Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 20:27

The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord , Searching all the innermost parts of his being.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Belly;   Man;   Thompson Chain Reference - Candle;   Man;   Spirit of Man;   The Topic Concordance - Light;   Man;   Spirit/souls;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Conscience;   Lamps;  
Dictionaries:
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Pardon;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Belly;   Candle;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Proverbs, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Inwards, Inward Parts;   Man;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Light;   Living (2);   Self-Examination;   King James Dictionary - Candle;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Belly;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Lamp;   Psychology;   Search;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Belly;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Akiba ben Joseph, Alphabet of;   Catacombs;   Immortality of the Soul;   Jahrzeit;   Judaism;   Lamp, Perpetual;   Light;   Soul;   Swaying the Body;   Tombstones;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for February 28;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 14;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord - God has given to every man a mind, which he so enlightens by his own Spirit, that the man knows how to distinguish good from evil; and conscience, which springs from this, searches the inmost recesses of the soul.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/proverbs-20.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The spirit of man - The “breath” of Genesis 2:7, the higher life, above that which he has in common with lower animals, coming to him direct from God. Such a life, with all its powers of insight, consciousness, reflection, is as a lamp which God has lighted, throwing its rays into the darkest recesses of the heart. A still higher truth is proclaimed in the Prologue of John‘s Gospel. The candle, or lamp of Yahweh, derives its light from “the Light that lighteth every man,” even the Eternal Word.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/proverbs-20.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"The spirit of man is the lamp of Jehovah, Searching all his innermost parts."

"The word `spirit' here is from the literal Hebrew word `breath'; and it refers to that "breath of life" which God breathed into mankind in the person of Adam (Genesis 2:7)."[30] It is that which distinguishes man from an animal. "It is the equivalent of conscience, God's lamp, that searches out the innermost recesses of a man's heart."[31] This is a very important verse. "It stands alone in the Old Testament in its affirmation that the Divine element in human life is the conscience."[32]

No matter how wicked a man may be, there is still within him that conscience which came from God; and which, regardless of his sins, bears witness, in some degree, to what he should be instead of what he is. There is no way by which any man can utterly destroy that inner witness of God. Some radical commentators such as James Moffatt and Toy omitted this verse; but it is significant that it still stands in the RSV. Satan himself is unable to take it out of the Bible.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-20.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord,.... The rational soul of man is a light set up in him; this is what is commonly called the light of nature; it was a bright and burning light at first, but through sin is become a very feeble one; by which men have only a glimmering view of divine things, of God and his worship, and of what he would have done, or not done; by this light men do but grope after him, if happily they may find him and know his will; it is but like a candle light at best, in comparison of divine revelation, or the Gospel of the grace of God, which has shone out like the sun in its meridian glory; and especially in comparison of the sun of righteousness, Christ Jesus, and the light of the divine Spirit; yet this is a light set up by the Lord, a candle of his; it comes from the Father of lights, he is the author and maintainer of it; it is a spirit and understanding which is by the inspiration of the Almighty; see Genesis 2:7;

searching all the inward parts of the belly; or heart; the thoughts, intents, and purposes of it; which are the things of a man that only the spirit of man knows; by this candle, or light, he can look into his own heart, the inmost recesses of it, and reflect upon his thoughts and schemes, and judge in some measure whether right or wrong; there is a conscience in man, which, unless seared, passes sentence on what is in man, or done by him, and either excuses or accuses; see 1 Corinthians 2:10, Romans 2:14.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-20.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

The i spirit of man [is] the lamp of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

(i) The word of God gives life to man and causes us to see and try the secret of our dark hearts, (Hebrews 4:12).
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/proverbs-20.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Lord — Men‘s minds are God‘s gifts, and thus able to search one another (compare Proverbs 20:5; Proverbs 18:8, Proverbs 18:17; 1 Corinthians 2:11).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/proverbs-20.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

With a proverb of a light that was extinguished, Proverbs 20:20 began the group; the proverb of God's light, which here follows, we take as the beginning of a new group.

27 A candle of Jahve is the soul of man,

Searching through all the chambers of the heart.

If the O.T. language has a separate word to denote the self-conscious personal human spirit in contradistinction to the spirit of a beast, this word, according to the usage of the language, as Reuchlin, in an appendix to Aben Ezra, remarks, is נשׁמה ; it is so called as the principle of life breathed immediately by God into the body ( vid ., at Genesis 2:7; Genesis 7:22). Indeed, that which is here said of the human spirit would not be said of the spirit of a beast: it is “the mystery of self-consciousness which is here figuratively represented” (Elster). The proverb intentionally does not use the word נפשׁ, for this is not the power of self-consciousness in man, but the medium of bodily life; it is related secondarily to nshmh ( רוח ), while נשׁמת חיים ( רוח ) is used, נפשׁ חיים is an expression unheard of. Hitzig is in error when he understands by נשׁמה here the soul in contradistinction to the spirit, and in support of this appeals to an expression in the Cosmography of Kazwîni : “the soul (Arab. âl - nefs ) is like the lamp which moves about in the chambers of the house;” here also en - nefs is the self-conscious spirit, for the Arab. and post-bibl. Heb. terminology influenced by philosophy reverses the biblical usage, and calls the rational soul נפשׁ, and, on the contrary, the animal soul נשׁמה, רוח ( Psychologie, p. 154). חפשׂ is the particip. of חפּשׂ, Zephaniah 1:12, without distinguishing the Kal and Piel . Regarding חדרי־בטן, lxx ταμιεῖα κοιλίας, vid ., at Proverbs 18:8 : בּטן denotes the inner part of the body (R. בט, to be deepened), and generally of the personality; cf. Arab. bâtn âlrwh, the interior of the spirit, and Proverbs 22:18, according to which Fleischer explains: “A candle of Jahve, i.e., a means bestowed on man by God Himself to search out the secrets deeply hid in the spirit of another.” But the candle which God has kindled in man has as the nearest sphere of illumination, which goes forth from it, the condition of the man himself - the spirit comprehends all that belongs to the nature of man in the unity of self-consciousness, but yet more: it makes it the object of reflection; it penetrates, searching it through, and seeks to take it up into its knowledge, and recognises the problem proposed to it, to rule it by its power. The proverb is thus to be ethically understood: the spirit is that which penetrates that which is within, even into its many secret corners and folds, with its self-testing and self-knowing light - it is, after Matthew 6:22, the inner light, the inner eye. Man becomes known to himself according to his moral as well as his natural condition in the light of the spirit; “for what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” says Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:11. With reference to this Solomonic proverb, the seven-branched candlestick is an ancient symbol of the soul, e.g., on the Jewish sepulchral monuments of the Roman viâ Portuensis . Our texts present the phrase נר יהוה ; but the Talm. Pesachim 7b, 8a, the Pesikta in part 8, the Midrash Othijoth de-Rabbi Akiba, under the letter נ, Alphasi ( יף '' ר ) in Pesachim, and others, read נר אלהים ; and after this phrase the Targum translates, while the Syr. and the other old versions render by the word “Lord” ( Venet . ὀντωτής ), and thus had יהוה before them.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/proverbs-20.html. 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

