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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Proverbs 20

 

 

Verse 1

Proverbs 20:1 Wine [is] a mocker, strong drink [is] raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

Ver. 1. Wine is a mocker, &c.] For, first, it mocks (a) the drunkard, and makes a fool of him, promising him pleasure, but paying him with the stinging of an adder, and biting of a cockatrice, Proverbs 23:32. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 23:32"} Wine is a comfortable creature, [ 9:12] one of the chief lenitives (b) of human miseries, as Plato calls it; but "excess of wine" [1 Peter 4:3] (c) is, as one well saith, Blandus daemon, dulce venenum, suave Teccatum; quam qui in se habet, se non habet; quam qui facit, non facit peccatum, sed totus est peccatum. That is, a fair spoken devil, a sweet poison, a sin which he that hath in him, hath not himself, and which he that runs into, runs not into a single sin, but is wholly turned into sin. Secondly, It renders a man a mocker, even one of those scorners, for whom judgments are prepared, as Solomon had said in the foregoing verse. See Hosea 7:5, Isaiah 28:1, 1 Samuel 25:36-38 Abigail would not tell Nabal of his danger till he had slept out his drunkenness, lest she should have met with a mock, if not with a knock.

Strong drink is raging.] All kinds of drink that will alienate the understanding of a man and make him drunk, as ale, beer, cider, perry, metheglin, &c. Of this Pliny (d) cries out, Hei, mira vitiorum solertia inventum est quemadmodum aqua quoque inebriaret. Portentosum sane potionis genus! quasi non ad alium usum natura parens humane generi fruges dedisse videatur. So witty is wickedness grown now, that there is a way invented to make a man drunk with water; a monstrous kind of drink surely! as if dame Nature had bestowed grain upon us to such a base abuse. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 23:29"} St Paul very fitly yoketh together drunkards and railers. [1 Corinthians 6:9]

And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.] For when the wine is in the wit is out. They have a practice of drinking the Outs, as they call it - all the wit out of the head, all the money out of the purse, &c. - and thereby affect the title of roaring boys, by a woeful prolepsis (doubtless), here for hereafter.


Verse 2

Proverbs 20:2 The fear of a king [is] as the roaring of a lion: [whoso] provoketh him to anger sinneth [against] his own soul.

Ver. 2. The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion.] See Proverbs 16:14; Proverbs 19:12.


Verse 3

Proverbs 20:3 [It is] an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.

Ver. 3. It is an honour for a man to cease from strife.] To stint it rather than to stir it; to be first in promoting peace and seeking reconciliation, as Abraham did in the controversy with Lot. Memento - said Aristippus to Aeschines, with whom he had a long strife - quod cum essem natu maior, prior te accesserim. (a) Remember, said he, that though I am the elder man, yet I first sought reconciliation. I shall well remember it, said Aeschines, and while I live I shall acknowledge thee the better man, because I was first in falling out, and thou art first in falling in again. (b)

But every fool will be meddling.] Or, Mingling himself with strife; he hath an itching to be doing with it, to be quarrelling, brabling, lawing. Once it was counted ominous to commence actions and follow suits. (c) Now nothing more ordinary, for every trifle, treading upon their grass, or the like. This is as great folly as for every slight infirmity to take physic.


Verse 4

Proverbs 20:4 The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; [therefore] shall he beg in harvest, and [have] nothing.

Ver. 4. The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold.] So the spiritual sluggard either dreams of a delicacy in the ways of God, which is a great vanity; or else, if heaven be not to be had without the hardship of holiness, Christ may keep his heaven to himself. The young man in the gospel went away grieved that Christ required such things that he could not be willing to yield to. [Matthew 19:22] The Hebrews have a common proverb among them: He that on the even of the Sabbath hath not gathered what to eat, shall not at all eat on the Sabbath; meaning thereby that none shall reign in heaven that hath not wrought on earth. "Man goeth forth," saith the Psalmist, "to his work, and to his labour until the evening." [Psalms 104:23] So till the sun of his life be set, he must be working out his salvation. "This is to work the work of him that sent us," as our Saviour did. Which expression of "working a work": notes his strong intention upon it, as "to devise devices," [Jeremiah 18:18] notes strong plotting to mischief the prophet. So "with a desire have I desired," &c.; [Luke 22:15] "yea, how am I straitened, till it be accomplished" [Luke 12:50] Lo, Christ thirsteth exceedingly after our salvation, though he knew it should cost him so dear. Is not this check to our dulness and sloth?


