision be the mark of a perishing state, what ray of Scriptural hope dawns upon the Heathen world? Being "without Christ," they are described by infallible testimony as "having no hope." (Ephesians 2:12 .) Salvation is indeed free to all, "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord." But how shall they call without faith; believe without hearing; "hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:13-17 .) If therefore there be no vision, how can they but perish? "They perish indeed without law" (Romans 2:12 ) (not condemned under the law of revelation, which they have never known); but still they perish "without excuse" (Romans 1:20 ), alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the "blindness of their hearts." (Ephesians 4:18 .) Proud reasoning man revolts, and presumes to be more merciful than God. But this false charity is only the cover for selfishness. Men deny the danger, because they are too indolent, too self-indulgent, to stretch out the helping hand, or to make one sacrifice for the rescue. True charity is the fruit of reverential faith. And, while it realizes the tremendous peril, it concentrates all the energy of compassionate tenderness, believing prayer, and self-denying effort upon their salvation.

But the contrast is not between those, who have not the vision and those who have it; but between the destitution and the improvement of the blessing. The mere profession of the Gospel may be a nullity. Of what use is light, if we open not our eyes to see it? So far from becoming a blessing, it will only issue in deeper condemnation.†10 If some are enlightened, multitudes are struck blind. (John 12:40 .) But this true vision — the object really beheld as life and light to the soul — is the spring of that happy keeping the law,†11 which realizes no less a privilege than communion with our God and Savior here and for eternity.†12 Yes, truly — to be interested in the promises of God; to be an inheritor of everlasting glory; to be the present possessor of divine favor; to be secured from the peril of everything against him, and assured of the supply of all things that will work for his good — this is the happy portion of the practical disciple. And indeed in the ordinary course of life, as Hooker observes in his godly instructiveness — ’what event soever ensue, it breedeth, if not joy and gladness always, yet always patience, satisfaction, and reasonable contentment of mind. Whereupon it hath been set down as an axiom of good experience, that all things religiously taken in hand are prosperously ended; because, whether men in the end have that, which religion did allow them to desire, or that, which it teacheth them contentedly to suffer, they are in neither case unfortunate.’†13

Who then can justly cast a cloud of gloom over the ways of God? Let the Pentecostal Christians witness to their gladness. (Acts 2:46-47 .) Let every servant of his Lord invite his fellow-sinners to the enjoyment of his privileges by the manifestation of their holiness and joy.

Footnotes:

†a Compare Exodus 32:25 . 2 Chronicles 28:19 . Geier and others give - ’Dissipantur’ - scattered. Matthew 9:36 . Naked. Marg. - without clothing, in which to appear before God. Every view portrays a state of desponding misery.

†1 1 Samuel 9:9 . Malachi 2:7 . Ephesians 4:11 .

†2 1 Corinthians 1:21 . James 1:18 . 1 Peter 1:23 .

†3 1 Corinthians 14:3 . Ephesians 4:11-14 . 1 Thessalonians 3:10 . And yet this most fruitful organ of divine agency (preaching), which our blessed Lord honored as the grand medium of his own teaching (Psalms 40:9-10 . Isaiah 61:1-2 ), is now depreciated as the mark of ’a Church only in a weak and a languishing state, and an instrument, which Scripture - to say the least - has never much recommended.’ (Tracts for the Times, 87, p. 75.) Far more orthodox is the sentiment of one of our venerable reformers. ’Thus we may learn the necessity of preaching, and what inconvenience follows when it is not used. "Where preaching fails" - saith Solomon - "there people perish." Therefore let every one keep himself in God’s school-house, and learn his lesson diligently. For as the body is nourished with meat; so is the soul with the word of God.’ Bp. Pilkington’s Works, p. 112. Parker Society’s edition. ’The meanest village’ - Luther was wont to say - ’with a Christian pastor and flock, is a palace of ebony.’

†4 Amos 8:11-12. Isaiah 8:16 .

†5 Bishop Jewell on the Scriptures.

†6 1 Kings 12:28-32 ; 2 Chronicles 15:3-5 . Psalms 74:9 . Lamentations 1:4 ; Lamentations 2:9 . Ezekiel 7:26 . Hosea 3:4 .

†7 Revelation 2:1-5; Revelation 3:1-3, Revelation 3:15-16 .

†8 Preface to Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament.

†9 Luke 19:42. So far as the mass has been reached, we are deeply indebted to the Pastoral Aid Society, which may well be called our Home Missionary Society.

†10 Matthew 11:20-24. Luke 12:47-48 .

†11 Proverbs 3:21-24; Proverbs 4:5-9 ; Proverbs 8:32-35 ; Proverbs 19:16 . Luke 11:28 . John 13:17 .

†12 John 14:21-23. Revelation 22:12, Revelation 22:14 .

Verse 19

Discipline must be carried, not only into the family (Proverbs 29:15, Proverbs 29:17 ), but throughout the whole household, in order to preserve God’s authority and order. An important hint is here given relative to the management of servants. Though it does not apply to all,†1 it shews a very common temptation to self-will. There is a proud as well as an humble silence; as plain a proof of an unsubdued spirit, as a pert and flippant answer. The patience of Job was sorely exercised by this trial; and that under circumstances, that made the treatment more aggravated. (Job 19:16 .) We must guard against harshness in our spirit.†2 But with servants, as with children, authority must be maintained at any cost. And therefore, if a servant understand the command, and will not answer; if he will not be corrected by words, it were better to dismiss him, than to lower our authority, and countenance evil by yielding to his waywardness.

The Scripture fully sets out the duties of servants — "Not answering again. With good-will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to man."†3 Sullen resistance to reproof is most inconsistent with the profession of a Christian; and, if the offender escapes the correction of an earthly master, he will be visited with the rod of his angry Lord, as a self-deceiver, or backslider from his high obligation.†4

Footnotes:

†1 The LXX renders, but without authority from the original - ’an obstinate servant.’

†2 Leviticus 25:43. Compare Sirach 33:28-29 .

†3 Titus 2:9. Ephesians 6:7 .

†4 Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 26:3 .

Verse 20

We have just been warned against sullen silence. The next warning is directed against hasty words. When a man flows on in his words, evidently without time for consideration (Proverbs 18:13 ); when he gives his opinion, as if it were a loss of time to take counsel, or regard the judgment of others; when you find him forward in pronouncing judgment before men of acknowledged wisdom and experience; this is the "fool uttering all his mind." (Proverbs 29:11 ); the man lately marked out for our warning (Proverbs 26:12 ), as an hopeless fool, "wise in his own conceit."

It is very difficult to deal effectively with him. Until the stronghold of his own conceit be shaken, argument and instruction are lost upon him. The man who is conscious of his weakness, distrusts himself, and is ready to ask and receive counsel; is more likely to be led right, than he, who thinks himself to be right already.

It is a special mercy to be preserved from hasty judgments, or expression of judgments. The first stamp upon a perfect mind is infallibly correct. On an imperfect mind it must be subjected to a careful scrutiny. It is sound wisdom to admit, that our judgment may be mistaken. Self-control and self-diffidence give solid consistency. This character of mind is most important in religious disputations. Be careful to defend or contravene nothing, till you have tested it by the true standard. Moses deferred judgment on the sin before his eyes, till he had brought the matter to God. (Leviticus 24:12 .) "Be swift to hear; slow to speak." (James 1:19 .)

Footnotes:

Verse 21

We have another valuable rule for domestic discipline; directing masters to a wise treatment of their servants. It is a grievous error to step ourselves, or to induce another to step out of the path, which a God of order has marked for us. Divine Wisdom has framed the constitution of society, assigning to each their station and their duties. If a servant aspire to be in the house anything but a servant, his character loses its value. A master acts — to say the least — most unseemly, when he forgets his own place and authority, and delicately bringeth up his servant by the allowance of undue freedom. It is a great exercise to preserve the true medium between distance and familiarity. An haughty, menacing demeanor towards our servants forgets the respect justly due to them. (Ephesians 6:9 .) An inconsiderate fondness takes them out of their place, greatly to their own injury. Our Lord’s distinction shews, that friends — not servants — should be admitted to our familiar intercourse, and entrusted with our confidence. (John 15:15 .) To promote a servant therefore to the rank of a confidant, unfits him for his own condition, and defeats our own end by the natural results of this unnatural treatment. True kindness keeps him in his place. ’Good usage does by no means imply that indulgence, that would ruin a child.’†1 A servant delicately brought up — often from a child — if he be not taken down in time, and made to know his place — soon relaxes in respect and attention. Instead of this false kindness stimulating to diligence, and inducing gratitude; he becomes idle, insolent, and ungovernable (Compare Sirach 33:25-27 ); assumes the young master — becomes a son at length. This unseemly usurpation is an evil, "that the earth cannot bear — a servant, when he reigneth."†2 Ishbosheth must have allowed Abner undue liberty, when he so far forgot the respect due to his sovereign, as to insult him before his face. (2 Samuel 3:8 .) David also must have loosened the reins of proper authority, when Joab murdered the commander-in-chief at the head of his army, without being instantly subjected to the penalty of the law. (2 Samuel 20:10 .) Even the wise man appears to have forgotten his own prudent caution, when he delicately brought up Jeroboam in authority; and promoted him too suddenly. He lived to regret his error, when with the pretension of a son he combined the pride of a rebel. (1 Kings 11:26-28 .) The confusion and anarchy of after years in the kingdom originated in the same false step. (1 Kings 16:9-12 .) The greatest kindness to servants is to "give to them that which is just and equal" (Colossians 4:1 ) — but no more. Any defect in this rule will be sure to bring (as in the case referred to) future trouble, as the just chastening for present folly. What need have we of the daily supply of Divine grace to rule our house well in due subjection! The resolution to "behave ourselves wisely in a perfect way" can only be accomplished in the habitual prayer — "O, when wilt thou come unto me?" Then indeed "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." (Psalms 101:2 .)

Footnotes:

†1 Scott.

†2 Proverbs 30:21-22. Lord bacon suggests for the good ordering of servants - 1. That we promote them by steps, not by leaps. 2. That we occasionally deny their wishes. ’Sudden elevation’ - he adds - ’induces insolence. The constant granting of their wishes makes them only more imperative in demand.’ - Advancement of Learning, Book 12.

Verse 22

Anger is not necessarily a sinful passion. Even furiousness — the overflowing of the torrent — is a property in God. (Nahum 1:2 ) We can readily conceive of its energy in the unfallen nature of man. Had Satan appeared to Eve in his own open hatefulness, her anger against him would have been a holy principle. But in a fallen nature, to preserve its purity is a rare and most difficult matter. It must be confined to points, where God’s honor is concerned (John 2:15-17 ); and even on these points the rule must be observed — "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." (Ephesians 4:26 .) The short period of the day is abundantly sufficient to express right motives, and to accomplish holy purposes.

The general tendency of anger is however here most truly described. Its active energy stirreth up strife.†1 It quarrels even upon trifles,†2 — or matters, which a forbearing consideration might have satisfactorily explained. (Acts 15:39 .) And when suppressed, but not laboriously mortified, how often does it become more intense, and break out more furiously — abounding in transgression! Indeed it is difficult to take a full view of the mighty power of this mass of sin. It gives the impetus to every besetting propensity. It may be blasphemy! (Leviticus 24:10-11 .) It stops at nothing. How many murders do we owe to this paroxysm of the moment!†3 But for the divine restraints, the very foundations of society would be torn up!