We have here the dignity of the soul, the great soul of man, that light which lighteth every 1 Corinthians 2:11); it searches into the dispositions and affections of the soul, praises what is good, condemns what is otherwise, and judges of the thoughts and intents of the heart. This is the office, this the power, of conscience, which we are therefore concerned to get rightly informed and to keep void of offence.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/proverbs-20.html. 1706.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

The spirit — The reasonable soul.

The candle — Is a clear and glorious light set up in man for his information and direction.

Of the Lord — So called because it comes from God in a more immediate manner than the body, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and because it is in God's stead, to observe and judge all our actions.

Searching — Discerning not only his outward actions, which are visible to others, but his most inward thoughts and affections. The belly is here put for the heart, as it is frequently.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/proverbs-20.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 20:27 The spirit of man [is] the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

Ver. 27. The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord.] Some read it, The breath of a man, that is, his life, is the candle of the Lord, and sense it thus: Look how men deal by their lights or lamps, so doth God by our lives. Some we put out as soon as lighted; others we let alone till half wasted, and others again till wax and wick and all be consumed. So some die younger, some older, as God pleaseth. But the word Neshamah here used, as it holds affinity with the Hebrew Shamajim, Heaven, so it doth with the Latin word mens, the mind, or reasonable soul, which indeed is that light that is in us by an excellence, [Matthew 6:23] that "spirit of a man that knows the things of a man," [1 Corinthians 2:11] that candle that is in a man’s belly or body, as in a lantern, making the least mote perspicuous. This is true by a specialty of that divine faculty of the soul, conscience, which is frequently called the "spirit of a man," as being planted by God in all and every part of the reasonable soul, where she produceth occasionally several operatious, being the soul’s schoolmaster, monitor, and domestic preacher; God’s spy, and man’s overseer, the principal commander and chief controller of all his doings and desires.

Conscia mens ut cuique sua est, ira concipit intra

Pectora pro facto spemque metumque suo. ”

- Ovid.

Surely it is a most celestial gift, saith one. (a) It is so of God and in man, that it is a kind of middle thing between God and man; less than God, and yet above man. It may be called our God, saith another, (b) in the sense that Moses was Pharaoh’s; having power to control and avenge our disobediences with greater plagues than ever Moses brought on Egypt. Therefore that was no evil counsel of the poet: Imprimis reverere teipsum. (c) And,

Turpe quid ausurus, re, sine teste, time.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-20.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

v. 27. The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, the spiritual and moral powers of man, under the direction of Jehovah, penetrate into his innermost being, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/proverbs-20.html. 1921-23.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Proverbs 20:27

God is the fire of this world, its vital principle, a warm pervading presence everywhere. Of this fire the spirit of man is the candle. What does that mean? If, because man is of a nature which corresponds to the nature of God, and just so far as man is obedient to God, the life of God which is spread throughout the universe gathers itself into utterance; and men, aye and all other beings, if such beings there are, capable of watching our humanity, see what God is in gazing at the man whom He has kindled—then, is not the figure plain? It is a wondrous thought, but it is clear enough. Here is the universe, full of the diffused fire of divinity. Men feel it in the air, as they feel an intense heat which has not broken into a blaze. Now in the midst of this solemn burdened world there stands up a man, pure, Godlike, and perfectly obedient to God. In an instant it is as if the heated room had found some sensitive inflammable point where it could kindle to a blaze. The fitfulness of the impression of divinity is steadied into permanence. The fire of the Lord has found the candle of the Lord, and burns clear and steady, guiding and cheering instead of bewildering and frightening us, just so soon as a man who is obedient to God has begun to catch and manifest His nature.

I. Man's utterance of God is purely an utterance of quality. It can tell me nothing of the quantities which make up His perfect life. Whoever has in him the human quality, whoever really has the spirit of man, may be a candle of the Lord. A poor, meagre, starved, bruised life, if only it keeps the true human quality, and does not become inhuman; and if it is obedient to God in its blind, dull, half-conscious way; becomes a light. There is no life so meagre that the greatest and wisest of us can afford to despise it. We cannot know at all at what sudden moment it may flash forth with the life of God.

II. In this truth of ours we have certainly the key to another mystery which sometimes puzzles us. What shall we make of some man rich in attainments and in generous desires, well-educated, well-behaved, who has trained himself to be a light and help to other men, and who, now that his training is complete, stands in the midst of his fellow-men completely dark and helpless? Such men are unlighted candles; they are the spirit of man elaborated, cultivated, finished, to its very finest, but lacking the last touch of God.

III. There is a multitude of men whose lamps are certainly not dark, and yet who certainly are not the candles of the Lord. A nature richly furnished to the very brim, and yet profane, impure, worldly, and scattering scepticism of all good and truth about him wherever he may go. If it be possible for the human candle, instead of being lifted up to heaven and kindled at the pure being of Him who is eternally and absolutely good, to be plunged down into hell, and lighted at the yellow flames that burn out of the dreadful brimstone of the pit, then we can understand the sight of a man, who is rich in every brilliant human quality, cursing the world with the continual exhibition of the devilish instead of the godlike in his life.

IV. There is still another way in which the spirit of man may fail of its completest function as the candle of the Lord. The lamp may be lighted, and the fire at which it is lighted may be indeed the fire of God, and yet it may not be God alone who shines forth upon the world. Such men cannot get rid of themselves. They are mixed with the God they show. This is the secret of all pious bigotry, of all holy prejudice. It is the candle, putting its own colour into the flame which it has borrowed from the fire of God.

