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My son, attend unto my wisdom.
Caution against sexual sins
The scope of the passage is a warning against seventh-commandment sins, which youth is so prone to, the temptations to which are so violent, the examples of which are so many, and which, where admitted, are so destructive to all the seeds of virtue in the soul. We are warned--
I. That we do not listen to the charms of this sin.
1. How fatal the consequences will be! The terrors of conscience. The torments of hell.
2. How false the charms are! The design is to keep them from choosing the path of life, to prevent them from being religious. In order thereunto, to keep them from pondering the path of life.
II. That we do not approach the borders of sin. The caution is very pressing.
1. We ought to have a very great dread and detestation of the sin.
2. We ought industriously to avoid everything that may be an occasion of this sin, or a step towards it. Those that would keep out of harm must keep out of harm’s way.
3. We ought to be jealous over ourselves with a godly jealousy, and not be over-confident of the strength of our own resolutions.
4. Whatever has become a snare to us and an occasion of sin, we must part with at any cost (Matthew 5:28-30).
III. The arguments enforcing the caution. The mischiefs that attend this sin.
1. It blasts the reputation.
2. It wastes the time.
3. It ruins the estate.
4. It is destructive to the health.
5. It will fill the mind with terror, if ever conscience be awakened.
Solomon here brings in the convinced sinner reproaching himself and aggravating his own folly. He will then most bitterly lament it. (Matthew Henry.)
That thou mayest regard discretion.
The wise man’s intention in giving advice
Some knit these words to what follows, and understand them thus: “I wish thee to hearken to wise counsels, that thy heart may not admit thoughts of the beauty of strumpets, nor thy lips talk of such wanton objects as they talk of, but that thy thoughts and words may be sober and honest.” Others knit them to the words before, as if he had said, “Observe my wise precepts, that thou mayest well ruminate of them, and be so full of good thoughts in thy heart, that thou mayest be able to produce them copiously in thy words for the good of others, as I do for thine. But especially that thou mayest know what to think and speak of strumpets’ fair words and alluring carriage.”
I. A readiness to attend will bring a store of knowledge.
II. Let us get ready ears and hearts to get knowledge.
III. Good things heard must be seriously thought on, then and after.
IV. We must labour to know so as not only to understand, but also to utter what we know in fit words. That we may profit others. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb.
A strange woman
One outside of the true family bonds and relationships. This description has been regarded by expositors as having a double sense.
1. It is a portrait of a harlot, especially one of foreign extraction.
2. It is a representation of the allurements of unsound doctrine and corrupt worship.
I. We have here a description of the strange woman.
1. Her vile, unclean, flattering, enticing speech.
2. Her fate: her end bitter, physical suffering, mental anguish, spiritual distress.
II. A word to her.
1. You are somebody’s child; think of the old time, etc.
2. You are ruining soul and body.
3. Ruining others as well.
4. The woman that was a sinner found mercy, and there is mercy for you. (Anon.)
It would not be complaisance, but cowardice--it would be a sinful softness, which allowed affinity in taste to imperil your faith or your virtue. It would be the same sort of courtesy which in the equatorial forest, for the sake of its beautiful leaf, lets the liana with its strangling arms run up the plantain or the orange, and pays the forfeit in blasted boughs and total ruin. It would be the same sort of courtesy which, for fear of appearing rude and inhospitable, took into dock an infested vessel, or welcomed, not as a patient, but a guest, the plague-stricken stranger. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)
The consequences of profligacy
This chapter consists of caution and warning against licentiousness--the lawless and irregular indulgence of the passions--“Youthful lusts that war against the soul.” Inhumanity is the union of two opposite natures--the animal with the impulses and appetites of the brute, the spiritual with Godlike aspirations and capacities of intelligence and religion. Whatever may be the aspirations of the soul, we find there is an animal nature as really and truly “us” as the spiritual itself. In man the conjugal relation is associated with all pure ideas, and is the source and fountain of the purest joy; the family circle is the nursing-mother of all virtue. Licentiousness would subvert all these connections. The Jewish law was so framed as not to suffer any of the daughters of Israel to sink into harlotry; the text speaks of “a strange woman,” because such were usually persons from the surrounding nations.
1. There is nothing so expensive as sin. How many constitutions, how many fortunes have been blasted and wasted through early subjugation to lust!
2. God urges obedience to His laws by the happiness, purity, and beauty of a well-ordered, wise, and prudent conjugal connection. The young man is surrounded by God’s omniscience. If he does not ponder his ways, God will. Iniquity, and especially sins of this sort, tend to gain a fixed habit. There is nothing so utterly repulsive as the picture of one who has grown old in habits of grossness. (T. Binney.)
Her steps take hold on hell.
A beautiful hell
One memorable night, a young lad and an old Scotchman being in Paris together, found themselves in front of one of the dens of infamy; the fragrance of the spices of Araby seemed to float in the air, and the sound of music and dancing broke upon the ear. The glitter and dazzle of fairyland was at the door; and the Scotch boy said, “What is that?” The body of the friend to whom he spoke now moulders in the dust; the voice that answered is now singing praises to God on high; but the hand of that Scotchman came like a vice to the wrist of the lad who was with him, and the voice hardened to a tone that he never forgot, as he said, “Man, that is hell!” “What!” It was a new idea to the country lad. Hell with an entrance like that!--with all the colours of the rainbow; with all the flowers and beauty, and the witching scenery and attractions! I thought hell was ugly; I thought I would get the belch of sulphur at the pit’s mouth; I thought harpies on infernal wing would be hovering above the pit: but here like this? Yes, I saw above the gate--and I knew French enough to know what it meant--“Nothing to pay.” That was on the gate; but, though there be nothing to pay to get in, what have you to pay to get out? That is the question. Character blasted! soul lost! Mind that. Just examine your ways. Do not be taken in by the flowers and music, and the beautiful path that is at your feet this afternoon. (John Robertson.)
