corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.20.12.03
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Proverbs 12

 

 


Verse 1-2

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Instruction, "discipline" or "disciplinary instruction."

Pro . Obtaineth, literally "draws out."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE LOVE OF KNOWLEDGE AND THE PROOF OF IT

True knowledge is to be loved—

I. For what it can do for him who loves it.

1. It refines a man. Gold when it is in its natural condition is valuable because it is gold, but when it has been purged from its impurities by the refining process it is more to be valued and is more beautiful. So a man may be sterling gold without much knowledge, but when the dross of ignorance is removed, he is worth more and is more attractive. If this be true of knowledge in the general, it is pre-eminently true of the knowledge which comes from above. If any knowledge exercises a refining influence upon the human mind, much more does the highest knowledge—the knowledge of God.

2. It will open up sources of enjoyment that would otherwise be hidden. The blind are deprived of many enjoyments by lack of sight. There is an abundance of beauty all around them, but their want of vision makes it useless to them. Intellectual ignorance is intellectual blindness; the ignorant man is a stranger to a thousand pleasures which are enjoyed by a well-informed man. Especially ignorance of Divine things shuts a man out from the highest, the only lasting unalloyed source of joy.

3. It makes a man less dependent on the outward and visible. A man who has stored up knowledge will be good company for himself. He can find refreshment by meditating on what he has within him, and need not be ever seeking it in external things. The contemplation of Divine and eternal truths especially, will ever be "within him a well of water" (Joh ).

II. For what it will do for others. If a man makes money only to dig a grave and bury it, he sins against himself and all whom he might bless by its use. So there are men who seem to have no other end in getting knowledge than to bury it. Such a man is an intellectual miser, and a sinner against human kind. There ought to be a love of giving, as well as a love of getting. For a man who possesses any kind of knowledge can bless others by its use. And this being true of all useful knowledge, how much more true is it of the knowledge which makes "wise unto salvation?" Christ insists that no Christian make himself a grave in which to bury this knowledge, but a medium to communicate it (Mat ). And the influence of knowledge which has been acquired is not limited to the short life of a man upon the earth. How much are we indebted to the knowledge gained by earnest seekers in every department of knowledge long before we were born. One earnest seeker may gain a knowledge that will be a light to men as long as the world lasts. Especially those who have been earnest seekers after Divine truth leave a legacy of blessing behind them, the influence of which will outlive the world. For all these reasons men ought to love knowledge.

III. The proof of loving knowledge. He will seek instruction. This is the only way to knowledge. If a man loves the object of his pursuit, he will show his love by the use of means.

1. Seeking instruction is a confession of ignorance, and to be convinced that we are ignorant is the first step to becoming wise. Self-conceit is the fatal barrier to a man's gaining knowledge.

2. It involves self-denying labour. Little that is worth having can be obtained without labour. The gold-digger has to labour long and painfully before he finds the precious nuggets. If men would drink of a springing well of pure water they must dig deep down for it. The student must plod over dry details if he wishes to taste the sweets of learning.

3. It generally involves correction by the instructor. If a man sets out to dig for gold or to dig for water, he will most likely make mistakes while he is a novice. If he is really in earnest about his work he will receive "reproof," although it will not be altogether palatable. So with the scholar, he must suffer the reproof of the master. Doubtless the main reference here is to that knowledge which regenerates the character; and certainly the man who loves this highest knowledge will confess his ignorance, will not shrink from labouring to attain it, will accept that "reproof" which is an indispensable element in Divine instruction. If the man of God is to be "thoroughly furnished" or "perfected," he must accept "reproof" and "correction," as well as instruction (2Ti ).

IV. The character of the man who does not love reproof. He is "brutish." The great difference between a man and a brute is that the one can grow intellectually and morally and the other cannot. Many animals possess great sagacity, and to a certain extent that can be developed. They sometimes, too, possess admirable qualities, but they are not capable of soul-enlargement. But man is, and in order to attain it he must submit to the instruction and reproof of those who are wiser than himself. He must stoop before he can rise. If he will not do this, he will never attain to the high destiny for which he was created—ever to be rising higher and higher in the scale of being. His lower nature will rule his spirit, and he will be little better than the beast. He must submit to the correction and instruction of His God if he would not be classed with "the horse and the mule, which have no understanding" (Psa ). The man who will not take reproof will certainly have to submit to it, and this not only from those who are wiser than himself, but from his companions in ignorance, A terrible reproof will be administered by Divine Wisdom to those who refuse reproof (chap. Pro 1:24-31). And he will not escape upbraidings from those who are involved in the same sentence. Ungodly men are the first to upbraid their companions in ungodliness when they are all involved in the same penalty.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Here is shewed that adversity is the best university, saith an interpreter. Corrections of instructions are the way of life. Men commonly beat and bruise their links before they light them, to make them burn the brighter. God first humbles whom He means to illuminate; as Gideon took thorns of the wilderness and briars and with them he taught the men of Succoth (Jud ). M. Ascham was a good schoolmaster to Queen Elizabeth, but affliction was a better, as one well observeth. He that hateth reproof, whether it be by the rebukes of men, or the rod of God, is fallen below the stirrup of reason, he is a brute in man's shape; nothing is more irrational than irreligion.—Trapp.

The most we can attain to in this life is, not to know, but only to have a love of knowledge; we know in part, and a partial knowledge is not to know indeed. If we can love knowledge entirely, that is the entireness of knowledge in this life. Now as knowledge cometh from instruction, so the love of knowledge from the love of instruction. He that is servant to the one, will soon be a master to the other. A loving obedience in receiving doth even command love to keep what is received.… There is the reproof of an enemy and there is the reproof of a friend, the one seeketh reproach, the other amendment, but neither is to be hated, for howsoever reproof be used it is a profitable thing.—Jermin.

Reproof is not pleasant to nature. We may learn its value from its results, but it will never be sweet to our taste. At the best it is a bitter morsel. The difference between a wise man and a fool is not that one likes it and the other loathes it; both dislike it, but the fool casts away the precious because it is unpalatable, and the wise man accepts the unpalatable because it is precious.—Arnot.

The grand secret of life is to hear lessons, and not to teach them.—Haliburton.

It is the property of all true knowledge, especially spiritual, to enlarge the soul by filling it; to enlarge it without swelling it; to make it more capable, and more earnest to know, the more it knows.—Bishop Sprat.

Ignorance is the curse of God,

Knowledge the wing with which we fly to heaven.

Shakespeare.

This is a great text. We may expect great texts where there is a look of commonplace. The thought raises itself two stories at least in the respect of doctrine. He that, instead of fretting at that mysterious Providence of God that we call evil, enters into its deep experiences, and learns to value it as precious to his soul—that man loves light, or gospel "knowledge." That is the first story. But, now, he who takes a much wider view, and looks at all the gains from evil to the universe—how impossible would be high forms of knowledge, how utterly unconceived by anyone not Infinite, without the foil of either observed or experienced misery—that man acquiesces in all the evils that are seen in the creation, loving discipline because he loves knowledge, and acquiescing even in hell itself, because he suspects its absolute necessity in the providential system. Mourning over our griefs, which seems to be the work often of a refined and delicate nature, is here asserted to be "brutish." He is but a Hottentot in the ways of the Almighty who does not see that the crushing of his hopes has been one of the tenderest methods of his redemption.—Miller.

He, and he only, that loves the means, loves the end. The means of knowledge are "instruction" in what is right, and "reproof" for what is wrong. He who is an enemy to either of these means is an enemy to the end. A. Fuller.

Is there any man so like a beast as not to love knowledge? Solomon tells us, that those who hate reproof are brutish. Let us, therefore, examine ourselves by this mark.… He is surely not a rational creature who has swallowed poison, and will rather suffer it to take its course than admit the necessary relief of medicine, lest he should be obliged to confess his folly in exposing himself to the need of it.—Lawson.

It was when Asaph recovered from that strange temptation, under the power of which he seemed to forget the eternity of man's being, and to confine his estimate to the present life, that he exclaimed, "So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before Thee" (Psa ). And the same comparison is repeatedly used respecting the ungodly. They sink themselves even below the level of the brutes, for they fulfil the ends of their being, under the impulse of their respective instincts and appetites; but the man who forgets his immortality and his God, does not fulfil the end of his. There may also be comprehended in the expression, the absence of what every rational creature ought to have—spiritual discernment and taste; the destitution of all right sentiment and feeling in reference to God and Divine things. This is the character of him whom Paul denominates the "natural" or animal "man," who receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him.—Wardlaw.

The subject of Pro has been treated in previous chapters. See Homiletics on chap. Pro 3:4; Pro 11:21, etc.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Or "hath what he will of God." Thus it is written of Luther, that by his prayers he could prevail with God at his pleasure. When gifts were offered him, he refused them with this brave speech, "I solemnly protested to God that I would not be put off with these low things." And on a time praying for the recovery of a godly useful man, among other passages, he let fall this transcendent rapture of a daring faith, "Let my will he done," and then falls off sweetly; "My will, Lord, because Thy will." Blessed is he that hath what he will and wills nothing but what he should. If an evil thought haunt his heart, it is the device of the man, he is not the man of such devices.—Trapp.

A man can no way be so happy as by being in God's favour. If any other thing were better than this, it would here be named; for His purpose is to promise and perform the best. Good men do set their wits to work to find the way whereby they may best please Him, and He doth set His wisdom to work to frame a recompense that may best pleasure them. It is precious—

1. In regard of the rareness of it, it is a flower which groweth only in God's own garden. It is a privilege and freedom peculiar to the children of God.

2. In regard to the continuance of it, it is not worn out by time, it vanisheth not away, it is never taken from them upon whom it is bestowed.

3. In regard to those good effects wherewith it is always accompanied—defence from enemies, safety from danger, gladness of heart, the love and favour of God it doth minister to everyone that partakes of it.—Dod.

Were the goodness of the godly such as it should be, it would from God's goodness even deserve praise, not stand in need of remitting favour, it would carry favour with it, it would not be put by seeking to obtain it. But in the best, so little it is, that he must even fetch it out from the Lord with many prayers, earnest suit, and at last it is the great mercy of God that he doth obtain it. But yet, such is the mercy of God toward the good, that however He dealeth with the good man he still obtaineth favour from Him. St. Augustine saith, "Thou receivedst benefit both from His coming and His going; He cometh to the increase of thy comfort, He goeth to the increase of thy care. He goeth away sometimes lest continual presence should make Him despised, and that absence should make Him more desired.—Jermin"

A man of wicked devices may be artful enough to disguise his selfish plans under the mask of religion and benevolence, like the old Pharisees; but the eyes of the Judge of the world are like a flame of fire, they pierce into the secrets of every soul, and there is no dark design harboured which shall not be completely disclosed in the day of Christ.—Lawson.

Let blind reason condemn God. (see on Pro .) He who has gospel light will see Him as one out of whom he can draw favour. A man not only pure himself, but doing good to others, looks upon God as a fountain of blessing.—Miller.


Verse 3

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A RIGHT DESIRE AND THE MEANS OF ITS ATTAINMENT

I. There has always been a desire in men for establishment—for fixedness.

1. It is a good and God-given aspiration, and manifests itself in many ways. Men rightly desire to have a settled home—a spot on earth to which they may attach themselves and from which they cannot be driven. This is a desire especially strong in the western and northern nations, and has been a powerful element in their development. Men desire a permanent and certain income, and the desire to obtain it is a great motive power to induce them to acquire knowledge of mechanical arts and professions. Men desire to earn a fixed reputation, and the desire acts as a moral power in the world.

2. It is a desire very old in its manifestation. Very early in the history of our race we have an instance of man's desire for fixedness of position on the earth, and for a permanent reputation. It was this that prompted the men of Shinar to say one to another, "Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth" (Gen ). They desired to have a centre of unity in the world—a spot where they could settle down together and establish a name that would outlive them. The building of Babel is a parable of what has been going on ever since, and will go on until the end of time. The building is not of bricks and mortar, but the desire is the same.

II. Men can only have this desire satisfied in one way. The men who purposed to build the tower of Babel used wrong means to fulfil a lawful desire. It was right to aspire towards reaching the fixedness of heaven, but that cannot be done with bricks were they never so many or so well burnt. They did "make a name," but not the name they desired. And so it is with men now. They want to gain for themselves a permanent resting place and a lasting name, and they think to attain their desire by linking themselves with something belonging only to earth, they desire to reach the heavenly with the earthly. And if they could use all the clay upon the globe to make their bricks they would find their tower fall far short of reaching heaven. All life without God is a life of wickedness, and such a life cannot be an establishment because it is contrary to Divine law. But this desire towards the immutable is intended by God to lead man to turn his face towards "those things which cannot be shaken" (Heb ), that righteous character which fits a man for the "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2Co 5:1), which can be obtained by union with Him who is immutable—"The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever" (Heb 13:8). Men may build upon a foundation which shall not be removed, they may send their roots deep down into an eternal abiding place by falling in with the conditions laid down by Christ Himself in Mat 5:24-25.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Established may have reference not to the stability of his fortunes, but to that of his mind—to tranquil self-possession and firmness. Even if, in the providence of God, his substance should fail, he himself remains unshaken and entire in all his best blessings, and in all his hopes.—Wardlaw.

A man, being wicked, how shall he expect anything, except that he shall be disturbed? While the saint, though "shaken" in leaf and bough, and storm-tossed, and, perhaps, broken in his branches, yet "shall not be shaken" in his "root."—Miller.

Ahab strove to establish himself in despite of the threatened curse of God. He increased his family, trained them with care under the tutelage of his choicest nobility. And surely one, at least, out of seventy, might remain to inherit his throne. But this was the vain "striving" of the worm "with his Maker." One hour swept them all away (1Ki , with 2Ki 10:1-7). The device of Caiaphas, also, to establish his nation by wickedness, was the means of its overthrow (Joh 11:49-50, with Mat 21:43-44).—Bridges.

A man shall not be established by wickedness, for he lays his foundation upon firework, and brimstone is scattered upon his housetop: if the fire of God from heaven but flash upon it, it will all be aflame immediately. He walks all day upon a mine of gunpowder; and hath God with His armies ready to run upon the thickest bosses of his buckler, and to hurl him to hell. How can this man be sure of anything? Cain built cities, but could not rest in them; Ahab begat seventy sons, but not one successor to the kingdom. Sin hath no settledness. But the righteous, though shaken with winds, are rooted as trees; like a ship at anchor, they wag up and down, yet remove not.—Trapp.

We shall lose our labour in seeking any sinful helps. We shall but make quicksand our foundation, and mud our stonework, and stubble and reeds our strongest timber. It is time for us to pull down our own ruinous building, lest it fall upon our heads. For though it be so slight, and as weak as a cobweb, to be a cover over us, yet it is very heavy, and as weighty as a mountain to press us under it.—Dod.

Many are established in wickedness, and cannot be removed from it, but none shall ever be established by it.—Jermin.


Verse 4

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Virtuous, literally "strenuous," "capable" (used in Rth 3:11).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A HUSBAND'S CROWN

I. A woman possessed of a quality which time will not destroy or impair. Virtue is not a mere negative good—it is not simply an absence of evil. A virtuous person is one who has overcome evil—one who is prevented from being a worker of evil by being a worker of good. Virtue is a thing of growth—human nature has to struggle to acquire moral excellence—to attain that strength of goodness which we call virtue. It has its seat in the regenerated heart. The river that is always flowing with pure, living water, is not fed from a cistern, but from a living spring which is in communication with the parent of waters. So virtue is not a native of this fallen world—it is of celestial birth—it is derived from the source of all goodness and consequently partakes of the indestructibility of all eternal things. There is no annihilation of virtue. Stabbing cannot kill it. Burning cannot destroy it. It will break the bonds of calumny and rise from the dead. Virtue adorns either sex, but it is especially attractive in a woman. It is her crown, and because she is so crowned, she crowns her husband.

II. Man needs such a woman to complete, or crown his life. Even the first man in his sinless condition, with all the peculiar joys springing from his sinless nature, felt his existence incomplete until God gave him the woman as the filling up—the crown and finish of his life. But this woman was crowned herself with innocence and purity or she could not have crowned her husband. If man in his sinless condition needed a wife to complete his life, how much more does he need now a virtuous woman to be a helpmeet for him.

1. He needs her because he needs help from virtue outside himself. The most perfect of imperfect men must lean upon some human support, and they will consciously or unconsciously do so. A man who has a virtuous wife has ever about him an atmosphere which is strengthening to his own virtue. She will help him to preserve his integrity more effectually than any other person because she is so constantly about his path. She will give him that moral sympathy which is so helpful to men struggling to keep a good conscience in an evil world, which is like oil to the wheels of life, and makes what would otherwise be very difficult easy and pleasant.

2. He needs an intellectual companion. He must have a rational and intelligent spirit in his home if his life is to be what God intended it to be—one with whom he can converse and to whom he can impart his thoughts on things human and divine. He cannot be crowned, in the full sense of the word, unless he has such a wife, and the word virtue may embrace intellectual vigour as well as moral excellence. (See Comments on the verse). When a man has such a wife as we have described his life is completed or crowned. The word among the Hebrews was also symbolic of joy and gladness (Son ), and such a woman is of necessity a joy to her husband.

III. The man who would be thus crowned must be wise in his choice of a wife. The most precious things are not generally to be obtained without some amount of seeking. Pebbles can be gathered upon any shore, but diamonds are only to be had for patient seeking. Pinchbeck ornaments are to be had for a trifle, but a golden diadem costs much money. There are plenty of women who may be won without much seeking, but a wife who is virtuous in the sense of the text is not to be met with every day or in every place. To find such an one he must ask counsel of Him who provided the first man with the woman who supplied his need in this respect. Though we have no record that Adam asked God for a helpmeet for him, yet we do not know that he did not. This we do know, that God's best gifts, as a rule, are only had for asking. And when we reflect upon the terrible blight that an ungodly, unsympathetic, incapable wife is to a man, causing him such shame as is "rottenness to his bones," we can fully see the need of seeking Divine guidance in forming a relationship which has so much to do with "making" or "marring" a man.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Here we have a king and a crown, a holy woman the crown; a happy man, the king. I. Inasmuch as a woman of grace is here called her husband's crown we learn that a good wife is the husband's best outward blessing, the worthiest mercy that a man may have in this world. It follows:

1. That as he who would be introduced into the crown of any kingdom or monarchy must match himself into the king's race, so, he that would be sure to have a crown for his wife must take the same course, he must marry into the house of heaven, with some one to whom the King of Kings is a father, and who is by grace of the lineage and offspring of the Lord of Hosts.

2. The wife being the husband's crown must be much respected by her husband. Crowns are no contemptible things. The Apostle Peter is exact in commanding this (1Pe ). She is called the "glory of the man" (1Co 11:7) and his companion (Mal 2:14) his second-self (Eph 5:28-29). If in these regards God hath made a woman an honour to a man, the Lord looks that man should give honour to a woman.

3. A wife being a crown, requireth maintenance as much as her husband's estate will afford. The crown must be maintained, it is for the honour and safety of the king, and for the content of the subjects that it have meet support. II. If the wife be the crown, the husband is the king. Therefore:

1. She must acknowledge him and obey him in all matrimonial loyalty and love. The proverb is, there is no service to compare with that of a king, but, certainly there is no king's service to this. Kings can give the greatest about them, but rewards when they have done their best; but the husband gives the wife himself for her obedience.

2. It is her duty to grace him. To be a woman, and to be a wife, is not enough to be a crown, a man may have both these and yet she that he hath may be a shame unto him. There go more than two words to this bargain; to be a woman, a wife, and gracious, and she that is so cannot fail of her glory.—John Wing (1620).

Man, though made for the throne of the world, was found unfit for the final investiture until he got woman as a help.… When the relations of the sexes move in fittings of truth and love, the working of the complicated machinery of life is a wonder to an observing man and a glory to the Creator God.… We need not be surprised by the announcement of the horrid contrast. It is according to law; the best things abused become the worst. Woman is the very element of home. When that element is tainted, corruption spreads over all its breadth and sinks into its core.—Arnot.

The word implies the virtue of earnestness, or strength of character, rather than of simple chastity.—Plumptre.

The weakness of women is never a reproach unto them, but when it appeareth in not resisting sin. And therefore the original is a woman of strength, such a woman as is by God's grace strong enough to withstand sin: a manlike woman, the Syriac hath it, in spiritual courage. But contrariwise she, who is not ashamed of her sinful weakness in yielding unto sin maketh him ashamed for whom she was created, and as rottenness in his bones destroyeth his strength, making him weak through grief, as she is through folly, for such grief enters deeply, and it is the bones that it wasteth, when she is naught who was made of man's bone.—Jermin.

Let man learn to be grateful to woman for this undoubted achievement of her sex, that it is she—she far more than he, and she, too often, in despite of him—who has kept Christendom from lapsing back into barbarism, kept mercy and truth from being utterly overborne by those two greedy monsters, money and war. Let him be grateful for this, that almost every great soul that has led forward, or lifted up the race, has been furnished for each noble deed, and inspired with each patriotic and holy aspiration, by the retiring fortitude of some Spartan—some Christian mother. Moses, the deliverer of his people, drawn out of the Nile by the king's daughter, some one has hinted, is only a symbol of the way that woman's better instincts outwit the tyrannical diplomacy of the man. Let him cheerfully remember, that though the sinewy sex achieves enterprises on public theatres, it is the nerve and sensibility of the other that arm the mind and inflame the soul in secret. Everywhere a man executes the performance, but woman trains the man.—Anon.

The figure in the second clause is strong. We may consider it as conveying two ideas!

1. The "bones" are the strength of the frame. Upon them the whole is built. There is, therefore, in the idea of caries, or rottenness in them, that of the wasting of the vigour of body and mind, and the bringing of the man prematurely to his grave; and that, too, by means which cost him, ere this result is effected, exquisite suffering.

2. The "bones" are unseen. The poor man is pierced with inward and secret agony, which he cannot disclose; pines in unseen distress—distress of which the cause is hidden, while the effects are sadly and rapidly visible.—Wardlaw.

"Capable;" sometimes "virtuous," literally strong. "It is well observed by Michaelis (Supp. No. 17), that in the early stages of society, when the government and laws had little influence, fortitude was the first and most necessary virtue; and might therefore naturally give its name to the other virtues. Hence virtus in Latin, and αρετη in Greek, which, according to their etymology, denote mainly strength and fortitude, came, at length, to signify virtue in general (Holder)." "Crown," that is

(1) ornament, and

(2) source of power. A virtuous woman is both to her husband. A spendthrift, drunken, or adulterous wife is so entrenched in our being, that our very bone, that is, our dearest interests (Psa ; Joh 19:36), are rotten, when these qualities begin their influence. A man, linked with such disorders, cannot complain of his inevitable reproof (Pro 12:1). Does he link himself with evil, he must partake of the storms that buffet it. Women, however, in all this book, seem to be types of qualities;—of Grace (Pro 11:16); of Wisdom (Pro 14:1); of Folly (Pro 9:13). The "virtuous woman" has not stood before us in all her true light, till she stands as Wisdom; nor "One that causes shame," till we make her Impenitency. "The virtuous or capable woman" is our "crown," for, with faith, all things are ours; and her great rival is our shame, for, with unbelief, there is "rottenness" in our very "bones." This disposition always to see a figure must not be set down as fanciful, till the Woman of Grace, of Folly, and of Wisdom, and other still more artificial cases (Rev 12:1), have been thoroughly considered.—Miller.


Verses 5-8

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Thoughts, or "purposes." Right, "judgment," "justice."

Pro . Wordsworth here reads, "When the wicked turn themselves," etc., i.e., on any reverse of their fortunes, however slight, they perish.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPHS—Pro

THOUGHTS AND WORDS AND THEIR RESULT

I. The thoughts of the righteous or godly man are right.

1. Because he has the best material out of which to build his thoughts. The kind of building which is reared will depend mainly upon the quarry from which the stones are hewn. The man of God gets the material of his thoughts from the revealed word of God. He obeys the Divine command.—"This book of the law shall not depart out thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate thereon day and night" (Jos ).

2. Because his thinking is under the rule of law. He does not allow his mind to dwell upon every suggestion that comes into it, he forbids certain things to enter there, or if they enter in an unguarded moment, he will not give them a dwelling place. He does not give unqualified assent to the boast that "thought is free." The righteous man does not aspire to be a "free-thinker," if he did he could not be a good thinker. He rules his thoughts accordiag to the legislation of Christ (Mat ; Mat 15:18), and endeavours to bring every thought into obedience to Him (2Co 10:5).

II. The speech of the righteous. A man's words are never worse than his thoughts. In a good man they are the outcome of his thoughts. As the child is the undeveloped man, and the seed the undeveloped tree, so thought is the seed of speech. If the child's constitution is good and the seed is good, the man and the tree will be healthy and vigorous. If the thought is healthy and wise the speech will be so likewise, for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Mat ).

III. The thoughts of the wicked. They are such as spring spontaneously from the human heart, which is, according to the estimate of One who knows, "deceitful above all things" (Jer ). In such a heart counsels or thoughts of deceit must be generated. His own life-work will be a deceit (chap. Pro 11:18), and he will deceive others. The verse evidently refers to thoughts which purpose harm to other people. When a man's thoughts are not in subjection to the law of God, they have a tendency to go from bad to worse. The ungodly man, either directly or indirectly, injures others as well as himself.

IV. The words of the wicked. The ungodly are here represented, as in chap. Pro , as combining to injure the godly (see Homiletics on that verse). Their words are the outcome of their evil and malicious thoughts. Most ungodly men try to lessen the influence of the good by depreciating their character when they do not dare to attack their property and their lives. This lying in wait for blood may cover all schemes to bring about the downfall of the good. The two characters now stand before us. Let us look at what is in store for each. I. For the righteous.

1. Deliverance from the machinations of the wicked. This is effected by means of the godly man's own words. He is able to refute what his enemies bring against him. This proverb cannot of course be taken to assert that the righteous are always delivered from death at the hands of their persecutors. They are delivered as Christ was delivered from the counsels of deceit, and from the bloody plans of the Scribes and Pharisees. The words here used exactly describe their character, and the deliverance of the righteous is such a deliverance as our Lord wrought for Himself by the words of truth and wisdom with which He silenced them. Take the instance of the tribute-money as recorded by Matthew (chap. Pro ). "Then went the Pharisees and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us, therefore, What thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Csar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute money. And they brought Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Csar's. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Csar the things which are Csar's, and unto God the things which are God's. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way." Two other instances of Christ's delivering Himself by His "mouth" are given in the same chapter. And many of His followers have in like manner defeated the plans of their enemies.

2. The establishment of his family. His thoughts and words bless his own house—they are the means of reproducing other characters whose thoughts and words are like his own. This of itself is a good reason why his house should stand. Each member of it thus becomes a centre of influence for good, and in this way the world is preserved from moral corruption and ruin. And it is a law of God's kingdom that the godliness of the head of a family or race should bring a blessing upon his posterity. God defended the people of Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah for "His servant David's sake" (Isa ). He blessed Isaac for "my servant Abraham's sake" (Gen 26:24). And the same law is at work in New Testament times, "The promise is unto you and to your children" (Act 2:39).

3. General commendation. The wise and the righteous are synonymous in the book of Proverbs, the wisdom of the 8th verse is, doubtless, moral wisdom. Paul calls his Corinthian converts, whom he had begotten by his holy thoughts and wise words, his "letters of commendation" (2Co ). Every godly man has some such commendatory epistles in the living souls whom his life and words have blessed. Men can but acknowledge that he is a blessing to his fellow-creatures while he lives, and after he has left the world he is praised by, and because of, those whom he turned to righteousness" (Dan 12:3). But for the wicked there must be—

1. Overthrow. They entered the lists against a power much stronger than their own, and must therefore come to ruin. The stubble of the field can contend for a time against the fire, but the latter grows stronger the longer it burns, and the stubble is less and less able to resist its power, until presently there is nothing left but a few ashes which are soon scattered by the winds, and the place that once knew them knows them no more, "For behold the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch" (Mal ).

4. General contempt. The wicked or "perverse of heart" will not be able to respect himself, how then can he expect others to hold him in honour? And in the day of his overthrow the contempt or indifference with which both he and his fate will be regarded will not come from those whom he has striven to injure, but from those who are like himself. Those who have already met with their overthrow will be those who will meet him with the taunt, "Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us?" (Isa ). And those whose time of judgment is yet in the future will not stoop to pity or succour him.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . That thoughts are free, is his lesson, by whom we are made slaves unto sin. For if the thoughts be corrupted, the affections will soon be polluted, and then the actions are easily perverted. If the flies of Egypt get into our eyes, the frogs of Egypt will soon get into our chambers, the chambers of our hearts, and then the caterpillars of Egypt will soon destroy our fruits, the actions of our lives. The counsels of the wicked are deceit—they deceive God of His honour, their neighbour of his right, themselves of their salvation.—Jermin.

The stress lies upon the words, "thoughts" or "purposes," and "counsels." Habits of good and evil reach beyond the region of outward act to that of impulse and volition.—Plumptre.

To the righteous are ascribed simple and clear thoughts, to the godless, prudently thought through schemes and measures, but on that very account not simple, because of their tendency. Delitzsch.

If good thoughts look into a wicked heart, they stay not there, as those that like not their lodging; the flashes of lightnings may be discerned into the darkest prisons. The light that shines into a holy heart is constant, like that of the sun, which keeps due times, and varies not the course for any of these sublunary occasions.—Trapp.

At the first creation man was made to excel brute beasts more by the reason and gifts of the soul than by the fashion and shape of the body, so at the second, a Christian is made to excel sinful men more by the holiness and working of the soul than by those of the body.—Dod.

The mere thoughts—the unpremeditated resolves of a righteous man—are right; the deliberate counsels, the very deliberations of the wicked, are deceit.—Burgon.

Many indeed are the deviations of the righteous. But there is an overcoming law within that, in despite of all opposition, fixes his thoughts with delight on God and His law (Psa ; Rom 7:15; Rom 7:23), and gives to them a single bias for His service. Widely different are the thoughts of the wicked, ripening into counsels fraught with deceit. Such were those of Joseph's brethren to deceive their father; of Jeroboam, under a feigned consideration of the people; of Daniel's enemies, under pretence of honouring the king; of Herod, under the profession of worshipping the infant Saviour.—Bridges.

This verse has been rendered, "The policy of the just is honesty; the wisdom of the wicked is cunning." The righteous man deals in rectitude, and from his actions you know his thoughts. It is not so with "the wicked." He thinks one way and acts another. His words and deeds are not the fair index of his thoughts.—Wardlaw.

"The plans of the righteous are a judgment." This word, which is very common in the Bible, means a judicial decision. The "judgment" of the wicked is a verdict of the Almighty consigning them to hell. The "judgment" of the righteous, by what Christ has wrought out, is a verdict of eternal reward.… The "plans of the righteous," however disastrous they may seem, "are a judgment." And, as the "judgment" of the righteous is in his favour, his plans, however bad, are shaped in him for his good. Whatsoever storms they may lead to, they are from a most prosperous verdict, and have been allowed to supervene, for his highest, and well-graduated good. Mark now the climax (as in ch. Pro ). It says, the plans of the righteous, leaving us to suppose they might be very wretched. But it says "the helmsmanship (counsels, see on chap. Pro 11:14) of the wicked," leaving us to suppose they are very shrewd. The keenest calculations of the wicked, where a cool eye is at the helm, and where instead of marrying a foolish wife (Pro 12:4), he has built grandly for the world; still, as a judgment, I mean by that, as the whole verdict in his case, his very helmsmanships are a deceit.

(1) His own wisdom cheats him in ordering his life; and

(2) God Himself, as a part of His award, takes care that he be deceived as to his total well-being.—Miller.

Pro . The law of parallelism leaves it open to us to refer the pronoun at the end of the verse to the righteous themselves, or to those, the unwary and innocent, for whom the words of the wicked lie in wait.—Plumptre.

The fiercer ebullitions of humanity may, indeed, be softened down and restrained. But the principle remains the same. The fiery elements only lie in slumbering cover, and often break out, wasting the very face of society.—Bridges.

The words. Speech is the great instrument of man. Talking is his trade. Wall Street and Lombard Street make their fortunes by the tongue. The "words of the wicked" are, therefore, their highest activities, and our proverb declares that these high acts are "a lying in wait for blood." We would not deny that this may include the blood of others; but in the light of the last verse the grand victim is themselves (chap. Pro ). Each order on change is for a man's last discomfiture.—Miller.

Though nature hath denied man the weapons of his teeth, yet wickedness giveth to some such words as are more bloody than the teeth of the most bloody beasts. The false witness will frame his tale so cunningly as if he intended nothing but a clearing of the truth, whereas he seeketh nothing but the shedding of blood. The corrupt judge will couch his words so closely, as if he meant nothing but to have justice executed, whereas they are nothing but ambushments to surprise innocent blood. But there are words which issue from the mouth of the upright, as making a sally out of some adjoining fort, whereby the prey is rescued, the pillagers are defeated, the innocent is delivered, the upright as victorious is crowned with the diadem of his judgment as in Job it is called (ch. Pro ); and which St. Gregory saith is rightly called a diadem, because by the glory of an excellent work it leadeth to the crown of a glorious reward. Now such were the words of Job's mouth, who brake the jaws of the wicked and plucked the spoil out of his teeth, being eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and a father to the poor.—Jermin.

The prayers of God's people ascend up to God's presence for His help, and those mouths prevail mightily that seek for redress of wrong at His hands. Herod thought it would be too late for all the friends which Peter had to minister help to him when he had clapped him in prison. But he remembered not how swift the godly be to prayer and how soon a prayer can come to God.—Dod.

Pro . The persons of the wicked are overthrown and are not, the house of the righteous (the very roof that sheltered him) shall stand.—Burgon.

He that is strong may be overthrown and may rise again, he that riseth not to what he was may rise in part to something, he that riseth not at all, may lie where he has fallen; but in the overthrow of the wicked all hope is gone of anything, for they themselves are nothing. They were not in goodness, they are not by their wickedness. They are not to be recovered from their overthrow, because they are not changed to repentance by their overthrow. On the other side, not only the righteous shall stand, their family, their posterity shall stand, for God shall stand by them, and then no fear of falling can be unto them.—Jermin.

When a change of the estate of the ungodly is made from prosperity unto adversity, their utter destruction is commonly wrought, for their house being built upon the sand, the tempests and the winds arise and quite overthrow it. The whole manner of the overthrow is described in Job .—Muffet.

The righteous shall "have a place in the Lord's house," immovable here (Isa ), and in eternity (Rev 3:12).—Bridges.

Solomon had a signal exemplification of this in the case of Saul and his father David. Possibly this instance might be in his eye at the time.—Wardlaw.

Eventually there must be overthrow, even if it be no overthrow but death. When the wicked do fall, there is positively nothing of them left. While in the deepest disasters of the righteous, nothing is not left. "His house," and by that is meant every possible real interest (1Sa ) shall stand for ever.—Miller.

Pro . Sometimes, and very often, the wicked shall commend him, commonly the righteous, and always the Lord Himself, but most of all at the last day, before all men and angels. They that are not void of uprightness shall not be destitute of praise and honour. Though some be blind that they cannot discern their understanding and graces, yet others have their eyesight and behold them. Though some be dumb and will not speak of their virtues, yet others have their lips open to commend them.—Dod.

And all wisdom consists in this, that a man rightly know and worship God. Apollonius, Archimedes, and Aristotle were wise in their generations, and so accounted, but by whom? Not by St. Paul, he hath another opinion of them (Rom ). Not by our Saviour (Mat 11:25).—Trapp.

According—"in exact proportion;" such is the meaning of the Hebrew. A man is more applauded for good sense than perhaps anything else. Wisdom—"shrewdness;" that attribute that leads to success. Therefore it sometimes means success (2Ki ). Successful shrewdness is a very positive sort. Such is the shrewdness of the righteous man (Pro 12:7). Perverse heart—"crooked sense," literally heart; though heart contains more of sense ( νους) than we ascribe to it. If a man whose mind works crookedly every time becomes an object of contempt, why ought not the wicked to become so, whose very helmsmanships are a deceit? (Pro 12:5).—Miller.

How thrilling will be the commendation of wisdom before the assembled universe! (Luk ). Who will not then acknowledge the wise choice of an earthly cross with a heavenly crown?—Bridges.

This is capable of two interpretations. It may refer to commendation by men, or to commendation by God. In the one case it may mean mere secular discretions, in the other it must mean religious principle, according to the invariable testimony that "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." This is not the wisdom that secures the eulogy of men; but it will ever secure that of the Infinitely Wise, the Infinitely Good. And, indeed, the two things may be united. A man who fears God will always be a faithful counsellor, and if at the same time he have sound discretion in regard to the affairs of life, this will form the perfection of character, and there will be commendation both from men and God.… In the pride of your hearts, you may affect to hold very cheap the contempt of men; though even that is often more pretension than reality, disappointment rankling at the heart, while scorn is curling the lip. But what must it be to be "lightly esteemed" at last, to be "despised" by that God who has in his hands the destinies of the universe!—Wardlaw.


Verse 9

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . This verse is read in two ways. Zockler reads, "Better is the lowly that serveth himself than he that boasteth and lacketh bread." Wordsworth agrees with this view. Delitzsch and Stuart render as the authorised version (see comments on the verse).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

Whichever rendering we adopt of this verse the subject is the same—that of one man's allowing his vanity, his love for appearances, to rob him of all real comfort, and that of his wiser brother's preference of comfort to outside show.

I. The wise man who is despised. Men who have the moral courage to live in a simple style, and to labour with their own hands, will certainly be regarded with contempt by some, but by whom? By those whose good opinion and honour is not worth having. Children are taken with what is showy on the surface—they have little regard for what lies underneath. They will be more delighted with a soap-bubble than with a diamond. But men look on things with different eyes. So it is only men and women of childish minds who estimate a man by his clothes, his house, or his establishment, and it is only such who will despise the first man mentioned in the text. If we take the common rendering of the verse, then this man is more useful to society than the other; for, instead of spending all his money on himself, he keeps a servant, and so gives another a means of living. For as it is implied that he does not lack bread himself, so he will not let those in his employ want the necessaries of life. Other things being equal, the man who, by a judicious use of his means, gives employment to others, is a greater benefactor to his race than he who spends his money in selfish luxury. At any rate, this man is a wiser man than the other, for he has the good sense to prefer the greater to the less. It is only obeying a natural instinct to satisfy the bodily wants, and to supply ourselves with all the substantial comforts of life before we spend money on things which do not, after all, add in the least to our real enjoyment, and yet the majority of men do sacrifice some of the former to the latter. He who has the moral courage not to do so shows his real wisdom. And by such a course of conduct he blesses others as well as himself—he does something to stem the tide of passion for keeping up appearances which in our age and country is the fruitful source of so much crime and misery—he, and he only, is the truly honest man, for he is content to pass for just what he is as to wealth.

II. The foolish and wicked man who "honours himself."

1. He is a fool. Vanity is one of the most despicable passions that can possess a man—it often leads a man to the most childish actions. No man of modern times was more entirely under its dominion than Voltaire, whose only aim in life seemed to be to gain that unsubstantial homage which afforded his spirit at the last such an unsatisfying portion. He did not literally lack bread, but he did find himself in his old age without anything which could give him any real comfort. The man mentioned in our text is so bent upon obtaining this false honour that he will "lack bread"—suffer positive bodily discomfort—rather than not obtain it.

2. He is a sinner. He lies in action, if not in word. While he is resorting to the meanest shifts in secret he is trying to make people believe that he is much better off than he really is. By stinting himself in the common comforts of life he sins against his own body and against his Creator, for "the Lord is for the body" (1Co ), and it is man's duty to feed that house of the soul which is so "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psa 139:14). He therefore sins against himself and against society. It is worth while to inquire whether anybody will honour him after all his foolish efforts. God cannot, for He hates all hypocrisy. Men may, for their own interest, flatter him, and feign to respect him, but he will obtain no real honour, either from men like him in character, or from those who are better and wiser. "I have read," says Thomas Adams, "of Menecrates, a physician that would needs be counted a god, and took no other fee of his patients than their vow to worship him. Dionysius Syracusanus, hearing of this, invited him to a banquet, and, to honour him according to his desire, set before him nothing but a censer of frankincense, with the smoke whereof he was feasted till he starved, while others fed on good meat." Such smoke as this is all the return such a man as the one pictured in this proverb will get for starving himself, and for sinning against his own body, against society, and against God.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

We give a few of the many renderings of this verse:—

Better is he that laboureth and aboundeth in all things than he that boasteth himself and lacketh bread. Wordsworth.

This proverb, like Pro , commends the middle rank of life with its quiet excellencies. A man of lowly rank, who is, however, not so poor that he cannot support a slave, is better than one that boasts himself and is yet a beggar. The first necessity of an oriental in only moderate circumstances is a slave, just as was the case with the Greeks and Romans.—Delitzsch.

Better is the condition of the poor man, who has the means under his control of aiding his exertions for sustenance, than the nobleman, real or fancied, who is in a state of starvation. Stuart.

Each interpretation is tenable grammatically.

(1) He whom men despise, or who is "lowly" in his own eyes (the word is used by David himself, 1Sa ), the trader, the peasant, if he has a slave, i.e., if he is one step above absolute poverty, and has someone to supply his wants, is better off than the man who boasts of rank or descent, and has nothing to eat. Respectable mediocrity is better than boastful poverty.

(2) He who, though despised, is a servant to himself, i.e. supplies his own wants, is better than the arrogant and helpless.—Plumptre.

Some do think it more miserable to be known to be miserable than to be so, and are more grieved to be disesteemed for it than to be pinched by it, wherefore they will feed the eyes of others with a show of plenty, although they have not bread to feed themselves. But he is better who, disesteeming the esteem of others and being servant to himself, does get his own bread, and is contented with it. For as lie is servant, so is he master also; and howbeit he serveth, yet it is at his own pleasure. And this is his comfort, that while he serveth himself he hath to serve his need and occasions, when he that honoureth himself is fain at last to live by others. Or else take the meaning thus: the ambitious itch of many is so great, and so disquieteth their hearts, that they can lack anything, even bread itself, rather than honour and preferment; so that when they are swollen big in greatness and dignity they are even starved in their estate, and have not of their own the next meal to feed themselves. But better is he, especially if he be a good man, who—having to keep himself and a servant—doth keep within his means; and though he be despised by them that overlook him, yet looks upon himself with thanks to God that it is so well with him. And, indeed, how can this man but be better than the other, when his servant is better than the other is. For as Chrysostom speaketh, it cannot be but that he who is the slave of glory should be servant of all, yea, more vile than all other servants. For there is no servant commanded to do such base things as the love of glory commandeth him.—Jermin.

The son of Sirach, who may well be called an interpreter of this book of the Proverbs, hath a very like saying to this where he speaketh thus, "Better is he that worketh and aboundeth with all things, than he that boasteth himself, and wanteth bread" (Sir ). Muffet.

When men are such slaves to the opinion of the world, they rebel against Him who makes no mistake in His allotments and often appoints a descent from worldly elevation as a profitable discipline (Jas ; Dan 4:32-37). Yet it is hard, even for the Christian, as Bunyan reminds us, "to go down the valley of humiliation and catch no slip by the way." We need our Master's unworldly elevated spirit (Joh 6:15) to make as safe descent … "Let our moderation be known unto all men," under the constraining recollection, "The Lord is at hand (Php 4:5). How will the dazzling glory of man's esteem fade away before the glory of His appearing!—Bridges.

Paul travelling on foot, and living on the wages of a tent-maker, was more respectable than the pretended successor of his brother apostle, with a triple crown upon his head.—Lawson.


Verse 10

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Regardeth, literally "knoweth." Delitzsch reads, "knoweth how his cattle feed." "Cruel is singular, denoting that each one of his mercies are cruel" (Fausset).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

CARE FOR ANIMALS AND CRUELTY TO MEN

Even the animal is benefited by being related to a righteous man.

I. The righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.

1. Because of the entire dependence of the creature upon him. Animals which are the property of man are entirely at his mercy. They have no power to change a bad master for a good one—no voice to utter their complaints—no means of getting redress for their wrongs. All these considerations tend to make a good man care for them, for the righteous man's sympathies are always drawn out in proportion to the need of the object. And with regard to the animal creation, it may be that the present life is the only opportunity a man may have of showing kindness to them. If, on the other hand, animals live in another world, it may be all the better for men to treat them well here.

2. Because of his dependence upon his beast. Men are very largely indebted to animals for the sustaining of their life—it would be very difficult for the work of the world to be carried on without their help; men would certainly have to labour much harder if they had it not. Therefore, the righteous man feels that he is paying a debt when he "regards the life of his beast."

3. Because the animal is an object of Divine care. The Bible has many references to the brute creation, and many passages which show that "God regardeth the life of the beast." Christ tells us that not a sparrow falls to the ground without His Father's notice, and God has given special commands with reference to the care of dumb creatures. "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn" (Deu ). Seeing, then, that "God doth care for oxen," a righteous man will do likewise.

4. Because of the lessons that may be learned from the animal creation. God often sends man to learn of them (see Isa ; Jer 8:7), and much suggestive teaching may be got from observation of their dispositions and habits. It would be ingratitude not to repay them with considerate care.

II. The wicked man is cruel. Wickedness is, in its nature, destitute of kindliness. The sea is by nature salt, and its saltness makes it unfit to sustain human life. The father of wickedness is a cruel being—his only aim is to increase the misery of the universe. All his children have partaken more or less of his character since the first human murderer killed his brother. It is said here that even his acts of mercy are cruel. History gives many instances of men whose so-called acts of mercy were only refined cruelties. It follows that if wicked men are cruel to their fellow-creatures—to men and women of their own flesh and blood, they will be even more indifferent to the welfare of creatures below man.

ILLUSTRATIONS

Sir Robert Clayton, as commander of a troop of British cavalry, which after service on the Continent was disbanded in the city of York, and the horses sold, could not bear to think that his old fellow-campaigners, who had borne brave men to battle, should be ridden to death as butcher's hacks, or worked in dung-carts till they became dogs' meat, he therefore purchased a piece of ground upon Knavesmire heath, and turned out the old horses to have their run for life. What made this act to be the longer had in remembrance, was the curious fact, that one day, when these horses were grazing, a thunder-storm gathered, at the fires and sounds of which, as if mistaken for the signs of approaching battle, they were seen to get together and form in line, almost in as perfect order as if they had their old masters on their backs.

Sir James Prior tells us, in the last year of the life of Burke, that a feeble old horse which had been a favourite with young Richard—now dead—and his constant companion in all his rural journeyings and sports, when both were alike healthful and vigorous, was turned out to take the run of the park at Beaconsfield during the remainder of his life, the servants being strictly charged not to ride or in any way molest him. This poor worn-out steed it was that one day drew near to Burke, as the now childless and decrepit statesman was musing in the park, and after some moments of inspection, followed by seeming recollection and confidence, deliberately rested his head upon the old man's bosom. The singularity of the action, the remembrance of his dead son, its late master, and the apparent attachment and intelligence of the poor brute, as if it could sympathise with his inward sorrows, rushing at once into his mind, totally overpowered his firmness, and throwing his arms over its neck, he wept long and loudly.

John Howard writes home from the Lazaretto, himself sick and a prisoner: "Is my chaise-horse gone blind or spoiled? Duke is well, he must have his range when past his labour; not doing such a cruel thing as I did with the old mare. I have a thousand times repented of it."—Jacox.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

What the cruelty of the wicked is, at its worst, words might seem wanting to show, after it has been said that the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. But "a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast." Jacob, as flock-master, is studiously careful for his flocks and herds as well as for his tender children; "if men should over-drive them one day, all the flock would die;" so "I will lead on softly," said he to Esau, "according as the cattle that goeth before me is able to endure." The angel of the Lord standing in the way, rebukes Balaam for smiting his ass three times: that unrighteous man, wishing there were a sword in his hand, too literally regardeth not the life of his beast.… We certainly ought not, pleads Plutarch, to treat living creatures like shoes or household goods, which, when worn out with use, we throw away; and, were it only to learn benevolence to human kind, we should be merciful to other creatures. To be kind to these our fellow-lodgers is common humanity. To be cruel to them is to be below it. It is almost, if not quite, to be a little lower than themselves. It is, maintains Sir Arthur Helps, an immense responsibility that Providence has thrown upon us in subjecting these sensitive creatures to our complete sway, and he avowedly trembles at the thought of how poor an answer we shall have to give, when asked the question how we have made use of the power entrusted to us over the brute creation.… The question of interposing law has been a vexed one, upon which the humanest have differed … So hard-headed and cool-headed a thinker as Stuart Mill is decisive and incisive in his arguments in favour of legal intervention. Mr. Lecky's suggestion of a doubt whether cruelty to animals can be condemned on utilitarian grounds, is met by the obvious answer that a utilitarian may rationally include in his definition of the greatest number whose happiness is to be the aim of human beings, not only human beings themselves, but all animals capable of being happy or the reverse; beside which it is urged that, even if we limit our view to the good of our own species, the argument is as strong as can be desired. "If the criminality of an action were to be measured simply by its direct effects on human happiness, we might probably urge that the murderer of a grown-up man was worse than the murderer of a child, and far worse than the torturer of a dumb animal. Yet, as a matter of fact, we should probably feel a greater loathing for a man who could torment a beast for his pleasure than for one who should ill-use one of his equals." For such cruelty is held to indicate, as a rule, a baser nature. A murderer, though generally speaking a man of bad character, is not of necessity cowardly or mean; he may not improbably show some courage, and possibly even some sensibility to the nobler emotions. The tormentor of animals, on the other hand, shows callousness of nature, a pleasure in giving pain for the sake of giving pain, which has about it something to be described as devilish … John Foster declared it to be a great sin against moral taste to mention ludicrously, or for ludicrous comparison, circumstances in the animal world which are painful and distressing to the animals that are in them; the simile, for instance, "Like a toad under a harrow."—Jacox.

Lit. "knoweth." The authorised version gives the right application, but the words remind us that all true sympathy and care must grow out of knowledge. The righteous man tries to know the feelings and life even of the brute beast, and so comes to care for it. "Tender mercies." Better "the feelings, the emotions," all that should have led to mercy and pity towards man. The circle expands in the one case, narrows in the other.—Plumptre.

When the pulse of kindness beats strong in the heart the warm stream is sent clean through the body of the human family, and retains force enough to expatiate among the living creatures that lie beyond.… Cruelty is a characteristic of the wicked in general, and in particular of antichrist—that one, wicked by pre-eminence, whom Christ shall yet destroy by the brightness of His coming. By their fruits ye shall know them. The page of history is spotted with the cruelties of papal Rome. The red blood upon his garments is generally the means of discovering a murderer. The trailing womanish robes of the papal high priest are deeply stained with the blood of the saints. The same providence which employs the bloody tinge to detect the common murderer has left more lasting marks of Rome's cruelty. The Bartholomew massacre, for example, is recorded in more enduring characters than the stains of that blood which soaked the soil of France. The pope and his cardinals rejoiced greatly when they heard the news. So lively was their gratitude that they cast a medal to record it on. There stands the legend, raised in brass and silver—"Strages Huguenotorum" (the slaughter of the Huguenots)—in perpetual memory of the delight wherewith that wicked antichrist regarded the foulest butchery of men by their fellows that this sin-cursed earth has ever seen. That spot will not out with all their washings.—Arnot.

It is better to be the beast of a righteous man than the son of a wicked man; nay it is better to be the beast of a righteous man than to be a wicked man. For the righteous will do right unto his beast; the merciful man hath sense of mercy wheresoever is sense of misery, and while in mercy he regardeth the life of the beast that is beneath him, he is made like unto God, who is so far above him. But the wicked man's tender mercies are "mercies of the cruel," or else his tender mercies are cruel, hurting as much as severe cruelty; and therefore many times a wicked father's fond affection is the utter undoing of a petted child, and sparing pity, where evil should be chastised, is the breeding nurse of mischief which cannot be helped. The fond mercies whereby the wicked favoureth himself in sloth and idleness, whereby he pleaseth himself with pleasures and delights, whereby he pampereth himself with delicate and luscious meats, whereby he restraineth not his lusts and desires—what are they but cruelties whereby he tormenteth his body with sickness and quickly killeth it, and whereby he wilfully destroyeth his soul.—Jermin.

The worldly care of a high prosperous man may seem very tender to those dependent on him and towards others; but the very tenderness of an impenitent example is the higher snare, the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.… Religion has no austerities that make a true saint careless of the life or feelings even of his beast. On the contrary, it breeds the most pervading tenderness; whereas the wise worlding, however careful of his home and tender towards all who have any claim upon his care, yet, in admitting that there is a hell, and neglecting all prayer for his household, and all example, except one that braves the worst, breeds children simply to destroy them.—Miller.

The tender mercies of the wicked are when base and guilty men are spared that should be smitten with the sword of justice. Pity of this sort is more cruel than cruelty itself. For cruelty is exercised upon individuals, but this pity, by granting impunity, arms and sends forth against innocent men the whole army of evil doers.—Lord Bacon.

We have been used to hear much of the benevolence of infidels and the philanthropy of deists. It is all a pretence. Self is the idol and self-indulgence the object, in the accomplishment of which they are little scrupulous about the means. Where self is the idol, the heart is cruel. While they talk of universal charity, they regard not the cruelty of robbing thousands of the consolations of religion.… While they speak of harmless gaiety and pleasure they would treacherously corrupt piety and pollute unsuspecting innocence.—Holden.

The word regard is of twofold application, and may either apply to the moral or the intellectual part of our nature. In the one it is the regard of attention; in the other it is the regard of sympathy or kindness. But we do not marvel at the term having been applied to two different things, for they are most intimately associated. They act and re-act upon each other. If the heart be very alive to any particular set of emotions the mind will be alert in singling out the peculiar objects which excite them; so, on the other hand, that the emotions be specifically felt the objects must be specifically noticed.… So much is this the case that Nature seems to have limited and circumscribed our power of noticing just for the purpose of shielding us from too incessant a sympathy.… If man, for instance, looked upon Nature with a microscopic eye his sensibilities would be exposed to the torture of a perpetual offence from all possible quarters of contemplation, or, if through habit these sensibilities were blunted, what would become of character in the extinction of delicacy of feeling?.… There is, furthermore, a physical inertness of our reflective faculties, an opiate infused, as it were, into the recesses of our mental economy, by which objects, when out of sight, are out of mind, and it is to some such provision, we think, that much of the heart's purity, as well as its tenderness, is owing; and it is well that the thoughts of the spirit should be kept, though even by the weight of its own lethargy, from too busy a converse with objects which are alike offensive and hazardous to both.… But there is a still more wondrous limitation than this.… The sufferings of the lower animals may be in sight, and yet out of mind. This is strikingly exemplified in the sports of the field, in the midst of whose varied and animating bustle that cruelty, which is all along present to the senses, may not, for one moment, be present to the thoughts.… It touches not the sensibilities of the heart, but just because it is never present to the notice of the mind. The followers of this occupation are reckless of pain, but this is not rejoicing in pain. Theirs is not the delight of savage, but the apathy of unreflecting creatures.… We are inclined to carry this principle much further. We are not sure if, within the whole compass of humanity, fallen as it is, there be such a thing as delight in suffering for its own sake. But, without hazarding a controversy on this, we hold it enough for every practical object that much, and perhaps the whole of this world's cruelty, arises not from the enjoyment that is felt in consequence of others' pain, but from the enjoyment that is felt in spite of it.… But a charge of the foulest delinquency may be made up altogether of wants or of negatives; and just as the human face, by the mere want of some of its features, although there should not be any inversion of them, might be an object of utter loathsomeness to beholders, so the human character, by the mere absence of certain habits or sensibilities which belong ordinarily and constitutionally to our species, may be an object of utter abomination in society. The want of natural affection forms one article of the Apostle's indictment against our world; and certain it is that the total want of it were stigma enough for the designation of a monster. The mere want of religion is enough to make a man an outcast from his God. Even to the most barbarous of our kind you apply, not the term of anti-humanity, but of inhumanity—not the term of anti-sensibility; and you hold it enough for the purpose of branding him for general execration that you convicted him of complete and total insensibility.… We count it a deep atrocity that, unlike to the righteous man of our text, he simply does not regard the life of a beast.… The true principle of his condemnation is that he ought to have regarded.… Our text rests the whole cause of the inferior animals on one moral element, which is in respect of principle, and on one practical method, which is, in respect of efficacy, unquestionable: "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast." Let a man be but righteous in the general and obvious sense of the word, and let the regard of his attention be but directed to the case of the inferior animals, and then the regard of his sympathy will be awakened to the full extent at which it is either duteous or desirable.… The lesson is not the circulation of benevolence within the limits of one species. It is the transmission of it from one species to another. The first is but the charity of a world; the second is the charity of a universe. Had there been no such charity, no descending current of love and liberality from species to species, what would have become of ourselves? Whence have we learned this attitude of lofty unconcern about the creatures who are beneath us? Not from those ministering spirits who wait upon the heirs of salvation.… Not from that mighty and mysterious visitant who unrobed Him of all His glories, and bowed down His head unto the sacrifice, and still, from the seat of His now exalted mediatorship, pours forth His intercessions and His calls in behalf of the race He died for. Finally, not from the eternal Father of all, in the pavilion of whose residence there is the golden treasury of all those bounties and beatitudes that roll over the face of nature, and from the footstool of whose empyreal throne there reaches a golden chain of providence to the very humblest of His family.—Chalmers.

He prayeth best who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God that loveth us,

He made and loveth all.

Coleridge.


Verse 11

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Vain persons, or "vanity," "emptiness."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

SATISFACTION FROM TILLAGE

I. Satisfaction as the result of tillage depends—

1. Upon the performance of a Divine promise. It is long ago since God gave to Noah the promise that "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen ), and it has been so invariably fulfilled that men have come to forget upon whom they are depending—in whom they are exercising faith—when they plough the ground and sow the seed. God's regularity in His performance has bred in men a contempt for the promise and the promise maker. Men speak of the laws of nature and ignore the fact that it is by the Word of the Lord that the "rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater" (Isa 55:10). But so it is. The promise is the power that set the laws in motion at first and that have kept them in motion ever since. There can be no tillage without dependence upon God either acknowledged or unacknowledged. The promise is an absolute one, and implies power in God to fulfil it to the end of time. It can never fail unless God's power fail, or unless He break His word; these are blessed impossibilities with Him. Therefore, so far as God is concerned the shall of the text is absolute. But it depends likewise—

2. Upon men's fulfilment of their duties. First, it is not all tillage that will satisfy a man with bread, the tillage must be painstaking and intelligent. The promise of God does not set aside the necessity for the man to be very laborious and to study carefully the nature and needs of the soil which he tills. Agriculture is a science which must be acquired—a man must learn how to till the ground. God claims to be man's instructor in this matter (Isa ). Then, again, it must be his land that he tills, not land taken by fraud or violence from another. Neither if a man tills the land of another as his servant is he always paid sufficient wages to be satisfied with bread. But this is the greed of man interfering with God's ordinaton.

II. The promise suggests symbolic teaching. We may look at it in relation to the human spirit. As land must be ploughed and sown with painstaking intelligence if a man is to have the satisfaction of reaping a harvest, so the human soul must be the object of spiritual tillage if it is ever to yield any satisfaction to God or man. There is very much to be got out of the land, but no man can obtain the full blessing unless he cultivate it. So it is with the man himself. A human soul left to lie barren can never become as a "field which the Lord hath blessed."

(1) It must be prepared to receive the words of God. The "fallow ground" must be broken up, lest the sowing be "among thorns" (Jer ), or the seed fall where it can find no entrance (Hos 10:12; Mat 13:4).

(2) Good seed must be sown. The word of God (Mar ), that "incorruptible seed" by which men are "born again" (1Pe 1:23).

(3) And the spiritual sower must be persevering and prayerful. It is true of natural tillage that "He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap" (Ecc ); it is equally so of soul-husbandry. The world, the flesh, and the devil will be always putting difficulties in the way of a man's caring for his "own soul." But these obstacles must be surmounted, and if the seed is watered by prayer God will assuredly send down the rain of the Holy Ghost.

(4) And in spiritual tillage there is also a certainty of satisfaction. This also depends upon not one Divine promise but upon many—upon the revelation of God as a whole. (Upon the opposite character—him "that followeth vain persons," or vanity, instead of tilling his land or his spiritual nature—see Homiletics on chapters Pro and Pro 10:5, pages 79 and 147.)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

We might have expected that the antithesis of the second clause would have ended with "shall lack bread," but the real contrast goes deeper. Idleness leads to a worse evil than that of hunger.—Plumptre.

Vain persons or "empty people"—most signally the impenitent—for they are empty of all good. "That follows after empty people" is a fine characteristic of the impenitent man's decline. Following others is the commonest influence to destroy the soul.—Miller.

Special honour is given to the work of tilling the land. God assigned it to Adam in Paradise. It was the employment of his eldest son. In ancient times it was the business or relaxation of kings. A blessing is ensured to diligence, sometimes abundant, always such as we should be satisfied with.—Bridges.

Of all the arts of civilised man agriculture is transcendantly the most essential and valuable. Other arts may contribute to the comfort, the convenience, and the embellishment of life, but the cultivation of the soil stands in immediate connection with our very existence. The life itself, to whose comfort, convenience, and embellishment other arts contribute, is by this sustained, so that others without it can avail nothing.—Wardlaw.

The only two universal monarchs practised husbandry.… Some people think that they cannot have enough unless they have more than the necessaries and decent comforts of life: but we are here instructed that bread should satisfy our desires. Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. There are few that want these, and yet few are content.… To be satisfied with bread is a happy temper of mind, and is commonly the portion of the man of industry, which not only procures bread, but gives it a relish unknown to men that are above labour.—Lawson.

Sin brought in sweat (Gen ), and now not to sweat increaseth sin.… "But he that followeth vain persons," etc. It is hard to be a good fellow and a good husband too.—Trapp.

Here is encouragement to those who travail in husbandry. They are of as good note with God for their service, if they be faithful, as others whose trades are more gainful, and better esteemed among men. The merchants, and goldsmiths, and others of such places, are not so often mentioned in Scripture as they be, nor animated with so many consolations as they are. The grand promises for blessing on their labour are made to them in special, and the rest must deduct their comforts from thence by proportion.—Dod.

In a moral point of view the life of the agriculturist is the most pure and holy of any class of men; pure, because it is the most healthful, and holy, because it brings the Deity perpetually before his view, giving him thereby the most exalted notions of supreme power, and the most fascinating and endearing view of moral benignity.—Sir B. Maltravers.

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates and men decay;

Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;

A breath can make them, as a breath has made:

But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,

When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

Goldsmith.


Verses 12-14

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Net. Delitzsch, Zockler, and Miller translate this word "spoil" or "prey." The Hebrew word means also a "fortress." Maurer, therefore, translates it "defence," and understands it to mean that the evil combine for mutual protection. This agrees with Zockler's rendering of the second clause, "the root of the righteous is made sure."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro

I. Concerning wicked men we have—

1. A blessed instance of their inability to do all they desire. Pro speaks of their "desiring the net of evil men"—of their reaching out after larger opportunities of ensnaring their fellow-creatures than they have at their command at present. The desires and abilities of good men are not always equally balanced. They have more desire to be good and to do good than they have ability to be or to do. The first teachers of Christianity desired a "net" that should enclose all to whom they preached the gospel, and this has been the desire of godly men ever since. They desire a "net" in which to catch their fellow-creatures for their good, but their ability always comes short of their desires. This is a saddening truth, but there is no denying the fact. But "the net of evil men" desired by the wicked is one in which to entrap men to their hurt. In this case it is a matter of rejoicing that their desires and their ability are not balanced. If ungodly men had their desires fulfilled they would soon transform the world into a mirror in which they would see them reflected in every human creature. We ought ever to give thanks to God that wicked men lack power to do all they desire to do to good men, and that they cannot even go to the length of their aspirations even with other ungodly men. They hate each other often with deep hatred, and human and Divine law alone prevents the world from being turned into a hell by the fulfilment of their desires against each other. There are outstanding debts always waiting to be settled whenever a net can be found large enough to entrap the victim, but God's providence is a larger net, and so arranges the events of human life that wicked men are often prevented from committing greater crimes than they do against each other.

2. Retribution falling upon them. A net is laid, and prey is ensnared, but it is he who desired to entrap his brother who "is snared by the transgression of his own lips" (Pro ). It is as certain as that water will find its level that men who lay traps for others will be entrapped themselves (see chap. Pro 11:8). And this will come about not by another man's laying a net for them but by their own plans being turned against them. Thus Haman made a snare for his own feet by the "transgression of his own lips" when he sought to persuade Ahasuerus that "it was not for his profit to suffer the Jews" (Est 3:8). He thought this net would enclose Mordecai, but it enwrapped himself in its meshes. So when Daniel's enemies laid their plans against him. Many a time has a godly man had occasion to sing David's song, "The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made; in the net which they hid is their own foot taken" (Psa 9:15). It is a law of God's government. "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity" (Rev 13:10). This is the "recompense which shall be rendered unto" the man who lays plans to injure others (Pro 12:14).

II. Concerning righteous men we have—

1. A godly character springing from a root of piety. The principal thing to be aimed at in building a house is to get a good foundation; if the foundation be insecure, the house will be worthless. That which makes a healthy fruit-bearing tree is a healthy, strong root; however fair the branches may at present look, they will soon betray any disease at the seat of its life. The root of a man's character is his desire; if the desire is righteous, he is a righteous—though not a perfect—man. As the wicked man was made by his evil desire, so the good man is made by his desires after that which is true and benevolent.

2. That which is yielded by such a root.

1. Deliverance. He is delivered from the net laid for him by the evil counsels of the wicked. His character is often the means of bringing him into trouble, but the same character is a guarantee that he shall come out of it. The time of trouble is by permission or by appointment of God, and it is only for a limited time. Job and Joseph were both brought into trouble because their characters awakened the envy—the one of angelic, the other of human sinners; but their histories are left on record to show to all just men, who find themselves in similar circumstances from the same cause, what the "end of the Lord" is, and will be to them (Jas ). There must come a final and blessed deliverance from all trouble for those who yield the fruit of a holy life from the root of a holy character (Rev 21:4).

2. Satisfaction (Pro ). One of the fruits of a righteous man will be his holy and wise speech—speech which blesses men in opposition to that "transgression of the lips" which is meant to injure them (Pro 12:13). From this "fruit of the mouth" he shall be "satisfied with good"—he will have the reward of knowing that his words bless others, and this will be to him a source of satisfaction. Or his wise speech may be the means of bringing him material good and temporal honour.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Man is always restless to press onwards to something not yet enjoyed. The wicked emulate each other in wickedness, and if they see evil men more successful than themselves, desire their net (Psa 10:8-10; Jer 5:26-28).—Bridges.

The words are somewhat obscure, both in the original and in the translation. The meaning, however, seems as follows: The "net of evil men," as in chap. Pro , is that in which they are taken—the judgment of God in which they are ensnared. This they run into with such a blind infatuation that it seems as if they were in love with their own destruction. The marginal "fortress" (a meaning given to the feminine form in Isa 29:7; Eze 19:9) gives the thought that the wicked seek the protection of others like themselves, but seek in vain the "root of the just" (i.e., that in them which is fixed and stable), alone yields that protection. The latter rendering is, on the whole, preferable.—Plumptre.

Some render the latter clause, He (i.e., the Lord) will give a root of the righteous; that is, will enable them to stand firm.—Wordsworth.

The impenitent does not prefer to work the soil of his soul, as in the last verse, but is in hopes to gain by something easier; he likes to seize as in the chase, or as robbers do. He likes to seize without having produced or earned. But the righteous not only goes through solid processes of piety, but (another intensive clause, chap. Pro ) earns for others, as well as for himself. While impenitence would take heaven as in a net, religion works for it, and, in so doing, "gives" or "yields."—Miller.

The word "net" may be understood of any means by which the wealth and honours of the world may be acquired. Thus it is used in Hab . The net described here is that of the oppressor, who regards his fellow-men as of any value only as he can render them conducive to his own benefit and aggrandisement, and who uses them accordingly, and when his oppressive powers prove successful vaunts himself in the power and the skill by which the means has been secured. There seems to be a special reference, in the verse before us, to illegitimate or fraudulent means. When "the wicked" see the devices of "evil men" succeed, they desire to try the same arts.… If, in any case, conscience should remonstrate and restrain, and will not allow them to go quite so far, they yet envy, and regret their restraints. They still desire the net, even when they can't bring themselves to use it. They wish they could get over their scruples, and, in this state of mind, the probability is that by and by they will. The "root of the righteous" might be understood as meaning the fixed, settled, stable principle of the righteous, and the sentiment may be, and it is an important one, that, acting on rooted principle, the righteous may and will ultimately prosper. I incline, however, to think that as "the net" signifies the varied artifice, cunning, and fraud employed to gain riches quickly, the root of the righteous may rather represent the source of his revenue or income; and, in opposition to the art of making rich quickly, to excite the surprise and the envy of others, a steady, firmlyestablished, regularly; and prudently and justly-conducted business, bringing in its profits fairly and moderately, as a tree, deeply-rooted in the soil, draws thence its natural nourishment, and, "receiving blessing from God," brings forth its fruit in due season. The two views are closely, if not inseparably, connected.—Wardlaw.

The wicked seek their good from without; the righteous have it within, their own root, deep and firmly sunk, supplying it.—Fausset.

He so furiously pursueth his lusts, as if he desired destruction; as if he would outdare God Himself; as if the guerdon of his gracelessness would not come time enough, but he must needs run to meet it. Thus thrasonical Lamech (Gen ) thinks to have the odds of God seventy to seven. Thus the princes of the Philistines, whilst plagued, came up to Mizpeh against Israel, as it were, to fetch their bane (1 Samuel 7).—Trapp.

Pro . The words saphah (lip) and lashon (tongue) occur, the first in Pro 12:13; Pro 12:19; Pro 12:22, the second in Pro 12:18-19 in this chapter. The former occurs about forty-five times in this book; and the words connected with them, such as strife, wrath, slander, scorn, and their contraries, love, peace, truth, etc., are very frequent, showing the importance to be attached to the right government of the tongue.—Wordsworth.

Matters are so arranged, in the constitution of the world, that the straight course of truth is safe and easy; the crooked path of falsehood difficult and tormenting. Here is perennial evidence that the God of providence is wise and true. By making lies a snare to catch liars in, the Author of being proclaims, even in the voices of nature, that He "requireth truth in the inward parts." "The just shall come out of trouble;" that is the word; it is not said he shall never fall into it. The inventory which Jesus gives of what His disciples shall have "now in this time," although it contains many things that nature loves, closes with the article "persecutions" (Mar ).… Those who wave their palms of victory and sing their jubilant hymns of praise, were all in the horrible pit once.—Arnot.

All human conduct is represented by the lips (Pro and chap Pro 14:3). The tongue is aforemost business agent. The impenitent, though he may stand out very clear, and see no tokens of a net, yet, as his life is false his not seeing the snare shows only how the more insidiously he may be entangled in. While the righteous, though he may be born to the snare; originally condemned; and though he may be caught in the toils of great worldly evil, yea, of sin itself; yet out of the very jaw of the trap where he may have foolishly entered, he will in the end be helped to get out.—Miller.

They (the just) suffer sometimes for their bold and free invectives against the evils of the times, but they shall surely be delivered.… John Baptist, indeed, was, without any law, right, and reason, beheaded in prison as though God had known nothing at all of him, said George Marsh, the martyr. And the same may be said of sundry other witnesses to the truth, but then by death they entered into life eternal.… Besides that heaven upon earth they had during their troubles.… The best comforts are usually reserved for the worst times.—Trapp.

Pro . Albeit the opening of the mouth is a small matter; yet, when it is done in wisdom, it shall be recompensed by the Lord with great blessing. For such as use their tongues to God's glory, and the edification of their brethren, instructing them and exhorting them from day to day, shall be loved by God and man, and taste many good things. Now, as good words, so good works shall be rewarded. For the recompense of a man's hands shall reward him; not only shall the wicked be plagued for their evil doing, but the godly shall be blessed for their well-doing.—Muffet.

This is the whole question of capital and labour put in a nutshell. All is not to be claimed by the hands, for there is the mouth that directs and orders. As much is not to be claimed by the hands, for the Bible is a good, truthful book, and it claims for the mind more than for the muscle. (See this distinction in Ecc .) "A man of the better sort," with his education, and expensive capital, earns more, according to the inspired Solomon, than the "labouring man." What he demands of the Christian gentleman is, that he shall make an estimate of all this, and, while he keeps himself "the earnings of the mouth," he render carefully to the labourer the wages of his hands. We have no authority for this interpretation. We present it as unquestionably just. The translation it would be hard to give literally. But the words are about thus: "From the fruit of the mouth of a man of the better class, a good man will be satisfied; and the wage (lit. the work) of the hands of a common man he will render to him." This fair, calculating spirit, in all questions between man and man, not tending to communism on the one hand and not yielding to tyranny on the other, is the true spirit of the inspired Gospel.—Miller.

There are "empty vines that bear fruit unto themselves" (Hos ). And as empty casks sound loudest, and base metal rings shrillest, so many empty tattlers are full of discourse. Much fruit will redound by holy speeches to ourselves—much to others. Paul showeth that the very report of his bonds did a great deal of good in Cæsar's house (Php 1:14).… One seasonable truth, falling upon a prepared heart, hath oft a strong and sweet influence. Sometimes, also, although we know that which we ask of others as well as they do, yet good speeches will draw us to know it better by giving occasion to speak more of it, wherewith the Spirit works most effectually, and imprints it deeper, so that it shall be a more rooted knowledge than before.—Trapp.


Verse 15-16

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Presently, literally "in that very day," i.e. "at once." Covereth shame, or "hides his offence."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

TWO EXAMPLES OF FOOLISHNESS AND WISDOM

I. The man who guides his life by his own self-conceit—rejecting the advice of others. No finite creature possesses sufficient wisdom within himself to direct his path through life. The largest and deepest rivers are dependent upon small streams to sustain their volume of water, and each little stream again must be fed from a source outside itself, and the springs which feed the streams have their origin in the ocean's fulness. So the very greatest minds are in some things dependent upon minds which in many things are their inferior, and it is a mark of wisdom to acknowledge this, and to be willing to take advice of anyone who is able to give it upon matters in which they are better informed. Thus men are led to exercise a mutual dependence on each other, and all to depend upon Him whose wisdom is the parent of all finite counsel that is of any value.

(1) A man who will not acknowledge and act upon this principle is a fool, because he practically shuts his eyes to a self-evident fact, and denies that he is a member of a race, the members of which are evidently intended to supply each other's lack in such a manner as to form a mutually dependent body. It is in human society as it is in the individual human body—"the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you" (1Co ), or if they do say so they only proclaim their great want of wisdom.

(2) He is a fool because he declines to profit by the experience of men in the past. To recur to the simile of the human body, it is intended to live upon material outside itself, and a man is counted insane who refuses to take food. So we are intended to profit by the experience of men who have lived before us, and it is quite as foolish to set it aside as useless to us as it is to refuse to eat in order to live. It is indeed like expecting to keep in health and strength by consuming one's own flesh. No man does actually and in all cases refuse to profit by the wisdom and experience of others, but he is foolish in proportion as he does so.

(3) He is a fool because he is so declared by the highest authority. God by His offers of guidance, by the very existence of the Bible, declares that men need counsel. (See upon this subject Homiletics on chap. Pro , page 34.) The human soul is like a blind Samson, because of the blinding nature of sin relative and sin personal, and all its endeavours to find a right way without hearkening to Divine counsel only result in stumbles and wounds, and finally, if persisted in, in moral ruin. All a man's endeavours only increase his misery, until he take the counsel offered him by God. He is like a shipwrecked mariner suffering from raging thirst from having drunk of the briny water, every draught only increases the disease, and nothing can save him but drinking of pure water.

(4) This man is his own destroyer. It is bad to be ruined by the temptations of others, but there is this advantage, we can fall back upon the excuse of our first parents: "The woman gave me of the tree and I did eat," or "the serpent beguiled me" (Gen ). But when a man's rejection of counsel ruins him, he finds himself in a "blind alley," from which there is not even the outlet of an excuse.

II. The passionate man. This is often the companion of self-conceit and is indeed a proof of it. If a man is unable to hold a restive horse well in hand, it proves that he has not taken lessons in horsemanship. If a man cannot steer a vessel in ordinary circumstances without running her upon the rocks, it shows that he has not learned the art of navigation. A man who cannot keep his anger from over-mastering him—who cannot keep a firm hold of the rudder of his own spirit—proclaims that he has not subjected himself to moral discipline, that he has disdained to learn the art of moral rulership. Such a man is a fool, because a man in a passion is always despised by others, he often utters words which he would afterwards give much to recall, and generally ends by losing his own self-respect.

III. In contrast to this character stands the man who is in all respects the opposite—him whose character is sketched in the first clauses of these verses, who "loveth instruction" (Pro ) who acknowledges that "he is a stranger in the earth and needs Divine guidance" (Psa 119:19), that "the way of man is not himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his step" (Jer 10:23.—See Homiletics on chap. Pro 10:8, page 151). Such a man is willing to listen to the advice of any who are capable of giving it, and his prudence in this matter is generally accompanied by an ability to "cover shame"—to take a reproof or an insult in silence. He has learned to take George Herbert's advice—

"Command thyself in chief. He life's war knows

Whom all his passions follow as he goes."

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . All through our lost nature the truth of this proverb is visible. A man may be on the road to hell, but think that he is fair for heaven. A man may build by rapine, but think that he is the pink of fair dealing. A man is not a judge about himself. A Christian, therefore, will feel this, and while the impenitent is hard as to his own right, the Christian will be humble, and will be glad, in reasonable ways, to leave his duties to be advised upon by others.—Miller.

We have one great "Counsellor" Messiah, who is made unto us "wisdom" (Isa ; 1Co 1:30). Let us "hearken unto" Him (chap. Pro 1:33). Fausset.

And such a fool is every natural man (Job ); wise enough, haply in his generation—so is the fox too—wise with such wisdom as, like the ostrich's wings, makes him outrun others upon earth, but helps him never a whit towards heaven.—Trapp.

The worse any man is, or doth, the less he seeth his evil. They that commit the most sins have hope that they stand guilty of fewest; they that fall into the greatest transgressions, imagine that their faults be the smallest; they that sink into the deepest dangers do dream of greatest safety; they that have longest continued in rebellion against God, of all others, for the most part are slowest to repentance.… St. Paul testifieth that when he was in the worst case, he knew nothing but that he had been in the best.—Dod.

Every man's way is, and must be, in some degree, acceptable to himself, otherwise he would never have chosen it. But, nevertheless, whoever is wise, will be apt to suspect and be diffident of himself. Let men's abilities be ever so great, and their knowledge ever so extensive, still they ought not, and without great danger and inconvenience cannot, trust wholly and entirely to themselves. For those abilities and that knowledge easily may be, and often are, rendered useless by the prejudices and prepossessions of men's own minds. Nothing is more common than for men's appetites and affections to bribe their judgments, and seduce them into erroneous ways of thinking and acting. They are often entangled and set fast, not through the want of light and knowledge, not through any defect of their heads, but through the deceitfulness of their hearts. In many cases where they could easily direct other men, they suffer themselves to be misled, and are driven into the snare by the strength of inclination, or by the force of habit.… This acquired darkness, this voluntary incapacity, as well as the want of counsel thereby occasioned, nowhere appears more frequently, or more remarkably, than in the transaction of our spiritual concerns, and what relates to the discharge of our duty. "The way of man," says our royal author, "is right in his own eyes," though the end "thereof be the ways of death." When we have wandered out of the road, and almost lost ourselves in bye-paths, we can make ourselves believe that we have continued all the while in the highway to truth and happiness.… But, however lightly we may esteem the helps and directions of men, shall we not attend to the counsels of Our Heavenly Father, and the admonitions of the Most High? Can we have more regard to what is "right in our own eyes" than to what is right in His?—Balguy.

Pro . "Covereth," with the mantle of patience and charity, instead of exasperating himself, and losing self-control by dwelling on the indignity of the word or deed, and the worthlessness of the injurer. He does not publish the act to the discredit of the other, but consults for the reputation of the other, lest he should add sin to the injury suffered.—Fausset.

Truly is wrath called shame. For is it not a shame that unruly passions should, as it were, trample reason under foot, disfigure even the countenance, and subjugate the whole man to a temporary madness? (Dan .)—Bridges.

A fool hath no power over his passions. Like tow, he is soon kindled; like a pot, he soon boils; and like a candle whose tallow is mixed with brine, as soon as lighted he spits up and down the room. "A fool uttereth all his mind" (Chap. Pro ). The Septuagint renders it "all his anger." For, as the Hebrews well note in a proverb they have, "A man's mind is soonest known in his purse, in his drink, and in his anger." But "A wise man covereth shame" by concealing his wrath, or rather by suppressing it when it would break forth to his disgrace, or the just grief of another. This was Saul's wisdom (1Sa 10:27); and Jonathan's (1Sa 20:35); and Ahasuerus's, when, in a rage against Haman, he walked into the garden. The philosopher wished Augustine, when angry, to say over the Greek alphabet.—Trapp.

The meaning of the Holy Ghost is not here to condemn all kinds of anger, for it is one of the powers of the soul which God created as an ornament in men, and godly anger is a part of God's image in him, and a grace commended in Moses, Elijah, etc., and our Saviour Himself, and he that is always altogether destitute of this doth provoke God to be angry with him, for want of zeal and hatred of sin; but it is a passionate anger that is here reproved, which is not a power of the soul, but an impotency. He that conceiveth the other is an agent, and doth a service to God; but he that is moved with this is a patient, and sin hath in that case prevailed against him.—Dod.


Verses 17-19

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Speaketh, literally "breathes."

Pro . Speaketh, literally "babbles." Health, "healing."

Pro . A moment, literally "while I wink."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro , and Pro 12:22

WOUNDING AND HEALING

I. The mischief that may be done by a lying tongue.

1. In a legal matter. It is the duty of a witness to testify exactly what he knows, and no more nor less. If a man speaks deceitfully he may bring much misery upon the innocent, whom his straightforward testimony would have acquitted. And he may do this by withholding truth as well as by uttering direct falsehood. The first is "showing forth deceit" as well as the last.

2. In common conversation. The word "speaketh," in Pro , is "babbleth," and seems to point to those who are great talkers, and who are not careful what they say. (See Homiletics on chap. Pro 10:19-21, page 168.) In both these cases words may inflict a more deadly wound than a sword. If spoken to a man they may break his heart, if spoken of him they may kill his reputation, which no sword of steel can touch, and which to the best men is much more precious than bodily life. A lying or even a babbling tongue can pierce a much more vital organisation than flesh and blood—it can enter the human spirit, and hurt it in its most sensitive part; or by slander it can destroy all the joy of a man's earthly life. And as a sword can in a moment sever the spirit and the body of a man, and work such ruin and misery as can never be done away with, so a lying tongue may by one word, or one conversation, do mischief that can never be undone. The sword of steel can divide human friends locally; but it cannot sever their love; it tends rather to increase and brighten the flame; but a word of slander may do all this, and estrange those who were bound in the tenderest ties, until the God of Truth shall bring the truth to light. Though the lying tongue is comparatively "but for a moment," yet in a moment it can deal a thrust that will last as long as life. It can open a wound whence will flow out all the joy of life, as the heart's blood flows from a mortally wounded man.

II. Its judgment and its destiny. It is an abomination in the sight of a God of Truth, and, therefore, its life is comparatively short—it is "but for a moment" compared with the eternal duration of truth. A lying man or devil is the very antipodes of the Divine character. All truthful men instinctively shrink from a liar as the sensitive plant withdraws from the human touch. How much more must he be held in abhorrence by Him who is a "God of Truth, and without iniquity" (Deu ). Christ characterises lying as the cardinal sin of the greatest sinner in the universe (Joh 8:44). It was his lying tongue that "brought death into the world, and all our woe," and so spoiled the Paradise which God had prepared for man. How then can lying be any other than an abomination to Him? But, because it is so, its doom is fixed. It is destined to destruction by the victory of truth, as the night is destroyed by the overcoming light of day. (On this subject see also Homiletics on Chap. Pro 10:18, page 166.)

III. The blessed results of a truthful and wisely-governed tongue.

1. It will "show forth righteousness." A man who speaks the truth shows forth righteousness in two ways—

(1) in his own character. He reveals himself to be a righteous man. He gives a living example of uprightness and integrity.

(2) He helps on righteousness in the world. By being a faithful witness he furthers the ends of justice and righteousness—he helps on the just administration of the law.

2. It will heal wounds inflicted by the untruthful tongue. In nature we have a two-fold exhibition of power. The hurricane comes and breaks the branches of the tree, and strips off its leaves; but a more beneficent power clothes it again with beauty. So the tongue of a fool strips a man of what made life beautiful to him—takes away his good name, or breaks bonds of close friendship—but wise and kind words have a healing power in them—they help to cheer the wounded spirit, and enable the bowed head to lift itself again. Such a tongue of healing had the Divine Son of God, who came "to heal the broken in heart" (Isa ), and to restore the friendship between God and man, which was first broken by the slandering tongue of the devil—that great slanderer of God to man, and of man to God" (Gen 3:5; Job 1:10). To Him the "Lord God gave the tongue of the learned, that He might know how to speak a word in season to him that was weary (Isa 50:4). The tongue of all true servants of God is an instrument of healing, for they are enabled to tell to their fellow-men "words whereby they may be saved" (Act 10:14).

IV. God's estimation of it and its destiny. It is "God's delight," Pro . Whatever gives delight to a noble and benevolent man must be a blessing to humanity, and everything will delight him that tends to minister blessing to the world. This is pre-eminently true of the good God. Truth is the great need of the race—truth in word and deed and thought. To this end Christ came into the world "to bear witness of the truth" (Joh 18:37), because that alone is the cure for the world's woes. Then every man who is true must bless humanity and consequently delight God. A good father rejoices to see his own excellencies of character appear in his son, and the Father of the good likewise delights to see His children copy Him in "dealing truly." (See also on chap. Pro 11:1, page 191.) And because it is God's delight it will last for ever. Truth of any kind will be established in the course of time. If a man proclaim a scientific truth, however much he may be laughed at and disbelieved at first, his "lip," or his words, will be established in the end. The words of Galileo, when he uttered the truth, that the earth moved round the sun, have long since been "established." Time only is needed for any truth to take root-hold—it can never be overturned, whether it be physical or moral truth. Many truths which were scoffed at by most men, when they were first promulgated, are now regarded as truisms by almost everybody. And the lips that uttered them are now established and held in honour. Such men, for instance, as Cromwell and Milton, when they declared that the right of private judgment in religious matters, the freedom of the press, etc., were the right of every man, are now established in the estimation of this nation, and the truths which they uttered are regarded by all Englishmen as undoubted facts. "This," says F. W. Robertson, "is man's relation to the truth. He is but a learner—a devout recipient of a revelation—here to listen with open ear devoutly for that which he shall hear; to gaze and watch for that which he shall see. Man can do no more. He cannot create truth; he can only bear witness to it; he can only listen and report that which is in the universe. If he does not repeat and witness to that, he speaketh of his own, and forthwith ceases to be true.… Veracity is another thing. Veracity is the correspondence between a proposition and a man's belief. Truth is the correspondence of the proposition with fact." It is to such witness-bearers—especially to those who witness concerning moral truth—that the promise of the text applies.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . He who is brought to a spiritual discernment of the "truth" "breathes" it like his breath, instinctively and unconsciously. (See Critical Notes.) And he who does this not simply "covers shame" (Pro 12:16), but causes others to, for he advertises righteousness—i.e., publishes it. This, therefore, is the meaning of the sentence: "He that breathes forth truth publishes righteousness"—i.e., saving righteousness: and does it like uttering forth his breath. While the "deceived" (false) witness; literally, the witness of falsehood; aphrase which is ambiguous, because it might mean a witness to falsehood (see chap. Pro 6:9)—the "deceived witness"—i.e., the man who sees or witnesses falsehood instead of truth, "publishes (understood) delusion"—i.e., is a constant fountain of deceit to other men. This sense of the witness of falsehood is necessary to many proverbs (chap Pro 14:5), and saves a number from tautological or truistic interpretations.—Miller.

There is more here than lies upon the surface. It might seem enough for a faithful witness to speak truth. But no—he must show forth righteousness; what is just, as well as what is true. The best intentioned purpose must not lead us to conceal what is necessary to bring the cause to a righteous issue.—Bridges.

The words read at first almost like a truism; but the thought which lies below the surface is that of the inseparable union between truth and justice. The end does not justify the means, and only he who breathes and utters truth makes the righteous cause clear. Plumptre.

He that speaketh, ordinarily, in his common speech, that which is true, will show righteousness—that is, will carry himself justly, and further righteousness with his testimony, when he shall be publicly called thereunto. There must be a training of the tongue to make it fit for equity and justice, as of the hands, and other parts of the body, to make them skilful in handling a weapon and bearing of arms.… No man is competent for any work that is public unless his former upright and honest conversation commend him unto it. The rule which our Saviour gives in another case will hold as firmly in this. "He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much" (Luk ). For, first, the mouth of the man is the mouth of the man's treasure. That which he speaketh he best loveth. That which is most in the lips hath greatest place in the heart. If, therefore, the truth be dear unto him, he will certainly show it forth when he shall stand forth before God and His substitute for that purpose, and so do a good service of love and piety; but if he have any fellowship with falsehood he will now take part with it, being void of the fear of God, and afraid to displease man. Secondly, no man exerciseth the truth at any time conscionably, but by the spirit of truth, and that directing men's hearts at other times, in matters of less weight, will not fail them at their greatest need, when they are to perform a duty of so great importance; and so, on the other hand, Satan hath the disposing of their tongues that give themselves to lying. He is their father, he teacheth them their trade, and tasketh them in their work, and they be wholly at his commandment, and who doubteth but he will command them to be on his side, and to take against the truth, so far as a knowledge of the truth shall make against his practices.—Dod.

Pro . Wit, when not chastened and controlled by an amiable disposition, often wounds deeply. Jibes, jests, irony, raillery, and sarcasm, fly about. No matter what the wounds, or where they be inflicted, if the wit be but shown. A happy hit, a clever, biting repartee, will not be suppressed for the sake of the feelings, or even the character of a neighbour, or, as it may happen, a friend. The man of wit must have his joke, cost what it may. The point may be piercing in the extreme; but if it glitters it is enough; to the heart it will go.—Wardlaw.

Abimelech and his fellow priests were killed with the tongue, as with a rapier; so was Naboth and his sons; so was our Saviour Christ Himself. An honest mind is ever more afflicted with words than blows. You shall find some, saith Erasmus, that if they be threatened with death can despise it; but to be belied they cannot brook, nor from revenge contain themselves. How was David enraged by Nabal's railings! Moses, by the people's murmurings! Jeremiah by the derisions of the rude rabble! (chap. Pro .)—Trapp.

Among all the complaints which the godly, and God's own spirit make against the wicked in the Scriptures, they seldom complain of anything more than of their virulent and pestiferous mouths (Psa ; Psa 52:2; Pro 25:18; Rom 3:13). First, they cause swords to be drawn, and blood to be shed, and men to be slain, and much mischief to be wrought. Secondly. The sword, or any other weapon, can only hurt them that are present, and in places near to it; but the stroke of the tongue will light most dangerously upon them that are absent; no place or distance can help against it, and one man may do mischief to a great multitude.—Dod.

Pro . Liars need to have good memories. A lying tongue soon betrays itself. "No lie reaches old age," says Sophocles.—Fausset.

The verse has been differently rendered. "The tongue of truth is ever steady: but the tongue of falsehood is so but for a moment" (Hodgson). There is unvarying consistency in the one case; for truth is always in harmony with itself; while there is shifting evasion, vacillation, contradiction, in the other.—Wardlaw.

Who will gainsay the martyr's testimony—"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, play the man! We shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out."—Bridges.

The Christian shall utter for ever just the things that he utters on earth. Miller.

Pro . Not merely they that speak truly, but they that deal truly. Deeds of true dealing must confirm words of fair speaking.—Fausset.

A lie is a thing absolutely and intrinsically evil; it is an act of injustice and a violation of our neighbour's rights. The vileness of its nature is equalled by the malignity of its effects; it first brought sin into the world, and is since the cause of all those miseries and calamities that disturb it; it tends utterly to overthrow and dissolve society, which is the greatest temporal blessing and support of mankind; it has a strange and peculiar efficacy above all other sins to indispose the heart to religion. It is as dreadful in its punishments as it has been pernicious in its effects.—South.

Honesty is just truth in conduct; and truth is honesty in words.—Wardlaw.

Such as speak the truth in uprightness will not vary in their talk, but tell the same tale again, and be like to themselves in that which they shall say; whereas liars be in and out, affirming and denying, and speaking contradictions in the same matter. Only true men are constant in their words. First, their matter will help their memory, for that which is truth once will be truth ever. Secondly, the same Spirit that worketh a love and conscience of the truth, whereby men are made to be true, doth never cease to be the same, therefore, as it seasoneth the heart and guideth it at the first, so it will establish it, and direct the lips to the end. For sincerity and uprightness is of all things most durable, and least subject to alteration or change. And that St. Paul assigneth for a cause of his invariable constancy, that he minded not those things that he did mind according to the flesh, whereby there should be with him, yea, yea, and nay, nay (2Co ).—Dod.

Truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware; whereas a lie is troublesome, and sets a man's invention upon the rack, and one trick needs a good many more to make it good. It is like building upon a false foundation, which constantly needs props to shore it up, and proves at last more chargeable than to have raised a substantial building at first upon a true and solid foundation.—Tillotson.

Dare to be true, nothing can need a lie:

A fault which needs it most grows two thereby.

—Herbert.

God "desireth truth in the inward parts" (Psa ), and all His are "children that will not lie" (Isa 63:8); they will rather die than lie. As they "love in the truth" (2Jn 1:1) so they "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15), and are therefore dear to the Father in truth and love (2Jn 1:3), especially since they "do truth" as well as speak it (1Jn 1:6), and do not more desire to be truly good than they hate to seem to be so only.—Trapp.

God doth never hate anything that is not hateful, and that must needs be odious which He abhorreth, and especially when it is abomination. Ye may know by their companions among whom they are marshalled what account he maketh of them (see Rev ).… That truth which is acceptable to God consisteth both in speaking and doing.

1. His Spirit doth make every man that hath attained to the one to be able to do the other. That which St. John setteth down in a more general manner doth strongly confirm this particular point. "If any man sin not in word, he is a perfect man, and able to bridle all the body." His meaning is that some be absolute without sin in word, and perfect, without infirmity in goodness; but that many be gracious without sinfulness, though they have their slips in speeches; and sincere, without wickedness, though they have their frailties in behaviour.

2. Both are infallible and essential fruits of regeneration, and the Apostle doth thereby persuade us thereby to declare ourselves to be of the number of the saints, and faithful, saying, "Cast off lying, and let him that stole steal no more" (Eph ; Eph 4:28).

3. Both are required of them that would know and manifest themselves to be natural members of the Church in this world, and inheritors of salvation in the life to come. (See Psa .)—Dod.


Verse 20

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Delitzsch reads, "cause joy."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

JOY FROM PEACE

I. There must be counsel if there is to be peace. There can be no peace either in a soul, a family, or a nation, where there is no counsel given and taken. There must be some centre of authority and rule whence counsel issues, if there is to be any order, and where there is no order there can be no peace. The peace of the text must be peace based upon righteousness, indeed all that bears the name that is not built upon this foundation, is false and transitory. It is like that house built upon the sand, which, when the winds come, is swept away, although it may look like a solid structure on a summer day. It is "the work of righteousness," that "shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever." "The mountains shall bring peace … by righteousness (Psa ; Isa 32:17).

II. Where there is true peace by righteousness there will be joy. Joy is the overflow of peace. Peace is like a river flowing tranquilly between its banks, and joy is like the same river when there is such a volume of water that it overflows the banks. When there is "an abundance of peace" in a soul, or a family, or a nation, it must overflow into joy—it must take a more active form. (The subject of the first clause of this verse has been treated before. See on Pro ).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

That deceit is in the heart of him who deviseth evil appears to be a platitude, for the devising is directed against a neighbour. But, in the first place, it says that the evil which a man hatches against another always issues in a fraudulent malicious deception of the same; and, secondly, it says, when taken into connection with the second clause, that with the deception he always at the same time prepares for him sorrow. The contrast denotes not those who give counsel to contending parties to conclude peace, but such as devise peace—viz., in reference to the neighbour, for the word means not merely to impart counsel, but also mentally to devise, to resolve upon, to decree. Hitzig and Zöckler give to peace the general idea of welfare, and interpret joy as the inner joy of a good conscience. But as the deception in the first clause is not self-deception, but the deception of another, so the joy is not that which men procure for others. Thoughts of peace for one's neighbour are always thoughts of procuring joy for him, as thoughts of evil are thoughts of deceit; and thus of procuring sorrow for him.—Delitzsch.

Evil counsel most hurteth those that give it. By deceit is here meant a deceitful reward; or an issue of a matter deceiving a man's expectation.—Muffet.

They shall have peace for peace; peace of conscience for peace of country; pax pectoris for pax temporis. They shall be called and counted the children of peace; yea, the children of God.—Trapp.

First, no man can soundly seek to reconcile man to God, or one man to another, or give direction for his neighbour's welfare, unless he himself be reconciled to God, and peaceable towards men, and have Christian love in his heart, and these graces are never separated from holy comfort and gladness. For the same sap that sendeth forth the one, doth in like manner also yield the other, as the apostle testifieth (Gal ; Rom 14:17). Secondly, if their counsel be embraced and followed, the good effect thereof, with God's blessing, besides thanks and kindness which the parties holpen by their counsel, will yield to them; as David to Abigail, and Naaman to Elisha, etc. Thirdly, though their advice be rejected, yet, as Isaiah saith, their reward is with the Lord, and they shall be glorious in His eyes (Isa 49:4-5).—Dod.

Deceit is in the heart (or cometh back to the heart) of them that imagine evil (or practise mischief).

I. The persons are described. They are evil-doers, but not every evil-doer, but the practiser, the trader, the artificer in evil, one wholly bent upon sin, not every bungler or beginner, but an expert workman, that can despatch more business of sin in one day than some other in a month or a year. Nor is every evil here aimed at, but evil against others—mischief. Many evil men are only greatest enemies to themselves, intent to serve and satisfy their own lusts; but these with whom we have now to do, always have evil in their hearts or hands, in their consultations and executions, whereby to hurt others. Again, this man in our text is subtle in evil; as he is a cunning workman and active in high designs of evil, so he carrieth his business as subtilely, for which the whole work carries in the original the name of deceit, pretending all fair weather, as still water is deepest and most dangerous, or like a waterman that looks one way and rows another.

II. The condition of these persons. Their deceit returns to them that first hatched it; that is, brings unavoidable mischief on themselves.

1. There is no small unquietness in the heart, while it is plotting evil.

2. Whomsoever they deceive, they cannot deceive God, who will make them deceivers of themselves (See Job ).

3. Whereas sin is a sure paymaster, and the wages death, the sin of these men must needs slay them and play the part both of an officer to apprehend them, of a gaoler to hold them, and of an executioner to bring them to shameful death.—Thos. Taylor, 1650.


Verse 21-22

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

ALL WORKING FOR THE GOOD OF THE RIGHTEOUS

The first clause cannot, of course, mean that nothing that appears evil—that no sorrow or loss happens to the just. Such an assertion would be contrary to other teachings of Scripture, as well as to experience and history. The righteousness of the first man who is called righteous (Luk ) led to his murder. If Joseph had been a less virtuous man, the iron of imprisonment would not have entered into his soul (Psa 105:18). If John the Baptist had been a timeserving godless man, he would not have had the bitter experience of the dungeon of Machaerus. To these men, and to all the noble army of martyrs, many of the things which happened were very evil in themselves. The Word of God likewise forewarns men that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, that through much tribulation they must enter into the kingdom of God (2Ti 3:12; Act 14:22). And every just man now living has had experience of evil befalling him in his health, his circumstances, or in some other form. But—

I. No evil shall really injure the godly man. It shall not hurt his better part, that which is the man himself—his spiritual nature, his moral character. The storms that cannot uproot a tree only make it take deeper root-hold, and so add to its strength. If it break some of the branches it makes it more fit to weather another tempest. So all the trials of the just man tend to strengthen his character by causing him to lay a firmer hold upon the things that are unseen and eternal.

"Affliction then is ours;

We are the trees whom shaking fastens more,

While blustering winds destroy the wanton bowers,

And ruffle all their curious knots and store.—Herbert.

The true interpretation of the text is found in the inspired declaration of Paul, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom ). Many elements work together to produce a good harvest at the appointed time. Winter winds and snow, summer breezes, gentle rain and noontide heat, all have a part in the work. One of these agencies alone would not bring forth one golden ear, but the "working together" will cover the land with fields of grain ready for the sickle. Many and various materials and agencies must be brought together to build a seaworthy ship. Iron and wood, fire and water, men skilled in many different arts must work together to bring about the required result. And so with the just man. Manifold experiences, failure and success, joy and sorrow, make up his earthly life. Not sorrow alone, nor joy alone, would fit him for his eternal inheritance—would fit him to be presented "faultless before the presence" of his Lord (Jude 1:24). But it is the combination of both, the many things "working together," that effect the desired good. And so no evil befals him, because all the evil shall work together with the good for his eternal well-being.

II.—The wicked man shall likewise attain to a completion of character. "The wicked shall be filled with mischief" teaches

(1) that wicked men are not so bad as they can be. Thorns and briars grow stronger year by year. Time is needed to transform the blade into the full ear. As the present season of probation is but the beginning of man's life, we conclude that men can go on eternally progressing in the character which now belongs to them—that all their present habits of thought and feeling can become much stronger than they are at present. Therefore, a wicked man can grow worse than he is at present.

(2) That wicked men are not so bad as they shall be. If a stone is set in motion down a hill it will keep on its course unless it is arrested by some opposing force. So, unless a godless man yields to a Divine influence, and so is brought to repentance, he shall "wax worse and worse" (2Ti ). No man can stand still in character; if he do not grow better, he must grow worse. And this "filling up" of the measure of wickedness is but the necessary reaction of his own actions. He is filled with his own mischief. As the just man's present actions go to strengthen and develop his spiritual nature, and to complete and perfect his character in goodness, so every act of the godless man is one more link of the chain of evil habit which binds him daily more tightly, and sinks him every day a little lower in the moral universe of God.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

No "evil," or calamity; literally nothing worthless or empty. The root means nothingness, entire vacuity. The expression, too, is peculiar. "There shall not happen to the righteous any nothingness at all." But as several of the nouns that mean evil, through a deep philosophy, trace to the same kind of root, "calamity," or actual evil, is the proper translated sense. No event that turns out an actual calamity can ever happen to the saint. And if anyone points to their tremendous agonies it is well enough to go back to the root, nothingness. Nothing worthless; that is, nothing that proves not so useful as to be better than present joy. Nothing not actually precious. In the whole course of their lives each is "filled" with "their own proper lot." The wicked, if he have joys, will find them sorrows; and the righteous, if he have sorrows, will find them, not nothings, but for his eternal joy.—Miller.

The word signifies evil as ethical wickedness, and although it may be used of any misfortune in general, it denotes especially such sorrow as is the harvest and produce of sin (chap. Pro ; Job 4:8; Isa 59:4), or such as brings after it punishment (Hab 3:7; Jer 4:15). That it is also here thus meant the contrast makes evident.—Delitzsch.

First, for evil of sin. God will not lead him into temptation; but will cut off occasions, remove stumbling-blocks out of his way; devoratory evils, as Tertullian calls them, he shall be sure not to fall into "That evil one shall not touch him (1Jn ) with a deadly touch; nibble he may at their heels, but cannot reach their heads, shake he may his chain at them, but shall not set his fangs in them, or so far thrust his sting into them as to infuse into them the venom of that sin unto death (1Jn 5:17). Next, for evil of pain, though "many be the troubles of the righteous" (Psa 34:19), and they "fall into manifold temptations" (Jas 1:2), they go not in step by step into these waters of Marah, but "fall into" them, being, as it were, precipitated, plunged over head and ears, yet are bidden to be exceeding glad, as a merchant is to see his ship come laden in. Their afflictions are not penal, but probational; not mortal, but medicinal. "By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit, the taking away of his sin (Isa 27:9). Look how the scourging and beating of a garment with a stick drives out the moths and the dust; so doth affliction corruptions from the heart; and there is no hurt in that; no evil thereby happens to the just.… To treasure up sin is to treasure up wrath (Rom 2:5). "Every bottle shall be filled with wine (Jer 13:12); the bottle of wickedness, when once filled with those bitter waters, will sink to the bottom; the ephah of wickedness, when top full shall be borne "into the land of Shinar, and set there upon her own base" (Heb 5:8; Heb 5:11). He that makes a match with mischief shall have his bellyfull of it (Hos 4:17; Pro 14:14); he shall have an evil, "an evil, an only evil" (Eze 7:5), that is, judgment without mercy, as St. James expounds it (chap. Pro 2:13). Non surgit hic afflictior, as the prophet Nahum hath it (chap. Pro 1:9); affliction shall not rise up the second time. God will have but one blow at him; he shall totally and finally be cut down at once. The righteous are smitten in the branches; but the wicked at the root (Isa 27:8); those he corrects with a rod; but these with a grounded staff (Isa 30:32); and yet the worst is behind too. For whatever a wicked man suffers in this world is but hell typical; it is but as the falling of leaves—the whole tree will one day fall on them. It is but as a drop of wrath forerunning the great storm; a crack forerunning the ruin of the whole building; it is but as paying the usemoney for the whole debt, that must be paid at last.—Trapp.

The great principle of self-preservation implanted in our nature which, puts us on our guard against the slightest inconvenience, and maketh us arm for the repelling of a single evil, fails to engage men in the pursuit of that which would powerfully protect us in the most difficult circumstances, and universally secure us against all manner of hazards. Piety alone is that armour of proof which renders those that wear it safe and invulnerable, and yet, as if the Christian were the only infidel, how few of us are so thoroughly convinced of this great truth as to pursue it with an eagerness proportionate to its value. The text assures us—That a religious life and conversation is the best security against all manner of evils. All evil to which we can be liable, may be reduced under three heads.

I. Such as are inflicted immediately by God. Here it is necessary to distinguish between such afflictions as He vouchsafeth in mercy and those with which He visiteth in judgment. The best of men are not exempted from the former, they are not always so intent upon their duty, but that they stand in need of a remembrancer, or it pleaseth God to afflict them for the trial of their faith, for the exercise of their patience, and to wean them from the world. But these are but like the more difficult talks of a discreet and loving tutor; which recommend the pupils to a higher applause and a more excellent advantage, and are, therefore, so far from doing them any harm that they ought to be looked upon as most valuable blessings. Those inflictions therefore of God, which may be justly entitled to the name of evils, are such only as He visiteth in judgment, and from such nothing can more effectually secure us than a godly life and conversation.

II. Such as are occasioned by ourselves. Many evils are the effect of sin and carelessness, and as it is the work and office of true piety to make us at the same time holy and considerate, it will evidently appear that none of these evils shall happen to the just.

III. Such as are brought upon us by the malice of men or devils. These are only tolerated by God's connivance and permission. The devil, furious and malicious as he is, always drags his chain after him, by which he may be drawn back to his infernal dungeon, and therefore, unless He hath some such favourable ends, as I formerly instanced in His own inflictions, He will certainly keep His own out of their ravenous jaws. Shall we then neglect the only means by which we may be defended against such numerous calamities? To be just is no more than to follow after the thing that is good, and good is desirable in its own nature; we have such an inward tendency towards it that nothing which is ill can debauch our affections, but by taking upon itself the appearance of being good. If, then, a seeming good doth so allure us, how ought we to be enamoured of the real substances. Nicholas Brady.

The wicked are hurt, wounded, or grieved, by every occurrence, and nothing turns to their profit.—A. Clarke.


Verse 22

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Speaketh, literally "breathes."

Pro . Speaketh, literally "babbles." Health, "healing."

Pro . A moment, literally "while I wink."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro , and Pro 12:22

WOUNDING AND HEALING

I. The mischief that may be done by a lying tongue.

1. In a legal matter. It is the duty of a witness to testify exactly what he knows, and no more nor less. If a man speaks deceitfully he may bring much misery upon the innocent, whom his straightforward testimony would have acquitted. And he may do this by withholding truth as well as by uttering direct falsehood. The first is "showing forth deceit" as well as the last.

2. In common conversation. The word "speaketh," in Pro , is "babbleth," and seems to point to those who are great talkers, and who are not careful what they say. (See Homiletics on chap. Pro 10:19-21, page 168.) In both these cases words may inflict a more deadly wound than a sword. If spoken to a man they may break his heart, if spoken of him they may kill his reputation, which no sword of steel can touch, and which to the best men is much more precious than bodily life. A lying or even a babbling tongue can pierce a much more vital organisation than flesh and blood—it can enter the human spirit, and hurt it in its most sensitive part; or by slander it can destroy all the joy of a man's earthly life. And as a sword can in a moment sever the spirit and the body of a man, and work such ruin and misery as can never be done away with, so a lying tongue may by one word, or one conversation, do mischief that can never be undone. The sword of steel can divide human friends locally; but it cannot sever their love; it tends rather to increase and brighten the flame; but a word of slander may do all this, and estrange those who were bound in the tenderest ties, until the God of Truth shall bring the truth to light. Though the lying tongue is comparatively "but for a moment," yet in a moment it can deal a thrust that will last as long as life. It can open a wound whence will flow out all the joy of life, as the heart's blood flows from a mortally wounded man.

II. Its judgment and its destiny. It is an abomination in the sight of a God of Truth, and, therefore, its life is comparatively short—it is "but for a moment" compared with the eternal duration of truth. A lying man or devil is the very antipodes of the Divine character. All truthful men instinctively shrink from a liar as the sensitive plant withdraws from the human touch. How much more must he be held in abhorrence by Him who is a "God of Truth, and without iniquity" (Deu ). Christ characterises lying as the cardinal sin of the greatest sinner in the universe (Joh 8:44). It was his lying tongue that "brought death into the world, and all our woe," and so spoiled the Paradise which God had prepared for man. How then can lying be any other than an abomination to Him? But, because it is so, its doom is fixed. It is destined to destruction by the victory of truth, as the night is destroyed by the overcoming light of day. (On this subject see also Homiletics on Chap. Pro 10:18, page 166.)

III. The blessed results of a truthful and wisely-governed tongue.

1. It will "show forth righteousness." A man who speaks the truth shows forth righteousness in two ways—

(1) in his own character. He reveals himself to be a righteous man. He gives a living example of uprightness and integrity.

(2) He helps on righteousness in the world. By being a faithful witness he furthers the ends of justice and righteousness—he helps on the just administration of the law.

2. It will heal wounds inflicted by the untruthful tongue. In nature we have a two-fold exhibition of power. The hurricane comes and breaks the branches of the tree, and strips off its leaves; but a more beneficent power clothes it again with beauty. So the tongue of a fool strips a man of what made life beautiful to him—takes away his good name, or breaks bonds of close friendship—but wise and kind words have a healing power in them—they help to cheer the wounded spirit, and enable the bowed head to lift itself again. Such a tongue of healing had the Divine Son of God, who came "to heal the broken in heart" (Isa ), and to restore the friendship between God and man, which was first broken by the slandering tongue of the devil—that great slanderer of God to man, and of man to God" (Gen 3:5; Job 1:10). To Him the "Lord God gave the tongue of the learned, that He might know how to speak a word in season to him that was weary (Isa 50:4). The tongue of all true servants of God is an instrument of healing, for they are enabled to tell to their fellow-men "words whereby they may be saved" (Act 10:14).

IV. God's estimation of it and its destiny. It is "God's delight," Pro . Whatever gives delight to a noble and benevolent man must be a blessing to humanity, and everything will delight him that tends to minister blessing to the world. This is pre-eminently true of the good God. Truth is the great need of the race—truth in word and deed and thought. To this end Christ came into the world "to bear witness of the truth" (Joh 18:37), because that alone is the cure for the world's woes. Then every man who is true must bless humanity and consequently delight God. A good father rejoices to see his own excellencies of character appear in his son, and the Father of the good likewise delights to see His children copy Him in "dealing truly." (See also on chap. Pro 11:1, page 191.) And because it is God's delight it will last for ever. Truth of any kind will be established in the course of time. If a man proclaim a scientific truth, however much he may be laughed at and disbelieved at first, his "lip," or his words, will be established in the end. The words of Galileo, when he uttered the truth, that the earth moved round the sun, have long since been "established." Time only is needed for any truth to take root-hold—it can never be overturned, whether it be physical or moral truth. Many truths which were scoffed at by most men, when they were first promulgated, are now regarded as truisms by almost everybody. And the lips that uttered them are now established and held in honour. Such men, for instance, as Cromwell and Milton, when they declared that the right of private judgment in religious matters, the freedom of the press, etc., were the right of every man, are now established in the estimation of this nation, and the truths which they uttered are regarded by all Englishmen as undoubted facts. "This," says F. W. Robertson, "is man's relation to the truth. He is but a learner—a devout recipient of a revelation—here to listen with open ear devoutly for that which he shall hear; to gaze and watch for that which he shall see. Man can do no more. He cannot create truth; he can only bear witness to it; he can only listen and report that which is in the universe. If he does not repeat and witness to that, he speaketh of his own, and forthwith ceases to be true.… Veracity is another thing. Veracity is the correspondence between a proposition and a man's belief. Truth is the correspondence of the proposition with fact." It is to such witness-bearers—especially to those who witness concerning moral truth—that the promise of the text applies.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . He who is brought to a spiritual discernment of the "truth" "breathes" it like his breath, instinctively and unconsciously. (See Critical Notes.) And he who does this not simply "covers shame" (Pro 12:16), but causes others to, for he advertises righteousness—i.e., publishes it. This, therefore, is the meaning of the sentence: "He that breathes forth truth publishes righteousness"—i.e., saving righteousness: and does it like uttering forth his breath. While the "deceived" (false) witness; literally, the witness of falsehood; aphrase which is ambiguous, because it might mean a witness to falsehood (see chap. Pro 6:9)—the "deceived witness"—i.e., the man who sees or witnesses falsehood instead of truth, "publishes (understood) delusion"—i.e., is a constant fountain of deceit to other men. This sense of the witness of falsehood is necessary to many proverbs (chap Pro 14:5), and saves a number from tautological or truistic interpretations.—Miller.

There is more here than lies upon the surface. It might seem enough for a faithful witness to speak truth. But no—he must show forth righteousness; what is just, as well as what is true. The best intentioned purpose must not lead us to conceal what is necessary to bring the cause to a righteous issue.—Bridges.

The words read at first almost like a truism; but the thought which lies below the surface is that of the inseparable union between truth and justice. The end does not justify the means, and only he who breathes and utters truth makes the righteous cause clear. Plumptre.

He that speaketh, ordinarily, in his common speech, that which is true, will show righteousness—that is, will carry himself justly, and further righteousness with his testimony, when he shall be publicly called thereunto. There must be a training of the tongue to make it fit for equity and justice, as of the hands, and other parts of the body, to make them skilful in handling a weapon and bearing of arms.… No man is competent for any work that is public unless his former upright and honest conversation commend him unto it. The rule which our Saviour gives in another case will hold as firmly in this. "He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much" (Luk ). For, first, the mouth of the man is the mouth of the man's treasure. That which he speaketh he best loveth. That which is most in the lips hath greatest place in the heart. If, therefore, the truth be dear unto him, he will certainly show it forth when he shall stand forth before God and His substitute for that purpose, and so do a good service of love and piety; but if he have any fellowship with falsehood he will now take part with it, being void of the fear of God, and afraid to displease man. Secondly, no man exerciseth the truth at any time conscionably, but by the spirit of truth, and that directing men's hearts at other times, in matters of less weight, will not fail them at their greatest need, when they are to perform a duty of so great importance; and so, on the other hand, Satan hath the disposing of their tongues that give themselves to lying. He is their father, he teacheth them their trade, and tasketh them in their work, and they be wholly at his commandment, and who doubteth but he will command them to be on his side, and to take against the truth, so far as a knowledge of the truth shall make against his practices.—Dod.

Pro . Wit, when not chastened and controlled by an amiable disposition, often wounds deeply. Jibes, jests, irony, raillery, and sarcasm, fly about. No matter what the wounds, or where they be inflicted, if the wit be but shown. A happy hit, a clever, biting repartee, will not be suppressed for the sake of the feelings, or even the character of a neighbour, or, as it may happen, a friend. The man of wit must have his joke, cost what it may. The point may be piercing in the extreme; but if it glitters it is enough; to the heart it will go.—Wardlaw.

Abimelech and his fellow priests were killed with the tongue, as with a rapier; so was Naboth and his sons; so was our Saviour Christ Himself. An honest mind is ever more afflicted with words than blows. You shall find some, saith Erasmus, that if they be threatened with death can despise it; but to be belied they cannot brook, nor from revenge contain themselves. How was David enraged by Nabal's railings! Moses, by the people's murmurings! Jeremiah by the derisions of the rude rabble! (chap. Pro .)—Trapp.

Among all the complaints which the godly, and God's own spirit make against the wicked in the Scriptures, they seldom complain of anything more than of their virulent and pestiferous mouths (Psa ; Psa 52:2; Pro 25:18; Rom 3:13). First, they cause swords to be drawn, and blood to be shed, and men to be slain, and much mischief to be wrought. Secondly. The sword, or any other weapon, can only hurt them that are present, and in places near to it; but the stroke of the tongue will light most dangerously upon them that are absent; no place or distance can help against it, and one man may do mischief to a great multitude.—Dod.

Pro . Liars need to have good memories. A lying tongue soon betrays itself. "No lie reaches old age," says Sophocles.—Fausset.

The verse has been differently rendered. "The tongue of truth is ever steady: but the tongue of falsehood is so but for a moment" (Hodgson). There is unvarying consistency in the one case; for truth is always in harmony with itself; while there is shifting evasion, vacillation, contradiction, in the other.—Wardlaw.

Who will gainsay the martyr's testimony—"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, play the man! We shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out."—Bridges.

The Christian shall utter for ever just the things that he utters on earth. Miller.

Pro . Not merely they that speak truly, but they that deal truly. Deeds of true dealing must confirm words of fair speaking.—Fausset.

A lie is a thing absolutely and intrinsically evil; it is an act of injustice and a violation of our neighbour's rights. The vileness of its nature is equalled by the malignity of its effects; it first brought sin into the world, and is since the cause of all those miseries and calamities that disturb it; it tends utterly to overthrow and dissolve society, which is the greatest temporal blessing and support of mankind; it has a strange and peculiar efficacy above all other sins to indispose the heart to religion. It is as dreadful in its punishments as it has been pernicious in its effects.—South.

Honesty is just truth in conduct; and truth is honesty in words.—Wardlaw.

Such as speak the truth in uprightness will not vary in their talk, but tell the same tale again, and be like to themselves in that which they shall say; whereas liars be in and out, affirming and denying, and speaking contradictions in the same matter. Only true men are constant in their words. First, their matter will help their memory, for that which is truth once will be truth ever. Secondly, the same Spirit that worketh a love and conscience of the truth, whereby men are made to be true, doth never cease to be the same, therefore, as it seasoneth the heart and guideth it at the first, so it will establish it, and direct the lips to the end. For sincerity and uprightness is of all things most durable, and least subject to alteration or change. And that St. Paul assigneth for a cause of his invariable constancy, that he minded not those things that he did mind according to the flesh, whereby there should be with him, yea, yea, and nay, nay (2Co ).—Dod.

Truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware; whereas a lie is troublesome, and sets a man's invention upon the rack, and one trick needs a good many more to make it good. It is like building upon a false foundation, which constantly needs props to shore it up, and proves at last more chargeable than to have raised a substantial building at first upon a true and solid foundation.—Tillotson.

Dare to be true, nothing can need a lie:

A fault which needs it most grows two thereby.

—Herbert.

God "desireth truth in the inward parts" (Psa ), and all His are "children that will not lie" (Isa 63:8); they will rather die than lie. As they "love in the truth" (2Jn 1:1) so they "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15), and are therefore dear to the Father in truth and love (2Jn 1:3), especially since they "do truth" as well as speak it (1Jn 1:6), and do not more desire to be truly good than they hate to seem to be so only.—Trapp.

God doth never hate anything that is not hateful, and that must needs be odious which He abhorreth, and especially when it is abomination. Ye may know by their companions among whom they are marshalled what account he maketh of them (see Rev ).… That truth which is acceptable to God consisteth both in speaking and doing.

1. His Spirit doth make every man that hath attained to the one to be able to do the other. That which St. John setteth down in a more general manner doth strongly confirm this particular point. "If any man sin not in word, he is a perfect man, and able to bridle all the body." His meaning is that some be absolute without sin in word, and perfect, without infirmity in goodness; but that many be gracious without sinfulness, though they have their slips in speeches; and sincere, without wickedness, though they have their frailties in behaviour.

2. Both are infallible and essential fruits of regeneration, and the Apostle doth thereby persuade us thereby to declare ourselves to be of the number of the saints, and faithful, saying, "Cast off lying, and let him that stole steal no more" (Eph ; Eph 4:28).

3. Both are required of them that would know and manifest themselves to be natural members of the Church in this world, and inheritors of salvation in the life to come. (See Psa .)—Dod.


Verse 23

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE CONCEALMENT OF KNOWLEDGE AND THE PROCLAMATION OF FOOLISHNESS

I. The concealment of knowledge is always a mark of self-control. It proves that a man has himself "well in hand." He is like a skilful workman whose tools are all arranged in order, so that he can select or reject them according to his need, or the need of others. Or he resembles a skilful rider who is thoroughly master of his steed, and can either arrest his course or urge him to put forth all his speed at any moment. If a man does not possess this power over himself he can never be a king among men, and even the possession of knowledge will not prove very serviceable either to himself or others. All the treasures of his mind ought to be under the lock and key of his will, and his will under that of his conscience, for,

II. Under some circumstances the concealment of knowledge is a mark of prudence.

1. It is so when to proclaim it would feed personal vanity. To reveal our knowledge from no other motive than to let others know that we know is to sin against ourselves by ministering to our pride. In such a case to conceal our knowledge is a means of grace to a man's own soul, and will carry with it the approbation of conscience.

2. It is also prudent to conceal knowledge when we know that it would not benefit others. It is not always seasonable to reveal even the most precious knowledge that we possess. Men are sometimes manifestly unprepared for its reception—unable to appreciate it. God concealed the gospel of salvation from the men of the early ages of the world because the "fulness of time" (Gal ) had not come, by which we understand that the world then was not in a condition to profit by a revelation of it. Our Lord charged His disciples not to disclose what they had witnessed on the mount of transfiguration until "the Son of Man should be risen again from the dead" (Mat 17:9). He exhorts them also not to "cast pearls before swine" (Mat 7:6). Hence we learn that concealment of knowledge is sometimes to be preferred to a revelation of it, and that a due regard must be had to the mental and moral condition of those to whom we would impart it. The revelation of scientific truth would only bewilder people of little education and small capacity, and the revelation of even moral truth would sometimes increase men's guilt. It would only lead them to blaspheme the God of Truth and scoff at His messengers, and thus harden them instead of enlightening them. And even when this is not the case men cannot always receive all kinds of moral truth. A parent conceals from his son when he is a boy a knowledge of things which he will reveal to him when he is a man. A wise teacher does not at once disclose to his pupil all that he desires him to learn. Both bring prudence into exercise, and give "line upon line, here a little and there a little" (Isa 28:10), following the example of the Great Father and Teacher in His dealings with His ancient people, and that of the Incarnate Son when He said to His disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now" (Joh 16:12). All who are possessors of knowledge should always remember to bring prudence into exercise in proclaiming it, whether it be Divine or human truth that they have to reveal.

III. The man who tells out all he knows without any regard to the fitness of time and circumstance proclaims only his foolishness. He is as much a proclaimer of his own folly as he who should sow seed on the high road instead of in ploughed ground. He may be very injurious to others. If a teacher of the young were to tell out all he knows about men and things to those under his care he might inflict on their spiritual nature a life-long injury. Indiscreet parents who utter all their mind and tell out all their experience in the hearing of their children not only "proclaim their foolishness," but are a curse to their family. They are like an unskilful surgeon who takes the first instrument that comes to hand, regardless of its fitness for the needs of the patient. They are like men upon a fiery steed without power to guide him—they not only put themselves in jeopardy but endanger the well-being of others.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Not that he grudges to impart his knowledge to others, but he does not obtrude it or make a display of it, nor babble out all that he knows, in order that he may be counted wise.… The fool, trying to make a display of knowledge, only betrays foolishness. Fools, wise in their own esteem, babble out everything at random; not wisdom, which they have not, but foolishness, which they have. Proclaiming foolishness is attributed to a fool's heart, not to his mouth, for a fool's heart is in his mouth. He has no sense within. On the contrary, "The mouth of the wise is in their heart" (Sir )—Fausset.

The Apostle concealed his knowledge for fourteen years, and even then mentioned it reluctantly, to vindicate his own rightful claims of apostleship (2Co ). Elihu, though "full of matter," and longing to give vent, yet prudently concealed his knowledge, till his elders had opened his way (Job 32:6; Job 32:18-19). Circumstances may sometimes prudently dictate concealment. Abraham spared the feelings of his family, and cleared his own path, by hiding the dreadful message of his God (Gen 22:1-7). Joseph concealed his kindred for the discipline of his brethren (Gen 42:7). Esther, from a prudent regard of consequences to herself (Est 2:10). Nothing can justify speaking contrary to the truth. But we are not always obliged to tell the whole truth. Jeremiah answered all that he was bound to speak; not all that he might have spoken (Jer 38:24). In all these cases "the wise man's heart will discern both time and judgment" (Ecc 8:5; Ecc 10:2).… The fool is dogmatical in dispute, when wiser men are cautious. He is teaching, when he ought to take the learner's place; his self-confidence proclaiming his emptiness (1Ti 6:3-4).—Bridges.

True are the words of Paul, "knowledge puffeth up," and the augmentation of it may only puff up the more. This produces a very anomalous and incongruous combination, a mind filled with solid information and a heart distended with the emptiness of vanity. And this generates the pedant, one of the most contemptible and disgusting of all characters—the man who is ever showing off, ever aiming at effect, ever speaking as nobody else would speak, ever dwelling on his own theme in his own terms, and in every word and look and movement, courting notice of self, as the only object of his own admiration, or worthy of the admiration of others. What a fool even the man of knowledge does at times make of himself! exemplifying the truth of the old quaint adage, "An ounce of mother wit is worth a pound of clergy." Still it is true that, the more extensive the knowledge which a man acquires, he is, generally speaking, the more conscious of remaining ignorance, and consequently the less vain; that it is in the early stages of acquirement that self-sufficiency and conceit are most apparent. It is the empty that are usually the most prone to vain glory.—Wardlaw.

"Prudent." subtle, from a root meaning crafty, cunning; opposed to "stupid," literally, fat, crass. The saint has the highest craft, and the lost are more fat in mind than even the beasts around them.—Miller.

Another aspect of the truth of chap. Pro . The wise is not quick to utter even the wisdom that deserves utterance. He broods over it, tests it, lives by it.—Plumptre.

We deem them not the most thrifty husbands and wealthiest men that will lock up nothing in their coffers, nor keep anything close in their purses, but carry all their money in their hands and show it to every comer-by, and so do they that have no more matter within their hearts, than all the standers-by shall hear their lips deliver. It is a point of humility to be silent in modesty, and their words are so much more desirable, and better accepted as they are rare, and few, and seasonable. The ointment that is close kept in a box will yield a sweeter savour when it is poured out, than that which is continually open. A wine fresh from the vessel hath a better relish than that which was drawn long before there was any need of it.—Dod.

Think not silence the wisdom of fools, but, if rightly timed, the honour of wise men who have not the infirmity but the virtue of taciturnity; and speak not of the abundance, but the well-weighed thoughts of their hearts. Such silence may be eloquence, and speak thy worth above the power of words. Make such an one thy friend, in whom princes may be happy, and great counsels successful. Let him have the key of thy heart who hath the lock of his own, which no temptation can open; where thy secrets may lastingly lie, like the lamp in the urn of Olybius, alive and alight, but close and invisible.—Sir T. Browne.


Verse 24

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE REWARD OF DILIGENCE

I. What is here meant by diligence? It is not being always active, but active in the right direction—active in the right use of talents and opportunities. There is an activity that is worse than idleness, an activity that brings men into contempt and bondage instead of enabling them to rule themselves or others. Men may have great talent and keep it in constant exercise, and yet their diligent use of it may be destroying both themselves and others. A machine that is constructed to work in one direction may be very active in going in the opposite direction—this is worse than if it stood still, for it will certainly work injury to itself, and may do so to other things and to those who have to work it. A thief may be very diligent, but his diligent hand will not bring him to "bear rule." It will probably, in the end, bring him into a most irksome servitude. There was once a Roman Emperor who was very active in catching flies; this was certainly not the diligence which would enable him to bear rule. If a man who is capable of a high and noble work spends his time in a childish and ignoble manner, he is not diligent although he may be very active. Diligence consists not in being very busy, but in being busy in what will build up our own moral nature and, as a necessity, bless our fellow-creatures. Moreover, diligence is not the right exercise of our talent or the wise use of our time at intervals, by fits and starts, but a constant and steady continuance of that exercise and activity.

II. The consequence of such diligence. He who is thus diligent will bear rule over the slothful man—over the man who wastes his time or his talent.

1. This is right. Even the slothful man himself must, in his conscience, feel that he deserves to be ruled by the diligent. The human conscience will not sanction such waste—such a destruction of character, and, while it is allowed to speak at all, will utter its testimony against it. And all impartial judges must concede that it is the just reward of diligence—that, when a man has rightly used that which the Great Ruler of the universe has committed to his trust, it is right that he should receive the award, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things" (Mat ).

2. It is necessary. First, for the slothful man himself. When he is under the rule of a diligent man he is doing better with his life than if he were left to himself; he is compelled to act, whether he will or not, and he has the guidance of the wisdom of another when his slothfulness has prevented him from gaining any of his own. His slothfulness grows greater, and therefore his guilt is increased every day that he is his own master. His powers will become more and more incapable of being exercised the longer they are unused, and the only thing that can save him from being entirely buried in the grave of his own sloth is that he become a servant to a diligent man. Secondly, for humanity in general. A slothful man in power is a curse to society. If he is a husband and father he is a curse to his children; if he is a master he is a curse to his servants, and will endanger their characters and industrious habits. Those who rule ought to be wise, and no slothful man can be a wise man.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

"Diligent;" from a root meaning to cut. Hence the idea of something incisive or decided. The primary idea is promptness or determination. "Sloth;" primarily remissness or what is indecisive. In this world, diligence puts a man at the head. In the eternal world, it will have made the man a king, and made all hell, and of course, all "sloth, under tribute" to him.—Miller.

This was Joseph's road to bearing rule (chap. Pro ). But if it does not raise in the world, it will command in its own sphere. The faithful steward is made ruler over his lord's household (Mat 24:45-47). The active trader bears rule over many cities (Ib. Pro 25:21). Diligence, therefore, is not a moral virtue separate from religion, but rather a component part of it.—Bridges.

The slothful are like Issachar, who saw that the rest was good, and bowed down his shoulder to bear, and became a servant to tribute; by their laziness they expose themselves to want, and reduce themselves to a slavish dependence on those who, through the blessing of God on their own diligence, or on that of their fathers, are in better circumstances. Spiritual sloth weakens men, and exposes them to the spiritual sloth of their spiritual enemies. We must be strong, resolute, and active, if we would escape the tyranny of the rulers of the darkness of this world (Eph ).—Lawson.

The comparison is suggested by the contrast common in most ancient monarchies in the east, between the condition of a conquered race, compelled to pay heavy taxes in money or in kind (like the Canaanites in Israel, Jos ; Jud 1:30-33), and that of the freedom of their conquerors from such burdens. The proverb indicates that beyond all political divisions of this nature there lies an ethical law. The "slothful" descend inevitably to pauperism and servitude. The prominence of this compulsory labour under Solomon (1Ki 9:21), gives a special significance to the illustration.—Plumptre.


Verse 25

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

HEAVINESS OF HEART AND ITS CURE

I. The causes of "heaviness of heart" are many and various. It may arise,

1. From great bodily pain. The human mind and the human body act and re-act upon each other. The mind or spirit may be made heavy by physical pain, as the body may be brought under the dominion of disease by mental suffering. It is only when a more powerful influence comes into operation that pain of body is prevented from exercising a depressing influence upon the spirit. In the case of Job we have an instance of severe bodily suffering, weighing down a spirit that had borne other most terrible calamities without being overcome (Job 7). In the case of Stephen, and many others, we see intense bodily suffering exercising no depressing influence upon the man, because he is lifted above it by supernatural interposition. Where this special grace is not given pain of body will make the heart "to stoop"—that is, it will disqualify the man for duty by depriving him of hope and courage, and will leave him more or less passive in the hands of circumstances.

2. Heaviness of heart is often caused by bringing the future into the present. The man that has every day to carry a heavy burden upon his shoulders will find that an attempt to carry the load of two days at once will weigh down his body beyond all his power to rise and stand upright. He must not try to carry more than the load of to-day, if he is to do anything at all. So is it with the spirit of a man if he goes out to meet the cares and difficulties of to-morrow, while he is bearing and battling with those of to-day. The weight of the present is as much as he can carry, his heart must "stoop," if he dwells upon the possible or certain trials of the future. The right way to bear burdens is to take the advice of One who Himself was a burden-bearer. "Take therefore no thought (no anxious care) for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. There are many other burdens which make the heart to stoop, we will mention but one more.

3. A consciousness of unpardoned guilt. There is no burden so heavy to bear as this. Guilt makes the spirit feel as if the hand of God's displeasure was sinking the soul lower and lower. The language of Scripture is very vivid in describing the feelings of man in such a case. "When I kept silence my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long." "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me." "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up," etc. (Psa ; Psa 38:4; Psa 40:12).

II. The human heart can be uplifted by seasonable words. "A good word maketh it glad." Such words sometimes take the form of a promise of help. A man bowed down by disease is made glad by the word of the physician, which assures him that his malady can be cured. The debtor who feels himself hopelessly involved is made glad by the promise of one who engages to meet his debts. The man who is bowed down under a sense of guilt is lifted out of his heaviness by the promises of a forgiving God. In all these cases the worth of the word depends upon the character of him who utters them. It is a "good word" if it is not only a cheering word, but a reliable word—if the promise is uttered by one whom we know would not promise what he was unable to perform. It is this certainty which makes every promise of God so good a word to the soul. And when a man's heaviness of heart arises from a source which is beyond the power of human help, there is no greater service that a friend can do him than to remind him of some "good word" of the Heavenly Father which is suitable to his case.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Not "heaviness," but "anxiety." This last is the fashion of most griefs. We are bound to conquer it. The determined man (see comments on Pro ) is just the character to do it. "Anxiety" discredits faith. "A good word," and such words are plenty in this very book, should gladden it, as the expression is; or, as a freer translation, "cheer it away." It is a sin for men to be dejected. It is a great folly, too; for it broods over half their lives. Our passage tells all this, and tells the mode to dissipate it. It was the mode of Christ when he quelled the foul fiend. The sword of the Spirit is the "word" of God (Eph 6:17).—Miller.

There is nothing that claims our grief so much as sin, and yet there may be an excess of sorrow for sin, which exposes men to the devil and drives them into his arms.—Lawson.

A single good or favourable word will remove despondency; and that word, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee," will instantly remove despair.—A. Clarke.


Verse 26

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Is more excellent than his neighbour, rather "guides his neighbour." Delitzsch reads, "looketh after his pastures." The Hebrew word signifies "abundance" (see Miller's remarks in the comments on the verses).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE GUIDE AND THE SEDUCER

Translating this verse, "The righteous guides his neighbour aright," we remark:—

I. That the righteous man guides his neighbour both by his word and by his life. He guides him by wise counsel—by giving him "a word in season" (see Pro )—and he more especially guides him by his holy life. His character is a revealer of the way of life. The light which shines through a lantern reveals the path, not only to the man who carries it, but to him who beholds it if he should be disposed to follow in the same road. The righteous man is a light-bearer—he has moral light within him, which breaks forth in the acts of his daily life, and sets a good example to other men, and so, to some extent, his life, like that of his Master's, is a "light of men."

II. That he guides him aright because he shows him how to make the most of his life. Men are generally anxious to live long, and the righteous man shows his neighbour how to live long by living well. A husbandman values his trees, not by the length of time they have stood in the ground, but by the amount of fruit they yield. There are trees which bring forth more fruit in one season than others do during the whole time they stand in the orchard. And the length of a man's life is to be estimated not by the number of years he has been in the world, but in the use which he has made of them. Many men who leave the world comparatively young have lived longer, because to more purpose, than others who have not died until they were a hundred years old (On this subject see homiletics on chap. Pro , page 164).

III. That the wicked man also exercises an influence upon his neighbour; but his influence tends to evil. He is a seducer—one who leads astray by false professions and promises. Like the good man, he emits a light, but it is the false light of the ignus fatuus, which is the offspring of the stagnant swamp, and which will only lure him who follows it to destruction. One of the chief employments of the bad, and that which seems to afford them the greatest pleasure, is to carry other men to ruin. And even when the wicked man is not an active seducer, his way, or his life, seduces his neighbour. The force of an evil example is very great, and men are insensibly influenced by it. Men of ungodliness diffuse around them an atmosphere of moral unhealthiness, which insensibly affects those around them, who are not godly, and strengthens them in all their downward tendencies. Such men are "as graves which appear not" (Luk ), and are centres of spiritual disease and death.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

If then, the "righteous be more excellent than his neighbour," how is it that men do not follow their way? Because "the way of the wicked, which is apparently more excellent, or abundant in temporal advantages, seduces them (Kimchi in Mercer). It "seduceth" with false hopes, doomed in the end to destruction.—Fausset.

The way of the godless leads them into error; the course of life to which they have given themselves up has such a power over them that they cannot set themselves free from it, and it leads the enslaved into destruction. The righteous, on the contrary, is free with respect to the way which he takes, and the place where he stays. His view (regard) is directed to his true advancement, and he looks after his pasture (see Critical Notes), i.e., examines and discovers where, for him, right pastures, i.e., the advancement of his outer and inner life, is to be found.—Delitzsch.

Let him dwell by whomsoever, he is ever a better man than his neighbours; he is "a prince of God" among them, as Abraham was amongst the Hittites. Said Agesilaus, when he heard the King of Persia style himself the Great King—"I acknowledge none more excellent than myself, unless more righteous; none greater, unless better." "Upon all the glory shall be a defence" (Isa )—that is, upon all the righteous, those only glorious, those "excellent of the earth" (Psa 16:2), that are "sealed to the day of redemption" (Eph 4:30). Now, whatsoever is sealed with a seal, that is excellent in its own kind, as Isa 28:25. The poorest village is an ivory palace, saith Luther, if it have in it but a minister and a few good people. But the wicked will not be persuaded of the good man's excellency, he cannot discern, nor will not be drawn to believe that there is any such gain in godliness, any such difference between the righteous and the wicked. He, therefore, goes another way to work.—Trapp.

I. In regard of their condition in this present life. They have all prerogatives and preferments. By parentage every one of them is God's child. By dignity they are all kings. By inheritance they have title to heaven and earth; their food is heavenly manna, their clothing is Christ's righteousness, their attendants are the holy angels.—II. In respect of their state that shall be in the life to come. They shall have perfect happiness, and be made like unto Jesus Christ, more excellent and puissant than the most glorious angels.—Dod.

The "wicked" man not only does not "guide" his neighbour, but does not guide himself, actually "leads" himself "astray." Here is the same climax we have so often noticed (chap. Pro ).—Miller.


Verse 27

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . The word translated roast does not occur in this sense elsewhere. In the Chaldee of Dan 3:27, it is used in this sense. It may be read "catcheth not his prey." The second clause should be, "a precious treasure is diligence," or "a diligent man."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

I. Even the slothful man may be sometimes roused to activity. He is here represented as having made an effort, he has "taken spoil in hunting." There are probably few men who are not sometimes roused to exertion, who do not every now and then make a start towards an industrious life, but they lack perseverance, they do not let one act of industry follow upon another so as to form industrious habits. Therefore—

II. The slothful man loses by negligence what he has gained. "He roasteth not that which he took in hunting." He is too lazy to finish his work. He neutralises the one action by neglecting to perform the other. The food that he has taken is wasted because he is too lazy to roast it, and therefore he might as well have remained idle altogether.

III. He may thus rob an industrious man. The game which he has taken and wasted might have fallen into better hands. Another man might have taken it and put it to a good use. A man has no right thus to deprive another of what he is too lazy to put to a good use himself.

IV. A diligent habit of life is a fortune in itself.

1. It is a possession of which a man cannot be robbed by any of the mischances of life. A habit is a second nature, and if a man has once acquired the habit of a diligent improvement of his time and opportunities, he can no more lose it than he can his identity. It can be touched by no rise or fall of the market, nor affected by any commercial panic. If he is rich, he will be diligent, and if he become poor he will make the most of what still remains to him.

2. It is a source of continual satisfaction. God has made man for work, and a rightly constituted mind is never so happy as when all its powers are actively employed. It is a great source of consolation in times of sorrow to have acquired industrious, active habits, for they often help a man to forget, or to rise above his trials.

3. It makes a man, in one respect, an imitator of God. The Eternal Ruler of the universe is ever active; diligence is one of His attributes. It is the boast of the Hebrew prophet, concerning the everlasting God, that "He fainteth not, neither is weary" (Isa ). Christ declares that He and His Father are unceasing in their activities: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (Joh 5:17).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

What a diligent man gains becomes, in his hands, precious by the use he makes of it. It is the means of further increase. And his substance becomes "precious" to others as well as to himself. It is industriously, profitably, benevolently used. In this lies the true value of a man's substance;—not in the acquisition, but in the use.—Wardlaw.

By translating remiyah the deceitful, instead of the slothful man, which appears to be the genuine meaning of the word, we may obtain a good sense, as the Vulgate has done. "The deceitful man shall not find gain, but the substance of a (just) man shall be the price of gold." But our version, allowing remiyah to be translated fraudulent, gives the best sense. "The fraudulent man roasteth not that which he took in hunting," the justice of God snatching from him what he had acquired unrighteously. Coverdale translates "A dis-creatfull man schal fynde no vauntage: but he that is content with what he hath, is more worth than golde."—A. Clarke.

The substance of a diligent man is great in value, whatsoever it be in quantity, as a small boxful of pearls is more worth than mountains of pebbles. The house of the righteous hath much treasure. He is without that care in getting, fear in keeping, grief in losing—those three fell vultures that feed continually on the heart of the rich worldling, and dis-sweeten all his comforts. Jabal, that dwelt in tents, and tended the herds, had Jubal to his brother, the father of music. Jabal and Jubal, diligence and complacence, good husbandry and a well-contenting sufficiency, dwell usually together.—Trapp.

Is not this a graphical picture of the slothful professor? He will take up religion under strong excitement. He begins a new course, and perhaps makes some advance in it. But, "having no root in himself," his good frames and resolutions wither away (Mat ). The continued exertion required, the violence that must be done to his deep-rooted habits, the difficulties in his new path, the invitations to present ease, all hang as a weight upon his efforts.… No present blessing can be enjoyed without grasping something beyond (Php 3:12-14). Godliness without energy loses its full reward (2Jn 1:8).—Bridges.

The impenitent, who wait for something to turn up, are the same type of lazy people as love hunting and fishing better than more regular labour. The wise man goes to the root and says, There are no such hunting gains in the spiritual world. He goes further. He seems to remind his reader that character is all that will be left for a man at the last. He seems to imply that man will bring home from his hunt nothing but "his laziness," and would ask whether one can "roast" that like a quail or a duck. And though we start at such horrible absurdity, yet it brings out in keen light a very different possibility for diligence. Diligence can be roasted. It earns for us an eternal heaven, and yet, for all it gets, it is itself our richest dainty. "One cannot roast laziness as something he has taken in the chase; but a precious treasure of a man is a diligent one." It is tantalising to come so near other and important renderings. Many see very plausibly a meaning like this: The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting" (so far the English version), meaning that he is wasteful, and suffers what he has actually now to run to loss; "but the substance of a common man" (making the distinction as in Pro ) "is precious" (that is, made account of, and kept) "by a man of diligence." A sinner throws away treasures; a saint values the very smallest. This would be a fine sense if the verse before meant that the "saint gains from his neighbour." Per contra, though, there are difficulties. "The slothful man" (E.V.) in the Hebrew is the "sloth" or "laziness" itself. And the word is feminine, and must be the object rather than the subject of the verb. The meaning is, that sloth cannot be roasted and eaten, but diligence can.—Miller.


Verse 28

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . No death, literally "no-death," i.e., "immortality."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

I. There is a way of righteousness in the world.

1. This fact is universally recognised. Men regard each other as moral and responsible beings. The doctrine of necessity will not do for every-day life. In all positions and conditions, man is met with the assumption that there is a "way of righteousness," and his fellow-men deal with him accordingly. Man could not be held accountable for his actions if a right way of life did not exist, in which it was possible for him to walk.

2. This fact is confirmed by conscience. Bad actions are followed by remorse, and good deeds bring gladness to the soul. If there were no way of righteousness, how could this be the case?

3. It is revealed to us by God. The Bible sets forth two paths, in one of which man must walk, it foretells a day in which God will judge men, and will hold them guilty who have refused to walk in the way of righteousness after it has been made known to them. Where there is no way of righteousness there can be no transgression, and, consequently, no penalty.

II. The way of life implies—

1. A beginning. All ways or paths have a starting-point, all methods or plans of life date from some point of time.

2. An object in view. If men walk in a certain road it is presumed that they have some purpose in view.

3. An end or goal. So the way of righteousness. Its beginning is "repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ;" the object at which it aims by "patient continuance in well-doing" is "glory, and honour, and immortality;" its end is "eternal life" (Act ; Rom 2:7), for "in the pathway thereof is no death, or immortality" (On this subject see also homiletics on chap. Pro 4:18).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

From life being said to be in the way of righteousness, I should urge the lesson that the deeds of the hand have a reflex influence upon the state of the heart. There is life in spiritual-mindedness, and it serves to aliment this life to walk in the way of obedience.—Chalmers.

And life, in any sense, is a sweet mercy, a precious indulgence. Life natural is but a little spot of time between the two eternities, before and after, but it is of great consequence, and given us for this purpose, that glory may be begun in grace, and we have a further and further entrance into the kingdom of heaven here, as Peter saith (2Pe ). Christ hath unstinged the first death, and made of a postern to let out eternal life, a street-door to let in eternal life. Surely the bitterness of this death is past to the righteous; there is no gall in it; nay, there is honey in it, as once there was in the corpse of Samson's dead lion. And for the second death there is no danger, for they shall pass from the jaws of death to the joys of heaven. Yea, though hell had closed her mouth upon a child of God, it would as little hold him as the whale could Jonah; it must, perforce, regurgitate such a morsel.—Trapp.

"Righteousness" which is the very path of the righteous man, is itself eternal life. All men have a "way," and this implies that all men have an "end." The Psalmist had before announced (Psa ) that "the way of the ungodly shall perish;" that is, not only shall they not reach their end, but their very way shall die down and perish. They shall cease to take an interest in it. But this passage goes deeper. It says the path of righteousness is life itself, and then, contrasting them with the wicked, it says, "their way is a path," i.e., it leads somewhere; and then implies that all other ways are "a death!" These are striking truths. Immortality is a path. It travels the ages. It begins among believers. It is itself its destiny. Impenitence is "a death." It travels nowhere. The very mind of the impenitent can announce no terminus for his way-worn tread.—Miller.

NOTE.—It will be seen from the foregoing remarks that Miller translates the latter clause of this verse, "The way is a path, not a death."

HOMILY ON THE ENTIRE CHAPTER

On the true wisdom of the children of God as it ought to appear

(1) In the home, under the forms of good discipline, diligence, and contentment;

(2) In the State, or in the intercourse of citizens, under the forms of truthfulness, justice, and unfeigned benevolence (Pro ); in the Church, or in the religious life, as a progressive knowledge of God, a diligent devotion to prayer, and striving after eternal life (Pro 12:23-28).—Lange's Commentary.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 12:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-12.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology