Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 3

Bridges' Commentary on ProverbsBridges' on Proverbs

Verses 1-2

THIS is not the stern language of command. It is our Father’s voice in all the endearing persuasiveness of promise — My son — He had before instructed us to seek and search after wisdom, and set out before us its invaluable blessings. Now he calls us to bring it into practical exercise — Forget not my law. The willful forgetfulness of the heart (Proverbs 2:17 . Psalms 9:17 ; Psalms 10:4 ; Compare Proverbs 4:5 ; Deuteronomy 4:23 ; Psalms 119:93, Psalms 119:176 ), not the infirmity of the memory (for which a special, though we fear too much neglected, help, is provided) (John 14:26 ) is here implied. Let thine heart, like the ark of the testimony, be the keeping-place of my commandments. (Proverbs 4:4 . Deuteronomy 11:18 . Isaiah 51:7 ; with Ezekiel 11:20 . Hebrews 9:4 .) And is not this the child’s desire — "O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes"? (Psalms 119:6 ; Compare verses Psalms 119:69, Psalms 119:129 ), while his conscious helplessness takes hold of the covenant promise — "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." (Jeremiah 31:33 .)

Indeed no laws, but God’s, bind the heart. All acceptable obedience begins here. The heart is the first thing that wanders from God; the first also that returns. Here is the vital principle. (Proverbs 4:23 . Romans 6:17 .) All religion without it is a mere name; and, however the professor may practice a thousand arts to put life into it, all must fail, "The root being as rottenness, the blossom goes up as the dust." (Isaiah 5:24 .) If every moment were filled up with deeds of benevolence, or external piety; yet, except the heart was quickened to keep the commandments, the voice of rebuke would be heard — "Who hath required this at your hand?" (Isaiah 1:11-12 .) "The inner man’s delight" (Romans 7:22 ) stamps the excellency upon the service. And this pleasure and perseverance in duty flow from a gracious change upon the heart. (See Ezekiel 11:19 ; Ezekiel 36:26-27 .)

Herein also lies our interest, not less than our obligation. The reward of this hearty obedience (need we add — a reward of grace?) is a long and happy life — the highest earthly good. (Psalms 34:12 ; compare verse Psalms 34:16 ; Proverbs 4:10 ; Proverbs 9:11 ; Proverbs 10:27 ; Job 10:12 .) The wicked indeed live long, and the godly often "live out only half their days." The wicked die in outward comfort; the righteous in outward trouble. (Ecclesiastes 9:2 .) But length of days is the promise to the righteous; whether for earth or for heaven, as their Father deems fittest for them. In itself the promise, as regards this life, has no charm. To the ungodly it is a curse (Genesis 4:11-15 . Isaiah 65:20 ); to the people of God a trial of faith and patience (Genesis 27:46 ; Genesis 47:9 . 1 Kings 19:4 . Job 7:16 . Philippians 1:23-24 . Revelation 22:20 ); to all a weariness. (Proverbs 15:15 . Psalms 90:10 . Ecclesiastes 12:1 .) But peace added forms the sunshine of the toilsome way (Psalms 119:165 . Isaiah 32:17 ; Isaiah 48:17-18 ): "peace with God through the blood of sprinkling" (Romans 5:1 . Ephesians 2:13-14 . Colossians 1:20 ); eternal peace in his home and in his bosom (Psalms 37:37 . Isaiah 57:2 ); where all the fightings of the rebellious flesh, all the counter-strivings of a perverse and ungovernable will, shall have ceased for ever. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they might have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gate into the city." (Revelation 22:14 .)

Verses 3-4

Mercy and truth are the glorious perfections of God; always in combined exercise (Genesis 32:10 . Psalms 25:10 ; Psalms 85:10 ; Psalms 89:14 ; Psalms 100:5 ; Psalms 117:2 . Micah 7:18-20 ) for his people’s good. While we rest upon them for salvation, let us copy them in our profession. Are not his children new-created in his image? Let then our Father’s image be manifested in us, "as his dear children." (Ephesians 4:24 ; Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 5:2, Ephesians 5:8 .) Let these graces be, as with God, in combination. ’The want of one buries the commendation of the other. Such a one is a merciful man to the poor; but there is no truth in him. Such a one is very just in his dealings, but as hard as flint’.†1 "Put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercy. But lie not one to another. Speak every man truth with his neighbor." (Colossians 3:12, with Colossians 3:9 . Ephesians 4:25 .) Indeed, ’as a rich sparkling diamond added both value and lustre to a golden ring; so do these virtues of justice and mercy, well attempered, bring a rich addition of glory to the crowns of the greatest monarchs.’†2

But these virtues must not be in temporary or occasional exercise. Let them not forsake thee. Bind them as jewels about thy neck. (Proverbs 6:21 ; 7:3. Deuteronomy 6:8 .) Let them be "written, not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart." (Proverbs 7:3 . 2 Corinthians 3:3 .) God indeed is not thy debtor; yet none shall serve him for nought. The man who shows mercy to his neighbour shall find it with him. (Psalms 18:25 . Matthew 5:7 .) "They that deal truly are his delight." (Proverbs 12:22 .) So shalt thou find favour and good understanding (Psalms 111:10 ) — (success) (Joshua 1:7, 8. M.R.) — both in his sight, and in the sight of man. Witness Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 39:2-4, Genesis 39:21-23 ; Genesis 41:37-43 ; Genesis 45:16 ); David in the family of Saul (1 Samuel 18:5, 1 Samuel 18:14-16); the servants of God in the eastern courts;†3 the early Christians with the people around them. (Acts 2:44-47 .) What is more lovely than thus to live down reproach by consistent godliness? What more acceptable to God, or more edifying to the Church? (Romans 14:16-19 .) The Scripture connects the favour of God with the favour of men, as if the one was often the fruit of the other. (Compare Proverbs 16:7 .) Such was the record of the holy child. (Luke 2:52 .) The highest crown of a youthful profession is conformity to this Divine pattern. (Compare 1 Samuel 2:26 .)

Footnotes

†1 F. Taylor’s Comment on Chapter i-ix.; 4to. 1655-1657.

†2 Bishop Sanderson’s Sermon on Proverbs 24:10-12 .

†3 Daniel 1:8-9; Daniel 4:8-9 ; Daniel 5:11 ; Daniel 6:1-3, Daniel 6:27-28 ; — His three companions, Daniel 3:30 ; Ezra 7:9-12. Nehemiah 2:1-6 . Mordecai, Esther 10:3 .

Verses 5-6

This is the polar-star of a child of God — faith in his Father’s providence, promises, and grace. The unmeaning expression of trust on the lips of the ignorant and ungodly is a fearful delusion. What ground of confidence can there be when there is everything to fear? Can the sinner’s God — a just, avenging God — be an object of trust? What owe we to that precious atonement, which has opened up our way to a reconciled God (Romans 5:11 ), and assured our confidence in him as our Friend and Counsellor! Nor is this the cold assent of the enlightened judgment. It is the trust of the heart, of all the heart. It is a child-like, unwavering (Psalm 78. 2 Chronicles 14:11 . Contrast Jeremiah 1:6-8 ) confidence in our Father’s well-proved wisdom, faithfulness, and love. Any limit to this confidence is a heinous provocation. (Psalms 78:18-21 .) He is truth itself. Therefore he would have us take him at his word, and prove his word to the utmost extent of his power.

But our trust must not only be entire: it must be exclusive. No other confidence, no confidence in the flesh, can consist with it. (Compare Philippians 3:3 .) Man with all his pride feels that he wants something to lean to. As a fallen being, he naturally leans to himself, to his own foolish notions and false fancies. Human power is his idol. His understanding is his God. Many would rather be convicted of want of principle than want of talent. Many bring God’s truth to their own bar, and cavil at it, as an excuse for rejecting it. In these and other ways, man "trusteth to himself, and his heart departeth from the LORD." (Jeremiah 17:5 .) This is the history of the fall; the history of man from the fall; the dominant sin of every unhumbled heart; the lamented and resisted sin of every child of God. Need we advert to it as the sin of youth? How rare is the sight of the "younger submitting unto the elder!" (1 Peter 5:5 .) If advice is asked, is it not with the hope of confirming a previously-formed purpose? In case of a contrary judgment, the young man’s own understanding usually decides the course.

Great reason then is there for the warning — Lean not to thine own understanding. Once, indeed, it gave clear unclouded light, as man’s high prerogative, "created in the image of God." (Genesis 1:26 . Colossians 3:10 .) But now, degraded as it is by the fall (Psalms 49:20 ), and darkened by the corruption of the heart (Ephesians 4:18 ), it must be a false guide. Even in a prophet of God it proved a mistaken counselor (2 Samuel 7:2-5 .) Yet though we refuse to lean to it, to follow it may be implicit trust in the LORD; because it is a trust in his Divine power, enlightening it, as his lamp for our direction. The Christian on his knees, as if he cast his understanding away, confesses himself utterly unable to guide his path. But see him in his active life. He carefully improves his mind. He conscientiously follows its dictates. Thus practical faith strengthens, not destroys, its power; invigorates, not supersedes, exertion. (Compare Genesis 32:9-20 ; Nehemiah 2:4-20 ; Nehemiah 4:9 .)

It is therefore our plain duty not to neglect our understanding, but to cultivate it diligently in all its faculties. In a world of such extended knowledge, ignorance is the fruit of sloth, dissipation, or misguided delusion. But lean not to thine understanding. Lean — trust in the LORD. Self-dependence is folly (Proverbs 28:26 ), rebellion (Jeremiah 2:13 ; Jeremiah 9:23 ), ruin. (Genesis 3:5-6 . Isaiah 47:10-11 .) ’The great folly of man in trials’ — as Dr. Owen justly remarks — ’is leaning to or upon his own understanding and counsels. What is the issue of it? Whenever in our trials we consult our own understandings, hearken to self-reasonings, though they seem to be good, and tending to our preservation; yet the principle of living by faith is stifled, and we shall in the issue be cast down by our own counsels.’†1

Next — let our confidence be uniform — In all thy ways acknowledge him. Take one step at a time, every step under Divine warrant and direction. (Compare Ezra 8:21-23 ; Nehemiah 1:11 .) Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God.†2 It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without his counsel. He loves to be consulted. Therefore take all thy difficulties to be resolved by him. Be in the habit of going to him in the first place — before self-will, self-pleasing,†3 self-wisdom, human friends, convenience, expediency. Before any of these have been consulted go to God at once. Consider no circumstances too clear to need his direction.†4 In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let him be supreme. Who of us has not found the unspeakable "peace" of bringing to God matters too minute or individual to be entrusted to the most confidential ear?†5 Abraham thus acknowledged God. Wheresoever he pitched a tent for himself there was always an altar for God. (Genesis 12:7 ; Genesis 13:18 .) In choosing a wife for his son there was a singular absence of worldliness. No mention was made of riches, honour, beauty; only of what concerned the name and honour of his God. (Genesis 24:1-8 . Compare also his servant, verse Genesis 24:12-27 .) Thus did the wise man’s father in all his ways acknowledge God, asking counsel of him in all his difficulties, and never disappointed.†6

Now if we be weaned from the idolatry of making our bosom our oracle, and our heart our counselor; if in true poverty of spirit we go every morning to our Lord, as knowing not how to guide ourselves for this day; our eye constantly looking upward for direction (Psalms 5:3 ; Psalms 143:8-10 ; Psalms 25:4-5 ), the light will come down.†7 He shall direct thy paths. We want no new revelations or visible tokens. (Such as Exodus 13:21-22 .) Study the word with prayer. Mark the Divine Spirit shedding light upon it. Compare it with the observation of the providences of the day (Psalms 107:43 ); not judging by constitutional bias (a most doubtful interpreter), but pondering with sober, practical, reverential faith. Let the will be kept in a quiet, subdued, cheerful readiness, to move, stay, retreat, turn to the right hand or to the left, at the Lord’s bidding; always remembering that is best which is least our own doing, and that a pliable spirit ever secures the needful guidance. (Compare Psalms 32:8-9 ; Isaiah 48:17-18, with Isaiah 30:21 .) We may "be led," for the exercise of our faith, "in a way that we know not" (Isaiah 42:16 ; Isaiah 50:10 ) — perhaps a way of disappointment, or even of mistake. Yet no step well prayed over will bring ultimate regret. Though the promise will not render us infallible, our very error will be overruled for deeper humiliation and self-knowledge; and thus even this mysterious direction will in the end be gratefully acknowledged, "He led me forth in the right way." (Psalms 107:7 .)

Footnotes

†1 Treatise on Temptation, Proverbs 8. Compare Job 18:7 ; Hosea 10:8 .

†2 James 4:15. If the Lord will — as Fuller remarks with his pithy quaintness — ’parenthesis, and yet the most important part of the sentence.’

†3 See the awful hypocrisy, and judgment of asking counsel of God under this deadly influence. Jeremiah 42:1-3, Jeremiah 42:19-22 . Ezekiel 14:1-6 .

†4 See the evil consequences of this inconsiderate neglect. Joshua 9:14 .

†5 Philippians 4:6-7. "In every thing."

†6 1 Samuel 23:9-11 ; 1 Samuel 30:6-8 . 2 Samuel 2:1 ; 2 Samuel 5:19 . Compare the smarting rod from the neglect of this godly habit. 1 Samuel 27:1, with 1 Samuel 27:29 .

†7 Matthew 6:22. Compare Psalms 32:8 ; Psalms 34:5 . Nehemiah 1:4-11 ; Nehemiah 2:4-8 . Sir M. Hale left it on record, when nearly eighty years old, as his experience, that whenever he had committed his way simply and unreservedly to the Lord, he had always directed his path.

Verses 7-8

(Proverbs 3:7 quoted in the NT: Romans 12:16)

This warning against self-confidence is closely connected with the preceding verse. The wise in his own eyes is he, that leans to his own understanding.†1 Such wisdom is folly and self-delusion.†2 Put it away, and let it be thy wisdom to fear the LORD, and depart from evil. How striking is this connexion between the fear of God and the fear of sin. (Proverbs 14:27 ; Proverbs 16:6. Genesis 39:9-10 . Nehemiah 5:15 . Job 28:28 .) Where God is honoured, sin is hated, loathed, and resisted. (Romans 7:18-24 .) It lives indeed; but it is condemned to die. (Ibid. Romans 6:6 .) It cleaves to the child of God. But his heart departs from it. Often is it the cause of the sickness of the body:†3 always of the soul. (Hosea 7:9 .) The departure from it in the exercise of self-denial and godly discipline, is health to the body. (Verses 1, 2.) The soul, drooping under the baneful influence of spiritual disease, revives in fruitfulness. (Hosea 14:5-7 .) The man that feareth the LORD, under "the healing beams of the Sun of Righteousness, goeth forth" (Malachi 4:2 ), as from his sick chamber, full of life and Christian energy. "The joy of the LORD is his strength." (Nehemiah 8:10 .)

Footnotes

†1 Proverbs 3:5. Compare Proverbs 23:4 . Romans 12:3-16 . See the mind of God expressed in that solemn woe. (Isaiah 5:21 .)

†2 Even a heathen could remark — ’I suppose that many might have attained to wisdom, had they not thought they had already attained it.’ Seneca, de Ira,, Lib. iii. c. 36. Compare 1 Corinthians 8:2 ; Galatians 6:3 . ’Our knowledge should hold the light before us, and help us for the better discovery of our ignorance, and so dispose us to humility, not pride.’ — Bp. Sanderson’s Sermon on Romans 14:3 .

†3 In sensual indulgence — Proverbs 5:8-11 . Intemperance — Proverbs 23:29-30 . As a judicial infliction — Psalms 32:3-4 ; Psalms 38:1-8 . 1 Corinthians 11:30 .

Verses 9-10

This rule of sacrifice is a costly precept to the worldling and the formalist. But to the servant of God, is it not a privilege to lay aside a portion of substance with this sacred stamp, — "This is for God"? (1 Corinthians 16:2 .) The first-fruits of the increase were the acknowledgment of redemption from Egypt (Exodus 13:12-13 . Deuteronomy 26:1-10 .) And shall we, redeemed from sin, Satan, death, and hell, deny the claim? (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 .) ’Well, may we think our substance due, where we owe ourselves.’†1 Nay, could we be happy in spending that substance on ourselves, which he has given us wherewith to honour him? (Luke 19:13 . Contrast Luke 12:16-22.) What a value, what a dignity, does it give to the talent, that he should condescend to employ it for his own grand, eternal purposes! This sacred devotedness is, moreover, the true road to riches. (Proverbs 11:24 .) God challenges us to "prove him now herewith," if the abundant harvest, and the overflowing vintage, shall not put unbelief and covetousness to shame. (Malachi 3:10 . 2 Chronicles 31:5-10 .) A niggardly spirit is, therefore, narrow policy; contracting the harvest, by sparing the seed-corn. (2 Corinthians 9:6 . Haggai 1:4-6 .) There is no presumption, or enthusiasm in looking for the literal fulfillment of the promise. If we doubt the temporal, should we not suspect our assumed confidence in the spiritual, engagements? For if the Lord’s word be insufficient security for our substance: much more must it be for the infinitely weightier deposit of our soul!

The rule and obligation are therefore clear. The law dealt with us as children, and prescribed the exact amount. The gospel treats us as men, and leaves it to circumstance, principle, and conscience. This consecration of substance, as the seed-corn for the harvest, is as strange to the world, as would be the casting of the seed in the earth to an untutored savage. Yet is the result secure in both cases; only with this difference, that the temper of the earthly sower has no influence on the harvest; whereas the fruitfulness of the spiritual harvest mainly depends upon the principles of the work. Most important is it to beware of bye-ends and selfish principles; that we honour the LORD, not ourselves. Let there be a self-renouncing spirit (1 Chronicles 29:14-16 . Matthew 6:1-4 ; Matthew 25:37-39 ), implicit faith (1 Kings 17:12-16 ), constraining love (Romans 12:1 . 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 . Matthew 10:42 ), special regard to his own people. And doubt not, but he will affix his own seal — "Those that honour me, I will honour." (1 Samuel 2:30 . Compare Proverbs 11:25 ; Proverbs 22:9 ; Hebrews 6:10 .)

Footnotes

†1 Bishop Hall.

Verses 11-12

(Proverbs 3:11-12 quoted in the NT: Hebrews 12:5-6 )

Prosperity and adversity in their wise mixture and proportion, form our present condition. Each is equally fruitful in opportunity of honouring the LORD; in prosperity — by the full consecration of our substance (Proverbs 3:9-10 ); in adversity — by a humble and cheerful submission to his dispensation. ’In prosperity it is well to expect the rod; and suppose it be his pleasure, let it not make thee either doubt of his gracious Providence, or out of impatience take any unlawful course to remove it from thee.’†1 His "exhortation" — the apostle reminds us — "speaketh to us, as unto children."†2 And indeed, under no character does he approach so near to us, and endear himself so closely to us, as that of a Father. Most precious at all times, especially under correction, is the privilege of adoption — My son.

Nowhere, indeed, are our corruptions so manifest, or our graces so shining, as under the rod. We need it as much as our daily bread. Children of God are still children of Adam; with Adam’s will, pride, independence, and waywardness. And nothing more distinctly requires Divine teaching and grace, than how to preserve in our behaviour the just mean between hardness and despondency; neither despising the chastening of the LORD, nor being weary of his correction.†3

Too often, while we guard against an error on the right hand, we forget one not less hurtful on the left; like the man, who, in guarding against the precipice on the one side, rushes into some fearful hazard on the other. The middle path is the right path. Doubtless the Lord means his chastening to be felt. (2 Samuel 15:26 . Psalms 39:10-11 .) A leviathan iron-heartedness (Job 41:24-29 . Jeremiah 5:3 ) is the stubbornness of the flesh, not the triumph of the spirit; a frame most offensive to him, and most unseemly for the reception of his gracious discipline. To be as though no pain was felt or cared for; sullenly to "kick against the pricks" (Acts 9:5 . Compare Proverbs 19:3 ), and to dare God to do his worst — this is, indeed, to despise his chastening.†4 But pride will lift up the head, stiff and unbending: many a stroke does it require to bring it down.

Yet, alas! This is not the sin only of the ungodly. Often do we see the child of God in an undutiful spirit (Job 5:17 . Hebrews 12:6 ), caring little whether his Father smiles or frowns. The chastening is lightly passed over. He considers only second causes, or immediate instruments. (Amos 3:6 .) He is irritated by looking at the rod, rather than at the hand that inflicts it. (2 Chronicles 16:10-12 .) He shrinks from searching into the cause. He disregards his Father’s loving voice and purpose. Hence there is no softening humiliation (Psalms 32:3-4 ); no "acceptance of the punishment of iniquity" (Leviticus 26:41, Leviticus 26:43 ); no child-like submission; no exercise of faith in looking for support. Is not this to despise the chastening of the LORD?

But while some despise the hand of God as light, others "faint" under it as heavy. (Hebrews 12:5 . Psalms 38:2-3 ; Psalms 39:10 .) They are weary of his correction. Beware of yielding to heartless despondency, or fretful impatience. (Psalms 73:14 ; Psalms 77:7-10 .) Resist hard and dishonourable thoughts of God. (Genesis 42:36 . Judges 6:13 . Jonah 4:9 .) Their very admission spreads destruction. Very apt are we to judge amiss of our Father’s dealings;†5 to neglect present duty; to cherish a morbid brooding over our sorrows (Job 6:1-16 ): to forget our title and privilege of adoption (Hebrews 12:5 ); or in obstinate grief to "refuse to be comforted" with the "hope of the end" (Psalms 77:2 . Compare Jeremiah 29:11 ; Jeremiah 31:15-17 .) And is not this to be weary of his correction?

But these rules imply much more than their negative meaning. Instead of despising, reverence the chastening of the LORD. Let it be a solemn remembrance to thee, that thou art under thy Father’s correction. (Lamentations 3:28-29 . Micah 7:9 .) Receive it then in good part. Instead of being weary of it, hang upon his chastening hand, and pour thy very soul into his bosom. (1 Samuel 1:10-15 .) Kiss the rod. (Job 34:31-32 . 1 Peter 5:6 .) Acknowledge its humbling, but enriching, benefit. (Psalms 119:67-71 .) Expect a richer blessing from sustaining grace, than from the removal of the deprecated affliction. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 .)

After all we must add, that chastening is a trial to the flesh (Hebrews 12:11 ); yet overruled by wonder-working wisdom and faithfulness to an end above and contrary to its nature. This very rod was sent in love to the soul. Perhaps we were living at ease, or in heartless backsliding. The awakening voice called us to our Bible and to prayer. Thus eyeing God in it, we see it to be love, not wrath; receiving, not casting out. We might perhaps have wished it a little altered; that the weight had been shifted, and the cross a little smoothed, where it pressed upon the shoulder. But now that our views are cleared, we discern blessing enough to swallow up the most poignant smart. We see the "needs-be," for our preservation from imminent danger (Compare Proverbs 1:32 ; Psalms 55:19 ), and for "the trial of our faith." We come to an unhesitating verdict in favor of the absolute perfection of the dispensation. (Psalms 51:4 ; Psalms 119:75 .) Faith understands the reasons of the discipline (1 Peter 1:6-7 ); acknowledges it as a part of his gracious providence (Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:15-16 ), and the provision of his everlasting covenant (Psalms 89:30-32 ); waits to see the end of the Lord (James 5:11 ); and meanwhile draws its main support from the seal of adoption.

For indeed it is the declared test of our legitimacy. (Hebrews 12:7-8 . Revelation 3:19 .) He corrects whom he loves, the son in whom he delighteth. His discipline is that of the family; not of the school; much less of the prison. He corrects his children, not as criminals, but as those whom he beholds without spot, "made accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:6 .) Nor is there caprice, as too often with an earthly father, in his chastisement. (Hebrews 12:10 .) It is wisdom in the spirit of love. "He rejoiceth over his child to do him good" (Jeremiah 32:41 ); yet as a wise and affectionate father, he would not suffer him to be ruined for want of correction. (Proverbs 13:24 . Deuteronomy 8:5 .) It is correction — this is for your humbling. It is only correction — this is your consolation. The intolerable sting of penal infliction is removed. Here then the child has rest indeed?†6 The rod is now meekly, yea — thankfully borne, because it is in the hand of One supreme in wisdom, as in love, who knows what is our need, and how to apply the discipline. He chooses the fittest time (Isaiah 30:18 . 1 Peter 5:6 ), the surest yet gentlest means, the most considerate measure (Isaiah 27:7-8 . Jeremiah 30:11 . Lamentations 3:31-33 ), the most effective instruments. And, comparing our affliction with our sin, is not the marvel that it is so light? (Ezra 9:13 . Psalms 103:10 . Lamentations 3:39 .) Have we not more than deserved it all? ’I love the rod of my heavenly Father’ — exclaimed the saintly Fletcher — ’How gentle are the stripes I feel! How heavy those I deserve!’†7 ’O God, I have made an ill use of thy mercies, if I have not learnt to be content with thy correction.’†8

Should he then at any dark season ask — "If it be so, why am I thus?" (Genesis 25:22 ) — you are thus, because this is your Father’s training discipline for heaven.†9 He loves thee so well, that he will bestow all pains upon thee. He will melt thee in his furnace, that he may stamp thee with his image. (Isaiah 27:9 ; Isaiah 48:10 . Zechariah 13:9 . Malachi 3:3 .) He would make thee "partake of his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10 ), that thou mightest partake of his happiness. But unless thou enter into his mind, thou wilt, so far as thou canst, defeat his purpose, and lose the benefit — a loss never to be told.†10 (Compare Jeremiah 6:8 .) Look then well into the dispensation. (Job 10:2 . Psalms 139:23-24 . Ecclesiastes 7:14 . Lamentations 3:40 .) Every rod is thy Father’s messenger; and he will not bear to have his messenger despised. Be anxious to "hear the rod, and who hath appointed it" (Micah 6:9 ); well knowing that "the Lord hath not done without cause all that he hath done." (Ezekiel 14:23 .) Be more concerned to have it sanctified than removed; yea, above all things deprecate its removal, until it has fully wrought its appointed work. (Isaiah 4:4 .) We can but admire that considerate dispensation, which uses these "light" afflictions as the means of deliverance from the most deadly evil. Should flesh and blood rebel; should the earthly tabernacle shake with "the blow of his hand" (Psalms 39:10, ut supra): yet shalt thou bless him throughout eternity, that even by this crushing discipline he should accomplish his most merciful purpose. Meanwhile, give him unlimited confidence; and if some steps of the way are hid, wait and "see the end." (Job 23:8-10 ; James 5:11 .) Watch for the first whispers of his will, the first intimation of his Providence, the guidance of his eye. (Psalms 32:8-9 .) Many a stroke will thus be saved to thy peace and quietness. This indeed is a golden opportunity, requiring for its due improvement much study, prayer, and retirement. No communion is so close, so endearing, so fruitful, as with a chastening God. Never is Christ more precious to us; his love never more sweet, than in the midst, — yea, in the very form of chastening. Never have we so full a manifestation of the Divine character (Psalms 119:75 ), and perfections. What we have before learnt in theory, we here learn experimentally; and what we have before imperfectly understood, is here more fully revealed.†11 With regard to the full weight and duration of the trial, and all its minute circumstances, successively so bitter and piercing — we may ask — ’Which of them could be spared?’ It is quite clear as to the whole time, the whole weight, the whole number and variety of circumstances that all and each were as necessary as any part. Where could we have stopped, without making that stop fatal to the great end? What does it all mean, but the Lord holding to his determination to save us; all the thoughts of his heart, every exercise of his power, centering in this purpose of his sovereign mercy?

Footnotes

†1 Bishop Patrick.

†2 Hebrews 12:5. We must not overlook the apostle’s testimony to the Divine inspiration of the Book; showing the instruction throughout to be the teaching of our Heavenly Father to his beloved children.

†3 The philosopher’s definition is striking and accurate, but infinitely above his own practical standard — ’Non sentire mala tua, non est hominis; et non ferre, non est viri.’ — (It is inhuman not to feel thine afflictions, and unmanly not to bear them.) — Seneca, Consol. ad Polyb. c. 36.

†4 Compare Pharaoh — Exodus 7:23 . Jehoram — 2 Kings 6:31 . Ahaz — 2 Chronicles 28:22 . Israel — Isaiah 1:5 . Zephaniah 3:2 . Compare Job 15:25-26 .

†5 Proverbs 24:10. Isaiah 40:27-31 ; Compare 1 Samuel 27:1 ; 1 Kings 19:4 ; Job 3:1-3 ; Jeremiah 20:14-18 .

†6 1 Samuel 3:18 . 2 Samuel 15:25 ; 2 Samuel 16:10-11 . Psalms 39:9 . Job 1:21 . Isaiah 39:8 .

†7 Life of Rev. H. Venn. pp. 238, 584.

†8 Bishop Hall.

†9 Job 33:14-29; Job 36:8-10 . Hebrews 12:7-8, ut supra. — The term refers to the education of children.

†10 John 18:11. The heathen philosopher has accurately drawn the line — ’Chastisement is on the sufferer’s account. Vengeance is for the satisfaction of him that inflicts it.’ — Arist. de Rhetor b. i. c. 10.

†11 Job 42:5. Compare the apostle’s most instructive and encouraging exposition. Hebrews 12. There is some slight variation between Hebrews 12:6, and Proverbs 3:12 . The one describes the mode and subject of the chastening. The other shows the Father’s delight in his chastened child. Some by inverting the first clause, ver. 12, grossly pervert the meaning, and conclude themselves to be the Lord’s children, because they are afflicted. But though every child is corrected, not every one that is corrected is a child. The same hand — but not the same character — gives the stroke to the godly and the ungodly. The scourge of the Judge is widely different from the rod of the Father. Compare 1 Samuel 28:15-20, with 2 Samuel 12:13-14 ; Proverbs 1:26 . Isaiah 1:24, with Jeremiah 31:18-20 . Hosea 11:7-8 ; also Isaiah 27:7-9 . Nor is it chastening, but the endurance of chastening, according to the rules prescribed, that seals our adoption. Hebrews 12:7 .

Verses 13-15

Who does not admire this glowing picture of happiness?†1 The wisdom of this world affords no such happiness. (Ecclesiastes 1:18 .) Yet cold and barren is admiration, without an interest in the blessing. The happy man has found a treasure, where possibly he least expected it, under the chastening of the LORD. David†2 and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:12-13 ) found (as who hath not found?) ’God’s house of correction to be a school of instruction.’†3 Under all circumstances, however, prayerful diligence in the search of wisdom ensures success. (Proverbs 2:1-6 .) The naturally wise man is a fool in heavenly wisdom. The man of prayer getteth understanding, draweth it out to light, as out of the hid treasure.†4 We wonder not at the merchant-man’s concentrated interest, at his untiring toil.†5 Here the wise man, himself enriched with the merchandise of fine gold (1 Kings 9:26-28 ) points out to us a better merchandise. It the search of "the pearl of great price," more precious than rubies, yea, than all things that could be desired.†6 So the apostle judged. So upon a trial he found it. All the world’s show, all his former valuable "gain, he counted as dung and dross" for "the true wisdom" — "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord." (Philippians 3:4-8 .) Never will solid happiness be known without this singleness of judgment and purpose. This inestimable blessing must have the throne. The waverer and the half-seeker fall short. Determined perseverance wins the prize. (Philippians 3:12-14 .)

Footnotes

†1 Happy man. — Heb. Plural. Compare Psalms 1:1 ; Psalms 32:1 . Blessedness — to mark supreme and perfect happiness. See the beautiful description of Wisdom, Sirach 24:1-19 .

†2 Psalms 119:67, Psalms 119:71 . Hence he commends it, Psalms 94:12 .

†3 Trapp. in loco.

†4 M.R. Compare Proverbs 8:35 . M.R. Proverbs 2:4 . Matthew 13:44 .

†5 Impiger extremos currit mercator ad Indos,

Per mare pauperiem fugiens, per saxa, per ignes.

Hor. Epis. i. 1. 45.

†6 Matthew 13:45-46, with Proverbs 23:23 . Compare Proverbs 8:11, Proverbs 8:19 ; Job 28:15-18 . Most truly does the great Moralist define Wisdom to be ’The knowledge of the most honourable things’ — episteme twn timiwtatwn. (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English) — Arist. Ethic b. vi. chap. vii.