Verse 5

Proverbs 20:5 Counsel in the heart of man [is like] deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.

Ver. 5. Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water.] See Proverbs 18:4. As the red rose, though outwardly not so fragrant, is inwardly far more cordial than the damask rose, being more thrifty of its sweetness, and reserving it in itself; so it is with many good Christians.

But a man of understanding will draw it out.] And surely this is a fine skill to be able to pierce a man that is like a vessel full of wine, and to set him a running.


Verse 6

Proverbs 20:6 Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?

Ver. 6. Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.] As the kings of Egypt would needs be called Eυεργεται, bountiful, or benefactors, [Luke 22:25] many of the Popes Pii and Bonifacii &c. The Turks will needs be styled the only Mussulmans or true believers, as Papists the only Catholics. The Swenkfeldians - Stinkfeldians, Luther called them, from the ill savour of their opinions - intituled themselves with that glorious name, The confessors of the glory of Christ. (a) David George, that monstrous heretic, that was so far from accounting adulteries, fornications, incests, &c., for being any sins, that he did recommend them to his most perfect scholars, as acts of grace and mortification, &c.; yet he was wonderfully confident of the absolute truth of his tenets, and doubted not but that the whole world would soon submit to him and hold with him. He wrote to Charles the emperor, and the rest of the states of Germany, a humble and serious admonition, as he styled it, written by the command of the omnipotent God, diligently to be obeyed, because it contained those things whereupon eternal life did depend. (b)

But a faithful man who can find.] Diaconos paucitas honorabiles fecit, saith Jerome. The paucity of pious persons makes them precious. Perraro grati reperiuntur, saith Cicero. It is hard to find a thankful man. Faithful friends are in this age all for the most part gone in pilgrimage, and their return is uncertain, said the Duke of Buckingham to Bishop Morton in Richard III’s, time. (c)


Verse 7

Proverbs 20:7 The just [man] walketh in his integrity: his children [are] blessed after him.

Ver. 7. The just man walketh in his integrity.] Walketh constantly; (a) not for a step or two only, when the good fit is upon him. {See Trapp on "Genesis 17:1"}

His children are blessed after him.] Personal goodness is profitable to posterity; yet not of merit, but of free grace, and for the promise’ sake; which Jehu’s children found and felt to the fourth generation, though himself were a wicked idolater.


Verse 8

Proverbs 20:8 A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.

Ver. 8. A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment, &c.] Kings in their own persons should sit and judge causes sometimes, to take knowledge, at least, what is done by their officers of justice: I have seen the king of Persia many times to alight from his horse, saith a late traveller, (a) only to do justice to a poor body. He punisheth theft and manslaughter so severely, that in an age a man shall hardly hear either of the one or of the other.


Verse 9

Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

Ver. 9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean?] That can I, saith the proud Pharisee and the Popish justiciary. Non habeo, Domine, quod mihi ignoscas: I have nothing, Lord, for thee to pardon, saith Isidore the monk. When St Paul, that had been in the third, heaven, complains of his inward impurities, [Romans 7:15] and though he should have known no evil by himself, yet durst he not look to be thereby justified. [1 Corinthians 4:4] And holy Job could say, "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet God would plunge me in the ditch, so that my own clothes should abhor me." [Job 9:30-31] And "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities," saith David, "who should stand before thee?" [Psalms 130:3]


Verse 10

Proverbs 20:10 Divers weights, [and] divers measures, both of them [are] alike abomination to the LORD.

Ver. 10. Divers weights, and divers measures, &c.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 11:1"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 16:11"} Now, if the very weights and measures are abomination, how much more the men that make use of them? And what shall become of such as measure to themselves a whole six days, but curtail God’s seventh or misemploy it?


Verse 11

Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work [be] pure, and whether [it be] right.

Ver. 11. Even a child is known by his doings, &c.]. Either for the better, as we see in young Joseph, Samson, Samuel, Solomon, Timothy, Athanasius, Origen, &c. It is not a young saint, an old devil; but a young saint, an old angel: - Or, for the worse, as Canaan the son of Ham - who is therefore cursed with his father, because, probably, he had a hand in the sin - Ishmael, Esau, Vajezatha, the youngest son of Haman. [Esther 9:9] Hebricians (a) observe that in the Hebrew this youth’s name is written with a little zain, but a great vau, to show, that though the youngest, yet he was the most malicious against the Jews of all the ten. Early sharp, say we, that will be thorn.


Verse 12

Proverbs 20:12 The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.

Ver. 12. The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, &c.] There are those who have "ears to hear, and hear not; who have eyes to see, and see not: for they are a rebellious house." [Ezekiel 12:2] Now when God shall say to such, as in Isaiah 42:18, "Hear ye deaf, and look ye blind, that you may see"; when he shall give them an obedient ear, and a Scripture searching eye, "senses habitually exercised to discern both good and evil," [Hebrews 5:14] so that they "hear a voice behind them, saying, This is the way," and they "see him that is invisible," as Moses: then is it with them, as it is written, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," i.e., - Natural eye never saw, natural ear never heard, such things; "but God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit." [1 Corinthians 2:9-10]


Verse 13

Proverbs 20:13 Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, [and] thou shalt be satisfied with bread.

Ver. 13. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty.] In sleep there is no use either of sight or hearing, or any other sense. And as little is there of the spiritual senses in the sleep of sin. It fared with the good prophet [Zechariah 4:1] as with a drowsy person, who though awake and set to work, yet was ready to sleep at it; and Peter, James, and John, if the spirit hold not up their eyes, may be in danger to fall asleep at their prayers, [Matthew 26:37-45] and so fall into spiritual poverty: for if prayer stands still, the whole trade of godliness stands still. And a powerless prayer, proceeding from a spirit of sloth, joined with presumption, makes the best men liable to punishment for profaning God’s name, so that he may justly let them fall into some sin, which shall awaken them with smart enough. [Proverbs 19:15] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 19:15"}


Verse 14

Proverbs 20:14 [It is] naught, [it is] naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.

Ver. 14. It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer.] Or, Saith the possessor, and so Melanchthon reads it: as taxing that common fault and folly of slighting present mercies, but desiring and commending them when they are lost. Virtutem incolumen odimus, sublatam ex oculis quaerimus invidi. Israel "despised the pleasant land," [Psalms 106:24] and the precious manna, [Numbers 11:6] and Solomen’s gentle government, [1 Kings 12:4] Our corrupt nature weighs not good things till we want them, as the eye sees nothing that lies upon it.


Verse 15

Proverbs 20:15 There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge [are] a precious jewel.

Ver. 15. There is gold and a multitude of rubies.] Quintilian defines an orator, Vir bonus dicendi peritus: A good man, that can deliver himself in good language. Such a master of speech (a) was St Paul, who was therefore by those heathen Lystrians called Mercury, because he was the chief speaker. [Acts 14:12] Such afore him was the prophet Isaiah, and our Saviour Christ, who "spake as never man spoke," his enemies themselves being judges. Such after him was Chrysostom, Basil, Nazianzen, famous for their holy eloquence. So were Mr Rogers and Mr Bradford, martyrs; in whom it was hard to say whether there were more force of eloquence and utterance in preaching, or more holiness of life and conversation, saith Mr Foxe. (b) Now if Darius, could say that he preferred one Zopyrus before ten Babylons: and if, when one desired to see Alexander’s treasures and his jewels, he bade his servants show him not αργυριου ταλαντα, but τους φιλους, not his talents of silver, and such other precious things, but his friends; (c) what an invaluable price think we doth the King of heaven set upon such learned scribes, as do out of the good treasure of their hearts throw forth good things for the use of many! (d)


Verse 16

Proverbs 20:16 Take his garment that is surety [for] a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.

Ver. 16. Take his garment.] And so provide for their own indemnity. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 6:1"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 6:2"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 6:3"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 6:4"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 6:5"}

And take a pledge of him for a strange woman,] i.e., For a whorish woman, utcunque tibi sit cognita, vel etiam cognata. He that will undertake for such a one’s debts, or run in debt to gratify her, should be carefully looked to, and not trusted without a sufficient pawn. How can he be faithful to me that is unfaithful to God? said Constantinus Chlorus to his courtiers and counsellors. (a)


Verse 17

Proverbs 20:17 Bread of deceit [is] sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.

Ver. 17. Bread of deceit is sweet to a man.] Sin’s murdering morsels will deceive those that devour them. There is a deceitfulness in all sin, [Hebrews 3:13] a lie in all vanity. [Jeremiah 2:8] The stolen waters of adultery are sweet, [Proverbs 9:17] but bitterness in the end: such sweet meat hath sour sauce. Commodities craftily or cruelly compassed, yield a great deal of content for present. But when the unconscionable cormorant hath "swallowed down such riches, he shall vomit them up again; God shall cast them out of his belly." [John 20:15] Either by remorse and restitution in the meantime, or with despair and impenitent horror hereafter.

His mouth shall be filled with gravel.] Pane lapidoso, as Seneca hath it - with grit and gravel, to the torment of the teeth; that is, terror of the conscience, and torture of the whole man. Such a bitter-sweet was Adam’s apple, Esau’s mess, the Israelites’ quails, Jonathan’s honey, the Amalekites’ cates after the sack of Ziklag, [1 Samuel 30:16] Adonijah’s dainties, [1 Kings 1:9] which ended in horror; ever after the meal is ended, comes the reckoning. Men must not think to dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: to feed upon the poison of asps, and yet that the viper’s tongue shall not slay them. [Job 20:16] When the asp stings a man, it doth first tickle him, so as it makes him laugh, till the poison by little and little gets to the heart, and then it pains him more than ever it delighted him. So doth sin. At Alvolana in Portugal, three miles from Lisbon, many of our English soldiers under the Earl of Essex perished, by eating of honey, purposely left in the houses and spiced with poison, as it was thought. (a) And how the treacherous Greeks destroyed many of the western Christians, French and English, marching toward the Holy Land, by selling them meal mingled with lime, is well known out of the Turkish history.


Verse 18

Proverbs 20:18 [Every] purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.

Ver. 18. Every purpose is established by counsel.] That thy proceedings be not either unconstant or uncomfortable, deliberate long ere thou resolve on any enterprise. (a) Advise with God especially, who hath said, "Woe be to the rebellious children that take counsel, but not of me." [Isaiah 30:1] David had able counsellors about him: but those he most esteemed and made use of were God’s testimonies. "Thy testimonies also are my delight, and the men of my counsel." [Psalms 119:24] Princes had learned men ever with them, called Mνημονες, remembrancers, monitors, counsellors; as Themistocles had his Anaxagoras; Alexander his Aristotle; Scipio his Panaetius and Polybius: of which latter Pausanias (b) testifieth, that he was so great a politician, that what he advised never miscarried. But that is very remarkable that Gellius reports of Scipio Africanus, that it was his custom before day to go into the capital in cellam Iovis , and there to stay a great while, quasi consultans de Rep cum Iove, as if he were there advising with his god concerning the commonwealth. Whence it was that his deeds were pleraque admiranda, admirable for the most part, saith the author. (c) But we have a better example. David in all his straits went to ask counsel of the Lord, who answered him. Do we so, and God will not fail us, for he hath made Christ wisdom unto us, and a "wonderful counsellor." [1 Corinthians 1:30 Isaiah 9:6]

And with good advice make war.] Ahab in this might have been a precedent to good Josiah. He would not go against Ramothgilead, till he had first advised with his false prophets. But that other peerless prince, though the famous prophet Jeremiah was then living, and Zephaniah, and a whole college of seers, yet he doth not so much as once send out of doors to ask, Shall I go up against the king of Egypt? Sometimes both grace and wit are asleep in the holiest and wariest breasts. The soldiers’ rule among the Romans was, Non sequi, non fugere bellum. (d) Neither to fly, nor to follow after war. The Christian motto is, Nec temere nec timide, Be neither temerarious nor timorous. And that is a very true saying of the Greek poet, “η βραδυπους βουλη μεν αμεινων: η δε παχεια αι Aιεν ε φελκουενηενην την μετανοιαν εχει.” - Lucian.

 


Verse 19

Proverbs 20:19 He that goeth about [as] a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.

Ver. 9. He that goeth about as a talebearer.] Therefore make not such of thy counsel: for if they can give counsel, yet they can keep none. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 11:13"}

Therefore meddle not with him that flattereth.] Tale carriers and flatterers are neither of them fit counsellors. These will say as you say, be it right or wrong; those will tell abroad all that you say, and more too, to do you a mischief. The good Emperor Aurelius was even bought and sold by such evil counsellors; and Augustus complained when Varus was dead, that he had none now left that would deal plainly and faithfully with him.


Verse 20

Proverbs 20:20 Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.

Ver. 20. Whoso curseth his father, &c.] {See Trapp on "Exodus 21:17"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 15:4"} Parents usually give their children sweet and savoury counsel; but they, for want of grace, listen rather to flatterers and whisperers, vilipending their parents’ advice, and vilifying them for the same, as Eli’s sons did.

His lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.] Heb., In blackness of darkness. These are those "raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." [ 1:13] All exquisite torment such are sure of in hell, whom the Holy Ghost curseth in such an emphatic manner, in such exquisite terms; besides the extreme misery they are likely here to meet with, who, when they ought to be "a lamp" to their parents, 1 Kings 15:4 as Abner was, or by his name should have been - do seek to put out their lamp, to cast a slur upon them, and to "quench their coal that is left," as she said, 2 Samuel 14:7. It may very well be that the temporal judgment here threatened, is, that such a graceless child shall die childless, and that there shall be Nullus cui lampada tradat.


Verse 21

Proverbs 20:21 An inheritance [may be] gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.

Ver. 21. An inheritance may be gotten hastily, &c.] By wishing and working the death of parents, or by any other evil arts whatsoever. See an instance hereof in Achan, Ahab, Gehazi, Adonijah’s leaping into the throne without his father’s leave. Jehoahaz also, the younger son of Josiah, would needs be king after his father, putting by his eldest brother, Jehoiakim; but he was soon put down again, and put into bands by Pharaohnechoh. [2 Kings 23:33-34] He portrayed the ambitionist to the life, that pictured him snatching at a crown, and falling, with this motto, Sic mea fata sequor. So I am followed by fate.


Verse 22

Proverbs 20:22 Say not thou, I will recompense evil; [but] wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.

Ver. 22. Say not thou, I will recompense evil.] Much less, swear it, as some miscreants do; to whom, Est vindicta bonum, et vita dulcius ipsa. In reason, tallying of injuries is but justice. It is the first office of justice, saith Cicero, to hurt nobody, unless first provoked by injury. Whereupon Lactantius; O quam simplicem veramque sententiam, saith he, duorum verboram adiectione corrupit! Oh what a dainty sentence marred the orator by adding those two last words! How much better Seneca! Immane verbum est ultio. Revenge is a base word, but a worse deed; it being no less an offence to requite an injury than to offer it, as Lactantius (a) hath it. The mild and milken man, as his name speaks him, was such an enemy to revenge, that he dislikes the waging either of law or of war with any that have wronged us. Wherein, though I cannot be of his mind, yet I am clearly of the opinion that not revenge, but right should be sought in both. Neither can I hold it valour, but rashness, in our Richard I, who, being told, as he sat at supper, that the French king had besieged his town of Vernoil in Normandy, protested that he would not turn his back until he had confronted the French; and thereupon he caused the wall of his palace that was before him to be broken down toward the south, and posted to the sea coast immediately into Normandy.

But wait on the Lord.] Who claims vengeance as his, [Deuteronomy 32:35 Romans 12:19] {See Trapp on "Deuteronomy 32:35"} {See Trapp on "Romans 12:19"} and will strike in for the patient, as he did, Numbers 12:2-3. While Moses is dumb, God speaks; deaf, God hears and stirs. Make God your chancellor in case no law will relieve, and you shall do yourselves no disservice. If compelled to go a mile, rather than revenge, go two, yea, as far as the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace will carry you, and God will bring you back "with everlasting joy." [Isaiah 35:10] This is the way to be even with him that wrongs you, nay, to be above him.


Verse 23

Proverbs 20:23 Divers weights [are] an abomination unto the LORD and a false balance [is] not good.

Ver. 23. Divers weights are an abomination.] In righting and revenging themselves men are apt to weigh things in an uneven balance, to be overpartial in their own cause, and to judge that a heinous offence in another, that is scarce blameworthy in themselves. It is best, therefore, to lay down all injuries at God’s feet, who will be sure to give a "just recompense to every transgression," [Hebrews 2:2] and will else turn his wrath from our enemies to us, for our diverse weights and false balances. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 20:10"}


Verse 24

Proverbs 20:24 Man’s goings [are] of the LORD how can a man then understand his own way?

Ver. 24. Man’s goings are of the Lord.] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 16:1"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 16:9"} God brought Paul to Rome by a way that he little dreamed of. Augustine once travelling lost his way, and fetching a compass came safe to the place he intended; whereas, had he kept the right way, he had been caught by an armed band of the Donatists that lay in wait for him. (a) "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord," [Psalms 37:23] and he finds himself sometimes crossed with a blessing. As when Isabel, Queen of England, was to repass from Zeland into this kingdom with an army, in favour of her son against her husband, she had utterly been cast away had she come to the port intended, being there expected by her enemies; but providence, against her will, brought her to another place where she safely landed. Good, therefore, and worthy of all acceptation is the wise man’s counsel, "In all thy ways acknowledge God, and he shall direct thy path." [Proverbs 3:6] {See Trapp on "Proverbs 3:6"}


Verse 25

Proverbs 20:25 [It is] a snare to the man [who] devoureth [that which is] holy, and after vows to make enquiry.

Ver. 25. It is a snare to a man who devoureth, &c.] He doeth as a fish that swallows the hook, as the eagle that stole the flesh from the altar with a coal sticking to it, that set the whole nest on fire, &c. What a sad end befell Cardinal Wolsey, while he sought more to please the king than God, as himself said! And what a revenging hand of God pursued his five chief agents that were most instrumental for him in that sacrilegious enterprise! One of them killed his fellow in a duel, and was hanged for it. A third drowned himself in a well. A fourth fell from a great estate to extreme beggary. Dr Allen (the last and chiefest of them) being archbishop of Dublin, was cruelly slain by his enemies. (a) Utinam his et similibus exemplis edocti discant homines res semel Deo consecratas timide attrectare! saith Scultetus, (b) who relates this story; I would men would take heed by these add the like examples how they meddle with things once consecrated to God. If divine justice so severely punished those that converted church goods (though not so well administered) to better uses (doubtless, because they did it out of selfish and sinful principles and intentions), what shall become of such as take all occasions to rob God, that they may enrich themselves? Spoliantur parochiae et scholae non aliter ac si fame necare nos velint, saith Luther; (c) Parishes and schools are polled and robbed of their maintenance, as if they meant to starve us all.

And after vows to make inquiry.] Viz., How he may devour that tit bit without vomiting, and not find it hard meat on his conscience. But a man may easily eat that on earth, that he shall have time enough to digest in hell. The fear of this made Queen Mary restore again all ecclesiastical livings assumed to the crown, saying, that she set more by the salvation of her own soul, than she did by ten kingdoms. (d) And upon the like motive, King Louis of France, about the year 1152, cast the Pope’s bulls, whereby he required the fruits of vacancies of all cathedral churches of France, into the fire, saying, He had rather the Pope’s bulls should roast in the fire, than his own soul should fry in hell. (e)


Verse 26

Proverbs 20:26 A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.

Ver. 26. A wise king scattereth the wicked.] Drains the country of them by his just severity, yet with due discretion, as appears by the latter words, "and bringeth the wheel over them," compared with Isaiah 28:27-28. The Turks’ justice will rather cut off two innocent men, than let one offender escape. (a) The Venetians punish with death whosoever shall misappropiated a penny of the public money to his own private profit. (b) Durescite, durescite, o infaelix Lantgravic, said the poor smith to the Landgrave of Thuring, that was more mild than was for his people’s good. The sword of justice must, I confess, be furbished with the oil of mercy; but yet there are cases wherein severity ought to cast the scale.


Verse 27

Proverbs 20:27 The spirit of man [is] the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

Ver. 27. The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord.] Some read it, The breath of a man, that is, his life, is the candle of the Lord, and sense it thus: Look how men deal by their lights or lamps, so doth God by our lives. Some we put out as soon as lighted; others we let alone till half wasted, and others again till wax and wick and all be consumed. So some die younger, some older, as God pleaseth. But the word Neshamah here used, as it holds affinity with the Hebrew Shamajim, Heaven, so it doth with the Latin word mens, the mind, or reasonable soul, which indeed is that light that is in us by an excellence, [Matthew 6:23] that "spirit of a man that knows the things of a man," [1 Corinthians 2:11] that candle that is in a man’s belly or body, as in a lantern, making the least mote perspicuous. This is true by a specialty of that divine faculty of the soul, conscience, which is frequently called the "spirit of a man," as being planted by God in all and every part of the reasonable soul, where she produceth occasionally several operatious, being the soul’s schoolmaster, monitor, and domestic preacher; God’s spy, and man’s overseer, the principal commander and chief controller of all his doings and desires.

Conscia mens ut cuique sua est, ira concipit intra

Pectora pro facto spemque metumque suo. ”

- Ovid.

Surely it is a most celestial gift, saith one. (a) It is so of God and in man, that it is a kind of middle thing between God and man; less than God, and yet above man. It may be called our God, saith another, (b) in the sense that Moses was Pharaoh’s; having power to control and avenge our disobediences with greater plagues than ever Moses brought on Egypt. Therefore that was no evil counsel of the poet: Imprimis reverere teipsum. (c) And,

Turpe quid ausurus, re, sine teste, time.


Verse 28

Proverbs 20:28 Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.

Ver. 28. Mercy and truth preserve the king.] These are the best guard of his body, and supporters of his throne. Mildness and righteousness, lenity and fidelity, do more safe guard a prince than munitions of rocks, or any warlike preparations, amidst which Henry IV of France perished, when Queen Elizabeth of England lived and died with glory. That French king, being persuaded by the Duke of Sully not to readmit the Jesuits, answered, Give me then security for my life. But he was shortly after stabbed to death by their instigation. When our queen, that stuck fast to her principles, was not more loved of her friends than feared of foes, being protected by God beyond expectation. Our King John thought to strengthen himself by gathering money, the sinews of war; but meanwhile he lost his people’s affections, those joints of peace, and came, after endless turmoils, to an unhappy end. So did our late sovereign of bleeding memory.


Verse 29

Proverbs 20:29 The glory of young men [is] their strength: and the beauty of old men [is] the gray head.

Ver. 29. The glory of young men is their strength.] If well used in following their callings, and fighting for their countries, as those young men of the princes of the provinces did, [1 Kings 20:20] and not in quarrelling and duelling, as those youngsters of Helkathhazzurim, who sheathed their swords in their fellows’ bowels. [2 Samuel 2:16]

And the beauty of old men is their gray head.] That silver crown of hoary hairs, saith one, which the finger of God doth set upon their heads, makes them venerable in all places where they come; so that they carry an authority or majesty with them, as it were. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 16:31"}


Verse 30

Proverbs 20:30 The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so [do] stripes the inward parts of the belly.

Ver. 30. The blueness of the wound cleanseth.] Some must be beaten black and blue ere they will be better; neither is wit anything worth with them till they have paid well for it. - The Jews were ever best when in worst condition. The Athenians, Non nisi atrati, would never mend till they were in mourning. And,

Anglica gens est optima flens, et pessima ridens.

As a great statesman said of his nation, Physicians commonly cure a lethargy by a fever. Surgeons let their patients bleed sometimes, etiam ad deliquium animae. The scorpion heals his own wounds; and the viper being beaten and applied cures his own biting. Surely as the scourging of the garment with a stick beats out the moths and the dust, so do corrections corruptions from the heart; and as lancing lets out filth, so doth affliction sin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-20.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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