V. Jesus is the true spiritual man who is the candle of the Lord, the light that lighteth every man.

Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 1.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/proverbs-20.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 20:27. The spirit of man. The soul of man is as a burning lamp, which God hath kindled in the midst of us, which enlightens us, and discovers to us all that passes; it is that breath of life which the Lord hath breathed into us. Lord Bacon refers the latter part of this verse to the inquisitive search of man's mind into all kinds of things; for though the wise man says in Ecclesiastes 3 that it is impossible for man to find out all the works of God; yet this doth not derogate from the capacity of man's mind; but may be referred to the impediments of knowledge (such as the shortness of life, disputations among learned men, and refusals to unite their studies and labours; unfaithful and depraved tradition of sciences: with many other inconveniences, wherewith this present state is surrounded): For, that no parcel of the world is denied to man's inquiry or invention, he declares in another place, where he saith, The spirit of man is as the lamp of God, wherewith he searcheth into the inwards of all secrets. See Adv. of Learning, as above.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/proverbs-20.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The spirit, i.e. the reasonable soul.

Is the candle; is a clear and glorious light set up in man for his information and direction.

Of the Lord; so called, partly because it comes from God in a more immediate and peculiar manner than the body doth, Ecclesiastes 12:7; and partly because it is in God’s stead to observe and judge all a man’s actions.

Searching all the inward parts of the belly; discerning not only his outward actions, which are visible to others, but his most inward and secret thoughts and affections, which no other man can see, 1 Corinthians 2:11. The belly is here put for the heart, as it is frequently. The soul can reflect upon and judge of its own dispositions and actions; which plainly showeth that the heart is not so deceitful, but that a man by diligent study of it, and the use of the means appointed by God, may arrive at a certain knowledge of its state and condition, in reference to God and to salvation.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-20.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

27.The spirit , (neshamah,) construct , (nishmath,) Genesis 2:7; not , (rua’hh,) spirit, a word with which it is sometimes coupled, kindred to which is the word nephesh, the breath, inspiration, or inbreathing of the Almighty, which giveth understanding. (Job 32:8.)

Inward parts of the belly — Put by synecdoche for “the inner man.” Comp. Proverbs 20:30; Proverbs 18:8; 1 Corinthians 2:10. “Who knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him;” that is, a man is conscious of the schemes, plans, and purposes of his own mind; and no man can know these but himself, unless he reveals them. Man’s intelligent consciousness — that by which he cognises the operations of his own mind — and his moral consciousness — conscience — by which he discerns his moral status and the moral quality of his thoughts, emotions, passions, and the actions that proceed from them — this intelligent self-consciousness, implying a rational and moral nature, is the gift of Jehovah — the lamp or light of Jehovah within him, distinguishing him from all other beings in this world. Compare Romans 1:19-20; Matthew 6:22-23; John 1:4; John 1:9.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-20.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

God searches out our innermost thoughts and feelings. Solomon compared our "spirit" (lit. "breath," Heb. nishmat, cf. Genesis 2:7) to a lamp God uses to investigate all the darkened crannies of our being in this very graphic proverb. Here the spirit is almost equivalent to the conscience (God"s Word also searches, cf. Hebrews 4:12).

"Breath typically goes in and comes out of a person, giving life; but it also comes out as wisdom and words." [Note: R. C. Van Leeuwen, "The Book of Proverbs," in the New Interpreter"s Bible, 5:188.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/proverbs-20.html. 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 20:27. The spirit of a man — That is, the rational soul; is the candle, &c. — Is a clear and glorious light, set up in man for his information and direction. It is said to be the candle of the Lord, because it comes from God in a more immediate manner than the body, Ecclesiastes 12:7; and because it is in God’s stead, to observe and judge all our actions. Searching all the inward parts of the belly — Discerning not only man’s outward actions, which are visible to others, but his most inward thoughts and affections. The belly is here put for the heart, as it is frequently. The soul can reflect upon, and judge of, its own dispositions and actions; and by the use of the means which God hath appointed, especially the word of God, and prayer for supernatural light, may arrive at a certain knowledge of its state and condition, in reference to God and salvation.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-20.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Lamp. The breath of life, (Genesis ii. 7.) and the light of man, 1 Corinthians ii. 11.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/proverbs-20.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

spirit = breath. Hebrew. neshamah. See App-16.

candle = lamp or light. Same word as in Proverbs 20:20.

the belly. Put by Figure of speech Metalepsis (App-6) for the heart, and the heart for its thoughts.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/proverbs-20.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord - a candle or lamp lit by the Lord; a light divinely given to man. Conscience is this candle.

Searching all the inward parts of the belly - searching and discovering the inmost secrets of every man. Conscience is 'God in man'-a witness for God, acquitting or else condemning the man before himself, (Romans 2:14-15). It needs to be lit up by God's Word (Proverbs 6:23). Let us see that we be willing that our "inward parts" be all searched by the light, and no secret sin spared (John 3:21; Acts 24:16; Acts 23:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12; 1 John 3:20-21).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-20.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(27) The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.—The spirit of man, breathed into him at first by the Creator (Genesis 2:7), and afterwards quickened and illumined by the Divine Spirit, is the “candle of the Lord,” given to man as an inward light and guide.

Searching all the inward parts of the belly.—That is, of the inmost heart of man; testing all his thoughts, feelings, desires, by God’s law, approving some, condemning others, according as they agree with it or not. The word “belly” is equivalent to “heart” or “soul” in Job 15:2; Job 15:15; Job 32:19. (Comp. John 7:38.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/proverbs-20.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
spirit
Genesis 2:7; Job 32:8; Romans 2:15; 1 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 4:2-6; 1 John 3:19-21
candle
or, lamp.
searching
30; Hebrews 4:12,13
Reciprocal: Psalm 18:28 - candle;  Luke 11:36 - the whole

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/proverbs-20.html.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE CANDLE OF THE LORD

We understand by the spirit of a man the self-conscious ego—that which takes cognizance of the inner life, and which reasons and passes judgment upon all a man's perceptions, emotions, and volitions.

I. Man's spirit is a candle, because it is not self-originating. When we speak of a candle, the idea of a borrowed light comes before us; with us there is but one source and fountain of material light, and that is the sun, which, although it is but a candle of the Lord placed in the midst of our solar system, so far transcends all our artificial lights in its glory and permanence, that in comparison with them it seems self-existent and eternal. As a matter of fact, we know that all the artificial light stored up for us in combustible materials around us had its origin in that great father of lights, the sun, and that these lesser lights require kindling before they give forth brightness. So with the spirit of man—it is not self-existent and eternal, nor did it kindle itself, it owes its existence to that God who is the intellectual and moral light of the universe, because He is the source of all knowledge and goodness. That same Divine Creator, who said "Let there be light and there was light," who set the sun in the heavens to rule the day, made man in His own image by breathing into the human body that spiritual life which makes man a living soul, and distinguishes him from the animal creation around him. We can no more claim to be the author of our own spirits than the sun can claim to have called itself into existence.

II. Man's spirit is a candle, because it is a revealing power. All light is revealing; it first makes evident its own existence and then reveals the existence of objects outside itself. When the sun comes forth above the eastern horizon like a bridegroom from his chamber, it reveals its own glory, and it makes manifest all things upon which its rays fall, and nothing is hidden from the light thereof. So in a less degree is it with every flame of light, and so is it with the mysterious spirit of man. It is self-revealing and self-evidencing, and in and by its light we become conscious of the existence of material forms and spiritual beings, and moral and physical influences outside ourselves.

III. Man's spirit is a candle which is intended to prevent self-deception. Knowledge of any description is good and desirable, but there are two beings of whom it is moral death to remain in ignorance—ourself and God. The spirit of a man is the power by which he apprehends both, and this proverb deals exclusively with man's power to know himself, and especially with his power to take cognizance of himself as a moral and responsible being. As the sun, when it darts forth its rays upon the earth, does not leave us in twilight, and in uncertainty as to what is around us, and as the candle brought into a dark chamber shows us, maybe, the dust and the cobwebs, as well as the costly drapery on the walls, so this God-kindled light searches into the innermost thoughts, and feelings, and motives, and shows to every man who does not wilfully turn away from the sight, both the good and the evil that is in him. True it is that, as a moral light, it does not shine so brightly as it did when man came forth from his Maker's hand, and that he who "hateth light" because it is a reprover of his sin (Joh ) may to some extent obscure its brightness, yet every man possesses light enough within to show him his need of a light outside and above him—even of that "true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (Joh 1:9).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

The candle which God has kindled in man has, as the nearest sphere of illumination which goes forth from it, the condition of the man himself—the spirit comprehends all that belongs to the nature of man in the unity of self-consciousness, but yet more, it makes it the object of reflection; it penetrates, searching it through, and seeks to take it up into its knowledge, and recognises the problem proposed to it, to rule it by its power. The proverb is thus to be ethically understood.—Delitzsch.

The essential connection between the life of God and the life of man is the great truth of the world, and that is the truth which Solomon sets forth in the striking words of my text. The picture which the words include is one of the most simple. A candle stands upon a table in a dark room, itself unlighted. Fire is brought into the room; a blazing bit of paper holds the fire, but it is blown and flutters, and any moment may go out; but the blaze touches the candle and the candle catches fire, and at once you have a steady flame which burns bright and pure and constant. The candle gives forth its manifestation to all the neighbourhood which is illuminated by it. The candle is glorified by the fire, and the two bear witness that they are made for one another by the way in which they fulfil each other's life. That fulfilment comes by the way in which the inferior substance renders obedience to the superior. The wax acknowledges the subtle flame as its master and yields to its power, and so, like every faithful servant of a noble master, it gives itself most unreservedly up, and its own substance is clothed with a glory that does not belong to itself. The granite, if you try to burn it, gives no fire; it only opposes a sullen resistance, and as the heat increases splits and breaks but will not burn. But the candle obeys, and so in it the scattered fire finds a point of permanent and clear expression. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord," says Solomon. God is the fire of this world. It is a vital principle, a warm pervading presence everywhere. What thing in outward nature can so picture to us the mysterious, subtle, quick, productive, and destructive principle; that which has always elevated men's hearts and solemnized their voices when they have said the word God, as this strange thing, so heavenly, so unearthly, so terrible, and so gracious, so full of creativeness, and yet so quick and fierce to sweep whatever opposes it out of its path? The glory, the beauty, the marvel, the mystery of fire! Men have always felt the fitness of fire as being the closest of all the elements around the throne on which their conception of Deity is sitting. Man and all other beings, if such beings there are capable of watching our humanity, see what God is in gazing at the manhood God has kindled. The universe is full of the fire of divinity; men feel it in the air as they feel an intense heat which has not yet broken out into a blaze. There is meaning in a great deal of the unexplained, mysterious awfulness of life—the sense of God felt, unseen. The atmosphere is burdened with heat that does not burst out into fire, and in the midst of this solemn burning world there stands up a man, pure and Godlike. In an instant it is as if a heated room had found some sensitive inflammable point where it would kindle into a blaze, and prospects of God's felt presence become clear and definite. The fitfulness of the impression of divinity is steadied into permanence. The mystery changes its character, and is a mystery of light and not of darkness. The fire of the Lord has found the candle of the Lord, and burns clear and steady, guiding and cheering instead of bewildering and frightening us, just as a man obedient to God has begun to catch and manifest His nature. I hope you will find this truth comes very close to your separate lives, but let me remind you first what essential dignity clothes the life of man in this world. Such philosophy as belongs to our time would deprecate the importance of man in the world, and rob him of his centralness. His position in such philosophies is this: that the world was not made for man. With us the old story that the Bible told, the book of Genesis with its garden of Eden, and its obedient beasts waiting until man should tell them what they should be called, stands firmly at the beginning of the world's history. The great notion of the centralness of man in the Garden of Eden re-asserts itself in every cabin of the western forests, or the southern jungles, where a solitary settler and his wife begin as it were the human history anew. There once again the note of Genesis is struck, and man asserts his centralness, and the beasts hesitate in fear till he shall tame them to his service, or bid them depart. The earth under his feet holds its fertility at his command, and what he does upon the earth is echoed in the storms. This is the great impressive idea which over the simplest life of man is ever growing, and with which the philosophies that would make little of the sacredness and centralness of man must always have to fight. This is the impression which is taken up, and steadied, and made clear, and turned from a petty pride to a lofty dignity and a solemn responsibility, when there comes such a message as this of Solomon. He says that the true sacredness, and superiority, and centralness of man is in the likeness of his nature to God's, and that capacity of spiritual obedience to Him, in virtue of which man may be the earthly declaration and manifestation of God to all the world. So long as that truth stands, the centralness of man is sure. "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord." This is the truth of which I wish to speak to you—the perpetual revelation of God by and through human life. I. You must ask yourself, first, what God is. See how at the very bottom of His existence, as you conceive of it, there lie these two thoughts—purpose and righteousness; how impossible it is to give God any personality, except as the embodiment of these two qualities, the intelligence that plans, and the righteousness that lives in duty. How could any knowledge of these qualities, of what they are, of what sort of being they will make, exist upon the earth, if there were not a human heart in which they could exist, and from which they could be shown? Only a person can truly utter a person; only from a character can character be echoed. You might write it over the skies that God was just, but it would be at best only a bit of knowledge—never a Gospel—never something which it would gladden the hearts of men to know. That comes only when a human life is capable of a justice like God's justice, and is clothed with His justice in the eyes of men. I have just intimated one thing that we need to observe: man's utterance of God is purely the utterance of a quality; it can tell me nothing of the quantities that make up His life. That God is just, and what it is to be just, I can learn from the just lives of the just men about me; but how just God is, to what unconceived perfection, to what unexplained developments that majestic quality of justice may extend in Him—of that I can form no judgment that is worth anything from the justice I see in my fellow-men. II. This seems to me to widen at once the range of the truth I am stating. If it be a quality of God, which man is capable of uttering, then it must be the simple quality of manhood that is necessary for the utterance, and not any specific quantity, not any assignable degree of human greatness. Whoever has the spirit of man may be the candle of the Lord. A larger measure of that spirit may make a brighter light; but there must be a light wherever any human being, in virtue of his essential humanness, by obedience becomes luminous with God. There are the men of manhood, spiritually the leaders of the race; how they stand out! how all men feel their power as they come into their presence, and feel that they are passing into the light of God! They are puzzled when they try to explain it. There is nothing more instructive and suggestive than the bewilderment men feel when they try to tell what inspiration is. He who goes into the presence of any powerful nature, feels sure in some way he is coming into the presence of God; but it would be melancholy if only the great men could give you this conviction. The world would be darker than it is if any human spirit, as soon as it became obedient, did not become the Lord's candle. A poor, bruised life, if only it keeps that human quality, and does not become inhuman, but is obedient to God, in its blind way becomes a light. A mere child with his pure humanity, and with his turning of his life towards God from Whom he came—how often he may burn with some suggestion of divinity, and cast illumination upon problems and mysteries so difficult that he himself has never felt them! Little lamps burning everywhere. III. We have here the key to another mystery that often puzzles us. What shall we make of some men rich in attainments and well educated, who stand in the midst of their fellow-men dark and helpless?… Let us let the light of Solomon's figure upon it. Simply this: they are unlighted candles; they are the spirit of man furnished to its very finest, but lacking the last touch of God; like silver lamps all chaste and wrought with wondrous skill, all filled with choicest oil, but all untouched by fire. IV. There are multitudes of men whose lamps are certainly not dark, and yet who certainly are not the candles of the Lord,—with a nature richly furnished, yet profane, impure, worldly.… Such a man is not another unlighted candle. He burns so bright and lurid that often the pure light grows dim within its glare. But if it be possible for the human candle, when the subtle components of a human nature are all mingled carefully in it; if it be possible that, instead of being lifted up to heaven, and kindled at the pure beam of Him who is eternally and absolutely good, it should be plunged down into hell, and lighted at the cruel flames that burn out of the dreadful brimstone pit, then we can understand the sight of a man who is rich in every energy of manhood cursing the world with the exhibition of the devilish instead of the Godlike in his life.… V. There is still one other way, more subtle and sometimes more dangerous than this, in which the spirit of man may fail of its functions as the candle of the Lord. The man may be lighted, and the fire at which he is lighted may be, indeed, the fire of God, and yet it may not be God alone he shows forth upon the earth. I can picture to myself a candle which should in some way mingle the peculiarity of its own substance with the light it sheds. So it is, I think, with the way in which a great many men manifest God. They have really kindled their lives at Him. It is His fire that burns in them. They are obedient, and so He can make them His points of exhibition, but they are always mixed with the God whom they show. They show themselves as well as Him; just as a mirror mingles its own reflection with the things that are reflected from it and gives them a curious convexity because it is itself convex. This is the secret of pious bigotry, of holy prejudices; it is the candle putting its own colour into the flame it has borrowed from the fire of God. The feeble man makes God seem feeble, the speculative man makes God look like a doubtful dream, the legal man makes God seem as hard and steel-like as law. VI. I have tried to depict some difficulties which beset the full exhibition in the world of the great truth of Solomon.… Man is selfish and disobedient, and will not let his light burn at all; man is wilful and passionate, and kindles his light with ungodly fire; man is narrow and bigoted, and makes the light to shine in his own peculiar colour; but all these are accident—distortions of the true idea of man. How can we know that? Here is the perfect man, CHRIST!… I bring the man of my experience and the man of my imagination into the presence of Jesus, but they fall short of Him, and my human consciousness assures me they fall short of the best ideal of what it is to be a man. "I am come a light into the world," said Jesus; "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "In Him was light, and the life was the light of men." So wrote the man who of all men knew Him best. I think I need only bid you look at Him and you will see what it is to which our feeble lights are struggling. There is the true spiritual man who is the candle of the Lord, "the Light that lighteth every man." It is entirely a new idea of life, new to the standards of our ordinary living, which is there revealed. All ordinary appeals to men to be up and doing, and to make themselves shining lights, fade away and become insignificant before this higher message which comes in the words of Solomon in the life of Jesus. What does that higher message say to you and me? That your full relationship to God can only be realised by obedience to Him, when you will shine by His light; then you cannot be dark, for He shall kindle you; then you shall be as incapable of burning with false passion, as you shall be quick to answer the true; then the devil may hold his torch to you, as he held it to the heart of Jesus in the desert, and your heart shall be as uninflammable as His. As soon as God touches you, you shall burn with a light so truly your own that you shall reverence your own mysterious life, and yet be so truly His that pride shall be impossible. In certain lands, for the most holy ceremonies they prepare the candles with the most anxious care. The very bees that distil the wax are sacred. They range in gardens planted with sweet flowers for their use alone. The wax is gathered by consecrated hands, and the shaping of the candles is a holy task performed in holy places, with the singing of hymns, and in an atmosphere of prayer. All this is done because the candles, when they are made, are to burn in the most elevated ceremonies and on the most sacred days. With what care must the man be made whose spirit is to be the candle of the Almighty Lord! It is his spirit that the Lord is to kindle for Himself; therefore the spirit must be the precious part of him. The body must be valued only for the protection and education that the spirit may gain by it. The power by which his spirit shall become a candle is obedience; therefore obedience must be the struggle and desire of his life; obedience, not hard and forced, but ready, loving, and spontaneous; obedience in heart, the obedience of the child to the father, the obedience of the candle to the flame; the doing of duty not merely that the duty may be done, but that the soul in doing it may become capable of receiving and uttering God; the bearing of pain not merely because the pain must be borne, but that the bearing of it may make the soul able to burn with the Divine fire that found it in the furnace; the repentance of sin and the acceptance of forgiveness not merely that the soul may be saved from the fire of hell but that it may be touched with the fire of Heaven, and shine with the light of God as the stars, for ever.—Philips Brooks.

This "candle of the Lord" is a slight and diminutive light. A lamp is no such dazzling object. A candle has no such goodly light as that it should pride and glory in it; it is but a brief and compendious flame, shut up and imprisoned in a narrow compass. How far distant is it from the beauty of a star! how far from the brightness of a sun! This candle of the Lord, when it was first lighted up, before there was any thief in it, even then it had but a limited and restrained light. God said unto it: "Thus far shall thy light go; hither shalt thou shine and no further." Adam, in his innocency, was not to crown himself with his own sparks. God never intended a creature should rest satisfied with his own candle-light, but that it should run to the fountain of light, and sun itself in the presence of God. What a poor happiness had it been for a man only to have enjoyed his own lamp.… The "candle of the Lord" is a light discovering present, not future things, for did you ever hear of such a lamp as would discover an object not yet born? Would you not smile at him that should light a candle to search for a futurity?… Let, then, this candle content itself with its proper object. It finds work enough, and difficulty enough, in the discovery of present things, and has not such a copious light as can search out the future.… The light of reason is a certain light. Lamplight, as it is not glorious, so it is not deceitful—though it be but limited, it will discover such things as are within its own sphere with a sufficient certainty. The letters of nature's law are so fairly printed, they are so visible and capital, that you may read them by this candlelight.… Although there is not vigour enough in any created eye to pierce into the pith and marrow, the depth and secrecy of being … It is a directive light. The will looks upon that, as Leander in Musæus looked up to the tower for Hero's candle, and calls it, as he doth there: "Lamp which to me, on my way through this life, is a brilliant director." … The will doth but echo the understanding, and doth practically repeat the last syllable of the final decision; which makes the moralist well determine that "moral virtues cannot exist without intellectual powers." … Other creatures, indeed, are shot more violently into their ends; but man hath the skill and faculty of directing himself, and is, as you may so imagine, a rational kind of arrow, that moves knowingly and voluntarily to the mark of its own accord.… It is an aspiring light. I mean no more by this than what that known saying of Augustine imports: "Thou hast made us, O Lord, for Thyself: our heart will be restless till it return to Thee." The candle of the Lord—it came from Him and it would fain return to Him. For an intellectual lamp to aspire to be a sun is a lofty strain of that intolerable pride which was in Lucifer and Adam; but for it to desire the favour, and presence, and enjoyment of a beatifical sun, is but a just and noble desire of that end which God created it for.… If you look but upon a candle, what an aspiring and ambitious light it is!… It puts on the form of a pyramid, occasionally and accidentally by reason that the air extenuates it into that form: otherwise it would ascend upward in one greatness, in a rounder and completer manner. It is just thus in "the candle of the Lord;" reason would move more fully according to the sphere of its activity, it would flame up to heaven in a more vigorous and uniform way; but that it is much quenched by sin … therefore it is fain to aspire and climb as well as it can. The bottom and base of it borders upon the body, and is therefore more impure and feculent; but the apex and cuspis of it catches toward heaven.… Every spark of reason flies upward. This Divine flame fell down from heaven and halted with its fall—as the poets tell us of the limping of Vulcan—but it would fain ascend thither again by some steps and gradations of its own framing.—Culverwell.

For Homiletics on Pro, see Pro 20:26.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-20.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

The Scriptural Doctrine of Conscience

Proverbs 20:27

What is the Scripture doctrine of conscience? The Bible is before us; let us look at it, simply as a record, and inquire what is its particular doctrine on conscience. Does it recognise conscience at all? Does it concern itself about conscience? Does it ever become very earnest about conscience? Is the matter treated incidentally, in a measure casually and offhandedly, or remotely referred to? or does it constitute what may be called a principal line in the record? Observe, we treat the Bible in this initial argument simply as a document. We do not ask who wrote it, where it came from, by whose authority it speaks; we simply want to know, in the first instance, what the Bible says in reference to this great and anxious question of the human conscience.

It cannot be denied that from beginning to end the Bible recognises the fact that man has a conscience. I am not aware that the Bible says, There is a God; or that the Bible begins human history by saying, There is a conscience: in both respects it would seem that a great assumption is made. The very first sentence in the Bible is the greatest sentence in all literature. There Is nothing else that can cover it wholly for pregnancy, suggestiveness, comprehensiveness, sublimity; and so certain words were spoken to man which could not have been spoken to him except under certain assumptions and conditions. It is better that it is so. There would have been, perhaps, a more dignified formality in a specific sentence to the effect, There is a God: there is a conscience: there is a heaven; but the Bible, by whomsoever inspired or incited, makes great assumptions, starts upon certain conditions and propositions, and works its way from these, and so works its way as to justify the reasonableness and truthfulness of the assumptions upon which its mystery, argument, and exhortation are founded. Does a child come into the world with a conscience? That might be turned into a metaphysical inquiry, and might occasion the human mind great trouble as to analysis and specific statement. But there is a practical way of dealing even with an inquiry so profound. Does a child come into the world with responsibility, judgment, imagination, faculty of any kind? Verily appearances are against it. Looking fairly upon a child, without prejudice, appearances go heavily against it as to its being a responsible creature, as to its having any poetic fire, moral sense, spiritual faculty, or destiny beyond the little day in which its body breathes. But can we limit the argument to the area of appearances? Must we not go further? Must we not interpret one life by another? We have not to deal with a solitary or isolated infant, and get up a large amount of wonder about it, conjecturing whatever can it be, wherever has it come from, to what end can it be moving? Human history is now old enough to fall back upon itself, with certain lights and explanations. Therefore I do not see that language would be outraged, or reason put to any extremity, if we said, The child belongs to the human family; being a member of the human family, it must possess certain instincts, germs of reason, certain hints of faculty, certain suggestions of possibility: at present they amount to next to nothing; if you had to set them all down on paper by a separate estimate, and in easily-added figures, you would not have much to do in an arithmetical way. No doubt appearances are so far against the child. But human history is all in its favour. Who will believe that the child is dumb? When all the world has given the child up as dumb, the mother will still expect to hear some little articulation, and she will be quite sure she has heard it. So who will say the child has no conscience?—give it time. No understanding?—give it time: let it be developed. God has never spoken to lion or eagle, to whale, or largest, finest beast of the forest, as he has spoken to man. Every speech made to man has assumed that man could answer. "There is a spirit in man"—a ghost, another, truer self than is seen by the eye. You can find an oak in an acorn: no man ever found an oak in a paving-stone. We must, therefore, look into the plasm, that very first hint of life and purpose and issue; and so looking I, for one, cannot see, let me repeat, that language would be outraged if we said, standing over a little child, This child has judgment, sense, moral faculty, spiritual power,—all in germ, all undeveloped, all unawakened; but give time, bring the right ministries to bear upon the child, and then the issue will show how the child is constituted.

The Bible proceeds upon the assumption that man has what may be called a conscience, a moral sense, a faculty that can in some measure understand, worship, and serve God. I am not aware that there is any hint in the Bible that would serve as a proof that this moral sense is the gift of society or of law. It would seem to precede all society, and to be its beginning and extension; it would seem to lie deeper than all law, and to give law whatever real value it possesses. Society does not give a man imagination, or talent, or genius, or high faculty; it may sharpen all these, create opportunities for the exercise of all these, but the gift is within, the secret of God is in the heart, some sign, token, pulse, throb,—call it by what name we may—something in the man that says, I was made to keep society with God. One man says, I can think, therefore I am. Another might add, I can pray, and therefore I am spiritual, almost divine. It cannot but be interesting to find in ourselves—not round about ourselves, like so many decorations and investitures made by society—certain elements, pulsations, aspirations, which attest that we are better than the best beast, that between us and the greatest of the unintelligent creation there lies the diameter of an unmeasured universe. It seems to me, therefore, on reading the Bible through, that everywhere the existence of conscience is assumed, not as having been created by society or law, but as being in Prayer of Manasseh, part of man without which, indeed, he could not be man in the truest and highest sense of that complex term.

The Bible further declares that the conscience or moral sense may be trained upward or downward, may be sanctified or corrupted, strengthened or weakened. Conscience does not stand apart, taking no interest in the fray of life; it is in some sense the most active and energetic of all the ministries of our nature, and it cannot escape the general atmosphere in which we live. Even conscience may be desecrated; the choicest golden vessels of the temple may be stolen and may be carried away to the tents of the Philistines. Paul says, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men;" "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience." There is a history of adjectives. There is a moral history and a natural history of epithets. Who could imagine that "good" would have come and set itself against "conscience," to explain it and to help it? Who would gild refined gold? Is not this painting the lily that a word like "good" should attach itself to conscience? Is not this a despicable patronage? Does "conscience" want adjectival commendation or exposition? Is not the very word itself a star to which nothing can be added by way of completing its magnitude or increasing its radiance? You will find in answer to this inquiry that many epithets or explanatory words have been attached to the high term conscience to show what was meant in particular relations and conditions and at special times. The natural history of words finds a copious and instructive chapter at this point. Conscience is not necessarily good, but it may be trained to goodness. I have so read the Bible as to believe that the Bible will never allow there can be a good conscience towards man until there is first a good conscience towards God. Am I right in my reading? I am not using the word in any secondary sense, as socially tolerable, decent, useful; but good in its own true sense—all pure, without flaw, sincere, transparent, profound goodness. The Bible always insists that there must be first a right relation to God before there can be a right relation to man. Thus the Bible is unlike any other book. It will not be content with secondaries, except as recognising them as such, saying, You are secondary, you are but reformers, you are helps, but what you must be at and get at is a right relation towards God. In no official or institutional sense, but in the profoundest sense, a man must be religious before he can be philanthropic. Man cannot understand man"s value until he has held communion with God. May we not justify this by Christ"s words? "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,"—namely: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." The process cannot be reversed or inverted. Attempts may be made in that direction, but how much do those very attempts owe to high religious and Christian education in the first instance? To love your neighbour is impossible, in Christ"s sense of the term, until you have first loved God. The religious love brings with it all the ""acuity and fervour of the soul, makes the soul realise itself, and then sends it back into the world, solemn with reverence, tender with pity, hopeful with God"s own love, sacrificial as in sympathy with the very Cross of Christ. Meanwhile, observe how we stand. We are not asking, Is all this true or not true? We are simply endeavouring to find the doctrine of a particular book on a particular subject; and the contention is that Jesus Christ would never allow the possibility of neighbourly love, in its highest, deepest, and fullest sense, except as sequential upon true, honest, deep, sacrificial love of God. What applies to love would seem to apply at least to conscience. "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men." Life is not a trick, a social arrangement, a series of attitudes, or exchanges of courtesies; social life itself is a great religious mystery when properly treated, and can only be handled effectually and beneficently by men who have been closeted with God in long solitude, in the solitude of a dual companionship—an irony and a contradiction in words, but easily reconciled by the soul who has spent much time with the Father. If this be at all true, it is simply vain for any man to attempt to have a good social conscience without his first having an honest religious conscience. Not that he may not be intermediately and secondarily very good, most useful, reliable in many respects, calculated to bear a certain amount of pressure with mathematical exactness; but the man who can endure all things, and can bear all sorrow, is the man who has been with God and learned of Jesus Christ; then no mathematician can calculate the amount of pressure which he can bear; then the mathematicians do not gather around the pillars of his life, and say, By so much may the rivers run without injuring the pedestal on which he stands;—they fall back and say, This is an equation that has never fallen within our mathematical reasoning; the man must be explained by God; he is right in the sanctuary, he has been weighed in the heavenly places, his heart is ideally, and by the law of aspiration at least, right with God; therefore he comes down and handles the affairs of life with a mastery and a beneficence impossible to any man who has not connected himself with the living fountain, the unseen and eternal spring. A poor, shifty, thriftless life, a surface pool, a little thing that the sunbeam can dry up, is that life that does not come up out of the Rock of Ages or flow down from the fountains of eternity. We live and move and have our being in God: otherwise we are plucked flowers, or artificial creations, and our destiny is to die.

