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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ proverbs-22.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Proverbs 22:1. A good name. Literally “a name.” Loving favour, or “grace,” “goodwill.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:1
BETTER THAN GOLD
The second clause of the proverb explains the meaning of the name in the first clause—it is evidently a good reputation that is gained by uprightness and unselfiishness—that loving esteem of others which is the fruit of “looking not only upon our own things, but also upon the things of others” (Philippians 2:4). Such a name is better than wealth.
I. Because the one may come by inheritance, and the other must be the result of, personal character. The man who is born to wealth deserves no credit for being rich—he may be destitute of all personal excellence—he may, indeed, be a morally bad man, and may neither possess nor deserve the goodwill of his fellow creatures. But if a man does possess the confidence and love of others it is because there is that belonging to him that wins men to trust in him and to love him—if he has a “good name” and deserves it he is in some respects a good man.
II. Wealth is often a transitory possession, but “loving favour” often outlives the present life. Many mere temporal gifts belong more truly to a man than his riches—his good looks or his handsome figure may long outlive his wealth, for they are more truly his. The uncertainty of riches is the subject of many a proverb, and therefore any possession which is more certain to last is better than they. A “good name”—the well-deserved reputation which is the result of loving our neighbour as ourself—is quite independent of the changes and chances of mortal life—it goes with a man to his grave, and embalms his memory long after he has passed away.
III. A good name belongs to a higher region of life than wealth. Even when wealth has been honestly earned, and is the reward of moral excellence, and even if its possession could be assured to its owner, a good name is a more precious gift. Much skill and industry are required to build up a fortune, but skill and industry are not qualities of so high an order as those which are needed to acquire the loving favour of our fellow-creatures. He who possesses the latter must be a more excellent man than the merely honest and skilful seeker after riches, and the possession is itself of a far more precious nature. The gold and the silver are of the earth, earthy, but love and trustful confidence are good things which belong to the soul, and which are in consequence far more truly satisfying to man’s higher nature. When one man possesses both these good things he is able to compare their power to bless, and none who has experimental knowledge of the worth of both would sacrifice his good name to retain his riches. They may bring him much outward deference, but he knows full well that this would cease if he became a poor man—that there are many who love not the man but only his money. But if he is so blest as to have won men’s hearts he is fully assured that adversity will not deprive him of this good gift. To possess a “good name” is to be rich with the riches which constitute the most precious wealth of God. He is rich in material riches, for “all the beasts of the forest are his and the cattle upon a thousand hills,” yea, “the world and the fulness thereof” (Psalms 50:10; Psalms 50:12). But this wealth is inferior to the mental power which produced it. God is great in intellectual wealth. “With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:14). But His real wealth is His name—that name which He proclaimed to Moses—“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:5-6), which makes Him the object of the reverential love of all the good in the universe. And so is it with His creatures—in proportion as they have those spiritual characteristics which are possessed in perfection only by God Himself, their reputation for mercy, and goodness, and truth becomes their most precious and prized possession.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
We are not good judges of value in the public markets of life. We make grievous mistakes, both in choosing and refusing. We often throw away the pearl and carefully keep the shell. Besides the great disparity in value between the things of heaven and earth, some even of these earthly things are of greater worth than others. The valuables in both ends of the balance belong to time, and yet there is room for choice between them. There is the greater and the less where neither is the greatest. A trader at his counter has a certain set of weights which he uses everyday and all day, and for all sorts of commodities. Whatever may be in the one scale, the same invariable leaden weight is always in the other. This lump of metal is his standard, and all things are tried by it. Riches practically serve nearly the same purpose in the markets of human life.… This is a mistake. Many things are better than gold, and one of these is a good name. A good conscience indeed is better than both, and must be kept at all hazards; but in cases where matters from a higher region do not come into competition, reputation should rank higher than riches in the practical estimation of men.… The shadows are not the picture, but the picture is a naked ungainly thing without them. Thus the atmosphere of a good name imparts to real worth additional body and breadth. As a substitute for a good conscience a good name is a secret torment at the time, and in the end a cheat, but as a graceful outer garment with which a good conscience is clothed it should be highly valued and carefully preserved by the children of the kingdom.—Arnot.
One is more valuable than the other as a means of usefulness. Riches, in themselves, can only enable a man to promote the temporal comfort and wellbeing of those around him. But character gives him weight of influence in matters of higher moment,—in all descriptions of salutary advice and direction,—in kindly instruction and consolation,—in counsel for eternity. It not only fits its possessor for such employments, but it imparts energy and effect to whatever he says and does. His character carries a recommendation with it,—gives authority and force to every lesson and every admonition; and affords, by the confidence it inspires, many opportunities and means of doing good, which, without it, could not be enjoyed. Riches, again, bring with them many temptations to sinful and worldly indulgences, such as are injurious to the possessor himself and to his family—both temporally and spiritually. Character, on the contrary, acts as a salutary restraint,—keeping a man back from many improprieties and follies, and even outward sins, by which it would be impaired and forfeited. And this restraint is felt, and properly felt, not for his own sake merely, but for the sake of all those objects with which his name stands associated; and especially from a regard to usefulness in connection with the truth, and cause, and church of Christ.—Wardlaw.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:2
LEVELLING DOWN AND LEVELLING UP
I. The rich and the poor have much in common. They have, in fact, everything in common which is independent of silver and gold. At first sight this seems to include almost everything worth having, and it does include the best and most lasting good, and often much beside. We rejoice in the thought that many a poor man has as large a share of God’s blessed air and sunshine as his richer neighbour—that his bodily frame is as healthful and his home as full of love. But, alas! we cannot forget that poverty in many cases shuts out men and women from the gladdening and healthful influences of pure air and sunlight, and consequently shuts them up to bodily disease, and tends to produce moral unhealthfulness. As civilisation advances, and countries become more populous, the gulf between poverty and wealth in this respect seems to widen, and when we consider how many advantages, not only material but intellectual and moral, the very moderately rich possess over the very poor, we do not find so much in common between them as appears upon a slight view of the case. It is indeed true that all the blessings of life that money cannot buy are as much within the reach of the poor as of the rich; but how many good things—not only for the body, but also for the mind and heart—are not to be gotten without gold and silver. There is, however, one platform upon which they all meet, even in this life—one levelling force which brings them into an absolute equality. In the plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, and in all the blessed effects which flow from it, the rich man has no advantage over the poor man—the brother of low degree is shut out from nothing that his rich brother enjoys. In this sense, as in many others, we may use the prophet’s words: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Isaiah 40:4). It does this:
1. By declaring their common and universal sinfulness. Disease of body is a levelling power—fever makes no distinction between king and subject—between master and servant; while they are under its dominion the one has no immunity from the weakness and the pain of the other. So the Gospel plan declares concerning sin what experience testifies—that “there is no difference,” that “all have sinned” (Romans 5:12), and that its debasing and destroying power is alike in prince and peasant.
2. By offering the same conditions of redemption to all. A physician, when he visits his patients with the intention of doing his best to heal them, does not prescribe one kind of treatment to the rich and another to the poor. The conditions of recovery are not regulated by their rank, but by their disease. So with the Gospel remedy for the sickness of the soul. It is the same for every man. The strait road is not made wider for the man with money bags, the gate is opened as wide for the pauper as for the emperor.
3. By providing the same inheritance for all who accept the conditions. Every man who accepts the way of salvation has an equal right to claim God as his Father—has an equal liberty of access to Him (Ephesians 3:12), at all times—is sealed with the same spirit of promise, and has the same hope of blessedness beyond the grave. To each and to all it is said, “All are yours, and ye are Christ’s (1 Corinthians 3:23).
II. To God must be referred the lot to which each man is born. He, as the Creator, calls each man into being, and determines the sphere in which he finds himself when he awakens to consciousness and to a sense of responsibility. Man, as a free agent, has much to do with determining his lot in life when he arrives at mature years, but the circumstances surrounding his birth and earlier years, and the mental gifts with which he is endowed, have much also to do with it, and these are determined for him by God. So that He is not only the Maker of the man’s personality, but largely also of his position in the world.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
In the distinction between the rich and the poor there is something not altogether pleasant to the human mind. We are apt to recoil from it. Without much thought, by the mere spontaneous promptings of our feelings, we are apt to have some dissatisfaction as we behold the advantages of riches so unequally distributed among men. And frequently the dissatisfaction increases, as we can discover no just rule of this distribution; and as we behold more and more of the contrasted advantages and disadvantages of this distinction between the rich and poor. Something like this was, in my opinion, the feeling of the writer of this text. He saw the distinction between rich and poor; he felt amazed; he had a disliking for it which set his mind at work. He thought the matter over patiently and religiously. And when he had done he gathers up the whole substance into this single aphorism and writes it down. That was his satisfaction. There he left the matter.… He had studied it as he studied botany: From the cedar-tree that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. He had contemplated the loftiness of the rich and the lowliness of the poor, wherein they differed, and wherein they agreed, and especially who made them to differ.… His faith in God and constant recognition of Him would lead him to take along with him in all his contemplations the idea of the one Great Maker of all; and then, when he found things strange, dark, or revolting to him growing out of the distinctions between rich and poor, he leaves all that with God. But before he comes to this, and while he is engaged amid things which he can understand, he finds another side of the question which at first disquieted him.… Coming to examine the matter, he finds that distinction is not the real affair after all; that there are more agreements than distinctions—more resemblances than differences: the Maker of all has made the all more alike than unlike.… They meet together in their origin and their situation as they enter the world. They are equally dependent, helpless, miserable.… The two classes are very much alike in their amount of happiness.… The rich man is not necessarily happy nor the poor unhappy … The passions which make men miserable are exercised by both classes without any visible difference in their effects … There is a substantial agreement in all the organs of perception and enjoyment, and much of our felicity here depends upon the organic constitution that makes us men.… In intellectual faculties there is the same strong resemblance. The perception, memory, imagination, reason, which God has given, He has been pleased to give with an impartial hand … There is one common end to our humanity; … among dead men’s bones you can find nothing to minister to human vanity. The rich and poor meet together in the tomb and at the final bar of God.—Dr. Spencer.
They meet often; yea, often is the rich forced to send for the poor, needing as much the help of his labour as the other doth the help of his money. But this maketh them to meet nearer yet, by causing the same who was rich to become poor, and he that was poor to become rich.… And they meet everywhere—there is no place that hath not both of them, and as there are many of the one, so there are many of the other.—Jermin.
For Homiletics on Proverbs 22:3 see on chap. Proverbs 14:16, page 364; on Proverbs 22:4 see on chap. Proverbs 3:1-18, pages 29, 34, 39.
Proverbs 22:3. Are punished, rather “must suffer injury.”
Proverbs 22:4. By humility, rather “The end or reward of humility,” etc. Delitzsch reads “The reward of humility IS the fear of the Lord,” etc.
Proverbs 22:5. Shall be, etc., or Let him keep, etc.
Proverbs 22:6. Train up a child, etc. Miller reads “Hedge in a child upon the mouth of his way;” Delitzsch, “Give to a child instruction according to his way,” i.e., conformably to the nature of youth.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:3-4
A HEDGED-UP WAY
I. God will hedge in the way of the froward man. As we have seen in considering former proverbs, men in a fallen condition have a tendency to break loose from restraint—especially from Divine restraint—and to mark out a path for themselves of their own devising. (See on chap. Proverbs 21:8). Every human creature shows more or less wilfulness in regard to their relations to God and His law—choosing rather to fashion his life according to his own ideas than according to the Divine idea and desire concerning him. And this wilfulness, if unchecked, grows with a man’s growth and strengthens with his years, until his frowardness becomes the distinctive feature of his life. But he will not have it all his own way. He will not find the crooked path which he has chosen altogether pleasant and safe. Thorns will prick his feet and pitfalls will endanger his life. He will find himself confronted and fenced-in by laws of retribution which God has set about him to admonish him to forsake his rebellious way. For all the pain of body or mind which men suffer, and all the obstacles they meet with in the way of frowardness are intended to keep them from a deeper pain and a heavier punishment. A thorn-hedge is set by the side of the highway to admonish the traveller to keep the path, and so avoid, it may be, the precipice or the bog on the other side. If he attempts to climb the hedge he will be wounded, and if he is a wise man the thorn-pricks will lead him to abandon his intention, and so to escape more serious harm. If the hedge does this it fulfils the end for which it was planted. So with the pains and penalties with which God hedges in the present way of the wicked man—they are intended to lead him into a better and safer way.
II. It is a parent’s duty to hedge in the way of his child. The father stands in the place of God to his young children in this respect, for his discipline in their early years is the best possible preparation for the discipline of God later on in life. Indeed the wiser the training of the earthly father the less are his children likely to need the corrective discipline of their heavenly parent. The child that is accustomed to bend its will to the will of a good father will not find it so hard to yield obedience to the will of God as he who has had no such training. He will grow up in the practice of sinking his will in that of a wiser will, and it will not be irksome for him so to do. Having found his father’s yoke an easy one, and having in the path of filial obedience tasted pleasures unknown to the rebellious child, he will the more readily accept the yoke of God, and find in His service perfect freedom. But this blessed result will not be attained without much anxious and sometimes painful effort on the part of the parent. For the natural waywardness of man in general manifests itself in very early life. A child would like to be trained in the way it would go, rather than in the way that it should go. But this would in effect be no training at all. For the training of anything implies a crossing of the natural tendency—a repression in one direction, and an effort towards development in another. The training of the vine does not mean a letting it put forth its branches just where it wills or a twining of its tendrils around any object it chooses—it implies a free use of the pruning-knife and of the vine-dresser’s other implements and methods of restraint and guidance. Every child, like every unwise man, would like to set up its own hedge, and put up its own fences, and prescribe the limits and bounds of its own conduct. But as we have already seen, God lets no man do this beyond certain limits, for He Himself sets “thorns and snares in the way of the froward.” It is, therefore, cruel neglect in a parent to allow a child to do it, for thus the tendency to go in the wrong way is strengthened by indulgence, and every year the path of obedience to God becomes more difficult, and looks less inviting. If the parent does not set a hedge about his son’s path, he is only making it certain that he will encounter thorns and snares further on in life. As to the promise attached to the command in this proverb, it can hardly be said to be of universal application. Solomon himself seems to have been an exception to the rule. We have every reason to believe that his father, after his birth, would train his son most carefully and enforce his precepts by example. We must believe that David’s own bitter experience of the thorns and snares in the path of sin made him very anxious to preserve his son from wandering as he had done, and led him to train him most carefully. It is also said of the sons of a man whose life was outwardly stainless—of Samuel—that his sons “walked not in his ways” (1 Samuel 8:3). Yet we cannot suppose that Samuel, who had seen in Eli’s family the miserable fruits of non-restraint, had neglected to train his sons. Yet the exceptions are doubtless very few in number compared with the rule,—that a rightly-trained child does not depart from the right way in his riper years, though, in Bishop Hall’s words, “God will let us find that grace is by gift, not by inheritance.”
“Lord, with what care hast Thou begirt us round!
Parents first season us: then schoolmasters
Deliver us to laws; they send us bound
To rules of reason, holy messengers.
Pulpits and Sundays, sorrow dogging sin,
Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,
Bibles laid open, millions of surprises.
Blessings beforehand, ties of gratefulness,
The sound of glory ringing in our ears;
Without our shame, within our consciences,
Angels and grace, eternal hopes and fears.
Yet all these fences and their whole array,
One cunning bosom—sin blows quite away.”—Herbert.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 22:5. A forcible image to show that nothing stands so much in a man’s way as the indulgence of his own unbridled will. The man who is most perversely bent on his purposes is most likely to be thwarted in them.—Bridges.
The ungodly finds nothing in his path to hell but thorns and snares, and yet he presses on in it! A sign of the greatness and fearfulness of the ruin of man’s sin.—Lange.
Proverbs 22:6. Three different meanings have been found of the interpretation, “according to his way.” (See Critical Notes.) It may be—
1. His way in the sense of his own natural characteristics of style and manner,—and then his training will have reference to that for which he is naturally fitted; or—
2. The way of life which he is intended by parents or guardians to pursue; or,
3. The way in which he ought to go. The last is moral, and relates to the general Divine intention concerning man’s earthly course; the second is human and economical; the first is individual, and to some extent even physical. Yet although the third presents the highest standard and has been generally adopted, it has the least support from the Hebrew idiom, Tr. of Lange’s Commentary.
He learneth best any way that knoweth no other, and he best keepeth any way that groweth in it. Two children that are bred and grow up together, are settled in affection the one to the other. Now, it can be but a childish goodness that is in a child; but if the childhood of goodness shall be bred and grow up with the child-hood of man, it will settle the stronger union between them. Aristotle saith, it is a matter of chiefest moment for a man to be accustomed this way or that.—Jermin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:7
AN ANALOGY AFFIRMED AND A CONTRAST SUGGESTED
I. The contrast between the poor man and the borrower. The proverb at least suggests that the poor man and the borrower are not necessarily convertible terms—that a poor man may owe no man anything, and that a man may be in debt without being a poor man in the common acceptation of the word.
1. The poor man and the borrower may occupy different social relations; indeed, as a rule this is the case. The poor man may have been born to poverty, and consequently may be inured to its hardships, one of which is its subjection to the will of the rich. But the borrower may have been born to wealth, and himself accustomed to rule over the poor. The one may be so ignorant and degraded by reason of his poverty as scarcely to be conscious of the yoke he wears; whereas the servitude of the other will be galling in proportion as his education renders him sensitive to his position.
2. They may be unlike in the fact that the poor man may have had no choice but poverty—he may have been born in it, and may have had no opportunity of altering his condition; but the borrower may not have been absolutely obliged to borrow—he may have borrowed merely to speculate or to waste.
II. The point of resemblance between them. They are alike in being both dependent upon the same person—upon the rich man. This rich man may be unlike his poor brother in nothing save in his possession of gold; he may be as uneducated as he is, and, morally, far beneath him. He may be much less polished and refined than the man who borrows of him, but, whatever he is or is not does not alter the case, his money makes him the master—both the poor man and the debtor must submit to his dictation, must acknowledge their dependence on him. Both often have the painful consciousness that he holds in his hand all that makes their existence of any value to them—both often alike feel that he could at any time deprive them of their very bread.
III. The lesson of the proverb. The wise man, by thus showing how two men who are unlike in almost every other respect may be reduced to the same level in this, is probably reading a lesson against borrowing. The poor man’s subjection to the rich is a matter which it is not in his power to alter, but a man goes into debt generally of his own free will. He may often be very hardly pressed by necessity to do so, or as a matter of business it may be advisable, but the proverb at least suggests that the step should not be taken without well weighing the consequences. It is doubtless mainly directed against borrowing when a man has not resources to repay, and is not likely to have them.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1. The responsibility of the rich. How great the power of wealth. In this world it is a talent often more influential for good than intellect or genius.…
2. The temptation of the poor.… To become servile, cringing in spirit. Flunkeyism is the greatest curse of the people.…
3. The wisdom of the diligent. The industrious man is a wise man. Why? Because the more industrious he is, the more independent he becomes of wealthy men.—Dr. D. Thomas.
Very important is it to maintain an independence of mind, quite distinct from pride, which elevates the mind far above doing or conniving at evil, for the sake of pleasing a patron. Many have been forced to great entanglement of conscience, perhaps to vote contrary to their conscience, rather than lose the great man’s smile. Often also the influence of capital is an iron rule of the rich over the poor. Many, who profess to resist conscientiously state-interference, have little regard for the consciences of their dependants. The monied master exercises a control over his workmen, which shews too plainly his purpose to make them the creatures of his own will. This gigantic tyranny should be denounced with the most solemn protest. The true Christian line is to shun that proud independence, which scorns the kindly offer of needful help; but at the same time to avoid all needless obligations. “Sell not your liberty to gratify your luxury.” If possible, “owe no man anything but love.” (Romans 13:8.) “Guard against that poverty, which is the result of carelessness or extravagance. Pray earnestly, labourdiligently. Should you come to poverty by the misfortune of the times, submit to your lot humbly; bear it patiently; cast yourself in child-like dependence upon your God.”—Bridges.
Proverbs 22:8. The rod of his anger, or, as Zöckler, the “staff of his haughtiness.”
Proverbs 22:16. Zöckler reads this verse “One oppresseth the poor only to make him rich,” i.e., “the oppression which one practises on a poor man rouses his moral energy, and thus, by means of his tireless industry and his productive labour in his vocation, he works himself out of needy circumstances into actual prosperity.”
Here begins the third main division of the book of Proverbs. (See Introduction.) Its contents are styled in Proverbs 22:17 “The words of wise men,” and they differ from the second division in consisting for the most part of much longer sentences, comprising, as a general rule, two verses, but sometimes many more. Zöckler remarks that “there is prevalent everywhere the minutely hortatory, or, in turn, admonitory style, rather than that which is descriptive and announces facts.” Delitzsch and other modern Bible students infer from Proverbs 22:17 that this portion of the book contains “no inconsiderable number of utterances of wise men of Solomon’s time.” (See Introduction to the Book of Proverbs, Lange’s Commentary.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:8
A WORTHLESS SEED AND A ROTTEN STAFF
I. The seed sown. It is iniquity. All kinds of deeds and every manner of dealing that are out of harmony with the principles of justice are acts of iniquity. The least deviation from the path of moral right is in its measure an iniquitous step. Sowing iniquity is an expression that covers very much ground, and includes many degrees of moral wrong, from the withholding of the smallest act of justice to the inflicting of the greatest act of injustice. Now, whenever a man deliberately and knowingly does either the one or the other he does it with a purpose. He has an end in view as much as the farmer has when he sows seed in the field. Men do not generally act unjustly and commit crime out of mere love of sin—they generally expect and desire to gain something by it that they think worth having. Solomon here declares that they will be disappointed. He has before dwelt upon the retribution that will follow sin, he is here speaking of its deceptive character. Men do not get from it what they expect—they are disappointed either of the harvest or in it. This has been the experience of all sowers of iniquity in the world since Eve cast in the first seed. In a certain sense she got what she was promised, but how different the crop from what she hoped for. She “reaped vanity.”
II. The staff depended upon. Haughtiness or pride. (See Critical Notes.) This pride of heart and haughtiness of demeanour is born of a man’s imagining that he has gained for himself a position and a name that will defy the changes and vicissitudes of life. This idea bears him up; he leans upon it, as men lean upon a rod or staff. The rich man often makes a staff of his riches, and uses it to “rule over the poor,” as in Proverbs 22:7. The man of talent sometimes makes his talent a staff, and walks among his intellectual inferiors with a proud and haughty step. The great conqueror says in his heart, “I will ascend unto heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God … I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13), and with the rod of his power he smites the nations and tramples upon the rights of his fellow-creatures. But all these rods of haughtiness shall be broken, and those who lean upon them shall find they have been trusting to a broken reed, and the objects of their oppression shall say unto them, “Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?”
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
The proverb takes two terms for iniquity, one meaning crookedness, the other meaning nothingness. It paints one as only breeding the other. It intends a positive law. Wheat breeds wheat. So iniquity breeds only worthlessness. A man may live a thousand years and yet the harvest will be unvarying. And then to meet the fact that the dominion that his ambition gives does make him ruler over the saints themselves, he employs a verb which expresses high action, but action that exhausts itself. Its literal sense is to consume. The idea is as of a fever which wears down the patient and itself together.… The impenitent seem to have the whole “rod” or sceptre, of our planet, the true solution is this, that the “rod” is just budding out its strength.—Miller.
Often may oppressors prosper for a time. God may use them as his chastening rod. But the seed-time of iniquity will end in the harvest of vanity; and when they have done their work, the rod of their anger shall fail. Such was Sennacherib in olden time, such was Napoleon in our own day. Never has the world seen so extensive a sower of iniquity, never a more abundant harvest of vanity. The rod of anger was he to the nations of the earth. But how utterly was the rod suffered to fail, when the purpose was accomplished! despoiled of empire, shorn of greatness—an exiled captive.—Bridges.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:9
THE BOUNTIFUL EYE
I. The eye is an index of the soul. This is true, not only of the expression of the eye but of its direction. What is in the mind can often be read in the eye; both evil passions and divine affections reveal themselves through it, but sometimes both depend very much upon where the eye looks—upon the objects towards which its glance is directed. Perhaps the text refers both to the eye that softens at the sight of another’s woe, and to the eye which makes it its business to look around and search for objects which the hand can help. For if the expression of the eye reveals the character so does the direction which it habitually takes. There is many an eye that readily moistens with sympathy at the tale or the spectacle of sorrow which can hardly be called a “bountiful eye,” for it is only by accident that it ever encounters anything to call forth its sympathy. But the eye that is ever on the watch for opportunities of doing good, of feeding the hungry and raising the fallen, is a much surer index of a godlike disposition. For such an eye has something in common with the eye of Him who looked upon the bond slaves of Egypt and said, “I have seen the affliction of My people and am come down to deliver them,” and who, manifest in a human body, “was moved with compassion” at the sight of “people who were as sheep not having a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). He whose bountiful eye brings down a blessing upon him is not one who now and then meets a needy brother and relieves him; still less is he one whose sympathy is shown only by the look. His is evidently one whose glance of pity is followed by a deed of kindness and whose habit it is to look out for opportunities of succouring the needy.
II. The soul is blest by the ministry of the hand. He who gives of His bread to the needy will have the gratitude of the needy, and there is not a more exquisite joy perhaps on the earth. But the blessing of God will be his in an especial manner. Upon both kinds of blessing see Homiletics on chap. Proverbs 11:25, page 234, and on chap. Proverbs 19:17, page 576.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Perhaps the expression—“he giveth of his bread to the poor,” may mean, that he is ready even to share his own provision with them; not merely to give a small portion of his superfluities, but to stint himself for their supply. And this is the spirit of true charity.—Wardlaw.
Some that have a bountiful eye have no bread to give, but they will give what will turn to as good an account to the donor, and sometimes will be as pleasing to the receiver; tears and attention, and offices of tenderness and prayers to Him that is able to help.—Lawson.
This bountifulness is a privilege, which earth possesses above heaven. Many a rich blessing is sealed to it. “Beneficence is the most exquisite luxury; and the good man is the genuine epicure.” He “hath a continual feast,” because his objects are always before him.—Bridges.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:10
A MAN WHO OUGHT TO DWELL ALONE
I. The scorner should be dismissed from social bodies for his own sake. It is better for the man himself that his power to do evil should be as limited as possible. If we could know beforehand that a man intends to commit a great crime, and so render himself liable to heavy punishment, and bring guilt upon his conscience, the kindest thing that we could do for him would be to deprive him of the power of doing as he intends. We should thereby save him from the misery of becoming a greater transgressor. If the other disciples of Our Lord could have foreseen what was passing in the mind of Judas, and could have prevented his becoming the betrayer of his Master, how great a blessing would they have conferred upon that unhappy man! Whatever might have been his other sins, he would have not been stung with that agony of remorse at having betrayed innocent blood. But many sins are of such a nature that it is impossible to hinder men from their committal—the steps which lead to them are hidden from those around, and no one suspects that the guilty one has any such intention. The scoffer, however, is not a sinner of this kind—his transgression is not a single act, but a habit of life; it is not a secret purpose hidden in his heart until the moment of its accomplishment, but is manifested in his words. Men can therefore, to some extent, hinder him from increasing his own guilt by depriving him of the opportunities of indulging in his sin—if they “cast him out”—if they shun his society, and dismiss him from their midst, he will have fewer opportunities and temptations to indulge in scoffing, and so will be kept from going to such great lengths in sinning. A man who loves to turn into ridicule all pure and holy things, uses to his own condemnation and degradation influences which were intended to bless and elevate him, and it is better for himself that they should be placed beyond his reach than that he should so abuse them and increase his own guilt.
II. He should be cast out for the sake of his fellow-creatures. There are certain diseases of the human body which are not only most dangerous for the patient himself, but expose to a like danger all who come in contact with him. The leper is not only a great sufferer himself, but he is a centre of a deadly disease which will spread itself to those with whom he dwells. It is therefore necessary to remove him from the society of other men—so long as he is a leper he must dwell alone, must be denied the privilege of citizenship and the joys of social life. So it ought to be with the scorner—the habit of scoffing is one which is very infectious—very easily communicated by one man to another; and seeing that it is so soul-destructive, those who indulge in it ought not to have the opportunity of communicating the moral pestilence. But there is another aspect of leprosy which renders it necessary to isolate as far as possible those who are suffering from it from the abodes of other men. Even if it were not so infectious, it is most loathsome; and this alone would render some separation necessary. Now, there are societies of men in which the words of the scoffer would be quite powerless to do harm—there are those whose love of that which is true and holy is strong enough to withstand all such evil influence. But to such men a scorner is a most repugnant character—they loathe his irreverent treatment of what is to them most sacred. It is not required that they expose themselves to the pain of his society—they are at liberty to cast him out of their midst.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
There is no cure but “casting out.” Such men are the Jonahs of churches, and of the coteries of social life. As long as they are there, there will be nothing but the bluster and commotion of the storm—“toiling in rowing,” incessant distress, vain exertion, and no progress. The sea cannot “cease from its raging,” till they are thrown overboard.—Wardlaw.
This thought occurs also in the Psalms. (Psalms 68:6.) Only the rebellious, says the Psalmist, shall come to mischief. There are, it is true, great mountains of wickedness; but take away this one element of scorn—that is, make a man submissive and the causes of strife have flown. Christ manages afterwards. Take away the rebelliousness of the heart, and great monstrous sins will slowly be corrected and disappear.… Scorning is not itself the cause of the quarrel, and therefore ceasing to scorn does not remove it directly. Christ must remove the cause. Scorning expels Christ. Ceasing to scorn admits Christ. And, therefore, it is literally true—“Cast out the scorner (it may be thine own scornful heart), and the cause of quarrel passes away, and strife and shame cease.”—Miller.
It is always the disposition of the scorner, that wheresoever he is, he scorneth to stay, and it is always the best usage towards a scorner to cast him out, and not suffer him to stay. For whosoever keepeth him shall be sure to keep strife and contention with him, and where they are, reproach and shame are the attendants of them. If any good be done a scorner he disdains that it is so little; if any wrong be done him he complains that it is very great. If he be used in anything, he disdains to be a servant; if he is not used he complains that he is neglected. Still he is discontented, and still his discontent breeds quarrelling and debate. But cast out the firebrand and the fire goes out; cast out Jonah and the storm shall cease. Cast out the scorner from thy house, cast out scorning from thy heart, and then thou shalt be quiet. For whence are all suits of contention. Whence is all strife, but because the heart scorns to bear this, scorns to take that, scorns to let it go?—Jermin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:11
A ROAD TO ROYAL FRIENDSHIP
I. The pure in heart deserve to be honoured with the friendship of the king. Where there is purity of heart, the springs of moral life are healthy—the whole man is an embodiment of truth and goodness. Such a man is worthy of the honour and confidence of those who stand in the highest positions, inasmuch as purity of heart belongs to the man himself, and is a possession that is counted precious by the best beings in the universe, whereas power and rank are often but accidents of birth, and in themselves alone are valueless in the sight of God, and in the eyes of the greatest and noblest of His creatures.
II. The king consults his own interest when he shows favour to such men. A man of pure heart is a great blessing to any community. His very life is in itself a light which scatters moral darkness—a well which makes a fertile spot wherever it springs forth. And it is in proportion to the number of such men in a kingdom that the realm enjoys peace and prosperity. If we could find any earthly commonwealth composed entirely of such citizens, we should find a place where the kingdom of God had “come”—a heaven upon earth. But where there is purity of heart there is grace of lips—there is active effort to spread truth and righteousness. The well does not confine itself to the spot where it first issues from the earth, but sends forth health-giving streams far and near. Seeing, then, that such men are the real pillars of a state, he only is a wise king who seeks them out and delights to do them honour.
III. Some kings have recognised their obligations and interest in this matter. Pharaoh discerned the purity of Joseph’s heart by the grace of his lips, and made him the second ruler in his kingdom, and Darius promoted Daniel to the highest office in his realm. David’s resolution was—“Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.” (Psalms 101:6.)
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Pureness of heart describes not the natural, but the renewed man. It is no external varnish, no affectation of holiness; but sincerity, humility, shrinking from sin, conformity to the image of God. He who hath fully attained this pureness is before the throne of God. He who loveth it is the child of God on earth. His perfection is desire, constant progress, pressing towards the mark. (Philip. Proverbs 3:12-15).—Bridges.
What Solomon says is rather an encouragement to love and cultivate “pureness of heart,” than a motive to be directly regarded, and allowed to influence us to this duty. It is only one of those indirect results which may be enjoyed as a testimony of the higher approbation of God.… While we thank God for the favour He may give us in the sight of men,—we must see that we seek no friendships, whether among the greatest or the least, the highest or the lowest, by any other means whatever than the “pureness of heart,” and the consistency of life here recommended.—Wardlaw.
Grace in the lips is necessary to recommend pureness of heart. We ought always to speak the words of truth, but we ought to speak it in the most pleasing manner possible, that we may not render it unacceptable by our manner of representing it. Daniel showed his integrity and politeness at once, by the manner of his address to Nebuchadnezzar, when he was called to give him very disagreeable information.—Lawson.
He that hath pureness of heart cannot choose but love it, such is the exceeding beauty and amiableness of it; and he that loveth pureness of heart cannot choose but have it, for that it is which purifieth and cleanseth the heart. Many there be who love a cleanness, and neatness, and pureness of apparel; many there are who love a clearness and pureness of countenance and complexion. No washing or purifying is thought to be enough to make this appear, so that often the heart is defiled by it. And with such puritans the courts of princes are much attended, wooing with this bravery the favour of the court and prince. But it is to the pure in heart that God inclineth in favour the heart of the king. And because the heart is not discernible by the king, God therefore giveth grace unto the lips, in which the purity of the heart shining, tieth the heart of the king as a friend unto him.—Jermin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:12
THE PRESERVATION OF KNOWLEDGE
I. God preserves knowledge by preserving the man who possesses the knowledge. The preservation of the life of the man of science who has discovered some secret of nature is a preservation of the knowledge that he has gained. If the discovery has been made by him alone and he dies before he has revealed it, the knowledge is lost to the world. When a physician is acquainted with a special remedy or method of treatment for a certain disease which is known only to himself, the preservation of his life is the preservation of this special knowledge. If he leaves the world without imparting what he knows to another man, his secret dies with him—the abstract knowledge is not left behind when the man who possessed it is gone. All knowledge is preserved to us from age to age by its being communicated from one human being to another, as one generation succeeds the other, and the hand of God is to be recognised in its preservation. But this is especially true of the knowledge of God. In the days of old, God long preserved a knowledge of Himself in the world by preserving the life of Noah, of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. They stood almost alone in the world in this respect, and were like lighthouses on a dark and stormy ocean, sheltering and preserving a moral light in the moral darkness. If the lighthouse is destroyed the light goes out; and if these men had died without transmitting to others the light which they possessed, the world would have been left in ignorance of God. As the ages have rolled on, there have been more of these spiritual lighthouses, and God has always preserved a sufficient number upon the earth to bear witness of Himself.
II. God has preserved knowledge by causing special care to be taken of His written Word. Holy men of old wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and the record of the truths which were revealed to them is with us until this day. The knowledge of the way of salvation through Jesus Christ has thus been preserved for nearly nineteen centuries, and to-day we can become as familiar with the events of the Incarnation, and with the teachings of the Apostles, as if we had lived in the first century of the Christian era. Although many efforts have been made to destroy the Scriptures of truth, they are with us still, preserved by the providence of their Divine author, in order that men may not be without the means of becoming wise unto salvation through believing the truths which they contain. There have been dark days when the living guardians of Divine truth were hardly to be found; but if they had quite died out after the Bible was written we should still have had this source of spiritual knowledge with us, like a seed-corn, preserving within its husk the living germ, ready to burst forth and grow when it found a congenial soil. God, as the preserver of the knowledge of Himself, has made its safety doubly sure by not only committing it to the living man, but by causing it to be committed to the written page.
III. The preservation of knowledge by the Lord counteracts the evil and false words of wicked men. Acquaintance with truth concerning anything overthrows all false ideas and teachings concerning it. The coming of the morning light scatters all the darkness of night, and with it many false conceptions as to what is around a traveller on an unknown road. So a knowledge of Divine truth scatters error, and overthrows false conceptions concerning God and godliness, and convicts their enemies of falsehood, thus rendering them powerless to do harm. Our Lord, by His knowledge, thus overthrew the words of a great transgressor in His temptation in the wilderness, and it is by the spread of this knowledge of God which He has Himself preserved to us that the final overthrow of evil will be accomplished.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
There is still another sense of the words,—which they may bear; though by some, perhaps, it may be regarded as fanciful:—“The eyes of the Lord keep knowledge:”—they retain it. What He sees, be it but for a moment, does not, as with our vision, pass away. It remains. We see, and, having seen, what passes from the eye passes also from the memory. Not so is it with God’s vision. The sight of His eye is no uncertain or forgetful glance. It is unerring and permanent. All that His eyes have ever seen is known as perfectly now as when it passed before them,—as when it existed or happened!—And in the exercise of this permanent and perfect knowledge, “He overthroweth the words of the transgressors.” All their evil desert remains before Him. They can neither elude His knowledge, nor bribe His justice, nor resist His power. They shall all be made to learn by fearful experience, “whose words shall stand, His, or theirs!”—Wardlaw.
When knowledge seemed on the eve of perishing, a single copy of the Scriptures, found as it were accidentally, preserved it from utter extinction. (2 Chronicles 34:14-18). For successive generations the Book was in the custody of faithful librarians, handed down in substantial integrity. (Romans 3:2) When the church herself was on the side of the Arian heresy, the same watchful eyes raised up a champion (Athanasius) to preserve the testimony. Often has the infidel transgressor laboured with all the might of man for its destruction. Often has Rome partially suppressed it, or committed it to the flames, or circulated perverted copies and false interpretations. Yet all these words and deeds of the transgressors have been overthrown.—Bridges.
The eyes of the Lord are His knowledge, and it is in Him, in His knowledge that knowledge is preserved. That is the bottomless treasure of it; from thence issue out all the veins of knowledge, wherewith the world is enriched. It is He that preserveth knowledge for the seekers of it, it is He that preserveth knowledge in the teachers of it.… His eyes shall watch over it, and though blindness put out the eyes of many, yet in Goshen it shall shine and bring comfort to His people.—Jermin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:13
AN ACTIVE IMAGINATION
I. Inactivity of will may cause a too great activity of the imagination. Man is made for action, and if he refuses to employ his powers in doing some useful and real work, it is probable that he will put forth some morbid effort in another direction. If his limbs are not at work, his mind will probably be active, and if he does not occupy it with objects which are worthy, it will be filled with thoughts that are sinful, and imaginations that are false. It will be especially apt to invent excuses for sloth, by magnifying the difficulties which stand in the way of effort. Every obstacle will be magnified into an insurmountable hindrance, and little risks will be looked at through a medium which will make them look like dangers to be avoided at any sacrifice of duty. The wish is often father to the thought, and the slothful man welcomes and nurses the deception which is born of his own indolence. And the sluggard is an easy prey also to the suggestions of the tempter, who will not be slow to do what he can to inflame the imagination and distort the judgment.
II. The sluggard rightly apprehends danger, but mistakes the source whence it will come. There is a devouring enemy which will slay him if he do not take care, but it is not without him, but within him. He has a foe who endangers his life, but that foe is his own sloth; or, as we saw on chap. Proverbs 21:25, his own unsatisfied desire. While his eyes are turned on the highway, and he is seeking to avoid the lion which he fancies is there, he is nursing in his bosom the indolence which will be his ruin. He has more to fear from himself than from the most terrible manslayer that ever crossed the path of any human being. But it is with him as with slaves to other forms of sin—he is ready to lay the blame of his disobedience to God’s commands anywhere, rather than upon his own unwillingness to comply with them.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
“Saith,” really a preterite. These proverbs have usually the future. The future is a present continuing forward. Here we have a present tracing itself backward. The impenitent have always been saying the same thing. Age has not changed. Men have stuck to it for near a century.… “There is a lion” at the mercy-seat. So that the minister quits answering the sluggard’s cavils, and tells each man plainly—“These cries are symptomatic.” There is no lion in the case. And a heart that will shape these phantoms would shape others, if these were laid. The difficulty is sloth. In truth, there is a “lion,” but it is a bad heart, crouching against itself, and lurking to destroy the poor unwary sinner.—Miller.
This is a very odd excuse for his laziness. Lions are seldom found in the fields in the day time, and it is a very extraordinary thing if they be found in the streets. Does the sluggard himself believe there is any truth in it? If he does, why does he sleep in his house, since it is possible that it may be set on fire by some accident in the night? Why does he ever take a meal, for some have been choked by the bread which they put into their mouths? When we are employed in the duties of our calling, we need not vex ourselves with the apprehension of lions. “I will give mine angels charge over thee,” says God, “and they shall keep thee in all thy ways.” Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder, the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under thy feet. But let the sluggard remember that there is a lion in that bed where he dozes away his time, and in that chamber where he sits folding his arms together. The devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, and he rejoices greatly when he lights upon a sluggard, for he looks upon him to be a sure prey. We are safe from the lions in the way of duty, and never safe when we avoid it. Lions, when they met David feeding his sheep, were torn in pieces by him like kids. A lion unexpectedly came upon that young man of the sons of prophets, who declined his duty when he was commanded to smite his neighbour, and rent him in pieces.—Lawson.
Here is no talk of Satan, “that roaring lion” that lies couchant in the sluggard’s bed with him, and prompts him to these senseless excuses. Nor yet of the “Lion of the tribe of Judah,” who will one day send out summonses for sleepers, and tearing the very caul of their hearts asunder send them packing to their place in hell. But to hell never came any as yet that had not some pretence for their coming hither. The flesh never wants excuses, and needs not to be taught to tell her own tale. Sin and shifting came into the world together; and as there is no wool so coarse but will take some colour, so no sin so gross but admits of a defence. Sin and Satan are alike in this, they cannot abide to appear in their own likeness.—Trapp.
The tongue is seldom slothful, even in the slothful man himself. That will bestir itself to find excuses, and to plead pretences for the defence of sloth. That will be diligent to allege reasons that the sluggard may be negligent.… If the lion had been within, if the courage and nobleness of the lion had been in the sluggard’s heart, he would never have talked of a lion without. No, it was the cold snail that was within; and unless the slothful man’s house may be removed with him, he will not stir to go out of it. Thus he that feareth to be slain, without cause, delighteth to be slain by his own laziness.—Jermin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:14
A DEEP PIT
This verse treats of two classes of character, both of which have been depicted before. (See on chaps. Proverbs 2:16-19, page 24, Proverbs 6:24, page 89, Proverbs 6:6-27, page 15).
I. The tempter. The strange woman—the woman who has been so deaf to the voice of all that is womanly as no longer to be worthy of the name, who instead of being man’s helpmeet and endeavouring to win him to tread the path to heaven, is his curse and makes it her aim to drag him down to hell. Notice the main instrument of her destructive power—the mouth. It is by her words of flattery and deception and persuasion that she ensnares her victim and compasses his ruin. History and experience confirm Solomon’s words, for, although external beauty is often a powerful ingredient in the temptation, it is not always so, and counts for very little if it is unaccompanied by that fascination of manner and of speech which have been used by so many bad women with such fatal effect. If we look at the portraits of some of those women who have exerted so mighty a power for evil in the world, we can seldom see sufficient beauty to account for the spell which they seemed to cast around their victims, and we must conclude therefore that it was rather to he found where Solomon puts it,—who may be here speaking from bitter personal experience—viz., in the tongue. This proverb adds one more testimony to the many that have gone before of the immense power for evil or for good that is exerted by that “little member” of our bodily organism.
II. The tempted. He is here depicted as an unwary traveller along life’s highway easily deceived by the appearance of things, and, too careless or too unsuspecting to look beneath the surface, following the bent of his inclination and yielding to the voice of the charmer until he finds the ground giving way beneath his feet, and darkness and hopelessness all around him. Notice the fearful name here given to such an one—to one who is led away by such a tempter. He is abhorred of the Lord. Here is full evidence that God does not look upon human creatures with indifference as to their moral character—that merciful Father though He is, He does not extend to men that indiscriminating and therefore worthless tenderness which some would have us believe is His main attribute—that if men look upon sin as mere obedience to the dictates of nature, and therefore blameless, He does not so regard it. And if men will not attach any weight to the words of Scripture—not believing them to be infallible—they can read the same truth in their every-day experience. The terrible retribution which comes upon those who listen to the words of the “strange woman” is a sufficient testimony to the abhorrence in which the Creator of men holds the sin to which she allures the unwary and the licentious man.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
To what do the fearful words amount? To this: that in His righteous displeasure, there is not a heavier curse which an offended God can allow to fall upon the object of His wrath, than leaving him to be a prey to the seductive blandishments of an unprincipled woman:—that if God held any one in abhorrence, this would be the severest vengeance He could take on him.—Wardlaw.
The mouth of a strange woman is but the mouth of a far deeper pit, the pit of hell into which it openeth. The one is digged by the wickedness of men, the other by the justice of God.—Jermin.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:15
A FACT STATED AND A DUTY INFERRED
I. Human nature in its most attractive form contains latent depravity. The flower of the thistle is beautiful to look upon, and its downy seed is an apparently harmless object, and one worthy of admiration, as it rears its head among the corn. But how much power of mischief is wrapped up in that ball of soft down, if it is allowed to scatter its seed unchecked. A young lion is as pretty and harmless a creature as a kitten, but what ferocious instincts lie dormant there. A child is the most attractive and innocent of human creatures. As we look upon its guileless face we can hardly connect the idea of sin with its nature, and hardly believe it possible that the most depraved man or woman in the world was once as pure and stainless. But the Book of God tells us that even that young soul is tainted with the disease that infects all our race, and what the Book says is confirmed by the experience of all who have had anything to do with training children. The foolishness of self-will very soon shows itself, and the little one early gives proof that he or she is a true child of Adam by rebelling against the restraints with which it is lovingly surrounded, and desiring at all risks to eat forbidden fruit. In the fairest child-form now living upon the globe there may be hidden seeds which, when fully developed, will fill the world with terror and misery.
II. That this depraved tendency is deeply rooted in the child’s nature. It is “bound” in it or “fettered” to it by a cable of many strands, or a chain of heavy links—it is not a slight preference for the wrong which can easily be overruled—not a garment put on which the wearer can easily be persuaded to put off again, but a part of the very nature—a bent of all the faculties of the soul.
III. The disease is one which will yield to proper treatment. We do not suppose that Solomon’s words teach that any corrective rod will be potent enough to drive out all tendency to go wrong, inasmuch as experience and observation contradict it, but the same experience and observation confirm the truth that wise correction in youth is mighty in its moral power, and may so bring the child round to the love of the true and the good, that its own efforts will second the efforts of the parent, and it will itself turn upon the enemies within, being fully convinced that the self-will that is bound up in its own heart is the greatest folly to which it is liable. There are many who, looking back upon the wise and loving chastisement of a tender parent, can bear testimony to the truth of this proverb. On this subject see also on chap. Proverbs 13:24, page 334.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
The rod of correction is proper to drive away no other foolishness than that which is of a moral nature. But how comes wickedness to be so firmly bound, and strongly fixed, in the hearts of children, if it be not there naturally.—Jonathan Edwards.
Bound, or fettered.… Firmly knit, closely settled; well tied in; that is, fixed in the childish spirit; this is the sense of nearly all the commentators. Of course, there are great difficulties at once. The fact theologically is just the opposite. “Folly” is not fixed in the childish heart; but stronger and stronger in periods afterwards. Why not, pro vero, “bound?” In much the majority of texts it means simply “tied down,” or “fettered.” “Folly is fettered in the heart of a child”; that is, tied down, and, in many ways, repressed. This is literally the case. It is weak, and hemmed in, and easier to grapple with and drag out of the soul in youth than at any other period.—Miller.
Observe—it is foolishness, not childishness. That might belong to an unfallen child. No moral guilt attaches to the recollection—“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child.” (1 Corinthians 13:11.) “A child is to be punished”—as Mr. Scott wisely observed—“not for being a a child, but for being a wicked child.” Comparative ignorance, the imperfect and gradual opening of the faculties, constitute the nature, not the sinfulness of the child. The holy “child increased in wisdom.” (Luke 2:52.) But foolishness is the mighty propensity to evil—imbibing wrong principles, forming bad habits, entering into an ungodly course. It means the very root and essence of sin in a fallen nature—the folly of being revolted from a God of love.—Bridges.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:16
OPPRESSION AND SERVILITY
I. Opposite actions proceeding from the same motive. This proverb seems to be directed against a man whose mastering passion is the unworthy one of amassing material gain and ministering exclusively to his own enjoyment. This is the commonest source of oppression. “Covetousness,” says Dryden, “is itself so monstrous that nothing else is like it except it be death and the grave, the only things I know which are always carrying off the spoils of the world and never making restitution.” This is a true picture of the avaricious man who regards none of the needs and rights of his fellow-creatures, but only asks himself with regard to them how they can best be made to serve his interests. This leads him to grind down those who are poorer than himself, and use them as so many stepping-stones, by means of which he can mount higher in the social scale, forgetting that though their poverty makes them weaker than himself, they have a Friend who is far stronger than he is. But the same man who thus oppresses his needy brother will make it his business to propitiate the rich, and for the same end, viz., to advance his own interests. “Tyranny and flunkeyism,” says Dr. Thomas, in his comment on this verse, “generally go together. Both are the children of avarice. He that proudly domineers over the poor will servilely bow his knee to the rich.”
II. Opposite actions meeting with the same retribution. Although these actions are so different, they can both be traced to one fountain-head, and therefore one sentence is passed upon both. The man who lives for himself shall not get anything worth having; or if he do, things will be mixed with the cup of his prosperity, which will make it an unpalatable one after all. He may get wealth, and may come to want health; he may be rich and healthy, and yet suffer in his family relationships. He will certainly come to want peace of conscience, the goodwill of his fellows, and the favour of God, and no gain can balance such a loss.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Sin pays its servants very bad wages, for it gives them the very reverse of what it promised. Whilst the sin of oppression or injustice promises mountains of gold, it brings them poverty and ruin. “Shalt thou reign because thou closest thyself in cedar?” said the prophet to Jehoiakim. It could not be, for he used his neighbour’s service without wages, and gave him nought for his work.… We are not proprietors but stewards of the gifts of providence, and must distribute that which he has entrusted to our care according to his will. And it is his pleasure that we should make to ourselves friends by the mammon of unrighteousness, not of the rich but the poor.—Lawson.
The covetous wretch and the vain prodigal are of quite contrary dispositions, and take quite contrary courses, and yet they both meet at last, for both come to want.… He that being rich taketh a little from the poor (for how little must it needs be that is taken from them) shall surely find that he taketh a great deal from himself, even all that he hath. And he that giveth much to the rich (for it must be much, or else it is not regarded by them) will wish he had given it to the poor, when being made poor, he will give himself little thanks for it, and find as little help from them to whom he has given his riches.—Jermin.
A reference to the Critical Notes at the beginning of this chapter will show that we here enter on the third division of this book. One or two additional notes are subjoined.
Proverbs 22:17. Miller reads the second clause, “And thou shalt incline thine heart,” etc.
Proverbs 22:18. They shall withal be fitted in thy lips, rather “let them abide together upon thy lips.”
Proverbs 22:20. Excellent things. Some here render “thrice repeated things,” the French translation is “things relating to rulers or governors,” and Stuart reads “Have I not written to thee heretofore,” understanding Solomon to refer to the previous portions of the Book. Upon the first two Wardlaw remarks that they both contain the idea of superiority or excellence, for “why are things repeated but for their excellence? and princely or royal things”—which the French translation may yield when analysed—is but a figurative way of expressing transcendent superiority.
Proverbs 22:21. Them that send unto thee, rather “them that send thee.” “The senders here,” says Zöckler, “are naturally the parents, who have sent their son to the teacher of wisdom, that he may bring back thence to them real culture of spirit and heart.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH. Proverbs 22:17-21
TRUST FROM KNOWLEDGE, AND BLESSEDNESS FROM TRUST
I. Knowledge of God must go before faith in God. There must be a knowledge of the existence, character, and power of any person before there can be any trust in him. God is not so unreasonable as to expect men to put trust in Him unless they have some grounds for their trust. Hence the Bible especially aims to make men acquainted with the Being upon whom they are called to exercise faith, by declarations concerning His character, and by a history of His doings in the past, and reminders of what He is doing in the present. Sometimes God points to the visible creation as a source whence men may obtain knowledge concerning Him, and come to exercise trust in Him. This is the drift of the sublime passage in Isaiah 40:0, in which Jehovah seeks to bring Israel, by a consideration of His creative power and wisdom, to confide in His Almighty strength. (Proverbs 22:27-29.) Sometimes He appeals to His dealings in the past as a ground of faith in His character and purposes in the present. What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me? (Jeremiah 2:5.) The Son of God appeals to His Father’s love as a basis of faith in Himself. (John 3:16.) Paul speaks of the way of salvation as a “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6.), because without knowledge there can be no faith, and an enlightened knowledge will certainly lead to faith. The preacher here points to the necessity of gaining this true wisdom, the knowledge of Jehovah, as the means of begetting trust in Him.
II. Real blessedness will follow faith in God. A child can have no lasting and real joy in its life, unless it has faith in his father’s love and wisdom. He feels instinctively that he is dependent upon that father, that much of his future well-being depends upon what that father is and does, and if he cannot be sure that he has his real welfare at heart, it will throw a dark shadow over his young life, which will deepen as he becomes more and more capable of realising his position. It is a worm at the root of all our peace of mind to distrust where we must depend. All men must feel that they are dependent upon God, and yet most men live, and perhaps most die, without giving Him that trust which alone can give them peace, and which those who know Him testify that He fully deserves. The testimony of those who knew is “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” (Jeremiah 17:8.) And it is because of its trust-begetting character that Solomon here declares that true knowledge—knowledge concerning Jehovah—is “pleasant” to the soul.
III. Faith in the heart will manifest itself in the lip. A perfume may be hidden in the casket, but whenever the lid is lifted it will make its presence known. The tongue will speak sometimes of that which fills the heart, and when it does not do this in a direct manner there will be a tone in the conversation which will tell men what the soul prizes most. Knowledge in the heart will bring wise words to the lips—the love of truth will result in the answer of truth.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 22:17. This sounds like the opening of the earlier Proverbs, chap. Proverbs 5:1; Proverbs 8:1. The repetition is significant. The life of the soul is attention. If that be persevered in, all things follow. God only can give saving light. And yet by laws like the planetary system, He will give it on the bending of the ear. Alas for us! we will not even do this much without His influence. Nevertheless He urges the promise. (See Miller’s rendering in the additional notes at the beginning of this paragraph.) It is a law, though it be a law of grace. God has framed it. Hear outwardly, and thou shalt feel within. Such is our nature (chap. Proverbs 2:1-5), and it is shrewd to use it. The inclining is from Him; but the advice also is from Him! Shrink not from the advice because His strength is needed to make it His chosen instrument.—Miller.
We may mark that, whereas in the beginning of Proverbs the Wise Man had often called on his son to fasten attention on him, saying, “My son, my son;” now, after so much said, he supposeth that he needeth not to be called upon, and therefore speaketh unto him, without his usual compellation. And surely when much hath been said, to need still much calling on, sheweth much neglect of what hath been said, and much unworthiness to have been an hearer of it. And yet because in the best some rousing of attention is requisite, the Wise Man here lifteth up his voice, to cause a careful bowing down of the ear to his words. He would therefore have attention so to bow down the ear, as to make it as it were a bed, wherein the words of the wise might rest; because that is it which will bring true rest unto the heart.… But we may further note, that whereas he would have him to hear the words of the wise, it is to his knowledge that he would have him apply his heart. For we may hear the words of the wise men of this world, we may hear the words of human learning and understanding, and much good is to be gotten from them; but we must apply our hearts unto the knowledge of God’s word, and so far receive the other as they agree with that, or are not repugnant unto it. Or else hear the words of the wise, whosoever they be, if they be the words of wisdom which they deliver. But if their actions teach otherwise than their words do, apply not thine heart to follow their example. Let rather my knowledge instruct thee, that the heart may be as well applied to doing, as the ears to hearing.—Jermin.
Proverbs 22:18. It will last when we get it. This is the wonder to others. Here one has been trying to be a better man, and begins to be one from a sudden epoch. Others wrestle with their faults, and fall back into them again. Nothing can be more fitful than all moral reformations. But here, in spiritual life, a flash shoots up, and we never return to darkness. Why is this? Because it is pleasant, says the proverb. It becomes fixed because of its principle as of a second nature.… When we watch over right words, which (Orientaliter) stands for all right actions, God rewards us by making them “pleasant,” and so, even as in heaven itself, they become fixed as the very habit of our lips.—Miller.
Many there are whose lips do speak the words of wisdom, but they are not fitted upon their lips.… The reason whereof is, because the words of wisdom are not seated in the heart. For though the lips may give themselves motion and the head may furnish them with matter, it is the heart that fitteth the lips.—Jermin.
It will give thee most high satisfaction if thou dost so heartily entertain them, and thoroughly digest them, and faithfully preserve them in mind, that thou art able withal to produce any of them as there is occasion, and aptly communicate for other men’s instruction.—Bp. Patrick.
1. The particularity of address—“to thee, even to thee.” In the days of prophetic inspiration, it was no unusual thing for the servants of God to receive express commissions to individuals, in which they alone were concerned. But the whole Book of God—the entire “word of His testimony”—should be considered by every one as addressed to him; as much so as if there were no other human being besides himself, and as if it had been “given by inspiration” to himself alone. There is no room for any saying, as Jehu did of old—“To which of all us?” The answer would, in every case, be—To each of you all—to thee—to thee—to thee. Not that there is no such thing as, “rightly dividing the Word of Truth;” not that there are no portions of it that have a special appropriateness of application to the characters and circumstances of individuals. Still, the great truths of the Word are alike to each and to all. And speedily a man may be placed in one or other of the peculiar situations to which the different portions of it are adapted! I know of nothing more important than for every individual to bring divine lessons home to himself. Too often, alas! we forget personal amidst general application of particular truths. We think of them as intended for men, and forget that they are designed for us. Would you then profit by what you hear?—keep in mind that what is addressed to all is addressed to each—“to thee, even to thee.”—
2. Mark the emphasis on the time—“this day.” We set a mark, in our minds, on days that have been rendered memorable by events of special interest. Would Noah, think you, ever forget the day of the year on which he and his family entered the ark, and when “the Lord shut him in?” or the day on which he again stepped out of it upon the green earth, to be the second father of mankind? Would the shepherds ever forget on what night of the year the angelic messengers, amidst the light of the glory of the Lord, announced to them the Divine Saviour’s birth, and when “the multitude of the heavenly host,” bursting on their sight, “ascended jubilant,” saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men?” Or would Cornelius ever forget the day and the hour when the angelic visitant directed him to that instruction whereby he and all his house should be saved? You, it is true, have many times heard the words of truth. Let me, however, remind any of you who have thus often heard, and who still neglect them, of the importance to you of each day that you enjoy the privilege. Every time you thus hear them, your eternal all depends on the reception you give to the message of God. This day may be important indeed, for it may be the last on which Divine truth shall sound in your ears. O that it may be a day to be sacredly and joyfully remembered by every sinner now present, as the day on which he first felt its inestimable preciousness to his soul! If you thus bear, and thus improve the opportunity, the day will not be obliterated from your memory by the lapse of eternity. There is one thing of which with emphasis it may be said to each individual sinner, It is “to thee, even to thee:—I mean the message of the Gospel—the message of free mercy through the Divine Mediator. There is no exception; there is no difference. The law speaks to each, “to thee, even to thee”—its sentence of condemnation. The Gospel speaks to each—“to thee, even to thee”—its offer of free, full, immediate, irrevocable pardon on the ground of the universal atonement. To every fellow creature we can say—An adequate atonement has been made for all; therefore for thee—“for thee, even for thee;” and on the ground of that atonement does divine mercy come near to thee—“to thee, even to thee”—with the offer of forgiveness, acceptance, and life. “This day” is the message of life again “made known” unto thee, O sinner; and there is no obstacle to thine acceptance and enjoyment of it, but what is in thyself;—none in God; none in Christ; none in the atonement; none in the divine offer of its virtue to mankind. “To thee is the word of this salvation sent;” and “now is the accepted time, now the day of salvation.”—Wardlaw.
Only a divine word can beget a divine faith, and herein the Scripture excels all human writings, none of which can bring our hearts to the obedience of faith. “I can speak it by experience,” says Erasmus, “that there is little good to be got by the Scripture, if a man read it cursorily and carelessly; but if he exercise himself therein constantly and conscionably he shall feel such a force in it, as is not to be found in any other book whatsoever” “I know,” saith Peter Martyr, “that there are many who will never believe what we say of the power of God’s Word hidden in the heart; and not a few that will jeer us, and think we are mad for saying so. But oh that they would be pleased to make trial! Let it never go well with me—for I am bold to swear in so weighty a business—if they find not themselves strangely taken and transformed into the same image.” The Ephesians “trusted in God” so soon as they heard the word of truth. They “believed” and were “sealed.” (Ephesians 1:13.) And the Thessalonians’ faith was famous all the world over, when once the Gospel “came to them in power.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5-8.)—Trapp.
Proverbs 22:20-21. How the preacher labours! Let us begin at his most expressive terminus. We are to be sent for! some certain day. “Those that send” is but the proverbial cast. “Him that sends” is the more perfect meaning. As sure as the stars we shall be sent for one day; and one thing will be exacted from us, and one only in the creation, and that is light. The man without light perishes. Solomon says, his whole aim has been to press light on the sinner.… “Have I not done,” he says, “and that under Scriptural promises, the very best things to secure my object? And is not that object, now that I might make thee to know the verity of the words of truth!” This Hebrew is very peculiar. “Words of truth” are easily uttered. “Counsels and knowledge” of the deepest sort may be in the minds of infidels. We may teach a child the very intricacies of faith. But there is a “verity” at its deepest root that the natural man cannot perceive. (1 Corinthians 2:14.) To express this, Solomon uses a very infrequent word. It means (in radice) to weigh out so as to be exact. That I might make thee to know the exactness of words of truth. The meaning is that verity which is seen by a Christian eye.—Miller.
Surely if anything be worthy of sending for, worthy of going for, then are the words of knowledge and truth. If they may be had for going or sending, who should not go, who should not send, whither should we not go, whither should we not send? They are they which must bring us to heaven and to happiness. Or else to take the sense another way, and in a spiritual application of the words: Who are they that send unto us? What are the words of truth that we must answer unto them? They that send unto us are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. God the Father sendeth His blessings, God the Son His merits, and God the Holy Ghost His graces. The words of truth that we must answer are the words of thankful obedience.—Jermin.
The certainty of the words of truth. The evidence of the divinity of the Bible, instead of ever being shaken by all the efforts of infidelity, has been augmenting from the beginning hitherto. Its external evidence has grown in the fulfilment of its predictions. Its internal evidence, though in one sense ever the same, has, in another, been increasing also; inasmuch as it has stood its ground amidst all the advances of human knowledge, and men have never been able to improve upon it or to get before it:—and it is the one only book of which this can be affirmed. And its experimental evidence,—the manifestation of its truth in its saving influence,—in its power to dislodge and change the evil passions and habits of the worst of men,—has multiplied by thousands and tens of thousands of dead and living witnesses. In our own days, we have but to point, not only to cases of revival in our own land, in which the gospel has proved itself “mighty through God” to the pulling down of the strongholds of worldliness and corruption, and turning hearts long alienated to God,—but to the lands of heathen idolatry and cruelty and vileness, wherever Gospel truth has found its way and has been embraced. There, in the marvellous changes that have been effected,—in the contrast between previous stupidity and pollution, and heartless and murderous ferocity, to intelligence, and purity and virtue, and peace, and harmony, and happiness, we have the triumphs of the Cross, and the manifestation of the “certainty”—the divine certainty—“of the words of truth.” They have thus shown themselves to be indeed “excellent things” by the excellence of their effects. We call upon all to examine for themselves. The Bible courts examination. It is the unwillingness and refusal to examine, that is most to be deplored. The genuineness of its writings, the authenticity of its histories, the reality of its recorded miracles, the fulfilment of its prophecies, the sublimity and consistent harmony of its doctrines, the purity of its precepts, the origin of its commemorative ordinances, and its tendency to personal and social virtue and happiness,—all court examination. The testimony of the celebrated Earl of Rochester, when converted from infidelity and profligacy to Christianity and virtue, will be found the truth. Laying his hand on the Bible, he would say—“This is true philosophy. This is the wisdom that speaks to the heart. A bad life is the only grand objection to this Book.”—Wardlaw.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:22-23
GOD THE SPOILER OF THE SPOILER
I. Robbery is of three kinds.
1. There is the open and unlegalised thief. There are men who do not pretend to respect the rights of others and who openly live in violation of Divine and human laws. They differ somewhat in their methods and in the description of their plunder—some seeking to gain an entrance into the mansion and lay hands on the jewels of the wealthy, and others being content with what they can find in the cottage or on the wayside—but they are alike in pursuing their profession without any pretence that they fear God or regard men. But these are not the robbers against whom the sentence is passed which is contained in this proverb.
2. There is the legalised thief. There are governments under which iniquity is established by law—kingdoms in which wholesale robbery is carried on in the name of justice. There were many such in the days of Solomon and there is not a few in this nineteenth century. Perhaps, however, the Preacher was not referring so much to a government as a whole as to individuals who, sitting in the seats of justice, were regardless of the rights of those over whom their position gave them authority. The “oppressor in the gate” is probably a judge who disregards the rights of the poor man if he conceives it will further his own interest so to do, while he all the time pretends to be an administrator of justice and does all in the name of the law of the land. Under this class may be placed those who hold in trust property which has been given for the use of the poor and who disregard the claims of the really needy and so defeat the good intention of the donor. There is an immense amount of this misappropriation of money even in England, and although those who are guilty of it distribute their favours with a pretence of impartiality, and in the name of law, they are as truly robbers in the sight of God as the burglar or the pickpocket.
3. There is the negative robber. A man may be a thief without taking anything from his fellow-man or without holding any official position and abusing his power and privileges. If a man or woman who is brought in contact with others poorer than himself or herself withholds from these poorer brethren anything simply because they cannot retaliate or enforce their rights, such a man or woman is a robber of the poor. And this may and is often done unconsciously—a man who would be indignant at being branded as unjust withholds from those whom poverty has placed in his power rights which belong to every rank and station but which are not always looked upon as the equal heritage of the poor and the rich. For it is quite possible to rob the poor without taking or withholding money from them. Some, who would not do this, rob them of their rest and leisure and withhold from them consideration and sympathy.
II. Defenceless though the poor may seem, Almighty power is on their side. Although the robbery may be legalised on earth, it is contrary to the law of heaven, and although the judge who oppresses can be brought before no human tribunal, he will one day stand before the bar of God. The Judge of all the earth was Himself once a poor man, and can sympathise with the oppressed poor as well as avenge their wrongs. He will spoil the oppressor of his soul’s comfort, and cause him to faint, and be afflicted for want of spiritual sustenance. Many a poor man’s soul is made sad by legalised injustice, and Christ as man’s judge will bring legalised justice to bear upon him who offends in this matter. (Matthew 25:41-46.) See also Homiletics on Proverbs 22:16, and on Chap. Proverbs 14:30, page 389.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
After so promising a preface, and such wooing of attention, we looked for some fresh matter, and that of best note, too. But, behold, here is nothing but what we had before. “It is truth,” saith the wise man, and yet I must tell you that “to write the same things to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” (Philippians 3:1.)—Trapp.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:24-25
AN INFECTIOUS AND DANGEROUS DISEASE
I. Friendship influences habit and thus moulds character. The reason given here for avoiding the companionship of an angry man is, “lest thou learn his ways.” This subject has been treated at length in chap. Proverbs 13:20, page 326. There is great need when pestilence is abroad to avoid needless contact with infected persons and things. In every man there is more or less liability to disease which sometimes only needs a slight exposure to unhealthy influences to develop into a fatal activity. We are always living and moving amidst unhealthy and infectious moral influences which are hurtful to us, because of the tendency there is within us to go wrong; and it is therefore the mark of a wise man to avoid as much as possible all intimate contact with those who are manifestly under the dominion of sin. This proverb does not of course forbid such intercourse as is sought for the purpose of benefiting the vicious man.
II. A man’s anger hurts himself more than those whom it leads him to injure. We should have expected that Solomon would advise us to avoid the angry man because of the injury he might do us when under the dominion of his passion, but instead of that he commands us to shun him because of the injury we shall do ourselves if we become like him. The wise man loses sight of the lesser danger in looking at the greater, and counts as nothing the harm an angry man can do to the body of a fellow-creature, in comparison with the grievous hurt he inflicts upon his own soul. And this is manifestly a correct view, whether we look at the present influence of passion or its remoter consequences. The man who receives an unmerited insult or injury may sustain no loss of dignity, nor suffer in any way in his spirit. But he who inflicts the injury becomes a meaner man in the very act, and creates a tempest of unrest within his own breast. And a blow which deals even death to an innocent man does not necessarily deprive him of any real good, but it creates a very hell of remorse for him whose anger prompted the deed. While Abel exchanged a blighted home here for an Eden in a brighter world, Cain wandered a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth.
OUTLINES AND SUGGSTIVE COMMENTS
Lest thou be infected by his example, or provoked by his passion to return the like to him. Either
(1) a mischief which is often the effect of unbridled rage, or
(2) an occasion of sin, either by drawing thee to an imitation or requital of his rage, or by tempting thee to unfaithfulness in performing the great office of a friend—to wit, admonition or reproof, which, by reason of his furious temper, thou either canst not or wilt not do.—Matthew Poole.
It may seem strange that we should be supposed in danger of learning what we feel to be so very disagreeable. And yet we may. As already hinted, a passionate man may have interesting and attractive qualities otherwise. Now, in proportion as we either admire or love him for these, will be the hazard of our thinking the less evil of his one defect, and trying to palliate and to smile at it. And there is no little truth in the saying, that we either are like our friends and intimates, or will soon be. But more than this. The sudden and often unreasonable heats of the passionate man are ever apt to fret and irritate our spirits, and thus to form a habit of resemblance by the very reaction upon ourselves of his hot and hasty temper.—Wardlaw.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:26-27
SURETYSHIP AND ITS DANGERS
I. A command to avoid a perilous habit. We cannot, in the light of the spirit of Bible teaching—especially that of the New Testament—regard this proverb as forbidding all suretyship. It cannot mean that one honest man when he has ample means at his command is never to become security for another man of honesty. We know that there are cases in which it is the greatest kindness that one friend can do another, and that it is often the means of giving a poor or unfortunate brother a fair start in life. We are commanded to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), and “to do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10), and this is sometimes the most effectual way of carrying out these precepts. But Solomon here warns men against the unwisdom of choosing for companions those men whose habit it is lightly to become a surety for another—who lend their name and credit without considering the responsibility they undertake or asking themselves whether they are doing any real good to the person they oblige. Although it may be a man’s duty sometimes to become a surety for another it is perilous and wrong to make it a habit of life, and thereby encourage thriftlessness and perhaps dishonesty.
II. A warning as to the probable consequences of such a habit. Solomon regards it as certain that a man who habitually becomes a “surety for debt” will come to ruin. This is obvious if we reflect that for one honest man who asks such a favour there are twenty who have little or no moral sense in such a matter; that although a good and true man is often found in circumstances of such need, the great majority who are so found are rogues.
For an illustration and comments on this subject see on Chap. Proverbs 6:1, page 76, and page 216. Also Homiletics on Chap. Proverbs 20:16, page 589.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
We are commanded to “love our neighbour as ourselves;” but to do for him what might expose us to having our very bed sold from under us, is to love him better than ourselves, which is a step beyond the Divine injunction. Wardlaw.
Seeing by taking suretyship upon him, he put himself under the creditor, and made himself to be, as it were, the bed on which the trust of others did rest, and seeing by not paying he hath taken away the creditor from the bed of his rest, it is but like for like if the creditor take away his bed from under him. And yet the wise man asking the question seemeth to me to imply in some sort that he should not do it. For though the other doth justly deserve it, yet in so much need let mercy spare.—Jermin.
For Homiletics on Proverbs 22:28 see on chap. Proverbs 23:10, page 666.
Proverbs 22:29. Diligent, rather “expert,” apt.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 22:29
THE DESTINY OF THE DILIGENT
I. The diligent man meets with Divine approval. The repeated commendations of diligence and condemnations of slothfulness which we meet with in this book show the estimate which God sets upon rightly-directed industry.
1. The diligent man is in harmony with God. The Divine Father is ever working for the good of His creatures, and no being who ever trod this earth laboured so continuously and earnestly as the Divine Son. With Him during His public ministry the completion of one work was the beginning of another. He was ever about His Father’s business, diligently carrying on and seeking to finish the work which His Father had given Him to do. The man who is diligent in business is in this respect a follower of his Lord and Master.
2. He is in harmony with creatures both above Him and beneath Him. Angels are doing the will of their King with promptitude and despatch—Gabriel “flies swiftly (Daniel 9:21) when sent on a message to the earth. Heaven is a world of activity, the cherubim around the throne “rest not day nor night” (Revelation 4:8). Many of the creatures below man set him an example of industry. (See on chap. Proverbs 6:6-11, page 78.) Even inanimate nature seems to rebuke the idle man. (See a comment by Dr. Perry on page 425.)
3. He is in harmony with the needs of humanity. The world calls for diligent workers, and without them all civilisation would soon cease and men sink to the condition of the savage. We have around us many proofs of this. The home of the indolent husband or wife is destitute of all refining influences and is often a nursery of crime. The land where the people are thriftless is a land of degradation and poverty. We can well understand, therefore, that God’s approval rests upon those who make the best use of the time and opportunities which He gives them.
II. The diligent man will reap some reward for his diligence. It is not, of course, possible to take this proverb in an absolutely literal sense, because many diligent men never saw the face of a king. But without diligence it is hardly possible for any man to obtain any position of honour, or if he do he is not likely to retain it. But there is another sense in which diligence may bring a man before kings. Caxton was a diligent man, and by his diligence came literally to stand before the King of England. But he has, by his invention of the printing-press, stood before kings and princes from that hour to this, for they have all learned to honour his name, and to acknowledge their obligations to him. Every time a royal traveller takes his seat in a locomotive James Watt stands before him, for his ability to move with such ease and speed from place to place is the result of that man’s diligence, and his name is held in honour in consequence. And instances might be multiplied indefinitely, in which diligence has caused a man to stand before not only the kings of his own time, but of succeeding generations.
On this subject see also Homiletics on chap. Proverbs 12:24, page 285.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Of all the qualities which kings especially look to and require in the choice of their servants, that of despatch and energy in the transaction of business is the most acceptable.… There is no other virtue which does not present some shadow of offence to the minds of kings. Expedition in the execution of their commands is the only one which contains nothing that is not acceptable.—Bacon.
God loves nimbleness; “What thou doest, do quickly,” said Christ to Judas, though it were so ill a business that he were about.—Trapp.