Her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them.
The movable ways of the tempter
The wiseman lets us know how foolish it is for men to flatter themselves with the hope that they shall by and by be truly disposed and enabled to repent of their sin. The temptress can form her mode of behaviour into a hundred shapes to entangle the heart of the lover. She spreads a thousand snares, and if you escape one of them, you will find yourself held fast by another. She knows well how to suit her words and behaviour to your present humour, to lull conscience asleep, and to spread before your eyes such a mist as shall prevent you from being able to descry the paths of life. If you ever think of the danger of your course, and feel the necessity of changing it, she will urge you to spend a little time longer in the pleasures of sin. If her solicitations prevail, if you linger within the precincts of guilt, your resolutions are weakened, and your passions gain new strength. What is the awful result? The devil obtains more influence; conscience, forcibly repressed, ceases to reclaim with so loud a voice; God gives you up to the lusts of your own heart, and leaves you to choose your own delusions. Attend, then, to the wisest of men, who instructs you to keep free of these dangerous temptations. (G. Lawson, D. D.)
The text refers to a sinful character who endeavours to keep her companion in vice by her movable ways. Few can say with Paul, “None of these things move me.” We are liable to be acted upon by influences within and without us. It is a grave weakness to be easily movable to bad and faulty ways. Movableness is the prevalent fault of probably every one of us. How easily we are moved to speak in haste. How difficult to keep our eye from being moved to look on evil. We are urged to fix our affections on things above, but who can do this in his own strength? Are we not movable in our friendships? Perhaps movable Christians love only themselves; and if this be so, it needs but a short time and a slight ruffle against their feathers to move them. Some are easily movable from their work for God and for humanity. Some, perhaps all of us, at times, are movable in our faith. Do not allow yourself to be moved from trusting in the love of Jesus, and never be ashamed of being His faithful disciple. Some are moved from the comfort of prayer. (William Birch.)
Lest thou give thine honour unto others.
A man’s honour sunk in sensuality
A good name is better than precious ointment, but of a good name this abominable sin is the ruin. The credit of David and of Solomon was greatly sunk by it. By it has the honour of thousands been irretrievably lost. Life is a great blessing, and may be regarded as the foundation of every earthly blessing. But unclean persons part with everything that renders life worthy of the name, and in a literal sense, they often give their years unto the cruel. Their lives are lost in the pursuit of this sin by the just judgment of God, by its native consequences, or by the accidents to which it exposes those who practise it. And for what are these years given away? Did men generously part with their lives in the defence of their country, or for the sake of a generous friend, the loss would be amply compensated by honour, and by the pleasure of a good conscience. But how infatuated are they who give their years unto the cruel, who conceal a selfish and malignant heart under the mask of love! All unlawful love is hatred, and all tempters to it are cruel enemies to our happiness. Shall we then gratify inhuman enemies, at the expense of honour and life and everything dear to us? These false friends and malicious enemies rob you of your honour and life, with as much eagerness as if they could enjoy these precious blessings of which you are deprived. (G. Lawson, D.D.)
And thou mourn at the last.
Religion has one undeniable advantage to recommend it--whatever it calls us to sacrifice or to suffer, it always ends well. On the other hand, sin has one undeniable evil to excite our aversion and horror--whatever sensual pleasures and imaginary profit attend its course, it always ends awfully.
I. The subject of these regrets. It is a man who has disregarded through life the means employed to preserve or reclaim him. Man’s instructors and reprovers may be ranked in six classes.
1. Your connections in life. Father, mother, friend, etc.
2. The Scriptures.
5. Irrational creatures.
6. The dispensations of Providence.
II. The period of these regrets. It is a dying hour.
1. Such a period is unavoidable.
2. It cannot be far off.
3. It may be very near.
4. It is sometimes prematurely brought on by sin. Such a period, if it be not prematurely produced by irreligion, is always embittered by it.
III. The nature of these regrets. This mourning has two attributes to distinguish it.
1. It is dreadful. A dying hour has been called an honest hour.
2. It is useless. To the individuals themselves, whatever it may be to others.
1. How good is God!
2. How fallen is man!
3. How important is serious thought! (William Jay.)
At the last.--
The wise man saw the young and simple straying into the house of the strange woman. It was not what it seemed to be. Could he shed a revealing light upon it? He saw only one lamp suitable to his purpose; it was named “At the last.” He held this up, and the young man’s delusion was dispelled. He saw in its light the awful consequences of self-indulgence and sin. If this lamp is useful in this one case, it may be useful in others. I can only compare my text in its matchless power to Ithuriel’s spear, with which, according to Milton, he touched the toad, and straightway Satan appeared in his true colours. This lamp has four sides to it.
I. Death is at the last. In some sense it is the last of this mortal life; it is the last of this period of trial here below; it is the last of the day of grace; it is the last of the day of mortal sin. In the light of death look upon mortal sins. The greatest of human actions will appear to be insignificant when we come to die. Look at our selfish actions in this light. How will sin then appear?
II. Judgment is at the last. When we die, we die not. When a man dieth shall he live again? Ay, that he shall--for his spirit dieth never. After death comes the judgment. Look at the past, the present, the future, in the light of that judgment.
III. Heaven is at the last. Look on all our actions in the light of heaven.
IV. Hell is at the last. See things in that dread and dismal light, the glare of the fiery abyss. How will self-indulgence, unbelief, procrastination look in that light? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
When thy flesh and thy body are consumed.--
If all men believed at the beginning of their courses of life what they find at the end, there would be far less power in temptation, and many would turn aside from those paths which bring them to ruin; but it is one of the peculiarities of youth that, while it has unbounded faith in certain directions, it seldom has faith in regard to mischiefs which befall disobedience. There are many reasons which conspire to make men either over-confident in the beginnings of life, or even audacious.
1. The inexperience and thoughtlessness which belong to the young. Thousands there are who have taken no pains in the formation of their consciences.
2. There is a most defiant spirit in the young.
3. There is a hopefulness which frequently goes beyond all bounds.
4. There are reactions from an infelicitous way of teaching which tend to produce presumption in the young. Especially the exaggeration and indiscriminate way in which sin is often held forth. Conventional sins are held up before men as representing sinning, until there comes up a scepticism of the whole doctrine and the whole sad and melancholy experience of sinning.
5. Men are made presumptuous in sinning because they see wicked men prospering. They regard that as the refutation of half the preaching, and of almost all the advice they hear. There is a law of everlasting rectitude. There are conditions on which men’s bodies will serve them happily, and there are conditions on which men’s souls will serve them happily. But if a man violate these conditions, no matter how secretly, no matter how little, just as sure as there is a God in heaven, he must suffer the penalty. Every one of the wrongs which a man commits against his own soul will find him out, and administer its own penalty. There comes a time when men who are not actually worn out by excess of transgression do regain, to some extent, their moral sense. After the period of infatuation there comes, very frequently, a period of retrospection. It is alluded to in the passage now before us. The resurrection of moral sensibility comes through a variety of agencies--failure, shame, affliction, etc. Sometimes it comes too late. I beseech you, young men, believe in virtue; believe in truth; believe in honesty and fidelity; believe in honour; believe in God; believe in God’s law and in God’s providence. Put your trust in God, and in the faith of God, and not in the seeming of deceitful and apparently prosperous men. Whatever else you get, have peace, day by day, with your own conscience. Whoever else you offend, do not offend your God. Do what is right, and then fear no man. (H. W. Beecher.)
The doom of the libertine
I. Waste of wealth. It is spent to garnish the house of sin; it is so much taken from home-scenes, and legitimate pleasures and benevolence.
II. Waste of health. Note the corruption of licentious nations, as the Turks, etc.
III. Waste of tears. Mourning at the last is too late for proving the repentance to be genuine. (Anon.)
A dissolute young man
I. A dissolute young man with a decaying body. The wise man foresaw the wretched physical condition to which the dissolute life of the young man whom he calls his son would lead.
1. It is a sad sight to see a young man decay at all.
2. It is more sad when the physical decay has been produced by a dissolute life.
II. A dissolute young man with an active memory.
1. He remembers the many privileges he has abused.
2. He remembers the sinful scenes of his life.
III. A dissolute young man with a torturing conscience.
1. An agonising sense of self-blamefulness. Conscience casts all excuses to the winds; it fastens the crime home on the individual himself.
2. An agonising sense of self-ruin. The moral wail here breathes the feeling of destruction. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The woes of wantonness
I. Lamentation follows wantonness.
1. When men find their goods gone and their bodies corrupted.
2. When they see all their opportunities of doing good to soul and body gone.
3. They feel God’s hand heavy on them, as being on the rack of an evil conscience.
II. The end of wanton courses is sorrowful.
1. Because of pleasures past.
2. Because of present sorrows.
3. Because of pursuing pain that is gotten by disease.
4. Because of public shame.
III. The body itself is consumed by wantonness. Because it consumes the radical humour of the body. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof.
Conscience as an instrument of punishment
These are supposed to be the words of a young man whose dissolute life had induced disease and want and infamy. He stands out upon the dim verge of life, a beacon light to all who live without God. Remorse, like a fierce vulture, had clutched upon his soul, and despair had cast the shadows of a cheerless night around him. It was from his moral reflections that his keenest anguish arose.
I. The natural authority of conscience, and its consequent power to inflict punishment.
1. If we would appreciate the capacity of the soul to suffer through the morbid action of the moral feelings, we must first understand its internal structure, its several faculties and powers. Man is endowed with various powers of reason, of sensibility, and of action. Of the principles of action, some are mechanical, as instinct and habit; some are animal, as the appetites and some of the desires and affections; and others rational, arising from a knowledge of his relations to other beings, and from a foresight of the proper consequences of his acts. He thus combines in his nature those laws which govern the brute creation with those which declare him to be made in the “image of God,” and suit him to a state of moral discipline. With this complex nature he is endowed with the power of self-government, which implies the due exercise of all the properties of his being, under the direction and control of one supreme authority. This authority is conscience, which God has enthroned in the human breast with all the attributes of sovereignty. The brute animal rushes on to the gratification of its desires without a thought beyond the immediate object in pursuit. Man brings under his eye the just relations of universal being, chooses and pursues.
2. Consider what a monitor conscience is. It teaches us to perform in good faith, as being right, that which we do; but it does not of itself supply an independent rule of right.
