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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Proverbs 10

 

 

Verse 1

We here enter upon the second main division of the Book of Proverbs, which is composed of a number of distinct propositions or maxims, having but little connection with each other and answering to the modern signification of the word proverb. Wordsworth here remarks that "the Proverbs of the present chapter are exemplifications in detail of the principles, practices, and results of the two ways of life displayed in the foregoing chapters which constitute the prologue."

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Heaviness, "grief."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

PARENTAL GRIEF AND GLADNESS

The generalisation of the first nine chapters here descends into particular applications. The chemist dilates upon the power and excellence of certain elements, and then illustrates what he has affirmed by showing their action in particular cases. Solomon has dwelt long upon the general blessings which will flow from listening to the counsels of Divine Wisdom, and he now shows some particular instances of it. He begins with its effect in the family. Consider—

I. How the author here speaks from personal experience.

1. In his relation to his father. Men in positions of far less importance than that which David held are solicitous that their sons should possess such a character and such mental qualifications as will enable them to fulfil the duties which they will bequeath to them at their own departure from the world. The owner of a large estate, if he has a right sense of his own responsibilities, desires that his heir should be one who will exercise his stewardship wisely and generously. The head of a mercantile firm hopes that the son who is to succeed to his position will be prudent and far-seeing, and possess an aptitude for business. If a monarch is what he ought to be, and feels how very great is his power for good or evil, it will be a matter of the deepest anxiety to him that the son who is one day to sit upon the throne should be one who will discharge his weighty duties wisely and well. David was such a monarch, and we can well imagine how great was his solicitude that his well-beloved son Solomon should possess such gifts and graces as would enable him worthily to fulfil the high position he would one day be called to occupy. And, from what we know of Solomon's youth and early manhood, we have every reason to believe that he was such a son as gladdened his father's heart. In the wonderful seventy-second Psalm—which, although it has its entire fulfilment only in the "greater than Solomon," refers, doubtless, in the first instance, to the great king—we have a glimpse of David's desires and hopes concerning him. He begins with a prayer for him: "Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the king's son" (Pro ). And then he gives utterance to the hopes which he cherished concerning his prosperous and beneficent reign—hopes which, alas! would have been sadly dimmed could he have foreseen the cloud that overshadowed Solomon's later days, but which were founded in the evidences which he gave of youthful piety and devotion. Solomon knew that he had been the gladness of his father's heart, because he had been a "wise son," and therefore he spoke from experience when he uttered the first clause of this proverb. But he spoke no less from experience when he gave utterance to the opposite truth. Solomon was a father as well as a son, and he speaks

(2) in his relation to his son. Rehoboam's youth and manhood—for he was a man long before his father's death—were not, we may fairly conclude, of such a character as to give his father much joy, but was such as to awaken the gravest fears concerning his conduct when he should become absolute master of the kingdom. We well know how these fears were justified by his conduct on his accession to the throne. The great crime of David's life had been committed before Solomon's birth, and had, therefore, had no bad influence upon him, but the sins of his own old age were a sad example to set before his son, and could not have been without their evil influence. From what we read of Rehoboam, we can but conclude that he had been a "foolish" son, and that Solomon's heart was heavy with sadness concerning him when he penned these words. These thoughts suggest a lesson which parents should deeply ponder, viz., that whether parents shall have gladness or grief in their children depends not so much upon the execellence of their words as upon the godliness of their lives. Solomon uttered thousands of moral precepts, but had he uttered as many more, they would not have had much effect upon Rehoboam. What his son needed more than wise sayings was the power of a godly life. This must ever accompany moral teaching: nay, it must go before it, for a child can receive impressions from a holy example before it is old enough to appreciate abstract teaching. A parent's wise sayings will never do a child any good unless there are correspondent doings. A good example is the best education. Consider—

II. How very much our joy and sorrow in this world depend upon our relationships. In proportion as the wise are related to the foolish or to the wise, will be their grief or their gladness. Distant relationships are not very effective in this way, but near relationships are powerful in proportion to their nearness. And the relation of parent to child is in some respects nearer than any other—nearer, perhaps, even than that of husband and wife. Our children are a part of ourselves, and what they are makes or mars our lives. How much does that little pronoun "my" carry with it! To hear that any young man has disgraced his manhood and thrown away his opportunities is an occasion of sadness to us. This is increased if he is the son of anyone we have known and loved. But if good parents have to reflect that "my" son has become a reprobate, how bitter is their sorrow. But when the folly is not so great as this there may still be much "heaviness" in a parent's heart. "Wise" and "foolish" are relative terms. A good father's joy is proportionate to his son's goodness, for we understand wisdom and folly here to stand for the wisdom of godliness and the folly of sin, and a very little amount of wickedness will make a good mother's heart heavy. Let children then learn from this text to reflect how much power to give joy or sorrow rests with them, and to act accordingly; and let parents, considering how entirely their future happiness or misery will depend upon the character of their children, begin to train them, both by example and precept, from their tenderest years. (On this subject see also Homiletics on chap. Pro .)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The future may be imperative. We prefer this view. "Let a wise son make a glad father." If a man has a good son, let it be his one all-sufficient gratification.… Men toil for their children, and give themselves pain in their behalf to an extent absolutely heroic, considering how they abnegate self, but to an extent altogether disproportioned, as between their temporal and eternal warfare. This is one way we destroy our children. If their temporal inheritance is threatened, we are all on thorns; but if they are doing well or ill in piety, we give it but little notice. The verb, therefore, as an imperative, means most. "Let a foolish son be the grief of his mother," that is, an unconverted son. He may be all smiles and amiableness, and the father's business may be doing well, but if he is a fool, spiritually, it should be his mother's grief. And then follow the reasons—(For) "treasures of wickedness profit nothing," etc.—Miller.

Perhaps this first sentence may have been placed in the front to point to the value of a godly education in its personal, social, national influence, connected both with time and eternity.—Bridges.

The father is specially said to be gladdened by a wise son as he is of a more severe nature, and not so likely to form a partial estimate, and therefore not so easily gladdened as the mother; so that it is the stronger praise of the wise son to say that not only the mother, but also the father, is gladdened by him. On the other hand, the mother is apt, through fondness, to ignore the errors of her son, and even to encourage them by indulgent connivance. The wise man admonishes her that she is laying up "heaviness" in store for herself.—Fausset.

After the previous general description of Wisdom, Solomon begins with what is uppermost in his own mind, What would be the character of his successor? What would become of his throne, his wealth, his people, after himself? See his melancholy forebodings in Pro ; Pro 17:25; Pro 19:13; Ecc 2:18, etc. Solomon has one son, and he is Rehoboam. This thought lies underneath many of the sayings in the Proverbs.—Wordsworth.

Every son should be an Abner, that is, his father's light, and every daughter an Abigail, her father's joy. Eve promised herself much in her Cain, and David did the like in his Absalom. But they were both deceived. Samuel succeeds Eli in his cross, though not in his sin. Virtue is not, as lands, inheritable. Let parents labour to mend by education what they have marred by propagation.—Trapp.

Do you hear this, young man? It is in your power to make your father glad, and God expects you to do it. Here is an object for your ambition, here is an investment that will ensure an immediate return. Come now, make your choice. Whether you will try to please these fools who banter you here, or to gladden your father's heart that is yearning for you there?… These companions that come between you and him—what have they done for you, and what would they do for you to-morrow, if you were in distress? They have never lost a night's rest by watching at your sick bed, and never will. But your father what has he done, and yet will do? The command of God is that you gladden your father and not grieve him. Your conscience countersigns that command now. Obey.—Arnot.


Verse 2

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE COMPARATIVE VALUE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND RICHES

I. Wealth when lawfully gotten is profitless for many very important things. Death is mentioned in the text, it has no power over that in any form.

1. Wealth will not deliver from the daily dying, which is the lot of all men. It has been said that as soon as we are born we begin to die, and we know that it is certain that as soon as men have attained their prime, their outward man perisheth day by day (2Co ). The richest man cannot purchase exemption from this law with all his wealth.

2. Neither can wealth prevent the death which we call premature. Men of vast fortunes are often brought down to an early grave; the seeds of disease within them hasten the operation of the law of death which has passed upon the whole human race. A galloping consumption cannot be held in check even with golden reins.

3. Treasures of wealth will not insure a man against sudden death. The morning finds the rich man looking over his vast acres, or counting up his dividends, and saying, "I have much good laid up for many years;" and before the sun sets another has entered into possession of all his riches.

4. Lawfully-gotten wealth will not only not deliver from premature death, but may sometimes bring it on. Wealth is very apt to produce very mistaken views in a man's mind. When he has amassed a large portion of this world's goods, and is in a condition of moral bankruptcy, he is very prone to imagine that he is secure in the enjoyment of all that he has acquired, and that nothing can come between his riches and himself. Then God may read him a lesson by saying. "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Luk ). Had the man in the parable been a poor man he would not have died so soon; his wealth not only could not deliver him from death, but it hastened his end. And many men walking in his footsteps have been brought to their graves in a similar manner and for a similar reason even when the wealth has been honestly gained. We have no reason to think that the rich fool amassed his riches dishonestly; his sin consisted, not in his having riches, but in his trusting in them.

II. If treasure gotten by honest toil is profitless to deliver from death and other evils, how much less will the "treasures of wickedness," i.e., ill-gotten wealth, be profitable to work such a deliverance. The means used to obtain it were opposed to the law of righteousness, which does rule in the universe notwithstanding all the apparent exceptions, and it is as foolish for a man to expect to derive real profit from it as it would be for a man to expect to construct a pyramid which would stand upon its apex. The latter would not be more contrary to natural law than the former is to spiritual law. And treasures of wickedness are not simply profitless, they bring the man who has them under the curse of the Righteous Ruler of the world. They not only bring no profit but they bring great loss. No man can make an unlawful bargain or commit any other dishonest act to gain money without bringing a blight upon his spiritual nature, without entailing upon himself moral death. And if the acquirement of "the treasures of wickedness" must subject a man to this greatest calamity, how impossible it is that they can be profitable to deliver from any lesser evil.

III. Righteousness, on the other hand—

1. Has often delivered from bodily death. All the extraordinary deliverances from death recorded in the Bible took place in connection with righteousness, thereby showing us that righteousness is stronger than death. Enoch did not see death because he was a righteous man. Noah and his family were exempted from the premature death which overtook the rest of the world for the same reason. All the resurrections from the dead were wrought either through the instrumentality of righteous men or by the immediate action of the righteous Son of God.

2. Does deliver always from the curse of bodily death. Death is the penalty of sin; it is therefore a curse. We read that "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law" (1Co ). But "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us" (Gal 3:13). We are justified by His righteousness if we appropriate it by faith (Rom 3:21-26), and thus obtain the "victory" over death "through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 15:57). Here a relative righteousness delivers from the condemnation of death. But this is the foundation of a personal and actual righteousness of character which delivers from spiritual death now, and will one day deliver the body from the grave. "If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the spirit of Him that raised up Christ from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom 8:10-11). Here Paul argues from the greater spiritual deliverance to the lesser bodily one, and shows how, in all senses, "righteousness delivers from death."

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The proverb means the treasures of an unsaved man.… The highest opulence of the dead sinner is of no possible profit: but the righteousness of the saved sinner, even without any opulence at all, is a fortune; for, like the "charm of the lamp," it makes for him everlasting blessedness.—Miller.

A man may seem to profit by them, and to come up wonderfully for a time. But what was the profit of Naboth's vineyard to Ahab, when in his ivory palace he was withering under the curse of God? (1Ki with 1Ki 22:39). What was the profit of the thirty pieces of silver to Judas? Instead of delivering from death, their intolerable sting plunged him into death eternal (Mat 27:5).—Bridges.

Righteousness delivereth from death, to wit, in the time of vengeance; for uprightness is that mark of election and life which the Lord, spying in any when He plagueth the wicked for their transgressions, spareth them, and preserveth them from destruction. Thus, although the righteousness of the just person deserveth nothing at God's hands, neither is any cause of man's preservation or salvation, yet it serveth as a sovereign treacle to preserve the evil-doer from that deadly plague, which is sent from the Lord to destroy the disobedient, and as a letter of passport to safe-conduct the faithful person in perilous times, and to protect him from all dangers.—Muffet.

Observe—

I. The excellency of these comforts in themselves. They are treasures—that is, heaps of outward good things. The word includeth a multitude, for one or two will not make a treasure; and a multitude of precious things, for a heap of sand, or coals, or dust, is not a treasure: but of silver or gold, or some excellent earthly things. It is here in the plural, treasures, noting the greatest confluence of worldly comforts.

II. The impiety of the owners. They are treasures of wickedness. The purchaser got them by sinful practices. They were brought into his house slily at some back door. He was both the receiver and the thief. Treasures of wickedness, because gotten by wicked ways, and employed to wicked ends. There is an English proverb which too many Englishmen have made good, "That which is got over the devil's back is usually spent under the devil's belly. When sin is the parent that begets riches it many times hath this recompense, that they are wholly at its service and command.

III. The vanity of those treasures: they profit nothing. They are unable to cheer the mind, to cure the diseases of the body, much less to heal the wounds of the soul, or to bribe the flames of hell. Alas! they are so far from profiting, that they are infinitely prejudicial. Such powder-masters are blown up with their own ware. These loads sink the bearer into the unquenchable lake. Aristotle tells us of the sea-mew, or sea-eagle, that she will often seize on her prey, though it be more than she can bear, and falleth down headlong with it into the deep, and so perisheth. This fowl is a fit emblem of the unrighteous person, for he graspeth those heavy possessions which press him down into the pit of perdition. "They that will be rich (that resolve on it, whether God will or no, and by any means, whether right or wrong), fall into temptations, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (1Ti ). Men that scrape an estate together unjustly are frequently said in the Word of God to get it in haste, because such will not stay God's time, nor wait in His way till He send them wealth, but must have it presently, and care not though it be unrighteously. Fair and softly goes far. None thrive so well as those that stay God's leisure, and expect wealth in His way.…

1. Be righteous in thy works or actions. Deal with men as one that in all hath to do with God. If thou art a Christian, thou art a law to thyself; thou hast not only a law without thee (the Word of God), but a law within thee, and so darest not transgress. Thy double hedge may well prevent thy wandering.… Be righteous in buying.… Take heed lest thou layest out thy money to purchase endless misery. Some have bought places to bury their bodies in, but more have bought those commodities which have swallowed up their souls. Injustice in buying is a canker which will eat up and waste the most durable wares. In buying, do not work either upon the ignorance or the poverty of the seller. Be righteous in selling. Be careful, while thou sellest thy wares to men, that thou dost not sell thy soul to Satan. Be righteous in the substance of what thou sellest, and that in regard of its quality and quantity. God can see the rottenness of thy stuffs, and heart too, under thy false glosses, and for all thy false lights. Be righteous in regard to the quantity. They wrong themselves most who wrong others of their right. The jealous God is very punctual in this particular (Lev ).

2. Be righteous in thy words and expressions, as well as in thy works. The Christian's tongue should be his heart's interpreter, and reveal its mind and meaning; and the Christian's hand should justify his tongue, by turning his words into deeds. The burgess of the new Jerusalem is known by this livery: "He walketh uprightly, worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart; he sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not" (Psa ; Psa 15:4). His speech is the natural and genuine offspring of his heart; there is a great resemblance between the child and the parent. There is a symmetry between his hand and his tongue; he is slow to promise, not hasty to enter into bonds, but being once engaged, he will be sure to perform.—Swinnock.

Wickedness is in itself a treasure laid up against the day of wrath; and as that profiteth nothing, so neither do the treasures of wickedness. For as he that setteth himself to any employment, perhaps may lose one way and get another, but if, in the general upshot and confusion, he finds his estate to be bettered, then is his employment said to be profitable; so in the treasures of wickedness, there may be gain of wealth, honour, pleasure, and loss of credit, quiet, comfort, but in the conclusion the loss will be most grievous, and therefore profitable they cannot be.—Jermin.


Verse 3-4

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . The soul of the righteous, literally, "the spirit of the righteous." But He casteth away, etc. Zckler and Delitzsch here read, "but the craving of the wicked He disappointeth." Miller thus translates the whole verse: "Jehovah will not starve the righteous appetite, but the craving of the wicked He will thrust away."

Pro . Dealeth, rather, "worketh.

Pro . Zckler and most commentators translate the second clause of this verse, "the mouth of the wicked hideth or covereth violence or iniquity." Stuart reads, "the mouth of the wicked concealeth injury." Miller adheres nearly to the authorised version, and understands it to mean that "wrong shuts up all chance of feast and comfort." It will be observed, that this latter reading renders the clause antithetical to the former part of the verse, which is not the case with the other renderings.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Pro

DIVINE AND HUMAN PROVIDENCE

I. A general rule. God supplies all the needs of His children (Pro ). We take the word soul here to mean what it often does in the Old Testament, viz., the bodily life, and, therefore, understand the promise to be similar to that in Psa 33:19, etc. God's special providential care is over the righteous. This we should have expected if this and like promises did not exist. The animal creation, as a rule, care and provide for their own offspring. There are men and women who have fallen so low as not to care for the well-being of those dependent on them, but wherever there is any virtue left in human beings it will certainly manifest itself in making some efforts to secure from want those who are nearly related to them and dependent upon them. God has laid it as a charge upon His creatures to care for the bodily wants of their children, and He has implanted within men and women an instinct which is generally strong enough to lead them to do it. It is an apostolic sentence—"If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (1Ti 5:8). God has taught us that the righteous are bound to Him by a closer tie than we are bound to each other by flesh and blood relationships. "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven," said Christ, "the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Mat 12:50). He was more nearly related to His disciples than to those of His brethren who did not believe on Him. They were Christ's "own" (Joh 13:1) in a sense in which other men were not, and He provided for their necessities because they held this special relation to Him. God has a general care for all that He has made. He cares for the life of the tiniest wild flower, and feeds it with light and moisture according to its need. "He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry" (Psa 147:9). He maketh His sun to shine and His rain to fall upon the fields of the unjust, and is kind to the unthankful and the evil (Luk 6:35). Then it follows from necessity that He, the Righteous Father, will not suffer the souls of the "righteous" to famish. When ordinary means will not meet their need, He will employ special means to do so. There are many instances upon record in the history of God's Church in which, the supply not being obtainable within the ordinary working of His providence, He has gone into the region of the supernatural for sustenance for His children.

II. Special exceptions to this rule If we understand these words as referring to the bodily life, we must admit that there have been exceptions to it. Some of God's children have suffered from want, some have starved to death in dungeons because they have been righteous. But these special exceptions have been for special ends. Solomon's father, when he was hunted by Saul, was doubtless often in want of food, but this severe discipline fitted him for the position he was afterwards to occupy as the King of Israel. Paul tells us that he was often "in hunger and thirst, in fastings, in cold and nakedness" (2Co ), but he likewise tells us that he "gloried in tribulation," because it "worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope," etc. (Rom 5:3-4). Whenever there are partial or entire exceptions to this rule, we may rest assured that those who are the subjects of the exceptions have their material loss more than made up to them.

III. Special relationship to God will not secure exemption from want unless the necessary conditions are fulfilled. "He," whether saint or sinner, "becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand" (Pro ). If a godly man is not diligent in business, he will come to want as certainly as an ungodly one. God's children are not exempt from the working of the natural and providential laws of the world in which they live. If they transgress any physical law, they must pay the penalty. The disregard of any such law is a "tempting of the Lord their God" (Mat 4:5-7). And what is true of physical laws is true of providential laws. If a husbandman is ever so prayerful and trustful, he will not have a crop in harvest unless he works hard in the days of ploughing and sowing. And the most spiritually-minded tradesman will not earn a living unless he gives due attention to his business. "God's promises were never made to ferry our laziness" (Beecher). It is sheer presumption to expect God to give us our daily bread if we neglect to do all within our power to earn it. Even in Paradise nature would not yield her treasure without diligence on the part of man. Adam was to "till the ground," to "dress and keep" the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:5-15). And this dependence of success upon diligence is—

1. Good for the man himself. He has bodily and mental powers which cannot be developed without constant exercise.

2. Good for others. A man who does not bring all his powers into play defrauds society of the benefit it might receive from his latent abilities.