Verses 16-18

Behold this heavenly Queen dispensing her blessings! Her right hand presents the promise of both worlds (Proverbs 3:2 . Psalms 91:16 . 1 Timothy 6:8 ) — the rich enjoyment of the world’s lawful comforts (1 Timothy 6:17 ), and the yet higher joy of serving the Lord and his church — a privilege for which the apostle was content for a while to be detained from heaven. (Philippians 1:23-24 .) Add length of days for eternity to the balance; and the amount sets at nought all computation. Her left hand offers riches and honour,†1 so far as may be for her children’s good; yet in their highest splendour, only a faint shadow of her more "durable riches," and of the honour of a heavenly crown.

But what say we of her ways? Is she a sullen matron, who entertains her followers only on sighs and tears; so that to obtain the joys of the next life, we must bid eternal adieu to the contents of this life; ’we must never more expect a cheerful hour, a clear day, a bright thought to shine upon us?’†2 This is the world’s creed — a slander of the great forger of lies, to deter us from wisdom’s ways. They must be ways of pleasantness, because "Thus saith the LORD." And if we feel them not to be so, we know them not.

The man of pleasure utterly mistakes both his object and his pursuit. The only happiness worth seeking is found here; that which will live in all circumstances, and abide the ceaseless changes of this mortal life. The ways may be dark and lonely; yet how does the sunshine of reconciliation beam upon their entrance! Every step is lighted from above, and strewed with promises; a step in happiness, a step to heaven. Wisdom’s work is its own reward (Psalms 19:11 . Isaiah 32:17 ) — strictness without bondage (Matthew 11:29-30 .) God rules children, not slaves. They work neither from compulsion, nor for hire; but from an ingenuous principle of gratitude to their Benefactor; filial delight in their Father. Pleasant therefore must be the labour — yea — the sacrifices — of love; short the path; cheerful the way, when the heart goes freely in it.

It is saying far too little, that the trials of these ways are not inconsistent with their pleasantness. They are the very principles of the most elevated pleasure. ’The verdict of Christ’ — says Dr. South — ’makes the discipline of self-denial and the cross — those terrible blows to flesh and blood — the indispensable requisite to the being his disciples.’†3 And yet, paradoxical as it may appear, in this deep gloom is the sunshine of joy. For if our natural will be "enmity to God" (Romans 8:7 ), it must be the enemy to our own happiness. Our pleasure, therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge it; to mortify sinful appetites, that only "bring forth fruit unto death." (Romans 7:5 .) Even what may be called the austerities of godliness are more joyous than "the pleasures of sin." Far better to cross the will, than to wound the conscience. The very chains of Christ are glorious. (Acts 5:41-42 ; Acts 16:24-25 .) Moses endured not "his reproach" as a trial. He "esteemed it as a treasure — greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." (Hebrews 11:26 .) Our principles are never more consoling than when we are making a sacrifice for them. Hannah yielded up her dearest earthly joy. But did she sink under the trial? Did she grudge the sacrifice? "Hannah prayed and said — My heart rejoiceth in the LORD" (1 Samuel 1:26 ; 1 Samuel 2:1 ); while — to show that none serve him for nought — for one child that was resigned, five were added. (1 Samuel 2:20-21 .)

In fact, the world have no just conception of the real character of wisdom’s ways. Religion to them is associated with cold, heartless forms and irksome restraints — much to do, but nothing to enjoy. But they only see half the prospect. They see what religion takes away. But they see not what it gives. They cannot discern, that, while it denies sinful, it abounds in spiritual, pleasures. We drudge in the ways of sin. But we "shall sing in the ways of the LORD." (Isaiah 57:10 ; with Psalms 138:5 .) Here is the only thing below worth the name of joy — solid — abiding — overflowing — satisfying (Habakkuk 3:18 ) — God’s own joy. (John 15:11 ; John 17:13 .) It is not a mere impulse of vapid sentimentalism, but a principle of Christian energy, invigorating for duty, supporting for trial. (Nehemiah 8:10 .) Here, then, "we have less toil, and reap more fruit." For will not any reasonable man, upon the hearing of the names of the things only, presently yield, that "love, joy, peace, and gentleness," which are "fruits of the Spirit," are far more lovely, more easy, fuller of sweetness and calmness, less vexatious, than are "hatreds, emulations, murders," and those other "works of the flesh"?†4

But ways of pleasantness are not always safe. Yet all wisdom’s paths are peace. The deadly breach is healed. The cloud vanishes. Heaven smiles. And peace, the Savior’s last bequest, is realized even in the heat of "this world’s tribulation." (John 16:33 .) "The feet are shod" for the rugged path "with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." (Ephesians 6:15 ; with Deuteronomy 33:25 .) The subjugation of the will, the sorrow of contrition, the weariness of the cross — all end in peace. (Psalms 37:37 . Isaiah 57:2, with Isaiah 57:20-21 .)

Yet nothing can make wisdom’s ways palatable to a carnal mind. "They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;" so that, as "they cannot please God," God’s ways cannot please them. (Romans 8:5, Romans 8:8 .) Nor again — though wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, are wisdom’s children always happy. Sometimes a naturally morose temper gives a gloomy tinge to religion. Professors forget, that it is no matter of option, whether they should be happy or not; that it is their obligation no less than their privilege to be so; that the commands of God on this duty†5 carry weight, and demand obedience. The prophets in the burst of their rapture search heaven and earth, bring forth the most beautiful objects of nature; nay — call the inanimate creation into glowing sympathy with the joys of the Gospel. (Psalms 96:11-13 ; Psalms 98:1-9 . Isaiah 44:23 ; Isaiah 55:12-13 .) A rejoicing spirit is the character of the servants of God (Philippians 3:3 . Acts 2:46-47 ), specially in affliction. (2 Corinthians 6:10 ; 2 Corinthians 8:2 . 1 Peter 1:6-8 .) Is then thy happiness clouded? Has there not been some deviation from wisdom’s paths? Thy God calls thee to search, to humble thyself, to return. (Jeremiah 2:17-19 . Hosea 5:15 ; Hosea 6:1 .)

Lastly — to the glory, beauty, and fruitfulness of wisdom, the Paradise of God alone can furnish the full counterpart. (Revelation 2:7 .) ’The tree of life was the means ordained of God for the preservation of lasting life, and continual vigour and health, before man sinned. So true wisdom maintains man in the spiritual life of God’s grace, and the communion of his Spirit.’†6 Once our way was barred up, and none could touch her. (Genesis 3:22-24 .) Now our way is opened to her in a better paradise. (Hebrews 10:19-22 .) We "sit down under her shadow with great delight." Her branches bend down upon this world of sin and misery. Her clusters hang within the reach of the youngest child, and "the fruit is sweet to the taste" (Song of Song of Solomon 2:3 ); sweeter than ever man tasted, since he became an exile from Eden. For what is so refreshing, as near communion with God; access to him; boldness in his presence; admission to his most holy delights? And if the earthly shadow and fruit be so rich, what will be "on the other side of the river," — her monthly fruits, her healing leaves! (Revelation 22:2 .) And yet only the weeping, wrestling soul can lay hold upon the beloved object (Genesis 32:26-28 . Hosea 12:3-4 ), and embrace it in despite of all the enemy’s struggle to loosen the grasp. (Matthew 11:12 .) And even, when Almighty power has enabled us to lay hold, the same continual miracle of grace, the same continually-renewed effort of faith, is needed to retain it. (1 Timothy 6:12 .) There must be "continuance in the ways (Isaiah 64:5 . John 8:31 ); "settled, rooted, and grounded" (Colossians 1:23 ; Colossians 2:7 ); "keeping the works;" Holding the beginning of our confidence steadfast "unto the end." (Revelation 2:26 . Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14 .) Happy is every one that retaineth her. The promises are "to him that overcometh." (Revelation 2. 3.) God honours perseverance in the weakest saint.

This lovely description of wisdom’s blessing is no fancy picture, but Divine reality. Rest not, till thine heart is filled with its substance. Take it to the Lord in prayer; and ere long, thou shalt rejoice in thy portion.

Footnotes

†1 See the treasures of right and left hand promised to the wise man himself, 1 Kings 3:12-14 .

†2 Bishop Hopkins’ Works, iv 354, 355.

†3 Sermons, vol. i. Matthew 16:24 .

†4 Bishop Sanderson’s Sermon on Galatians 5:22-23 .

†5 Such as Psalms 32:11 ; Psalms 37:5 . Philippians 4:4 . 1 Thessalonians 5:16 . Compare the warning, Deuteronomy 28:47-48 .

†6 Diodati.

Verses 19-20

We have seen wisdom, as it is in man, with all its enriching blessings. Here we behold its majesty, as it is in the bosom of God, and gloriously displayed in his works. ’Hereby he showeth, that this wisdom, whereof he speaketh, was everlasting, because it was before all creatures; and that all things, even the whole world, were made by it.’†1 Behold it founding the earth "upon nothing;" and yet "so sure, that it cannot be moved." (Job 26:7 . Psalms 93:1 .) See how this great Architect hath established the heavens, fixing all their bright luminaries in their respective orbits (Genesis 1:14-16 . Psalms 136:5 . Jeremiah 10:12 ; Jeremiah 51:15 ) — ’such a glorious canopy set with such sparkling diamonds!’†2 Each of these departments declares his knowledge — In the earth, by breaking up the depths, and gathering them up into rivers and streams for the refreshment of man. (Proverbs 8:24-29 . Genesis 1:9-10 . Job 38:8-12 . Psalms 104:8-13 ) — In the heavens, by collecting the moisture into dew, and dropping down fatness upon the parched ground;†3 each of these countless drops falling from this Fountain of life. (Job 38:28 .) Thus does every particle of the universe glitter with infinite skill (Psalms 104:24 .) The earth is its pavement, and the heavens — its ceiling; both miracles of wisdom, to "declare the glory of God." (Psalms 19:1 .) How beautiful is the uniformity of the two great systems of God! Both are the work of the same Architect. Both display the wisdom and knowledge of God. (John 1:1-14 . Ephesians 1:8 ; Ephesians 3:10 . Colossians 1:13-17 .) The universe is a parable, a mirror of the gospel. The manifestation of these Divine Perfections in the field of Creation opens a rich provision for our happiness. Much more let their more glorious exhibition in the great work of redemption fill us with adoring praise — "O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"†4

Footnotes

†1 Reformers’ Notes.

†2 Leighton’s beautiful fragment on Psalms 8:1-9 . Works, vol. ii.

†3 Genesis 27:28-29. There is a philosophical difficulty in supposing "the clouds to drop down with dew," which is the moisture rising from the lower region, sometimes a very few feet from the earth. In the East, however, the dew is said to fall from a considerable height. Gesenius states, that the Hebrew word represents a ’gentle rain.’

†4 Romans 11:33. Full of profound thought are the words of our admirable Hooker — ’That which moveth God to work is Goodness; that which ordereth his work is Wisdom; that which perfecteth his work is Power. All things, which God in these times and seasons hath brought forth, were eternally and before all time in God; as a work unbegun is in the artificer, which afterwards bringeth it into effect. Therefore whatsoever we do behold now in this present world, it was enwrapped within the bowels of Divine Mercy, written in the book of Eternal Wisdom, and held in the hands of Omnipotent Power, the first foundations of the earth being as yet unlaid. So that all things which God hath made are in that respect the Offspring of God. They are in him, as effects in their highest cause. He likewise is actually in them; the assistance and influence of his Deity is their life.’ — Book v. lvi.5.

Verses 21-22

Again we listen to Wisdom’s voice. Her repetitions are not "vain repetitions;" but well fitted to impress upon youth (Isaiah 28:9-10 ) the weight of her instructions. (Philippians 3:1 . 2 Peter 1:12 .) As thy much-loved treasure, as thy daily guide — let them not depart from thine eyes. (Proverbs 7:1-3 .) Worse than valueless are they, if received as notions; of inestimable price, if kept as principles. God’s teaching is sound wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:9 ; Deuteronomy 6:8 . Joshua 1:7-8 ); full of light and substance; transfiguring Divine truth with heavenly glory. Therefore keep it close to thine heart. Exercise it in that practical discretion, which disciplines all our tempers and duties. Man’s wisdom is utterly devoid of all energy. The soul, "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18 ), is in a state of death, until "the entrance of God’s word giveth light and understanding" (Psalms 119:130 ) — "the light of life." (John 8:12 .) "The excellency of this knowledge is, that," "with this light and understanding," it giveth life to them that have it. (Ecclesiastes 7:12 . Compare Proverbs 4:22 ; Proverbs 6:23 .) Every truth under its influence springs up into the new creature with heavenly glow, and with all the grace of "the beauty of the LORD;"†1 outshining, even in the most despised garb, the richest glory of an earthly crown.

Footnotes

†1 Psalm 90:17; Psalms 149:4 . Compare Proverbs 1:9 . ’Grace to thy jaws’ — is the Douay Version, with the Marg. Explanation — ’Merit for the words of thy mouth.’

Verses 23-26

The habitual eyeing of the word keeps the feet in a slippery path. (Proverbs 4:11-12 . Psalms 17:4 ; Psalms 37:23 ; Psalms 119:9, Psalms 119:11, Psalms 119:133 .) David, from inattention to wisdom’s words, "well-nigh slipped." (Psalms 73:2-17 .) Peter from the same neglect fearfully stumbled. (Matthew 26:33-35, Matthew 26:69-75 .) But our sleeping hours, no less than our waking steps, are divinely guarded. "So he giveth his beloved sleep." (Psalms 127:2 . Compare Psalms 121:3-4 .) "Underneath them are the everlasting arms." (Deuteronomy 33:27 . Compare Leviticus 26:6 .) They enjoy a child-like repose, sleeping in his bosom without fear. Thus did David ’sleep in God, and in a state of salvation,’ amid the tumultuous warfare with his undutiful son.†1 Peter in prison, in chains, between two soldiers, on the eve of his probable execution, when "there seemed but a step between him and death" — Yet in such a place, in such company, at such a moment, did he lie down so fearless, and sleep so sweetly; that even the shining light failed to disturb him, and an angel’s stroke was needed to awaken him.†2 What would not many in troublous times, waking at every stir, give for one night of this sweet sleep! And yet how many such nights have we enjoyed; waking, as Jacob on his stony — we might add — downy, pillar, in the consciousness of our Father’s keeping! But where has been our renewed dedication to God? (Genesis 28:11, Genesis 28:18-22 .)

But sudden fear may come. Yet be not afraid. (Job 5:21-24 . Compare 2 Kings 6:16-17 ; Jeremiah 39:15-18 .) It is the desolation of the wicked. They must fear. (Isaiah 57:20-21 .) Child of God! run you to your confidence, and "be safe." (Proverbs 14:26 ; Proverbs 18:10 . Isaiah 26:1, Isaiah 26:20 .) Surely he shall keep thy foot from being taken. (Psalms 91:1-3 .) Noah found this security in the flood of the ungodly; Lot in the destruction of Sodom (2 Peter 2:5-9 ); the Christians in Pella, in the desolation of the wicked city. Luther sung his song of confidence — "God is our refuge and strength." (Psalm 46.) In the consummating desolation, when it cometh — what will then be the sudden fear — the undismayed confidence? "All the tribes of the earth will mourn" at the sight of their despised Savior — then their Judge. (Proverbs 1:27 . Luke 21:26 . Revelation 1:7 ; Revelation 6:15-17 .) But, "when ye see these things, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." (Luke 21:28 . Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 .)

Footnotes

†1 ’Obdormit in Deo, et in statu salutis.’ — Lyra. — Psalms 3:1-8 . Psalms 4:8 . Compare the beautiful picture, Ezekiel 34:25-28, in contrast with Proverbs 4:16 . Deuteronomy 28:66 .

†2 Acts 12:6-7. Our Martyrologist records of John Rogers, the proto-martyr in the Marian persecution, that ’on the morning of his execution, being found fast asleep, scarce with much shogging could he be awaked.’ — Foxe, vi. 699.

Verses 27-28

The wise man now comes to practical points. He shows the fruit of selfishness — withholding dues. Many are the forms of this dishonesty — borrowing without payment (Psalms 37:21 .), evading the taxes;†1 "keeping back the labourer’s hire." (James 5:4 . Jeremiah 22:13-17 . Compare Genesis 31:7 ; Deuteronomy 24:14-15 .) But the rule probes deeper than this surface. If we have no legal debt to any, we have a Gospel debt to all. (Romans 13:8 .) Even the poor is bound by this universal law to his poorer neighbour. (Ephesians 4:28 . Compare 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 .) Every one has a claim upon our love. (Compare Luke 10:29-37 .) Every opportunity of doing good is our call to do so. Our neighbours are the real owners of our good. (Margin). The Lord of all has transferred his right to them, with a special reference to "his own brethren." (Galatians 6:10 . Mark 9:41 . Matthew 25:31-40 .) Kindness is therefore a matter, not of option, but of obligation; an act of justice no less than of mercy. Not indeed that it may be demanded by our fellow-men. But the obligation lies upon conscience; and to withhold the due will be our eternal condemnation. (Matthew 25:41-45 . Compare Deuteronomy 23:3-4 .)

Christian benevolence will also do good in the kindest manner. Delay is an offense against the law of love. Too often the cold repulse — Go, and come again — is a cover for selfishness. There is a secret hope that the matter will be forgotten, dropped, or taken up by some other party. Often an application is put off from mere thoughtlessness. We have it by us.†2 But it does not just now suit our convenience. This is a serious injury to the applicant. A little given in time of need is more than a larger sum when the time is gone by. We should cultivate a quick sensibility of the wants and sufferings of others; putting ourselves as much as possible in their place; not only "doing good," but "ready to every good work." (Titus 3:1 . 1 Timothy 6:18 .) If we are to "do justly" — which sometimes (as in the punishment of criminals) may be our sorrow; we are like our gracious God (Micah 7:18 ), to love mercy (Micah 6:8 . Compare Romans 12:8 ; 2 Corinthians 9:7 ); seizing the present, perhaps the only (Proverbs 27:1 . Galatians 6:10 ), opportunity; rather anticipating the need than wantonly or thoughtlessly delaying to relieve it. (2 Corinthians 8:10 .) The Gospel presents every neighbour before us as a brother or sister needing our help, and to be loved and cared for "as ourselves." (Leviticus 19:18 .) Why do we not more readily acknowledge this standard? The Lord raise us from our selfishness, and mold us to his own image of mercy and love!†3

Footnotes

†1 The example and admonition of Christ are evidently directed against this iniquity. Matthew 17:24-27 ; Matthew 22:15-21 .

†2 See how Job rebutted his friend’s accusation, Job 22:9, with Job 31:16 . Compare James 2:15-16 .

†3 Dr. South’s caustic application may be wholesome probing — ’Was ever the hungry fed, or the naked clothed, with good looks or fair speeches? These are but thin garments to keep out the cold, and but a slender repast to conjure down the rage of a craving appetite. My enemy, perhaps, is ready to starve; and I tell him I am heartily glad to see him, and should be very ready to serve him. But still my hand is closed, and my purse shut. I neither bring him to my table, nor lodge him under my roof. He asks for bread, and I give him a compliment — a thing indeed not so hard as a stone, but altogether as dry. I treat him with art and outside and lastly, at parting, with all the ceremonial of dearness, I shake him by the hand, but put nothing into it. I play with his distress, and daily with that which was not to be dallied with — want, and misery, and a clamorous necessity.’ — Sermon on Matthew 5:44 .

Verses 29-30

The command — withhold not good — is naturally followed by the forbidding to do evil. The treachery here rebuked was a scandal even to a heathen.†1 It is generally abhorred by the world, and should be doubly hated by a godly man. With him all should be clear and open as the day. An evil device against a neighbour, from whatever cause, is a cursed sin. (Proverbs 6:14-18 . Deuteronomy 27:24 . Psalms 35:20 ; Psalms 55:20 . Jeremiah 18:18-20 .) But to take occasion from confidence reposed, betrays "the wisdom that descendeth not from above — devilish." (James 3:15 .) Such was the craft of Jacob’s sons against the unsuspecting Shechemites (Genesis 34:13-29 ; Genesis 49:5-7 ); Saul’s malice against David, when under his protection (1 Samuel 18:22-26 ); Joab’s murder of Abner and Amasa (2 Samuel 3:27 ; 2 Samuel 20:9-10 ); Ishmael’s of Gedaliah. (Jeremiah 41:1-2 .) No trial cuts so keenly. (Psalms 55:12-14 .) This was one of the bitters in the Savior’s cup of suffering. (John 13:21, with Psalms 41:9 ; Matthew 26:46-50 ). And many a wounded spirit has been cheered by his sympathy with this poignant sorrow. (Hebrews 4:15 .)

Yet we must guard not only against secret malice, but against causeless strivings. A propensity to embroil ourselves in quarrels (Proverbs 17:14 ; Proverbs 18:6 ; Proverbs 25:8-9 ) kindles strife, instead of following the rule of peace. (Romans 12:18 .) This spirit is a great hindrance to holiness (Hebrews 12:14 . Colossians 3:12-15 ), and inconsistent with a true servant of God. (2 Timothy 2:24 .) Irritable persons strongly insist upon their rights, or what they conceive to be due to them from others. "Is there not" — say they — "a cause?" But impartial observers frequently judge it to be striving without cause; that no harm has been done; none at least to justify the breach of love; that more love on one hand, and more forbearance on the other, would have prevented the breach; that "there is utterly a fault — Why do ye not rather take wrong?" (1 Corinthians 6:1-7 .) How valuable is a close application of the self-denying law of Christ! (Such as Matthew 5:39-41 .) How earnestly should we seek from himself his own meek and loving spirit! (1 Peter 2:21-23 .) ’O Lord, pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace, and of all virtues; without which, whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee.’†2

Footnotes

†1 ’Fallere eum, qui læsus non esset, nisi credidisset.’ — Cicero pro Roscio.

†2 Collect for Quinquagesima Sunday. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 .

Verses 31-32

What is there — we might ask — to envy in the oppressor? The love of power is a ruling passion; and the slave of his own will enjoys a brutish pleasure in tyranny. Yet little reason have we to envy him, much less to choose his ways. (Proverbs 24:1 . Ecclesiastes 4:1 .) Can he be happy, going froward in his way, in perverse contradiction to the will of the Lord? with the frown of Heaven? ’For he who hateth nothing that he hath made, abhors those who have thus marred themselves. They are not only abominable, but ’an abomination in his sight.’’†1 Really to be envied, or rather ardently to be desired, is the lot of the righteous, enriched with the secret of the Lord — "his covenant and fatherly affection, which is hid and secret from the world."†2 Sinners are an abomination. Saints are his delight. ’They are God’s friends, to whom he familiarly imparts, as men used to do to their friends, his mind and counsels, or his secret favor and comforts, to which other men are strangers.’†3 Communion with himself (John 14:21-23 ); peace (Philippians 4:6-7 ); joy (Proverbs 14:10 ); assurance (Revelation 2:17 ); teaching (Matthew 11:25 ; Matthew 13:11-17 ; Matthew 16:17 . John 7:17 . 1 Corinthians 2:12, 1 Corinthians 2:15 ); confidence (John 15:15 ); an enlightened apprehension of providence (Genesis 18:17-18 . Psalms 107:43 ); yea, all the blessings of his covenant (Psalms 25:14 ) — this is the secret between God and the soul, an enclosed portion, hidden from the world, sealed to his beloved people. Here then — child of God — "dwell in the secret place of the Most High." (Psalms 91:1 .) If he hath given to thee the knowledge of himself, and of thine interest in him; and to the froward oppressor only worldly advantage; is it not the seal of his love to thee, and rejection of him? Is it not infinitely more to dwell on high with thy God, than in the vain pomp of an ungodly world? (Psalms 84:10 .)

Footnotes

†1 Henry in loco. Proverbs 6:14-18 ; Proverbs 11:20 ; Proverbs 15:9 . Micah 2:1-2 . See the Lord’s open judgment, Exodus 9:16 ; Exodus 14:28 . Isaiah 37:21-38 . Acts 12:1-2, Acts 12:23 .

†2 Reformers’ Notes.

†3 Pool’s Annotations. ’He loves them dearly as his intimate friends, to whom he communicates the very secrets of his heart.’ — Diodati.

Verse 33

The contrast between the sinner and the saint, affects us not only personally, but relatively. The curse or blessing of the LORD follows us to our homes. Shall we then envy the wicked, with his cup of earthly joy filled to the brim? The curse of the LORD is in his house (Malachi 2:2 ) — a "curse that never cometh causeless." (Proverbs 26:2 ) Let him think — ’It is my Maker’s curse — how awful, that my being and my curse should come from the same sacred source!’ It is not the impotent wishing of ill. Could we trace its deadly work, we should see the man wasting, withering, consuming under it. Observe "the roll in the house of the thief, and of the swearer — twenty cubits long" — a long catalogue of woes; "flying" — to mark its swiftness; "remaining in the midst of the house; consuming it even with the timbers and stones thereof." (Zechariah 5:1-4 .) Is this an idle dream? Surely — but for the blindness of the heart, the wicked would see the naked sword hanging by a hair over his head, or the awful "hand-writing upon the wall," solemnly proclaiming — "There is no peace — saith my God — unto the wicked." (Daniel 5:5-6 . Isaiah 57:21 .) Vainly will the proud worm resist. Ahab multiplied his house beyond all human average, as if to set at defiance the curse pronounced against it. Yet at one stroke all were swept away. (1 Kings 21:20-22 . 2 Kings 10:1-11 .) Similar instances†1 abundantly prove whose words shall stand — man’s or God’s. (Jeremiah 44:28 .) "Who hath hardened himself against him, and prospered? Who hath resisted his will?" (Job 9:4 . Romans 9:19 .)

But bright is the sunshine of the just. Not only is the secret of the LORD with their souls, but his blessing on their habitation. And when he blesseth, who can reverse it? (Numbers 23:20 . Job 34:29 .) Many a homely cottage, tenanted by a child of Abraham, shines more splendidly than the princely palace of the ungodly.†2 An heir of glory dwells here. A family altar of prayer and praise consecrates it as the temple of Jehovah. (Genesis 12:8 .) Promises, like clouds of blessings, rest over it. God has been honoured, and God will honour. (2 Samuel 6:11 . Jeremiah 35:18-19 . 2 Timothy 1:18 .) "They that dwell under his shadow shall return." (Hosea 14:7 .) Is then my house under the curse or blessing of the LORD? Let my God be honoured in his own gifts: that I and mine may be manifestly sealed with the full tokens of his love.

Footnotes

†1 Jeroboam: 1 Kings 14:9-11 ; Amos 7:9 . Baasha: 1 Kings 16:1-4, 1 Kings 16:12-13 . Jehu: 2 Kings 15:8-12 . Hosea 1:4 . Hazael: Amos 1:4 . Jehoiakim: Jeremiah 22:13-19 . Coniah: Jeremiah 24-30. Esau: Obadiah 1:18 . Compare Proverbs 14:11 ; Proverbs 15:25 .

†2 Job 29:4. Isaiah 4:5 . EnJa kai oi Qeoi. (<-- note to e-Sword users: please see the book: this is the word processor’s attempt to transliterate the Greek characters into English). ’The God’s are within’ — said the Heathen philosopher of his poor cottage. F. Taylor in loco.

Verse 34

(Proverbs 3:34 quoted in the NT: James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5-6 )

Two apostles have combined with the wise man, to set out this rule of the Divine government.†1 On no point is the mind of God more fully declared than against pride — the spirit of scorning. It displaces man, and would, if possible, displace God himself. Jealous therefore of his own glory, he sets himself in battle array, as against the usurper of his prerogative, the rebel against his dominion.†2 Witness the Babel-builders (Genesis 11:1-9 ); Pharoah (Exodus 14:13 ); Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:33-38 ); the proud opposers of his Gospel (Psalms 2:1-4 ) — all the objects of his scorn. But most hateful to him is the sinner, that will not submit to his righteousness, that scorns the corner-stone of salvation. How fearfully does it then become "a rock of offense," of eternal ruin! (Romans 10:3, with Romans 9:32-33 . Matthew 21:41-44 .) Surely without doubt, without way of escape from his frown, he scorneth the scorners.

A lowly spirit — a deep conviction of utter nothingness and guilt — is a most adorning grace. Nor is it an occasional or temporary feeling, the result of some unexpected hateful disclosure, but an habit, "clothing" the man (1 Peter 5:5 ) "from the sole of the foot to the head." It combines the highest elevation of joy with the deepest abasement of spirit. And those who sink the lowest, stand nearest to the most exalted advancement. For "he that scorneth the scorners, giveth grace to the lowly" — "more grace" (James 4:6 ), till his work is perfected in them. ’He pours it out plentifully upon humble hearts. His sweet dews and showers of grace slide off the mountains of pride, and fall on the low valleys of humble hearts, and make them pleasant and fertile.’†3 The centurion (Matthew 8:5-10 ); the Canaanite (Matthew 15:21-28 ); the penitent (Luke 7:44-50 ); the publican (Luke 18:13-14 ); such as these are the objects of his favor. (Isaiah 66:2 .) Their hearts are his dwelling-place. (Isaiah 57:15 .) Their inheritance is his kingdom. (Matthew 5:3 .) The soul, swelling with its proud fancies, has no room for his humbling grace. Blessed exchange of the little idol of self-esteem for Him; who alone has the right! when even his own graces are only desired, as instruments to set out his glory.

Footnotes

†1 James 4:6 . 1 Peter 5:5 — The exact quotation of the LXX, save the substitution of Theos for Kurious. ’The apostle’s quotation of this passage, though somewhat different in the words, is the same in the sense with the original. For scorners in Scripture are proud, insolent, wicked men. And to resist such persons, by rendering their schemes abortive, and by humbling them, is emphatically called a scorning of them.’ — Macknight on James 4:6 .

†2 antitassetai, LXX. (<-- note to e-Sword users: the word processor coverted this from Greek characters to English, & may not have done it correctly).

†3 Leighton on 1 Peter 5:5 . Compare also on Proverbs 3:8 .

Verse 35

This is the last contrast drawn to restrain our envy at the prosperity of the wicked. (Proverbs 3:31 .) It carries us forward to the coming day, when all shall "discern" in the full light of eternity. (Malachi 3:18 .) The wise — the heirs of glory — are identified with the lowly (Proverbs 3:34 ; Proverbs 11:2 ) — the heirs of grace. Self-knowledge — the principle of lowliness — is the very substance of wisdom. Their inheritance also is one — grace and glory. (Psalms 84:11 .) For what higher glory can there be than the grace, which "hath redeemed" a vile worm of the earth, "and made him a king and priest unto God"? (Revelation 5:9-10 .) Oh! let the redeemed cherish honourable thoughts of their present glory. Be careful to clear it from the defilement and degradation of the world’s dust, and enjoy it in adoring praise to Him, who hath chosen thee to this so undeserved grace. (Revelation 1:5-6 .)

But who can tell the glory of the after inheritance — not like this world’s glory — the shadow of a name; but real, solid; ’an infinite gain, in the exchange of dross for down-weight of pure gold.’†1 All occasion of sin and temptation is shut out for ever. ’The tree of knowledge shall be without enclosure. There shall be neither lust, nor forbidden fruit; no withholding of desirable knowledge, nor affectation of undesirable. The glorified spirits touch nothing that can defile, and defile nothing they touch.’†2 But after all, the glory of this glory will be communion and likeness with our Lord — "to be with him — to behold his glory." (John 17:24 . 1 John 3:2 .) We need not pry too minutely. This much is clear. The value of our inheritance is beyond all price; its happiness unspeakable; its security unchangeable; its duration eternity. The wise shall inherit glory. "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3 . Matthew 13:43 .)

Oh! will not the fools then discover the vanity of this world’s glory, too late to make a wise choice? Shame is their present fruit. (Proverbs 13:18 ; Proverbs 10:9 .) Honour even now sits unseemly upon them. (Proverbs 26:1 .) But "what fruit will eternity bring" of those things, whereof they will "then be ashamed?" (Romans 6:21 .) Truly shame will be their promotion. Their fame will be infamous, their disgrace conspicuous; lifting them up, like Haman upon his elevated gallows (Esther 7:9 ) — ’a gazing-stock to the world.’ How solemn and complete will be the great separation for eternity! "Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Daniel 12:2 .)

Footnotes

†1 Leighton on 1 Peter 5:10 .

†2 Howe’s Blessedness of the Righteous. Chapter 5. 11.

Bibliographical Information
Bridges, Charles. "Commentary on #REF". Bridges' Commentary on Proverb. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbp/proverbs-3.html. 1846.
 
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