3. The government of conscience is not like that of the animal appetites. Its voice is gentle and persuasive, often drowned in the clamour of passion, or unheeded in the eager pursuit of forbidden pleasure.
4. If conscience is supreme, according to the original constitution of our nature, then, whatever may be the occasional, temporary abuse it may receive from the usurpation of the animal propensities, it must upon the whole, and taking all the range of our existence into the account, possess an ascendant power over man.
5. Go where you will, the natural dread of an accusing conscience will be found to have been the rod of terror to the guilty of all ages. No man will long abide the direct action of self-reproach. The restlessness of the soul, under the action of self-reproach, has displayed itself upon a wide scale in the cumbrous and often sanguinary superstitions of the heathen. We have seen the distress and anguish which a sense of guilt produces in the breast of the awakened sinner.
II. The nature and extent of the punitive action of conscience. In relation to God, a consciousness of guilt is accompanied--
1. With a sense of the loss of Divine favour and fellowship.
2. A sense of guilt is accompanied with an apprehension of punishment. In the breast of every man there exists a belief that this world is under a providential government, from the just awards of which he has something to hope or to fear in a future state of being. In relation to other moral beings, a sense of guilt is accompanied with--
(1) A loss of the confidence and esteem of the holy.
(2) A consciousness of guilt awakens remorse, a complex emotion, consisting of simple regret and moral disapprobation of one’s self; in other words, it is moral regret.
1. How delusive is that hope of future happiness which, though it is built upon the natural goodness of God, manifested through a Mediator, makes no necessary reckoning of a holy life. It is not in the province of Omnipotence to produce moral happiness in a polluted soul.
2. We here perceive the reasonableness as well as certainty of future punishment. (Freeborn C. Hibbard, M.A.)
Woman’s lamentation over a wasted life
Women outnumber men in the family, in the Church, in the State, A God-loving, God-fearing womanhood will make a God-loving, God-fearing nationality.
1. A young woman who omits her opportunity of making home happy.
2. A young woman who spends her whole life, or wastes her young womanhood, in selfish display.
3. A young woman who wastes her opportunity of doing good.
4. A young woman who loses her opportunity of personal salvation. Opportunity gone, is gone for ever. Privileges wasted, wasted for ever. The soul lost, lost for ever. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
I. Sensualists will be self-condemned in the end.
1. Because of the issue of sin in general, which must come to a self-condemnation.
2. Because of the strength of their sorrow arising out of their troubles.
3. Because of the force of truth, which will overcome all in the end.
4. Because of the power of conscience.
II. That which lies sorest upon the spirits of gross sinners in the end is, slighting instruction.
1. Because it is a great mercy for God to afford teachers.
2. Because not hearkening to instruction is the way to fall into sin, and not hearkening to reproof the way to abide in it.
III. Wicked men heartily hate instruction and slight reproof.
1. Because they are contrary to their corrupt affections and wicked lusts.
2. It appears that they heartily hate them by the malice they bear to the reprovers of their sins, which is vehement and deadly. Their lusts are so strong on them that they hate and slight all reproofs. (Francis Taylor, B.D.)
And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers.
Consequences of disobedience
Can any state be more distressing than that of an individual who has enjoyed the best opportunities of securing his own happiness and promoting that of others, totally failing in both these, and becoming the subject of bitter self-reproach?
I. There is the admission of having had the great advantage of teachers. There are scarcely any but have had some very considerable advantages and means of religious instruction. They involve you all in a serious responsibility to God and your own conscience.
1. The best, purest, most commanding instruction in the Bible.
2. The living voice of teachers, either parents or ministers, or kind friends in schools.
3. The Spirit of God unfolding the truth to your understanding and conscience; striving with your heart, and inwardly calling you to seek those things which belong to your peace.
II. There is an implied connection between instruction and obedience. The text admits the obligation resulting from such advantages. “I ought to have obeyed, but I have not.”
1. You are bound to obey the good instruction you have received, because it is clearly the will of God, the Being who is above all, and who holds you amenable at His tribunal.
2. By the tender and unspeakable love of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, who came forth from His Father, and became the Redeemer of men by the sacrifice of Himself.
3. By a regard to your own highest interests. Obeying the Divine precepts is the only way to secure your own peace of mind, your joy through life, your hope in death, and your immortal felicity after death.
4. By a regard to the interests of others to whom you may be related in this life. You have social relations, duties, and obligations which you ought to regard, and cannot neglect without great criminality. You ought to become yourselves, and endeavour to make them, such as God would have us all to be.
5. By the obligation which arises from your final accountableness at the bar of judgment.
III. There is a confession that instruction had not been obeyed. This text does not express the case of those who have only partially, or in some respects, failed of obedience, but have in the main been mindful of the instruction they have received. It is applied to those who have failed altogether, and in the general habits of their mind and life have disregarded the great and holy principles inculcated upon them in early life. Some of the causes of this failure are--
1. There is in our own hearts a disinclination to serve God, and an aversion to the Divine precepts.
2. There are innumerable and incessant temptations to forsake the guide of our youth.
3. There will be a direct and powerful influence of the worst kind exerted over those who give themselves to evil companions.
IV. There is an expression of penitential regret for disobedience. The text seems to be the language of remorse.
1. A perception that our misery has resulted from wilful disobedience, not from ignorance.
2. The feeling that this disobedience has been maintained against light and knowledge.
3. The consciousness that you once possessed all the means necessary to promote your happiness and secure your salvation. (The Evangelist.)
Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.
I. Man has independent spiritual resources.
1. He has independent sources of thought. Every sane man can and does think for himself.
2. He has independent sources of experience. No two have exactly the same experience.
3. He has independent powers of usefulness. Every man has a power to do some thing which no other can.
II. Man Is Bound To Use These Resources. “Drink waters out of thine own cistern.” Do not live on others’ self-drawing.
1. Honours our own nature.
2. Increases our own resources.
3. Contributes to the good of the universe. The man who gives only what he has borrowed from others adds nothing to the common stock. The subject--
(1) Indicates the kind of service which one man can spiritually render another.
(2) Suggests an effective method to sap the foundation of all arrogant assumptions. Let every man become self-helpful, and the influence of those who arrogate a lordship over the faith of others will soon die out.
(3) Presents a motive for thankfully adoring the great Creator for the spiritual constitution He has given us. We have resources, not of course independent of “Him,” the primal fount of all power, but independent of all creatures. (Homilist.)
A painter lays down a dark ground to lean his picture on, and thereby bring its beauty out. Such is the method adopted in this portion of the Word. The pure delights of the family are about to be represented in the sweetest colours that nature yields--wedded love mirrored in running waters; surely we have apples of gold in pictures of silver here. And in all the earlier part of the chapter the Spirit has stained the canvas deep with Satan’s dark antithesis to the holy appointment of God. The Lord condescends to bring His own institute forward in rivalry with the deceitful pleasures of sin. How beautiful and how true the imagery in which our lesson is unfolded! Pleasures such as God gives to His creatures, and such as His creatures, with advantage to all their interests can enjoy--pleasures that are consistent with holiness and heaven, are compared to a stream of pure running water. And specifically the joys of the family are ”running waters out of thine own well.” This well is not exposed to every passenger. It springs within, and has a fence around it. We should make much of the family and all that belongs to it. All its accessories are the Father’s gift, and He expects us to observe and value them. But because the stream is so pure, a small bulk of foreign matter will sensibly tinge it. The unguarded word, neglected thoughtfulnesses, or slovenly and careless ways. But careful abstinence from evil is only one, and that the lower, side of the case. There must be spontaneous outgoing activity in this matter, like the springing of flowers, and the leaping of a stream from the fountain. All the allusions to this relation in Scripture imply an ardent, joyful love. Husband and wife, if they are skilful to take advantage of their privileges, may, by sharing, somewhat diminish their cares, and fully double their joys. But we must take care lest the enjoyments of home become a snare. God is not pleased with indolence or selfishness. If the family is well ordered, ourselves will get the chief benefit, but we should let others share it. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad.
The children of marriage
Streams of children. Unlawful intercourse is often barren.
I. Children of lawful marriage are like rivers.
1. In plenty. God’s blessing goes with marriage.
2. In purity. Pure fountains bring forth pure streams.
3. In spreading abroad.
4. In profitableness.
II. Children are a great part of the comforts of marriage.
1. Because they are a part of both their parents.
2. Because they are a firm bond of love, peace, and reconciliation to both their parents.
III. Parents need not be ashamed of their children.
1. Because they come into the world God’s way, and that brings no shame with it.
2. Because there is hope that they will be good.
3. Being well-bred, they may come to preferment in the State.
4. They are likely to have honourable posterity. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee.
Strangers with thee
Strangers with thee in life! Those united in Christ are those only who are united in truth. Strangers with thee in death! Alone wilt thou descend the banks of that dark river. For be assured the hosts of darkness and sin flee terror-stricken from its waters. The Lord and the Church are with them; but “strangers with thee.” Strangers with thee in eternity! There the little finesses and shams by which rivalry and hatred are concealed in this life will be torn away, and the naked energies of sin will stand isolated and single in their intense and repulsive malignity. “Strangers with thee.” (Episcopal Recorder.)
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord.
The method of Providence for restraining evil
God announces Himself the witness and judge of man. The evil-doer can neither elude the all-seeing eye, nor escape from the almighty hand. Secrecy is the study and the hope of the wicked. A sinner’s chief labour is to hide his sin, and his labour is all lost. Darkness hideth not from God. He who knows evil in its secret source is able to limit the range of its operation. There is a special method by which this is done. It is a principle of the Divine government that sin becomes the instrument for punishing sinners. His own sin is the snare that takes the transgressor, and the scourge that lashes him. The Maker and Ruler of all things has set in the system of the universe a self-acting apparatus, which is constantly going for the encouragement of good and the repression of evil The providential laws are directed against the current of man’s sinful propensities, and tell in force thereon. They do not, however, overcome and neutralise, and reverse those propensities. Retribution in the system of nature, set in motion by the act of sin, is like the “Virgin’s kiss” in the Roman Inquisition. The step of him who goes forward to kiss the image touches a secret spring, and the statue’s marble arms enclose him in a deadly embrace, piercing his body through with a hundred knives. Verily a man under law to God needs to “ponder his feet.” (W. Arnot, D. D.)
Man’s ways before God
Everybody can see the cedar of Lebanon, the pine of the forest, or the hedge with its convolvulus and wild rose. They can even see the daisy, the flower in the grass. But who sees the grass? He who made the grass to grow upon the mountain, He knows every blade of it, and for every blade has recognition, sunshine, and dew. So is it with the lowliest and humblest man in this world to-day. God’s eye loves goodness; He delights in it; and there is no goodness which He fails to recognise and bless. (W. L. Watkinson.)