Parents! Do we feel the responsibility of early checking this ebullition in our children? And do we diligently watch against the first rising in ourselves, incessantly praying for its subjugation? How beautiful are the instances of Almighty grace — such as Henry Martyn†4 — transforming the furious man into the likeness of his meek and holy Master!

But let us not be satisfied with the outward constraint upon passion. God condemns the deep-rooted principle that gives it birth. Wretched heart! filled with soul-destroying corruption. Every, even the least, indulgence operates fearfully. So much time spent in excitement! So much more in the unquiet waiting for the desired opportunity! And all given to the great Murderer! Oh! for the mystery and doctrine of the cross, to mold our temper into its genuine spirit and influence!

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 15:18; Proverbs 26:21 ; Proverbs 30:33 . James 3:16 .

†2 1 Timothy 6:4 . 2 Timothy 2:23-24 .

†3 1 Samuel 18:9-10 ; 1 Samuel 22:6-19 . Matthew 2:16 . Acts 7:54-59 ; Acts 12:19 .

†4 Life, p. 8. Pref. to 10th edit.

Verse 23

This Proverb — Bishop Hall remarks in his own style — ’is like unto Shushan: in the streets whereof honor is proclaimed to the humble Mordecai; in the palace whereof is erected an engine of death to a proud Haman.’†1 It exhibits the spirit of our Lord’s oft-repeated declaration expounded by his daily Providences — "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."†2 The real value of man in himself is so small, that the Psalmist is at a loss where to find it.†3 His undue value of himself is utter delusion; having lost all; stripped of all; yet proud, as if he were the possessor of all. He raises himself to heaven in his airy visions; but soon does he meet with his own punishment — A man’s pride shall bring him low.†4 We see this in the world. The proud conceit of rank, talent, or any superiority, subjects to continual mortification;†5 while on the other hand, humility, at first considered a mean and servile spirit, ultimately comes to its just estimation.

The world counts nothing great without display. But mark the substantial "honor that cometh from God only." "Heaven is my throne; and earth is my footstool; yet to this man will I look — to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit." (Isaiah 66:1-2 .) Yea — "I dwell — saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity — with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit." (Isaiah 57:15 .) Humility is indeed true greatness — ’the crown’ — as Mr. Howels finely remarks — ’of finite beings, made and jewelled by the hand of God himself. Supremacy is the glory of God; humility is the ornament of his child.’†6 "I am but dust and ashes. I am less than the least of all thy mercies. I abhor myself. Sinners — of whom I am chief"†7 — such are the self-abasing confessions of men great in Jehovah’s eyes. They shine with the reflection of his glory; but they turn away with genuine humility from their own shining.

Men of this stamp "the king delighteth to honor." Their dignity begins on earth, and is crowned in heaven. "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3 ; Matthew 18:4 .) Poor they may be in station. But they shine forth as mightier conquerors than Alexander. Their real glory eclipses the glare of the pomp and "pride of life."

The elevation of the proud is often the step to their downfall. But God’s honor, put upon his own people, upholds them, as Joseph and Daniel, in their high eminence, as witnesses for his name. Meetness for heaven is that adorning clothing of humility, which leads us to ascribe all our grace to God, and all our sin to ourselves. This is the prostrate adoration of heaven. (Revelation 5:9-12 .) The Lord imbue us richly with this spirit.

Indeed all chastening discipline is for the great purpose, to "hide pride from man" (Job 33:17 ), and to bring us low in our own eyes, that his honor may "lift us in due time."†8 It is with us as with our Lord — honor comes out of humiliation.†9 ’Thou meanest to be not our Savior only, but our pattern too. If we can go down the steps of thine humiliation, we shall rise up the stairs of thy glory.’†10

Footnotes:

†1 Sermon on Text. Works. v. 270.

†2 Matthew 23:12. Luke 14:11 ; Luke 18:14 . The speech of Artabanus to Xerxes before his invasion of Greece, is a striking testimony from an Heathen. ’God delights to depress whatever is too highly exalted. Thus a large army is often defeated by a small one. When God in his jealousy throws them into a panic, or thunders against them, they miserably perish. For God suffers no mortal to think magnificently.’ - Herodotus, Book 7. c. 10.

†3 Psalms 8:3-4; Psalms 144:3 ; Psalms 39:5 .

†4 Job 40:12. Psalms 18:27 . Compare Zephaniah 2:15 . Revelation 18:7-8, and references on Proverbs 16:18-19 .

†5 1 Kings 21:1-4 . Esther 5:13 .

†6 Sermons, i. pp. 335, 336.

†7 Genesis 18:27; Genesis 32:10 . Job 42:6 . 1 Timothy 1:15 .

†8 1 Peter 5:6 . Job 22:29 .

†9 Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 18:12 .

†10 Bp. Hall ut supra.

Verse 24

This is a warning under the eighth commandment. Do we realize the same solemnity of obligation as under the first? Many professors attach a degree of secularity to a detailed application of the duties of the second table. But both stand on the same authority. The transgressions of both are registered in the same book. The place in the decalogue cannot be of moment, if it be but there with the imprimatur — "I am the LORD thy God." The law acknowledges no difference between the thief and his partner. Consenting to sin — receiving the stolen goods — involves us in the guilt and punishment.†1 The accomplice may be less practised in sin. He may be only commencing his course. But the first step is the way of death, — acting as if he hated his own soul.†2 One step naturally leads on to another. Suppose him to be called to give evidence upon oath concerning his knowledge or privity of the deed. Would not this be a temptation to perjury, rather than to discover his fellow? Under the perverted obligation of his bond of secrecy he heareth cursing — the solemn adjuration to declare the truth on pain of the curse of God†3 — and he bewrayeth it not. ’He keeps his wicked counsel, and will not betray.’

Oh! how frightful is the history of thousands, whose fellowship with sinners has drawn them into fellowship with sin, and ultimately to take the lead in sin! — whose entrance into the path has led them step by step into the very depths of depravity! And of those thousands, how few — it is to be feared — retrace their steps, and become, like Onesimus, true followers of Christ, and faithful servants to man!†4

Footnotes:

†1 Proverbs 1:10-15. Psalms 50:18-21 . Isaiah 1:23-24 .

†2 Compare Proverbs 6:32 ; Proverbs 8:36 ; Proverbs 15:32 .

†3 Compare Leviticus 5:1 . Numbers 5:21 . 1 Kings 22:16 . Matthew 26:63 .

†4 Epistle to Philemon 1:1-25 .

Verse 25

A snare brings a man into straits. He is not master of himself. Here Satan spreads the snare, and the fear of man drives into it. And a fearful snare it is, and ever hath been to thousands. Many, once entangled, have never escaped. It besets every step of the path-way to heaven, every sphere of obligation. The king turns aside from strict integrity.†1 The judge willfully pronounces an unrighteous sentence.†2 The Minister faints under the cross;†3 and to avoid it, compromises the simplicity of the Gospel.†4 There is a timidity in acting out an unpopular doctrine. The people cannot bear the full light. The Sun of righteousness is therefore exhibited under a mist; but dimly visible; shorn of his glowing beams. The strictness of the precepts is unpalatable. It must therefore be softened down, modified or explained away.†5 Or inconstancy of profession must be quietly dealt with, lest the good opinion of some influential man be forfeited. Such is the power of evil shame! Such low thoughts, not only of God, but of immortal souls, and usefulness to our fellow-sinners! This time-serving shews a man-pleaser, not a true "servant of God" (Galatians 1:10 ), and brings a blast alike to his work and to his soul.†6

The same deadly influence operates in families. Sometimes even parents shrink from the open protection of their child. (John 9:22 .) They dare not avow a supreme regard to his primary interests, or profess in opposition to many around them, the Patriarch’s godly determination — "As for me and my house" — however evil it may seem to others — "we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15 .)

Every class of society exhibits this corrupt principle. Perhaps the highest are bound in the most abject and hopeless chains; and to their tyrant they seem to acknowledge a sort of conscience, or religious obedience. They will set at nought all religion without fear; but such submissive slaves are they to the omnipotency of fashion, that they would "tremble very exceedingly"†7 at the suspicion of godliness attaching to them; thus "honoring" a vain idol above the Lord of heaven and earth. Many would be bold to front danger, who would shrink from shame. They would fearlessly face the cannon’s mouth, and yet be panic-struck at the ridicule of a puny worm. Or even if some public excitement roused an impulse of boldness for religion, in the more quiet atmosphere there is a cold timidity of silence. They shrink from the bold consistency of a living witness. They are afraid of the stamp of singularity. They are satisfied with a meager external decorum, with no spiritual character or privilege. All is heartless delusion.

What — again, makes so many, specially among the young, ashamed to be found upon their knees; to be known as readers of their Bibles; to cast in their lot decidedly among the saints of God? They know the Christian to be on the right side; and oft is there a whisper of conscience — ’Would that my soul were in his place!’†8 But they have only half a mind to religion. The fear of man bringeth a snare. And therefore they ask — not ’What ought I to do?’ but, ’What will my friends think of me?’ They cannot brave the finger of scorn. And if they seem for a while to be in earnest, ’their slavish fears’ (as Bunyan well describes the case) ’overmaster them. They betake themselves to second thoughts — namely — that it is good to be wise, and not to run, for they knew not what, the hazard of losing all, or at least bringing themselves into unavoidable and unnecessary troubles.’†9 They would rather writhe under their convictions, till they have worn themselves away, than welcome what Moses "esteemed greater riches than the treasures of Egypt — the reproach of Christ." (Hebrews 11:26 .)

But how painful to see the children of God entangled in the snare! The father of the faithful twice denied his wife.†10 His son follows his weak example.†11 "Aaron fashions the golden calf."†12 "The man after God’s own heart" sinks himself into the lowest degradation.†13 Hezekiah, distinguished for his trust, gives way to his fear.†14 The ardent disciple, even after the most solemn pledges to his Savior, and after an act of great boldness in his defense, yields up his courage to a servant girl, and solemnly abjures his Lord.†15 Oh! do we not hear the warning voice against "entrance into temptation — against the weakness of the flesh"?†16 Let us run into our hiding-place, and cry — "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." (Psalms 119:117 .) Humbling indeed is the contrast between the boldness of the servants of Satan and the timidity of the soldiers of Christ! Who of us has not cause of painful self-condemnation?

How different is this servile principle from the godly fear of sin, which the wise man had lately marked as the substance of happiness! (Proverbs 28:14 .) That is a holy principle; this an inlet to sin.†17 That is our keeping grace;†18 this wounds our conscience, and seduces us also from our allegiance. ’By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil;†19 by the fear of man they run themselves into evil.’†20 The one is the pathway to heaven. (Proverbs 19:23 .) The other, involving the denial of the Savior, plunges its wretched slave into the lake of fire. (Mark 8:38 . Revelation 21:8 .)

But even apart from this tremendous end, observe its weighty hindrance to Christian integrity. Indeed — as Mr. Scott most truly observes — ’it is’ — often at least — ’the last victory the Christian gains. He will master, by that grace which is given of God, his own lusts and passions, and all manner of inward and outward temptations. He will be dead to the pleasures of the world, long before he has mastered this fear of man. "This kind of spirit goeth not out" but by a very spiritual and devout course of life.’†21 The hindrance meets us at every turn, like a chain upon our wheels; so that, like the Egyptian chariots, they "drive heavily." (Exodus 14:25 .) Oh! for a free deliverance from this principle of bondage; scarcely however to be expected, till we have been made to feel its power!

Thank God — there is a way of deliverance. Faith unbinds the soul from fear. If fear makes the giant tremble before the worm, trust in the LORD makes the worm stronger than the giant. Neither the fury of the King,†22 or of the people;†23 neither the fire,†24 or the den of lions,†25 daunts and hurts him that "believeth in his God." ’He that fears to flinch, shall never flinch from fear.’†26 Faith gives power to prayer. The strength from prayer makes us cheerful in obedience, and resolute in trial. Here is safety, strength, courage, peace. Nothing but faith gives the victory; but the victory of faith is complete.†27 He only, who putteth his trust in the LORD, is prepared, when God and man are at contraries, to "obey God rather than man." (Acts 4:19 .) A secret union with God is implanted in the soul by this faith; an union as mighty, as it is secret; a sacred spring of life — the energy of God himself (Galatians 2:20 ); triumphant therefore in the mightiest conflict with the flesh. The man, dependent on the world for happiness, is in bondage. The servant of God is in liberty. It matters not to him, whether the world smile or frown. He is safe, beyond its reach — set on high.†28 Faith brings him to his strong tower. (Proverbs 18:10 .) There he is "kept by the power of God unto salvation." (1 Peter 1:5 .) Fear brings us into the snare. Faith brings liberty, safety, exaltation. Oh! thou God of power and grace, may my soul praise thee for this mighty deliverance, this joyous freedom! May I never be ashamed of my Master! May I be bound to his people, and glory in his cross! (Galatians 6:14 .)

Footnotes:

†1 1 Samuel 15:24 . Matthew 14:9 .

†2 John 19:8, John 19:13, John 19:16 .

†3 1 Kings 19:3 . Jonah 1:1-3 .

†4 Galatians 2:12; Galatians 6:12 .

†5 Isaiah 30:9-10. Jeremiah 5:31 .

†6 Zechariah 11:17. ’Remember Dr. Dodd’ - writes Mr. Venn to his son - ’I myself heard him tell his own flock, whom he was lecturing in his house that he was obliged to give up that method of helping their souls, because it exposed him to so much reproach. He gave it up, and fell from one compliance to another, with his corrupt nature; and under what reproach did he die!’ Let the concluding advice of this excellent Minister be well pondered - ’Be afraid of nothing more than the detestable cowardice of a selfish and unbelieving heart.’ - Life, pp. 255, 256.

†7 Genesis 27:33. The same word in the original.

†8 John 7:13; John 12:42-43 . Acts 26:11 . 2 Timothy 1:15 ; 2 Timothy 4:16 .

†9 Conversation between Hopeful and Christian.

†10 Genesis 12:11-13; Genesis 20:2, Genesis 20:11 .

†11 Genesis 26:7.

†12 Exodus 32:22-24.

†13 1 Samuel 21:10-13 .

†14 2 Kings 18:13-16 . 2 Chronicles 16:1-7 .

†15 Matthew 26:69-74.

†16 Matthew 26:41.

†17 Genesis 39:9, with Isaiah 57:11 .

†18 1 Corinthians 10:12 . Hebrews 4:1 .

†19 Proverbs 16:6.

†20 Flavel’s Treatise on Fear, Chapter 2.

†21 Life, pp. 116, 117.

†22 2 Kings 6:31-32 .

†23 Numbers 14:6-10.

†24 Daniel 3:17.

†25 Daniel 6:10.

†26 Hildersham.

†27 1 John 5:4-5, Compare Hebrews 11:27 . ’I cannot wield the sword of the Spirit’ - said the weak and timid Haller to his friends, when going to the disputation at Berne against the Romanists. ’If you do not stretch your hands to me, all is over.’ He then threw himself trembling at the feet of the Lord, and soon rose enlightened, and exclaiming - ’Faith in the Savior gives me courage, and scatters all my fears.’’ - D’Aubigne’s Hist. Refor. Book 15. Chapter 2.

†28 Psalms 69:29; Psalms 91:14 . Isaiah 33:16 .

Verse 26

Therefore seek God to be your friend. "In his favor is life." (Psalms 30:5 .) Confidence in man is no less sinful†1 and dangerous†2 than the fear of man. Yet with what diligence will men seek earthly advantage! Many seek the ruler’s favor†3 more than God’s, and sacrifice their consciences, and hazard their souls, to obtain it. But when they have bought it at such a price, what is it? — as easily lost, as it was hardly gained. The caprice of an hour may destroy the hard-earned object. (Genesis 40:1-2 .) And then what have they to live upon? All this is forgetting, that every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD. Here then is the solid ground of faith. First, begin with God; all judgment is in his hands. "Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass."†4 Let him choose and dispose our lot.†5 Consider everything that passes as coming from him. In everything, great and small, deal with him. Ponder with him. His favor, unlike the changing favor of the ruler, "is without variableness, or shadow of turning." And when, through the fickleness of man, earthly prospects are fading, then rest in quiet — "Surely my judgment is with the LORD."†6 ’As thou wilt, what thou wilt, when thou wilt.’†7 This is the shortest, the surest, way of peace — "Only believe."

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 146:3. Isaiah 2:22 . Jeremiah 17:5-6 .

†2 Isaiah 30:1-3; Isaiah 31:1-3 .

†3 Proverbs 19:6.

†4 Psalms 37:5-6. ’He needeth not to flatter the ruler; for what God hath appointed, that shall come to him.’ - Reformer’s Notes. ’The determination concerning a man is from Jehovah.’ - Bp. Lowth’s Prelim. Dissertation to Isaiah.

†5 Psalms 47:4. Proverbs 16:33 .

†6 Isaiah 49:4. Job 34:29 .

†7 Thomas à Kempis.

Verse 27

Here is the oldest, the most rooted, the most universal quarrel in the world. It was the first-fruit of the fall. (Genesis 3:15 .) It has continued ever since, and will last to the end of the world. It is always kept up at the highest point. Each party is an abomination to the other. It is not only, that they are as contrary in character, as light is to darkness; but there is a mutual antipathy, that can never be softened down.

Let us look at each of the parties in this open opposition to each other. An unjust man is an abomination to the just. Is it then his sin to be at such contraries with his fellow-sinner? No rather — it is the very holiness of his character and profession. If he have any apprehensions of the holiness of God: if through grace he is delivered from the love and dominion of sin, is not the sight of sin hateful to him? And while he abhors it most of all in himself, yet does not the watching of the evil in his own heart deepen his abhorrence and detestation of it in those around him? He would not spare it in those most dear to him. He appeals to his God in the burst of holy indignation. "Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies."†1

Looking at the other party — the wicked hold the upright in equal abomination. (Proverbs 29:10 .) "The carnal mind is enmity against God," and cannot therefore bear his image in his children. (Romans 8:7 .)†2 Gladly would the wicked, were not their enmity restrained, "root them out of the face of the earth;" as they never rested, till they had nailed the Son of God to the tree. Here however is the main difference. The enmity of the just is against the sins, not the persons, of the wicked . How do they with all this principle love their souls, and pray for them! (Romans 9:1 ; Romans 10:1 .) How gladly would they win them to Christ and salvation! The enmity of the wicked is against the persons — the ways of the upright — all that belongs to them. ’This is that strong poison in the serpent’s seed,’†3 the murderous spirit of their father the devil!

The soul is wearied with the unceasing struggles with the enemies of truth. How can one forbear the wish for the "wings of a dove to fly away, and be at rest!" (Psalms 55:6 .) And how could we hold on the contest, but for the blessed hope — Oh Lord! hasten it in thy time — when the woman’s conquering "seed shall bruise the Serpent’s Head," and the head of all†4 his seed, finally and for ever; and he shall reign King and Savior over his redeemed people.

Footnotes:

†1 Psalms 139:21-22. Compare Proverbs 28:4 .

†2 John 15:17-19. 1 John 3:12-13 .

†3 Leighton on 1 Peter 3:14 .

†4 Psalms 45:3-4. Revelation 19:11-16 .

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-29.html. 1846.
 
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