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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Proverbs 5



Verse 12-13



Proverbs 5:12-13. How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!

A TIME of reflection must come to all: if men shake off all thought till the hour of death, they will not be able to do so when once the soul is separated from the body: their ways will then be brought to remembrance: and all the powers of their minds be fixed upon the contemplation of them. Happily, with many this season arrives before it is too late: and, not unfrequently, the very enormities which have been committed are the means of exciting in the soul a salutary remorse. Sometimes the present consequences of sin press heavily upon the mind, and awaken the energies of a sleepy conscience. Thus Solomon supposes many to be affected after they have brought trouble on themselves by their licentious courses: and he urges this very consideration as an argument for guarding against all temptations to sin, that, however pleasurable a life of sin may be, the retrospect will be painful in the extreme: and the now thoughtless debauchee “will mourn at the last,” in the review of the mercies he has abused, and will say, “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!”

We shall not confine our attention to the particular subject treated of in the context, though in every congregation, it is to be feared, there are but too many to whom it would be applicable: but shall rather take occasion from our text to set before you in a more enlarged view,

I. The sinner’s retrospect—

That we may bring home the subject to every man’s bosom, we shall consider men under two distinct classes;

1. Those who already feel some painful consequences of their past conduct—

[Amongst these we must first notice the persons more immediately referred to in our text, namely, those who have wasted their property, and injured their constitution, in habits of criminal indulgence [Note: ver. 9–11.]. What reason for regret have they! How glad would they now be, if they had restrained their appetites, and not purchased a momentary gratification at so high a price! — — — Next to these we may mention the spendthrift, and the gamester, who through covetousness or the love of pleasure have dissipated their fortune, and involved themselves in ruin. How common is it for persons so circumstanced to destroy their own lives, and to seek in suicide a remedy for the evils they have entailed upon themselves! — — — To these we may add the persons who by any disgraceful act have blasted their reputation, and rendered themselves obnoxious to just reproach: to such the seasons of reflection are bitter. They attempt perhaps to divert their thoughts by business or pleasure; but they can never cease to rue the day in which they brought upon themselves so heavy a calamity. There are times when all who have entailed misery on themselves will bring to mind the instructions given them in early youth; and then they will, inwardly at least, complain, “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!”]

2. Those who, though they feel no present pain arising from their sins, are yet sensible that they have not answered the great ends of life—

[The necessity of turning unto God, and the means of acceptance with God through the atonement of Christ, have been distinctly set forth from time to time; so that, supposing persons to have diligently attended to the word that has been preached to them, and to have “mixed faith with it,” it would have been impossible for them to have continued in the ways of sin and death. But how many are at this moment as far from God as they were years ago! How many have reason to regret that they have ever heard the Gospel, which, instead of being a savour of life to them, has, through their neglect of it, been made a savour of death unto death! Our blessed Lord told his hearers, that “if he had never come to instruct them, they would not, comparatively, have had sin; but that now they had no cloak for their sin.” So must it be said to many amongst us: “that having been exalted to heaven” in their privileges, they have reason to expect that they shall, with Capernaum, “be cast the deeper into hell” for their abuse of them. It is a small matter that their sins have not been such as to expose them to shame and reproach among men: their neglect of Christ, their want of love to his name, and of zeal in his service, must be reckoned for at the last day, when he will say, “Bring hither those that were mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me.” O painful retrospect! O afflictive prospect! Brethren, take a review of your past lives; and seek “the things belonging to your peace, before they be for ever hid from your eyes.”]

What then remains to be done by these distinct, but perishing, classes? To both the one and the other we would say, Consider,

II. The sinner’s alternative—

There is but one alternative for any child of man: we must either attend to the voice of instruction given us in the Gospel, or we must carry with us unchanging and unavailing remorse into the eternal world.

Are we willing to spend eternity in self-condemning reflections!

[They must follow us, if we die in our sins. God himself will remind us of the benefits which here we neglected to improve: “Son, remember, that thou in thy life-time hadst such and such advantages.” What anguish of mind will be occasioned by such thoughts as these; ‘I once had the same offers of salvation, as they had who are now before the throne of God: I enjoyed the same heavenly instruction as they; but I despised it, and would not hear the voice of the charmer, how wisely soever he endeavoured to charm me!’ This will be the ground of our heavier “condemnation, that light came into the world, but that we loved darkness rather than light, because our deeds were evil:” and our reflections upon this will be “a never-dying worm,” gnawing our conscience to all eternity. Whether our sins were more or less flagrant, this will be the source of our greatest torment, that we despised the instructions given us in the Gospel, and trampled under foot that very Son of God who came into the world to seek and save us.]

If we would not spend an eternity in these bitter reflections, we must now attend to the things which are revealed to us in the Gospel—

[If our teachers speak out of their own minds, we may refuse to hearken to them: but, if they speak to us the very word of God, then it is at our peril to turn a deaf ear to their instructions. The word of God is sufficient to “make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ.” It bids us flee to Christ, as to a strong hold, where we shall be safe from the assaults of sin and Satan. It assures us, that “Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him;” that “his blood will cleanse us from all sin;” that “his grace is sufficient for us;” and that “he will cast out none who come unto him.” Follow these directions, and you are safe: give yourselves up to him; live altogether by faith upon him; improve for his glory the grace which you receive out of his fulness; and you have nothing to fear. Instead of remorse and sorrow, you shall be filled with peace and joy. In the midst of life it shall be a matter of “rejoicing to you, that you have the testimony of a good conscience;” in a dying hour you shall look back with comfort in the thought of having “fought a good fight, and finished your course, and kept the faith;” and to all eternity shall you glory in the mercies and privileges which you here enjoyed [Note: Revelation 1:5.].

Here then is your alternative: Despise this instruction, and you shall perish: Obey it, and you shall live for ever.]


1. Endeavour to view every thing in the light of eternity—

[If you think of time only, the value of present enjoyments will be unduly magnified: but think of eternity, and nothing will be deemed important but the salvation of the soul — — —]

2. Endeavour so to spend each day, as you will wish you had spent it, when you shall be standing at the judgment-seat of Christ—

[We know what the wishes are of men who are condemned to death for their violations of the law: and we may be sure that such will be our wishes when we are summoned to meet our Judge: ‘O that I had lived a very different life!’ — — — Now then cleave unto Christ with full purpose of heart, and devote yourselves to him without reserve. So shall you behold his face in peace, and be partakers of his glory for evermore.]

Verse 22



Proverbs 5:22. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.

THE force of habit is well known: it operates as a second nature; so constant is it in its exercise, and so imperious in its demands. There is this difference however in habits of piety, and habits of sin: that the one are easily lost; but the other are with great difficulty overcome. Nor is this difficult to be accounted for; seeing that the one is against the course of nature, and the other conformable to all its propensities: the motion of the one is a continual ascent; the other is downward on a declivity. But it is not merely as a natural consequence that sin, when indulged, has so great a power: there is an additional influence given to it by God himself, as a judicial act, and as a just punishment for indulging it: so that in a judicial, no less than in a natural sense, our text is true: “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself: and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.”

Let us consider,

I. The declaration itself—

In a two-fold view it may be noticed;

1. As a judgment inflicted—

[It is inflicted on the whole human race. There is not a sinner in the universe who cannot from his own experience attest the truth of it. Every sin has a power to enslave the mind, and to lead captive him who has indulged it. But we will instance this in some particulars.

The man addicted to drinking previous to the formation of his habit, had perhaps no particular love to strong drink, or desire after it: but he has been drawn into company, he has there acquired a taste for conviviality, and at last, by repeated excesses, he has contracted such a thirst for intoxicating liquors, that he cannot deny himself the use of them, or use them in moderation. He can see his character sinking in the estimation of all the sober part of the community, his health impaired, his fortune injured, his family suffering, and his eternal interests sacrificed: and yet he cannot cast off the habit which he has contracted: his soul is bound with it as with a cord, and he cannot burst his bonds.

In a similar plight is he who has given himself up to the gratification of his lusts and passions. They, at least as far as the mind is concerned, are increased by indulgence, so that every object calls forth desire, and “the eyes of the libertine are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin [Note: 2 Peter 2:14.].” His very soul, as it were, is sensualized, and, whether sleeping or waking, his imagination roves after the gratification of his lawless appetites.

Nor must I omit to mention the gamester, in whom the text is most awfully verified. Nothing can induce him to abandon his ruinous pursuits. Domestic ties of wife and children have no influence at all. The ruin of himself and family are all suspended on a card or die. Not even the experience of ruin will reclaim him. Let his losses be repaired again and again, and again and again will he return to the fascinating object, like the moth, and hover round it, till he is consumed.

I have mentioned these instances, as being more obvious and acknowledged: but the declaration is equally verified in the gay, the worldly, the profane; yea, and in the superstitious and self-righteous also. They all “feed on ashes; and a deceived heart hath turned them aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand [Note: Isaiah 44:20.]?”]

2. As a warning given—

[In this view more especially the declaration in our text is introduced, to guard young men against the temptations to which they are exposed [Note: ver. 20.]. And a most awful warning it is: it shews us how earnestly we should guard against our besetting sins. Every man has some “sin which more easily besets him [Note: Hebrews 12:1.],” and by which he is more in danger of being enslaved. Now every man should find out what this peculiar temptation is; and should watch and pray against it; lest, by yielding to it, he provoke “God to give him over to a reprobate mind [Note: Romans 1:28.],” and to say, “He is joined to idols; let him alone [Note: Hosea 4:17.].” We should labour to say with David, “I have kept myself from my iniquity [Note: Psalms 18:23.]:” and, with Job, “Thou knowest I am not wicked,” not deliberately and habitually wicked [Note: Job 10:7.]. We should dread lest that be inflicted on us which is spoken in the text; a judgment far heavier than any other that can be inflicted on us even by God himself, as long as we continue in this present life; because it is a certain prelude to everlasting misery, and the means of augmenting it every day and hour: for, if we are delivered over to our own lusts, we do nothing but “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath,” and accumulate mountains of guilt to sink us deeper and deeper into everlasting perdition [Note: Romans 2:5.]. Our employment will be like that of those mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah, who “drew out iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as a cart-rope [Note: Isaiah 5:18.]:” for, as a rope is spun out continually to an indefinite length by the constant addition of fresh materials, so will our sin be drawn out to an endless extent, till death shall cut it short, and the deserved punishment be awarded to it.]

It would be improper to pass over such a declaration as this without drawing your attention to,

II. The reflections which it naturally suggests—

1. How thankful should we be for the Gospel of Christ!

[Heathens are in the bondage above described, and have no conception of any way of deliverance from it. But in the Gospel a Saviour is proclaimed: who came on purpose to “preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound [Note: Luke 4:18.].” His power no lusts can withstand. As he delivered Peter from prison, causing his chains to fall off, and the prison doors to open of their own accord, so can he liberate the slaves of sin and Satan from their bondage, and bring them forth into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Diseases, devils, elements, all obeyed his voice in the days of his flesh: and at his word the most deep-rooted lusts shall be plucked up, and the most inveterate habits changed. The day of Pentecost sufficiently attests the truth of this assertion. The hands of the men who had crucified him were yet reeking with his blood, yet in an instant were their hearts renewed, and they became altogether new creatures, “the wolf being as harmless as the sheep, and the lion as gentle as the lamb [Note: Isaiah 11:6.].”

However inveterate then your habits may have been, despair not: but look to “that Mighty One on whom your help is laid,” and who is able to save “to the uttermost all who come unto God by him.”]

2. How watchful should we be against the first incursions of sin!

[As we know not “how great a matter a little fire will kindle,” so we know not what evils one sin may introduce. Every evil habit originated in one sin. Judas little thought in what his first act of dishonesty would issue: and millions, who are now gone beyond the hope of redemption, once thought as little to what a state they should be ultimately brought, as we now do. Say not, This angry temper is a light evil: It is murder in the seed and embryo; and may terminate in the very act of murder much sooner than you imagine. Say not, This impure thought or look is venial: it is constructive adultery; to which it lends, and in which, ere you are aware of it, it may soon issue. The same I would say of envy, hatred, malice, covetousness, ambition, and the whole catalogue of spiritual lusts: the admission of them into the heart is as is leak in a ship, which will sink it ultimately, if it be not stopped in time. A mariner will not neglect that leak, though it be but small; because he knows the consequences: he Knows that if it be neglected, his efforts to preserve the ship will ere long be vain and ineffectual. It is not possible to look around us without seeing, in numberless instances, what dominion the evil tempers of men have gained, and what misery they diffuse throughout their respective families and spheres. Had they been checked in their commencement, how much sin and misery would have been prevented! If then we would not forge chains for our own souls, let us guard against the first risings of sin: for, whatever we may think, “we shall reap according to what we sow: he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting [Note: Galatians 6:7-8.].”]

3. How constant should we be in waiting upon the Lord Jesus Christ, both in his public ordinances, and in secret prayer!

[None but Christ can afford us any effectual help: for “without him we can do nothing [Note: John 15:5.].” To him we must carry our every trial, and every temptation: and we must plead with him for help, as the Apostle did, till he answer us, and say, “My grace is sufficient for thee [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].” Let us never forget that it is in vain to resist sin in our own strength. None but God himself can subdue it in us. “Our sufficiency even to think a good thought must be of him [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:5.].” If he help us, it is well: “We can do all things through Christ who strengthened us [Note: Philippians 4:13.].” But if we address ourselves to the purifying of our hearts in our own strength, we shall fail, as the Apostles did, when in self-confidence they attempted to cast out a devil, which “could only be ejected through the influence of prayer and fasting [Note: Matthew 17:21.].” Let us look simply to Christ to purge us both from the guilt and power of our sins; and then we shall find, that “according to our faith it shall be done unto us [Note: Matthew 9:29.].”]


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 5:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, August 13th, 2020
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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