His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself.
Man as known by God and punished by sin
I. Man as known by God. The fact that God knows man thoroughly, if practically realised, will have a fourfold effect upon the soul.
1. It will stimulate to great spiritual activity.
2. It will restrain from the commission of sin.
3. It will excite the desire for pardon.
4. It will brace the soul in the performance of duty.
II. Man as punished at sin. As virtue is its own reward, so sin is its own punishment. Sin punishing the sinner.
1. It will seize him as its victim.
2. It will arrest him in his career. Illustrate Belshazzar.
3. It will detach him from his comrades.
4. It will bind him as its prisoner. There are the “cords” of causation; the “cords” of habit; and the “cords” of despair.
5. It will exclude him from knowledge.
6. It banishes him as an exile.
“In the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.” Sin banishes the soul from virtue, heaven, God; and reduces it to a homeless, friendless orphan in the universe. “The seeds of our own punishment,” says Hesiod, “are sown at the same time we commit sin.” (D. Thomas, D.D.)
The apprehending nature of sin
Nothing is so deceptive as sin. Nothing so cruel and unrelenting. Nothing so ruinous and destructive. Some think that sin is a single act, and that it passes away with the doing.
I. Sin will surely find out the sinner. Conscience is one of its officers. The consequences of sin lay hold of the sinner. No man can escape from himself.
II. Sin will surely bring the sinner to judgment. He must answer for his wrong doing and wrong thinking. In his personal experience something declares against the sinner. It causes a disharmony of one’s nature. At the bar of judgment a penalty is declared. The judgment is a self-condemnation. The penalty will enforce itself.
III. The cords of sin will hold the sinner. He cannot free, himself from them. His very being is bound and fettered with an adamantine chain. Sin can never exhaust itself. Continual sinning involves continual penalty. Sin presents only a hopeless aspect. Turning to himself, man turns only to despair. Practical lessons--
1. We should not cherish slighting views of sin.
2. We should heartily loathe and detest it.
3. We should humbly resort to the only, the gospel, remedy for sin.
Christ is the only emancipator from its terrible power. Only through personal faith in Christ can any guilty soul realise salvation. (Daniel Rogers, D. D.)
Sinners bound with the cords of sin
The first sentence of this verse has reference to a net, in which birds or beasts are taken. That which first attracted the sinner afterwards detains him. This first sentence may have reference to an arrest by an officer of law. The transgressor’s own sin shall take him, shall seize him; they bear a warrant for arresting him, they shall judge him, they shall even execute him. The second sentence speaks of the sinner being holden with cords. The lifelong occupation of the ungodly man is to twist ropes of sin. The binding meant is that of a culprit pinioned for execution. Iniquity pinions a man. Make a man’s will a prisoner, and he is a captive indeed. Who would not scorn to make himself a slave to his baser passions? And yet the mass of men are such--the cords of their sins bind them.
I. The captivating, enslaving power of sin is a solution to a great mystery.
1. Is it not mysterious that men should be content to abide in a state of imminent peril?
2. Before long unconverted men and women will be in a state whose wretchedness it is not possible for language fully to express.
3. Is it not a wonder that men do not receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, seeing that the gospel is so plain?
4. Nay, moreover, so infinitely attractive.
5. The commandment of the gospel is not burdensome.
6. And, according to the confession of most sinners, the pleasures of sin are by no means great. Here stands the riddle, man is so set against God and His Christ that he never will accept eternal salvation until the Holy Spirit, by a supernatural work, overcomes his will and turns the current of his affections.
II. Though this is the solution of one mystery, it is in itself a greater mystery. One reason why men receive not Christ is, that they are hampered by the sin of forgetting God. Another sin binds all unregenerate hearts; it is the sin of not loving the Christ of God. What a mystery it is that men should be held by the sin of neglecting their souls! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The lot of the wicked
I. Wicked men hurt themselves more than others can.
1. By their sins they set all their enemies at liberty.
2. Their plots for the ruin of others for the most part light on themselves.
II. Wicked men are taken in the snares of their own sins.
1. The guilt of their sins follows them wherever they go.
2. God’s wrath and curse follow upon sin.
3. God delivers sinners over to Satan.
4. Punishment attends on sin.
III. The snares of wicked men’s sins hold them fast.
1. The custom of sinning becomes another nature.
2. God ties the sinner fast to eternal punishment by his sins, and for his sins, giving him over to a reprobate sense, and by His power, as by chains, keeping him in prison till the great judgment. (Francis Taylor, B.D.)
The sinner self-imprisoned
At one time many convicts were employed in building high walls round the prison grounds at Portland. Soldiers posted above them with loaded guns watched them at their work. Every brick laid rendered their escape more impossible, and yet they themselves were laying them.
And he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.--
I. Their formation.
1. One sin leads to another by reducing the sense of odiousness.
2. By strengthening wrong principles.
3. By rendering falsehood necessary for purposes of concealment.
4. By multiplying opportunities for commission.
5. By lessening the power of resistance.
II. Their power.
1. As seen in the criminal.
2. The drunkard.
3. The swindler.
4. The errorist.
5. The gospel-despiser.
(1) Beware what habits we form.
(2) Mark the increased difficulty of conversion.
(3) Watch over the religious education of the young; the formation of early habits. (G. Brooks.)
