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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Proverbs 15

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

Ver. 1. A soft answer turneth away wrath.] It is easier to stir strife than to stint it. Hard to hard, will never do; but lay a flint upon a pillow, and you may break it with ease.

“Frangitur ira gravis quando est responsio suavis.”

What is more boisterous than the winds? tamen iidem imbribus sopiuntur, saith Pliny, yet are they laid with soft showers. How soon was David disarmed by Abigail’s gentle apology, and made as meek as a lamb! So were the hot and hasty Ephraimites by Gideon’s mild and modest answer. [ 8:1-3] "By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone." [Proverbs 25:15] Howbeit, some persons must be more roughly dealt with, or they will never have done - nettles hardly handled sting not as they will if gently touched - in some eases especially, as when God’s glory is engaged. When Servetus condemned Zuinglius for his harshness, he answers, In aliis mansuetus ero, in blasphemiis in Christum non ita: (a) In other cases I will be mild; but in case of blasphemies against Christ, I have no patience. So Luther, in a letter to Staupicius, Inveniar sane superbus, &c., modo impii silentii non arguar dum dominus patitur: Let me be counted proud or passionate, so I be not found guilty of sinful silence when the cause of God suffereth. Madness, in this case, is better than mildness: moderation here is mere mopishness, nay, it is much worse.

But grievous words stir up anger.] Heb., Make it to ascend - viz., into the nostrils, as fire in a chimney, when blown up with bellows. Some men have quick and hot spirits; yea, some good men, as those two brethren, "sons of thunder," how soon was their choler up. [Luke 9:55] Now, hard and harsh words do cast oil upon the flame, and set their passions afloat; and then there is no ho with them. Fertur equis auriga, nec audit currus habenas. How was Saul enkindled by Doeg, and David by Nabal’s currishness! Rehoboam, with one churlish breath, lost ten tribes; and Adrian the emperor, gave the crier great thanks, who, when he was bidden to quiet the tumultuous people with an imperious Sιωπησατε, Hold your tongues, he held out his hand only; and when the people listened with great silence (as the manner was), to hear the cry, Hoc vero, inquit, princeps vult; - This is that, said he, that the emperor requires of you - viz., to be silent. (b) The best answer to words of scorn and petulance (saith one), is Isaac’s apology to his brother Ishmael, patience and silence, η σιγαν χρη, η κρεισσονα σιγης λεγειν: η ηχιστα η ηδιστα. Either reply not at all, or else so that all may be well between you.


Verse 2

Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

Ver. 2. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright.] Heb., Deals kindly with her; offers her no abuse, by venting her unseasonably, and making her overly cheap, and little set by. Eloquence wisely ordered is very commendable, and avails much: but what a poor praise was that to the Duke of Buckingham, that speaking to the Londoners in the behalf of that usurper, Richard III, he gained the commendation, that no man could deliver so much bad matter in so good words and quaint phrases. (a) Here was eloquentiae satis, sapientiae parum. The tongue was given us for better purpose; it was David’s "glory," and he used it accordingly.

But the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.] Heb., Bubbleth it out; blurteth it out, as a fountain casteth out its waters, with a great force and swiftness: non quid, sed quantum, is all their care, being talkative above measure, and forward to utter whatsoever comes into their chaps: quicquid in buccam.


Verse 3

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD [are] in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

Ver. 3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place.] He is πανοφθαλμος, all-eye: and his providence like a well drawn picture, that vieweth all that come into the room. I know thy works, and thy labour; [Revelation 2:2] not thy works only, but thy labour in doing them. And as for the offender, though he think to hide himself from God, by hiding God from himself, yet God is nearer to him than the bark is to the tree; "for in him all things subsist," [Colossians 1:17] "and move"; - understand [Acts 17:28] it to be the mind’s motions also. And this the very heathen saw by nature’s rush candle. (a) For Thales Milesius being asked, Whether the gods knew not when a man doth ought amiss? Yea, said he, if he do but think amiss. Deus intimior nobis intimo nostro, saith another, God is nearer to us, than we are to ourselves. (b) Repletively he is everywhere, though inclusively nowhere. Nusquam est, et ubique est. As for the world, it is to him as "a sea of glass"; [Revelation 4:6] corpus diaphanum - a clear transparent body; he sees through it.

Beholding the evil and the good.] The evil are first mentioned, because they make question of this truth. But what saith a worthy divine, yet alive: Think not that he who is invisible cannot see; God, like the optic virtue in the eye, sees all, and is seen of none. No man needs a window in his breast (as the heathen Momus wished), for God to look in at; every man before God is all window. [Job 34:22] The eyes of Christ are "as a flaming fire." [Revelation 1:14] And the school of nature teacheth that the fiery eye needs no outward light, that sees extra mittendo, by sending out a ray, &c.


Verse 4

Proverbs 15:4 A wholesome tongue [is] a tree of life: but perverseness therein [is] a breach in the spirit.

Ver. 4. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.] As uttering words that have a healing property in them, pure, precious, and profitable; not unlike that tree of life in the midst of God’s garden, that would have given immortality to the eaters. See August. de Civit. Dei, lib. xv. cap. 20.

But perverseness therein is a breach of the spirit.] That is, in the conscience, which it goreth and gasheth; and in the heart, which it defileth and disposeth to further evil: it leaveth both a sting and a stain in a man’s own soul; besides the much mischief that it doeth to the spirits and manners of other men that are corrupted by it. God’s Spirit also is not a little grieved and vexed, when the godly man suddenly falls (as sometimes he doth), into bitter words, clamours, and evil speakings: these are even as smoke to the eyes, and make the Spirit of God ready to loathe and leave his lodging, as the apostle intimates, Ephesians 4:30-31. There are those who translate the text, But the mischievousness of it is as a breach made by the wind; and set this sense upon it, As a blustering wind, which throws down trees and houses, doth much harm; so a violent and venomous tongue, causing troubles and calamities, is very pernicious and hurtful. [Job 8:2] Pray we therefore with David "Deliver me, Lord, from a lying lip, and a deceitful tongue." [Psalms 120:2]


Verse 5

Proverbs 15:5 A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.

Ver. 5. A fool despiseth his father’s instruction.] Heb., Entertains it with contumelious and opprobrious language; as a madman doth a potion offered him for his health. Jerome oft renders the word, "to blaspheme"; and indeed to reject good counsel, of a father especially, with scorn and reproach, is blasphemy in the second table.

But he that regardeth reproof, is prudent.] Wise he is, and wiser he will be. This made David prize and pray for a reprover. [Psalms 141:5] And it is said of Gerson, that great and wise chancellor of Paris, that he took pleasure in nothing more, quam si ab aliquo fraterne et charitative redargueretur, (a) than in a friendly reproof. The like is reported of Sir Anthony Cope, by Dr Harris, who preached his funeral; (b) and of that famous man of God, Mr William Wheatly, by Mr Scudder, who writes his life. He was glad, saith he, when any of the righteous smote him, and would take it well, not from his superiors only, but from his equals, and far inferiors. (c)


Verse 6

Proverbs 15:6 In the house of the righteous [is] much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.

Ver. 6. In the house of the righteous is much treasure.] Every righteous man is a rich man, whether he hath more or less of the things of this life. For, first, he hath plenty of that which is precious. Secondly, Propriety; what he hath is his own; he holds all in capite tenure (a) in Christ; he shall not be called to account as a usurper. "All is yours," [1 Corinthians 3:22] "because you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s." And although he hath little, many times, in present possession, yet he is rich in reversion; rich in bills and bonds, rich in an apparent pledge, that is worth all the world besides - that is, in Christ; for, having given us his Son, "how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" [Romans 8:32]

But in the revenues of the wicked are trouble.] For besides the curse of unsatisfiableness, in the very pursuit of them, he meets with many grievances, fears, jealousies, disgraces, interruptions, discontentments, and then, after the unsanctified enjoyment of them, follows the sting of conscience that dissweetens all, and that will unexpressibly vex and torment him through all eternity. "He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again; God shall cast them out of his belly." [Job 20:15] Disgorge he shall surely those murdering morsels, either by remorse and restitution in the meantime, or with despair and impenitent horror hereafter.


Verse 7

Proverbs 15:7 The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish [doeth] not so.

Ver. 7. The lips of the wise disperse knowledge.] They are the "lights of the world," φωστηρες, [Philippians 2:15] and they diffuse light wherever they come, shining as lamps or luminaries, and seeking to save themselves, and those that hear them. How did those learned scribes, our famous reformers, bring forth their rich treasure, and liberally disperse it? By preaching, writing, and every way trading their talents for the church’s good. Farellus, (a) with his talent, gained to the faith five cities of the Cantons, with their territories. Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Calvin, &c., how active and fruitful were they in their generations to dispread and scatter light over the Christian world, to wise and win souls to Christ. [Proverbs 11:30] These surely shine as stars in heaven, [Daniel 12:3] that, like stars by their light and influence, made such a scatter of riches upon earth. Every star, saith one, is like a purse of gold, out of which God throws down riches and plenty upon the sons of men. And as it is the nature of gold to be drawn forth marvellously, so that, as the learned affirm, an ounce of gold will go as far as eight pound of silver, so it is the nature of sound knowledge to be spreading and diffusive. (b)

But the heart of the foolish doth not so.] Or, Is not right. It is "little worth," [Proverbs 10:20] as having no true treasure in them, but froth and filth, vanity and villany: hence they do not only not disperse knowledge, which they have not, [Psalms 14:4] but patronise and promote ignorance and error, sow cockle as fast as wiser men do corn, and are as busy in digging descents to hell, as others are in building staircases for heaven.


Verse 8

Proverbs 15:8 The sacrifice of the wicked [is] an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright [is] his delight.

Ver. 8. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination.] Their very incense stinks from the hand that offers it. [Isaiah 1:13] Good words may be uttered, but we cannot hear them, because uttered with a stinking breath: and good meat may be presented, but we cannot eat of it because it is cooked or brought to the table by a nasty sloven. Works materially good, may never prove so formally and eventually - viz., when they are not right quoad fontem, et quoad finem. (1). When they proceed not from a right principle, "a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned"; [1 Timothy 1:5] (2). When they tend not to a right end, the glory of God in our own or other men’s salvation. Christus opera nostra non tam actibus quam finibus pensat. (a) The glory of God must consume all other ends, as the sun puts out the light of the fire.

But the prayer of the righteous is his delight.] His music, his honey drops, [Song of Solomon 4:11] his sweetest perfume, [Psalms 141:2] his "calves of the lips," [Hosea 14:2] with which, when we cover his altar, he is abundantly well-pleased. For as all God’s senses, nay, his very soul is offended with the bad man’s sacrifice [Isaiah 1:13-15] - his sharp nose easily discerneth, and disgusteth the stinking breath of his rotten lungs, though his words be never so scented and perfumed with shows of holiness-so the prayer that proceeds from an upright heart, though but faint and feeble, doth come before God, "even into his ears," [Psalms 18:6] and so strangely charms him, [Isaiah 26:16, marg.} (b) that he breaks forth into these words, "Ask me of things concerning my sons, and concerning the works of my hands command ye me." {Isaiah 45:11] Oh that we understood the latitude of this royal charter! then would we pray always with all prayers and supplications in the Spirit; then would we watch thereunto with all perseverance, and not faint or shrink back. [Ephesians 6:18 Luke 18:1, εκκακειν]


Verse 9

Proverbs 15:9 The way of the wicked [is] an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.

Ver. 9. The way of the wicked is abomination.] Not his sacrifices only, but his civilities; all his actions - natural, moral, recreative, religious - are offensive to all God’s senses, as the word signifies. The very "ploughing of the wicked is sin": [Proverbs 21:4] all they do is defiled, yea, their "very consciences." [2 Timothy 1:15] Their hearts, like some filthy bog or fen, or like the lake of Sodom, send up continual poisonous vapours unto God: and he, not able to abide them, sends down eftsoons a counterpoison of plagues and punishments. [Psalms 11:6 Romans 1:18]

But he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.] Although he fulfil not all righteousness, yet if he make after it with might and main, as the word signifies, if he pursue it and have it in chase, as ravenous creatures have their prey, "if by any means he may attain to the resurrection of the dead"; [Philippians 3:11] that is, that height of holiness that accompanieth the resurrection: this is the man whom God loves. Now God’s love is not an empty love; it is not like the winter sun, that casts a goodly countenance when it shines, but gives little warmth and comfort. "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness; those that remember thee in thy ways," [Isaiah 64:5] "that think upon thy commandments to do them," [Psalms 103:20] qui faciunt praecepta, etsi non perficiant, (a) that are weak but willing, θελοντες, [Hebrews 13:18] that are lifting at the latch, though they cannot do up the door: "Surely, shall every such one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." [Isaiah 45:24] "Righteousness," that is, mercy to those that come over to him, and "strength" to enable them to come, as the sea sends out waters to fetch us to it.


Verse 10

Proverbs 15:10 Correction [is] grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: [and] he that hateth reproof shall die.

Ver. 10. Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way.] He pleaseth himself in his outstrays, and would not be reduced; he is in love with his own ruin, and takes long strides towards hell, which is now but a little afore him. And if any man seek to save him, "with fear pulling him out of the fire," [ 1:23] he flies in his face. This is as great madness as if they whom our Saviour had healed or raised should have raged and railed at him for so doing.

And he that hateth reproof shall die.] He that is embittered by rebukes, and not bettered by chastisements, shall die, τελευτωσιν αιχρως, say the Septuagint - shall ‘die shamefully’; yea, shall die eternally, as the next verse shows; shall be swallowed up by hell and destruction, which even now gapes for him. They that will not obey that sweet command, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden," shall one day have no other voice to obey but that terrible discedite, "Go ye cursed into everlasting flames."


Verse 11

Proverbs 15:11 Hell and destruction [are] before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?

Ver. 11. Hell and destruction are before the Lord.] "Tophet is prepared of old"; and wherever it is, as it skills not curiously to inquire, - below us it seems to be, [Revelation 14:11] et ubi sit sentient qui curiosius quaerunt (a) - so it is most certain that "hell is naked before God, and destruction uncovered in his sight." [Job 26:6] We, silly fishes, see one another jerked out of the pond of life by the hand of death; but we see not the frying pan and the fire that they are cast into, that "die in their sins," and refuse to be reformed. Cast they are into utter darkness. [Matthew 8:12] In tenebras ex tenebris infeliciter exclusi, infelicius excludendi. (b) Howbeit this thickest "darkness hideth not from God, but the light shineth as the day"; [Psalms 139:12] he perfectly knows the state of the dead and the damned. Oh that men knew more of it, and did believe in any measure that eternity of extremity that is there to be endured! Oh that they would be forewarned to flee from this wrath to come! Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end, those quatuor novissima! [Deuteronomy 32:29] Utinam ubique de Gehenna dissereretur, saith Chrysostom. He that doth but hear of hell, is without any further labour or study taken off from sinful pleasures, saith Nyssen. But if a man had but one glimpse of it, it were enough, saith Bellarmine, to make him not only turn Christian and sober, but anchorite and monk; to live after the strictest rule that can be. But, alas! we cannot get men to think of it till they be plunged headlong into it.

“Esse aliquos manes, &c.

Vel pueri credunt nisi qui nondum aere levantur.”

- Juvenal.

No, though one should come from the dead to testify unto them, they would not be persuaded. [Luke 16:31]

How much more then the hearts of the children of men.] Though deep and deceitful, full of turnings and windings, Multae sunt in animo latebrae, multi recessus , saith Cicero, yet God can fathom and find them out. [Jeremiah 17:9-10] He searcheth the hearts and reins, which yet are the most remote and abstruse of all the entrails, covered from the eye of the anatomist with fat and flesh, &c. By "hearts and reins" understand thoughts and affections; the reins being the seat of the strongest affection, that which is for generation. Lo, these are pervious and patent to the eyes of God, yea, dissected, quartered, cleft in the backbone - as the apostle’s word, τετραχηλισμενα [Hebrews 4:13] signifies - how much more then their evil actions! These cannot possibly be hidden from God’s all-seeing eye, though they dig deep to secure themselves, as those gunpowder traitors; though they throw thereupon wood, stones, and rubbish, all these to God would be but as spectacles to make their sins appear the greater, or as perspectives to multiply them. (c)


Verse 12

Proverbs 15:12 A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.

Ver. 12. A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him.] Nay, he "hateth those that reprove him in the gate," [Amos 5:10] as Ahab did Micaiah; Herodias, John Baptist; the Pharisees, our Saviour. Bishop Ridley, lamenting, a little before his death, the state of England, even of the greatest magistrates, some, the king’s highness excepted, evermore unkindly and urgently against those that went about most busily and wholesomely to cure their sore backs, spurned privily, and would not spare to speak evil of them, even to the prince himself; and yet would they toward the same preachers outwardly bear a jolly countenance, and fair face. As for Latimer, Lever, Bradford, and Knox, their tongues were so sharp, they ripped so deep in their galled backs to have purged them, no doubt, of their filthy matter that was festered in their hearts, of unsatiable covetousness, of filthy carnality and voluptuousness, of intolerable ambition and pride, of ungodly loathsomeness to hear poor men’s causes, and to hear God’s word. And these men of all others, these magistrates then could never abide, &c. Thus that godly martyr, and much more to the same purpose. (a)

Neither will he go unto the wise.] Men should "run to and fro to increase knowledge." [Daniel 12:4] The Shunammite rode ordinarily to the prophet on the Sabbaths, and other holy days. [2 Kings 4:23] Those good souls in Psalms 84:7, passed on "from strength to strength," setting the best foot forwards for like purpose; yea, those that were weak and unfit for travel would be brought to the ordinances upon "horses, in chariots, and in litters." [Isaiah 66:20] But now the scorner holds it not worth while to put himself to this pains; and is ready to say with Jeroboam, "It is too much for men to go up to Jerusalem," to go up "to the mountain of the Lord, to learn his ways." [Isaiah 2:3] Yea, he set watchers to observe who would go from him to Judah to worship, that he might shame them at least, if not slay them. [Hosea 5:1] He would never have gone to the prophet to be reproved, and when the prophet came to him he stretched forth his hand to apprehend him. So Herod had a desire to see Christ, but could never find a heart to go to hear him; and yet our Saviour looked that men should have come as far to him, as the queen of Sheba came to Solomon. [Matthew 12:42]


Verse 13

Proverbs 15:13 A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

Ver. 13. A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.] It sits smiling in the face, and looks merrily out of the windows of the eyes. This is not till faith have healed the conscience, and till grace have hushed the affections, and composed all within. Saint Stephen looked like an angel when he stood before the council; [Acts 6:15] and the apostles went away rejoicing. [Acts 5:41] There are that rejoice in the face only, and not in the heart; [2 Corinthians 5:12] this is but the hypocrisy of mirth, and we may be sure that many a man’s heart bleeds within him when his face counterfeits a smile. It is for an Abraham only to laugh for joy of the promise, and for a David "to rejoice at the word as one that findeth great spoil," [Psalms 119:162] wherein the pleasure is usually as much as the profit. Christ’s chariot, wherein he carries his people up and down in the world, and brings them at length to himself, is "paved with love"; [Song of Solomon 3:9-10] he brings them also into his wine cellar, [Song of Solomon 2:4] where he cheers up their hearts, and clears up their countenances; and this is praemium ante praemium, Heaven aforehand. These are some few clusters of the grapes of the celestial Canaan.

But by the sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.] As the looks are marred, so the spirits are dulled and disabled, as a limb out of joint can do nothing without deformity or pain. Dejection takes off the wheels of the soul, hinders comfortable intercourse with God, and that spiritual composedness, that habitual cheerfulness, that sabbath of spirit that every man should strive to enjoy. Afflictions, saith one, are the wind of the soul, passions the storm. The soul is well carried, when neither so becalmed that it moves not when it should, nor yet tossed with tempests of wrath, grief, fear, care, &c., to move disorderly. Of these we must be careful to crush the very first insurrections; storms rise out of little gusts, but the top of those mountains above the middle region are so quiet that ashes, lightest things, are not moved out of place.


Verse 14

Proverbs 15:14 The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

Ver. 14. The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge.] As a hungry man seeks meat, or a covetous man gold, the more he hath, the more he desires. Moses was no sooner off the mount where he had seen God face to face, but he cries, "Lord, shew me thy glory." David, that knew more than his teachers, cries ever and anon, "Teach me thy statutes." Job prefers knowledge before his necessary food. [Proverbs 23:12] Chrysippus was so studious that he would not take time to eat his food, but had perished with hunger if his maid Melissa had not put food into his mouth. John ate the book that the angel gave him. [Revelation 10:9] Jacobus de Voragine and Petrus Comestor had their names from devouring the Bible. Let fools feed on foolishness, as swine do on swill, as flies do on blotches, as carrion kites do on stinking carcases, as Tartars do on dead camels, asses, dogs, cats, &c. The wise man finds no such sweetness in the most delicate and dainty dishes, as in the search after divine knowledge. [Psalms 119:103] Even Aristotle saith that a little knowledge, though conjectural, about heavenly things, is to be preferred above knowledge, though certain, about earthly things. And Agur saith, it is to "ascend into heaven." [Proverbs 30:4]


Verse 15

Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted [are] evil: but he that is of a merry heart [hath] a continual feast.

Ver. 15. All the days of the afflicted are evil.] The guilt of sin puts a sting into afflictions, and makes them very grievous. Nihil est miserius quam animus hominis conscius, (a) said the heathen. Such an affliction may well be called, as Amos 6:6, shebharim, ‘a breaking to shivers,’ for then God is a terror to man, [Jeremiah 17:17] and runs "upon the thick bosses of his bucklers." [Job 15:25] Himself is also a magor-missabib to himself; so that he is for the time in the very suburbs of hell, and ready to become his own deathsman, as Judas. Hence Anselm; Mullem, purus a peccato, saith he, Gehennam intrare, quam peccati sorde pollutus coelorum regna tenere.

But he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.] The sincere heart, the quiet conscience, will not only stand under greatest pressures, as Paul, [2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:12] but goes as merrily to die in a good cause as ever he did to dine, as divers martyrs. Be the air clear or cloudy, he enjoys a continual serenity, and sits continually at that blessed feast, whereat the blessed angels are cooks and butlers, as Luther hath it, and the three persons in Trinity gladsome guests. Mr Latimer saith that the assurance of heaven is the deserts of this feast. There are other dainty dishes, but this is the banquet. Another saith, In minimo maximum est, bona mens in corpore humano: quae si adsit, deliciosius vivit etiam is qui teruntium non habet in orbe, quam si in unum hominem sexcentos confles Sardanapalos. All other feasts to this are stark hunger. It is a full feast, a lasting feast; not for a day, as that of Nabal, not for seven days, as that of Samson, no, nor of hundred and eigthy days, as that of Ahasuerus, but a durable continual feast, without intermission of solace, or interruption of society. Vis ergo, o homo, semper epulari? vis nunquam tristis esse? saith Bernard; bene vive: Wilt thou therefore, O man, never be sad? wilt thou turn thy whole life into a merry festival? get and keep a good conscience. The heathen philosopher (b) could say, O αγαθος αιει εωρταζει. A good man keeps holiday all the year about.


Verse 16

Proverbs 15:16 Better [is] little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

Ver. 16. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord.] This is one special consideration that keeps up the good heart in continual comfort. Contented godliness is great riches; Misera est magni custodia census. (a) Great treasures bring great troubles. It is not the great cage that makes the bird sing. It is not the great estate that brings alway the inward joy, the cordial contentment. The little lark with a wing sees further than the ox with a bigger eye but without a wing. Birds use not to sing when they are on the ground, but when got into the air, or upon the top of trees. If saints be sad, it is because they are too busy here below, and, Martha-like, troubled about many things, with neglect of that one thing necessary. They that will be rich pierce themselves through with many sorrows. If the bramble bear rule, fire will rise out of it that will consume the cedars; the lean kine will soon eat up the fat, and it shall not be seen by them. It is hard to handle these thorns hard and not to prick one’s fingers. Riches, though well got, are but as manna, those that gathered less had no want, and those that gathered more, it was but a trouble and annoyance to them.


Verse 17

Proverbs 15:17 Better [is] a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

Ver. 17. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is.] Mensa consecrata est amicitiae, saith one. The table is dedicated to friendship, and an absurd thing it is there to raise quarrels, or to revenge wrongs, as Absalom did when he killed his brother Amnon; as Alexander did when he killed his friend Philotas; and as the great Turk when he intends the death of any of his great Bashaws - he invites them to a feast, in the midst whereof he commandeth the black gown to be cast upon their shoulders, and then they are presently taken from table and strangled. Isaac made a feast for Abimelech and Phicol, to show that he was heartily reconciled to them. [Genesis 26:30] The Greeks had their χαριστηρια, or love feasts for like purpose. Among the Latins, as Varro testifieth, it was held a complete feast, si belli conveniant homines, si temporis sit habita ratio, si locus sit non ingratus, sl non negllgens apparatus, (a) if they were merry men that met, if they sat not over long, nor over late; if the place were pleasant, and the cheer indifferent. Green herbs, it seems, was a great dish with them, which therefore they called Holus, ab ολον, as if they thought no dish were wanting if that were set upon the table. These herbs they are called οξυβαφα, Acetaria, because they used to dip them in vinegar, and thereunto if they had bread, which they called Panis of παν, they held they had all that heart could wish or need require. (b)


Verse 18

Proverbs 15:18 A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but [he that is] slow to anger appeaseth strife.

Ver. 18. A wrathful man stirreth up strife.] Miscet lites, he mingleth strife with his meat, and feeds upon chafing dishes. Such troublesome guests Augustine forbade his table by these two verses written round about it -

“Quisquis amat dictis aliorum rodere famam,

Hanc mensam vetitam noverit esse sibi.” (a)

This is the worst music at meat that may be. But some men maledictis aluntur, ut venenis capreae. David met with such "hypocritical mockers in feasts," that most uncivilly "gnashed upon him with their teeth." [Psalms 35:16] Hence much mischief many times ariseth. For, as Basil noteth, ira excitat rixam, vixa parit convicia, convicia ictus, ictus vulnera, et saepe vulnera mors consequitur: Wrath stirs up strife, strife causeth ill words, ill words draw on blows, bloodshed, and loss of life sometimes.

But he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.] Is as busy to stint strife, as the other to stir it; brings his buckets to quench this unnatural fire between others, and puts up injuries done to himself, as Jonathan did when his father flung a javelin at him - he rose from table and walked into the field. David also, though provoked, yet he "as a deaf man heard not, and was as one dumb, in whose mouth there was no reproof." Such peaceable and peacemaking men are blessed of God and highly esteemed of men, when wranglers are to be shunned as perilous persons. "Make no friendship with an angry man," saith Solomon. [Proverbs 22:24] And they are not much to be regarded that with every little offensive breath, or disgraceful word, are blown up into rage, that will not be laid down without revenge or reparation to cure their credits.


Verse 19

Proverbs 15:19 The way of the slothful [man is] as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous [is] made plain.

Ver. 19. The way of a slothful man is as a hedge of thorns.] Perplexed and letsome, so that he gets no ground, makes no riddance; he goes as if he were shackled when he is to go upon any good course; so many perils he casts, and so many excuses he makes; this he wants, and that he wants, when in truth it is a heart only that he wants, being woefully hampered and enthralled in the invisible chains of the kingdom of darkness, and driven about by the devil at his pleasure. This will be a bodkin at these men’s hearts one day, to think I had a price in my hand, but no heart to make use of it; I foolishly held that a little with ease was best, and so "neglected so great salvation," shifting off him that "spake to me from heaven," [Hebrews 12:25] and pretending some "lion in the way," some ‘goose at the gate,’ (a) When I was to do anything for my soul’s health. Never any came to hell, saith one, but had some pretence for their coming thither.

But the way of the righteous is made plain.] Or, Is cast up as a causeway, (b) a Gabbatha, [John 19:13] a road raised above the rest. There seems to be an illusion to that bank or causeway that went from the king’s house to the temple; [1 Chronicles 26:16; 1 Chronicles 26:18 1 Kings 10:5 2 Chronicles 9:4] and the sense is, that the godly, by much practice of piety, having gotten a habit, despatch duty with delight, and come off with comfort. [Isaiah 40:31]


Verse 20

Proverbs 15:20 A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.

Ver. 20. A wise son maketh a glad father.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 10:1"}


Verse 21

Proverbs 15:21 Folly [is] joy to [him that is] destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.

Ver. 21. Folly is joy to him that is destitute of understanding.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 10:23"}

But a man of understanding walketh uprightly.] And he doth it with delight, as the opposition implies. Christ’s "burden" is no more "grievous" to him than the wing is to the bird. [Matthew 11:30 1 John 5:3] His sincerity supplies him with serenity; (a) the joy of the Lord, as an oil of gladness, makes him lithe and nimble in ways of holiness. And this spiritual joy, in some, is a habitual gladness of heart, which constantly, after assurance, is found in them, though they feel not the passions of joy; but in others there are felt at some times the vehement passions of joy, but not any constant gladness.


Verse 22

Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.

Ver. 22. Without counsel purposes are disappointed.] The word here rendered "counsel" signifies ‘secret,’ because counsel should be kept secret; which to signify, the old Romans, as Servius testifieth, built the temple of Consus, their god of counsel, sub tecto in circo, in a public place, but under a covert; and it grew to a proverb, Romani sedendo vincunt; The Romans, by sitting in council, conquer their enemies. But what a strange man was Xerxes, and it prospered with him accordingly, who, in his expedition against Greece, called his princes together, but gave them no freedom of speech nor liberty of counsel! Lest, said he to them, I should seem to follow mine own counsel, I have assembled you: and now, do you remember, that it becomes you rather to obey than to advise. (a) Such another was that James that reigned in Scotland in our Edward IV’s time. He was too much wedded, saith the historian, (b) to his own opinion, and would not endure any man’s advice, how good soever, that he fancied not. He would seldom ask counsel, but never follow any. See the note on Proverbs 11:14.


Verse 23

Proverbs 15:23 A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word [spoken] in due season, how good [is it]!

Ver. 23. A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth.] It reflects comfort upon a man when he hath spoken discreetly to the benefit and good content of others. Some degree of comfort follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, as beams and influence issue from the sun; which is so true, that very heathens, upon the discharge of a good conscience, have found comfort and peace answerable.

A word spoken in due season, how good is it.] One seasonable truth falling on a prepared heart, hath oft a strong and sweet operation. Galeacius was converted by a similitude used by Peter Martyr reading on 1 Corinthians. Junius was reduced from atheism by conference with a countryman of his. Luther, having heard Staupicius say, that that is kind repentance which begins from the love of God, ever after that time the practice of repentance was the sweeter to him. Also this speech of his took well with Luther, Doctrina praedestinationis incipit a vulneribus Christi. (a) The doctrine of predestination begins at Christ’s wounds. Melanchthon tells how that one time, when Luther, as he was naturally passionate, fell into a great distemper upon some provocation, he quickly quieted him by reciting this verse: -

Vince animos iramque tuam qui caetera vincis.

At the hearing hereof Luther curbed in his passion, and smiling said, Non volumus de his ampllus, sed de aliis colloqui: We’ll talk no more of these matters. (b)


Verse 24

Proverbs 15:24 The way of life [is] above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.

Ver. 24. The way of life is above to the wise.] He goes a higher way than his neighbour, even in his common businesses, because they are done in faith and obedience. He hath his feet where other men’s heads are, and, like a heavenly eagle, delights himself in high flying. Busied he may be in mean, low things, but not satisfied in them as adequate objects. A wise man may sport with children, but that is not his business. Domitian spent his time in catching flies, and Artaxerxes in making hafts for knives; but that was the baseness of their spirits. Wretched worldlings make it their work to gather wealth, as children do to tumble a snowball; they are scattered abroad throughout all the land - as those poor Israelites were [Exodus 5:12] to gather stubble - not without an utter neglect of their poor souls. But what, I wonder, will these men do when death shall come with a writ of habeas corpus, You may have the body, and the devil with a writ of habeas animam, you may have the soul - when the cold grave shall have their bodies, and hot hell hold their souls? Oh that they that have their hands elbow deep in the earth, that are rooting and digging in it, as if they would that way dig themselves a new and a nearer way to hell! oh that these greedy moles, these insatiate muckworms, would be warned to flee from the wrath to come, to take heed of hell beneath, and not sell their souls to the devil for a little pelf, as they say Pope Sylvester did for seven years’ enjoyment of the popedom! Oh that they would meditate every day a quarter of an hour, as Francis Xaverius counselled John king of Portugal, on that divine sentence, "What shall it profit a man to win the whole world, and lose his own soul?" He should be a loser by the sale of his soul; he should be - that which he so much feared to be - a beggar, begging in vain, though but for a drop of cold water to cool his tongue.


Verse 25

Proverbs 15:25 The LORD will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow.

Ver. 25. The Lord will destroy the house of the proud.] Where he thinks himself most safe, God will pull him, as it were, by the ears out of his tabernacle. He will surely unroost him, unnest him, yea, though he hath set his nest among the stars, as he did proud Lucifer, who "kept not his first estate, but left his habitation," [ 1:6] which indeed he could hold no longer; for it spewed him out into hell, that infernus ab inferendo dictus. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 12:7"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 14:11"}

But he will establish the border of the widow.] Not the rest of her goods only, but the very utmost borders of her small possession. She hath commonly no great matters to be proud of, nor any patrons to stick to her, and stickle for her. She hath her name in Hebrew (a) of dumbness, because either she cannot speak for herself - death having cut off her head, her husband, who was wont to speak for her - or if she do speak, her tale cannot be heard. [Luke 18:4] God therefore will speak for her in the hearts of her greatest opponents and oppressors. He also will do for her, and defend her borders, as he did for the Shunammite, and for the Sareptan, and for the poor prophet’s widow, whose debts he paid for her, and for the widow of Nain, whose son he raised unrequested; [Luke 7:13] especially if she be a "widow indeed," [1 Timothy 5:5] such as Anna was. [Luke 2:37] A vine whose root is uncovered thrives not; a widow whose covering of eyes is taken away, joys not. But in God "the fatherless findeth mercy," [Hosea 14:3] and he will "cause the widow’s heart to sing for joy." [Job 29:13]


Verse 26

Proverbs 15:26 The thoughts of the wicked [are] an abomination to the LORD: but [the words] of the pure [are] pleasant words.

Ver. 26. The thoughts of the wicked are abomination.] Let him not think to think at liberty. Thought is not free, as some fools would have it. To such God saith, "Hearken, O earth; behold I bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts." [Jeremiah 6:19] The very heathen could say, Fecit quisque quantum voluit, What evil a man wills he doth. And Incesta est et sine stupro quoe stuprum cupit. He that lusteth after a woman, hath lain with her in his heart. "If I regard iniquity in mine heart," saith David, "shall not God find this out, and for it reject my prayer?" [Psalms 66:18] Kimchi, being soured with Pharisaical leaven, makes this strange sense of that text: If I regard iniquity only in my heart, so that it break not forth into outward act, the Lord will not hear me - that is, he will not hear so as to impute it or account it a sin. But was not this caedem Scripturarum facere, as Tertullian hath it, to murder the Scripture, or at least to set it on the rack, so as to make it speak what it never intended, to force it to go two miles when it would go but one.

But the words of the pure are pleasant words.] Such as God books up, [Malachi 3:16] and makes hard shift to hear, as I may so say, for he "hearkens and hears" (ibid.). The rather because these pleasant words are the fruits and products of that law of grace within, that "good treasure," that habit of heavenly mindedness they have acquired. For though "the heart of the wicked be little worth," and as little set by, yet "the tongue of the just is as choice silver." [Proverbs 10:20] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 10:20"} He mints his words, and God lays them up as his riches, yea, looks upon them "as apples of gold in pictures of silver," [Proverbs 25:11] as gold put in a case of cut-work of silver, which is no less precious than pleasant. [Ecclesiastes 12:10] {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 12:10"}


Verse 27

Proverbs 15:27 He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.

Ver. 27. He that is greedy of gain, troubleth his own house.] Fires his own nest while he thinks to feather it; fingers that which will burn in his purse, will prove lucrum in arca, damnum in conscientia, (a) gain to his purse, but loss to his conscience. Add hereunto, that the covetous man’s house is continually on a tumult of haste and hurry, "up, up, up," saith he; "to bed, to bed"; "quick at meat, quick at work," &c.; what with labour, and what with passion and contention, he and his household never live at heart’s ease and rest. Thus it was in the houses of Laban and Nabal.

But he that hateth gifts shall live.] Viz., Gifts given to pervert or buy justice. The "fire of God shall devour the tabernacles" of such corrupt judges. [Job 15:34]

So for those that are bribed out of their religion, Stratagema nunc est Pontificium, ditare multos, ut pii esse desinant. (b) The Papists propose rewards to such as shall relinquish the Protestant religion and turn to them, as in Ansburgh, where, they say, there is a known price for it of ten florins a year; and in France, where the clergy have made contributions for the maintenance of renegade ministers. Thus they tempted Luther, but he would not be hired to go to hell; and thus they tempted that noble Marquis of Vicum, nephew to Pope Paul V, who left all for Christ and fled to Geneva, but he cried out, Let their money perish with them that prefer all the world’s wealth before one day’s communion with Jesus Christ and his despised people. (c)


Verse 28

Proverbs 15:28 The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.

Ver. 28. The heart of the righteous studieth to answer.] His tongue runs not before his wit, but he weighs his words before he utters them (as carrying a pair of balance between his lips), and dips his words in his mind ere men see what colour they are of, as Plutarch saith Phocion did. (a) He hath his heart, not at his mouth, but at his right hand, saith Solomon, to make use of when he sees his time. Melanchthon, when some hard question was proposed to him, would take three days’ deliberation to answer it. And, in his answer to Staphylus, he ingenuously confesseth, or rather complaineth, Quos fugiamus habemus, quos sequamur nondum intelligimus; We know whom we are to flee from (meaning the Papists), but whom to follow we as yet know not. Such divisions there were amongst themselves, and such lack of light at the beginning of the Reformation, that it was an ingenuous thing to be a right reformed catholic. A young man, one Vincentius Victor, as Chemnitius relates it, when learned Augustine demurred, and would not determine the point concerning the original of a rational soul, censured boldly the father’s unresolvedness, and vaunted that he would undertake to prove by demonstration that souls are created de novo by God; for which peremptory rashness the father returned the young man a sober reprehension, a mild answer, as the Hebrew word (b) here used imports. Not so sharp as that of Basil to the emperor’s cook, who yet well enough deserved it; for when the fellow would needs be pouring forth what he thought of such and such deep points of divinity which he understood not, Basil rounded him up with, Sον εστι της των ζωμων καρυκειας φροντιζειν: - It is for thee, man, to look well to thy porridge pot, and not to meddle with these disputes.


Verse 29

Proverbs 15:29 The LORD [is] far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.

Ver. 29. The Lord is far from the wicked.] He was so from the proud Pharisee, who yet got as near God as he could, pressing up to the highest part of the temple. The poor publican, not daring to do so, stood aloof off; yet was God far from the Pharisee, near to the publican. Videte magnum miraculum! saith Augustine, altus est Deus; erigis te, et fugit a te; inclinas te, et descendit ad te, &c.; - Behold a great miracle! God is on high; thou liftest up thyself and he flees from thee; thou bowest thyself downward and he descends to thee. Low things he respects, that he may raise them, proud things he knows afar off, that he may depress them. When a stubborn fellow, being committed, was no whit mollified with his durance, but the contrary, one of the senators said to the rest, Let us forget him a while and then he will remember himself. Such is God’s dealing with those that stout it out with him. "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction (if ever) they will seek me early." [Hosea 5:15] And it proved so. [Proverbs 6:1]

But he heareth the prayer of the righteous.] "The Lord is near to all that call upon him." [Psalms 145:18] "His ears are in their prayers." [1 Peter 3:12] Yea, he can feel breath when no voice can be heard for faintness. [Lamentations 3:56] When the flesh makes such a din that it is hard to hear the Spirit’s sighs, "He knows the meaning, φρονημα, of the Spirit," [Romans 8:26-27] and can pick English out of our broken requests; yea, he hears our "afflictions," [Genesis 16:11] our "tears," [Psalms 39:12] our "chatterings," [Isaiah 38:14] though we cry to him but by implication only, as "the young ravens" do. [Psalms 147:9] It is not with God as with their Jupiter of Crete, that had no ears, that was not at leisure (a) to attend small matters, that had cancellos in coelo, as Lucian feigns, certain crevices or chinks in heaven, through which, at certain times, he looks down upon men, and hears prayers; whereas at other times he hears them not though they call upon him never so long, never so loud. Neither is it with God as with Baal, that pursuing his enemies could not hear his friends; nor yet as with Diana, that, being present at Alexander’s birth, could not at the same time preserve her Ephesian temple from the fire. "Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?" [Jeremiah 23:23] Yes, yes, he is both, and delights to distinguish himself from all dunghill deities by hearing prayers. Hereby Manasseh "knew him to be the true God"; [2 Chronicles 33:13] and all Israel hereupon cried out with one consent, "The Lord he is God; the Lord he is God." [1 Kings 18:39] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 15:8"}


Verse 30

Proverbs 15:30 The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: [and] a good report maketh the bones fat.

Ver. 30. The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart.] Light and sight are very comfortable. He was a mad fool that being warned of wine by the physicians as hurtful to his eyes, cried out, Vale lumen amicum; - If they will not bear with wine, they are no eyes for me. "Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to behold the sun." [Ecclesiastes 11:7] Eudoxus professed that he would be willing to be burnt up by the sun presently, so he might be admitted to come so near it as to behold the beauty of it, and to see further into the the nature of it. (a)

And a good report maketh the bones fat.] Fama bona, vel auditio bona; - A good name, or good news. Ego si bonam famam servasso, sat dives ero, saith he in Plautus. It is riches enough to be well reputed and reported of. It is ηδιστον ακουσμα, (b) the sweetest hearing. It pleased David well that "whatsoever he did pleased the people." It pleased St John well that his friend "Demetrius had a good report of the truth," [3 John 1:12] and he "had no greater joy than to hear that his children walked in the truth." Pindarus could say that the bath doth not so refresh the bones as a good name doth the heart.


Verse 31

Proverbs 15:31 The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.

Ver. 31. The ear that heareth the reproof of llfe.] That is, lively and life giving reproofs. Veritas aspera est, verum amaritudo eius utilior et integris sensibus gratior quam meritricantis linguae distillans favus; { a} - Truth is sharp, but be it bitter, yet it is better and more savoury to sound senses than the honey drops of a flattering tongue.


Verse 32

Proverbs 15:32 He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.

Ver. 32. He that refuseth instruction, despiseth his own soul.] Is a sinner against his own soul, as Korah and his complices were, and sets as light by it as if it were not worth looking after. Oh! is it nothing to lose an immortal soul, to purchase an ever-living death? Wilt thou destroy that for which Christ died? [1 Corinthians 8:11] What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? There is no great matter in the earth but man, nothing great in man but his soul, said Faverinus. "Whose image and superscription is it" but God’s? "Give," therefore, "unto God the things that are God’s," by delivering it up to his discipline.

But he that heareth reproof, getteth understanding.] Heb., Possesseth his heart. This is like that sentence of our blessed Saviour, "In your patience possess ye your souls." [Luke 21:19] They have need of patience that must hear reproof; for man is a cross creature, and likes not to be controlled or contraried. "But suffer," saith that great apostle, "the words of exhortation"; suffer them in God’s name, sharp though they be, and set on with some more than ordinary earnestness. Better it is that the vine should bleed than die. Sinite virgam corripientem, ne sentitatis malleum conterentem. Certes, "when the Lord shall have done to you according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning you, and hath brought you to his kingdom, this shall be no grief unto you or offence of heart," as he said in a like case, [1 Samuel 25:30-31] that you have hearkened to instruction, and been bettered by reproof.


Verse 33

Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD [is] the instruction of wisdom; and before honour [is] humility.

Ver. 33. The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 1:7"}

And before honour is humility.] David came not to the kingdom till he could truly say, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty," &c. [Psalms 131:1] Abigail was not made David’s wife till she thought it honour enough to wash the feet of the lowest of David’s servants. [1 Samuel 25:41] Moses must be forty years a stranger in Midian before he become king in Jeshurun; he must be struck sick to death in the inn before he go to Pharaoh on that honourable embassy. Luther observed that ever, for most part, before God set him upon any special service for the good of the church, he had some sore fit of sickness. Surely, as the lower the ebb, the higher the tide; so the lower any descend in humiliation, the higher they shall ascend in exaltation; the lower this foundation of humility is laid, the higher shall the roof of honour be overlaid.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 15:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-15.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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