IV. When the conditions of growing rich are fulfilled by unrighteous men, the wealth attained by diligence shall be taken away by justice. Riches and poverty are comparative terms; it is certainly not true that every diligent man makes a fortune; probably Solomon means no more than that diligence always brings some amount of reward. However that may be, we must put the declaration "The hand of the diligent maketh rich" side by side with that in the preceding verse, "He casteth away the substance of the wicked." The professional thief exercises a diligence which is not surpassed by many honest men, if by any. He deals with no slack hand, and he generally succeeds in getting rich for a time. But if he is diligent, the detective officer is vigilant, and the substance he has gathered will one day be scattered by the hand of justice. And there are many unprofessional thieves in the world who gain their riches by means quite as unlawful as their professional brethren, although they sail under other colours. Substance thus obtained is as surely marked by God for scattering as that of the housebreaker or highwayman, although He sometimes delays long the apprehension of the culprit. Against all such the sentence has gone forth, "Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown; yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and He shall also blow upon them and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble" (Isa ). There are three reasons why wealth, which has been gathered by unrighteous diligence, should be scattered.

1. Such unrighteous dealing is a sin against God. It is a defiance of the eighth and tenth commandments, for all men who get rich unlawfully must both covet and steal. When God's "thou shalt not" is thus disregarded, we may be certain that He will vindicate His right to give laws to His creatures.

2. It is a sin against man. Such a man's diligence must have caused much misery to many of his fellow-creatures. Men cannot satisfy lawless desires without bringing unhappiness on others.

3. Wealth unlawfully gained is sure to be made an instrument of oppression. Wealth always gives some amount of power, and he who has trampled on the rights of others to get riches will be sure to use them for their oppression when he has obtained them. Pro may be applied spiritually. If material good cannot be obtained without diligence, most assuredly spiritual blessings cannot (2Pe 1:5; 2Pe 1:10, etc.). It is as necessary for the spiritual powers to be kept in constant exercise, if they are to be healthy and strong, as it is for the body or the mind. The needs of others as well as our own demand diligence in spiritual things. And whatever exceptions there may be in the rule in relation to material good, this higher wealth will always be in proportion to the diligent use of means.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Should the wicked be permitted to hold their substance all their days, Death, that terrible messenger, shall at last drag them from it; nor shall their glory descend after them to the grave, but that wickedness by which they acquired it shall lie down with them in the dust and torture their souls in hell.—Lawson.

The substance of the wicked is "of the earth, earthy." It pertains not to the soul, and partakes not of its imperishable vitality. O the miserable but sadly common mistake of the rich man in the parable, when he addressed his soul in terms of congratulation, as if, in the abundance of worldly good, it had got what would give it real and permanent satisfaction (Luk ). "Casting it away" is an act indicative of regarding it as worthless. The substance of this world is that on which the hearts of the sons of men are set. But "God will cast it away." He will not only bereave them of it—and that, it may be, suddenly—but what is there in all this substance that can avail as purchase money for the soul and for heaven? Had a man "the world" to offer, God would "cast it away." He would say, "Thy money perish with thee!" "Riches profit not in the day of wrath." The famished soul must then die, and die for ever.—Wardlaw.

As the end of the former verse must chiefly be understood of spiritual death, because temporarily the righteous die as well as the wicked, so, with St. Jerome, I understand this of a spiritual famine. Now, as the course that is needful to preserve the body is so to nourish it that it may neither be glutted with fulness nor pined with emptiness, but in such sort to feed it that it may still have appetite for food, the same is the care which Almighty God taketh of the soul's health; for He so feedeth the righteous that He will not suffer them to famish, and yet He doth not so fill them as that they do not hunger and thirst after righteousness. The time of fulness is heaven, where, as there will be no danger of sickness to the soul, so no lack of plenty.—Jermin.

It might be objected, If I strain not my conscience I may starve for it. Fear not that, saith the wise man. Faith fears not famine. Necessaries thou shalt be sure of (Psa ; Psa 34:15); superfluities thou art not to stand upon (1Ti 6:8).—Trapp.

Pro . "The diligent" (Hebrew, charutzim, from charatz, to cut short, or settle); those who are decisive in all things, who economise their time and means—prompt in movement.—Fausset.

Riches were first bestowed upon the world as they are still continued in it, by the blessing of God upon the industry of men, in the use of their understanding and strength.—Bishop Butler.

The Lord's visits of favour were never given to loiterers. Moses and the shepherds of Bethlehem were keeping their flocks (Exo ; Luk 2:8-9). Gideon was at the threshing-floor (Jud 6:11). "Our idle days," as Bishop Hall observes, "are Satan's busy days." Active employment gives us a ready answer to his present temptation. "I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down" (Neh 6:3).—Bridges.

Not only will God provide for the wise, but wisdom itself is a provision. "The hand of the diligent makes riches," even if it earn little; the meaning being that active work is itself a treasure; or, passing into the realm of piety, which is the one intended, he is a poor man who is a sluggard in his soul's work, and a rich man who is awake and active. Our treasure is within. "My meat is," said our Great Exemplar, "to do the will of Him that sent me." And on our dying bed our money will be of small account, but our work will be the splendid fortune that will follow the believer (Rev ).—Miller.

The advantages of virtuous industry.

1. The industrous man performs and accomplishes many things which are profitable to himself and others in numberless respects. Let his station be never so humble, yet that which he does in it has influence more or less upon all other stations. If he completely fulfil his duty, every other can more completely fulfil his. Let the faculties, the endowments of a man be never so confined, yet by continued uninterrupted application he can perform much, often far more than he who with eminent powers of intellect is slothful or indolent.

2. He executes them with far more ease and dexterity than if he were not industrious. He has no need of any long previous contest with himself, of long previous consideration how he shall begin the work, or whether he shall begin it at all. But he attacks the business with alacrity and spirit and pursues it with good-will.

3. He unfolds, exercises, perfects his mental powers. And this he does alike in every vocation; because it is not of so much consequence to what we apply our intellectual faculties, as how we employ them. Whether we apply them to the government of a nation or to the learning and exercise of some useful trade makes no material difference. But to learn to think methodically and justly, to act as rational beings, with consideration and fixed principles, to do what we have to do deliberately, carefully, punctiliously, conscientiously, that is the main concern. Virtuous diligence is a continual exercise of the understanding, of reason, of reflection, of self-command.

4. The industrious man lives in the entire true intimate consciousness of himself. He rejoices in his life, his faculties, his endowments, his time. He can give an account of the use and application of them and can therefore look back upon the past with satisfaction and into the future without disquietude.

5. He experiences neither languor nor irksomeness. He who really loves work can never be wanting in means and opportunities for it. To him every occupation is agreeable, even though it procure him no visible profit.

6. He alone knows the pleasures of rest for he alone really wants it, he alone has deserved it, he alone can enjoy it without reproach. 7. The industrious man alone fulfils the design for which he is placed on earth, and can boldly give an account to God, to his fellow-creatures, and to himself how he has spent his life.—Zollikofer.

This rule applies alike to the business of life and the concerns of the soul. Diligence is necessary to the laying-up of treasures, either within or beyond the reach of rust.… A world bringing forth fruit spontaneously might have suited a sinless race, but it would be unsuitable for mankind as they now are. If all men had plenty without labour, the world would not be fit for living in. In every country and under every kind of government, the unemployed are the most dangerous classes. Thus the necessity of labour has become a blessing to man.… It would be a libel upon the Divine economy to imagine that the tender plant of grace would thrive in a sluggard's garden. The work is difficult. The times are bad. He who would gain in godliness must put his soul into the business. But he who puts his soul into the business will grow rich. Labour laid out here is not lost. Those who strive lawfully will win a kingdom. When all counts are closed, he who is rich in faith is the richest man.—Arnot.


Verse 5

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE USE AND THE NEGLECT OF OPPORTUNITIES

I. Man has opportunities given to him which it is a mark of wisdom to embrace.

1. He has the literal and temporal summer. When the harvest is ripe the reaper must take down his sickle and toil at the ingathering of the grain if he would have bread to eat in the days of winter. The fisherman must spread his net in the season when the fish are abundant and watch his opportunity to catch the passing shoal. The merchant must take advantage of the flood-tide of commercial prosperity to make money so that he may not be brought to bankruptcy in times of depression. These things cannot be done at any time, but the opportune time must be laid hold of and improved.

2. He has a mental summer. Youth is the season usually given to man to develop his mental faculties and lay up stores of knowledge for use in after life. Those who embrace this season and industriously improve it, that "gather" in this "summer," are "wise sons," and reap an abundant reward in the time of manhood and old age.

3. He has an opportunity given to lay the foundation of a godly character. The season of youth is most favourable for this work. The youthful mind is more susceptible of moral impressions than those of a man who has grown to manhood without yielding to their influence. The young tree can be easily trained to grow in the desired direction, but it is impossible to bend the trunk when it has acquired any degree of strength. So it is comparatively easy to form habits of godly thought and action when we are young, although by the power of God's grace it is not impossible at any time. He who subjects his will to the Great Teacher in his early days will enjoy an abundant blessing in old age from this "gathering in summer."

II. He who neglects thus to improve his opportunities is—

1. Likened to a man who sleeps through the season of harvest. He sets one blessing of God in opposition to the other. Toil and rest are both Divine ordinances, and both are good and blessed in their season. Sleep is felt to be an incalculable boon at the end of each day of toil. The rest of the Sabbath is a priceless gift of God, and is needed to renew both body and mind after the six days' labour. Longer seasons of rest are good and needful at certain periods of life, and it is a sin against God not to use the ordinary opportunities of rest which are given to all, or ought to be, or to refuse to make use of extraordinary opportunities when they are given to us by the providence of God. But this is quite a different thing from making life a time of indolence—from neglecting to do work either belonging to the body, mind, or spirit; which, if done at all, can only be done in the given opportunity, or cannot be done so well at any other time.

2. Such a sleeping in harvest brings shame—

(1) To the man himself. He is accused by his own conscience. Conscience will recognise the authority of God's institutions, and the lazy man will be brought to feel that he is out of harmony with the Divine ordinations which govern the world. A time will come in his experience when he will feel the want of the material good, or of the knowledge, or of the favour of God, which he would have possessed if he had used his opportunities, and his poverty in one or all of these respects will make him ashamed when he compares himself with those who "gathered in summer."

(2) It brings shame upon others. No man can suffer alone for his own sin. Those related to him suffer also in proportion to the nearness of their relationship and to the affection which they bear to him. The son who fritters away the season of youthful opportunity disgraces his parents. By-and-by he becomes a father, and his children partake of his shame. The whole subject reminds us that bare admission into the Divine family is not the end, but the beginning of a Divine life. There must be a "gathering" ever going on. "And beside this" (see Pro ), "giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity" (2Pe 1:5-7).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Look at the large harvest of opportunity in labouring for God. The great and diversified machinery of religious societies, needing direction and energy; the mass of fellow sinners around us, claiming our sympathy and helpfulness. "While we have time, let us do good" (Gal ). How high is the privilege of gathering with Christ in such a harvest! (Mat 12:30). How great the shame of doing nothing, where there is so much to be done! What a harvest also is the present "accepted time" (2Co 6:2). Mark the abundance of the means of grace, the living verdure of the gospel. Can I bear the thought of that desponding cry of eternal remorse—"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved?" (Jer 8:20).—Bridges.

The opportunity is in all matters carefully to be observed. He gathereth in summer who, redeeming the time, maketh his best advantage of the season; for the summer is that fit season wherein the fruits are got into the barn for the whole year following. He that thus in due season provideth for his body or soul, is worthily called a son of understanding, or a wise man; for he hath not only prudently foreseen what is best to be done, but wisely took the occasioned offered unto his best advantage. On the contrary side, he sleepeth in harvest who fondly letteth slip the most convenient means or opportunity of doing or receiving good. Such a one is a son of confusion, that is to say, one that shall be ashamed or confounded, by reason of the want or misery whereunto he shall fall through his own folly.—Muffett.

The use of the word "son" in both clauses implies that the work of the vine-dresser and the plough had been done by the father. All that the son is called to do is to enter into the labours of others, and reap where they have sown.—Plumptre.

As the former verse commendeth labour and pains and therein diligence, so this commendeth the diligence of watchfulness, in taking opportunity and not omitting it. For there may be much labouring, but there will be little benefit, unless there be a gathering in summer. The taking of pains may show a mind to gather, but the unseasonableness of the pains will not show the wisdom of the mind.—Jermin.

I. God affords opportunities for good. In this view we may regard the whole period of life.

1. You are blessed with a season of gospel grace while many are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, upon you hath the light shined.

2. You have a season of civil and religious liberty. What advantage do we possess above many of our ancestors who suffered for conscience sake! They laboured, and we have entered into their labours.

3. Who has not experienced a day of trouble?

4. Where is the person who does not know what we mean by a season of conviction?

II. I would enforce upon you the necessity of diligence to improve your reaping season.

1. Consider how much you have to accomplish. The salvation of the soul is a great—an arduous concern. Religion is a race, and you must run; it is a warfare, and you must fight. The blessings of the gospel are free, but they are to be sought, and gained.

2. Consider the worth of the blessings which demand your attention.… Is it not desirable to be redeemed from the curse of the law; to be justified freely from every charge brought against us at the bar of God; to be delivered from the tyranny and rage of vicious appetites and passions? Great is the happiness of the good here; but who can describe the exalted glory and joy that await them hereafter?

3. Remember that your labour will not be in vain in the Lord. The husbandman has many uncertainties to contend with, but probability stimulates him; how much more should actual certainty encourage you.

4. Remember that your season for action is limited and short. Harvest does not last long. Your time is uncertain as well as short.

5. Reflect upon the consequences of negligence. Is a man blamed for sleeping in harvest? Does every one reproach him as a fool? You act a part more absurd and fatal, who neglect this great salvation. Having made no provision for eternity, your ruin is unavoidable. It will also be insupportable.—Jay.


Verse 6-7

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro ; Pro 10:11

THE WAY TO PRESENT BLESSEDNESS AND FUTURE FAME

We connect the first and last of these verses, because the latter clause in both is the same.

I. Opposite characters revealed by a great contrast in speech (Pro ). When a righteous man opens his mouth, it is as if the cover was removed from a pure, clear well of water. He has no evil intentions to conceal: his words are an index to his heart. By them men may read his thoughts with the same ease as they can see what is at the bottom of a clear spring of water. There is medicinal virtue in them—they heal as well as refresh the spirits of men. What a well of life have the words of Christ been for centuries to millions of the human race. But a wicked man cannot let all the thoughts of his heart be laid open to the light of day. His "mouth conceals injury" (see Critical Notes). He has plans which are not devised for the good of his fellow-creatures, and he must use his words not to reveal, but to hide what is in his mind. And if he lets his tongue loose, and permits his thoughts to flow out into words, they do not bless his hearers, but are like a poisonous stream, carrying moral death wherever they flow.

II. Character yields a present blessing or a present curse. "Blessings are upon the head of the righteous," etc. A man's present comfort within himself, and the inheritance of good-will he now receives from his fellow-men, as well as the favour of God, are all dependent upon what he is in his character. The kingdom of heaven is now inherited by him. All the beatitudes uttered by our Lord speak of a present blessedness. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," etc. The opposite truth is not expressed, but it is implied. Curses, not blessings, are the present inheritance of the man whose "mouth is covered by violence."

III. Character determines the nature of our future fame (Pro ).

1. The memory of the righteous is blessed, because what they did upon the earth is the means of bringing blessings upon others after they are gone. Many a son has received kindness for the sake of the righteousness of his father. God blesses the children for the father's sake. "I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes" (1Ki ). "Fear not," said God to Isaac, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake (Gen 26:24). Cyrus was raised up to deliver Israel for Jacob's sake (Isa 45:4). Men can but bless the memory of those whose past godliness is the means of bringing blessings upon them in the present.

2. The just man's memory is blessed because he leaves behind him reproductions of his own character. All life will reproduce itself. After a tree has decayed and gone to dust, others will be in full life and vigour that were seedlings of the old tree. Intellectual life is reproductive. The man of mighty genius leaves disciples to carry out his ideas after he is gone. Good men are the parents of good children, or make other men good by their words and lives. "They that dwell under his shadow shall return," and "they shall grow as the vine" (Hos ). The good must be held in blessed remembrance so long as there are those upon earth who are the reproductions of their character.

3. The memory of some is blessed because they did deeds which never can be reproduced by others—which have left a fragrance behind them which can never be repeated. The one act of Abraham, when he prepared to offer up Isaac at God's command, can never be repeated; but is the one which, above all his other acts of faith, causes him to be held in everlasting remembrance. And so it has been with many of the leaders of the Church in all ages. They have performed acts of godly heroism which we cannot imitate, but of which we reap the reward, and for which we bless their memory. Especially is this true of Him who is pre-eminently the Holy One and the Just, whose glorious "name is blessed for ever" (Psa ), because "He endured the cross and despised the shame." But the converse of all this is the lot of the wicked. We can but remember them when we are brought face to face with the evil they have left behind them; but we turn from the remembrance as we turn from some offensive putrid object, while the memory of the just is as a sweet savour. Contrast the feelings with which Christendom now regards the emperors of Rome and the fishermen of Galilee.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Not one, but many blessings are on the head of the righteous: the blessing of peace, the blessing of plenty, the blessing of health, and the blessing of grace, shall be upon them. The precious ointment of the Lord's favour or blessing shall so be poured upon their heads as that it shall not here stay, but run down to the rest of the members of their bodies, and enter into their very hearts.—Muffet.

"Blessings:" not simply good things, but good things bestowed by another; not simply good things bestowed by another, but divinely bestowed as sacred benedictions. "Blessings" are for the righteous exclusively; that is, for no one else. "For the head;" not the mouth, not the hand; because often without either's agency. "On his head;" because unconsciously, and sometimes even when asleep.—Miller.

Pro . The memory of the just is blessed

(1) because of his winning friendship;

(2) because of his unfeigned piety;

(3) because of his steadfast patience;

(4) because of his noble, public-spirited activity.—Ziegler, from Lange's Commentary.

And what signifies an empty name? It brings honour to God, and prolongs the influence of his good example who has left it. His good works not only follow him, but live behind him. As Jeroboam made Israel to sin after he was dead, so the good man helps to make others holy whilst he is lying in the grave. Should it so happen that his character is mistaken in the world, or should his name die out among men, it shall yet be had in everlasting remembrance before God; for never shall those names be erased from the Lamb's book of life, which were written in it from the foundation of the world.—Lawson.

Not what he remembers, but what is remembered of him. He blesses after he is dead. So does the wicked, but, like most other growths in nature, by his decay. "Name;" that which is known of a man. The "name of God" is that which may be known of God. "The memory of the righteous," viz., of the Church of God, is that which propagates her, and causes her to hand down her strength. Our walk about Zion, our telling her towers, our marking her bulwarks, is for this grand aim, among the rest, that we may tell to the generation following (Psa ).—Miller.

I. The memory of the just is blessed, self-evidently so, for the mind blesses it and reverts to it with complacency, mingled with solemnity,—returns to it with delight from the sight of the living evil in the world, sometimes even prefers this silent society to the living good. They show in a most evident and pleasing manner the gracious connection which God has constantly maintained with a sinful world. His uninterrupted connection with it by justice and sovereign power has been manifest in mighty evidence: but His saints have been the peculiar illustration of His grace, His mercy, acting on this world. II. It is so, when we consider them as practical illustrations, verifying examples of the exellence of genuine religion; that it is a noble thing in human nature, and makes, and alone makes, that nature noble;—that, whatever scoffers may say, or the vain world pretend to disbelieve, here is what has made such men as nothing else, under heaven, could or can. III. Their memory is blessed while we regard them as diminishing to our view the repulsiveness and horror of death. Our Lord's dying was the fact that threw out the mightiest agency to this effect. But, in their measure, His faithful disciples have done the same. When we contemplate them as having prepared for it with a calm resolution—as having approached it—multitudes with a calm resignation and fortitude, and very many with an animated exultation;—as having passed it, and emerged in brightness beyond its gloom—they seem to shine back through the gloom, and make the shade less thick. IV. It is blessed, also, as combined with the whole progress of God upon the earth,—with its living agency throughout every stage. He has never, and nowhere, had a visible cause in the world, without putting men in trust with it.… Think of what men have been employed and empowered to do in the propagation of truth, in the incessant warfare against evil, in the exemplification of all the virtues by which he could be honoured.—John Foster.

Pro . A Church is but a body of righteous men. What would the world do without the Church? The influences of a Church, and that a land is ruined without a Church, and that one generation hands on the worship of God to another, all are illustrations on a grand scale of how the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. A good man will constantly be doing good to others. But "wrong covers the mouth of the wicked," so that he can give no blessing; so keeps him from any possible usefulness, that he cannot utter good, or make his mouth, as the righteous can, "a fountain of life" to all about him.—Miller.

In a hot summer's day I was sailing with a friend in a tiny boat on a miniature lake, enclosed like a cup within a circle of steep, bare Scottish hills. On the shoulders of the brown, sun-burnt mountain, and full in sight, was a well, with a crystal stream trickling over its lip, and making its way down towards the lake. Around the well's mouth, and along the course of the rivulet, a belt of green stood out in strong contrast with the iron surface of the rock all around. "What do you make of that?" said my friend, who had both an open eye to read the book of Nature and a heart all aglow with its lessons of love. We soon agreed as to what should be made of it. It did not need us to make it into anything. There it was, a legend clearly printed by the finger of God on the side of these silent hills, teaching the passer-by how needful a good man is, and how useful he may be in a desert world.… The Lord looks down, and men look up, expecting to see a fringe of living green around the lip of a Christian's life-course.—Arnot.


Verse 8

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE DOER AND THE TALKER

I. A definition of a wise man. He is one that "will receive commandments." The reception of commandments implies a commander, and a willingness to obey his laws. The wise man is willing to obey good laws even at the expense of some self-sacrifice, because he has a strong conviction of the benefits that will arise from submission. The laws which govern a well-ordered State will not be irksome to a right-minded citizen. He feels that submission to them will bring only comfort to him. The yoke will bring ease, and he proves that he is a wise man by accepting it. The commandments here are the commandments of Jehovah. He only is a truly wise man who is willing to submit his will to the Divine will, to take upon himself the yoke of Him whose "yoke is easy" (Mat ), who is the Lawgiver who "makes free indeed" (Joh 8:36). He obeys His commandments from the full conviction of the benefits and blessings which flow from keeping them. He knows that the obedience must come before the comfort, that Incarnate Wisdom has placed the commandment first, and then the reward "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you" (Joh 15:14). He can say, from past experience concerning the Divine commands, "In keeping of them there is great reward" (Psa 19:11), and the blessedness that he has tasted he knows to be but the earnest of what is to be in the future, and therefore he is willing to sacrifice present advantage and worldly ease to obedience to them. He is like the trader who has received a sample of a rich cargo from a distant land, and who is so convinced of the value of the whole from that which has come to hand, that he is willing to undergo any present privation in order to become its possessor. The Son of God likened such an one to "a wise man, which built his house upon a rock," for it is evident that to "receive" commandments is here equivalent to "doing" them (Mat 7:24).

II. A distinguishing mark of a fool. He is a prater. He is one who is willing to talk, but not to act; willing to give out words, but not to receive instruction; and therefore he is one who can give out nothing by speech that is worth giving. Unless the earth receives good seed into its bosom, it cannot give out "seed to the sower and bread to the eater. Unless a man receives into his heart the good seed of the kingdom, he can never bring forth moral fruit" (Mat ), and he can never do more than prate about spiritual truths. There are many words but no meat. There is only one Being in the universe who can be a giver without first being a receiver, and that is God. Outside of Him, all must receive of His fulness if they would be anything more than mere talkers on eternal realities. All such men are fools. "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (1Co 1:20.)

III. The end of such a mere talker. He shall fall.

1. In the estimation of those whom he pretends to instruct. No men are so prone to assume the office of instructors as men who are ignorant, but such men cannot long hold a place in the estimation of others.

2. He shall fall into deeper folly. Those who refuse to receive that Divine commandment which will make them truly wise, must sink lower and lower in sinful folly. The longer he refuses the offered wisdom, and refuses to put his neck under the yoke of God's commandments, the heavier will grow the chains of sinful habit, and the more firmly will they be riveted.

3. He shall fall into righteous retribution. This will be proportionate to the opportunities he has had of receiving wisdom. "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell" (Mat ).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

A fool is in nothing sooner and better recognised than in his conversation.—Geier.

It is striking how often Solomon dwells upon sins of the tongue; no member is so hard to control; none more surely indicates the man.—Fausset.

The heart is the seat of true wisdom, and a teachable spirit is the best proof of its influence. For who that knows himself would not be thankful for further light. No sooner, therefore, do the commandments come down from heaven, than the well-instructed Christian receives them, like his father Abraham (Heb , Gen 22:1-3), with undisputing simplicity; welcomes the voice of his heavenly teacher (1Sa 3:10, Act 10:33, Psa 27:8; Psa 143:10), and when he knows that "it is the Lord, girds himself" with all the ardour of the disciple to be found at his feet (Joh 21:2-7). But look at the professor of religion destitute of this heart-seated wisdom. We find him a man of creeds and doctrines, not of prayer; asking curious questions rather than listening to plain truths; wanting to know events rather than duties; occupied with other men's business to the neglect of his own (Luk 13:23-24; 1Ti 5:13).—Bridges.

It is one of the marks of true wisdom, and none of the least, that it is not self-sufficient and self-willed. This is the evident import of the former part of this verse. We might consider the disposition in reference both to God and to men—to the Supreme Ruler and Lord of the conscience,—and to existing human authorities. The "wise in heart will receive" God's "commandments." This, true wisdom will do implicitly. It will never presume on dictating to God, or on altering and amending His prescriptions; but, proceeding on the self-evident principle that the dictates of Divine Wisdom must in all cases be perfect, will bow in instant acquiescence. With regard also to earthly superiors, a humble submission to legitimate authority, both in the family and in the State, is the province of wisdom. There is a self-conceit that spurns at all such authority. It talks as if it would legislate for all nations. It would give commandments rather than receive them. It likes not being dictated to. It plumes itself on its skill in finding fault. There is no rule prescribed at which it does not carp, no proposal in which it does not see something not to its mind, no order in which it does not find something to which it cannot submit. This is folly, for, were this temper of mind prevalent, there would be an end to all subordination and control. The prating fool, or the fool of lips, may be understood in two ways. First, the self-conceited are generally superficial. There is much talk and little substance: words without sense: plenty of tongue, but a lack of wit. Light matter floats on the surface, and appears to all; what is solid and precious lies at the bottom. The foam is on the face of the waters; the pearl is below. Or, secondly, the reference may be to the bluster of insubordination; the loud protestations and boasting of his independence on the part of a man who resists authority, and determines to be "a law to himself."—Wardlaw.

The word "commandments" (E. V.), might often be translated "laws." One set of passages would just change words with another. The word translated "commandments" means primarily "something fixed." It answers to the New Testament "law" (Rom ), and is adapted to the reasonings of the apostles. "He of the wise heart" means the truly wise. He of the fool heart might seem good for the rest of the sentence. But a deep philosophy reminds the inspired man that men are not such fools as to believe in sin, as the pardoned Christian does in holiness. They know a great deal more than they either act or utter. A vast deal of the worldliness of men is a mere lip service, like that to the Almighty. And, knowing that the lost man is aware of his perdition, and has been told his folly, the proverb does not account him a fool in his deep sense, so much as superficially, and in the mad actings of his folly. In his heart he knows he is deceived. In his lips he is constantly deceiving himself. In his acts he keeps up a fictitious life.—Miller.


Verse 9-10

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Be known, i.e., "be made known," or, discovered.

Pro . For second clause, see on Pro 10:6.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Pro

OPPOSITE CHARACTERS

I. He who walketh uprightly.

1. Is a restorer of an ancient path. The way of uprightness is much older than the human race, and was originally the only way Known in the universe to intelligent and moral creatures. Uprightness is as old as God. Crooked walking is of the creature and but of yesterday compared with uprightness. He who walks uprightly is a restorer of the breach made in heaven, and re-establishes the old paths (Jer ) of righteousness upon earth. The way of uprightness was the way in which man walked in Eden. In Eden also man lost this way by entering the by-path of transgression and thus ceased to walk with God. The man that walks uprightly is a restorer of man's ancient dignity as a walker with God. He shall "be called a repairer of the breach, a restorer of paths to dwell in" (Isa 58:12). A man who reopened up some ancient and important highway to a great city would be regarded by the citizens as a benefactor; how much more ought he to be held in esteem whose life reveals this ancient highway of holiness, who by his uprightness becomes himself a way to others.

2. He obeys an ancient command. "When Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect"—upright (Gen ). Often the great want of a partially-civilised country is a straight and level road, by which commerce can easily find its way to the central city, and a royal edict is sometimes issued that such a road should be made. The great want of the world in the day when this command was given to Abram was an example of uprightness in a human life. The need of the world in this direction is still great, and the ancient command given to the patriarch is still in force.

3. His walking is not limited to the present life. He walks in the same way after death as before it. "He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness" (Isa ). Heaven has no better way of walking than the way of uprightness, and death will not make any change in the moral characteristics of the godly man, except to intensify and strengthen them. The death of the seed-corn will not be the means of giving birth to a different kind of seed, but only of making an increase of the same kind. Death is needful, not to change one thing for another, but to make much out of little. Death will bring heaven to the godly and upright, but it can give nothing to an upright man better than his uprightness, but this it can do, it can render him more entirely and completely upright. Hence the path of the upright is a path which death cannot end—a path which, begun to be trodden in time, will be continued in throughout eternity. The happiness of the human creatures who make up a family, or a larger community, will depend very much upon the uprightness of each member. Heaven's blessedness springs from the perfectly upright character of each citizen of that perfect city.

4. His upright walk is sure, or safe, because it is preservative of character. Uprightness is to character what salt is to food. He who walks uprightly can never become less godly and righteous, but must of necessity become more and more so; hence the Psalmist's prayer, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me" (Psa ).

II. Two phases of character are placed in contrast to that of the upright man.

1. That of the man whose evil nature does not lie entirely upon the surface. "He that perverteth his ways" and yet endeavours to cloak his perversion, to hide his wrong-doing. The "winking of the eye" mentioned in Pro indicates an effort after concealment. Those who "pervert" their ways pervert nature in order to attain their ends. The eye is intended by God to be a revelation of the soul, and where integrity and sincerity dwells, it is so. But he who walks crookedly or perversely makes an unnatural use of his eye, and by means of it endeavours to work ill to his neighbour. But all his efforts at concealment will at some time or other be ineffectual; the very means he uses to conceal his evil plans may be the means of awakening suspicion. And if he succeeds in blinding the eyes of his fellow men, "the Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1Co 4:5). The day of judgment will reveal the guilty secrets of many who have never yet—nor ever will be until that day—fully "known."

2. That of him whose perversity is manifest to all. The "prating fool" cannot conceal what he is. Upon him and upon his destiny, see Homiletics and Suggestive Comments on Pro .

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . An upright walk is Christian, not sinless, perfection (Job 1:8); "walking before God," not before men (Gen 17:1). Impurity, indeed, defiles the holiest exercise. But if the will be rightly bent, the integrity will be maintained. "Show me an easier path," is Nature's cry. "Show me," cries the child of God, "a sure path."—Bridges.

To walk uprightly, or to walk in integrity, means to act according to one complete scheme: not as the fool does (Pro ), behaving one way and believing another. It means to aim for "something stable" (chap. Pro 2:7); and hence, of course, not to lay our plans so that we ourselves know they must ultimately fail. He walks surely or securely, i.e., must certainly succeed.—Miller.

The dissembler walks in crooked paths. Like Judas, who put on a cloak of charity to hide his covetousness (Joh ), he conceals the selfish principles which regulate his behaviour under the appearances of piety, prudence, and other good qualities. But he cannot hold the mantle so tight about him as to conceal from the wise observer his inward baseness. It will occasionally be shuffled aside, it will at length drop off, and he shall be known for what he is, abhorred by all men, and punished with other hypocrites.—Lawson.

Walking uprightly stands opposed to all duplicity, all tortuous policy, all the crooked arts of manœuvering, for the purpose of promoting reputation, interest, comfort, or any other end whatsoever. He who walketh thus, walketh surely. He walks with a comfortable feeling of security, a calm, unagitated serenity of mind. This springs from confidence in that God whose will he makes his only rule. In the path of implicit obedience he feels that he can trust. And further, the way in which he walks is the surest for the attainment of his ends. Proverbs are generally founded in observation and experience, and express their ascertained results. Hence, even though not inspired, they have generally truth in them. It has become proverbial that "honesty is the best policy." The meaning is, that acts of deceit very frequently frustrate the object of him by whom they are employed, and land him in evils greater than the one he meant, by the use of them, to shun.—Wardlaw.

First—the heart of the upright man hath God's own eye to behold it, and His Spirit to testify the faithfulness of it, and so receiveth comfort from Him, as Job did, when in the confidence of his cause and conscience he saith, "O that some would hear me, behold my desire is that the Almighty would answer me" (Job ). Secondly, the course of their actions is such as will endure light, and the more they are examined the better they will prove, and therefore they need not fear any might or malice, or cunning adversaries that shall seek their disgrace. And upon the assurance of this the prophet professeth his undaunted courage and magnanimity, with challenge also to his calumniant enemy, whosoever he were, "I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me," etc. (Isa 50:7-8.) Thirdly, their bodies and state are in God's custody, and He hath undertaken the defence and preservation of them, whereas the wicked are out of God's protection and perpetually go into peril. Fourthly, their souls are prepared for death and for judgment, and therefore more desire to be dissolved than are afraid to hear of the nearness of their dissolution.—Dod.

I. An upright walker is sure of easily finding his way: it requires no laborious dealing to find out what is just. II. He treads upon firm ground; upon solid, safe, and well-tried principles.… The practice built on such foundations must be very secure. III. He walks steadily. A good conscience steers by fixed stars, and aims at fixed marks. An upright man is always the same man, and goes the same way; the external state of things does not alter the moral reason of things with him, or change the law of God.—Sydney Smith.

I. The way of uprightness is the surest for despatch, and the shortest cut towards the execution or attainment of any good purpose, securing a man from irksome expectations and tedious delays. II. It is fair and pleasant. He that walketh in it hath good weather and a clear sky about him; a hopeful confidence and a cheerful satisfaction do ever wait upon him. Being conscious to himself of an honest meaning, and a due course in prosecuting it, he feeleth no check or struggling of mind: no regret or sting of heart. III. He is secure of his honour and credit. He hath no fear of being detected, or care to smother his intents. IV. He hath perfect security as to the final result of his affairs, that he shall not be quite baffled in his expectations and desires. He shall prosper in the true notion of prosperity, explained by that Divine saying, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."—Barrow.

Pro . The connection of the clauses is—to speak feignedly and to speak rashly are both alike dangerous: to do the former hurts others, to do the latter hurts oneself. When we avoid cunning and feigned speaking, we are not to run into the opposite extremes of prating folly.—Fausset.

The one shuts his eye to conceal his subtlety, the other opens his mouth to declare his folly. The one winketh, but sayeth nothing; the other says too much, but thinketh not what he says. The one giveth sorrow to the deceived in his malicious bounty; the other taketh a fall from the superfluous bounty of his own words.—Jermin.


Verse 11

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro ; Pro 10:11

THE WAY TO PRESENT BLESSEDNESS AND FUTURE FAME

We connect the first and last of these verses, because the latter clause in both is the same.

I. Opposite characters revealed by a great contrast in speech (Pro ). When a righteous man opens his mouth, it is as if the cover was removed from a pure, clear well of water. He has no evil intentions to conceal: his words are an index to his heart. By them men may read his thoughts with the same ease as they can see what is at the bottom of a clear spring of water. There is medicinal virtue in them—they heal as well as refresh the spirits of men. What a well of life have the words of Christ been for centuries to millions of the human race. But a wicked man cannot let all the thoughts of his heart be laid open to the light of day. His "mouth conceals injury" (see Critical Notes). He has plans which are not devised for the good of his fellow-creatures, and he must use his words not to reveal, but to hide what is in his mind. And if he lets his tongue loose, and permits his thoughts to flow out into words, they do not bless his hearers, but are like a poisonous stream, carrying moral death wherever they flow.

II. Character yields a present blessing or a present curse. "Blessings are upon the head of the righteous," etc. A man's present comfort within himself, and the inheritance of good-will he now receives from his fellow-men, as well as the favour of God, are all dependent upon what he is in his character. The kingdom of heaven is now inherited by him. All the beatitudes uttered by our Lord speak of a present blessedness. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," etc. The opposite truth is not expressed, but it is implied. Curses, not blessings, are the present inheritance of the man whose "mouth is covered by violence."

III. Character determines the nature of our future fame (Pro ).

1. The memory of the righteous is blessed, because what they did upon the earth is the means of bringing blessings upon others after they are gone. Many a son has received kindness for the sake of the righteousness of his father. God blesses the children for the father's sake. "I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes" (1Ki ). "Fear not," said God to Isaac, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake (Gen 26:24). Cyrus was raised up to deliver Israel for Jacob's sake (Isa 45:4). Men can but bless the memory of those whose past godliness is the means of bringing blessings upon them in the present.

2. The just man's memory is blessed because he leaves behind him reproductions of his own character. All life will reproduce itself. After a tree has decayed and gone to dust, others will be in full life and vigour that were seedlings of the old tree. Intellectual life is reproductive. The man of mighty genius leaves disciples to carry out his ideas after he is gone. Good men are the parents of good children, or make other men good by their words and lives. "They that dwell under his shadow shall return," and "they shall grow as the vine" (Hos ). The good must be held in blessed remembrance so long as there are those upon earth who are the reproductions of their character.

3. The memory of some is blessed because they did deeds which never can be reproduced by others—which have left a fragrance behind them which can never be repeated. The one act of Abraham, when he prepared to offer up Isaac at God's command, can never be repeated; but is the one which, above all his other acts of faith, causes him to be held in everlasting remembrance. And so it has been with many of the leaders of the Church in all ages. They have performed acts of godly heroism which we cannot imitate, but of which we reap the reward, and for which we bless their memory. Especially is this true of Him who is pre-eminently the Holy One and the Just, whose glorious "name is blessed for ever" (Psa ), because "He endured the cross and despised the shame." But the converse of all this is the lot of the wicked. We can but remember them when we are brought face to face with the evil they have left behind them; but we turn from the remembrance as we turn from some offensive putrid object, while the memory of the just is as a sweet savour. Contrast the feelings with which Christendom now regards the emperors of Rome and the fishermen of Galilee.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Not one, but many blessings are on the head of the righteous: the blessing of peace, the blessing of plenty, the blessing of health, and the blessing of grace, shall be upon them. The precious ointment of the Lord's favour or blessing shall so be poured upon their heads as that it shall not here stay, but run down to the rest of the members of their bodies, and enter into their very hearts.—Muffet.

"Blessings:" not simply good things, but good things bestowed by another; not simply good things bestowed by another, but divinely bestowed as sacred benedictions. "Blessings" are for the righteous exclusively; that is, for no one else. "For the head;" not the mouth, not the hand; because often without either's agency. "On his head;" because unconsciously, and sometimes even when asleep.—Miller.

Pro . The memory of the just is blessed

(1) because of his winning friendship;

(2) because of his unfeigned piety;

(3) because of his steadfast patience;

(4) because of his noble, public-spirited activity.—Ziegler, from Lange's Commentary.