The self-propagating power of sin
In Scripture, Divine providence and the results of sin are often brought into immediate and close connection with each other, as if the pain attendant on sin were a direct act of God. But there are other passages where sin is looked at, as bringing its own punishment with it by the law of the world analogous to the physical laws of nature. In the text the results of sin are represented as taking place in the natural order of things. The sinner thinks that sin is over and gone when it is once committed. If you put a Divine punisher of sin out of sight, sin does the work of the executioner on the sinner. Among these consequences of sin certain ones are often insisted upon--such as bodily evils, loss of temporal advantages, fear of the wrath of God. But there is a far more awful view of sin, when we look at it on the moral side, as propagating itself, becoming more intense, tending to blacken and corrupt the whole character, and to annihilate the hopes and powers of the soul. See some of the laws of character to which these consequences of sin can be reduced.
I. The direct power of sin to propagate itself in the individual soul. Sin is the most fruitful of all parents; each new sin is a new ever-flowing source of corruption, and there is no limit to the issue of death.
1. Note the law of habit, or the tendency of a certain kind of sin to produce another of the same kind. This law reigns over every act, quality, or state, of the soul, to render the sinful act easier, to intensify the desire, to destroy the impression of danger, to increase the spirit of neglect and delay. Illustrate by the internal affection of envy, or an external habit, such as some sensual appetite.
2. The tendency of a sin of one kind to produce sins of another kind. The confederacy of powers in man admits of no separate action of any one wayward impulse, but as soon as evil in one shape appears, it tends to corrupt all the parts of the soul, to disorganise, to reduce other powers under its own control, and to weaken those which resist. One sort of sin puts the body or soul, or both, into such a state, that another sort becomes more easy and natural. There is an affinity between bodily lusts. Any one of them tends to derange the soul by a loss of inward peace. One wrong affection renders another easier. Even an absorbing passion, like covetousness or ambition, though it may exclude some other inconsistent passion, does not reign alone, but has around and behind it a gloomy train of satellites, which are little tyrants in turn. A more striking example of the connection between different kinds of sin is seen when a man resorts to a new kind of sin to save himself from the effects of the first. Another dark shade is thrown over the malignity of sin from the fact that it so often makes use of innocent motives to propagate its power over the soul.
II. The tendency of sin to produce moral blindness. Sin freely chosen must needs seek for some justification or palliation; otherwise the moral sense is aroused, and the soul is filled with pain and alarm. Such justification cannot be found in moral or religious truth, and of this the soul is more or less distinctly aware. Hence an instinctive dread of truth and a willingness to receive and embrace plausible, unsound excuses for sin, which neutralise or destroy its power. The ways in which this overthrow of unperverted judgments, this rejection of light, tends to strengthen the power of sin, are manifold. It decreases the restraining and remedial power of conscience; it kills the sense of danger, and even adds hopefulness to sin; it destroys any influence which the beauty and glory of truth could put forth; in short, it removes those checks from prudence, from the moral powers, and from the character of God, which retard the career of sin.
III. Sin tends to benumb and root out the sensibilities. This view of sin shows it in its true light as a perverter of nature, an overturner of all those particular traits, the union of which, under love to God, makes the harmony and beauty of the soul.
IV. Sin cripples the power of the will to undertake a reform. There are eases, very frequent in life, which show a will so long overcome by the strength of sin and by ill-success in opposing it, that the purpose of reform is abandoned in despair. The outcries of human nature under this bondage of sin are tragic indeed.
V. Sin propagates itself by means of the tendency of men to associate with persons of like character, and to avoid the company of persons of an opposite character. In the operation of this law of companionship the evil have a power, and an increasing power, over each other. The worst maxims and the worst opinions prevail, for they are a logical result of evil characters. In conclusion, with the justice or goodness of this system I have at present nothing to do. The Bible did not set it on foot, the Bible does not fully explain it, but only looks at it as a dark fact. Sin does not cure itself or pave the way toward truth and right. The question still is this--Is there any cure? If there be any cure it must be found outside of the region which sin governs. I call on you, then, to find out for yourself a cure. I offer you one--Christ and His gracious Spirit. (T. D. Woolsey.)
He shall die without instruction.
The great charity of early instruction
All persons are born in a state of ignorance and darkness as to spiritual things; therefore all young persons need instruction. Good instruction in youth is God’s appointed means to bring men to the saving knowledge of Himself, and the attainment of salvation. The neglect of early instruction and good education is the ruin of many a person in both worlds. They live viciously and die desperately; they pass from the errors and works of darkness to the place of utter and eternal darkness. They die without instruction, and go astray, and perish in their ignorance and folly. The time of youth is the most proper time in nature for good instructions; children are apt to catch at everything they hear, and to retain it and repeat it. Their faculties are fresh and vigorous, and they are void of those prejudices against truth and virtue which they are afterwards likely to take up.
1. Children cannot live as Christians if they know not the fundamentals of the Christian religion. A man can act no better than his principles dictate to him.
2. For want of being grounded in the essentials of Christian doctrine, young people are easily led into error or heresy.
3. These undisciplined persons usually prove ill members of the State, and the very pest of the neighbourhood in which they live.
4. These untaught people bring a reproach on our religion and the Church of Christ amongst us.
5. The God who made them will surely reject them at last. Then gaining efficiency in the religious education of our young people is supremely to be desired. (Josiah Woodward, D.D.)
In the greatness of the folly he shall go astray.
The greatness of the sinner’s folly
I. You deny boldly the existence of God. You believe the world fatherless and forsaken; itself eternal, or the product of chance. By your creed you profess to be, or at least to know, the very God whose existence you so madly deny. In the greatness of your folly you arrogate to yourselves the very perfections of Divinity, while a God is denied.
II. Apply the description of the text to the character and history of a deist. You admit the existence of a Supreme Being, but you deny that the Scripture is His Word. The work of His hands is your only Bible, the dictates of your unenlightened conscience your only law.
III. Apply to the character and history of the undecided. The man who allows the truth of the Bible, but lives and feels as if it were false. Such conduct is full of contradictions. (J. Angus, M.A.)
The ways and issues of sin
It is the task of the wise teacher to lay bare with an unsparing hand--
(1) The fascinations of sin;
(2) the deadly entanglements in which the sinner involves himself.
I. The glamours of sin and the safeguard against them. There is no sin which affords so vivid an example of seductive attraction at the beginning, and of hopeless misery at the end, as that of unlawful love. The safeguard against the specific sin before us is presented in a true and whole-hearted marriage. And the safeguard against all sin is equally to be found in the complete and constant preoccupation of the soul with the Divine love. Forbidding to marry is a device of Satan; anything which tends to degrade or desecrate marriage bears on its face the mark of the tempter. Our sacred writings glorify marriage, finding in it more than any other wisdom or religion has found.
II. The binding results of sin. Compare the Buddhistic doctrine of Karma. Buddha in effect taught. “You are in slavery to a tyrant set up by yourself. Your own deeds, words, and thoughts, in the former and present states of being, are your own avengers through a countless series of lives. Thou wilt not find a place where thou canst escape the force of thy own evil actions.” The Bible says, “His own iniquities shall take the wicked, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sin.” This is illustrated in the sin of sensuality. There are four miseries, comparable to four strong cords, which bind the unhappy transgressor.
1. There is the shame.
2. The loss of wealth.
3. The loss of health.
4. The bitter remorse, the groaning and the despair at the end of the shortened life.
And there is an inevitableness about it all. By the clearest interworking of cause and effect, these fetters of sin grow upon the feet of the sinner. Our evil actions, forming evil habits, working ill results on us and on others, are themselves the means of our punishment. It is not that God punishes, sin punishes; it is not that God makes hell, sinners make it. This is established by the possible observation of life, by a concurrent witness of all teachers and all true religions. Sin may be defined as “the act of a human will which, being contrary to the Divine will, reacts with inevitable evil upon the agents.”
1. Every sin prepares for us a band of shame to be wound about our brows and tightened to the torture-point.
2. Every sin is preparing for us a loss of wealth, the only wealth which is really durable, the treasure in the heavens.
3. Every sin is the gradual undermining of the health, not so much the body’s as the soul’s health.
4. The worst chain forged in the furnace of sin is remorse; for no one can guarantee to the sinner an eternal insensibility. Memory will be busy. Here, then, is the plain, stern truth, a law, not of nature only, but of the universe. How men need One who can take away the sin of the world, One who can break those cruel bonds which men have made for themselves! (R. F. Horton, D. D.)
The martyr of guilt
Sin is an evil of fearful tendencies, and necessarily productive, if unchecked, of remediless consequences. The reason is obvious. Moral evil corrupts and vitiates the mind itself, carries the contagion of a mortal disease through all its affections and powers, and affects the moral condition of the man through the whole duration of his being.
I. The views it affords of the power and progress of evil in the human kind.
1. It ensnares. Reference is to the methods adopted in the East by those who hunt for game, or for beasts of prey. Evil allures under the form of good. All the way is white as snow that hides the pit.
2. It enslaves. St. Paul speaks of the “bondage of corruption,” and of the hardening of the heart through the deceitfulness of sin. Sin gathers strength from custom, and spreads like a leprosy from limb to limb. The power of habit turns upon the principle that what we have done once we have an aptitude to do again with greater readiness and pleasure. The next temptation finds the sons of folly an easier prey than before.
3. It infatuates. After a seasons wickedness so far extends its power from the passions to the understanding that men become blind to the amount of their own depravity, and in this state begin to fancy music in their chains. It would seem to be one of the prerogatives of sin, like the fascination of the serpent, first to deprive its victims of their senses and then make them an unresisting prey. Guard against the beginnings of sin. Sin prepares for sin.
4. It destroys. The soul is destroyed, not as to the fact of its continued existence, but as to all its Godlike capacities of honour and happiness.
II. Some of the circumstances of aggravation which will tend to embitter the sinner’s doom. It must for ever be a melancholy subject of reflection--
1. That the ruin was self-caused. A man may be injured by the sins of others, but his soul can be permanently endangered only by his own. By a fine personification, a man’s sins are here described as a kind of personal property and possession. Sin, remorse, and death may be deemed a kind of creation of our own.
2. That the objects were worthless and insignificant for which the blessings of salvation were resigned.
3. That you possessed an ample sufficiency of means for your guidance and direction into the path of life.
4. That the evil incurred is hopeless and irremediable.
III. The interesting aspect under which this subject teaches us to contemplate the Divine dispensations. It illustrates--
1. The riches of God’s mercy in forgiving sin.
2. The power of His grace in subduing sin.
3. The wisdom of His providence in preventing sin.
4. The urgency of His invitations to those who are the slaves of sin. (Samuel Thodey.)
A rooted habit becomes a governing principle. Every lust we entertain deals with us as Delilah did with Samson--not only robs us of our strength, but leaves us fast bound. (Abp. Tillotson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter