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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Proverbs 27

 

 

Verse 1

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

DIVINE PROPERTY

I. A possession exclusively Divine. Both the distant and the immediate future belong to God alone; not only does He possess the exclusive control of what shall be in a hundred years to come, but to-morrow, and even the next hour and minute, are exclusively His. There is, doubtless, an existence beyond time where God's creatures can look forward to the future with more certainty than can man in his present condition, but it does not belong to even the highest archangel to say what shall be in the far-off or even the near time to come. This is the prerogative of Him alone with whom all is one eternal present.

II. A possession to which men often lay claim. If we were to hear a man making definite plans as to how he would spend a fortune which it was only probable he would possess, we should wonder at his tone of certainty, and perhaps attribute it to weakness or presumption. But we all dispose of our days, and sometimes of our months and years, long before they are ours, and while our own past experience and that of others around us admonish us of the great uncertainties that surround our future, we are prone to lay our plans as if to-morrow and many years to come were ours. It is doubtless necessary and right to forecast to a certain extent—we must look forward to what will probably or may be on the morrow, or be guilty of another form of presumption. But we are not forbidden by the wise man to do this—all that the proverb warns us against is that boastful certainty in relation to the future which so ill becomes creatures so limited in their knowledge and so straitened in their resources—that definite laying of our plans which leaves God entirely outside of them, and that confident disposal of ourselves which forgets to say, "If the Lord will we shall live, and do this, or that" (Jas ). It would be foolish for a raw recruit to pretend to map out the plan of his general's campaign, or for an unlettered peasant to prophecy what line of policy would be adopted by the prime minister of the land; but he who boasts himself of to-morrow is more foolish, and is also wicked.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The day is said to bring forth because time travaileth with the Lord's decrees, and in their season bringeth them forth, even as a woman with child doth her little babes. Indeed, time properly worketh not, but, because God's works are done in time, it is said to do those things which are done therein.—Muffett.

I. This ignorance of the morrow is necessary to the prosecution of our duties on earth. Could we draw aside the veil of the future and look at the things which are coming to us, our energies would be so paralysed as to incapacitate us for the ordinary avocations of life; mercy has woven the web of concealment. II. This ignorance of to-morrow is our incentive to the preparation for the future. Christ used this argument: "Be ye, therefore, ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh."—Dr. David Thomas.

The same reason that should check our boasting of to-morrow may preserve us from desponding fears. It may be stormy weather to-day; but storms do not last all the year. We are filled and tormented with fears of some impending evil, but we often give ourselves real pain by the prospect of calamities that never were appointed to us by the providence of God.—Lawson.

How awfully has this boasting been put to shame! In the days of Noah "they married wives, and were given in marriage, until the very day when the flood came and destroyed them all." Abner promised a kingdom, but could not ensure his life for an hour. Haman plumed himself upon the prospect of the queen's banquet, but was hanged like a dog before night. The fool's soul was required of him "on the very night" of his worldly projects "for many years" to come. "Serious affairs to-morrow," was the laughing reply of Archias, warned of a conspiracy which hurried him into eternity the next hour. The infidel Gibbon calculated upon fifteen years of life, and died within a few months, at a day's warning.—Bridges.

To count on to-morrow so as to neglect the duty of to-day is in many respects the greatest practical error among men. None have a wider range, and none are charged with more dreadful consequences. Whether the work in hand pertain to small matters or great—to the sowing of a field or the redemption of a soul—for every one who resolves deliberately not to do it, a hundred tread the same path, and suffer the same loss at last, who only postpone the work of to-day with the intention of performing it tomorrow. The proverb contains only the negative side of the precept, but it is made hollow for the very purpose of holding the positive promise in its bosom. The Old Testament sweeps away the wide-spread indurated error; the New Testament then deposits its saving truth upon the spot.… Solomon warns us to distrust the future, and Paul persuades us to accept the present hour. "Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation." "To-morrow," is the devil's great ally, the very Goliath in whom he trusts for victory. "Now," is the stripling whom God sends forth against him. A great significance lies in that little word. It marks the points on which life's battle turns. That spot is the Hougomont of Waterloo. There the victory is lost or won.… An artist solicited permission to paint a portrait of the Queen. The favour was granted—and the favour was great, for probably it would make the fortune of the man. A place was fixed, and a time. At the fixed place and time the Queen appeared; but the artist was not there—he was not ready yet. When he did arrive, a message was communicated to him that her Majesty had departed, and would not return. Such is the tale. We have no means of verifying its history, but its moral is not dependent on its truth. If it is not a history, let it serve as a parable. Translate it from the temporal into the eternal. Employ the earthly type to print a heavenly lesson.—Arnot.


Verse 2

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

SELF PRAISE

I. Merit will win the praise of others. The light of the sun makes its existence felt by every man who is possessed of vision, and there are but few men who do not acknowledge that it is a good and pleasant thing. The perfume of the flowers cannot be hidden while there are creatures endowed with the sense of smell, and their fragrance is so grateful and refreshing to us, that it is sure to win from us an acknowledgment of its existence and expressions of delight. And as men are endowed with senses which recognise light and fragrance and every form of physical beauty, so there is a moral sense in man which compels him to discern moral excellence or mental superiority. The conscience and the reason stand in the same relation to spiritual worth and intelligence as the sense of sight does to the sunlight, or that of smell to a pleasant odour. It is true that there are men who will refuse to acknowledge the presence of moral worth, but there are also some who will not acknowledge the existence of good in anything. But they know it is there notwithstanding. And although man as fallen may be more ready to praise that which appeals to his senses than that which commands the admiration of his better nature, there will always be found some in every community who will give to real worth its due proportion of praise.

II. Self-praise generally implies a lack of merit. A man of intellectual or moral worth loves knowledge or excellence of any kind for its own sake, and not for the height to which it may raise him in the estimation of his fellows. Although he is or ought to be grateful for the esteem of others, he does not make that the end of his existence; his satisfaction arises not from what people think of him, but from what he is in himself. And just in proportion as a man attains to mental or moral heights, so does he apprehend more truly how little after all he has and is, and so the higher he goes the less value he commonly sets upon his present attainments. It is therefore an inference most commonly drawn that he who praises himself is but little deserving the praise of others, and is not likely to get it. And this conclusion is generally a correct one.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

It must never be forgotten that all such passages imply the sincere and earnest cultivation of a real and divinely approved principle. The principle called for in this verse is that of true, self-diffident modesty. Considerations entirely different, and even opposite, may induce the suppression of self-praise:—even the very desire of praise from others. From this arises the danger of holding out—to the young especially—the motive or inducement of getting a character for modesty. This may produce artifice, affectation, simulation, hypocrisy. That which is wanted,—that which God approves and requires,—is honest simplicity, which neither, on the one hand, courts praise, nor, on the other, affects to disdain and undervalue it,—which neither blusters out its own commendation, nor whines and simpers, and depreciates, and makes light of what it is or of what it has done, merely for the purpose of making others say more. The affectation of despising the commendation of others is worse than the self-commendation that is reprehended. It is, in truth, the very same spirit showing itself under another aspect.—Wardlaw.

Praise is a comely garment, but though thyself do wear it, another must put it on, or it will never fit well about thee. Praise is sweet music, but it is never tuneable in thine own mouth, if it come from the mouth of another, it soundeth most tuneably in the ears of all that hear it. Praise is a rich treasure, but it never makes thee rich, unless another tell the sum.—Jermin.


Verse 3-4

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Delitzsch reads this verse "The madness of anger and the overflowing of wrath, and before jealousy who keeps his place?"

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

WRATH AND ENVY

I. A most unhappy combination. A fool and wrath. Wrath or displeasure is possible to every being capable of emotion. The power to love implies the power to hate, and he who can be pleased can also be displeased. The most tender mother can be angry, and righteously angry, with her child, and we read in Scripture of the "wrath of the Lamb" (Rev .) But there is an infinite distance between the wrath of the Holy God, and even between that of a good man or woman, and that of a moral fool. Divine displeasure is an emotion, and never a passion. God is never passive in the hands of His anger. And in proportion as men are like God they always have their displeasure under the control of their will. It is as amenable to their conscience and their reason as an obedient horse to his rider. But a fool is a man who is without power of self-government—who is himself governed first by one passion or desire and then by another—like a ship without a rudder, at the mercy of the winds and waves. When such an one is in the hands of his wrath, a most mischievous and destructive force is at work. For whether we consider its effects on the man himself, or upon the objects of his anger, we may truthfully brand it as burdensome, and cruel and outrageous.

1. It is a cruel burden to the subject of it. A more wretched creature can hardly be found in the universe than a man passive in the hands of his own anger; it is like a heavy weight crushing out of him all power to stand morally erect and self-possessed, and like a knotted scourge inflicting wounds not on the body but on the spirit.

2. The objects of it also find it a painful yoke. In proportion as the fool is in a position to exert his influence over others, in the same proportion is the amount of misery which he can create by his unbridled wrath. Perhaps its effects are nowhere so painfully felt as in the domestic circle. As a master the wrathful fool may make his servants miserable, but they may be able to quit his service and so get beyond his influence. But there is no escape for wife and children from the wrath of a morally foolish husband and father; for such there is a millstone ever about the neck, and tormenting goads always pricking the feet.

II. The most pitiless foe. Terrible as is the unbridled wrath of a fool, there is a passion more to be dreaded. The open battle-field in broad daylight is a place to be shunned, but an ambush at midnight is more certain death. Men fear to meet the lion upon the highroad, but the scorpion concealed among the grass is more dangerous. For some resistance can be offered to an open and avowed enemy, but no defence can be prepared against an unseen foe. And if wrath is like the angry lion, envy is like the deadly scorpion. The first gives some warning of his design, but the latter none. The man of unbridled passion often misses his aim by reason of his unsteady hand—the very excess of his wrath sometimes takes away his power to execute his intention. And he generally deals his blows at his enemy's face—speaks out his hatred in his hearing, and publicly and openly tries to do him a mischief. But the envious man acts in a different manner. The natures that are most prone to envy have generally some power of self-control—they are more cold-blooded than passionate men. Though they are moral fools, they have generally enough intellectual wisdom to see the best method of bringing to pass their malicious purposes; and they consequently prefer an ambush to an open fight, and choose rather to stab a man in the back than to meet him face to face. In other words, they do not upbraid him openly and give him an opportunity to defend himself, but blacken his character by insinuations when he is absent. And as it is the nature of envy to brood over its grievances in secret, and that of unbridled wrath to manifest its displeasure immediately and openly, the first gathers strength by repression and the other loses it by the very force of its expression.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

As an earthquake ariseth from a tumultuous vapour shut up in the caverns and bowels of the earth, where it tosseth and tumbleth until it break out and overturn all that standeth in the way of it, so envy is a pestilent vapour which lieth in the heart of a man, where it boileth and fretteth until it find occasion to vent itself, and then it tumbleth and throweth down all that standeth in the malicious eye of it. Houses and trees stand firm against a tempest of lightning or a flood of rain, and men stand out against the cruelty of sudden wrath and rage of a man's lasting anger, but what house or tree standeth against the force of an earthquake, and who is able to stand against the force of envy?—Jermin.

I do not ask for men passionless; this is hominem de homine tollere. Give them leave to be men, not madmen. Anger in the best sense is the gift of God, and it is no small art to express anger with premeditated terms, and on seasonable occasions. God placed anger among the affections engrafted in nature, gave it a seat, fitted it with instruments, ministered it matter whence it might proceed, provided humours whereby it is nourished. It is to the soul as a nerve to the body. The philosopher calls it the whetstone to fortitude, a spur intended to set forward virtue. But there is a vicious, impetuous, frantic anger, earnest for private and personal grudges; not like a medicine to clear the eye, but to put it out.… To cure this bedlam passion … let him take some herb of grace, an ounce of patience, as much of consideration how often he gives God cause to be angry with him, and no less of consideration how God hath a hand in Shimei's railing—mix all these together with a faithful confidence that God will dispose all wrongs to thy good; hereof be made a pill to purge choler.… Anger is a frantic fit, but envy is a consumption.… Among all mischiefs it is furnished with one profitable quality—the owner of it takes most hurt.… It were well for him that he should dwell alone. It is a pity that he should come into heaven, for to see "one star excel another in glory" would put him again out of his wits.… His cure is hard.… Two simples may do him good if he could be won to take them—a scruple of content and a dram of charity.—T. Adams.

Well then might it be asked: Who is able to stand before envy? Even the perfect innocence of paradise fell before it. Satan lost his own happiness. Then he envied man, and ceased not to work his destruction. (See Wis ). It shed the first human blood that ever stained the ground. (1Jn 3:12). It quenched the yearnings of natural affection, and brought bitter sorrow to the patriarch's bosom. Even the premier of the greatest empire in the world was its temporary victim. Nay more—the Saviour in His most benevolent acts was sorely harassed, and ultimately sunk under its power. "His servants therefore must not expect to be above their Master."—Bridges.


Verse 5-6

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Secret love. Zckler and Hitzig understand this love to be that "which from false consideration dissembles, and does not tell his friend of his faults when it should do so." Delitzsch thinks it refers to "love which is confined to the heart alone, like a fire which, when it burns secretly, neither lightens nor warms."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro ; Pro 27:9-11; Pro 27:14

TESTS OF FRIENDSHIP

We group these verses together because they all treat of the same subject, viz., friendship in reality and friendship in profession only. The same subject occurred in the preceding chapter (see on Pro , and in chap. Pro 17:17-18, page 519.)

I. He does not love us truly who does not love us well enough to tell us of our faults. The true friend must desire to see the object of his affection as free from faults as it is possible for him to be; the truest and the purest love seeks by every means within its reach to bless the beloved one. And as we should not consider him a friend who would make no effort to free us from any bodily disease or physical deformity, we ought not to call him an enemy who will strive to rid us of moral and spiritual blemishes. For such an one gives proof that he cares more for our ultimate good than for our present smile—he shows that he is even willing to risk our displeasure in the hope of doing us real kindness. He who gives us kisses when he ought to give us reproof, or who holds back deserved rebuke from cowardice, is more cruel than if he withheld from us an indispensable medicine simply because it had a bitter taste. For if we will not take the unpleasant draught from the hand that we have clasped in friendship, we are not likely to find it more pleasant when administered by a stranger, much less by an enemy. And if a wound is to be probed it is surely better for the patient that it should be done by a skilful and tender hand than by one who has no sympathy with us and no acquaintance with our inner life. And as it is certain that those who do not love us will either rebuke us for our faults or despise us on account of them, the real friend is he who, by a loving faithfulness, strives to rid us of them. What would have become of David if Nathan had lacked the courage to say to him, "Thou art the man."

II. Such a true friend is the most refreshing and invigorating influence that can bless our life. Setting aside the blessing and strength which come to man direct from his Father in heaven, there is no source whence he can derive so much help and comfort as from the hearty sympathy and sound advice of a real friend. They are like the anointing oil and perfume which refresh the weary Eastern traveller at the end of his day's journey, removing the traces of toil and the sense of fatigue, and putting new life into every limb. Life is a dusty, toilsome highway for most men, and they sorely stand in need of some soothing and renewing influence as they pursue the journey. And this, Solomon assures us—and experience confirms his assurance—is to be found in hearty friendship.

III. The cultivation and retention of such friends should be one of the aims of life. Seeing that there is no other means by which we are so likely to get a true acquaintance with ourselves, and no other earthly influence which is so likely at once to elevate and console us, we ought to try and make real friends and be faithful to our friendships after they are formed. And especially we ought ever gratefully to remember the friends of our youth—those who gave us help and counsel when we most needed them, and to whose faithfulness and forbearance we probably owe far more than we can ever rightly estimate. There is a proneness in the youth as he rises into manhood, and is probably removed from early associations and lifted into a higher social sphere, to forget his earliest and truest friend, but the truly wise and honourable man will count fidelity to such a sacred duty.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Many indeed profess their value for a true friend; and yet in the most valuable discharge of friendship, they "count him their enemy." The apostle had some just apprehension on this account, though so wise and affectionate, and speaking from the mouth of God. (Gal 4:12-16). As if the rule of friendship was, that we should absolutely "please," without reference to the Divine restriction—"for good to edification." (Rom 15:2). Christian faithfulness is the only way of acting up to our profession. And much guilt lies upon the conscience in the neglect. But this open rebuke must not contravene the express rule of love—"telling the fault between thee and him alone." Too often, instead of pouring it secretly into our brother's ear, it is proclaimed through the wide medium of the world's ear, and thus it passes through a multitude of channels before it reaches its one proper destination. The openness of the rebuke describes the free and unreserved sincerity of the heart, not necessarily the public exposure of the offender; save when the character of the offence, or the interests of others, may appear to demand it. (1Ti 5:20).—Bridges.

This is that false love which really injures its object; and which, on this account,—that is, from its injurious tendency, how little soever designed, gets in the Scriptures the designation of hatred: "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." (Lev ).—Wardlaw.

Pro . The best physic for man is man. For friendship is a kind of life to man, without which there is no comfort of a man's life. Friendship is in men a kind of step to God, and by means of love man draweth near to God, when, as from being the friend of man, he is made the friend of God. But as among the Jews there was no oil that did so rejoice the heart as that wherewith the kings were anointed; no perfume that did so delight the soul as that which the priest offered; in like manner as there is no friend so sweet as God, so there is no counsel that doth so glad the soul, so cheer the heart, as that which He giveth in His word, whereby we are made even kings and priests unto him.—Jermin.

The heartiness of a friend's counsel constitutes its excellence. It is not official, or merely intelligent. It is the counsel of his soul.—Bridges.

Pro . "Neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity." This has certainly the appearance of a very strange advice. Whither, in the day of our calamity, should we go, if not to the house of a brother? Where are we to expect a kind reception, and the comfort we require, if not there? But the proverb, like all others, must be understood generally, and applied in the circumstances and the sense obviously and mainly designed. The meaning seems to be either—

1. Do not choose "the day of thy calamity" for making thy visit, if thou hast not shown the same inclination to court and cultivate intimacy before, in the day of thy success and prosperity. This unavoidably looks not like the impulse of affection, but of felt necessity, or convenience and self-interest: "Ay, ay," your brother will be naturally apt to say, "I saw little of you before: you are fain to come to me now, when you feel your need of me, and fancy I may be of some service to you." Or,

2. Let not sympathy be forced and extorted. "In the day of thy calamity," if thy brother has the heart of a brother, and really feels for thee, he will come to thee; he will seek and find thee. If he does not, then do not press yourself upon his notice, as if you would constrain and oblige him to be kind. This may, and probably will, have the effect of disgusting and alienating him, rather than gaining his love. Love and sympathy must be unconstrained as well as unbought. When they are either got by a bribe, or got by dint of urgent solicitation, they are alike heartless, and alike worthless. The reason is—"For better is a neighbour that is near, than a brother far off. The antithetical phrases "at hand" and "far off," have evident reference here, not to locality, but to disposition. A friendly and kindly-disposed neighbour, who bears no relation to us save that of neighbourhood, is greatly preferable to a brother—to any near relation whatever that is cold, distant, and alienated.—Wardlaw.

The proverbial sense is, that better is a lesser comfort which is ready at hand, than a greater solace which we must go to seek after.—Jermin.

Pro . It is an excellent description of a notorious flatterer, and a just denunciation of his due reward. First, he blesseth with a loud voice, as if he wanted breath and sides to set out the praises of his friend, and as if he would not only awaken him with the news of it but many others also with the loudness of it. Secondly, he doth it rising early, as if it were some main and principal business which he had to do, and wherein he would show himself more forward than any others. Thirdly, he doth it in the morning, as if he would bless his friend before he blessed God, or rather would make him his God by offering his sacrifice of praise unto him.—Jermin.


Verse 7

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

WANT OF APPETITE

I. The value which men set upon things depends upon their condition and circumstances. When we look around upon our fellow-creatures, we can but remark the widely different estimates which different men place upon the same things, and also the different value which the same man attaches to the same object at different times. To begin as Solomon does, with our lower nature—there are hundreds of well-fed citizens in every community who look with indifference at the most tempting dainties that are set before them, and perhaps close to their mansions are to be found as many to whom one good meal would give the keenest physical enjoyment. And if a traveller were passing through England he would probably turn away with disdain from a dinner of bread and water; but if he were in some far-off desert land he would hail such plain fare with delight. If we apply the proverb to man's intellectual nature, we find the same law in operation. Some men are surrounded with opportunities of mental culture and growth, and they despise and neglect them because they have no intellectual appetites, while others who are shut out from such advantages are longing eagerly for them. And it is no less true in spiritual things. The longings and aspirations of those whose spiritual appetites have been awakened are entirely unknown to those who have not felt their soul need, and the language which they use to express their desires is an unknown tongue to those who say, "I am rich and have need of nothing" (Rev ). There was a time in the life of Saul of Tarsus, when the language of Paul the apostle would have been utterly unintelligible to him. It would have been hard to convince the young man who consented to the death of Stephen, that he would one day "count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus" (Php 3:8), but the different estimate which he set upon the Gospel of the Son of God depended entirely upon the difference in his own spiritual condition at those different periods in his life. Even the gift of a Saviour is lightly esteemed, when men are full of pride and worldliness; it is true in this sense as in others that "the full soul loatheth an honeycomb."

II. A sense of need will not only teach men to value luxuries and comforts, but will make what was unpalatable welcome and acceptable. The young man who had lightly esteemed the good things on his father's table, came not only to remember with a longing desire the bread that fed his father's servants, but would "fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat" (Luk ). And when a youth has known the misery of homelessness, the restraints of his father's house, and the daily toil which once he felt to be so irksome, are light and easy in comparison. And so it is when a soul begins to hunger and thirst after righteousness. The conditions of reconciliation with God and the yoke of Christ, which before were so distasteful, are joyfully and eagerly accepted, and that which was bitter becomes sweet to the soul.


Verses 8-16

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Place, rather "home."

Pro . This verse is obscurely rendered in the English version. Delitzsch translates "Oil and frankincense rejoice the heart, and the sweet discourse of a friend from counselling of soul." Ewald, Elster, Luther, etc., render "The sweetness of the friend springeth from faithful counsel of soul." Zckler, "The sweetness of a friend is better than one's own counsel."

Pro . Neighbour that is near, etc. "The near neighbour is he who keeps himself near as one dispensing counsel and help to the distressed, just as the far-off brother is he who, on account of hit unloving disposition, keeps at a distance from the same" (Zckler.) Most commentators substantially agree with this view of the text

Pro . As a curse, etc. It is no better than a curse, or it may be regarded as veiling an evil intention.

Pro . And the ointment of his right hand. Zckler and Delitzsch translate "And his right hand graspeth, or meeteth oil," that is, he cannot hold her. Other commentators, retaining the English translation, understand it to refer to the hopelessness of concealing her vexatious disposition.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A MAN AND HIS PLACE

I. It is good for every man to have a place in the world which he can call his home, and work which he feels especially belongs to him. A man should have some spot on earth which is dearer to him than all the world beside, and some calling or profession which he can recognise as his own. It is not by any means desirable that he should always be in that place, or that he should never employ his time in other work. The bird often leaves the nest and flies hither and thither for many hours, and men must and ought not to confine themselves always to one place and to the same employment. Change of scene and occupation is always desirable within certain limits, and is often a necessity with men. But however far the bird flies she returns to her nest, and however much men may be obliged or may choose to wander, they should always have one place to call home; and however many things may occupy their hours of leisure, they should have one kind of work which especially fills up their life.

II. It is not good hastily and often to quit one sphere of work and one mode of life for another. Every honest calling has some advantages connected with it, and almost every sphere in life has something to recommend it; and steady perseverance in one employment, and continuance in one position, is often far more conducive to our material prosperity, and more beneficial to our character and reputation, than constant changes, even although they promise more speedy promotion and a smoother path to some desired end. This much is certain, that change merely for the sake of change is foolish, and change without good and sufficient reason is not wise.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

By place, the Holy Ghost understandeth particular callings. Now God had taken care that none should molest a bird in her nest, there she was safe (Deu ); but when she begins to wander then she is in danger, either to be shot by the fowler or caught in the snare, or made a prey to other ravenous birds. So a man that is diligent in his calling whilst he is employed therein, is in God's precincts, and so under God's protection; but when he wandereth abroad from his calling, going out of his bounds to sit and talk, he is a waif and a stray, and so falleth to the lord of the manor, "the god of this world." Reader, thou mayest expect to be preserved whilst thou art a-working, but not when thou art wandering. Those soldiers who leave their place in a march and straggle to pilfer, are many times snapt and slain by their enemies, when they who keep their places are safe and secure.—Swinnock.

Change of place is thought of as an evil. The sense of security is lost and cannot be regained. The maxim, it may be noted, is characteristic of the earlier stages of Hebrew history, before exile and travel had made change of country a more familiar thing. We seem to hear an echo of the feeling which made the thought of being "a fugitive and a vagabond" (Gen ) the most terrible of all punishments.—Plumptre.

In such a comparison as this, we cannot but suppose there is a reference to the purposes for which the nest is constructed. The allusion is doubtless to the period of incubation—to the hatching of the eggs, and the rearing of the young. If the bird "wanders from her nest" during that period, what is the consequence? Why, that the process is frustrated—the eggs lose their vital warmth; they become cold, addled, and unproductive. Absence, even for a very short time, will produce this effect; and produce it to such a degree, that no subsequent sitting, however constant and prolonged, can ever vivify again the extinct principle of vitality. And then, during the period of early training, when the young are dependent on the brooding breast and wing of the parent bird for their warmth, and on the active quickness of the parent bird, as their purveyor, for their sustenance,—desertion is death. If the mother then "wanders from her nest," forsaking for any length of time her callow brood—they perish, the hapless victims of a mother's neglect. They are starved of cold, or they are starved of hunger; or, it may be, their secret retreat is found out by some devouring foe. Such appears to be the apt allusion. Let us now consider to what cases it may with truth and profit be applied.

1. In the first place then, I apply it to a man's HOME. Home may surely be regarded as most appropriately designated "his place." It is there he ought to be; not merely enjoying comfort, but imparting it;—not the place of selfish ease and indulgence, but of dutiful and useful occupation. He has a charge there,—committed to him, not by the instincts of nature merely, but by the law of God. His family demand his first interest and his first attention.

2. I apply the proverb to the SITUATION IN LIFE which has been assigned to a man by Providence. As the brooding bird should be found upon her eggs, or with her young, so should every servant, in every department, be found in his own place, and at his own occupation. It should be the aim of every man to have it said of him with truth—Tell me where he ought to be, and I will tell you where he is.

3. I wish to apply the words to the SANCTUARY OF GOD. I think they may be so applied with perfect appropriateness. Every Christian must delight in God's sanctuary. It is to him, as a worshipper of God, "his place;"—the place where, at stated times, he ought to be, and where he chooses, and desires, and loves to be. How frequently, how strongly, how beautifully, does the Psalmist express this feeling!—and on one occasion with an exquisitely touching allusion to those birds of the air, that built their nests in the vicinity of the temple; and which, when banished from Jerusalem, and kept at a distance from the sacred precincts, he represents himself as envying—coveting their proximity to the altars of Jehovah (Psa .)—Wardlaw.

The 9th, 10th, 11th, and 14th verses have been considered with the 6th and 7th. For Homiletics on the subject of Pro see on chap. Pro 14:15, page 364. Pro 27:13; Pro 27:15-16 are almost a verbal repetition of chaps. Pro 20:16, and Pro 19:13. For Homiletics see pages 589 and 573.


Verses 9-11

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Secret love. Zckler and Hitzig understand this love to be that "which from false consideration dissembles, and does not tell his friend of his faults when it should do so." Delitzsch thinks it refers to "love which is confined to the heart alone, like a fire which, when it burns secretly, neither lightens nor warms."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro ; Pro 27:9-11; Pro 27:14

TESTS OF FRIENDSHIP

We group these verses together because they all treat of the same subject, viz., friendship in reality and friendship in profession only. The same subject occurred in the preceding chapter (see on Pro , and in chap. Pro 17:17-18, page 519.)

I. He does not love us truly who does not love us well enough to tell us of our faults. The true friend must desire to see the object of his affection as free from faults as it is possible for him to be; the truest and the purest love seeks by every means within its reach to bless the beloved one. And as we should not consider him a friend who would make no effort to free us from any bodily disease or physical deformity, we ought not to call him an enemy who will strive to rid us of moral and spiritual blemishes. For such an one gives proof that he cares more for our ultimate good than for our present smile—he shows that he is even willing to risk our displeasure in the hope of doing us real kindness. He who gives us kisses when he ought to give us reproof, or who holds back deserved rebuke from cowardice, is more cruel than if he withheld from us an indispensable medicine simply because it had a bitter taste. For if we will not take the unpleasant draught from the hand that we have clasped in friendship, we are not likely to find it more pleasant when administered by a stranger, much less by an enemy. And if a wound is to be probed it is surely better for the patient that it should be done by a skilful and tender hand than by one who has no sympathy with us and no acquaintance with our inner life. And as it is certain that those who do not love us will either rebuke us for our faults or despise us on account of them, the real friend is he who, by a loving faithfulness, strives to rid us of them. What would have become of David if Nathan had lacked the courage to say to him, "Thou art the man."

II. Such a true friend is the most refreshing and invigorating influence that can bless our life. Setting aside the blessing and strength which come to man direct from his Father in heaven, there is no source whence he can derive so much help and comfort as from the hearty sympathy and sound advice of a real friend. They are like the anointing oil and perfume which refresh the weary Eastern traveller at the end of his day's journey, removing the traces of toil and the sense of fatigue, and putting new life into every limb. Life is a dusty, toilsome highway for most men, and they sorely stand in need of some soothing and renewing influence as they pursue the journey. And this, Solomon assures us—and experience confirms his assurance—is to be found in hearty friendship.

III. The cultivation and retention of such friends should be one of the aims of life. Seeing that there is no other means by which we are so likely to get a true acquaintance with ourselves, and no other earthly influence which is so likely at once to elevate and console us, we ought to try and make real friends and be faithful to our friendships after they are formed. And especially we ought ever gratefully to remember the friends of our youth—those who gave us help and counsel when we most needed them, and to whose faithfulness and forbearance we probably owe far more than we can ever rightly estimate. There is a proneness in the youth as he rises into manhood, and is probably removed from early associations and lifted into a higher social sphere, to forget his earliest and truest friend, but the truly wise and honourable man will count fidelity to such a sacred duty.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Many indeed profess their value for a true friend; and yet in the most valuable discharge of friendship, they "count him their enemy." The apostle had some just apprehension on this account, though so wise and affectionate, and speaking from the mouth of God. (Gal 4:12-16). As if the rule of friendship was, that we should absolutely "please," without reference to the Divine restriction—"for good to edification." (Rom 15:2). Christian faithfulness is the only way of acting up to our profession. And much guilt lies upon the conscience in the neglect. But this open rebuke must not contravene the express rule of love—"telling the fault between thee and him alone." Too often, instead of pouring it secretly into our brother's ear, it is proclaimed through the wide medium of the world's ear, and thus it passes through a multitude of channels before it reaches its one proper destination. The openness of the rebuke describes the free and unreserved sincerity of the heart, not necessarily the public exposure of the offender; save when the character of the offence, or the interests of others, may appear to demand it. (1Ti 5:20).—Bridges.

This is that false love which really injures its object; and which, on this account,—that is, from its injurious tendency, how little soever designed, gets in the Scriptures the designation of hatred: "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." (Lev ).—Wardlaw.

Pro . The best physic for man is man. For friendship is a kind of life to man, without which there is no comfort of a man's life. Friendship is in men a kind of step to God, and by means of love man draweth near to God, when, as from being the friend of man, he is made the friend of God. But as among the Jews there was no oil that did so rejoice the heart as that wherewith the kings were anointed; no perfume that did so delight the soul as that which the priest offered; in like manner as there is no friend so sweet as God, so there is no counsel that doth so glad the soul, so cheer the heart, as that which He giveth in His word, whereby we are made even kings and priests unto him.—Jermin.

The heartiness of a friend's counsel constitutes its excellence. It is not official, or merely intelligent. It is the counsel of his soul.—Bridges.

Pro . "Neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity." This has certainly the appearance of a very strange advice. Whither, in the day of our calamity, should we go, if not to the house of a brother? Where are we to expect a kind reception, and the comfort we require, if not there? But the proverb, like all others, must be understood generally, and applied in the circumstances and the sense obviously and mainly designed. The meaning seems to be either—

1. Do not choose "the day of thy calamity" for making thy visit, if thou hast not shown the same inclination to court and cultivate intimacy before, in the day of thy success and prosperity. This unavoidably looks not like the impulse of affection, but of felt necessity, or convenience and self-interest: "Ay, ay," your brother will be naturally apt to say, "I saw little of you before: you are fain to come to me now, when you feel your need of me, and fancy I may be of some service to you." Or,

2. Let not sympathy be forced and extorted. "In the day of thy calamity," if thy brother has the heart of a brother, and really feels for thee, he will come to thee; he will seek and find thee. If he does not, then do not press yourself upon his notice, as if you would constrain and oblige him to be kind. This may, and probably will, have the effect of disgusting and alienating him, rather than gaining his love. Love and sympathy must be unconstrained as well as unbought. When they are either got by a bribe, or got by dint of urgent solicitation, they are alike heartless, and alike worthless. The reason is—"For better is a neighbour that is near, than a brother far off. The antithetical phrases "at hand" and "far off," have evident reference here, not to locality, but to disposition. A friendly and kindly-disposed neighbour, who bears no relation to us save that of neighbourhood, is greatly preferable to a brother—to any near relation whatever that is cold, distant, and alienated.—Wardlaw.

The proverbial sense is, that better is a lesser comfort which is ready at hand, than a greater solace which we must go to seek after.—Jermin.

Pro . It is an excellent description of a notorious flatterer, and a just denunciation of his due reward. First, he blesseth with a loud voice, as if he wanted breath and sides to set out the praises of his friend, and as if he would not only awaken him with the news of it but many others also with the loudness of it. Secondly, he doth it rising early, as if it were some main and principal business which he had to do, and wherein he would show himself more forward than any others. Thirdly, he doth it in the morning, as if he would bless his friend before he blessed God, or rather would make him his God by offering his sacrifice of praise unto him.—Jermin.


Verse 14

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Secret love. Zckler and Hitzig understand this love to be that "which from false consideration dissembles, and does not tell his friend of his faults when it should do so." Delitzsch thinks it refers to "love which is confined to the heart alone, like a fire which, when it burns secretly, neither lightens nor warms."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro ; Pro 27:9-11; Pro 27:14

TESTS OF FRIENDSHIP

We group these verses together because they all treat of the same subject, viz., friendship in reality and friendship in profession only. The same subject occurred in the preceding chapter (see on Pro , and in chap. Pro 17:17-18, page 519.)

I. He does not love us truly who does not love us well enough to tell us of our faults. The true friend must desire to see the object of his affection as free from faults as it is possible for him to be; the truest and the purest love seeks by every means within its reach to bless the beloved one. And as we should not consider him a friend who would make no effort to free us from any bodily disease or physical deformity, we ought not to call him an enemy who will strive to rid us of moral and spiritual blemishes. For such an one gives proof that he cares more for our ultimate good than for our present smile—he shows that he is even willing to risk our displeasure in the hope of doing us real kindness. He who gives us kisses when he ought to give us reproof, or who holds back deserved rebuke from cowardice, is more cruel than if he withheld from us an indispensable medicine simply because it had a bitter taste. For if we will not take the unpleasant draught from the hand that we have clasped in friendship, we are not likely to find it more pleasant when administered by a stranger, much less by an enemy. And if a wound is to be probed it is surely better for the patient that it should be done by a skilful and tender hand than by one who has no sympathy with us and no acquaintance with our inner life. And as it is certain that those who do not love us will either rebuke us for our faults or despise us on account of them, the real friend is he who, by a loving faithfulness, strives to rid us of them. What would have become of David if Nathan had lacked the courage to say to him, "Thou art the man."

II. Such a true friend is the most refreshing and invigorating influence that can bless our life. Setting aside the blessing and strength which come to man direct from his Father in heaven, there is no source whence he can derive so much help and comfort as from the hearty sympathy and sound advice of a real friend. They are like the anointing oil and perfume which refresh the weary Eastern traveller at the end of his day's journey, removing the traces of toil and the sense of fatigue, and putting new life into every limb. Life is a dusty, toilsome highway for most men, and they sorely stand in need of some soothing and renewing influence as they pursue the journey. And this, Solomon assures us—and experience confirms his assurance—is to be found in hearty friendship.

III. The cultivation and retention of such friends should be one of the aims of life. Seeing that there is no other means by which we are so likely to get a true acquaintance with ourselves, and no other earthly influence which is so likely at once to elevate and console us, we ought to try and make real friends and be faithful to our friendships after they are formed. And especially we ought ever gratefully to remember the friends of our youth—those who gave us help and counsel when we most needed them, and to whose faithfulness and forbearance we probably owe far more than we can ever rightly estimate. There is a proneness in the youth as he rises into manhood, and is probably removed from early associations and lifted into a higher social sphere, to forget his earliest and truest friend, but the truly wise and honourable man will count fidelity to such a sacred duty.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . Many indeed profess their value for a true friend; and yet in the most valuable discharge of friendship, they "count him their enemy." The apostle had some just apprehension on this account, though so wise and affectionate, and speaking from the mouth of God. (Gal 4:12-16). As if the rule of friendship was, that we should absolutely "please," without reference to the Divine restriction—"for good to edification." (Rom 15:2). Christian faithfulness is the only way of acting up to our profession. And much guilt lies upon the conscience in the neglect. But this open rebuke must not contravene the express rule of love—"telling the fault between thee and him alone." Too often, instead of pouring it secretly into our brother's ear, it is proclaimed through the wide medium of the world's ear, and thus it passes through a multitude of channels before it reaches its one proper destination. The openness of the rebuke describes the free and unreserved sincerity of the heart, not necessarily the public exposure of the offender; save when the character of the offence, or the interests of others, may appear to demand it. (1Ti 5:20).—Bridges.

This is that false love which really injures its object; and which, on this account,—that is, from its injurious tendency, how little soever designed, gets in the Scriptures the designation of hatred: "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." (Lev ).—Wardlaw.

Pro . The best physic for man is man. For friendship is a kind of life to man, without which there is no comfort of a man's life. Friendship is in men a kind of step to God, and by means of love man draweth near to God, when, as from being the friend of man, he is made the friend of God. But as among the Jews there was no oil that did so rejoice the heart as that wherewith the kings were anointed; no perfume that did so delight the soul as that which the priest offered; in like manner as there is no friend so sweet as God, so there is no counsel that doth so glad the soul, so cheer the heart, as that which He giveth in His word, whereby we are made even kings and priests unto him.—Jermin.

The heartiness of a friend's counsel constitutes its excellence. It is not official, or merely intelligent. It is the counsel of his soul.—Bridges.

Pro . "Neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity." This has certainly the appearance of a very strange advice. Whither, in the day of our calamity, should we go, if not to the house of a brother? Where are we to expect a kind reception, and the comfort we require, if not there? But the proverb, like all others, must be understood generally, and applied in the circumstances and the sense obviously and mainly designed. The meaning seems to be either—

1. Do not choose "the day of thy calamity" for making thy visit, if thou hast not shown the same inclination to court and cultivate intimacy before, in the day of thy success and prosperity. This unavoidably looks not like the impulse of affection, but of felt necessity, or convenience and self-interest: "Ay, ay," your brother will be naturally apt to say, "I saw little of you before: you are fain to come to me now, when you feel your need of me, and fancy I may be of some service to you." Or,

2. Let not sympathy be forced and extorted. "In the day of thy calamity," if thy brother has the heart of a brother, and really feels for thee, he will come to thee; he will seek and find thee. If he does not, then do not press yourself upon his notice, as if you would constrain and oblige him to be kind. This may, and probably will, have the effect of disgusting and alienating him, rather than gaining his love. Love and sympathy must be unconstrained as well as unbought. When they are either got by a bribe, or got by dint of urgent solicitation, they are alike heartless, and alike worthless. The reason is—"For better is a neighbour that is near, than a brother far off. The antithetical phrases "at hand" and "far off," have evident reference here, not to locality, but to disposition. A friendly and kindly-disposed neighbour, who bears no relation to us save that of neighbourhood, is greatly preferable to a brother—to any near relation whatever that is cold, distant, and alienated.—Wardlaw.

The proverbial sense is, that better is a lesser comfort which is ready at hand, than a greater solace which we must go to seek after.—Jermin.

Pro . It is an excellent description of a notorious flatterer, and a just denunciation of his due reward. First, he blesseth with a loud voice, as if he wanted breath and sides to set out the praises of his friend, and as if he would not only awaken him with the news of it but many others also with the loudness of it. Secondly, he doth it rising early, as if it were some main and principal business which he had to do, and wherein he would show himself more forward than any others. Thirdly, he doth it in the morning, as if he would bless his friend before he blessed God, or rather would make him his God by offering his sacrifice of praise unto him.—Jermin.


Verse 17

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Stuart and Noyes find here the idea of provocation. But most critics take the ordinary view. Miller translates "Iron is welded by iron; so, for a man, the tie is the face of a friend."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A SOCIAL WHETSTONE

I. This proverb may be applied to men's general intercourse with each other. It is needful for a man to mingle with his fellow-creatures in order to have his faculties and capacities developed and fitted for action. Social intercourse is stimulating to the mind and refreshing to the spiritual nature, and is indeed indispensable to our happiness and usefulness. "A man by himself," says Muffet, "is no man—he is dull, he is very blunt; but if his fellow come and quicken him by his presence, speech, and example, he is so whetted on by this means that he is much more skilful, comfortable, and better than when he was alone." The human countenance, as the organ by which the soul of one man makes its presence felt by another, has a quickening influence even when no words are uttered, and this general friction of soul with soul preserves men from intellectual dulness and spiritual apathy.

II. It is especially applicable to intercourse with those whom we know and love. Above and beyond the general need of man to have constant intercourse with man, there are times and seasons when the face of a friend is especially helpful. The sword that has seen much hard service must come in contact with another steel instrument to restore its edge. The ploughshare that has pushed its way through hard and stony ground must be fitted for more work by friction with a whetstone, and the axe, after it has felled many trees, must be subjected to a similar process. So the intellectual and spiritual nature of man becomes at times in need of a stimulus from without which may fitly be compared with this sharpening of iron by iron. Hard mental toil, contact with uncongenial persons and things, disappointments, and even great spiritual emotions, have a tendency to exhaust our energies and depress our spirits, and render us for a time indisposed to exertion, and perhaps incapable of it. In such a condition a look of sympathy and encouragement from one who understands us is very serviceable indeed, and has power to arouse within us fresh hope, and therefore new life for renewed action.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

As you can only sharpen iron by iron, you can only sharpen souls by souls. Neither dead matter, however majestic in aspect or thunderous in melody, nor irrational life, however graceful in form or mighty in force, can sharpen a blunted soul. Mind alone can quicken mind; it is in all cases the spirit that quickeneth.—Dr. David Thomas.

Iron is welded by iron. (This is Miller's rendering.) That is, we must bring a "face" of "iron" (not of tin, or brass, or wood, but, by the very necessities of its nature, of iron), and strictly a face of it, so that face may meet face (as of the water in the 19th verse), or they cannot run or mould themselves together. Fit a face of iron, red hot, to a face of iron, also hot, and force them hard upon each other, and thus you weld them. Bring a man face to face with his neighbour, and let them be warmed by a common taste, and, though one of them be God Himself, this will weld them.—Miller.

We owe some of the most valuable discoveries of science to this active reciprocity. Useful hints were thrown out, which have issued in the opening of large fields of hitherto unexplored knowledge. The commanding word in the field of battle puts a keen edge upon the iron. (2Sa ). The mutual excitation for evil is a solemn warning against "evil communications." But most refreshing is it, when, as in the dark ages of the Church, "they that feared the Lord spake often one to another." Sharpening indeed must have been the intercourse at Emmaus, when "the hearts of the disciples burned within them." The apostle was often so invigorated by the countenance of his friends, that he longed to be "somewhat filled with their company." Upon this principle—"Two are better than one"—our Lord sent His first preachers to their work. And the first Divine ordination in the Christian Church was after this precedent. (Act 13:2-4.)—Bridges.

The countenance of a friend is a wonderful work of God. It is a work as great and good as a sun in the heavens; and verily, He who spread it out and bade it shine did not intend that it should be covered by a pall.… He intends that it should shine upon hearts that have grown dark and cold.… The human countenance—oh, thou possessor of the treasure, never prostitute that gift of God! If you could, and should pluck down these greater and lesser lights that shine in purity from heaven, and trail them through the mire, you would be ashamed as one who had put out the eyes and marred the beauty of creation. Equal shame and sin are his who takes this terrestrial sun—blithe, bright, sparkling countenance—and with it fascinates his fellow into the old serpent's filthy folds.—Arnot.


Verse 18

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE REWARD OF SERVICE

I. The reward of the servant of nature. The fig-tree may here be taken as typical of all that the earth produces for the sustenance of man. God has ordained that man shall be a co-worker with Himself in making the earth fruitful. If He gives the life to the herb or the tree, and sends the sun and the rain to quicken and nourish it, man must give his service too. It is his business to prepare the soil, to tend the God-given life, and to protect it as far as possible from all adverse influences. And this being done, some reward is certain. There will be cases of individual and occasional failure, but fruit for service is the rule in the kingdom of nature.

II. The reward of service rendered to man. Although the word servant is now obnoxious to many ears, we do well to remember the estimate which God puts upon faithful service and the important place which it holds in the world. He who served us unto death left this command on record, "Whosoever will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all" (Mar ), and a little consideration will convince us that the whole of human society is knit together by service. In one sense, all true men and women, however high their position, are servants to others. The good monarch and the faithful statesman are servants to their nation as truly as men and women in more lowly stations are servants to individual masters. It is, however, doubtless to these latter that the wise man here refers, and faithful service rendered by them in their small sphere is as much esteemed by God as the service of the greater and more gifted. Those who serve "as to the Lord, and not unto men," shall "of the Lord receive the reward of the inheritance," says Paul (Col 3:22-24). Honour shall be awarded by God, not in proportion to the kind of service rendered, but in proportion to the spirit in which it is performed, and this fruit of faithful service will never fail. And, as a rule, esteem and gratitude from the earthly master will also be rendered.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

All sorts of inferiors, then, as both servants and subjects, must make this reckoning and account of their superiors and rulers, that they are unto them their peculiar charge, whereon they must attend, and the special hope of their honour and preferment. They must therefore think and say thus with themselves: Surely this is the fig-tree that I must watch and keep; this is that same olive-tree that I must look unto. I must not suffer this to be spoiled or destroyed. I must not suffer my ruler's goods to be wasted, nor his name to be discredited, nor the gifts of God in him to decay; I must keep his favour, and I must seek his welfare, as much as in me lieth.—Muffet.


Verse 19

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A CORRECT LIKENESS

I. A mirror in which we may see the reflection of the hearts of others. All the knowledge that we have of our own personal appearance is gained by means of some reflecting surface. We can only look upon ourselves indirectly, and it is quite possible that every person who looks upon us has a juster conception of our appearance than we ourselves have. If there were no substances which could serve as mirrors, a man must always remain ignorant as to those peculiarities of feature which distinguish him from every other person on the face of the earth. But none are destitute of nature's looking-glass—the stream or lake, or even a smaller quantity of water, will show a man what he is like as to his exterior. And by means of a medium we can gain much knowledge concerning the inner life of our human brothers and sisters. As we may gain a good idea of our own face by seeing its reflection in water, so we may form a fairly correct estimate of the feelings and hopes and desires of others by studying our own. After making allowance for many differences upon the surface dependent upon differences of temperament, and education, and circumstances, we shall be safe in concluding that in the depths of the human soul there are spots which form a common meeting-ground for all mankind.

II. A means by which we may gain the hearts of others. We cannot plead ignorance of the way to our brother's heart. We must not conclude, because in outward expression he differs from us, we have therefore nothing in common, no clue to what is passing within his breast. If we call to mind how we felt in like circumstances, or try to imagine how we should feel if we were in his place, we shall hardly fail to form some idea of his feelings, and shall therefore be able so to regulate our behaviour towards him as in some measure to supply his soul needs.

(There are other interpretations of this verse, for which we refer to the Comments.)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Here is one of the foundations on which that rule is built of doing to others as we would be done by (Exo .) … One corrupt heart is like another, and so is one sanctified heart, for the former bears the same image of the earthy, the latter the same image of the heavenly.—Henry.

The proverb may be regarded as expressing reciprocity of soul. It may mean this: that just as the water will give back to you the exact expression which you gave to it—the frown or the smile, the hideous or the pleasing—so human hearts will treat you as you treat them. "With what measure you mete it shall be measured to you again." This is true—manifestly true; kindness begets kindness, anger anger, justice justice, fraud fraud, the world through—Dr. David Thomas.

In the world we see our own hearts embowelled; and there we can learn what ourselves are at the cost of other men's sins.—Bp. Hopkins.

As in the outline water trembles, and is uncertain, so also are hearts. The lesson is: Trust not!—Luther.

No man knoweth or showeth the spirit of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him. The water, as a certain glass, somewhat dim indeed, but very true, representeth the countenance therein imprinted unto the countenance that beholdeth the same; even so the heart sheweth man to man; that is to say, the mind and the conscience of every man telleth him justly, though not perfectly, what he is, as whether he be good or evil, in God's favour or out of the same; for the conscience will not lie, but accuse or excuse a man, being instead of a thousand witnesses.… As water that is troubled representeth the visage amiss, so a troubled or polluted mind may sometimes wrongly shew to a man the estate wherein he standeth. But if the soul be not wholly corrupt and the conscience seared as with a hot iron, it will declare to a man his condition rightly, though not peradventure fully in all respects.—Muffet.


Verse 20

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Hell and destruction, rather "the world of the dead." Eyes. Some understand the reference to be to the insatiableness of human passion.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

INSATIABILITY

I. A destructive force always in operation. Ever since the earth closed over the first dead body, it has been constantly opening to receive those whom death has made ready for the grave, and to-day this terrible and remorseless destroyer is as busy in our midst as ever. And we know that it will be so to the end of time; while the present dispensation lasts, men will never be able to say that death has ceased to claim the mortal part of man, or that the last grave has been dug in the vast graveyard of the world. This is a most melancholy stand-point from which to view man and his destiny. If all the human race lived to a good old age, and went down to their last earthly resting-place like a shock of corn fully ripe, death would still be a dark and dreary thing, looked at by itself, but it becomes much more appalling when it strikes men and women in the prime of life, and carries them off, often without warning, from the place where they seemed so much needed, and to which they were bound by so many ties.

II. A faculty of man always at work. The eye of man is simply an organ by which knowledge is conveyed to his mind. And his appetite for fresh mental food is not lessened by that which he has received in the past—on the contrary, it is quickened and whetted in proportion to the supply, for while an ignorant, man is often content in his ignorance, the man who has learned most is generally the most eager to learn more. And this passion in man for knowledge is not quenched by the certain consciousness he possesses that one day he must, that to-morrow he may, quit the scene of his investigations, and end his search after truth under his present conditions. Surely if men did not instinctively feel that this life is not the only one, their desire after constant intellectual growth would not be so ardent. If there was not that within them that told them that death would not end their opportunities of growing in knowledge, the contemplation of the shortness of life would paralyze the acquisitive faculty of men. But we take the strength and universality of this undying desire of man as an argument for his existence after death and the grave have taken possession of the material house in which he lived and laboured on the earth.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The eye is the avenue of growth. That growth will be eternal.… It will take in more and more and raise or sink us through eternal ages.… The terms here used are used elsewhere for anything insatiate (chap. Pro ). Solomon describes a great psychological law, that the mind by its very nature sees, and by all its seeings will grow, either in one way or the other.—Miller.

The eyes, by a very natural figure, are put for the desires. Upon that which is the object of our desire, we fix our eyes; and that with an intensity of settled eagerness proportioned to the degree of the desire (chap. Pro ). The meaning, then, is not merely that the sense of sight never has enough of its own peculiar enjoyments, but that the desire that is by the eye expressed is never satisfied by any amount of present gratification. The desires of men are insatiable. They set their hearts on some particular object, and long for its attainment. They fix in their mind some point of advancement in the acquisition of the world,—some measure of wealth, or of power which they think, if once realised, would satisfy them to the full. They get what they want; but they still long as before. There is ever something unattained. Having gained the summit of one eminence, they see another above it; and as they mount, their views widen and their conceptions and wishes amplify, and still more is required to fill them.—Wardlaw.

The meaning of the second clause as indicated by this parallel cannot be doubtful. It relates to the really demoniacal insatiableness of human passion, especially "the lust of the eyes." (Comp. 1Jn ; Jas 3:6; and in particular Pro 30:16; Ecc 1:8.)—Zöckler.


Verse 21-22

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . A man to his praise. Delitzsch understands the meaning to be that a man is valued according to the measure of public opinion. Ewald, Hitzig, and others, coincide with Zckler's rendering, "A man according to his glorying," i.e., "One is judged according to the standard of that which he makes his boast."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A CRUCIBLE FOR CHARACTER

Although the second interpretation of this proverb given in the Critical Notes is very generally adopted, it will very well bear the other construction given below, which is indeed adopted by many expositors.

I. Praise received is a test of character. Many moralists think that it is more difficult to pass uninjured through "good report" than through "evil report." Dr. Payson reckons "well meant but injudicious commendations" a source of temptation to him, and we do certainly often meet men possessing many good qualities whom popularity seems to have injured. But all men who have any striking intellectual gifts or moral excellencies will be subject to this refiner's fire, and if they pass through it uninjured they will prove that they are made of very pure metal. As we remarked on page 725, merit will win praise, and therefore every deserving man will be more or less subject to this test, and his conduct and bearing under it will reveal the real character of his motives and the strength of his principles. In proportion as his actions have been disinterested and his aims pure and unselfish, in the same proportion will he be able to bear praise. If he is a truly humble man—if he has a right sense of his dependence on God and a consciousness of his own shortcomings—the praise of his fellow-creatures will only make him strive to be more deserving of it; but if there is any alloy of baser metal mixed with the gold and silver of his character, such an ordeal will be very likely to reveal it.

II. Praise given is a test of character. That upon which a man bestows praise reveals the standard by which he rules his life. Men praise that which they value, and there cannot therefore be a better revelation of their moral condition. A man who praises the action of another, irrespective of its moral character, shows that he attaches little value to goodness, while he who praises a bad action proclaims himself a lover of sin. On the other hand, commendation bestowed upon good deeds and godly men at least indicates a preference for what is good, which one may hope will be manifested not only in word but also in deed.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

1. It may express what every man, with reference to the praise bestowed upon him, ought to do:—that is, he ought to do with it what the "fining-pot" does to the "silver," and the "furnace to the gold." He should try it well. There is a deal of dross frequently in it; and men are apt to be fonder of the dross, in some of its appearances, than of the sterling metal. The process of refining should in this case be very cautiously pursued: just as a chemist, if anxious for the correct result of an experiment with the crucible, will be the more careful in making it, in proportion as he is conscious of any leaning towards a particular theory,—lest this should bias his mind and put him off his guard.

2. "A man is to his praise what the fining pot is to silver, aud the furnace is to gold," because a man's conduct actually does put to the test the commendation bestowed upon him. That conduct is like "the fining-pot" and "the furnace" to it, in regard to the estimate formed of it by others. His behaviour detects whether it be or be not just and merited. Commendation naturally excites notice. All eyes are on the man who elicits applause, to ascertain if the applause be well-founded. In this way the commendation is put to the test; and the man himself is the tester;—proving or disproving the justice of the character given him.—Wardlaw.

As praise is due to worth, so it is the tryer and refiner of worth. For as silver is melted in the fining pot, and gold in the furnace; so is the heart of man even melted with joy in the furnace of praise. And as those metals which have least solidity are soonest melted, so where there is least of the solidity of worth, there the heart is soonest melted with praise. And as in the furnace the light matter is blown away into smoke and vapour; so by praise a light heart is quickly blown up, and vainly transported and carried away with it. But as the silver and the gold are made the finer and the purer by the furnace, so true worth is ennobled and made the richer by just praise ascribed to it. For he that hath worth in him, the more he is praised the more will he endeavour to deserve it, and by praise seeing what is dross in himself, will by his care purge it out, and cast it away.—Jermin.

The thought in Pro is but a repetition of a thought which has often occurred before, as for instance in chaps. Pro 17:10 and Pro 19:29. See pages 509 and 510, also page 581.


Verses 23-27

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro

MODEL FARMING

These words were especially applicable to the Israelitish people in their early history, when every family lived upon its own domain and found all its simple wants supplied by the produce of the land and the cattle which fed upon it. This paragraph deals—

I. With the duties of such a life. Solomon has several times before given exhortations to diligence in labour, but here he seems rather to enforce the necessity of diligent and constant supervision on the part of the master and owner of the land. He is not addressing a hired servant, but one who is a landed proprietor and has flocks and herds of his own. If a man in so highly favoured a position desires to reap all its benefits he must diligently superintend all whom he employs and set them a good example of industry and perseverance. He must not be content to leave these things to hirelings, but must give such close attention to all that is going on in his domain as to be able intelligently to guide all the varied engagements which follow one another as one season succeeds the other. No man ought to consider this an unworthy employment of his mental powers, and he who does so would do well to remember that the cultivation of the soil was the employment which God gave to man when He first created him in His own image. As an incentive to industry in this direction the proverb contains a reminder of the uncertainty of riches—it is unwise of any man to be wholly dependent upon a fortune made in the past and to have no resource in case of its loss.

II. It sets forth the rewards attached to the performance of such duties. There is first the supply of the necessaries of life. Luxuries are not promised, but it is implied that simple food and clothing will not be wanting; and a sufficiency of these is all that is really needful to man's comfort. But there is a pleasure in obtaining them in this way which is surely not found in any other calling. The cultivator of the ground escapes much of the monotony found in most other professions, and has pleasures and advantages to which dwellers in the city are strangers. If he is more exposed to the hardships of the winter, the joy of spring—"when the tender grass sheweth itself"—is surely enough to repay him for it, and then follow the varied occupations of summer, one affording relief to the other, until the year is crowned with the "joy of harvest." Surely no mode of life is more favourable to bodily and spiritual health than the one here sketched by the Wise Man.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Solomon tells us, in another place, that the instability and uncertainty of earthly things, after all our care, is a motive to draw off our hearts from them, and to fix our eyes upon nobler objects; but he tells us, in this place, that the perishing nature of earthly things is likewise a reason for bestowing a moderate and lawful share of our attention upon our temporal interests. Lawson.

Pro . The frail condition of fading worldly things is here well expressed, it appeareth only and is cut down. The tender grass sheweth itself, and it is but a shewing, for that being done, it is eaten up presently, being at once, as it were, both seen and devoured. The herbs of the mountain are gathered; their growing is not mentioned as being no sooner grown than gathered, and as being grown for the gathering only.… Wherefore as the careful husbandman looketh to the hay and grass and herbs, and takes them in their time, so is the good spiritual husbandman to consider the short time of worldly contentments, and in their time to use them, at no time to trust in them. As hay and grass and herbs are taken in their season, so it is the season in all things that is to be taken. And, therefore, when the season appeareth, let not thy negligence appear in omitting it; when occasion shows itself, show not thyself careless in apprehending of it; when the fruit of opportunity is to be gathered, climb the mountain speedily.—Jermin.

Pro . In these two verses the wise man dehorteth from wastefulness of apparel, and from excess in diet.… The proverbial sense is, that plainness of apparel keepeth a man's estate warmest; and that a homespun thread in clothing is a strong and lasting thread in the web of a man's worldly fortune, and that a sober and temperate feeding both in himself and family doth best feed the estate of any man, and that the flock of a man thriveth best when he is contented with the nourishment and sustenance that cometh from the flock.—Jermin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 27:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-27.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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