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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Proverbs 19

 

 

Verse 1

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Delitzsch translates the last clause, "Than one with perverse lips, and so a fool."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

I. A reference to an unexplained mystery of human life. It is here implied, though it is not directly expressed, that the fool who is perverse in his lips—who sets himself in speech and action against the moral law of the universe—is not so poor a man as he who walks in integrity. (We have before had this latter character before us. See Homiletics on chap. Pro , page 196.) It seems as strange that power and influence should be so often given to those who know least how to put them to a good use, as it would be to see a parent put a knife into the hand of a child who was incapable of using it, yet it is a sight which meets us on every hand, and a mystery which has presented itself to the minds of thinking men in all ages. Solomon had met with such instances in his day—he had seen the godly and upright walking in the shade and treading the bye-paths of life, while the perverse and foolish man was basking in the sunlight of worldly prosperity in the highways of society.

II. An assertion, that, notwithstanding contrary appearances, the better portion is with the better man. It is not, after all, what a man's portion is, but how he uses it, that makes his life a blessing or a curse. A man who walks in integrity makes the righteous law of his God the rule of his life, and this keeping of the Divine commandments brings with it a reward (Psa ) of which the rebellious fool knows nothing. He knows how to use his more limited opportunities and influence to the best advantage—how to put out his small capital so as to obtain the best interest upon it—how to trade with his five talents so as to make them other five, and so he is daily laying up a treasure which is better than all the fame and wealth that belongs to this world, for it is the riches of a righteous character by which he is raised himself to a higher spiritual level, and by which he is able to make the world better than he found it.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Integrity is itself a life, and a whole enjoyment, and better, therefore, than worldly interests which are nothing of the kind. Walking is an eastern figure, and we have failed to substitute it by a western one. A way in the East means a man's total course. Walking, therefore, means his total life or being. Better is a poor man, etc., refers, therefore, to a man not living in his money, nor indeed, in his horses or in his hounds, not living in his integrity, but walking in it, i.e., spending his whole time in it, staying in that way; of course, taking his pleasure in it (see Pro .) We have before seen that speech means whole conduct. The mouth, in those days, was the great implement of action. It is so still. The commonest labourer bargains out and orders out half his living by his mouth. "Perverse" or "crooked" in speech means speaking (i.e. acting) athwart of what we ourselves know in many particulars; first, athwart all moral truth; second, athwart deep personal conviction; third, athwart all personal interest (as our text implies.) A Christian talks straight, because he speaks (acts) coincidently with all of these. A sinner is crooked of lip, because he says what he does not think, and traverses for his lusts all the best principles of his moral nature.—Miller.


Verses 2-4

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Sinneth, literally "goeth astray." Delitzsch reads the last clause, "He who hasteneth with the legs after it goeth astray."

Pro . Perverteth, rather "overtures," "ruins."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

IGNORANCE LEADING TO SIN

I. The soul of man cannot be absolutely without knowledge. There is some knowledge which comes to the soul without any effort on the part of the man, which he has but to live to acquire, just as he has but to open his eyes to see. He is conscious of his own existence—of his personal identity as apart from all the beings and things by which he is surrounded, and of his capability of suffering and enjoyment, of hope and despair. And because of the light within him he cannot be altogether ignorant of the difference between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood. But his necessary knowledge extends to beings and things outside of himself. He knows without any effort much about the men and things which surround him, and the visible things of creation make it impossible that he should be altogether ignorant of the existence of the invisible God and Creator. So the apostle argues in Rom .

II. There is a knowledge which it is good to be without. There is a knowledge which human nature in its original dignity and sinlessness did not possess, the absence of this experimental knowledge was an essential element of its blessedness. The ignorance of evil was a blessed ignorance in which man's Creator would have kept him but for his own wilfulness, and the knowledge of which brought him misery. It is the blessedness of the unfallen spirits who have kept their first estate, that although they are conscious of the existence of evil in the universe, they have no experimental knowledge of it, and this ignorance constitutes the blessedness of the ever-blessed God Himself. Those sons of men who, because they are, and ever have been, in perfect health, know nothing experimentally of bodily pain or weakness, find it very good to be without this knowledge, and how much more good is it to be without a knowledge of soul disease and spiritual suffering.

III. But there is an acquired knowledge which is indispensable to a man's well-being. Intellectual knowledge of some kind is necessary to prevent a man from being a shame to himself and a cumberer of the land. The well-being of the community depends upon one man's knowing some one thing that another man does not know; no man can know all things or even many things; no man, however great his knowledge, has enough of it to make him independent of the knowledge of others, but every man ought to have such a thorough knowledge of some facts and truths as to enable him to minister first to some of his own daily needs and to contribute something to the well-being of his fellow creatures. Some men must have theoretical knowledge, and others must know how to reduce theories to practice—the knowledge of the one is useless without the knowledge of the other. It behoves some men to investigate the history of the past, and to use the knowledge they so acquire for the good of the present generation, but while they are doing this it is indispensable that others should acquire a knowledge of things as they are at present, and should utilise their knowledge for the attainment of other ends which are quite as good. But intellectual knowledge of some kind is also necessary for the well-being of the mind itself. Man's mind can no more feed upon itself and be healthy than his body can feed upon itself and live. As the body needs to receive matter into itself to nourish and sustain it, so the mind needs to receive ideas upon which to feed and by which to grow. Without such a reception the intellectual part of a man remains undeveloped, and he is very far from the creature, intellectually considered, that God intended him to be. But there is a kind of knowledge even more needful for man to possess than that which will merely enlarge his mind or promote his temporal well-being. If his existence is to be really blest he must know things which relate to his spiritual well-being—he must be acquainted with the will of God concerning him, both in relation to the life that now is and to that which is to come. It is a calamity to be ignorant of things which fit a man to make the best of the present life, but it is a far greater calamity to be without that knowledge which fits a man for a blessed life beyond death. No man who possesses the revealed Word of God in the Scriptures need be without this most blessed and indispensable knowledge—everyone who thirsts for it may drink of this living water, and every hungry soul may eat of this bread and learn what are the thoughts of God concerning him, and what are the Divine purposes concerning his present and his future (Isa ). And to be without this knowledge is indeed "not good," for it prevents the soul from recovering its lost and original dignity. A knowledge of the glorious God in the face of Jesus Christ is the means by which we are delivered from the penalty and power of sin, and more than recover the position lost by man's fall. Ignorance here is indeed a fatal ignorance in those who have the knowledge within their reach; it is not good for any human soul to be without this knowledge, and it is most soul-destroying to those who have only to seek it in order to find it.

IV. Some of the evil consequences which flow from ignorance in general and from ignorance of God in particular.

1. Ignorance leads to hasty action, and consequently often to wrong action. For "he that hasteth with his feet sinneth," and "the foolishness of man perverteth his way." In common and every-day life we find that the most ignorant people are the least cautious, and act with the least reflection. Knowledge teaches men to think before they act, for it makes men more alive to the importance of their actions. A child will play with gunpowder with as little hesitation as he would with common dust, but a man would not do so, because he knows what would be the consequence if it ignited. A man who had never been in a coalmine, and who was ignorant of the dangers of fire-damp, would be very likely to descend the shaft and enter hastily into the gloomy passages without first testing the state of the air, but a miner would not do so, because he knows more about the matter. He would advance cautiously, and ascertain what was before him before he ventured far. So people who are ignorant of the mind and will of God as revealed in His word act without much thought as to the consequences of their actions—they enter upon a road at the impulse of a passing fancy, without asking themselves whither it leads—they decide upon a certain course of action without thought of the consequences. And such hasting with the feet is always a perversion of a man's way, a wandering from the right path, for a fallen man does not forsake the evil and choose the good by instinct but by effort founded upon reflection.

2. Spiritual ignorance leads to rebellion against God. It is only a man who does not know God, who "frets against the Lord." A child because he is ignorant of his father's motives will fret against the wise and kind restrictions which that father places around him. So men wilfully ignorant that whenever God says "Thou shalt not" He is only saying "Do thyself no harm," chafe and fret against His moral laws. They will not set themselves to obtain that knowledge of God which the gospel reveals and consequently they look at all His commands through a cloud of ignorance which makes them grievous and heavy instead of easy and light. And there are many mysteries connected with God's government that will tend to make men's hearts fretful and discontented if they remain in ignorance of His character. There are many problems in connection with man's present life which he cannot solve—many apparent contradictions, and much which looks like injustice on the part of Him who rules the world, and every soul who does not know God as He is revealed in His Son will, when he thinks on these things, is likely to be led to harbour rebellious thoughts against Him. When we consider the evil which flows from ignorance of God we can better understand how it is that "the knowledge of the Lord" is so often used in Scripture as synonymous with all that can bless and elevate mankind (see Isa , etc.)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

We should desire first the enlightening of the eyes and then the strengthening of the feet. Hence "Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts," and then, "I will run the way of Thy commandments" (Psa ; Psa 119:32). He that would sail safely must get a good pilot before good rowers. Swift horses, without a skilful waggoner, endangers more. He that labours for feet before he has eyes, takes a preposterous course; for, of the two the lame is more likely to come to his journey's end than the blind.… Hence we see that there is more hope of a vicious person that hath a good understanding, than of an utterly dark and blind soul, though he walks upon zealous feet.… Learn to know God. "How shall we believe on Him we have not known?" (Rom 10:14). Knowledge is not so much slighted here, as it will be wished hereafter. The rich man in hell desires to have his brethren taught (Luk 16:28). Sure if he were alive again, he would hire them a preacher. "The people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hos 4:6). If we see a proper man cast away at the sessions for a non legit, with pity we conclude he might have been saved, if he could have read. At that general and last assizes, when Christ shall "come in flaming fire," woe be to them that "know not God" (2Th 1:8). For "He will pour out His fury upon the heathen, that know Him not, and upon the families that call not on His name" (Jer 10:25).… In Pro 9:18, the new guest at the fatal banquet is described by his ignorance. "He knoweth not" what company is in the house, "that the dead are there." It is the devil's policy, when he would rob and ransack the house of our conscience, like a thief to put out the candle of our knowledge; that we might neither discern his purposes, nor decline his mischiefs.… Indeed ignorance may make a sin a less sin, but not no sin. "I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly, in unbelief," says the apostle (1Ti 1:13). The sins of them that know are more henious than the sins of them that know not. But if thou hadst no other sin, thy ignorance is enough to condemn thee, for thou art bound to know. They that will not know the Lord, the Lord will not know them.—T. Adams.

The most innocent of all faults might seem ignorance. The only sin (when philosophically stated) is ignorance. The "chains" that confine the lost (2Pe ) are "darkness." The change that overtakes the saved is light (2Co 4:6). The graces that adorn the Christian all flow from a new intelligence. Our text is literally exact. If the man "has no knowledge," and that of a deep spiritual sort, his "life is no good;" that is, it possesses none, and is itself a horrid evil. And yet the concluding clause largely relieves the difficulty. The man, knowing there was something wrong, ought to pause, and grope about for the light, just as all would in a dark cavern. Instead of that he rushes darkly on. Here, the inspired finger is put upon the precise mistake. We are warned that we are in blindness. Why not hesitate, then, and cast about us? We push on, knowing we are in the dark. This is the photograph of the impenitent … And yet, the wise man says, he ignores this point of wilfulness, and in his heart is angry with the Almighty. He "perverteth," or subverteth "his way," that is, totally upsets and ruins, so that it is no way at all. Nothing could describe more truly the sinner's path, because it does not reach even the ends that he himself relied on. Death arrives, too, to wreck it totally. And though he has resisted the most winning arts to draw him unto Christ, yet, at each sad defeat, "his heart is angry against Jehovah."—Miller.

Pro . Haste, as opposed to sloth, is the energy of Divine grace (Psa 119:60; Luk 19:6). Here, as opposed to consideration, acting hastily is sin. This impatience is the genuine exercise of self-will, not taking time to inquire; not "waiting for the counsel of the Lord." Godly Joshua offended here (Jos 9:14-15). Saul's impatience cost him his kingdom (1Sa 13:12). David's haste was the occasion of gross injustice (2Sa 16:3-4).—Bridges.

Religion a sentiment and a science. I know of no attack on Christianity more artfully made than that which is attempted when a distinction is attempted to be drawn between religion and theology.… Let us see what the value of religion is, when it is separated from theology. We are told that religion is a sentiment, a temper, a state of mind. Theology is a science, a pursuit, a study.… and it is asserted or insinuated that it may be well with the soul, although it be destitute of spiritual knowledge.… But we, who are called Christians, by the very name we bear, imply that more than devotional sentiment is necessary to make a religious man … You must accept Jesus as the only Saviour if you would escape perdition, and how can you accept Him unless you know Him? Nay, further, how can you accept Him unless you know yourself?… There are many other things which we ought to know and believe, to our soul's health and comfort; but … the soul that is without knowledge of this, the great Christian scheme, the Divine plan of salvation, is only nominally and by courtesy a Christian soul … Except as bearing upon these truths, the religious sentiment is a luxury and nothing more … It is not the theoretical distinction between the sentiment and the science that we censure, but their separation and divorce.—Dean Hook.

Pro . Such was the foolishness of Adam! First he perverted his way; then he charged upon God its bitter fruit. "God, making him upright," made him happy. Had he been ruled by his will, he would have continued so. But, "seeking out his own inventions" (Ecc 7:29), he made himself miserable. As the author of his own misery, it was reasonable that he should fret against himself, but such was his pride and baseness, that his heart fretted against the Lord, as if he, not himself, was responsible (Gen 3:6-12). Thus his first-born, when his own sin had brought "punishment" on him, fretted, as if "it were greater than he could bear." (Ib. Pro 4:8-13). This has been the foolishness of Adam's children ever since. God has linked together moral and penal evil, sin and sorrow. The fool rushes into the sin, and most unreasonably frets for the sorrow; as if he could "gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles." (Mat 7:16). He charges his crosses, not on his own perverseness, but on the injustice of God. (Eze 18:25). But God is clear from all the blame (Jas 1:13-14): He had shown the better; man chooses the worse. He had warned by his word and by conscience. Man, deaf to the warning, plunges into the misery; and, while "eating the fruit of his own ways," his heart frets against the Lord. "It is hard to have passions, and to be punished for indulging them. I could not help it. Why did he not give me grace to avoid it?" (See Jer 7:10). Such is the pride and blasphemy of an unhumbled spirit. The malefactor blames the judge for his righteous sentence. (Isa 8:21-22; Rev 16:9-11; Rev 16:21).—Bridges.

This was the case in Greece as well as in Judea; for Homer observed that "men lay those evils upon the gods, which they have incurred through their own folly and perverseness." … This is often the case with regard—

1. To men's health. By intemperance … indolence … or too close application to business … or unruly passions, they injure their frame … and then censure the providence of God.

2. To their circumstances in life.… Men complain that providence frowns on them … when they have chosen a wrong profession, despising the advice of others … or when they have brought themselves into straits by their own negligence.

3. To their relations in life. They complain of being unequally yoked … when they chose by the sight of the eye, or the vanity and lusts of the heart.… They complain that their children are undutiful … when they have neglected their government.

4. To their religious concerns. They complain that they want inward peace when … they neglect the appointed means of grace … and that God giveth Satan power over them when by neglect they tempt the tempter.—Job Orton.

For Homiletics on the main thought of Pro see on chapter Pro 14:20, page 370.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENT

They are friends to the wealth, not the wealthy. They regard not qualis sis, but quantus—not how good thou art, but how great.… These flatter a rich man, as we feed beasts, till he be fat, and then fall on him.… These friends love not thy soul's good, but thy body's goods.—T. Adams.


Verses 5-9

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Speaketh lies, rather "whose breath is lies."

Pro . The prince, rather "the noble or generous man." It seems to refer to one of rank, who is also of a benevolent disposition. "Entreat the favour," literally "stroke the face."

Pro . He pursueth them, &c. This clause is variously rendered. Zockler reads, "He seeketh words (of friendship), and there are none;" Delitzsch, "Seeking after words which are vain;" Miller, "As one snatching at words, they come to stand towards him;" Maurer and others, "He pursueth after (the fulfilment of the) words (of their past promises to him), and these (promises) are not (made good).

Pro . Wisdom. Literally heart.

Pro . Speaketh lies, "whose breath is lies."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro ; Pro 19:9

THE END OF A FALSE TONGUE

We have before had proverbs dealing with the evil of lying (see Homiletics on chap. Pro , Pro 14:25, pages 274 and 379), and the constant recurrence of the subject, together with the repetition of the verses here, shows us the vast importance which the inspired writer attached to truth, and the many and great evils which flow from a disregard of it. Again and again he holds up the liar to view as a monster of iniquity, and seeks, both by the threatening of the retribution which awaits it and by the misery which it causes to others, to deter men from yielding to this sin. If we consider what mischief a false man can do, we shall not be surprised at the prominence which the wise man gives to this subject (see page 274). But the most dangerous element of the lying tongue is the fact that in nine cases out of ten no human tribunal can bring to justice, and perhaps few human tribunals would care to do so. "The world," says Dr. David Thomas ("Practical Philosopher," page 414) "abounds in falsehood. Lies swarm in every department of life. They are in the market, on the hustings, in courts of justice, in the senate house, in the sanctuaries of religion; and they crowd the very pages of modern literature. They infest the social atmosphere. Men on all hands live in fiction and by fiction." If we allow that this picture is a true one, and, alas! we can cannot deny that it is, we can see that the evil is one with which no human hand can deal. A tiger may come down from a neighbouring forest and enter the city, and spread terror and dismay all round, and even kill a dozen of its inhabitants. But he is a tangible creature, he can be faced and attacked with weapons which can pierce his skin and make him powerless to do any further mischief. But into the same city may enter upon the summer wind impalpable particles of matter charged with a poison which may slay not ten men but ten thousand, and no weapon that has ever been forged by human hand can slay these destroyers. The plague will keep numbering its victims until the poison has spent itself or until a pure and healthful breeze scatters the deadly atmosphere. So with lying in comparison with more palpable and gross crimes. The thief can be caught and imprisoned, the murderer is generally traced and hanged; but the sin of lying so permeates the whole social atmosphere that nothing but the diffusion of heavenly truth can rid the world of the poison. But the liar, however he escapes some forms of retribution, "shall not go unpunished."

1. He shall be self-punished. His own conscience will be his judge and executioner in one. The fear of discovery here will generally haunt him as a shadow does the substance, but if this ghost is laid there will be times, however hardened he may be, when that witness for truth that is within him will scourge him in the present and fill him with forebodings concerning the future.

2. Men will punish him, by not believing him when he speaks the truth. In proportion as a man's veracity is doubted will be the suspicion with which his word is received. He may tell the truth on two occasions out of three, but if his falsehood on the third is found out, his truth-telling on the first and second will not avail him much. It is a terrible thing to live always in an atmosphere of distrust, but it is one of the punishments of a liar.

3. God will punish him after he leaves this world. Concerning him and some other great transgressors it is written that—"they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (Rev ). Whatever may be the precise meaning of these terrible words, we know that they were spoken by one whose every word was "true and faithful" (see Pro 19:5 of the same chapter), and they are but an intensified form of the last clause of our texts—"He that speaketh lies shall perish."

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Falsehood is fire in stubble. It likewise turns all around it into its own substance for a moment—one crackling, blazing moment, and then dies. And all its contents are scattered in the wind without place or evidence of their existence, as viewless as the wind which scatters them.—Coleridge.

"He whose breath is lies shall be lost." Breath means the inborn and natural impulse. The root of the verb translated "shall perish" means to lose oneself by wandering about. The cognate Arabic means to flee away wild in the desert. The spirit, therefore, that habitually breathes out falsities, and so acts constitutionally athwart of what is true, is best described by keeping to the original; that is, instead of perishing in the broader and vaguer way, he wanders off and is lost in the wilderness of his own deceptions.—Miller.

The thief doth only send one to the devil; the adulterer, two; the slanderer hurteth three—himself, the person of whom, the person to whom he tells the lie.—T. Adams.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

TWO PROOFS OF HUMAN SELFISHNESS

I. The servile regard which men pay to rank and wealth. A prince is a man in whose hand there is power to advance the material interests of other men, and this makes him a loadstone to the godless man whatever his character may be. As the magnet will attract all the steel dust within its reach, so the prince is a magnet which attracts all the self-seeking and the worldly who can by any possibility obtain any favour from him. To gain that favour they will fawn upon him and flatter him, and will stoop even to become suppliants at his feet. Let him be one of the most contemptible of human creatures, there will not be wanting those who may be in many respects his superiors who will serve him from hope of advancing their own interests. We know that this is not universally the case—that there have been noble men in all ages who would scorn to entreat the favour of any man, simply because he was a man of power; but Solomon here speaks of the rule and not of the exception, and the fact that it is so testifies to the self-seeking which is the characteristic of men in general.

II. The treatment which the poor man often receives from his more wealthy kinsfolk. The proverb implies that those who hate him and pass him by with disdain are richer than himself, and therefore not only bound to pity his poverty but able to lighten his burden. But the same selfishness which draws men to the rich causes them to shun the poor in general, and especially their poor relations, for they feel conscious that these latter have a stronger claim upon them than those who are not so related. And even if the poor man does not need the help of his richer brethren he will often find himself unrecognised by them, simply because he occupies a lower social station. He has nothing to give them in the way of material good—his favour is worth nothing in the way of promoting their worldly interests—the very fact that he is poor and yet is more or less nearly connected by family ties is supposed to dim the lustre of their greatness, and they therefore cherish towards him a positive dislike which they manifest by avoiding his society as much as possible, and by receiving all his advances towards friendship with coolness and disdain. If we had no other proof of the depth to which man has fallen since God created him in His own image, the regard which men pay, not to what a man is, but to what he has, would be one sad enough (See also Homiletics on chap. Pro , page 370).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Princes need not pride themselves in the homage that is paid to them, for their favour is sought by men, not so much out of regard to their persons, as from a regard to their power. Kindness and liberality have a greater influence for gaining the hearts of men, than dignity of station. There are many that seek the ruler's favour, but every man loves him that is generous. When power and generosity meet in the same person, he becomes an object of universal esteem, like Marcus Antoninus, who was lamented by every man when he was dead, as if the glory of the Roman empire had died with him.

How inexcusable are we, if we do not love God with all our hearts. His gifts to us are past number, and all the gifts of men to us are the fruits of His bounty, conveyed by the ministry of those whose hearts are disposed by His providence to kindness. "I have seen thy face," said Jacob to Esau, "as the face of God." His brother's favour he knew to be a fruit of the mercy of Him with whom he spake and prevailed at Bethel.—Lawson.

For Homiletics on Pro see Pro 19:2; Pro 19:5 of this chapter, also on chapters Pro 8:36 and Pro 9:12, pages 122 and 128.


Verse 10

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro Delight. Most commentators translate this word "luxury." Miller, however, as will be seen from his comment, retains the reading of the English version.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

I. Where there is wealth or exalted station there ought to be correspondent qualifications. (For the real signification of the word translated delight see Critical Notes.) If a man is rich he ought to be wise, and if he is powerful he ought to have been instructed how to use his power well. A fool is useless in any condition of life, but a fool who is the possessor of a fortune is a power for evil. We must understand the word servant here to mean an ignorant and incapable man—one who, though able to serve, has no ability to rule. A man may be very well fitted to perform the duties of a common seaman, but if he is ignorant of the laws of navigation it would be a great misfortune for both himself and the rest of the crew if he were to be appointed to the captain's post. If he had remained before the mast he might have done good service, but when he is promoted to a higher rank he is only an instrument of mischief. Of the two incongruities dealt with in the proverb this last is the most fruitful of evil. It is a lamentable thing when great riches come into the possession of a fool who does not know how to use his wealth either for his own or his neighbour's good, and it may be productive of positive harm both to himself and others. Instances are not at all uncommon, and most men have met with them, in which a man in a very humble station, and destitute of true and spiritual wisdom, inherits suddenly a large fortune. In the majority of such cases the inheritance is a curse rather than a blessing, for the inheritor has no idea how to use it so as to promote his own real welfare. His higher nature has never been developed, consequently he has no spiritual or intellectual desires to gratify, and all he can do with his wealth is to minister to his appetites and gratify his passions, which he often does in a most unseemly way, and to an extent which makes him a worse man when he is rich than he was when he was poor. But this misuse of wealth is not so great a misfortune as the misuse of power. The evil effects of the first will be confined within comparatively narrow limits, but those of the latter are widespread. When a man is neither a prince by birth or by nature, and yet is in a position which gives him power over men who are either or both, there is a great disproportion in the moral fitness of things which generally brings much social and national trouble. For if a man's only title to rule is that of birth, it is better for those whom he rules than if he had none at all. If he is an incapable man himself he may be the descendant of greater men, and those under him may be able to submit to him for what he represents, although they cannot reverence him for what he is. But when he has not even this small claim on their obedience, the unseemliness is so great that national anarchy, and consequently much individual suffering, is the almost certain result.

II. Either of these incongruities present a deep mystery in the Divine government. When we consider what a great power for good as well as for evil is wrapped up in wealth, the providence appears to us dark which often gives it to the moral fool and leaves the wise man destitute. But when we find a weak man apparently holding in his hands the destinies of many stronger and nobler men—a "servant" ruling over "princes"—the providence seems darker still. But there are two sources whence we can draw comfort. We can look forward to that "time of restitution of all things" (Act ) when all these manifest inconsistencies shall be done away with, and we can assure ourselves that "things are not what they seem"—that the wisdom of the wise man is a greater power for good than the wealth of the rich, and that, after all, the choice of the ruler is in the hand of those whom he rules, and that if the latter are "princes" they will not long suffer themselves to be ruled by one who is "a servant."

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

1. In its secular form this truth is obvious.

2. In its higher but intermediate form, it means that an ungodly sinner, here called "a stupid man," on his way to death and judgment, is so shockingly off in all interests of his being, that "delight" is a mockery; it is anything but suited to his state. And to have him stand, as he often does, superior to Christians, overawing Christian life, and repressing Christian eminence of character, is indeed a servant ruling a prince; and it is as good an instance as could be met, of something that does not suit, or as the original has it, does not sit well.

3. But Solomon would carry it a story higher. He means to continue his pursuit of the impenitent. He means to tell them that their delight, in itself considered, would not sit well; that to reward a fool would bring dishonour upon government; and to release the outlaw from his bonds would really be to elect the slave to a post higher than the "princes."—Miller.

With all the preference here expressed for virtuous poverty, the seemliness of rank, and the violence done by the upstart rule of the lower over the higher, are not overlooked.—Chalmers.

Abundance of wealth, dainty fare, and pastime or recreation, is not meet for a vain and wicked person. For, first of all, He rather deserveth correction than recreation; secondly, He abuseth all his delights and possessions to his own hurt, being drunken with his vanities; last of all, He is so puffed up and corrupted by prosperity, that he oppresseth his neighbours.… But if a light vanity beseem not a vain person, then authority, which carrieth with it a weight of glory, less beseemeth a vile person, who is of a servile disposition and condition, especially that rule which is exercised over noble personages.—Muffet.

Judge, then, how horrible it is that men should set the devil or his two angels, the world and the flesh, on the throne, while they place God on the footstool; or that in this commonwealth of man, reason, which is the queen or princess over the better powers and graces of the soul, should stoop to so base a slave as sensual lust.—T. Adams.

The reason is, because a wise man is master of his delight, a fool is servant unto it. And delight never doth well but where it is commanded, never doth so ill as where it is commander.… The command of delight is like the ruling of a servant over princes; and as he is foolish in ruling, so it is the quality of a fool to give the ruling of his heart unto delight.—Jermin.


Verse 11-12

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Discretion, or "intelligence."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

TWO KINGS

I. The man who exercises despotic power over the destinies of his fellow creatures. The similitudes by which Solomon describes the power that is sometimes lodged in a kingly hand are very strong, and were more true in his day than they are in ours. The wrath of a despot is like the roaring of a lion because it is an indication of the destructive power that lies behind it. That roar is not an empty sound, for everyone who hears it knows that the savage beast can do more than roar—that he can tear in pieces the unfortunate victim of his wrath. If he could only roar men would listen unmoved, but they tremble because they know that his anger can find an outlet in a more terrible manner. There are men whose wrath, although it is fierce, does not fill its objects with any alarm—they know that the man's anger can only find an outlet in words and that he is impotent to do them harm. But there are those whose anger can work terrible evil to its victims, and who have such forces at their command that a man may well fear to incur their wrath. There have been despots in the world to incur whose displeasure was like awaking the fury of a wild beast, and whose manner of repaying those who had offended them was more brutal than human. But men in such a position have as much power to bless as to curse. If they choose to exercise their prerogative in a kindly manner they can exercise an influence as reviving and as cheering as that of "the dew upon the grass." Such an one can elevate his subjects both socially and morally by the enactment of wise laws, and in this sense can make a wilderness rejoice and blossom as the rose. Perhaps, however, the proverb more directly refers to the power of the king to exalt and promote his favourites—those who either by chance or by devotion to his interests become objects of his especial regard. If such men are poor the king's favour can effect as great a transformation in their circumstances as the dew will upon a field scorched by the sun, and so long as that favour continues they are as continually and as liberally nourished as the grass is watered by the daily dew.

II. The man who can curb his anger and pardon an offence. Solomon was a king whose power was not inaptly described by the twelfth verse, but he had too much spiritual enlightenment to conceive that there was any true glory in it alone. He gives the palm to the man who can "rule his spirit," and who can "pass over a transgression," especially if that man has great power in his hand to visit the offender with punishment. If it is the glory of a man with limited influence to pardon an offender, it is much more glorious for a king to do so, because his wrath is able to exercise itself without being called to an account. This thought may be applied to the King of kings, to the Omnipotent Ruler of the universe. When Moses besought Him to show him His glory "He said, I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee," and that name was, "The Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." (Exo ; Exo 34:6.) For Homiletics on the same subject see on chap. Pro 14:29, page 386, and on chap. Pro 16:32, page 497.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

If men, as they grow more sensible, forgive easier, and it is their honour or glory to "pass over an offence," the implication is that thus it must be with the All-Wise. Complaint is foolish, for eternity will reveal that the Almighty took no pleasure in punishing us. "The commonest man," literally "a man," but a man under the title which, all through this book, as in Isa , distinguishes itself from another title, which means a man of the better sort. This gives two points of heightened emphasis:—First, even the commonest man thinks it well to forgive. How much more the Almighty! And, second, even the commonest man, when intelligent, forgives the easier: how much more the Great Intelligence? He who best understands His honour would not be likely to inflict punishment, unless where it was impossible that there should be a final escape (Pro 19:5).—Miller.

The monarch of the forest is a just comparison to the monarch of the land. "The lion hath roared; who will not fear?" The rocks and hills echo the terrific cry. The whole race of the animals of the forest are driven to flight, or petrified to the spot. Such is the king's wrath in a land of despotism; reigning without law, above law, his will his only law; an awful picture of cruelty, tyranny, and caprice! Unlimited power is too much for proud human nature to bear, except with special grace from above.—Bridges.

Discretion is a buckler made of a cold, hard, smooth metal, and that which giveth the true temper to the metal is delay. For in all the ways of discretion delay holdeth it by the hand, it judgeth not without delay, it worketh not without delay, it is not angry without delay. The fiery darts that are thrown against it kindle not this metal hastily, the strokes of wrong and injury bruise not this metal easily; the apprehensions of a moved spirit fasten not easily upon it, the fury that assaulteth it slips off by a mild smoothess from it.—Jermin.

The only legitimate anger is a holy emotion directed against an unholy thing. Sin, and not our neighbour, must be its object. Zeal for righteousness, and not our own pride, must be its distinguishing character. The exercise of anger, although not necessarily sinful, is exceedingly difficult and dangerous.… Thus it comes about, that although anger be not in its own nature and in all cases sinful, the best practical rule of life is to represss it, as if it were. The holy might use it against sin in the world, if the holy were here, but it seems too sharp a weapon for our handling … The best practical rule for the treatment of anger against persons is to defer it. Its nature presses for instant vengeance, and the appetite should be starved. A wise man may indeed experience the heat, but he will do nothing till he cools again. When your clothes outside are on fire you wrap yourself in a blanket, if you can, and so smother the flame; in like manner, when your heart within has caught the fire of anger, your first business is to get the flame extinguished.… To pass over a transgression is a man's "glory" … This is a note in unison with the Sermon on the Mount, and therefore at variance with most of our modern codes of honour. It has often been remarked that the Bible proves itself Divine by the knowlege of man which it displays; but perhaps its opposition to the main currents of a human heart are as clear a mark of its heavenly origin as its discovery of what these currents are.—Arnot.


Verses 13-15

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Calamity. The word so translated is in the plural form, so as to express the continuance of the trouble.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro ; Pro 19:18

DOMESTIC SORROW AND HOW TO AVOID IT

I. Two fruitful sources of sorrow. There are many fountains whence flow waters which sadly embitter the lives of men, but there is none outside of personal character which can more entirely darken their days than either of those mentioned in the thirteenth verse. To be either the father of a foolish son or the husband of a contentious wife is sorrow indeed. The first clause of this proverb is nearly the same as that in chap. Pro , for Homiletics on which see page 137. The contentious wife is here compared to a "continual dropping," because although the discomfort would not be great if it was only occasional, its perpetual existence makes life wretched. A drop of water falling upon a man's head is a very trifling matter, but one of the most dreaded tortures of the Spanish inquisition was that in which a man was placed in such a position that a single drop was constantly descending upon his head. Hour after hour, day after day, and night after night, the drops followed one another in regular and unbroken succession until the poor wretch first lost reason and then life. It is much harder to bear a burden which is never lifted from the shoulders than to carry one which is much heavier for a short time and for a very limited distance. So it is easier for a man to rise above trials which, although they may be almost overwhelming for a time, last but through a comparatively very short portion of his life. But the trial of a contentious wife is unceasing so long as the marriage bond continues, and it is this that makes it so greatly to be dreaded.

II. Means suggested whereby these sources of sorrow may be avoided. If so much depends upon our family relationships—if the character of wife and child have so much to do with our weal and woe—it becomes a most momentous question how to act so as to secure a prudent wife in the first place, and then to avoid the calamity of a foolish son. It must be remembered that the first is purely a matter of choice. A man's "house and riches" may be "the inheritance of fathers," his social position may depend upon his parents, but his wife depends upon his own choice, and as "a prudent wife is from the Lord," if he seeks the guidance of Him who is alone the infallible reader of character, instead of following the leadings of his fancy or consulting his worldly interests, he may with confidence expect to avoid the curse and secure the blessing. The other relationship is not one of choice. Our children are sent to us by the hand of God, and we have no more voice in determining their dispositions and mental constitutions than we have the colour of their hair, or any other bodily characteristic. But of two things we are certain.

1. That they will need a training which will not be always pleasant to them. Where there is disease in the body a cure cannot often be effected without a resort to unpleasant—often to painful—measures. It is not pleasant to a surgeon to use the knife, but it is often indispensable to his patient's recovery to health. And both experience and revelation testify to the fact that our children come into the world with a moral taint upon them—that they have a tendency to go the wrong way—that, in the words of the Psalmist (Psa ) they are "shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin." If a parent desires to avoid the calamity of a foolish son he must early recognise the truth that his child will not become morally wise unless he "chasten" him, unless he subject him to a system of moral training, unless he make him feel that punishment must follow sin. This will be as painful sometimes to the parent as to the child; the crying of the son will hurt the father more than the rod will hurt the child, but the end to be attained by present suffering must be borne in mind, and must nerve the heart and hand of him whose duty it is to administer chastisement. (On this subject see also Homiletics on chap. Pro 13:24, page 334).

2. That there is reason to hope that children, if rightly trained, will be a joy and not a sorrow. There is hope. When a river has but just left its source among the hills, and the current is feeble, its progress can be stopped with ease; but when it has flowed on for a few miles and there is depth of water enough to float a fleet, it is almost impossible to stop its onward course. So, when the power of evil in the human soul is in its infancy, it is a much more easy task to restrain it than when it has acquired strength by years of uncontrolled dominion. When the young oak is but a few inches above the ground, the hand of the woodman can bend the slender stem as he pleases; but when it has grown for half a century he is powerless to turn it from the direction which it has taken. So a child's will is pliable to the wise training of the parent, and if the education of the moral nature be begun early, there is every reason to hope that it will acquire strength to overcome both sin within and without, and that a righteous manhood will in the future more than repay both him whose duty it is to chasten, and him upon whom the chastisement must fall.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . "A prudent wife" is not to be got by an imprudent mode of choice. The gift must be sought "from the Lord." But this does not mean that the Lord is supernaturally to point out the individual. Our own discretion must be put in exercise, along with prayer for the divine superintendence and direction, so as to bring about a happy result. And then the precious gift should be owned, and the all-bountiful Giver praised for his goodness in bestowing it.—Wardlaw.

"Every good gift is from the Lord" (Jas ) only, some in the ordinary course, others more directly from Him. Houses and riches, though His gifts, come by descent. They are the inheritance of fathers. The heir is known, and in the course of events he takes possession of his estate. But the prudent wife is wholly unconnected with the man. There has been no previous bond of relation. She is often brought from a distance. "The Lord brought her to the man" by His special Providence, and therefore as His special gift.—Bridges.

Pro . The great force of the rule is its timely application—while there is hope. For hopeless the case may be, if the remedy be delayed. The cure of the evil must be commenced in infancy. Not a moment is to be lost. "Betimes" (chap. Pro 13:24; Pro 22:15)—is the season when the good can be effected with the most ease, and the fewest strokes. The lesson of obedience should be learnt at the first dawn. One decided struggle and victory in very early life, may, under God, do much towards settling the point at once and to the end. On the other hand, sharp chastening may fail later to accomplish, what a slight rebuke in the early course might have wrought.—Bridges.

You are here taught further, that firmness must be in union with affection in applying the rod. The words seem to express a harsh, yet it is an important and most salutary lesson:—"let not thy soul spare for his crying." The words do not mean, that you should not feel, very far from that. It was the knowledge that feeling was unavoidable, and that the strength and tenderness of it was ever apt to tempt parents to relent and desist, and leave their end unaccomplished,—that made it necessary to warn against too ready a yielding to this natural inclination. The child may cry, and cry bitterly, previously to the correction; but, when you have reason to think the crying is for the rod rather than for the fault, and that, but for the threatened chastisement, the heart would probably have been unmoved, and the eyes dry;—then you must not allow yourselves to be so unmanned by his tears, as to suspend your purpose, and decline its infliction. If a child perceives this (and soon are children sharp enough to find it out) he has discovered the way to move you next time; and will have recourse to it accordingly.—Wardlaw.

On the subject of Pro see Homiletics on chap. Pro 6:9-10, page 79.


Verse 16

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Miller reads this verse "He that guards the commandment guards himself; in scattering his ways he dies." (See his comment.) Hitzig's rendering of the last clause agrees with Miller's.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A DOUBLE KEEPING

I. A keeping of the Divine commandments. What is it to "keep the commandment?" Dr. Miller translates this verb to guard or watch. Taken in this sense therefore the proverb implies that there is need—

1. To lay up God's law in our hearts. It is to be our constant aim to know the will of God—the words which He has spoken, the commands which He has given, are to be constantly kept in remembrance and made the principal subject of our thoughts. We are to tread in the footsteps of the man described in the first Psalm, whose "delight is in the law of the Lord" and who "meditates" upon it "day and night. But the word as it is commonly understood implies—

2. To translate God's law into life, It is one thing to know the will of God, it is another thing to do it. Knowledge must come before obedience, but knowledge alone will not save the soul from death.

II. A keeping of the human soul. There is but one way to guard the human soul from the dangers to which it is exposed, and that is by complying with the demands of the God who can alone give spiritual life. He commands us to yield ourselves unreservedly to his guidance, to accept his method of being made right in relation to His law, to fight against the evil tendencies of our fallen nature, and to seek His help to overcome them. In doing this He has promised that we shall find that emancipation from the bondage of sin, that awakening of spiritual faculties, and that sense of His favour which alone is the life of the soul. We have before dwelt upon proverbs which embody truths similar to those contained in this verse. (See on chap. Pro , page 195; chap. Pro 10:8, page 151; chap. Pro 13:6; Pro 13:13-14, pages 299, 312, 313; chap. Pro 16:17, page 479.)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Keep means to retain. Guard means to watch. The root of the present word means to bristle, then to watch close, either from the bristling of spears, or from a sharp stave. There is a philosophy in these words, … viz., that conscience is vagrant. We have to watch. Like the mind itself, it is hard to hold it to the point. Attention is our whole voluntary work. And, to a most amazing degree, the Scriptures are framed upon this idea. We are to remember now our Creator (Ecc ). We are to remember the Sabbath day (Exo 20:8). We are to "observe to do," etc. (this very word guard). See Deu 5:1; Deu 5:32, et passim. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed (this same word guarding) thereto according to Thy word" (Psa 119:9). "Guards himself" (the same word). (See Critical Notes.) This is an iron link of sequence which no Anti-Calvinistic thought can shake. He who stands sentry over the "commandment" stands sentry over himself; literally "his soul." There is no helplessness in man other than that tardema, or deep sleep (Pro 19:15) which "sloth" wilfully casts him into, and which a voluntary slothfulness perpetually increases and maintains." The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are aliens." The proverb advances upon this in the second clause. What more voluntary than a man's "way?" It has a voluntary goal, it has a daily journeying, and it includes all that is voluntary. Seize a man at any moment. All that he is upon is part of his life's travel. Now, a Christian has but one way. So far forth as he is a Christian, he has but one end, and one path for reaching it. There is a beautiful unitariness in his journeying. It is a habit of Scripture to turn attention to the scattered life of the lost. They have no one end. "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light," says the Saviour (Mat 6:23). Thou "hast scattered thy ways to the strangers," says Jeremiah (Pro 3:13); this same expression. "Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way" (Jer 2:36). Despiseth (English version) suits the lexicon and suits the sense, for certainly the lost man has less respect for his way and life than the pardoned believer; but "scattering" is equally legitimate and common; more strengthened by analogy, and more in keeping with the first clause, where the verb to guard stands more opposed to vagrant and distraught ideas. "Dies;" see Job 5:2. Corruption is seated in the soul, but not out of reach by any means. A man can increase it. What we do outside kills inwardly. A man's counting-house might seem to have little to do with the state of his soul, but it is shaping it all the time. If he scatters his ways he is killing his soul, and what we are to remark is, that there is an ipso actu condition of the effect (as in chap. Pro 11:19) which is expressed in the Hebrew. The vagrancy of a morning's worldliness is that much more death, as punctually administered as any of the chemistries of nature. The form is participial. It is "in scattering," or "as scattering," his ways that "he dies."—Miller.


Verse 17

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE BEST INVESTMENT

I. A God-like disposition. To "pity the poor and to show that we do so by ministering to their necessities (for this is implied in the proverb) is to be like God. We have before seen how He identifies Himself with them, and how severe is the condemnation which He passes upon those who wrong them. (See Homiletics and Comments upon chap. Pro , page 390, and upon chap. Pro 17:5, page 504). God is a Being of compassion—the gospel of salvation is a testimony to the pitifulness of His nature. He has remembered man in his low estate and in his condition of spiritual poverty, and out of the "riches of His grace" (Eph 1:7) He has supplied his need. But he has not only an eye for the spiritual necessities of His creatures, but for those also which belong exclusively to their bodily nature. God manifest in flesh had compassion upon the multitude because "they had nothing to eat" (Mat 15:32), and the same pitiful heart is still moved with a like emotion when He looks into the haunts of poverty and sees men and women and little children without the necessaries of life, or toiling hard and long for a pittance that is only just enough to keep them from starvation. The man therefore who "has pity on the poor" manifests a disposition akin to that of his Father in heaven.

II. A most reliable debtor. God incarnate fed the hungry by miracle, but now that He has left the earth for a season He entrusts the duty to human hands. He does not now rain down bread from heaven to feed even his spiritual Israel, but He expects those of His children to whom He has given more than enough of this world's good things to do it for Him, and looks upon the act as a loan to Himself.

1. That this investment will be a profitable one is certain, from the character of God. When men entrust others with their money, they have especial regard to the character of those whom they make their debtor. This forms the chief and most reliable security that a man can have that he will receive it again. God's character is pre-eminently good—so good that His word is more than the bond of the most trustworthy human creature, and none in heaven or earth or hell will ever be able to say that He has not paid them what was their due.

2. The wealth of God is a guarantee that He will repay with interest. A man who is generous by nature, and possessed of abundant means, will not only faithfully repay a loan but, if his debtor is a needy man, will feel a pleasure in adding to it a large interest, or will press him to accept some extra token of his esteem. God is the great and bountiful proprietor of all the resources of the universe, whether spiritual or material, and He loves to give abundantly. He has been always giving out of His fulness since there has been a creature upon whom to lavish His gifts, and He delights to see His children give, like Himself, generously and ungrudgingly. And, seeing he takes upon Himself to repay what is given to the poor, His generosity and His wealth are sureties that the interest for the loan will be very ample. His children may have to wait long for it, but the longer they wait the greater the accumulation of interest. They may receive a partial repayment in material good, but the great recompense will be at the "resurrection of the just" (Luk ) on that day when the King shall say unto them, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was an hungered and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked and ye clothed me" (Mat 25:34; Mat 25:36).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

When Alexander set forward upon his great exploits before he went from Macedonia, he divided among his captains and friends all that he had; for which, when one of his friends reproved him, saying that he was prodigal, for that he had reserved nothing for himself, the answer which Alexander gave was this: that he had reserved much unto himself, namely, hope of the monarchy of the world, which by the valour and help of those his captains and nobles he hoped to obtain. And thus, surely, he that giveth to the poor may seem to be prodigal, yet, in respect of the hope that he hath of profit, he is frugal-wise; neither is his hope such as Alexander's was, which depended on the uncertainty of war, but such as is grounded upon the certainty of God's word.—Spencer.

The Lord will not only pay for the poor man, but requite him that gave alms, with usury, returning great gifts for small. Give, then, thine house, and receive heaven; give transitory goods, and receive a durable substance; give a cup of cold water and receive God's kingdom … If our rich friend should say unto us, lay out so much money for me, I will repay it, we would willingly and readily do it. Seeing, then, our best friend, yea, our king, the King of kings, biddeth us give to the poor, promising that He will see us answered for that we give, shall we not bestow alms at His motion and for His sake?—Muffet.

The off-hand sense is no doubt correct, and, as a worldly maxim, often the munificent are rewarded in this world.… But we are not to suppose the generous to suffer, and the saint might lose by being paid in money. The saint might need the chastisement of pecuniary distress. We are not to suppose, therefore, this sense to be the grand one. But the meaning is that obedience, if it be spiritual, is a positive thing; that it involves large and generous sacrifices; that it is to "visit the fatherless" (Jas ); and to feed the hungry (Mat 25:35); and that, in the grandest sense, he that does these things "makes a borrower of Jehovah;" and that the transaction, under the grand head of guarding his own soul (Pro 19:16), will pay him better than any less positive and more mystic species of obedience.… It may be fancy, but causing to borrow seems to be more expressive than (as an equivalent) to lend (E.V.). We can make God borrow of us at any time among the widows and the orphans (Mat 25:40; Jer 49:11).—Miller.


Verse 18

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Calamity. The word so translated is in the plural form, so as to express the continuance of the trouble.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro ; Pro 19:18

DOMESTIC SORROW AND HOW TO AVOID IT

I. Two fruitful sources of sorrow. There are many fountains whence flow waters which sadly embitter the lives of men, but there is none outside of personal character which can more entirely darken their days than either of those mentioned in the thirteenth verse. To be either the father of a foolish son or the husband of a contentious wife is sorrow indeed. The first clause of this proverb is nearly the same as that in chap. Pro , for Homiletics on which see page 137. The contentious wife is here compared to a "continual dropping," because although the discomfort would not be great if it was only occasional, its perpetual existence makes life wretched. A drop of water falling upon a man's head is a very trifling matter, but one of the most dreaded tortures of the Spanish inquisition was that in which a man was placed in such a position that a single drop was constantly descending upon his head. Hour after hour, day after day, and night after night, the drops followed one another in regular and unbroken succession until the poor wretch first lost reason and then life. It is much harder to bear a burden which is never lifted from the shoulders than to carry one which is much heavier for a short time and for a very limited distance. So it is easier for a man to rise above trials which, although they may be almost overwhelming for a time, last but through a comparatively very short portion of his life. But the trial of a contentious wife is unceasing so long as the marriage bond continues, and it is this that makes it so greatly to be dreaded.

II. Means suggested whereby these sources of sorrow may be avoided. If so much depends upon our family relationships—if the character of wife and child have so much to do with our weal and woe—it becomes a most momentous question how to act so as to secure a prudent wife in the first place, and then to avoid the calamity of a foolish son. It must be remembered that the first is purely a matter of choice. A man's "house and riches" may be "the inheritance of fathers," his social position may depend upon his parents, but his wife depends upon his own choice, and as "a prudent wife is from the Lord," if he seeks the guidance of Him who is alone the infallible reader of character, instead of following the leadings of his fancy or consulting his worldly interests, he may with confidence expect to avoid the curse and secure the blessing. The other relationship is not one of choice. Our children are sent to us by the hand of God, and we have no more voice in determining their dispositions and mental constitutions than we have the colour of their hair, or any other bodily characteristic. But of two things we are certain.

1. That they will need a training which will not be always pleasant to them. Where there is disease in the body a cure cannot often be effected without a resort to unpleasant—often to painful—measures. It is not pleasant to a surgeon to use the knife, but it is often indispensable to his patient's recovery to health. And both experience and revelation testify to the fact that our children come into the world with a moral taint upon them—that they have a tendency to go the wrong way—that, in the words of the Psalmist (Psa ) they are "shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin." If a parent desires to avoid the calamity of a foolish son he must early recognise the truth that his child will not become morally wise unless he "chasten" him, unless he subject him to a system of moral training, unless he make him feel that punishment must follow sin. This will be as painful sometimes to the parent as to the child; the crying of the son will hurt the father more than the rod will hurt the child, but the end to be attained by present suffering must be borne in mind, and must nerve the heart and hand of him whose duty it is to administer chastisement. (On this subject see also Homiletics on chap. Pro 13:24, page 334).

2. That there is reason to hope that children, if rightly trained, will be a joy and not a sorrow. There is hope. When a river has but just left its source among the hills, and the current is feeble, its progress can be stopped with ease; but when it has flowed on for a few miles and there is depth of water enough to float a fleet, it is almost impossible to stop its onward course. So, when the power of evil in the human soul is in its infancy, it is a much more easy task to restrain it than when it has acquired strength by years of uncontrolled dominion. When the young oak is but a few inches above the ground, the hand of the woodman can bend the slender stem as he pleases; but when it has grown for half a century he is powerless to turn it from the direction which it has taken. So a child's will is pliable to the wise training of the parent, and if the education of the moral nature be begun early, there is every reason to hope that it will acquire strength to overcome both sin within and without, and that a righteous manhood will in the future more than repay both him whose duty it is to chasten, and him upon whom the chastisement must fall.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . "A prudent wife" is not to be got by an imprudent mode of choice. The gift must be sought "from the Lord." But this does not mean that the Lord is supernaturally to point out the individual. Our own discretion must be put in exercise, along with prayer for the divine superintendence and direction, so as to bring about a happy result. And then the precious gift should be owned, and the all-bountiful Giver praised for his goodness in bestowing it.—Wardlaw.

"Every good gift is from the Lord" (Jas ) only, some in the ordinary course, others more directly from Him. Houses and riches, though His gifts, come by descent. They are the inheritance of fathers. The heir is known, and in the course of events he takes possession of his estate. But the prudent wife is wholly unconnected with the man. There has been no previous bond of relation. She is often brought from a distance. "The Lord brought her to the man" by His special Providence, and therefore as His special gift.—Bridges.

Pro . The great force of the rule is its timely application—while there is hope. For hopeless the case may be, if the remedy be delayed. The cure of the evil must be commenced in infancy. Not a moment is to be lost. "Betimes" (chap. Pro 13:24; Pro 22:15)—is the season when the good can be effected with the most ease, and the fewest strokes. The lesson of obedience should be learnt at the first dawn. One decided struggle and victory in very early life, may, under God, do much towards settling the point at once and to the end. On the other hand, sharp chastening may fail later to accomplish, what a slight rebuke in the early course might have wrought.—Bridges.

You are here taught further, that firmness must be in union with affection in applying the rod. The words seem to express a harsh, yet it is an important and most salutary lesson:—"let not thy soul spare for his crying." The words do not mean, that you should not feel, very far from that. It was the knowledge that feeling was unavoidable, and that the strength and tenderness of it was ever apt to tempt parents to relent and desist, and leave their end unaccomplished,—that made it necessary to warn against too ready a yielding to this natural inclination. The child may cry, and cry bitterly, previously to the correction; but, when you have reason to think the crying is for the rod rather than for the fault, and that, but for the threatened chastisement, the heart would probably have been unmoved, and the eyes dry;—then you must not allow yourselves to be so unmanned by his tears, as to suspend your purpose, and decline its infliction. If a child perceives this (and soon are children sharp enough to find it out) he has discovered the way to move you next time; and will have recourse to it accordingly.—Wardlaw.

On the subject of Pro see Homiletics on chap. Pro 6:9-10, page 79.


Verses 18-20

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Let not thy soul spare for his crying. The translations of most expositors here differ widely from the authorised version. Grotius, Maurer, Delitzsch, Zckler, etc., read, "Let not thy soul rise to kill him," "Go not too far to kill him," etc., all understanding the precept to be directed against excessive severity. Cartwright renders it "Let not thy soul spare him, to his destruction."

Pro . Latter end, rather afterwards.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro

RELATIVE DUTIES

We have before considered Pro in connection with Pro 19:13-14. A reference to the Critical Notes will, however, show that there is an interpretation of the last clause which was not treated there. Pro 19:19-20, regarded separately, embody thoughts and precepts which we have had before. (See Homiletics on chap. Pro 14:17; Pro 14:29, pages 363, 386, and on chap. Pro 12:15, page 271.) But these verses, taken in conjunction with the other interpretation of the last clause of Pro 19:18, may be regarded as giving valuable advice both to those who have to enforce discipline and administer chastisement, and to those who have to endure them.

I. Counsel for parents. The reasonableness and necessity of chastisement has been considered before, but the additional thought which the other rendering of Pro makes prominent is, that it must be administered from a sense of duty, and dictated by love. Parents are far too apt to punish their children, not because they have sinned against God, but because they have offended them,—and when this is the case, the anger manifested deprives the correction of its salutary effect. "When the rod is used," says Wardlaw,—and the words may be applied to any form of parental chastisement,—"the end in view should be, purely and exclusively, the benefit of the child; not the gratification of any resentful passion on the part of the parent. Should the latter be apparent to the child, the effect is lost, and worse than lost; for, instead of the sentiment of grief and melting tenderness, there will be engendered a feeling of sullen hostility, … if not, even, of angry scorn, towards him who has manifested selfish passion rather than parental love." The parent must regard himself as God's representative, and must act, not as for himself, but for the Divine Master and Father of both parent and child. If this is done, there will be none of that "provocation to wrath" or "discouragement," against which Paul puts Christians on their guard (Col 3:21; Eph 6:4), and there will be good ground to hope that the chastisement will bring profit.

II. Counsel for children. The reasoning here is akin to that used by the Apostle in the twelfth of Hebrews. It is admitted by him (Pro ) that "no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous;" nevertheless, those who have to endure it are exhorted to accept it with submission because of the precious after-yield—they are counselled to give themselves up to the Divine pruner and suffer Him to work His will upon them now, in consideration of the "peaceable fruits of righteousness" which will be the result in the days of harvest. So Solomon argues here. He does not deny that "counsel" and "instruction," or rather discipline, may often be unpalatable and irksome, but he holds up the wisdom that may be gained by them as an incentive to induce the young to "hear" and to "receive" them—he "reaches a hand through time," and "fetches the far-off interest" of what at present seems grievous in order to give effect to his exhortations. The actions of men in the present are mainly determined by the amount of consideration they give to the future. There are men who live wholly in the present hour—who gratify the fancy or follow the passion of to-day without giving a thought of the needs of to-morrow, or of the penalty that they may then have to pay for their folly. Others look ahead a little farther—they fashion the actions of to-day with a due regard to the interests of their whole future earthly life, but they bestow no thought upon the infinite "afterward" that is to succeed it. The proverb counsels both the young and the old to bring this long to-morrow into the plans of to-day, and to let the remembrance of it open the ear to the words of Divine wisdom by whomsoever they are spoken, and bend the will to receive the "chastening of the Lord," whether it come in the form of parental discipline or in a sterner garb.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . "Being in great wrath, remit the punishment; but if thou let him escape, yet apply (or add) chastisement again. (So Muffet renders Pro 19:19.) When thou are in thy mood, or burnest with fiery anger and displeasure, let pass for that time the correcting of thy child, lest thou passest measure therein, or mayest chance to give him some deadly blow. Nevertheless, if for that time or for that fault thou let him go free, yet let him not always go uncorrected; but when thou art more calm, according as he offereth occasion, correct him again.—Muffet.

Do not venom discipline by naked animosity. This is the human aspect. But now for the fine model of Jehovah. "He does not afflict willingly" (Lam ). He follows this maxim: "Discipline thy son, because there is now hope." But Solomon wishes plainly to declare that to kill him He does not lift up His soul. "He taketh no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but that all should turn and live" (Eze 33:11). It is evidently these great timbers of thought that Solomon is eyeing at the bottom of his structure. He is settling them along in place. Secularly, they may have but little connection; spiritually, they are all morticed close.—Miller.


Verse 21

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

MANY PLANS WORKING TO ONE END

This proverb suggests—

I. The ignorance and sinfulness of man, the infinite knowledge and goodness of God. Man is a creature of many devices; he is changeable in his purposes and plans because he is so ignorant concerning their issue. He cannot foretel with any certainty whether the event will be according to his desire, or, if it should be so, whether it will bring him satisfaction. Hence the purpose of to-day is not the purpose of next year—the plans of his youth are different from those of his riper years. But God is the same in His purposes yesterday, to-day, and for ever, because He can "declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done" (Isa ). A man's devices change in proportion as his feelings and desires vary; and these are changeable in proportion as he lacks perfection in his moral nature. But a Being of infinite goodness is not subject to these changing moods and desires: and His plans are like His character, always the same.

II. The attitude which men ought to take in relation to this truth. It is obvious that the counsel of God must stand, and that it deserves to stand before all the devices of men. If, therefore, men would have their devices stand they must learn to square them by the counsel of God. A child will have its own way when it has learned to conform its will to the will of its parent. And if a man would have his "heart's desire," he must so "delight in God" (Psa ) that what pleases God pleases him also. For other Homiletics on this subject see on chap. Pro 16:1; Pro 16:9, pp. 451, 468.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The great collective whole of the "devices" of all hearts constitutes the grand complex scheme of the human race for their happiness. Respecting the object of every device, God has His design. There is in the world a want of coalescence between the designs of man and God—an estranged spirit of design on the part of man. God's design is fixed and paramount.—J. Foster.

A man of the better sort. This is simply one of the names for man. We do not always translate it one of the better sort. But it is rarely chosen listlessly. Here it creates an emphasis. The most imposing "schemes" belong to the intelligent and great. The world is full of them. How foolish to build them up! Jehovah advises a whole new behaviour for His creatures. How mad to scheme away from it.—Miller.


Verses 22-24

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . The desire of a man, &c. Rather "A man's delight (or glory) is his beneficence, or A man's kindness is what makes him desirable, or is a desirable adornment.

Pro . In his bosom, rather, in the dish. This is of course a hyperbolic expression to set forth the inactivity of the slothful man. "Athenns," says Fausset, "describes (Pro 6:14) the slothful man as waiting until the roasted and seasoned thrushes fly into his mouth begging to be devoured."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

POVERTY OF HEART AND POVERTY OF CIRCUMSTANCE

If we read the first clause of this proverb as it stands in our translation it sets forth—

I. The true measure of a man's benevolence. It is not to be measured by the amount of money that he expends upon his fellow-creatures, but upon his desire to benefit them. His desire to help them may be very strong, and yet his circumstances may be such that he has little more than sympathy to give. "The heart may be full," says Wardlaw, "when the hand is empty." And many deeds of charity that earn for men the title of benevolent are not really performed from motives of goodwill to others but from selfish or vainglorious ends. If we take the reading given in the Critical Notes it teaches rather the truth—

II. That small deeds of kindness are far preferable to large professions of it. The liar of the second clause is evidently one who has it in his power largely to help others, and whose promises are in proportion to his power. But they are promises only. He does not hesitate by false words to raise hopes which he never intends to fulfil, and thus becomes like the deceitful mirage of the desert, which, after cheating the traveller with delusive hopes of water, disappears, and leaves him more despairing than before. On the other hand, the poor man is evidently one whose words never go beyond his deeds, and whose deeds, if not great, are up to his ability, and are so constantly performed and so evidently the outcome of real sympathy that they are like the little rill which follows the wayfarer all through his journey, and which, although it can give but a little water at a time, is always at hand with that little.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

But let it be observed and remembered—"the desires of a man are not his kindness," when he has the ability to be practically kind, and confines himself to desires. No. In that case, there is the clearest of all evidence that the desire is not sincere; mere profession, without reality—"love in word"—which is only another phrase for no love at all. While, therefore, there are cases in which we cheerfully, according to a common phrase, "take the will for the deed," Knowing that there is a want of ability to do what the heart wishes; there are other cases in which we demand the deed as the only proof of the will—the gift as the only evidence of the charity.—Wardlaw.

The imperial standard of weights and measures has been sent by the King into the market place of human life, where men are busy cheating themselves and each other. Many of these merchantmen, guided by a false standard, have been all their days accustomed to call evil good and good evil. When the balance is set up by royal authority, and the proclamation issued that all transactions must be tested thereby, swindlers are dismayed, and honest men are glad. Such is the word of truth when it touches the transactions of men.… There is a most refreshing simplicity in the language of Scripture upon these points. This word speaks with authority. It is not tainted with the usual adulation of riches. A dishonest man is called a liar, however high his position may be in the city. And the honest poor gets his patent of nobility from the Sovereign's hand. The honest rich are fully as much interested in reform in this matter as the honest poor. Make this short proverb the keynote of our commercial system, and epidemic panics will disappear.… After each catastrophe people go about shaking their heads and wringing their hands, asking, What will become of us? What shall we do? We venture to propose an answer to the inquiry. From the Bible first engrave on your hearts, then translate in your lives, and last emblazon aloft on the pediment of your trade temple this short and simple legend: "A poor man is better than a liar."

For Homiletics on the subject of Pro see on chapter Pro 10:27; Pro 14:26, and Pro 18:10, pages 179 and 542. Pro 19:24 will be treated in chap. Pro 26:13-15. For the subject of Pro 19:25; Pro 19:29 see chap. Pro 17:10, page 509.


Verses 26-28

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Cease my son, &c. "That causeth" are not in the original and the instruction spoken of may therefore be evil or good. "Two conceptions are possible:

1. The instruction is that of wisdom itself, and therefore a good wholesome discipline that leads to life; then the words can be only ironical, presenting under the appearance of a dissuasion from discipline in wisdom a very urgent counsel to hear and receive it (so Ewald, Bertheau, Elster).

2. The instruction is evil and perverted, described in clause 2 as one that causes departure from the words of wisdom. Then the admonition is seriously intended" (Zöckler, in Lange's Commentary). On Zöckler's first interpretation Dr. Aiken remarks, "To call this ‘irony' seems to us a misnomer. Cease to hear instruction only to despise it. What can be more direct or literally pertinent?" Delitzsch says, "The proverb is a dissuasive from hypocrisy, a warning against the self-deception of which Jas speaks, against heightening one's own condemnation, which is the case of that servant who knows his lord's will and does it not (Luk 12:47.)"

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

POSSIBILITIES OF HUMAN DEPRAVITY

I. The tenderest admonitions and the most solemn warnings sometimes fail to influence for good. Sometimes the most loving parental care seems utterly wasted upon an ungrateful child, and the more constant and tender the words of admonition the farther does he depart from the way in which he ought to go. There is many a man so in love with sin that he may be said to "devour iniquity" (Pro ); and when this fatal appetite has taken possession of the soul all appeals to his better nature, and even to his own self-love, are vain.

II. When men are so hardened there is no depth of iniquity to which they may not sink. He who scoffs at all threats of retribution, both in this life and in that which is to come, has broken through all barriers of restraint, and will be capable of outraging all the tender ties of human relationship, even to the extent of bringing his parents to disgrace and shame. The most hardened sinners in the universe of God are not found in heathen lands, or among the ignorant at home, but they are those who, having heard instruction, have "erred from the words of knowledge." Each day that they resist the good influence brought to bear upon them they increase their moral insensibility, and their final condemnation (Pro ). Hence the admonition of Pro 19:27. (See Critical Notes.)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . This were an admirable text for young men entering upon life and still at the expense of their parents. It is a great enormity either to waste the property of their father while he is alive, or after they have succeeded to expel the widowed mother from the premises.—Chalmers.

Pro . It is so proper and natural for a son to hear instruction, that the hearing instruction maketh to be a son.… But if thou hear instruction, hear it not—not to be the better for it. Instruction speaketh to keep thee from erring; do not thou hear it to err: instruction putteth into thee the words of knowledge; do not thou put them out by erring from them, by not following them.… Cease thus to hear, but hear still. For by hearing at length thine error may be corrected; whereas, if thou hear not, thou dost not only err, but deprivest thyself of the means that reduce thee from erring.—Jermin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 19:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-19.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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