Thus far and in this way have I read the Bible. So strong is the apostolic conviction upon this point that the apostle will insist upon the conscience itself being brought under what may be called evangelical conditions and discipline. Says Hebrews, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" "Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience." So then he would treat life as being wrong at its very centre and spring; whether by personal conduct, whether by some mysterious action of the law of heredity, however it Isaiah, the apostles all concur in saying, The work must be done within, and all reforms that are to be complete and lasting must be interior reforms and must work out towards the exterior, carrying life, health, and beauty with them. Except the heart be clean the life cannot be pure; except the conscience adjust itself by the meridian of eternity it cannot tell to life what time it Isaiah, what duty Isaiah, and how duty is to be done. The apostle Isaiah, therefore, by so much argumentatively clear; he will not hold any dispute with us, or any conference that implies acquiescence and friendliness, unless we yield at once to the doctrine that we must be born again, we must pass through a regenerative process. Name it as you please, attach what verbal definition you may to the mere way of saying it, there must, according to apostolic doctrine, be a great mystery of Revelation -birth accomplished in the soul, heart, spirit, conscience, before the hands can be clean, or may put themselves lawfully forward to serve the altar of heaven.

But the conscience, on the other hand, may be corrupted, ill-used, slain. I have referred to the use of certain qualifying terms. Take another—"Having their conscience seared with a hot iron,"—having the pith taken out of it—the life, the fibre, the vitality, the meaning; having a conscience like a withered leaf, like a piece of burning wood; everything taken out of it that was divinely created, with voices and ministries meant to inspire and direct, control and ennoble, the whole life. Take another qualifying term—"Even their mind and conscience is defiled": the wreck is within, the ruin is spiritual, the tremendous collapse—whatever the theologians may choose to name it—has taken place within the man; his are no flesh-wounds, no cutaneous diseases; there is something the matter with him that cannot be touched by earthly physicians, or by invention or ingenuity of his own. The Bible says that all redeeming help must come from the creating God. This doctrine is applied to the conscience as well as to the soul in its more general and comprehensive definitions.

Then the conscience may not only be corrupted, seared, defiled, but it may be turned into a pedant and be forced to ridiculous uses. "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" The conscience may be made to do servile work, to patronise bad things. The conscience may be appointed managing-director of the most accursed confederacies ever invented by the depravity of man. Conscience, therefore, requires continual culture, watching, assistance; it must for ever draw its vitality from the God of righteousness.

Now we must in the uses of conscience distinguish between the eternal right and the secondary right. The word "right" requires continual definition. It does not always stand for the same thing. Like the term "law," in the apostolic reasoning, it must be distinguished in its uses, and only by an analytical discrimination can it be saved from perversions the most disastrous. But how are we to ascertain the eternal right? There should be no difficulty about that. How are we to ascertain the institutional or secondary right? There ought to be no difficulty about that. Let us see whether we can render one another any little assistance in that direction. I should say that rest is the eternal right: that the time when it should be taken is the institutional right. Never must we trifle with the eternal right of every human being to rest. As to whether it shall be on the first day, or on the last, or in the middle of the week, there you touch what is secondary and institutional; there you may have change, modification to your heart"s content; there indeed you may enjoy fullest liberty: but you have no liberty in the matter of treating the rest itself. One man esteemeth one day, another man esteemeth another day: let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind; but let no man lay wicked or violent hands upon the divine gift and ordinance of rest to every human creature.

Faith I should declare to be the eternal quantity—that mysterious life which may be called the faith-life, the living out of oneself, the tender dependence, the filial expectation, the assured relationship to God; that is the eternal quantity: but creed, catechism, church, institution, organisation,—these are secondary and intermediate, and there what liberty is offered by the very genius of the Bible! How the Apostle Paul gives lavishly of this gift of liberty, about eating, and washing, and fasting, and observance, and ceremony! He says: Be kind to one another; make allowances for one another: we cannot all think alike upon these matters; but no man must interfere with the central and eternal quantity of faith, larger than any creed, larger than any church. The creed is temporary. It may have been up to date the very best thing that could be written. But no creed can be permanent unless it be inspired. And when did God inspire a creed-maker? If we claim inspiration for the miscellaneous Bible, the multitudinous Bible, the unmethodised, unsystematised, yet coherent and harmonious Bible, we must not be claiming it too lavishly for mechanisms, formulas, human inventions. Change the creed as civilisation changes; readjust your terms as education advances; Revelation -set all your theological positions and dogmas if you please: but you must not interfere with the eternal quantity, Faith—that upper soul, that deeper life, that truer-self; that marvellous system of tentacles that hooks on to the Eternal Life—call him Jehovah, Jove, or Lord. You must not take away the idolater"s faith when you take away his idol. Even the idolater may know the mystery of self-translation, and may have no explanation of the mystery which makes his spiritual life august and grand. Do not destroy his idol even until you can substitute it with the living God. Destruction may be carried too far, unless you are prepared with the work of construction, which ought to go on almost concurrently with the destructive process.

I should say that worship is the eternal right, but that methods of worship are the secondary right. Worship with a written formula, if you so please, and can realise most profitably, and God bless you in the exercise and use of a noble, all but inspired liturgy; if you can worship God better by free, spontaneous, unprepared addresses to the throne of the heavenly grace, by all means approach your Father along the broadest, amplest, most hospitable way: but you must never interfere with the right of worship. You can address yourselves wisely to methods, operations, systems, plans, mechanisms,—all these may undergo continual change; you may change your form of worship every day in the week: but the worship itself abides, the eternal quantity.

Take a simple illustration which even a child can understand. Suppose we appoint that worship should begin at eleven o"clock in the morning. There you have two rights. There is nothing in the eleven o"clock; that is a point agreed upon, partly by compromise, partly by study of the situation, partly by cognisance of special circumstances in the city, in the parish: but it is right we should be there at eleven o"clock, because we have agreed upon it. What is the eternal right? Punctuality. No man must interfere with that He is a thief who palters with that. Punctuality is the eternal quantity, the eternal right; the eleven o"clock is but the point at which that right takes visible effect, or embodies itself in concrete realisation. But punctuality abides. You may change the eleven o"clock, you may change your time of meeting every Sabbath in the year, but having changed it you cannot interfere with the spirit of punctuality. There is a substance; there is also a shadow: there is the eternal right; there is the secondary accommodation.

But let us beware how we make a pedant of conscience, how we expend our strength on punctilios when we ought to spend it upon principle,—real things. Never have a conscience that is not founded upon reason. In so far as conscience can vindicate itself by reason it will make headway in society. Reason always triumphs. It has a long weary fight, a destructive struggle sometimes, but it comes up at the last, and sits by right upon the throne, judging all men. Do not judge another man"s conscience by your own on all these secondary matters. In proportion as you are addicted—and here we come back to the central principle—in love and loyalty to the eternal right will you be large and liberal in the uses of the secondary right. Find a man who is punctilious about little things, about details, about passing matters, and you find a man who has never been in the sanctuary of the inner right. