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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Proverbs 23



Verse 17-18



Proverbs 23:17-18. Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long: for surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.

THE men of this world, feeling but little restraint from the voice of conscience or the fear of God, gratify, each in his own way, their natural inclinations; and therefore they appear happy: and the people of God, especially under troubles and persecutions for righteousness sake, are almost ready to look upon them with an eye of envy: and, if this world only were considered, and temporal enjoyments were the proper standard of happiness, perhaps they might on the whole be congratulated as possessing a happy and an enviable lot [Note: Psalms 63:3-5.]. But the righteous, under whatever disadvantages they may lie, have no just cause to “envy sinners;” seeing that nothing but disappointment awaits the children of this world; whilst the servants of God, who look forward to heavenly bliss, can never be disappointed of their hope. On this assurance the exhortation in my text is founded; and for the fuller elucidation of the subject, I will set before you,

I. The duty inculcated—

“The fear of the Lord” is, especially in the Old Testament, a common expression, comprehending in its import the whole of practical religion. And when we are bidden to live under its influence “all the day long,” we must understand the precept as enjoining us to maintain, throughout the whole course of our lives,

1. A sense of love to God, as our Father—

[Jehovah, as reconciled to us through the Son of his love, stands in the relation of a Father to us; for all, the very instant they believe in Christ, have “the privilege of becoming the Sons of God [Note: John 1:12.].” Till we come to God by Christ, we have no filial fear of him in our hearts. A slavish fear of him we may have; but we neither have, nor can have, “a Spirit of adoption, emboldening us to call him Father:” for “the Holy Spirit can never bear witness with our spirit, that we are the Lord’s [Note: Romans 8:15-16.],” till we are made his by faith in Christ Jesus [Note: Galatians 3:26.]. But when we are become his children, then we must go in and out before him with holy confidence, exactly as duteous children before a loving parent — — — To walk thus before him was the perfection of Abraham’s attainments [Note: Genesis 17:1.]; and it is that which is held forth to us also as the summit of a Christian’s duty and privilege [Note: Ephesians 5:1.] — — —]

2. A sense of duty to him, as our Master—

[This is united with the former by God himself: “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if, then, I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear [Note: Malachi 1:6.]” Now, what is the conduct of a good servant? When he rises in the morning, he asks himself, ‘What have I to do for my master? and through every part of the day, even to the close of it, the same question recurs to his mind, and calls forth suitable exertions for the discharge of the duties required of him. And if, when engaged in executing his master’s commands, he were solicited by any one to embark in some other pursuit, he would immediately reply, as our blessed Saviour did, “I must be about my Father’s business:” nor could any consideration tempt him to neglect his duty. He would, under all circumstances, regard his master’s work as claiming a just preference at his hands, and his master’s approbation as that which, above all, he was anxious to obtain. Let it be thus, then, with you in every situation of life; and make it your one business to approve yourselves good servants of Jesus Christ.]

3. A sense of responsibility to him as our Judge—

[Never are you to lose a sense of this. It is quite a mistake to call this legal. St. Paul, and all the Apostles, acted with a direct reference to the future judgment; and sought so to demean themselves that they might welcome the second coming of their Lord, and stand with boldness before him at that awful day [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10. James 5:8-9. 1 Peter 5:1-4.]. This will secure the obedience of the heart: for in that day shall “the secrets of men’s hearts be disclosed,” and, “their inmost counsels be made manifest:” and, to secure his approbation then, you must be upright, and without any allowed guile. Let every place then bear, as it were, this inscription, “Thou, God, seest me;” and take heed to your thoughts, no less than to your actions, that so you may be found “sincere and without offence until the day of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:10.].”]

And, lest such a constant attention to duty should appear irksome to you, let me shew you,

II. The encouragement given us to the performance of it—

The whole Scripture declares, that, “verily, there is a reward for the righteous [Note: Psalms 58:11.];” and this, I conceive, is the true import of my text [Note: See the marginal reading, and compare it with ch. 24:14.]. The ungodly expect to find happiness in their ways of sin; but they pursue a phantom, and embrace a shadow. But not so they who fear the Lord: they shall “have a sure reward;” as God hath said, “The hope of the righteous shall be gladness; but the expectation of the wicked shall perish [Note: Proverbs 10:28. with 11:18.].” What, then, my Brethren, do ye expect? Do you expect pardon of sin?

[This shall surely be accorded to you: for “in the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence; and his children shall have a place of refuge [Note: Proverbs 14:26.].” Yes, verily, however numerous your sins may have been, “they shall all be blotted out, even as a morning cloud.” Will God cast out one who comes to him in his Son’s name? Will he spurn from his footstool one humble suppliant? No: “to this man will he look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at his word [Note: Isaiah 66:2.];” and “to him will he give beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness [Note: Psalms 61:1-3.].”]

Peace of conscience?

[This also shall you possess. Hear what David says: “What man is he that feareth the Lord? Him shall the Lord teach in the way that he shall choose; and his soul shall dwell at ease [Note: Psalms 25:12-13.].” Peace is the legacy which Jesus has bequeathed to all his redeemed people, saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you [Note: John 14:27.].” “To the wicked there is no peace [Note: Isaiah 57:21.]: “but for you is there “a peace that passeth all understanding.”]

Strength for duty?

[Doubtless you may have many difficulties to encounter: but God himself promises that “your strength shall be according to your day.” His very covenant with his people is, “He will put his fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from him [Note: Jeremiah 32:40.].” This is a principle which cannot but operate, and cannot but be effectual for the mortification of all sin, and for the performance of all duty. See its operation in the Apostle Paul. Under trials as severe as man could well be called to endure, he said, “I know that this shall turn to my salvation, through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death [Note: Philippians 1:19-20.].” Thus you may encounter all difficulties without fear; and, knowing in whom you have believed, may assure yourselves that no enemy whatever shall be able to prevail against you [Note: Romans 8:35-39.].]

Comfort in death?

[This also is secured to you: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace [Note: Psalms 37:37.].” I say not that you shall have joy: for there may be in the very nature of your disorder much to prevent that buoyancy of mind which is a necessary attendant on joy: but peace shall assuredly he your portion, if only you trust in God: for God has said, “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on me, because he trusteth in me [Note: Isaiah 26:3.].” ]

Glory in eternity?

[This also shall be yours. Your expectations cannot be too enlarged, if you walk in the fear of God as you are here enjoined: “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord; thoughts of good, and not of evil, to give you an expected end [Note: Jeremiah 29:11.].” And in this you differ widely from the sinner, who casts off the fear of God. To persons of this latter description God says, “What fruit had ye then of those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness and your end everlasting life [Note: Romans 6:21-22.].”

Tell me now, Brethren, whether ye have not encouragement to fear the Lord? — — — and whether there be any sinner in the universe whose portion can be compared with yours? — — —]


[As for you who fear not God, whatever ye may possess of this world, or whatever gratifications ye may enjoy, ye have a miserable portion indeed: and though ye abounded with every thing, like the Rich Man in the Gospel, yet were a pious Lazarus, that was destitute of all things, or even a martyr at the stake, in a preferable state to yours: and well may ye envy the poorest, the meanest saint on earth. Where will ye look for pardon, for peace, for strength, for comfort in a dying hour, and for glory in eternity? Think ye of your misery ere it be too late; and beg of God to implant in your hearts that fear of his name, which is the certain and the only prelude to his final approbation.]

Verse 23



Proverbs 23:23. Buy the truth; and sell it not.

THE rich variety of metaphors contained in the Holy Scriptures gives an endless diversity to the most simple truths: and the commonness of those metaphors brings home to our minds the deepest truths, with a clearness that cannot be misinterpreted, and a force that cannot be withstood. The idea of buying and selling is familiar to every mind; so familiar, that many would be offended at the application of it to the concerns of the soul. But we should not affect a squeamishness which the Inspired Writers did not feel; except, indeed, in reference to subjects which, though not offensive to Jewish ears, the refinement of modern ages has justly deemed indelicate. Permit me then, without offence, to shew you,

I. What it is that is here commended to us—

Truth, abstractedly considered, is of great value; and the acquisition of it in science and philosophy is counted worthy of the most laborious researches. In astronomy, for instance, the ascertaining of the motion and mutual relation of the heavenly bodies is justly regarded as a rich recompence for a whole life of labour. But this is not the truth of which my text speaks: for that, once gained, remains with us: whereas the truth which is here commended to us may be sold as well as bought.

“The truth” here referred to is the Gospel—

[The Gospel was revealed to Abraham, as well as unto us; and it was made yet more fully known to Moses and the Israelites; though, from their “not mixing faith with it, it did not profit them.” On us it shines in its meridian splendour: it exhibits to us a Saviour, even, our incarnate God, living and dying for sinful men; and marks our path to heaven so plainly, that “a way-faring man, though a fool, cannot err therein” — — —]

This truth is of incalculable importance to every child of man—

[There is much truth which the philosopher alone can appreciate or understand. But “the truth, as it is in Jesus,” may be understood by all. It is not by strength of intellect that its wonders are discerned, but by a spiritual perception, which God alone can impart [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.]; and which he often does impart to “babes and sucklings, whilst he withholds it from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25-26.].” And to every human being it is of equal importance: none can be saved without it, and by it every creature in the universe may be saved. Our blessed Lord has assured us of this: “Ye shall know the truth; and the truth shall make you free [Note: John 8:32.].” Nothing but that will impart freedom: but that will make us free indeed; delivering us from all the guilt we have ever contracted, and from all the bondage under which we have groaned. Let us only “receive the truth in the love of it,” and we shall he brought by it into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.”]

This view of the truth may prepare us for,

II. The advice given us in relation to it—

”Buy the truth”—

[It must be purchased: freely as it is given, I say again, it must be purchased: it must be bought with, labour, and with the sacrifice of every thing that can stand in competition with it. The fruits of the earth, though given us entirely by God through the genial influence of the heavens, must be sought and laboured for: nor can we hope to obtain “the fruits of the Spirit” without similar exertions. Solomon tells us, that, notwithstanding it is “the Lord who giveth knowledge,” “we must cry after it, and lift up our voice for it, and seek it as silver, and search for it as for hid treasures: and that then only can we understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God [Note: Proverbs 2:3-6.].”

Nor is it less necessary that we be ready to part with all earthly interests in order to secure it. Our Lord compares the Gospel salvation to “a treasure hid in a field,” and to “a pearl of preat price: which whosoever finds, should go and sell all that he has and purchase it [Note: Matthew 13:44-46.].” If, like the Rich Youth in the Gospel, we refuse to part with all, we never can possess the salvation of God. St. Paul is our pattern in this respect. He possessed more of what was really valuable than any unconverted man ever did before him: but “what things were gain to me,” says he, “those I counted loss for Christ: yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Nor does he give this as a sentiment which he was ready to maintain, but as one which he had already carried into effect: “for whom,” adds he, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ [Note: Philippians 3:7-8.].” And it is worthy of observation, that amongst the things which he despised thus, are to be reckoned, not his temporal interests only, but his own carnal wisdom and his legal righteousness [Note: Philippians 3:9.] which, to a man of Pharisaic habits, are far more dear than all the world besides. After his example, then, we must renounce all that is pleasing to flesh and blood, and take “Christ for our Wisdom, our Righteousness, our Sanctification, and our complete Redemption.”]

2. “Sell it not”—

[We shall be continually tempted to part with it: but we must “hold fast what we have, that no man may take our crown.” We must “never, after having once put our hand to the plough, look back again.” In seasons of prosperity we may be lulled asleep; and Satan may rob us of our prize. And in times of persecution we may be intimidated, and draw back through fear. But “nothing,” however terrible, “should move us.” We should “be ready, not only to be bound, but also to die, at any time, and in any manner, for the name of the Lord Jesus.” If called to suffer for his sake, we must “rejoice that we are counted worthy” of so high an honour: yea, we must even “leap for joy,” because we are thereby rendered conformable to Christ, and because “God is glorified in us.” We must “be faithful unto death, if ever we would obtain a crown of life.”]


1. Examine whether you have “the truth” set before you—

[In purchasing any commodity, you endeavour to ascertain that it is good and genuine. And so must you do in relation to the Gospel. You must not take any thing for granted. You have a touchstone, by which you must try whatever is offered to you for sale, St. Paul speaks of a false Gospel, as finding an extensive currency in the Galatian Church [Note: Galatians 1:6-7.]; and such a Gospel is but too often commended to us at this day. Examine, then, what ye hear; and bring it all to the test of God’s blessed word. The salvation which we offer you, is that which Christ purchased for us on the cross; a salvation altogether by grace and through faith Christ. It is that, and that only, that we call on you to buy. And our counsel is that which is given to every one of you by our Lord himself: “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see [Note: Revelation 3:18.].” Ascertain, I say, that this is the very truth of God; and then hesitate not to buy it, though at the price of all that you possess.]

2. Inquire whether any who have bought it ever repented of their purchase—

[I know, indeed, that you may find stony-ground hearers in every place where the Gospel is preached; yea, and many a Demas too. But the former are persons who never had the root of grace within them; and the latter carry back with them into the world a self-condemning conscience, that will embitter their whole lives. Could you ask of Moses, whether he now regrets, or ever did regret, the having sacrificed all the treasures of Egypt for that apparently worthless portion, the reproach of Christ; or, could you consult the myriads who “came out of great tribulation,” and who “loved not their lives unto death;” would you find one amongst them all that thought he had ever paid too dear for this heavenly prize? No: there is no such thought in heaven; nor is there any such feeling upon earth amongst the faithful followers of the Lamb. Be not ye afraid, then, to pay the price demanded of you: for, as “the gain of the whole world would be a poor matter in exchange for the soul;” so the sacrifice of life itself will be found to have been unworthy of a thought, when the glory purchased by it shall have been accorded to you.]

3. Lose not the opportunity that is now afforded you—

[What would millions that are now in the eternal world give, if they could have but one more offer of that salvation which they once despised? And soon you yourselves also will be filled with bitter regret, if you close not with the offer now made to you — — — Say not that you are poor, and cannot pay the price: for you are invited “to buy it without money and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1.]”. O that I might but prevail upon you, ere it be too late! Refuse not, with Herod, to give up your Herodias; nor, with Agrippa, to become altogether Christians: but now forsake all for Christ; and expect, both in this world and the next, a rich and glorious equivalent [Note: Luke 18:28-30.].]

Verse 26



Proverbs 23:26. My Son, give me thy heart.

THIS address, however it may be considered in some respect as delivered by Solomon to his son, must certainly be understood as proceeding from Him who is Wisdom in the abstract, Wisdom personified, even from the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Proverbs 8:1; Proverbs 8:22-32]: and as directed generally to all the children of men, but especially to those who regard him as their Sovereign Lord. And though the more immediate object of the address may seem scarcely suited to this view of it, (because those who are possessed even of incipient piety may seem less likely to fall into the snare which is there spoken of,) yet the caution is necessary for youth of all descriptions; and, as a general lesson, it teaches us, that there is no snare whatever into which we may not fall, if our hearts be not given up to God; and that the only sure way of being kept from sin of every kind, is, to give the heart to God.

Taking the words then as addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ to all who acknowledge his paternal authority, we will proceed to mark the extent and reasonableness of this command.

I. The extent of it—

To give our heart to God, implies that we give him,

1. The affections of the soul—

[These should all center in him, and in him alone. Him we should desire as our supreme good, and in him should we delight as our chief joy — — — should be able to say with David, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee [Note: Psalms 73:23.],”]

2. The confidence of the mind—

[If there be any thing besides God in the whole universe, on which we rely, we do not really give our heart to him. To trust, though in ever so small a degree, in an arm of flesh, argues a departure of heart from God [Note: Jeremiah 17:5.]. We should confide altogether in his wisdom to guide, and his power to uphold us, in his goodness to supply our wants, and his truth to fulfil to us the promises of his word. We should “trust in him with all our heart, and not lean either to our own understanding” or strength: we should consider him as alone able to help us, and as all-sufficient for our utmost necessities.]

3. The service of the life—

[Without this, all else is vain. Obedience is the certain fruit of love to God [Note: John 14:15; John 14:21.]; yea, it is altogether identified with it: “This is the love of God, that ye keep his commandments [Note: 1 John 2:3-5.].” To the man that has given his heart to God, no commandment can be grievous [Note: 1 John 5:3.].]

The extent of the command being ascertained, we proceed to shew,

II. The reasonableness of it—

To surrender up our whole selves to God, is called by St. Paul, “a reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.].” And reasonable indeed it is;

1. Because of his right over us as our Creator—

[God “made all things for himself: all that we are, and all that we have, was given us by him, to be improved for his glory. How then can we with propriety alienate any thing from him? A potter feels himself entitled to the use of the vessel which his own hands have made: and has not God a right to all the services that we can render him? Of all that have truly given their hearts to God, it may be said, “No man liveth to himself; and no man dieth unto himself: but whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord’s [Note: Romans 14:7-8.].”]

2. Because of his mercies towards us, as our Redeemer—

[The Lord Jesus Christ has “redeemed us to God by his own blood;” and by this has acquired a new right over us. To this effect the Apostle says, “Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God with your bodies and your spirits, which are his [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.].” And in another place he gives this as the duty of every man according to the dictates of his most deliberate judgment: “The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.].” Was he mistaken in his judgment? and are we at liberty to alienate from him what he has purchased at so great a price?]

3. Because of his relation to us, as our Father—

[If we profess to have been born again, and begotten to God by his word and Spirit, then are we yet further bound to him by the relation he sustains towards us: “What manner of love is this, wherewith the Father hath loved us, that we should be called the sons of God!” Can we have learned to cry, “Abba, Father!” and doubt whether the giving of our hearts to him be a reasonable service? The utmost then we can do to serve and honour him is no more than our bounden duty.]

4. Because of the utter worthlessness of all his competitors—

[What is there worthy to be compared with him? The whole creation is but as “a broken cistern that can hold no water.” Shall we then, “for any thing that is in it, forsake the Fountain of living waters?” Survey the choicest blessings that the world affords; and they are all “vanity and vexation of spirit.” Are these then to stand in competition with him who is the unfailing and only source of all blessedness? The more we see the vanity of all created good, the more we shall see the reasonableness of giving our hearts to God alone. We must not only not love our father or mother more than him, but must “hate every earthly relative, yea, and our own lives also, in comparison of him [Note: Luke 14:26.].”]


1. In a way of affectionate invitation—

[In this view we may take the words of our text, even as an invitation to us from the Lord Jesus Christ to set our affections on him alone. And how astonishing is it that he will accept such hearts as ours! If we of ourselves had presumed to offer them to him, how justly might he have rejected and despised the offering! Yet behold, he solicits it at our hands! And what can such an offering add to him? Does he need any thing from us? or can we add any thing to him? O then admire and adore this astonishing condescension; and let him not woo your souls in vain.]

2. In a way of authoritative injunction—

[This command of Almighty God is not to be trifled with. Let none presume to withstand it, or to delay their obedience to it: for if we obey it not, we never can behold his face in peace [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:22.]. Attend to it then; and see that ye obey it in truth. Give not to your God and Saviour a divided heart; for such an offering he will not accept: but give yourselves wholly to him; and so shall that promise be fulfilled to you; “I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 23:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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Tuesday, February 19th, 2019
the Sixth Week after Epiphany
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