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Proverbs 4:1 . Hear, ye children, a Hebraism, equivalent to wash, cleanse, and purify your ears. A grateful son here recites the domestic piety of an illustrious father. David talked much with his children on religious subjects. But Solomon, wiser than all his brothers, was his beloved son, and shared more of his father’s favours. David made religion the first object of paternal tuition; for it was in his eyes far before the throne, and all worldly good. Our Lord also has taught us that it is the “one thing needful;” yea, the good part which shall not be taken away. David well understood the importance of religion, and therefore pressed it on the minds of his family by a daily sweetness of instruction. And it is no small truth to say, that every father has it more or less in his power to do the same.
Proverbs 4:7 . Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. We cannot succeed in teaching children, but by the dint of repetition; on which account these injunctions so often vibrate on our ears, and mostly under some new and engaging aspects.
Proverbs 4:8 . Exalt her, and she shall promote thee. The most illustrious characters that have adorned human nature, have risen to distinction by their learning, their virtues, or their eloquence. In the church, what else distinguished Origen, Tertullian, Augustine, and Chrysostom. Every nation has a cloud of characters which confirm the maxim of the text. It was God that inspired them; for the son of Sirach says well, “Unless thy wisdom be with a man, he shall be nothing regarded.”
Proverbs 4:16 . They sleep not, except they have done mischief. Where can we find an empty house in Europe with the windows unbroken? What a proof of the fall of man, and of the need of wisdom!
Proverbs 4:18 . The path of the first is as the shining light. The word נגה noggah, has a special reference to the rising of the sun. Isaiah 60:3; Isaiah 62:1. Or rather, to the sun of righteousness who rises on the church. Malachi 4:2. Good men walk in the light of his countenance. Solomon gives the more weight to his instruction by contrasting the ways of the wicked with the path of the just, which shineth more and more to the perfect day. Divine purity and every grace encreases more and more in the heart, till we attain the fulness of God; and the practice of righteousness, connected with all the christian temper, encreases till the whole character is absorbed in the meridian lustre of evangelical glory, and eternal felicity.
Proverbs 4:23 . Keep thy heart with all diligence. The reference is to the keeping of a city or a castle against a besieging army. The consequences are worthy of the caution. The moral caution is against vain and idle thoughts. Now, to say the least of vain and wandering thoughts, they are attended with the loss of time. But if our actions are either always good or bad, our thoughts must be so too, for they are the spring of action: we sip either honey or poison from every object with which our thoughts converse. Hence also we are every moment either pleasing or displeasing to God in regard to the propensity of the heart. After a vain thought is once indulged, a habit of friendship and intimacy is contracted between the mind and the object of its desire; and if this be a base object, the heart is criminated by its attachment, and we should blush if men could read our thoughts: how much more then have we cause to be ashamed before God who reads the heart. But vain thoughts steal away the heavenly fire from the altar of the heart, and kindle unholy fires; or the desire of riches shoots up and chokes the good seed. They disqualify the soul for religious duties, fetter the feet with weakness, and deprive the soul of confidence in prayer. Let us therefore keep the heart, by setting God before us, by efforts of habitual devotion, and by suppressing vain injections on their first appearance. Then the evils will prompt us to prayer, and induce us to fill up life with useful employment.
Proverbs 4:26 . Ponder the path of thy feet. We should ask ourselves in every weighty matter, What may the issues be of such a word? How may unfriendly persons turn it? What may the issues be of such an action, or of such a procedure? How may it operate on my conscience, on my connections, or on the public mind? We are to ponder our path, and to walk straight forward in the good way. We must live according to reason and revelation; for the more our heart and life are conformed to the will of our Maker, the more of every kind of happiness will fall to our lot.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany