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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Proverbs 15



Verse 3



Proverbs 15:3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

THE omnipresence of the Deity is plain and obvious to all, who have learned to acknowledge the unity of God. The heathens indeed, who worshipped a multitude of gods, assigned to each his proper limits, conceiving that they who could exert their power in the hills, were destitute of power in the neighbouring valleys. But this absurd idea arose from their polytheism; and vanishes the very instant we confess the true God. The Scriptures place this matter beyond a doubt: every page of the inspired volume either expressly asserts the omnipresence of God, or takes it for granted as an unquestionable truth. In the words before us, Solomon not only affirms it, but declares, that God is actively employed throughout the whole universe in inspecting the ways of men.

In discoursing on his words we shall shew,

I. The truth of his assertion—

[One would suppose that reason itself might discern the point in question: for, if God be not every where present, how can he either govern, or judge, the world? His creatures, if removed from the sphere of his observation, would be independent of him: and, if withdrawn from his sight, would cease to feel any responsibility for their actions; since, being ignorant of what they did, he would be altogether unqualified to pass upon them any sentence of condemnation or acquittal.

But, to proceed on surer ground, let us notice the declarations of holy men, and especially of God himself, respecting this point.

If we look into the Old Testament, we shall find, that the testimony of all the prophets is in perfect correspondence with those words of David, “The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts [Note: 1 Chronicles 28:9.].” Sometimes they assert this matter as a thing they know, and are assured of; “I know,” says Job, “that no thought can be withholden from thee [Note: Job 42:2.].” Sometimes, with yet greater energy, they make it a subject of appeal to the whole universe, defying any one to gainsay, or even to doubt, it; “Doth he not see my ways, and count all my steps [Note: Job 31:4.]!” Sometimes they labour to convey this truth under the most impressive images: “His eyes behold, his eye-lids try, the children of men [Note: Psalms 11:4.].”

In the New Testament, the same important truth is inculcated in terms equally clear and energetic. Not to mention mere assertions [Note: John 3:20], or acknowledgments [Note: John 21:17.], that “God knoweth all things,” the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews represents the perfect insight of the Deity into the hearts of men under the image of the sacrifices, which, when flayed and cut down the back-bone, were open to the minutest inspection of the priests: “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do [Note: Hebrews 4:13.].”

But let us now turn our attention to God’s own declarations. He is peculiarly jealous with respect to this attribute. In reference to “places” and “persons,” he says, “Am I a God at hand, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord: do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord [Note: Jeremiah 23:23-24.].” Again, in reference to things that might be supposed most beyond his reach, he says, “I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them [Note: Ezekiel 11:5. Deuteronomy 31:21.].” And when an atheistical world have entertained doubts respecting this, and said, “Thick clouds are a covering to him [Note: Job 22:13-14.];” “he cannot see, he will not regard us;” he has risen with utter indignation to vindicate his injured honour; “Understand ye brutish among the people; and, ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see [Note: Psalms 94:7-9.]?”]

To multiply proofs of so plain a point is needless.

We shall therefore pass on to shew,

II. The concern we have in it—

[Here the text directs and limits our views. “The evil and the good” are objects of his unwearied attention; and consequently, both the one and the other are equally interested in the subject before us.

Let “the evil” then consider their concern in this momentous truth. God views them all, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. If they come up to worship in his sanctuary, he sees their impious mockery, while “they draw nigh to him with their lips, but are far from him in their hearts [Note: Matthew 15:7-8.].” He follows them to their families, and observes all their tempers, dispositions, and conduct. He enters with them into their shops: he inspects their weights and measures; he examines their commodities; he hears their bargains: he marks their deviations from truth and honesty [Note: Micah 6:2; Micah 6:10-12.]. He retires with them to their chambers, and “compasseth about their beds,” (for “the darkness and light to him are both alike”) and notices their every thought [Note: Psalms 139:1-5.]. If they were to go up to heaven, or down to hell, they could not for one moment escape his all-seeing eye [Note: Psalms 139:7-12.].

But for what end does he thus “behold” them? Is he a mere curious or unconcerned spectator? no: “he pondereth all their goings [Note: Proverbs 5:21.],” in order to restrain that excess of wickedness which would militate against his sovereign appointments [Note: Genesis 20:6; Genesis 31:24.]; to confound their daring attempts against his church and people [Note: Exodus 14:24-25. “looked.” and Isaiah 37:28-29.]; to over-rule for the accomplishment of his own purposes the voluntary exercise of their own inveterate corruptions [Note: Psalms 2:1-6.]; and finally to justify himself in the eternal judgments, which he will hereafter inflict upon them [Note: Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 16:17-18 and Psalms 51:4.].

O that the wicked would consider these things, and lay them to heart, while yet they might obtain mercy!

Next let “the good” consider their concern also in this truth. “God’s eye is on them also: and his ear is open to their prayers [Note: Psalms 34:15.].” He meets them in his house of prayer [Note: Isaiah 64:5. Matthew 18:20.]: if there were but one broken-hearted sinner in the midst of a whole congregation, God would fix his eye in a more especial manner upon him [Note: Isaiah 66:2.]. When they go forth into the world, he follows them as closely as their shadow [Note: Joshua 1:9. with Hebrews 13:5-6.], When they retire to their secret chamber, he “draws nigh to them [Note: James 4:8.],” and “manifests himself to them as he does not unto the world [Note: John 14:22.].”

And wherefore is all this solicitude about such unworthy creatures? wherefore is all this attention to their concerns? “Hear, O heavens; and be astonished. O earth.” God has deigned to inform us on this subject, and to declare, that he “beholds the good,” to protect them in danger [Note: 2 Chronicles 16:9. Psalms 121:5-7.]; to comfort them in trouble [Note: Psalms 41:1; Psalms 41:3.]: to supply their wants [Note: Psalms 33:18-19; Psalms 34:9-10.]; to over-rule for good their multiplied afflictions [Note: Malachi 3:3. “as a refiner.” Job 23:10. with John 15:2.]; lastly, he notices them, to observe the workings of his grace in them [Note: Hosea 14:8. Jeremiah 31:18; Jeremiah 31:20.], in order that he may proclaim before the assembled universe the secret exercises of piety in their hearts [Note: Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:18.], and give a lively demonstration to all, that in exalting them to a participation of his glory, he acts agreeably to the immutable dictates of justice and equity [Note: Romans 2:5-7. “righteous judgment.”].

Let the righteous then “set the Lord always before them [Note: Psalms 16:8. See also Matthew 25:35-36; Matthew 25:46.].” Let them “walk circumspectly,” that they may not grieve him [Note: Exodus 23:20-21.]; and actively, that they may please him well in all things [Note: Colossians 1:10.]: and, whatever difficulties they may have to contend with, let them proceed boldly, and “endure, as seeing him that is invisible [Note: Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:13-14. Hebrews 11:27.].”]

Verse 8



Proverbs 15:8. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.

THE language of Scripture is often extraordinarily emphatic. This not unfrequently arises from the strength of the metaphors that are used to express the mind of the writer: and frequently from his speaking of God in terms, which, in their strict sense, are applicable only to men. Of course, we are not to conceive of God as possessing either parts or passions; and when either the one or the other are ascribed to him, we must regard it only as a condescension to our weakness, which is incapable of comprehending any thing respecting God, except by a sort of comparison of him with man. Of all his natural perfections, such as immensity and eternity, we know nothing at all: that is to say, our knowledge is merely negative. And respecting his moral perfections, as justice, mercy, truth, we know as little, except as we transfer to him the notions which we have formed of such perfections as exist in the human mind. We associate very distinct ideas with those attributes as applied to man: and by the help of those terms we express what we conceive to regulate the actions of God in the moral government of the universe. In like manner, when we speak of any thing being “an abomination” or “a delight” to God, we mean only, that he will act in reference to that thing as we should towards any thing which excited such feelings in our minds. This is clearly understood by all. No man needs to be informed, that God is not susceptible of such feelings, or capable of those emotions which such feelings import: we therefore, in conformity with Scripture, shall proceed to speak of God in the same figurative language: and we pray God that your minds may be suitably impressed by it, whilst we consider,

I. The truths here asserted—

1. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord”—

[Where so strong an assertion is used in reference to any character, it is obvious, that we ought to understand, very clearly and distinctly, who they are that are designated by that character. For instance, suppose that under this general term. “the wicked,” we were to comprehend those only who are grossly and openly immoral, we should release all others from any participation in the feelings which the assertion respecting them is intended to create. But this we cannot do: for Solomon himself has accurately defined the character which he is here speaking of: and after defining it, has annexed to that very definition the same declaration as occurs in my text: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even HIS prayer shall be abomination [Note: Proverbs 28:9.].” You will observe then, that the wicked is one who is inattentive to the commands of God in his word, and averse to comply with the requisitions of his Law and of his Gospel [Note: This distinction should be more fully opened, in order that all may know how deeply they are interested in what follows.] — — —

Now such an one, even though he be guilty of no flagrant sins, is an abomination to the Lord. The rebellious state of his mind is most offensive to God: and therefore every thing that he does is hateful to him: “A high look, and a proud heart, and even the ploughing of the wicked, is sin [Note: Proverbs 21:4.].” No act can be more innocent than that of ploughing: but the most innocent acts of such a person participate in the guilt of his general state and habit of mind.

His most religious acts too are hateful to God: his very “sacrifices” are an abomination. In the first chapter of Isaiah’s prophecies, the Jews are represented as bringing the offerings appointed by the Law, as bringing the best too, and in great number, and at the seasons ordained by God himself: and as accompanying those sacrifices with fervent prayer; and yet as being, at the same time, objects of God’s utter abhorrence, because their conduct was altogether at variance with their professions [Note: Isaiah 1:11-13.]. In another chapter he speaks of them as “taking delight in approaching to God,” and as abounding in the self-denying exercises of fasting and prayer; and yet as altogether hateful in his sight [Note: Isaiah 58:2.]. The prophet Amos speaks strongly to the same effect [Note: Amos 5:21-23. This and the two preceding quotations should be recited at full length, and with the emphasis due to them.]. To what an extent the services of such persons are abhorred, God himself has told us: “He that killeth an ox, is as if he slew a man: he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck: he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood: he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol.” I pray you, Brethren, to mark these expressions, and to apply them to yourselves whilst living in an unhumbled and unconverted state: for, “whilst you regard any iniquity in your heart, the Lord will not hear you [Note: Psalms 66:18.]: your very prayers are turned into sin.]

2. “But the prayer of the upright is God’s delight”—

[”The upright” is he who truly and unfeignedly gives himself up to God, to be saved in his appointed way, — — —and to serve him with a pure heart and mind — — — Of such an one God approves: and both his person and his services are accepted of him: “The prayer of such an one is God’s delight.” In itself it may be no more than a few broken accents, or a desire expressed only in sighs and groans: but it enters into the ears of the Lord of Hosts, and shall be answered by him to the full extent of its import. It is, in reality, the voice of his own Spirit in the suppliant: and as “he knows the mind of the Spirit,” so he cannot but delight in every petition that is dictated by him [Note: Romans 8:26-27.]. Besides, in the prayer of the upright there are dispositions exercised, which are “in the sight of God of great price [Note: 1 Peter 3:4.]” The suppliant himself perhaps is mourning as though he could never hope for acceptance: but God listens to him with unspeakable delight: he loves “the prayer that goeth not out of feigned lips [Note: Psalms 17:1.]:” above all, he delights in the prayer of the upright, because it gives scope for the exerclse of love and mercy towards the poor suppliant, and for a rich communication of all spiritual blessings to his soul. God “will be inquired of by his people [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.],” before he will impart to them his promised blessings: and the moment they do pray to him, he is like a mother that hears the cry of her beloved infant, whom she instantly presses to her bosom, and in administering to whose necessities she finds relief, as it were, to her own soul. See this exemplified in his dealings with repenting Ephraim: “Surely I have heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus: Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.” “Is not Ephraim my dear son? is he not a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: yea, my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord [Note: Jeremiah 31:18; Jeremiah 31:20.].” Here we see a true picture of what every upright soul shall experience. Let us only be “Israelites indeed, and without guile, and our blessed Saviour will see us under the fig-tree,” or in our most secret retirements, and visit us in due season with the most endearing expressions of his love. [Note: John 1:47-51.].]

Such are the truths asserted in our text. We now proceed to suggest,

II. Some obvious deductions from them—

From these truths it is evident,

1. That God’s views of sin are widely different from those of men—

[Men, if free from gross sin, imagine, that they have little cause for self-reproach. They see no evil in the general course of this world: the pleasures, the gaieties, the amusements of it, are all accounted innocent; and if a man perform respectably the different offices of social life, they think he has nothing to apprehend in the eternal world. But “God’s thoughts are widely different from theirs.” We will suppose, for argument sake, that there is nothing flagrantly sinful in conviviality, and a round of pleasurable amusements; yet inasmuch as such a state argues a departure of the soul from God, and strengthens its habit of rebellion against him, it is highly sinful: and should be so esteemed by all who would not deceive their own souls. For, if the very best actions of such persons are hateful to God, if the very sacrifices with which they attempt to honour him are an abomination in his sight, what must those actions be which have no respect to him, but which tend to banish him from their thoughts, and from the world? I tell you, Brethren, that “to walk according to the course of this world, is to walk according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience [Note: Ephesians 2:2.].” You cannot be of the world and of Jesus Christ at the same time [Note: John 17:14; John 17:16.]: “you cannot serve God and Mammon too [Note: Matthew 6:24.].” You may as well imagine light can have communion with darkness, and Christ with Belial, as that a person truly “upright” and believing, can find pleasure in the society of “the wicked” and unbelieving [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.]. “The friendship of the world is” essentially, as well as constructively, a state of enmity against God [Note: James 4:4.].” Whatever therefore may be pleaded in extenuation of those habits in which the more respectable part of the world are living, they are all, whether social or personal, civil or religious, one continued act of sin, as long as the soul continues alienated from God, and not altogether devoted to his fear: and the man who thinks himself safe because he is in a path frequented by the great mass of his fellow-creatures, will find himself fearfully mistaken the moment he comes to the termination of it [Note: Matthew 7:13-14.].]

2. That the provisions of the Gospel are admirably suited to our necessities—

[Here is “a wicked man:” he offers “a sacrifice” to his offended God: that very sacrifice is “an abomination to the Lord. Must the man then be left to perish? No: the Gospel reveals to him a sacrifice which is pleasing and acceptable to God, and which shall avail for the salvation of all who trust in it, even the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, who “presented himself an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour [Note: Ephesians 5:2.].” Again; Man, though originally made upright, has fallen [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:29.], and become utterly averse to God and his law [Note: Romans 8:7.]. As for creating himself anew, he can no more do it than he could create himself at first. Shall he then perish? No: the Gospel proclaims to him a promise from almighty God, that “he will give him a new heart, and renew a right spirit within him [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.];” so that, as the most guilty may be forgiven through the atonement that has been offered for him, so the most polluted may be “transformed into the very image of his God in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Ephesians 4:24.].” Thus may those who were odious as the fallen angels, become us accepted and as happy as the angels that have never sinned. O! Brethren, when will you study this blessed Gospel? when will you search into it, to find a remedy for your diseases, and a supply for your wants? Behold it is “a fountain opened,” and ever flowing for the relief of sinful man: and every sinner in the universe is invited to “come and drink of it without money and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1-3. John 7:37-39.].” I would that you should no longer be “an abomination” to your God! I would that he should look upon you with “delight,” yea, that he should “rejoice over you with joy, and rest in his love, and joy over you with singing [Note: Zephaniah 3:17.]!”]

3. That by the heart, and not by the mere acts, will God form his estimate of us in the last day—

[I know that our actions will be brought into judgment, and be adduced as evidences of our state before God, and as grounds of the sentence that shall be passed upon us. But it is not merely as acts that they will be either rewarded or punished; but as evidences of the real state of our souls. Even in human judicatories the object inquired into is, the intent of the mind. It is malice prepense that constitutes murder: where that did not exist, the act of killing is not accounted murder: but where that manifestly did exist, there the attempt to kill, though unsuccessful, has the penalty of murder attached to it. Thus at the bar of judgment, the sacrifices of a wicked man, how numerous or costly soever they were, will be regarded as of no value: whilst the mere sighing of an upright soul shall not lose its reward. Let that then which is chiefly marked by God, be chiefly attended to by us. Let us endeavour to get our “hearts right before God.” Let us remember, that, whether evidenced by overt acts or not, he can discern its real state: for “he searcheth the heart and trieth the reins [Note: Jeremiah 17:10.].” “To him all things are naked and opened [Note: Hebrews 4:13.];” as the sacrifices of old, when flayed and cut open, were to the eye of the priest who inspected them. “Hell and destruction are before him: how much more then the hearts of the children of men [Note: ver. 11.]!” “He weigheth the spirits [Note: Proverbs 16:2.],” and discerns exactly how much there is of every different motive that may operate to the production of every act. Watch, therefore, and examine carefully the state of your own hearts: and as “he requireth truth in the inward parts [Note: Psalms 51:6.],” cease not to pray day and night, that, being “perfect and upright before him,” you may have light in darkness [Note: Psalms 112:4.], peace in death [Note: Psalms 37:37.], and glory in eternity [Note: Psalms 140:13.].]

Verse 32



Proverbs 15:32. He that refuseth instruction, despiseth his own soul.

THE Scriptures speak plainly, and represent things as they really are. Perhaps there is no man that would acknowledge he despised God: yet does God lay that sin to the charge of all who question his retributive justice: “Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God, while he doth say in his heart, Thou wilt not require it [Note: Psalms 10:13.]?” So none would confess that they “despise their own souls:” yet is that the real character of all who refuse the instruction which God sends to them by his written word, and by the ministration of his faithful servants. And this will appear, if we consider,

I. The need that every man has of divine instruction—

Much may be known to man from sensation and reflection: he may gather much from observation and experience, and the mere force of reasoning, without any revelation from heaven: but without divine instruction,

1. He can never know the extent of his wants—

[He cannot know his fall in Adam, or the depravity of his fallen nature, or his utter incapacity to restore himself to God’s favour. If told that “his carnal mind is enmity against God,” and that “without Christ he can do nothing,” and that God alone can give him either to will or to do any thing agreeable to the divine command, he would think it all a libel upon human nature. It is revelation alone that can give him any just views on these subjects — — —]

2. He can still less know how those wants are to be supplied—

[Who could ever have thought that God himself should become incarnate, and live and die for the express purpose of supplying the necessities of his fallen creatures? Who could ever have imagined that God’s righteousness should be imputed to man? and that the Spirit of the living God should ever dwell in man, for the purpose of revealing the Saviour to him, and of imparting to him the divine image? A man not instructed in these things can know nothing about them. They are all matters of pure revelation, and directly contrary to those methods of salvation which uninstructed man would have adopted for himself — — —]

3. He can never avail himself of those offers which God has made to him in the Gospel—

[In the Holy Scriptures are contained “exceeding great and precious promises,” yea, promises confirmed by an oath, and ratified by an everlasting covenant. These promises relate to every want of fallen man, and make over to him a supply of every want by the simple exercise of faith on the part of man. How can the unenlightened man obtain an interest in these? How is it possible for him to lay hold of them, and rest upon them, and plead them before God, when he has never been instructed in relation to them? — — — It is obvious, that without divine instruction he must for ever lie under the guilt and power of his sins, and endure the punishment due to his unrepented and unpardoned transgressions.]

What then must be,

II. The light in which he must be viewed, who refuses instruction?

We use by no means too strong an expression, if we say, “He despises his own soul.” For,

1. He grievously underrates its value—

[Who can estimate the value of an immortal soul, a soul capable of knowing, honouring, and enjoying, the Most High God: and actually assured of that honour, if only it obtain the knowledge of Christ, and repose all its confidence in him? But, to judge of its value aright, we must take into account the love that God has borne towards it, and the price which our adorable Lord and Saviour has paid for its redemption. Contemplate its nature and its capacity, its estimation by God, and its eternal destinies: and then say. Whether the man who refuses the instruction whereby he is to be made happy, does not altogether betray an ignorance of its true value? — — —]

2. He shamefully disregards its interests—

[Without an attention to the concerns of the soul, it is in vain to hope that it can ever be happy in the eternal world. The man that refuses divine instruction, does in reality inflict upon his soul the heaviest judgment that it can sustain in this life: he says, in fact, ‘Let me alone, that I may go on to increase my guilt, and “treasure up for myself wrath against the day of wrath.” ’ What would be thought of a man who should so trifle with his temporal interests? Would there be any term of reproach too harsh or too contemptuous whereby to designate so foolish a character? What, then, must we say of a man who so neglects the interests of his soul? — — —]

3. He casts it away for a thing of nought—

[Give to sensual gratifications all the importance you will, they are only as the small dust upon the balance when weighed against the soul. Yet for these does the man who refuses instruction sell his soul. Truly, if Esau “despised his birthright,” when he “sold it for a mess of pottage [Note: Genesis 25:34.],” much more do they pour contempt upon their own souls, who, for any consideration whatever, abandon all reasonable hopes of heaven, and subject themselves to the infliction of everlasting misery in hell — — —]


1. Avail yourselves now of the opportunities that are afforded you—

[There has been declared unto you from time to time, so far as I have been enabled to declare it, “the whole counsel of God.” Think what improvement you have made of these instructions — — — and what will be your reflections in the eternal world, if you reject them [Note: Proverbs 5:12-13.] — — — Indeed, whilst disregarding the instructions given you, you greatly “wrong your own souls,” and act as persons that are “in love with death [Note: Proverbs 8:36.].” O that ye may be wise ere it be too late! For, “if they escaped not, who refused Moses who spake on earth, much more shall not ye escape, if ye turn away from him, even the Lord Jesus, who now speaketh to you from heaven [Note: Hebrews 12:25.].”]

2. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves [Note: James 1:22.]”—

[Instruction, if it abide in the understanding only, will be of no profit. To be really useful, it must descend into your hearts, and operate in your lives. Our blessed Lord’s warning upon this subject deserves your deepest attention. I would have you not only wise, but “wise unto salvation.” I would not that you should erect a house upon the sand; and that, after all your labour, it should fall upon your heads, and crush you; but rather, that you should build your house upon a rock, and find it able to shelter you from all the storms and tempests that ever can assault it [Note: Matthew 7:24-27.]. This will shew that “you have real love to your soul [Note: Proverbs 19:8.];” and richly shall you “be recompensed at the resurrection of the just [Note: Proverbs 8:33-35.].”]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 15:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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