And what signifies an empty name? It brings honour to God, and prolongs the influence of his good example who has left it. His good works not only follow him, but live behind him. As Jeroboam made Israel to sin after he was dead, so the good man helps to make others holy whilst he is lying in the grave. Should it so happen that his character is mistaken in the world, or should his name die out among men, it shall yet be had in everlasting remembrance before God; for never shall those names be erased from the Lamb's book of life, which were written in it from the foundation of the world.—Lawson.

Not what he remembers, but what is remembered of him. He blesses after he is dead. So does the wicked, but, like most other growths in nature, by his decay. "Name;" that which is known of a man. The "name of God" is that which may be known of God. "The memory of the righteous," viz., of the Church of God, is that which propagates her, and causes her to hand down her strength. Our walk about Zion, our telling her towers, our marking her bulwarks, is for this grand aim, among the rest, that we may tell to the generation following (Psa ).—Miller.

I. The memory of the just is blessed, self-evidently so, for the mind blesses it and reverts to it with complacency, mingled with solemnity,—returns to it with delight from the sight of the living evil in the world, sometimes even prefers this silent society to the living good. They show in a most evident and pleasing manner the gracious connection which God has constantly maintained with a sinful world. His uninterrupted connection with it by justice and sovereign power has been manifest in mighty evidence: but His saints have been the peculiar illustration of His grace, His mercy, acting on this world. II. It is so, when we consider them as practical illustrations, verifying examples of the exellence of genuine religion; that it is a noble thing in human nature, and makes, and alone makes, that nature noble;—that, whatever scoffers may say, or the vain world pretend to disbelieve, here is what has made such men as nothing else, under heaven, could or can. III. Their memory is blessed while we regard them as diminishing to our view the repulsiveness and horror of death. Our Lord's dying was the fact that threw out the mightiest agency to this effect. But, in their measure, His faithful disciples have done the same. When we contemplate them as having prepared for it with a calm resolution—as having approached it—multitudes with a calm resignation and fortitude, and very many with an animated exultation;—as having passed it, and emerged in brightness beyond its gloom—they seem to shine back through the gloom, and make the shade less thick. IV. It is blessed, also, as combined with the whole progress of God upon the earth,—with its living agency throughout every stage. He has never, and nowhere, had a visible cause in the world, without putting men in trust with it.… Think of what men have been employed and empowered to do in the propagation of truth, in the incessant warfare against evil, in the exemplification of all the virtues by which he could be honoured.—John Foster.

Pro . A Church is but a body of righteous men. What would the world do without the Church? The influences of a Church, and that a land is ruined without a Church, and that one generation hands on the worship of God to another, all are illustrations on a grand scale of how the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. A good man will constantly be doing good to others. But "wrong covers the mouth of the wicked," so that he can give no blessing; so keeps him from any possible usefulness, that he cannot utter good, or make his mouth, as the righteous can, "a fountain of life" to all about him.—Miller.

In a hot summer's day I was sailing with a friend in a tiny boat on a miniature lake, enclosed like a cup within a circle of steep, bare Scottish hills. On the shoulders of the brown, sun-burnt mountain, and full in sight, was a well, with a crystal stream trickling over its lip, and making its way down towards the lake. Around the well's mouth, and along the course of the rivulet, a belt of green stood out in strong contrast with the iron surface of the rock all around. "What do you make of that?" said my friend, who had both an open eye to read the book of Nature and a heart all aglow with its lessons of love. We soon agreed as to what should be made of it. It did not need us to make it into anything. There it was, a legend clearly printed by the finger of God on the side of these silent hills, teaching the passer-by how needful a good man is, and how useful he may be in a desert world.… The Lord looks down, and men look up, expecting to see a fringe of living green around the lip of a Christian's life-course.—Arnot.


Verse 12

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

LOVE AND HATRED

The lawfulness or unlawfulness of hatred and strife depends upon the subject or occasion of such feeling. God hates sin, and we know that this hatred is the fruit of one of His highest attributes. The divine and Incarnate Son of God foretold that He had not "come to send peace on earth, but a sword" (Mat ), and therefore even He was an occasion of strife because He was a hater of sin. There is then a holy as well as a wicked hatred, a lawful as well as an unlawful strife. But the hatred of the text being placed in contrast with love is evidently the malicious hatred of a wicked man.

I. The hatred of the wicked is—

1. Insatiable. It has been said that those who hate have first injured. This is doubtless true, but there must have been some amount of hatred to prompt the injury. But after the injury has been inflicted, the hatred is not diminished, but is generally increased. Herodias prevailed upon Herod to put John the Baptist into prison, but this did not lessen her malice. It was such a devouring flame as could be quenched by nothing but his blood. The pain which conscience inflicts upon him who has injured another is put to the account of the injured person, and goes to increase the bitterness of the anger against him.

2. It is generally impartial. Wicked men generally begin by hating good men, but they come in time to a habit of hating bad men too. The blind man will be as likely to strike his friend as his foe. Hatred is blind, and those who begin by hating those whom they consider their enemies, generally end by hating their so-called friends.

II. The effect of hatred. It stirs up strife. This implies that the materials for strife are already in existence. There are no signs of mud upon the surface of a peaceful lake, but it only requires some disturbing element to be thrown in to show that it is lying at the bottom. The spirit of the most sanctified man has some evil tendencies within it, which may be stirred up by undeserved hatred. Only One who ever wore our human nature had within Him no germ of strife which might be stirred up by hatred. Only One could say that temptation found "nothing" in Him (Joh ). The elements which may be stirred up to strife have a lodging place in the most sanctified human spirit, and when strife is thus stirred up by hatred the whole soul or the whole society is influenced for evil. When the lake is stirred up from the bottom all the waters are more or less troubled, and when the elements of contention are at work even in a good man or in a Christian community the whole man or the entire community is ruffled and disturbed. In contrast with this hatred, which is not only sin in itself but, by stirring up strife, is the occasion of sin in others, is placed the love which "covereth" or does away with sin.

I. Love covers sin by forgiving it. Malicious hatred, even when it is directed against sin, will but incite to more sin. But forgiveness of the sin may lead to its being forsaken, and the mere fact of being forgiven may give the sinner an impulse after a better life in the future, and thus enable him to efface the remembrance of the past. If a man is deeply in debt to another, and that other gives him a discharge of his debt, the very fact of his being legally free may give him such new energy to work as may enable him to pay that which he owed. And a sense of being forgiven a moral debt will sometimes have this effect upon the soul. God's covering up of sin by forgiveness is the beginning of a new life to those who are willing to accept His pardon (Psa ; 1Jn 1:7).

II. Love covers sin by forgetting it. It is in the nature of love not only to forgive an injury, but to forget that the injury has ever been done. And a consciousness that our sin is covered by being forgotten is very healing to the spirit. For a soul that has lived a sinful life is like a man that has passed through a campaign and received many wounds. He requires skilful treatment and gentle nursing; and when the wounds have been bound up, and have, perhaps, begun to heal, care must be taken that no rough hand re-opens them, and causes them to bleed afresh. A word spoken which shows that the sinful past is still remembered by those who have professed to forgive, may re-open old wounds with a fatal effect. Love covers sin as God declares that He covers it. His promise is not only "I will forgive their iniquity," but, "I will remember their sin no more" (Jer ).

III. Love covers sin by making active efforts to recover the sinner. Love will not be content with forgiving when forgiveness is sought, but it will go out of its way to recover the erring. The godly man will walk in the foot-steps of Him who came to seek that which was lost. God did not wait until man returned to Him before He held out hope of forgiveness. As soon as Satan's hatred had led man into sin, He held out hope of return to holiness by the promise of Him who "Should bruise the serpent's head" (Gen ). And in the fulness of time, by the gift of His Son, He showed the depth of His love and His desire to cover the "sin of the world." And as in many human homes there are those who owe their present moral standing, the recovery of all that makes existence worth having, to the love that followed and sought them when they were outcasts, so those who people the heavenly home—that multitude which God alone can number—are the fruit of that Divine love which not only covered a multitude of sins by forgiving and forgetting the sin, but sought out the sinner in order to forgive him.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

"Love covereth all sins," saith Solomon, covers them partly from the eyes of God, in praying for the offenders; partly from the eyes of the world, in throwing a cloak over our brother's nakedness; especially from its own eyes, by winking at many wrongs offered it.—T. Adams.

Hatred disturbs the existing quiet by railings; stirs up dormant quarrels on mere suspicions and trifles, and by unfavourable constructions put upon everything, even upon acts of kindness. As hatred by quarrels exposes the faults of others, so "love covers" them, except in so far as brotherly correction requires their exposure. Love condones, yea, takes no notice of a friend's errors. The disagreements which hatred stirs up, love allays; and the offences which are usually the causes of quarrel, it sees as though it saw them not, and excuses them (1Co ). It gives to men the forgiveness which it daily craves from God.—Fausset.

To abuse the precept in 1Pe (where this text is quoted) into a warrant for silencing all faithful reproofs of sin in others, would be to ascribe to charity the office of a procuress.—Cartwright.

First, it makes us to cover and pardon the wrongs that others do us. Secondly, a loving carriage maketh others pardon the wrongs that we do them. Thirdly, it maketh God to pardon the offences which we commit against Him.—Jermin.


Verse 13-14

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Lay up, literally, "conceal," i.e., "husband the knowledge and understanding which they possess for the right time and place, do not squander it in unreasonable talk or babbling" (Zckler). Near destruction, rather, is a near destruction, i.e., "is a quickly destroying agency" (Lange's Commentary).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro

LAYING UP TO GIVE OUT

I. The practice of the morally wise man. He "lays up knowledge" (Pro ). The present position of a man in social life is often the result of a "laying up" in the past. The man who has made it the business of his past life to lay up money is now a rich man. His present wealth arises from his past storing. An artificer or professional man who laid up knowledge in his youthful days is able to command a good position in his mature life. But there are differences between those who lay up riches, or mere intellectual wisdom, and him who stores moral wisdom—the only real and lasting wealth.

1. The man spoken of in the text lays up that which is truly his own now, and will be throughout eternity. The riches of godly wisdom are not transferable either before or at the time of death. Material wealth may go at any time in our life, and must be left behind when we leave the world. And while we call it ours it is but lent us by God. He takes a wider range, and lays up for a life beyond time, and what he lays up now will make him what he will be in the ages beyond death. He is determined to be crowned rich towards God in the day when he shall be summoned to appear and give an account of his stewardship. Most men are layers up of riches and knowledge in a greater or less degree. The truly wise man banks for moral character, and intends to be considered rich in the city of God.

II. It is because spiritual knowledge is laid up that "wisdom is found in the lips" (Pro ). The possession of wealth or of intellectual knowledge is no guarantee that wisdom will be found with it. A rich man may not know how to use his riches to the best advantage. He might know how to gather it, but may not know how to spend it for his own good. A man may gather much intellectual knowledge without being able to make it profitable, or a source of enjoyment either to himself or others. A man may be able to gather timber and stones together and yet not know how to build a house out of them after he has gathered them. A housewife may collect a store of wool and stuffs, but not be skilful enough to fashion the materials into garments for herself and her household. So knowledge, in its general sense, is not necessarily accompanied by wisdom; but spiritual knowledge and spiritual wisdom are never separated. The one is always joined to the other. Where there is a laying up of the knowledge of God, there wisdom will be found. No man can truly know God and not have wisdom enough to reduce his knowledge to practice in the building up of a godly character. Where knowledge is in the heart there will be wisdom in the lips and life.

III. This knowledge and wisdom will be used for the benefit of others. It will be found in the lips. The man who is "instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old" (Mat ). He has a store, from which he draws according to the need of those whom his words can benefit. His instructions are like the viands of the thrifty housewife, stored up in abundance against the time of need, and suited, both as to quantity and quality, to the wants of the needy soul (Pro 10:21).

IV. The influence and the fate of him who refuses to lay up knowledge. His mouth is a near destruction (see rendering in Critical Notes). The man who refuses to lay up the knowledge of some calling or profession is both a fool and a knave, because by such neglect he makes himself dependent when he might be independent, and because he eats the bread earned by industrious men. How much more foolish is he who will not lay up that by which he may acquire a character which would make him an equal with the angels of God. But his neglect injures others beside himself. He wrongs his fellow-men by withholding his influence from the side of that which is righteous, and consequently defrauds the world of that which it is the duty of every man to give it. But he does not stop here.

(1) He adds the positive evil influence of sinful words. The Bible speaks often of the evil influence of sinful speech. It likens it to the poison of venomous reptiles (see Psa ; Psa 140:3; Jas 3:8). But these creatures can only destroy the body, whereas the fool's mouth is often a destruction to both body and soul. (On this subject see homiletical remarks on chapter Pro 1:12).

(2) But he is a curse to his own existence as well as to that of others. That which is a destruction to them makes a rod for his own back (Pro ). Such a man's mouth utters falsehood and slander by which he creates enemies without. That which he speaks brings guilt upon his conscience, which becomes an instrument of chastisement within. And a guilty conscience creates imaginary enemies as well as keeps us in remembrance of real ones. An old writer says, "The guilty conscience conceives every thistle to be a tree, every tree a man, every man a devil,—afraid of every man that it sees, nay, many times of those that it sees not. Not much unlike to one that was very deep in debt and had many creditors, who, as he walked London streets in the evening, a tenter-hook caught his cloak. ‘At whose suit?' said he, conceiving some sergeant had arrested him. Thus the ill-conscienced man counts every creature he meets with a bailiff sent from God to punish him." Such a conscience is indeed a "rod for the fool's back" (chap. Pro 26:3).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Through the lips of the Christian other men get wisdom. If we will think of it, men get it in no other way. "Faith cometh by hearing" (Rom 10:17). The Church hands itself down, by the blessing of heaven, from lip to lip. But then from the same lips comes a rod. The good man, not listened to, becomes a scourge. Christ Himself becomes an instrument of death.—Miller.

Solomon and his son admirably illustrate this contrast. Such wisdom was found in his lips, the fruit of an understanding heart, that "all the world came to hear of it" (1Ki ). Rehoboam was as void, as his father was full, of understanding. His folly prepared a rod for his back (1Ki 12:13-24). Learn then to seek for wisdom at the lips of the wise. The want of this wisdom, or rather the want of a heart to seek it, will surely bring us under the rod. In many a chastisement we shall feel its smart; for the loose education of our children (chap. Pro 29:15); for carnal indulgence (2Sa 12:9-11). And how different is this rod from our Father's loving chastisement. That, the seal of our adoption (chap. Pro 3:11-12); this, the mark of disgrace. Will not the children of God cry, "Turn away the reproach that I fear, for Thy judgments are good" (Psa 119:39).—Bridges.

The wise man carries the ornament of his wisdom in his lips; the fool shall bear the disgrace of his folly on his back.—Fausset.

He who trembleth not in hearing shall be broken to pieces in feeling.—Bradford.

The dwelling of wisdom is in the heart, but there it is hid; in the lips it is found. There it sitteth, like an ancient Israelite, at the gates of the city, marking what goes out, and weighs it before it passeth, that nothing issue forth which may disparage the honour or wrong the estate of the city. There shall folly find it, as smart and heavy in the reproof of it as a rod is to the back, and which is fit for him whose tongue is void of understanding. For it is reason that his back should bear, whose tongue will not forbear.—Jermin.

Pro . To "lay up" knowledge very obviously implies that value is set upon it. Men never think of seeking and accumulating what they regard as worthless; and in proportion as an object is prized will be the degree of eagerness with which it is pursued, and of jealous vigilance, with which it is "laid up" and guarded. Thus the miser. With what an eye of restlessness and eager covetousness does he look after the acquisition of his heart's desires! with what delight does he hug himself upon his success!—with what avidity does he add the increase to his treasures, carefully secreting them from all access but his own! With a care incomparably more dignified and useful how does the man of science mark and record every fact and observation, whether of his own discovery and suggestion or of those of others! How he exults in every new acquisition to his stores! He lays all up in his mind, or, fearful of a treacherous memory, in surer modes of record and preservation. Hints that lead to nothing at the time may lead to much afterwards. Some one in another generation may carry out into practical application, or into the formation of valuable theories, the facts and conjectures that are now, in apparent isolation, "laid up" for such possible future use. The true philosopher, to use a colloquial phrase, "has all his eyes about him." He allows nothing to escape notice, and nothing, if he can help it, to pass into oblivion. But, alas! in this respect, as in others, "the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light."—Wardlaw.

Who would not heedfully foresee where his arrow shall hit, before he shoots it out of his bow; lest it should destroy any person or other creature through negligence? Who would not be very circumspect and wary in discharging a piece, lest he should do mischief by it? And yet, by these, a man may affright, and not hurt; and hurt, and not kill; and kill, and not die himself; but what arrow, what shot, what artillery, what murdering piece is to be compared to the mouth of a man that is not guided by a wise and watchful forethought? Great woe it worketh unto other men, but it surely bringeth death unto himself; every word that breaketh another man's skin doth certainly break the caul of his own heart; and he that doth aim at another to give him a wound, cannot miss himself to violate his own life.—Dod.

The part of wisdom is to treasure up experience, and hold it ready for use in the time and the place of need. Everything may be turned to account. In the process of accumulating this species of wealth, the wonders of the philosopher's stone may be more than realised. Even losses can be converted into gains. Every mistake or disappointment is a new lesson. Every fault you commit, and every glow of shame which suffuses your face because of it, may be changed into a most valuable piece of wisdom. Let nothing trickle out, and flow away useless. After one has bought wit at a heavy price, it is a double misfortune to throw it away. As a general rule, the dearer it is the more useful it will be.—Arnot.


Verse 15-16

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Labour, i.e., "the gain," "the reward of labour." Fruit, "gain," antithetical to the subject of the first clause.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Pro

A FALSE AND A TRUE ESTIMATE OF LIFE

I. A false estimate of life in its relation to riches. It is a mistake to look on wealth as a "strong city" in which we can be secure from the evils of life. A commander, who knows that there is behind him a fortress into which he can retire in case of need, may be brought to ruin by forming an over-estimate of its security. He may underrate the ability of the enemy to follow him thither. Strongholds have been undermined, and those who had trusted in their strength have been destroyed by that very confidence; or pestilence has broken out on account of the number who have taken refuge in the fortress, and so that which they deemed their strength has been their weakness. These events have proved that the estimate taken of their safety was a wrong one—that even the refuge itself might be a cause of destruction. So with a "rich man's wealth." If he looks upon it as a resource under all emergencies—if he thinks it can purchase him immunity from all ills—he is a terrible self-deceiver. Wealth cannot drive back disease; nothing can keep death from storming his stronghold; and sometimes a single day brings together such an army of adverse circumstances that the strong city goes down before it, and is never rebuilt, or the very refuge itself is the cause of moral ruin. Therefore "Let not the rich man glory in his riches" (Jer ).

II. A false estimate of life in relation to poverty. It is a mistake also to look on poverty as a "destruction." If the rich man errs on the side of excessive confidence, the poor man errs on that of fearfulness. He should remember—

1. That the blessedness of life here does not consist in what a man has, but in what he is. Wealth may be a curse to existence, and so may poverty, but a good conscience, a godly character, is a continual feast. And it is quite as easy, perhaps more so, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God in poverty as in wealth. "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luk ). This is the declaration of Him who created man, and who, therefore, knows his needs. The poor are the objects of His special regard. "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him? (Jas 2:5).

2. He should keep in mind the day of levelling and compensation. "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented" (Luk ).

III. A right estimate of that which constitutes life, viz., righteous labour. (Pro .) The first clause of this verse suggests

(1) that there can be no true life without righteousness;

(2) that righteousness must show that it exists by honest labour;

(3) that the honest labour of a righteous man, whether of hand or brain, shall bless his existence. From the second clause we learn

(1) that godless men likewise labour for a harvest. There are as hard workers among the godless as among the good. They toil for earthly gain all the more earnestly because they have no other to possess: that which belongs to the present life is their all.

(2.) That there is no blessing in the gain of the ungodly. The gain of a sinner only tends to confirm him in his ungodliness—it "tendeth to sin." If a tree is bad at the root the larger it grows the more bad fruit it will bear. The richer a bad man grows the worse he becomes, the greater are his facilities for sinning himself, and the more evil is his influence upon others. Sin being at the root of his actions, sin will be in the fruit. The whole subject teaches us not to make poverty and riches the standard by which to measure a man's blessedness or misfortune. Beecher says, "We say a man is ‘made.'" What do we mean? That he has got the control of his lower instincts, so that they are only fuel to his higher feelings, giving force to his nature? That his affections are like vines, sending out on all sides blossoms and clustering fruits? That his tastes are so cultivated that all beautiful things speak to him, and bring him their delights? That his understanding is opened, so that he walks through every hall of knowledge and gathers its treasures? That his moral feelings are so developed and quickened that he holds sweet communion with Heaven? O, no, none of these things. He is cold and dead in heart, and mind, and soul. Only his passions are alive; but—he is worth five hundred thousand dollars!… And we say a man is "ruined." Are his wife and children dead? O, no. Has he lost his reputation through crime? No. Is his reason gone? O, no; it is as sound as ever. Is he struck through with disease? No. He has lost his property, and he is ruined. The man ruined! When shall we learn that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth?"

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . It is not a strong city, but his strong city. You see how justly the worldling is called an idolater, for he makes not God his confidence, but trusts to a thing of nought; for his riches, if they are a city, are not a strong city, but a city broken down, and without walls. How hard is it for rich men to obtain an entrance into that city that hath foundations, when it is a miracle for a man that hath riches not to trust in them.—Muffet.

The rich man stands independent, changes and adversities cannot so easily overthrow him; he is also raised above many hazards and temptations: on the contrary, the poor man is overthrown by little misfortunes, and his despairing endeavours to save himself, when they fail, ruin him completely, and perhaps make him at the same time a moral outlaw. It is quite an experienced fact which this proverb expresses, but one from which the double doctrine is easily derived:

(1) That it is not only advised, but commanded, that man make the firm establishing of his external life-position the aim of his endeavour.

(2) That one ought to treat with forbearance the humble man; and if he always sinks deeper and deeper, one ought not to judge him with unmerciful harshness, and in proud self-exaltation.—Delitzsch.

As soldiers look upon a strong city as a good place which they may retire to for safety in times of flight, so worldly men, in their distress and danger, esteem their wealth the only means of relief and succour: or, as a marching army expects supply, if need be, from a well-manned and well-victualled city, so men in their fainting fits, and under dreadful crosses, expect to be revived by their earthly cordials.—Swinnock.

The word destruction is capable of two meanings. First, there are temptations peculiar to poverty as well as to riches. Agur was aware of these when he prayed, "Give me not poverty, lest I steal and take the name of my God in vain" (chap. Pro ). He who gives way to such influences of poverty ensures "destruction" as much as he who is "full and denies God, and says, Who is the Lord?" Secondly, as we found the preceding clause to refer to the state of mind—the confidence of safety inspired by his wealth in the bosom of the rich, it seems fair and natural to understand the latter clause on a similar principle. "The destruction of the poor" will then mean, that which, in their own eyes, is their destruction; that which engenders their fears and apprehensions—their constant dread of destruction. They are ever apt to contrast their circumstances with those of their wealthy neighbours, and to deplore their poverty, and fret at it as that which keeps them down, depriving them of all good, and exposing them to all evil. And, without doubt, it is the source of many and heavy sufferings, both in the way of privation and endurance. But the poor may indulge their fears, and make themselves unhappy without cause. Their forebodings may be more than groundless. If by their poverty they are exposed to some evils, they are exempted by it from others … Let the poor seek the peace, and comfort, and safety which are imparted by the Gospel; and thus, possessing the "true riches," they will not need to "fear what man can do unto them." The worst of all destructions will be far from them.—Wardlaw.

The "wealth of the rich," even in this world, is their great capital. The "destruction of the poor" is the helplessness, and friendlessness, and creditlessness, and lack of instruments incident to "poverty." In the spiritual world the distinction is entire. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and both by inviolable laws. All works for good for one, and all for evil for the other. The last Proverb explained it. Wisdom, by its very nature, grows, and so does folly. All other interests vibrate: sometimes worse, and sometimes better. But Wisdom, like the God that chose it has no "shadow of turning." If it begins in the soul it grows for ever. If it does not begin it grows more distant. There is never rest. Wealth in the spiritual world, by the very covenant, must continually heap up; and poverty, by the very necessities of justice, must increase its helplessness.—Miller.

Naturally the author is here thinking of wealth well earned by practical wisdom, and this is at the same time a means in the further effort of Wisdom; and, again, of a deserved poverty, which, while the consequence of foolish conduct, always causes one to sink deeper in folly and moral need. Compare the verse following.—Lange's Commentary.

Surely this should humble us, that riches,—that should be our rises to raise us up to God, or glasses to see the love of God in—our corrupt nature useth them as clouds, as clogs, etc., yea, sets them up in God's place, and saith to the fine gold, "Thou art my confidence" (Job ). The destruction of the poor is their poverty. They are devoured by the richer cannibals (Psa 14:4), as the lesser fish are by the greater. Men go over the hedge where it is lowest. "Poor" and "afflicted" are joined together (Zep 3:12). So are "to want" and "to be abased" (Php 4:12).—Trapp.

Here he is describing what is, rather than prescribing what ought to be. The verse acknowledges and proclaims a prominent feature in the condition of the world. It is not a command from the law of God, but a fact from the history of men. In all ages and in all lands money has been a mighty power, and its relative importance increases with the advance of civilisation. Money is one of the principal instruments by which the affairs of the world are turned, and the man who holds that instrument in his grasp can make himself felt in his age and neighbourhood. It does not reach the Divine purpose, but it controls human action. It is constrained to become God's servant, but it makes itself the master of man.—Arnot.

The rich man often goes about his Sion, or rather his Jericho, and views the walls thereof; he marketh the bulwarks, and telleth the towers of it. He looks upon his wealth, he marks his bags, he tells his moneys, and therein is his confidence; thereby he thinketh to outstand any siege or assault, and, placing his security on it, dareth to oppose his strength to any right or reason; whereas God with a blast of ram's horns is quickly able to throw down all his might and his greatness.—Jermin.

Pro . The labour of the righteous tendeth to life or "serves as life."

1. Because it is a good thing in itself.

2. Because it procures good, each stroke earning its pay.

3. Because it increases, and that on for ever, making us holier and happier, and making others holier and happier through the endless ages. It "serves" pre-eminently "as life," therefore, literally, "is for life." But the fruit, or "gains of the wicked" (and we must not fail to note the crescendo in the second clause, "The labour of a righteous man"—"the gains of a wicked man"; the righteous still toiling, the wicked having made his harvest,) serve to sin or "as a sinoffering." That is, they are all demanded by justice, and are all consumed for the expiation of his sins. Pious acts are a life. Wicked gains go to swell what our great creditor seizes.—Miller.

Labour, not idleness, is the stamp of a servant of God; thus cheered by the glowing confidence, that it tendeth to life (Joh ). "Occupy till I come"—"Do all to the glory of God" (Luk 19:13; 1Co 10:31)—this is the standard. Thus the duties even of our daily calling tend to life. God works in us, by us, with us, through us. We work in and through Him. Our labour, therefore, is His work—wrought in dependence on Him; not for life, but to life (Rom 8:13; 1Co 15:10; Php 2:12-13)—Bridges.

The words are fitly chosen: "labour" in honest industry is the righteous man's ordinary way of living. "Revenue" (fruit) not gained by honest labour is frequently the wicked man's livelihood.—Fausset.

It is not directly said, as the previous clause might lead us to expect, that the "fruit" of the wicked tendeth to "death," but to "sin." This, by the wise man, is considered as the same thing. It "tendeth to sin," and consequently, to death. Thus it is said, "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (Jas ). Between the two there is an intimate and inseparable connection.—Wardlaw.

The righteous are laborious, as knowing that to be the end of their life. For themselves they labour, to lead their lives with comfort here, to get the life of glory hereafter. For others they labour, to supply the wants of their disconsolate life on earth, and to help them forward to the blessed life of heaven. Wherefore St. Bernard saith well, "When we read that Adam in the beginning was set in a place of pleasure to work in it, what man of sound understanding can think that his children should be set in a place of afflction for to play in it."—Jermin.


Verse 17

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Not, He is in the way, but "He is the way." Erreth, causeth others to err.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE INFLUENCE OF EXAMPLE

We take here the rendering of all recent commentators as given in the Critical Notes, and understand the verse to set forth the truth that "no man liveth to himself." His character is reproduced in others.

I. A good man is a way, because he is the means to an end. The way to the city is the road by which we reach it. The life of a holy man is a way to spiritual and eternal life, because it is the means by which men come home to God. If there were no good men in the world, there would be no means by which sinners could be brought from death unto life. Christ is pre-eminently "the way," because His life is the great means by which men learn to know and to return to God. "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me" (Joh ). The longer a path is trodden the more distinctly it proclaims itself as a way. So a good man becomes a more evident way the longer he lives. A good life is so distinct in its teachings that both sage and savage are compelled to admit its influence, and the longer it exerts its power for good the more pronounced it becomes. The Son of God has for ages been the way to life, and the longer He continues to be so the more distinctly is He seen to be the means to this end.

II. The conditions to be fulfilled in order to become a way of life.

1. The man must keep instruction. It is not enough to receive it. The Word of God must not only be heard, but must be remembered. The commandments of God must not only be received, but must be kept. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (Joh ).

2. He must submit to discipline even when it takes the form of reproof. This is implied in the last clause of the verse, "He that refuseth reproof causeth to err." The man who has attained a position in any profession, and has thereby become qualified to lead others, has done so because he has submitted to discipline even when it has been in the unpalatable form of reproof. Such a man can well exhort others to submit to that by which he has become fit to be their guide. Even the Son of God "learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb ).

III. An ungodly man injures others as well as himself. He not only wanders from the path himself, but he "causeth (others) to err." We often hear it said of a godless man—of one "who refuseth reproof"—that "he is nobody's enemy but his own." This cannot be. It has been truly said that "nothing leaves us wholly as it found us. Every man we meet, every book we read, every picture or landscape we see, every word or tone we hear, mingles with our being and modifies it." This being so, every man makes every man with whom he comes in contact better or worse, and as every good man draws others into the path of life, so every man who refuses to submit to Divine discipline drags others with him in the broad road that leads to destruction.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

St. Basil, answering the question, "With what mind anyone ought to receive the instructions of reproof administered unto him," giveth this answer, "With the same mind that befitteth him who, being sick of some disease and troubled for the preserving of life, receiveth a medicine, namely, with the greatest desire of recovering his health." For there is a way of life though a man be not sick but dead unto sin. And the hand that putteth into this way is instruction, and that which must keep us in the way is the keeping of instruction: for he that refuseth reproof erreth, erreth in refusing, erreth more by refusing.—Jermin.

This is the idea of other verses (11-13): that a man going to heaven blazes a path for others. He is a way. Others travel upon him in his prayers and in his example.—Miller.


Verse 18

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Not with lying lips, but "is of lying lips." "The meaning of this second clause does not stand in the relation of an antithesis to the preceding, but in that of a climax, adding a worse case to one not so bad. If one conceals his hatred within himself, he becomes a malignant flatterer; but if he gives expression to it in slander, abuse, and base detraction, then, as a genuine fool, he brings upon himself the greatest injury" (Zckler).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THREE DEGREES OF MORAL FOOLISHNESS

I. A liar.

1. A liar is a fool because he fights for a weak cause. When a case can only be made out by lying it is manifestly a bad one. A man who will strive to uphold such a cause reveals his folly.

2. Because he makes use of a weak weapon. Among tribes ignorant of the methods of civilised warfare we find weapons which are little better than slim rods, and, although their points are sharp and poisoned, yet they proclaim their weakness when they come into collision with an experienced swordsman. Lying is such a weapon, and its use reveals the utter folly of him who wields it. It can no more stand against truth than the wooden spear of a savage can turn aside the thrust of a Damascus blade.

3. Because by lying he degrades his moral character. The serpent lost his upright position by being linked with lying, instead of going erect, God passed upon him the sentence—"Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life" (Gen ). The liar finds that this is his doom. He can no longer hold up his head like an honest man among his fellow-men, he must henceforth crawl and wind his way through the world, and eat the dust of ignominy and scorn. Men turn from a liar as they do from a serpent. It is assuredly the height of folly for a man thus to throw away that which alone makes him worthy to be called a man.

II. A liar who conceals hatred by lying. This man displays a higher degree of iniquity and folly. There are those who lie simply to serve their own purposes and have no dislike to the person whom they deceive. There is often much lying where there is no special malice. But when lying is used to conceal hatred—which is murder

(1. Joh )—there is a double folly because there is a double sin. The lying of the "father of lies" is simply a blind to conceal his intense hatred of the human race, and this makes him the greater sinner.

III. A liar who utters slander. When malice finds vent in lying slander we have an exhibition of greater iniquity and therefore of greater folly. It is bad to be a liar, it is worse to conceal hatred by lying, but it is worse to let the hatred of the heart break forth into false accusations of the innocent. The tree that is most richly laden with the ripest fruit is the one upon which the birds will congregate. We never find them passing by such booty to peck at green fruit. The pirates lay in wait for vessels with a rich cargo, empty vessels pass by unmolested and secure from attack. So it is always the best men who attract slanderers, men of little or no moral worth are not considered foemen worthy of their steel. God declared Job to be the best man in all the earth, "perfect and upright, one who feared Him, and eschewed evil" (Job ). And it was because he stood thus pre-eminent that the tongue of the great slanderer was used against him; being from the begining a liar and a murderer of character he gave one of the most complete exhibitions of his real nature when he pointed his lying hatred agains the best man of his day. The Holy One of God did not escape the tongue of the slanderer. He was a "man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber" (Mat 11:19), "one that perverteth the people" (Luk 23:14). When "He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows" He was esteemed "smitten of God and afflicted" (Isa 53:4). All lying and malice, whether concealed or manifested, becomes the most palpable folly when looked at in the light of the "coming of the Lord, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1Co 4:5).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

If we desire the credit of wisdom let us use better means to obtain it than artificial disgracings of our brethren, for that cometh not from above; it is no gift of God; it is sensual, carnal, and devilish. Do not hearken to the reports of such wicked persons as seek to defame others and detract from their good name; they are but foolish and base pedlars that utter such infectious wares, and therefore they cannot be wise chapmen that traffic with them and receive them at their hands. Here is consolation for them that are molested and vexed unjustly for the Gospel's sake by clamourous and false accusers; let them consider what account God maketh of their malicious adversaries; He calls them fools and derideth their practices, and, therefore, in the end it shall be seen that when they have spat all their venom they have but shot a fool's bolt and procured shame and sorrow to themselves.—Dod.

The folly of slander.

1. If this practice be proved extremly sinful it will thence be demonstrated no less foolish. And it is indeed plainly the blackest and most hellish sin that can be; that which giveth the grand fiend his name, and most expresseth his nature. He is the slanderer, Satan, the spiteful adversary, the old serpent or dragon spitting forth the venom of calumnious accusation, the accuser of the brethren, the father of lies, the grand defamer of God to man, of man to God, of one man to another. And highly wicked that practice must be whereby we grow namesakes to him.

2. The slanderer is plainly a fool because he makes wrong judgments and valuations of things, and accordingly driveth on silly bargains for himself, in result whereof he proveth a great loser. He means by his calumnious stories either to vent some passion boiling within him, or to compass some design which he affecteth, or to please some humour that he is possessed with; but is any of these things worth purchasing at so dear a rate? Can there be any valuable exchange for our honesty? Can anything in the world be so considerable that for its sake we should defile our souls?

3. Because he uses improper means and preposterous methods of effecting his purposes. As there is no design worth the carrying on by ways of falsehood and iniquity, so there is scarce any (no good and lawful one at least) which may not more surely, more safely, more cleverly be achieved by means of truth and justice … He that is observed to practise falsehood will be declined by some, opposed by others, disliked by all.

4. The slanderer is a fool, as bringing many great inconveniences and troubles upon himself.

(1.) By no means can a man inflame so fierce anger, impress so stiff hatred, raise so deadly enmity against himself, and consequently so endanger his safety, ease, and welfare as by this practice. Men will rather pardon a robber of their goods than of their good name.

(2.) And he is not only odious to the person immediately concerned, but generally to all men who observe his practice; every man presently will be sensible how easily it may be his own case to be thus abused.

(3.) He also derogateth wholly from his own credit, for he that dareth thus to injure his neighbour, who can trust him in anything that he speaks?

(4.) This practice is perpetually haunted with most troublesome companions, inward regret, and self-condemnation.

(5.) The consequence of this practice is commonly shameful disgrace, with an obligation to retract and to render satisfaction; for seldom doth calumny pass long without being detected and confuted.

(6.) The slanderer doth banish himself from heaven and happiness. For, if none that "maketh a lie" (Rev ) shall enter the heavenly city, assuredly the capital liar, the slanderer, shall be far excluded from felicity. All these things being considered, we may, I think, reasonably conclude it most evidently true that "he who uttereth slander is a fool."—Barrow.

Better. He who hideth hatred is of lying lips. The alternative is offered with a delicate touch of irony. He who cherishes hatred must choose between being a knave or a fool—a knave if he hides, a fool if he utters it.—Plumptre.


Verses 19-21

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro

SPEECH AND SILENCE

I. The wisdom of not always using the tongue when we might. "He that refraineth his lips is wise." The reputation of a good man may be much injured by even speaking the truth at certain times and to certain persons. The silence of a man who can speak wisely and eloquently is a revelation of self-control, and often adds more to the dignity of his character than words can. The Son of God "opened not His mouth" before His false accusers, and thus revealed His power of self-control—His moral majesty. That He could be silent in such circumstances is a manifestation of the deep ocean of conscious innocence within Him, and is an unparalleled exposition of His own precept, "In patience possess ye your souls."

1. Silence is wisdom when we feel that speech would be useless to convince.—when we feel that a foregone conclusion has been arrived at which no argument or appeal could shake. This has been the case in the history of the confessors and martyrs of the Church in all ages, and was pre-eminently so when the Lord Jesus Christ stood to be tried before men who had determined to murder Him.

2. Silence is sometimes more convincing than speech. Men are often more impressed by acts than by words, by a spirit of forbearance than by a passionate vindication of our rights.

3. Silence does not necessarily imply acquiescence. The Eternal Himself is sometimes silent from displeasure. "These things hast thou done and I kept silence" (Psa ).

II. The blessing of using the tongue when we ought. "The tongue of the just is as choice silver." The lips of the righteous feed many because they supply a need. Man needs a medium by which to express the value of his labour or his merchandise, and silver supplies this want. And he likewise needs a medium by which to express his thoughts, and speech is this medium. But unless it is the speech of a just man it will be a curse and not a blessing. It must convey good thinking if it is to be as choice silver to a needy man. The prisoner who stands at the bar charged with a crime of which he is innocent feels that the tongue of the man who pleads his cause is more precious to him than much silver. To the man who is seeking after God, the tongue of one who can tell him "words whereby he shall be saved" is as choice silver (Act ). The words of Peter were so esteemed by Cornelius. The heart of the Ethiopian eunuch was more rejoiced by the preaching of Philip the Evangelist than it would have been by the possession of all the treasure of his mistress (Act 8:26-39). The words of Him who was "the Just One" (Act 3:14) are and ever will be "a strength to the needy in his distress" (Isa 25:4); more precious to those who are conscious of their soul-poverty "than thousands of gold and silver" (Psa 119:72); and it is in proportion as men are like Him in character and disposition that their speech will bless the world.

III. The sin of using the tongue too much. The shell and the kernel of the fruit were intended by God to grow together; the latter cannot grow to perfection without the former, yet the shell only exists for the kernel. The soul and body are ordained to grow together; the body only exists for the soul, yet the soul can only manifest itself through the medium of the body. But the body without the soul is worthless. Man's thought and word were intended by God to act together; thoughts are useless without speech in which to clothe them; words without thoughts have no reason for existence, they are shells without kernels, bodies without souls, and their use is a sin against God's ordained method. Where there is a "multitude of words" there is not much thought, and therefore there is sin.—

1. Against a man's self, because "every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment (Mat ).

2. Against society, because the man utters sounds which contain nothing to benefit. God has ordained thought to feed the soul as He has ordained bread to feed the body. Where there are words men have a right to expect thoughts upon which to feed, as they have a right to look for the kernel within the shell. When they get the first without the last they are robbed of what is their due.

IV. The origin of idle and worthless talking. "The heart of the wicked is little worth." "Fools die for want of wisdom." Where there is no moral wisdom there can be no real worth; no thoughts can be generated in the heart that is not under the influence of Divine teaching that will supply the needs of needy men. As is the fountain so must be the stream. "The tree is known by its fruit. O, generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Mat ).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . A man of inordinate talk runs inordinate risk. He must be a God that can talk all the time and never trespass. And, therefore, as blunders "come home to roost," he is a prosperous man who reduces the volume of his speech.—Miller.

The fool talks for ever upon nothing, not because he is full, but because he is empty; not for instruction, but for the pure love of talking.… The sphere of social intercourse that stimulates the conversational powers at the same time teaches the wholesome discipline of the tongue—that beautiful accomplishment of silence which, however, alike with its opposite grace, derives its chief loveliness as the fruit of christian humility and kindness. The wisdom is especially valuable under provocation (1Sa ; 2Ki 18:36). And even in the unbending of innocent recreation the discipline of godly sobriety is of great moment. The sins of this "little member" are not trifles.—Bridges.

"Refraineth" as with a bridle, for we must by force bridle our tongue as an untameable member (Jas ). Xenocrates, in "Valerius Maximus," says, "I have been sometimes sorry that I spoke; I never have been sorry that I was silent.—Fausset.

If thou be master-gunner spend not all

That thou canst speak at once, but husband it,

And give men turns of speech; do not forestall

By lavishness thine one and others' wit,

As if thou mad'st thy will. A civil guest

Will no more talk all than eat all the feast.

George Herbert.

I. The general vice here referred to is not evil speaking from malice, nor lying or bearing false witness from indirect selfish designs, but it is talkativeness: a disposition to be talking, abstracted from the consideration of what is to be said, with very little or no regard to, or thought of doing, either good or harm.… Those who are addicted to this folly cannot confine themselves to trifles and indifferent subjects: they cannot go on for ever talking of nothing, and, as common matters will not afford a sufficient fund for perpetual continued discourse, when subjects of this kind are exhausted, they will go on to scandal, divulging of secrets, or they will invent something to engage attention: not that they have any concern about being believed otherwise than a means of being heard.… The tongue used in such a licentious manner is like a sword in the hand of a madman: it is employed at random, it can scarce possibly do any good, and, for the most part, does a world of mischief.

II. The due government of the tongue. The due and proper use of any natural faculty or power is to be judged of by the end and design for which it was given us. The chief purpose for which the faculty of speech was given to man is plainly that we might communicate our thoughts to each other in order to carry on the affairs of the world; for business, and for our improvement in knowledge and learning. But the good Author of our nature designed us not only necessaries, but likewise enjoyment and satisfaction. There are secondary uses of our faculties: they administer to delight as well as to necessity, and the secondary use of speech is to please and be entertaining to each other in conversation. This is in every respect allowable and right: it unites men closer in alliance and friendship, and is in several respects serviceable to virtue. Such conversation, though it has no particular good tendency, yet hath a general good one; it is social and friendly, and tends to promote humanity, good nature, and civility.… The government of the tongue, considered as a subject of itself, relates chiefly to conversation, and the danger is, lest persons entertain themselves or others at the expense of their wisdom or their virtue. The cautions for avoiding these dangers fall under the following particulars:

1. Silence. The wise man observes that "there is a time to speak, and a time to keep silence." One meets with people in the world who seem never to have made the last of these observations. But the occasions of silence are obvious, namely, when a man has nothing to say, or nothing but what is better unsaid: better either in regard to particular persons he is present with, or from its being an interruption to conversation itself or to conversation of a more agreeable kind, or better, lastly, with regard to himself.

2. Talking upon indifferent subjects. Be sure that the subject is indifferent, that it be in no way offensive to virtue, religion, or good manners; that it be in no way vexatious to others, and that too much time be not spent in this way.

3. In discourse upon the affairs and characters of others. Consider, first, that though it is equally of bad consequence to society that men should have either good or ill characters which they do not deserve, yet when you say some good of a man which he does not deserve, there is no wrong done him in particular; whereas, when you say evil of a man which he does not deserve, here is a direct formal injury done to him. Secondly, a good man will, upon every occasion, and often without any, say all the good he can of everybody, but, so far as he is a good man, will never be disposed to speak evil of any, unless there be some other reason for it besides barely that it is the truth.—Bishop Butler.

Pro . If, as regards this world's wealth, the Lord's poor must say, "Silver and gold have I none," at least they may scatter choice silver with a widely extended blessing. "As poor, yet making many rich" (Act 3:6; 2Co 6:10).—Bridges.

A wicked man hath his worst side inward. Though sinful persons make never so great a show on the outside, yet there is nothing within them worth anything. To that purpose tend the words of the Apostle collected out of the Psalms: "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise to be but vain." If the point had stood upon man's opinion there might easily have been an error in it; but he bringeth the testimony of God, upon sure and infallible knowledge, to confirm it.… Therefore, do not too much magnify and admire them, nor too far depend on them. For better things are not certainly to be expected from them than are in them.—Dod.

The antithesis runs through every word of both clauses. The tongue, the instrument of the mind, is contrasted with the mind itself; the just with the wicked; the choice silver with the worthless "little." In each case there is implied an a fortiori argument. If the tongue is precious, how much more the mind! If the heart is worthless, how much more the speech!—Plumptre.

As pure and choice silver giveth a clear and sweet sound, so the tongue of the wise soundeth sweetly and pleasantly in the ears of men. It is also as choice silver, because therewith he is ready to buy the hearts of men to virtue and goodness. But the heart of a fool being of little worth, hence it is that he buys it not.… Now if the tongue of the just be as choice silver, his heart must needs be of fine gold. And if the heart of the wicked be little worth, his tongue must needs be worth nothing at all. Well therefore it were, if that the wicked would get the just man's tongue to be his heart; or else get the tongue of the just to infuse some of his metal into his heart; for that is able to put worth into it, and from thence to derive worth into his tongue also. The proverbial sense is, that the excellent words of wisdom work not upon a foolish heart, that having not worth to value the worth of it.—Jermin.

I. By a just man is meant—

1. A renewed man, for naturally our lips are polluted. "I am a man of unclean lips," etc. (Isa ). Sin of the tongue is most frequent, and that not without difficulty avoided. The corruption of men by nature is described (Rom 3:13). This is man's true character, as he is in his natural estate. The pure lip is the fruit of God's converting grace (Zep 3:9).

2. A man furnished with knowledge of the things which concern his duty; for every renewed man is an enlightened man (Pro ). Unless a man understand his duty, how shall he speak of it?

3. This renewed man is a mortified man; for otherwise he will only stickle for opinions, and be one of the disputers of this world, but will not warm men's hearts and excite them to practise. That must be first upon the heart which will afterwards be upon the tongue; and unless the heart be cleansed the tongue will not be cleansed. If the heart be upon the world, the tongue will be upon the world (1Jn ).

4. This renewed man must be biassed with a love of God and Christ and heaven before he can edify others. To restrain the tongue from evil is not enough, we must do good. To heart-warning discourse, faith is necessary.

II. His discourse is as choice silver.

1. For purity. Choice silver is that which is refined from all dross, and there is much evil bewrayed by the tongue, such as lying, railing, ribaldry (Eph ), cursing, idle discourse, etc.

2. For external profit. Money is very profitable for worldly uses, the discourse of a good man is very profitable to others.

III. By a wicked man is meant one that is not regenerate or renewed by the Holy Spirit. They are of several sorts.

1. Some have great natural abilities, as Ahithophel (2Sa ), yet his heart was nothing worth.

2. Some have plausible shows of piety, but that will not help the matter (Mat ).

3. Partial obedience availeth not (2Ch ). Amaziah was right in the matter, and he did many things right, but his heart was nothing worth.

1. What is in the heart of such a man? See Gen . This is the mint that is always at work; sin worketh in the heart all day, and playeth in the fancy all night; there is no truce in this warfare.

2. What cometh out of such a heart? See Mar .

3. In what sense is it little worth?

(1.) As to acceptation with God.

(2.) As to the benefit and profiting of others. Observe—

1. That the heart of the wicked is spoken of in the softest terms. Elsewhere it is said to be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer ). And this teaches us that it is not enough to do harm by our speech, but it must benefit others.

2. Till we make conscience of our thoughts, we cannot well order our words.

3. Familiar converse with those whose hearts are nothing worth, will tend to our hurt.

4. Be sure that you get another heart. For though it be not in our power to make ourselves a new heart, it is our duty to get it.—Manton.

Pro . A great housekeeper he is, hath his doors ever open, and, though himself be poor, yet he "maketh many rich" (2Co 6:10). He well knows that to this end God put "honey and milk under his tongue" (Son 3:2), that he might look to this spiritual lip-feeding. To this end hath he communicated to him those "rivers of water" (Joh 7:38) that they may flow from him to quench that world of wickedness, that, being set on fire of hell would set on fire the whole course of nature (Jas 3:6). They are "empty vines that bear fruit to themselves" (Hos 10:1).—Trapp.

This bread of life which the disciples distribute is not like common bread. The more you give of it to the needy, the more remains for your own use. It is the bread which Jesus blesses in the wilderness—the bread from heaven, which Jesus is; and when from His hand, and at His bidding, you have fed three thousand on five loaves, you will have more bread remaining in your baskets than the stock you began with.… Fools, so far from being helpful to other, have nothing for themselves. They have taken no oil in their vessels, and the flame of their lamp dies out.—Arnot.


Verse 22

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Delitzsch and Zckler read the second clause, "and labour addeth nothing thereto," i.e., "God's blessing is in itself all in all, and makes rich without any effort." Stuart and Miller translate as the authorised version, and the former understands it to signify that "sorrow shall not necessarily increase by riches when it is Jehovah Himself who bestows them."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE SOURCE OF TRUE RICHES

This proverb cannot be understood to assert that a man needs nothing but God's blessing to make him a wealthy man in the ordinary sense of the word, because we know there are many cases in which men would never have been rich if they had not toiled hard to obtain riches. Industry has been joined to the blessing of the Lord, and so they have become rich. God's favour does not generally make a man rich except he works; it is presumptuous sin to expect God to make us rich without honest toil. But the lesson to be learnt is evidently this—that diligence cannot command riches, that God must be taken into account in all our efforts to make money, that the "race is not" always "to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding" (Ecc ), even when the runners and the warriors are men after God's own heart. Placing the words beside our experience, we learn—

I. That when a good man gains riches through hard toil, it is by reason of the Divine blessing on his labour. There are among us many possessors of vast wealth who have risen early and sat up late, and eaten the bread of carefulness, but have acknowledged that, after all, it was the blessing of the Lord that had made them rich. They can point to others equally diligent, and, in some respects, superior to themselves, who have fallen in the race and have died comparatively poor. Such examples are admonitions not to trust to one's own wisdom or effort to the exclusion of the will of God. Jacob worked hard for his riches for twenty years; "in the day the drought consumed him, and the frost by night—and the sleep departed from his eyes." But he declares that his wealth was a gift from the God of his fathers—"I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant, for with my staff I have passed over this Jordan, and now I am become two bands (Gen ; Gen 32:10). A good man cannot use unlawful means of getting rich, therefore he may enjoy the amount of success which follows his efforts as a token of Divine favour.

II. That when men inherit, or become possessed of wealth for which they have not laboured, it is by the blessing of the Lord. The riches of Solomon were bestowed upon him without so much as the expression of a desire on his part, and were a token of the Divine approval. "Because.… thou hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment.… I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour" (1Ki ). Looked upon as God's gift, wealth will be rightly used, and will be the blessing that it was intended to be.

III. That there is a moral truth contained here which has nothing to do with material riches or poverty. Solomon has, over and over again, directed his hearers to riches which are far more precious than silver or gold (see chap. Pro ; Pro 8:11-19; also Homiletics and Comments of those verses). The blessing of the Lord is itself wealth.

1. Because it enriches us with Divine knowledge (1Co ). Solomon's knowledge was a higher kind of wealth than all his gold and precious stones, how much more a knowledge of Him whom to know is "life eternal" (Joh 17:3).

2. Because by means of it men obtain a Divine character (2Pe ). This wealth men can claim as theirs in other worlds beside the one upon which they now live; this is their perpetual untransferable property.

IV. That when sorrow comes to men who have been enriched by God, it springs from some other source than the riches. The text does not apply in any sense to ill-gotten gain; that is dealt with elsewhere (chap. Pro ; Pro 15:27). It refers only to that which a man may lawfully call his own.

1. But this may be the occasion of sorrow. Solomon's great wealth was the occasion of sorrow, insomuch as he used it for sinful purposes, but this sorrow was added by himself and not by God. The misuse of riches, or of any other gift of God, will be followed by a penalty which will bring sorrow; but this is man's work, and not God's.

2. Or sorrow may spring from another, and an independent source. Sorrow in one form or another is the lot of fallen man. The incarnate Son of God was a "Man of sorrows." God-given and sanctified sorrow is often a token of greater Divine favour than temporal prosperity (chap. Pro ). But there is no necessary connection between wealth and sorrow.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . The sluggard looks for prosperity without diligence; the practical atheist from diligence alone; the sound-hearted Christian from the blessing of God in the exercise of diligence. This wise combination keeps him in an active habit; humble, and dependent upon God (Joh 6:27). For, "except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Psa 127:1).… He addeth at least no sorrow but what turns to a blessing. Accumulation of riches may be the accumulation of sorrows. Lot's covetous choice was fraught with bitterness.… Gehazi was laden with his bags, but the plague of leprosy was upon him.—Bridges.

There is no sorrow added to them which is not a blessing, and, being a blessing, it cannot well be said to be sorrow. Now thus the verse may be understood as well of temporal as of spiritual riches; for it is the blessing of God, with which sorrow cannot stand.… It is God's blessing alone which, being true riches, doth truly make rich. Other things esteemed in the world may be added together in great heaps of plenty; but, having sorrow added with them, they cannot be that weal of man which truly makes wealth. It is the blessing of God which, taking away sorrow, giveth true riches unto man. And, therefore, when Job wisheth "that he were as in the mouths past"—the months of his plenty and prosperity—it is with this addition, "as in the days when God preserved me." He desireth God's blessing with the things of this world, or else he careth not for them. For that it is, as St. Gregory speaketh, which so bestoweth the help of earthly glory, as that thereby it exalteth much more in heavenly happiness.—Jermin.

Those three vultures shall be driven away that constantly feed on the wealthy worldling's heart—care in getting, fear in keeping, grief in losing the things of this life. God giveth to His, wealth without woe, store without sore, gold without guilt, one little drop whereof troubleth the whole sea of outward comforts.—Trapp.

The truth here is twofold. The cord, as it lies, seems single, but when you begin to handle it, you find it divides easily into two. It means that God's blessing gives material wealth, and also that they are rich who have that blessing, although they get nothing more.… It is a common practice to constitute firms for trade, and exhibit their titles to the public with a single name "and company." … Reverently take the All-seeing into your commercial company and counsels. If you cast Him out, there is no saying, there is no imagining, whom you may take in.… One peculiar excellence of the riches made in a company from whose councils God is not excluded, is, that the wealth will not hurt its possessors, whether it abide with them or fly away. A human soul is so made that it cannot safely have riches next it. If they come into direct contact with it, they will clasp it too closely; if they remain, they wither the soul's life away; if they are violently wrenched off, they tear the soul's life asunder. Whether, therefore, you keep or lose them, if you clasp them to your soul with nothing spiritual between, they will become its destroyer.—Arnot.


Verse 23

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Second clause, "to a man of understanding wisdom is an enjoyment" (Zckler).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A TOUCHSTONE OF CHARACTER

The painter uses the dark background of his picture to set off the bright foreground. Sunlight never looks so beautiful as when seen shining upon a black thunder-cloud; it is the power of contrast. Solomon in his character-painting is constantly making use of this power. He is ever setting the dark and the light side by side—making the foolish or wicked man a dark background upon which to portray the moral features of the truly wise. The fool looks more foolish, and the good man more wise, by the contrast.

I. That which is an object of mirth is a touchstone of character. The fool makes sport out of mischief, out of that which does harm to his fellow-creatures, and consequently involves them in misery. If we saw a man making merriment over the burning of his neighbour's house, we should conclude that he was either a maniac or utterly without a heart. A man who realised the meaning of such a calamity, and had any sympathy within him, could but be grieved at the sight. But men find occasions of mirth in matters that are of far more serious moment. The wise man tell us in chap. Pro , that "fools make a mock at sin"—that great "mischief of the universe." The saint is made sad by that in which the sinner finds an occasion of mirth. "Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people" (Jer 9:1). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament; but the world shall rejoice" (Joh 16:20). But the fool not only makes sport at mischief, it is his sport to do mischief; the one leads to the other. The fool who thinks sin is a laughing matter will not hesitate to commit sin himself, or to do his brother the irreparable mischief of leading him in the path of sin and death.

II. Men cease to make light of sin in proportion as they hare "understanding." The text implies that a man who has any right comprehension of the end of life, the value of the soul, the reality of Divine and eternal things, will not, cannot, make a sport of mischief in any shape or degree, especially of the mischief of moral wrong. A baby might laugh at a blazing house, although its own mother might be enwrapped in the flames, but this would only be an evidence of his want of understanding. Nothing proclaims a man to be a fool so plainly as his mockery of sin. A man of wisdom has too just a sense of its terrible and ruinous consequence to feel anything but sad when he thinks of it. He knows what mischief it has worked, and is working in the universe, and his understanding of these things makes that which is the sport of the fool the subject of his most solemn thought.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The difference between the lost and the saved is, that to one it is but trifling to live; to the other it is the gravest "wisdom."—Miller.

That man has arrived at an advanced stage of folly who takes as much pleasure in it as if it were an agreeable amusement. This, however, is to be expected in its natural course. Sinners at first feel much uneasiness from the operation of fear and shame, but they are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, till at length they not only cast off all restraints, but become impudent in sin, and think it a manly action to cast away the cords of God, and to pour insult and abuse on their fellow-men. But it were safer far to sport with fire than with sin, which kindles a fire that will burn to the lowest hell. It may now be a sport to do mischief, but in the lake of fire and brimstone it will be no sport to have done it.—Lawson.

When a man diveth under water he feeleth no weight of the water, though there be many tons of it over his head; whereas half a tubful of the same water, taken out of the river and set upon the same man's head, would be very burdensome unto him, and make him soon grow weary of it. In like manner, so long as a man is over head and ears in sin, he is not sensible of the weight of sin: it is not troublesome unto him; but when he beginneth once to come out of that state of sin wherein he lay and lived before, then beginneth sin to hang heavy upon him, and he to feel the heavy weight of it. So, so long as sin is in the will, the proper seat of sin, a man feeleth no weight of it, but, like a fool, it is a sport and pastime unto him to do evil. And it is therefore a good sign that sin is removed out of his seat—out of his chair of state—when it becomes ponderous and burdensome to us, as the elements do when they are out of their natural place.—Spencer's Things New and Old.

The fool is then merriest when he hath the devil for his playfellow. He danceth well in his bolts, and is passing well afraid for his woful bondage.—Trapp.


Verse 24

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE INHERITANCE OF FEAR AND DESIRE

These words treat of things desired and of things not desired coming to be possessed.

I. Ungodly men have fears concerning the future. These fears proceed from a consciousness of past sin and present guilt, and prove the existence within man of a moral standard of action. In the natural world, we know that certain effects invariably follow certain causes. Sunlight and genial rain produce fertility and beauty, the hurricane and the flood leave behind them desolation. There are certain particles whose action, if diffused abroad in the air, breed disease and death; there are others whose effects are most refreshing and healthful to the bodily frame. Coming into the region of human action and moral responsibility, there are certain actions of men which clothe the spirit with gladness, making the soul as a field which the Lord God hath blest, and there are acts which leave behind them a sting which brings utter desolation. There are deeds done by moral agents which are followed by the disapprobation of conscience in proportion as conscience is educated by moral light, and there are those which are well-springs of joy in the human heart. It is to conscience that we must refer the fears of the wicked in relation to the future.

II. The certainty that the fears of the wicked will be realised.

1. From the inequality of rewards and punishments in the present. There are men whose characters seem to be almost perfect who have not the reward at present which their integrity and uprightness deserve. There are many men who sit, as it were, like Lazarus, at a rich man's gate in poverty, who are much better men than the rich man himself. The difference in the character of the man who passed the sentence of death upon Paul, and Paul himself calls for a more manifest impartiality on the part of the Divine Ruler in the eternity to come. We feel certain that elsewhere a just sentence has been passed upon Paul and Nero. The inequality in the present dealings of God with the righteous and the wicked demands that in the future the "fear of the wicked shall come upon him."

2. From the admonition of conscience. Although the mariner's compass is sometimes unsteady, its direction is always towards the north. And the human conscience, however it may occasionally waver, points to a future judgment. It is not an occasional occurrence but so universal as to be a prophecy of a fact.

3. From the necessity that God should fulfil His own appointment. Revelation declares that, "He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained" (Act ). The Righteous Judge of all the earth must keep His own appointment, therefore every wicked man must have what he does not desire, viz., a fair and impartial trial.

III. Good men have had desires which have not been granted. The gratification of such desires would have been an injury to themselves and others. Moses desired to see God in the sense in which the Incarnate Son tells us He had seen Him. But if this desire had been granted Moses must have died, the Hebrew nation would have lost the only man who could lead them, and he would have missed the completion of the glory of his life (Exo ). Peter desired that His Master should not suffer at the hands of the chief priests and scribes (Mat 16:21). But what a calamity this would have been for Peter himself and the human race.

IV. But that which a righteous man desires above all other things shall be granted.

1. For himself in the present life, he desires a holy character. This he regards as the "one thing needful" above all other personal possessions. And God desires this for him, therefore this desire shall be granted on the fulfilment of the pre-ordained conditions (1Th ).

2. For the world he desires that God's kingdom may "come" that right may in the end triumph over wrong. Now this desire also must be granted, because Christ has taught His disciples to pray for its accomplishment, and because He Himself at the right hand of God is "henceforth expecting, till His enemies be made His footstool" (Heb ).

3. He desires for himself in the future a complete redemption of both soul and body from the curse of sin (2Co ). But this desire is implanted within him by that God who can fulfil his desire, and who has already given an earnest of its fulfilment. This alone is a guarantee that it shall be granted. "Now He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the spirit" (2Co 5:5). He has also the direct promise of Him who is "the Resurrection and the Life," the assurance of His inspired apostle that this desire of the righteous shall be granted (Joh 5:28-29; 1Co 15:49-54).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

But if our desires be granted, and even exceeded (Gen ; 1Ki 3:13; Eph 3:20), faith and patience will be tried in the very grant. Growth in grace is given by deep and humbling views of our corruption. Longings for holiness are fulfilled by painful affliction; prayers are answered by crosses. Our Father's dispensations are not what they seem to be, but what He is pleased to make them.—Bridges.

The best way to have our wills satisfied is to be godly. For to such there is a promise made. Wherein yet these rules are to be observed: First, that our will be agreeable to God's will, the desire must be holy, and seasoned with the Spirit; and not carnal and corrupted by the flesh. Secondly, that sometimes lawful desires are not performed in the same kind, but exchanged for better, and that which doth more good is bestowed instead of them. Moses desired to enter into the land of Canaan; he was denied that, but he entered sooner into the heavenly and blessed rest of everlasting life. Thirdly, that we tarry the Lord's leisure, and depend on His hand, to minister, in fittest time, all those good things which our souls desire, and so we shall not fail to receive them when He seeth that they will be most expedient for us.—Dod.


Verse 25

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . "When the whirlwind passeth, the wicked is no more."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE WHIRLWIND AND THE SURE FOUNDATION

I. The resemblance of a wicked man to a whirlwind.

1. They are both destructive forces. A whirlwind passes over a district and everything that resists its advance is either overthrown, broken, or made to bend to its fury. Every wicked man in his sphere is a destroyer of human happiness and of moral life, but the image is especially applicable to tyrants who have been destroyers of the lives of thousands of their fellow-creatures, and have ruined the happiness of thousands more in their unscrupulous onward march to the attainment of their own selfish ends. Isaiah describes such a one when he says, "Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof?" (chap. Pro .)

2. They often burst forth with sudden fury, and seem beyond the control of ordinary laws and methods of operation. A whirlwind often descends upon a peaceful valley without any warning, and its fury is the more terrible by reason of its suddenness, and because of the impossibility of foretelling its course and where it will fall in its most destructive power. So a wicked man is a lawless man, he is not guided by principle but by passion and impulse, none of his fellow-creatures can foretell what will be his next act of violence, or who will be the next victims of his selfish ambition. It is this lawless, uncontrollable destructiveness which makes both the moral and the physical whirlwind the terror of the human race, and leads men instinctively to avoid them if possible.

3. The triumph of both is short. How soon nature rights herself after the passage of a whirlwind. She covers the broken rocks with verdure, the trees put forth fresh branches clothed with fresh leaves, others grow up in the places of those which were uprooted, grass and corn spring again, and all looks lovely as before the visitation. The whirlwind "passeth," and so does the wicked man. It is soon written of him that he is "no more," and men who have trembled at his name take heart, and nations and peoples whom he seemed to have annihilated spring into existence again, and the world rights itself. How many such instances stand recorded in history from the days of Nebuchadnezzar to those of Napoleon. How many times has the experience of the Psalmist been repeated: "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree, yet he passed away, and lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found" (Psa ). How often has the world had occasion to repeat the song, "How hath the oppressor ceased!… The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers. He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth. The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us" (Isa 14:4-8).

II. In what respects a righteous man is "an everlasting foundation."

1. His character is something to build upon. Nothing can be built upon a whirlwind, but a substantial structure can be raised upon a good foundation. Men may build hope upon the word and character of a righteous man. A promise given by him is a solid ground of confidence upon which the heart of his brother-man may rest securely. Thus righteousness is a constructive force in the world—a foundation without which society cannot exist. Especially is this true of the ideal man, Christ Jesus. Because He is the Righteous One (Isa ) His promises are as anchors of the soul to the children of men. In resting upon His word His disciples build upon a "sure foundation" (1Co 3:11). Upon His character rests all their hopes for their own blessedness in the future, and for the restoration of a fallen world. Every man is a foundation if "righteousness" is the chief element of his character.

2. Because for his sake the world stands. The owner of a house may let it stand if there is a good foundation of solid rock, although the superstructure may be comparatively worthless. Our Lord tells us concerning the tribulations which he foretold, that "except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Mat ). This teaches us that the righteousness of the godly is the power which averts the destruction of the wicked, and keeps the world in existence. In this sense, therefore, the righteous are a foundation.

3. The righteous are an "everlasting" foundation, because righteousness is the basis of confidence in eternity as it is in time. The blessedness of the life to come is founded upon righteousness. The Kingdom of God in both worlds is "established in righteousness" (Isa ). The immutable character of the heavenly world is founded upon the righteousness first of its righteous King, and then upon that of His righteous servants.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The righteous may be poor, and, in his sinful state, anything but a stately building to the Lord, but in his meanest infancy he is a "foundation." Very little appears above the surface. But he is a basis of all that is to be built, and that basis is to be "eternal."—Miller.

The proverb reminds us of the close of the Sermon on the Mount, and finds the final confirmation of its truth in this, that the death of the godless is a penal thrusting of them away, but the death of the righteous a lifting them up to their home. The righteous also often enough perish in times of war and of pestilence; but the proverb, as it is interpreted, verifies itself, even although not so as the poet, viewing it from his narrow Old Testament standpoint, understood it; for the righteous, let him die when and how he may, is preserved, while the godless perishes.—Delitzsch.

The continuance of the wicked is but while they dig the pit of their own destruction.—Jermin.

The Lord will lay "a sure foundation," and "he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa ). These two promises lie together in the Scripture. When your heart's hope is fixed on that precious corner-stone, you need not be thrown into a flutter by the fiercest onset of the world and its god.—Arnot.


Verse 26

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE VEXATIOUSNESS OF A SLUGGISH SERVANT

I. He is as smoke to the eyes. Smoke in the eyes prevents the accomplishment of a man's purposes, or at least it hinders and annoys him in their execution. The eye is the light of the body; if vision is in any way obstructed or impaired, delay and vexation must ensue. So the employer of a sluggish servant must be the victim of perplexity and annoyance. He sends him on an errand, or entrusts him with a work which it is important should be done within a certain time. But he lingers over it until the time is long past, and perhaps an opportunity is lost which can never be recalled. Much often depends upon the performance of duties up to time. The want of punctuality sometimes is as disastrous as not doing the thing at all. How many plans have been frustrated, how many sufferings have in various ways been entailed upon men, by delay in the performance of duty. A master who has to depend upon a sluggard is like a man in the midst of the smoke of a burning house; he is uncertain as to his present whereabouts, and ignorant of what mishap may befal him next.

II. He is as vinegar to the teeth. He is most irritating to the temper. As vinegar sours everything with which it comes in contact, so a sluggard sours the temper of those with whom he has to do, and makes them sometimes not only irritable with him who is the offender, but with the innocent also.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Does, then, the sluggard disappoint and provoke his earthly master? See that we be not such sluggards to our Heavenly Master. Laodicean professors are especially hateful in his sight (Rev ). The slothful minister carries in a tremendous account to Him that sent him. No more pitiable object is found than the man who has time to spare, who has no object of commanding interest, and is going on to the end as if he had spent his whole life in children's play, and had lived to no useful purpose.… Why "standeth he idle in the market-place?" It cannot be—"No man hath hired him." His master's call sounds in his ears—"Go ye into the vineyard." And at his peril he disobeys it (Mat 20:7-30).—Bridges.

Sluggishness is a cutting, vexing thing. If we are Christ's, we should crucify this self-pleasing affection of the flesh.… It is a sin to waste another man's time, as much as to waste his property. "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." No doubt it is the natural disposition of some people to be slovenly and unexact. But what is your religion worth if it do not correct such a propensity?… If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. If the new life is strong in the heart, it will send its warm pulses down to the extremest member.… He who is a Christian in little things is not a little Christian; he is the greatest Christian, and the most useful. The baptism of these little outlying things shows that he is full of grace, for these are grace's overflowings; and they are ever the overflowings of the full well that refresh the desert. The great centre must be fully occupied before the stream can reach that outer edge.—Arnot.


Verse 27

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

LONG LIFE

This verse must be looked at—

I. Generally. The fear of the Lord prolongs life because, other things being equal, godliness tends to bodily health. A good man governs his life by some kind of law, his passions and inclinations do not play the lord over his conscience and will. This has a beneficial influence upon his bodily health. He has contentment with his present lot, trust in his God amid all the anxieties of life, and hope for the future. Such a state of mind tends to soundness of bodily health, whereas the manner of life of a godless man is opposed to health and consequently to long life. If a complicated machine is permitted to work with some of its parts improperly adjusted and fretting against each other at every turn of the wheel, the friction will soon wear away the parts, and ere long they will cease to act. A soul without godliness is a complicated mechanism which has never been rightly adjusted. There is no ruling principle, no guiding hand, one passion wars against another, the man bears the burden of life alone, he is at times a prey to the fears spoken of in Pro , and the rule of all these devils in the soul has a tendency to wear out the body before its time. This is a truth universally admitted. But the words must also be regarded—

II. Relatively. That is, with a due regard to other circumstances. The length of a good man's life does not always depend upon himself, but upon the age in which he lives—upon the people by whom he is surrounded. The godliness of Abel shortened his life very materially. If his works had not been righteous, his brother would not have murdered him. The first Christian martyr met with an early and a violent death because he was a "man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost" (Act ); and the fear of the Lord has shortened the days of millions since then. The ranks of the "noble army of martyrs" have been filled up by volunteers of every age and many nations since Stephen fell asleep, testifying to the fact that, so far as life in this world is concerned, other things must be taken into consideration.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

There is no such wholesome air—there is no such kindly physic—there is no such sovereign cordial—as the fear of the Lord. That makes the days of the godly as long as the years of the wicked.—Jermin.

The righteous' days are great and noble, and the wicked's days are mean and small. And this is the meaning of the Proverb, "Made little," literally, "shortened" (E.V.). We thought at first that this was decisive against our sense, and against our rendering of all the verses expounded in chap. 3. (Pro ). Our thought of this was increased by Job 14:1, and by all the expositions. But when we turned to Psa 102:23, our own sense was wonderfully confirmed. That verse reads, "He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days:" where "shortened" must have a sense coincident with continued living. And what that sense is, such passages as these: "Is my hand shortened?" (Isa 50:2), "The soul of the people was (lit.) shortened," "The days of his youth hast Thou shortened" (Num 21:4; Psa 89:45), and nearly all the other instances strikingly confirm. The meaning is, Wisdom makes our days grander and grander, and Impenitence makes them weaker, and always of less account.—Miller.


Verse 28

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

HOPES REALISED AND DISAPPOINTED

I. The righteous man's present possession—"Hope." We saw in treating Pro that the righteous man possesses God-begotten desires, and that he has good ground for believing that these desires will be granted, therefore he expects their fulfilment, and desire and expectation constitute his hope. Hope is a fortune in itself. It gives a present gladness, and therefore a present power. It is in itself a tower of strength. Nothing upholds us so surely in present difficulties as the hope of a brighter future. If in the hour of darkness a man can say to his soul, "Why art thou cast down, and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God" (Psa 42:5), he holds in possession a sheet-anchor which will prevent him from making shipwreck upon the rocks of despair and infidelity. The hope of the righteous is a present salvation. "We are saved by hope" (Rom 8:24). It is "an anchor of the soul" (Heb 6:19).

II. The righteous man's future inheritance—gladness. If the hope of an expected good gives gladness, how much more its realisation! A man is glad when the title deeds of an estate are handed over to him even if he cannot at once enter upon its possession, how much more glad is he when he enters into the full enjoyment of his inheritance. The righteous man's hope is a more certain guarantee of his future inheritance of gladness than the most indisputable deed ever written upon parchment. It is as we saw before (see on Pro ) an earnest of its own fulfilment. The hope begotten in the heart of a child, by the inspiration of his father's character and genius, that he may one day be like his parent, is a hope that the father himself will not disappoint. Love for his child and a regard for his own honour will impel him to do all that lies within his reach to satisfy the desire—to fulfil the expectation—of his child. If, in addition, he was able to promise the child that his hope should be realised, nothing could acquit him of his obligation to perform his promise except inability. The Eternal Father has by His spirit and by His promise begotten such a hope within His children and "begotten them" unto the hope (1Pe 1:3). This is "the hope" of the righteous, and the character and the omnipotence of Him who gave it birth is a sure pledge that it shall be "gladness." Closely connected with it are the hopes of the coming of God's kingdom, and of the "adoption of the body" (Rom 8:23), noticed in considering "the desire of the righteous."

III. The doom of the expectation of the ungodly man. If the wicked man has fears concerning the future (see on Pro ), he has also vague hopes concerning it, although his desires and expectations are chiefly in relation to the present world. As to his desires of a state of happiness after death, they are not strong enough to lead him to comply with the conditions of entering upon it. Any expectation of this nature can be based upon nothing outside himself, and it must therefore perish. His expectation of the results of his own earthborn and devilish schemes will also perish. He may apparently bring them to a successful issue, but the end will show that it is not so. If he succeeds in gaining wealth or power, he will not get what he expected out of them. Any expectation which he forms as to the overthrow of the good will meet with the same doom. Pharaoh expected to be able to retain the Hebrews in bondage, but his expectation was broken to shivers upon the shield of Eternal Omnipotence. The chief priests and scribes expected to stamp out the name and the influence of the Nazarene by crucifying Him, but the result contradicted their expectations. In these instances may be seen a reflection of the doom of every expectation which is out of harmony with righteousness.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Christian! make sure the ground of your hope (2Pe ). Then set out its gladness as becomes an heir of glory. Let not a drooping spirit tell the world the scantiness of your hope. But show that you can live upon its gladness until you enter into its perfect and everlasting fruition. Doubtfulness leaves believers and infidels nearly upon the same level.—Bridges.

The proverb means literally—"The hope of the righteous (itself) turns to joy." Faith is the begining of felicity.… The expectation or "assurance" of the impenitent man, even if he finds it well placed, "perishes" as of its very nature. "The world passes away and the desire thereof." The lost may have had all he wished, but his very wishes perish at the last day (1Jn ).—Miller.

All the hopes of the wicked shall not bring him to heaven; all the fears of the righteous shall not bring him to hell.—Bunyan.

It would be better for "hope" and "expectation" to change places. Even the expectant waiting of the righteous is joyful at the time, and ends in joy; the eager hope of the wicked comes to nought (comp. Job ).—Plumptre.

The wicked cannot choose but fear, and, therefore, Eliphaz says of a wicked man, the sound of fear is in his ears (Job ). And in Isaiah (Pro 20:17) they are compared to the troubled sea, which cannot rest. And because where fear is, it is some ease to think, if not to hope, that the evil feared may not fall upon them; this ease is taken away, for the fear shall come. Come it shall, as it were of itself without sending for, because it is most due unto them. An instance of this is given in those who lived at the time of the building of the Tower of Babel, and who saying "Let us build it lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth," it followeth soon after, "and the Lord scattered them upon the face of all the earth." On the other side, the righteous having tasted of goodness cannot choose but desire it; and because where desire is, it is some trouble to think, if not to doubt, that the good desired may not be accomplished, this trouble is taken away, for He shall give who can give whatsoever Himself will, whatsoever they can desire.—Jermin.

Attachment to futurity has a remarkable influence on the operation of the human mind. The present, whatever it be, seldom engages our attention so much as what is to come. The present is apt to be considered an evanescent scene, just about to pass away; and in the midst of wishes and desires, of hopes and fears, which all respect futurity, we may be said to dwell. As on these the life of man is so much suspended, it becomes a material part of wisdom and duty to attend to any regulations by which they may be properly conducted. The anticipations of the righteous, conducted by prudence, and regulated by piety, mislead him not from his duty, and afford him satisfaction in the end. While the expectation of the wicked, arising from fantastic imaginary prospects, delude him for a while and terminate in misery. Let us consider, what we may, and what we may not, reasonably expect from the world.

I. We must not expect the uninterrupted continuance of any measure of health, prosperity, or comfort, which we now enjoy.

II. We are not to expect, from our intercourse with others, all that satisfaction which we fondly wish.… Such is the power which the sophistry of self-love exercises over us, that almost everyone may be assured that he measures himself by a deceitful scale; that he places the point of his own merit at a higher degree than others will admit that it reaches.… Were expectations more moderate, they would be more favourably received. If you look for a friend in whose temper there is not to be found the least inequality, who upon no occasion is to be hurt or offended by any frailties you discover, whose feelings are to harmonise in every trifle with yours, whose countenance is always to reflect the image of your own, you look for a pleasing phantom, which is never, or at most, very rarely, to be found; and if disappointment sour your mind, you have your own folly to blame. You ought to have considered that you live in a region of human infirmity, where everyone has imperfections and failings.

III. We are not to expect constant gratitude from those whom we have obliged and served. I am far from saying that gratitude is a rare virtue, but our expectations of proper returns must be kept within moderate bounds. We must not imagine that gratitude is to produce unlimited compliance with every desire we indulge, or that those whom we have obliged will altogether desert their own interest for the sake of their benefactors. I shall next show what a good man may reasonably expect from human life. I. Whatever course the affairs of the world may take, he may justly hope to enjoy peace of mind. This to the sceptic and the profligate will be held as a very inconsiderable object of hope. But, assuredly, the peace of an approving conscience is one of the chief ingredients of human happiness; provided always that this self-approbation be tempered with due humility and regulated by Christian faith. II. He has ground to expect that any external condition into which he may pass shall, by means of virtue and wisdom, be rendered if not perfectly agreeable, yet tolerably easy to him. The inequality of real happiness is not to be measured by the inequality of outward estate. A wise and good man is never left without resources by which to make his state tolerable. Seldom or never do all good things forsake a man at once. What is very severe of any kind, seldom lasts long. Time and continuance reconcile us to many things that were at first insuportable. III. We have ground to expect that, if we persevere in studying to do our duty towards God and man, we shall meet with the esteem and love of those around us. The world, as I have before observed, is seldom disposed to give a favourable reception to claims based on superior talents and merits. But, with respect to moral qualifications, the world is more ready to do justice to character. Unaffected piety commands respect. Candour never fails to attract esteem and trust. Kindness conciliates love and creates warm friendships. I have considered only what the righteous man has to hope for in the ordinary course of the world. But—IV. He has before him a much higher object of hope, even the hope which is laid up for him in heaven; the assured expectation of a better life in a higher and better world Put the case of a servant of God being overwhelmed with all the disappointments which the world can bring upon him, here is an expectation which will always be gladness.—Blair.


Verse 29

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . "Jehovah's way is a fortress to the upright, but it is destruction to the workers of iniquity.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

GOD'S WAY DESTRUCTION AND SALVATION

I. In common with all His intellectual and moral creatures, God has a way, or plan of action. A skilful artificer has a way by which he brings forth a certain result in a work of skill. His way is the out-come of his previous thought and purpose; he does not go about his work in uncertainty as to what he is going to do, or how he is going to do it. The architect proceeds to erect his building in accordance with a certain plan, in a certain way before determined on. The public instructor has ways of teaching which are the out-come of previous thought; he would otherwise work at random. Those who are leaders of others must think and teach within the limits of certain rules, in pursuance of some definite end, otherwise there could be no result from their teaching. God, the skilful Artificer and wise Architect of the material universe, the Great Instructor of men, is no exception to this rule.

1. He works in nature according to a definite and pre-ordained rule or law. All that we see around us reveals Divine forethought and intention, proclaims that the Creator works for a definite end, that He walks in a pre-arranged way. He has a way, or method, of producing day and night, summer and winter, of developing the seed-corn into the full ear, of watering the earth by clouds, and so fitting it for the habitation of man.

2. He has a way in Providence, and though here it is far more difficult than even in nature to trace His working or unravel His purposes, we know that He works in accordance with a definite plan for the accomplishment of a certain purpose, and that there is nothing of chance in the mysteries of life. A child may look on while his father is putting together the works of a watch, he cannot judge of the adaptation of certain processes and actions, but he knows that his father has made many watches before, and he judges from what has been, of what is, and what shall be. And so with God's way of providence, we cannot trace the why of His operations, we cannot see the issue of His actions while He is at work. The workings are too complicated for us to trace the adaptation of the means to the end. But from past results we conclude what will be the issue of His present dealings, from what has been we know what shall be, viz., that all will be seen to be part of a great plan or way of action, and that the verdict of the universe at last will be, "just and true are Thy ways, Thou king of saints" (Rev ). Clouds and darkness have been around God's working in the past, but righteousness and justice have come out of the darkness, and so we know it ever shall be.

3. God has a way of grace. Here His way is a way of forgiveness through a Divine Atoner, and of sanctification through a Divine Spirit, meeting human need if that human need is felt and confessed. The need of a man who has broken God's law must be felt and acknowledged before the way of forgiveness and restoration is brought into operation. This is the law by which men are loosed from the bonds of sin, "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2Co ). This is Jehovah's "way of salvation."

II. The opposite effects of the Divine way upon opposite characters. "The way of the Lord is strength to the upright, but destruction to the workers of iniquity" (see Critical Notes). All men who are not numbered with the "upright," whose moral nature has not been lifted up by contact with the Divine, are "workers of iniquity." Dr. David Thomas says of iniquity, "The word is negative—the want of equity. Men will be damned not merely for doing wrong, but for not doing the right" (see "The Practical Philosopher," p. 132). We take the words therefore to signify the two great classes into which Christ divides the world, "He that believeth and he that believeth not" (Joh ), and consider the different effect upon these two opposite characters of—

1. Jehovah's way of nature. To the upright there comes strength from the contemplation of God as revealed in His material works. He feels that God is a necessity to account for what he sees around him. All created things speak to him of the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of their Maker and Up-holder, and his faith is strengthened by this manifestation of "the way of the Lord." He obeys the injunction of the prophet, "Lift up your eyes on high and behold, who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number; He calleth them all by names, by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power, not one faileth." And thence he draws the prophet's argument, "That the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary" that "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength," and in thus "waiting upon the Lord" he "renews his strength," he "runs and is not weary, he walks and does not faint" (Isa ). But how different is the effect of the works of nature, when the God of nature is not acknowledged. They harden men in materialism, God's own laws are used to bow Him out of His own universe, and their working becomes so many forces of destruction because they drive men further from their only hope and help. As Paul tells us, such men "hold (back) the truth in (or, by) unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God is manifest in (or to) them; for God hath showed it to them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His Eternal Power and Godhead. But, "professing themselves wise, they became fools, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator" (see Rom 1:18-32). This is destruction to any man.

2. Of Jehovah's way of providence. Faith in a personal God, in a Divine Saviour, makes this "way" also "strength to the upright." If a seaman has faith in his captain, this gives him strength for his duty even in the roughest weather. He feels that he is not altogether left to the mercy of the blind elements, but that there is a strong and wise will guiding the ship. So confidence in an All-wise Father, in a King who "can do no wrong," is the stronghold of the upright amidst all the apparent contradictions and mysteries of life. He knows who is at the wheel of all human affairs, that

"When He folds the cloud about Him,

Firm within it stands His throne;"

and the knowledge that "God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all," makes what would otherwise overwhelm him in doubt, and consequently in weakness, a source of strength, a power of life. But where God is not known, this confidence is absent, and nothing but chance, or an arbitrary Judge, sits upon the throne of the Universe. The terrible perplexities of life are like the rings of the wheels in Ezekiel's vision, "so high that they are dreadful," and, as such a man does not discern above them the "man upon the throne" (Eze ), they are to him only mighty and resistless engines of destruction.

3. Of Jehovah's way of grace. The upright man has gained his strength to be upright from the way of Divine forgiveness. Even a child feels stronger when assured of his father's restored favour, and the forgiveness of God sets a man upon his feet and gives him that "joy of the Lord" which is "strength" (Neh ). Unforgiven sin breaks the bones of the soul. "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old," but "I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." "Make me to hear joy and gladness: that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities" (Psa 32:3-5; Psa 51:8-9). And he gains strength to continue in the way of uprightness by communion with an unseen Saviour, by the indwelling power of the Holy Ghost. Christ is "the power of an endless life" to all who believe in Him (Heb 7:16). This is the "way" or law of the kingdom of grace. "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name" (Joh 1:12). But to those who reject this way of grace, this "righteousness of God" (Rom 3:22), this "way of salvation," becomes a power of destruction; that which was ordained to be a "savour of life" becomes a "savour of death." Christ crucified is a stumbling-block and foolishness to such (1Co 1:23). "Whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Mat 21:44). The way of Jehovah is in no instance the cause of the destruction of the wicked but it must be the occasion. The words and works of Christ were the occasion but not the cause of the great national sin of the Jewish nation. "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father" (Joh 15:22-24). The knife in the hand of the surgeon is an instrument to save life, but the patient may use it to kill himself if he be so minded. A candle may be used to give light and comfort to all in the house—this is its use with regard to honest men—but the same light may be the means of the discovery and punishment of a thief. The light and heat of the sun, falling upon a bed of flowers fills the air with fragrance and the spirit of man with delight, but if it fall upon a noisome stagnant pool, or a dead body, it will hasten decomposition and spread the seeds of disease and death. It is not the nature of sunlight to destroy, but the objects upon which it falls turns the blessing into a curse. So with "the grace of God which bringeth salvation" (Tit 2:11). "Is it not true," says Maclaren, "that every man that rejects Christ does in verity reject Him, and not merely neglect Him; that there is always an effort, that there is a struggle, feeble, perhaps, but real, which ends in the turning away? It is not that you stand there, and simply let him go past. That were bad enough; but it is more than that. It is that you turn your back npon Him! It is not that His hand is laid on yours, and yours remains dead and cold, and does not open to clasp it; but it is that His hand being laid on yours, you, clench yours the tighter, and will not have it. And so every man (I believe) that ever rejects Christ does these things thereby—wounds his own conscience, hardens his own heart, makes himself a worse man, just because he has had a glimpse, and has willingly, almost consciously, "loved darkness rather than light." The message of love can never come into a human soul, and pass away from it unreceived, without leaving that spirit worse, with all its lowest characteristics strengthened, and all its best ones depressed, by the fact of rejection.… If there were no judgment at all, the natural result of the simple rejection of the Gospel is that, bit by bit, all the lingering remains of nobleness that hover about the man, like scent about a broken vase, shall pass away; and that, step by step, through the simple process of saying, "I will not have Christ to rule over me," the whole being shall degenerate, until manhood becomes devilhood, and the soul is lost by its own want of faith" (See Sermons, Vol. I. p. 7). And so it is all with man, and in no degree with God, that "His way," which He intends to be the fortress, the strength of every human soul, becomes a destruction to "the workers of iniquity."

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

This promise implies help for our work, and not rest from our labour. We shall have strength for the conflict. But "there is no discharge from the war." There is supply for real, not for imaginary, wants; for present, not for future, need. The healthful energy of the man of God is also supposed. He is alive in the way; his heart is set in it. This makes it practicable. What before was drudgery is now meat and drink. Indeed, the more godly we are, the more godly we shall be. The habit of grace increases by exercise. One step helps on the next. Thus was the way of the Lord strength to the upright Nicodemus. His first step was feebleness and fear. Walking onwards, he waxed stronger; standing up in the ungodly council, and ultimately the bold confessor of his Saviour when his self-confident disciples slunk back (Joh ; Joh 7:50; Joh 19:39).… Thus "the righteous shall hold on their way, going from strength to strength," strengthened in the Lord, and walking up and down in His name (Job 17:9; Psa 84:5-7; Zec 10:12).… No such resources support the workers of iniquity. Captives instead of soldiers, they know no conflicts; they realise no need of strength.—Bridges.

The way of the earth doth weary them that walk in it, and doth take away their strength: but the way of the Lord is strength to the upright, so that the more they go in it, the more able are they to go on in it. Or else because he that walketh uprightly walketh in the ways of God's most gracious providence over him, and that must needs be a strength unto him. A strong staff, that is, to support him, a strong bulwark to defend him, a strong arm to fight for him. The angel, therefore, might well say to Gideon, "Thou mighty man of valour" when he had first said, "The Lord is with thee." But as the way of the Lord is to the upright the way of His gracious providence over them, so He hath another way for the workers of iniquity, and that is the way of judgment.—Jermin.

Sin is man's destruction.

1. Sin brings many evils upon man, from which, if he were virtuous, he would be totally free, such as a decayed body, a wounded conscience, a discontented heart, vexation in the present, fear for the future.

2. Sin puts man out of condition to render tolerable those evils which he cannot avoid. He feels the burden of them in all their pressure because he is destitute of the supports of reliance and hope. He cannot perceive in his afflictions the hand of a father, but is forced to confess them the punishment of an offended sovereign.

3. Sin prevents man from the full enjoyment of the good which outweighs the evil in the world. The Christian finds pleasure in the works of creation, the methods of providence, in beneficence, in friendship, in domestic happiness. Sin deprives us of a taste for these pleasures by enervating the mind, by selfishness, by pride.

4. Sin incapacitates us for the state of pure and perfect happiness in the world to come.—Zollikofer.

Sometimes, by the way of the Lord, the observing of God's law, sometimes the course of God's providence is meant in Scripture, as here in this place. It is said to strengthen the upright, not only for that it fortifieth their hearts, but because it preserveth them by sundry means from destruction. The manner of the Lord's dealing with the wicked is quite contrary; for the Lord plagueth them and crosseth them for their iniquities, and in their evil doing, even throughout the whole course of their life, which is unfortunate and full of many miseries.—Muffet.

The "way" Jehovah personally walks in (as, for example, His way of justice) "is a fortress." To Gabriel, for instance, it is the arch that shelters him for ever; to the poor saint it is a sworn certainty of defence; but to the wicked it is an eternal vengeance. The way of mercy—that is, in the cross of Christ—is life unto life to the saint, and death unto death to the rebellious sinner. Elihu pictures this in the outward creation (Job ): "For by them" (that is, by the same elements of Nature) "judgeth He the people; He giveth meat in abundance." The same showers fertilise the earth, or tear to pieces with a deluge.—Miller.


Verse 30-31

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Cut out, "rooted out."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE EARTH THE POSSESSION OF THE RIGHTEOUS

I. From their relation to God it is theirs now. The estate of an English nobleman is the portion of all his family to a certain extent. They all live upon it, and partake of its productions. But the eldest son has a special inheritance in it—it is the perpetual possession of the heir of the house, and it is therefore his in a sense in which it is not the property of his brothers and sisters. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof" (Psa ), and it is therefore the property of His children—of those who are His sons and heirs (Rom 8:17). All men enjoy to some extent the blessings of the earth, but it belongs only to them whom Paul addresses when he says, "All things are yours, whether.… the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come" (1Co 3:21-22).

II. From their relation to God it shall be theirs in the future. The regenerated earth is to be the eternal abode of the righteous. The glorified body of the redeemed man will have enough of his present body to enable us to identify each other. Although we have not now the "body that shall be" (1Co ), there will be such a relationship between the present and the future as shall make them the same individual man. So, although the earth is to be "a new earth" (2Pe 3:13), there will be that about it which will enable the regenerated man to recognise his old home. And if in the new earth there is to dwell "righteousness," it is because it is to be the abode of righteous beings. On this subject see also Homiletics on Chap. Pro 2:21-22.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Love of home is an impulse and emotion natural to, man; but to no people was fatherland so greatly delighted in, to none was exile and banishment from fatherland so dreadful a thought, as it was to the people of Israel. Expatriation is the worst of all evils with which the prophets threatened individuals and the people; and the history of Israel in their exile, which was a punishment of their national apostasy, confirms this proverb, and explains its form.… In general, the proverb means that the righteous fearlessly maintains the position he takes; while, on the contrary, all they who have no hold on God lose also their outward position. But often enough this saying is fulfilled in this, that they, in order that they may escape disgrace, become wanderers and fugitives, and are compelled to conceal themselves among strangers.—Delitzsch.

The desire of the righteous is not to stay upon earth, neither is that the reward which God hath appointed for them. They know a better place to go unto, and where better things than the earth can afford are provided for them. Hugo de Sancto Victore saith, therefore, making three sorts of men, "He is very delicate whose own country is delicious unto him; he is valiant to whom every country is his own; he is perfect to whom the world is a banishment. The first hath fastened his love upon the world, the second hath scattered his love in the world, the last hath extinguished his love from the world." And this is the righteous man of whom it is here said that he shall never be removed, because he shall never be taken hence with an unwilling and reluctant mind. He having never set his affection upon the world, can never be removed from it. When he goeth hence, he goeth cheerfully and gladly; it is not a remove of him, but a pleasant passage to him.—Jermin.

Moved, not removed, but shaken: shall not be seriously disturbed.—Miller.

See also comments on chap. Pro .

(For Homiletics on Pro , see on Pro 10:13-14; Pro 10:20-21.)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The figure here is of a sprout or seedling which has the capacity to grow for ever. "Wisdom" is such a tree. It grows from the mouth of the good man, and will grow for ever; that is, the good man will incessantly spread abroad wisdom. God, who is invisible, spreads abroad wisdom only through the creature. But the ungodly tongue, literally "the tongue of upturnings," overturning everything, and being in this world the great instrument for leading others astray, will be put in a condition to be foiled of such an influence: as the inspired sentence expresses it, will be "cut out."—Miller.

As a tree full of life and sap brings forth its fruit, so in Isa , the cognate word is translated "the fruit of the lips." The froward tongue is like a tree that brings forth evil and not good fruit. It "shall be cut down." What is meant is, that the abuse of God's gift of speech will lead ultimately to its forfeiture. There shall, at last, be the silence of shame and confusion.—Plumptre.


Verse 32

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

ACCEPTABLE WORDS

I. The righteous man knows what words are acceptable to God from a study of Divine laws. The courtier knows how to approach his king—in what words to address him—because he has made himself acquainted with the laws of the court. The righteous man is well acquainted with the laws of the kingdom of God, and, being so, he knows how to draw near to the Divine King—he sets his words in order before Him as the wood is laid in order upon the altar for the sacrifice. God has not left man in ignorance of what kind of words are acceptable to Him (Hos ; Mal 3:16; Mat 6:9; Eph 5:19-20, etc).

II. He knows what words are acceptable to men from a study of their character. Man's character is a prophecy of the kind of words that will be acceptable. The righteous man makes it his business, and regards it as his duty to frame his speech—so far as is consistent with righteousness—in such a manner that those to whom he speaks will be won to listen to his words.

III. He speaks what are acceptable words from the habit of his heart. It is natural for a good tree to bear good fruit, and it is the nature of a righteous man to speak words of humility and faith to his God and of kindness to his fellow-men. As the tree is, so is the fruit. As the man's heart is, so, with rare exceptions, are his words. (See on Pro ).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . The plain sense is, that the righteous speak those things whereby they have the favour both of God and man, and whereby they are in friendship and peace both with heaven and earth. But the mouth of the wicked careth not to offend either God or man, and seeketh not for love anywhere, being wholly pleased in perverseness. But many know what is acceptable to God and man, but their lips do not know it. So the liar knoweth truth to be acceptable to God and man, but their lips do not know it: the profane person knoweth prayer to be acceptable, but his lips do not know it: the ill governor knoweth the reproof of vice to be acceptable, but his lips do not know it: the brawler knoweth mildness of speech to be acceptable, but his lips do not know it. Yea, the lips also of many speak that which is acceptable, but their lips do not know it; their speaking of it being in such a manner as maketh that which is acceptable not to be acceptable. But the righteous man speaketh that which pleaseth God and pleaseth man, and he speaks it in a pleasing manner. Or else as Clemens Alexandrinus readeth, the lips of the righteous know high things in speaking the high praises of the highest God, and in opening the truth of high things unto men.—Jermin.

How, what, when, to whom to speak, is a matter of great wisdom. Yet this consideration of acceptableness must involve no sacrifice of principle. Let it be a considerate accommodation of mode to the diversities of tastes; a forbearance with lesser prejudices and constitutional infirmities; avoiding not all offences (which faithfulness to our Divine Master forbids), but all needless offences, all uncalled-for occasions of design and irritation. "The meekness of wisdom" should be clearly manifested in Christian faithfulness (Jas .) Thus Gideon melted the frowardness of the men of Ephraim (Jud 8:2-3). Abigail restrained David's hands from blood (1Sa 25:23; 1Sa 25:33). Daniel stood fearless before the mighty monarch of Babylon (Dan 4:27). Their lips knew what was acceptable, and their God honoured them.—Bridges.

HOMILY ON THE ENTIRE CHAPTER. The pious and ungodly compared in respect—

1. To their earthly good; 2 To their worth in the eyes of men;

3. To their outward demeanour in intercourse with others;

4. To their disposition of heart as this appears in their mien, their words, their Acts 5. To their diverse fruits, that which they produce in their moral influence upon others;

6. To their different fates as awarded to them at last in the retribution of eternity.—Lange's Commentary.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 10:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-10.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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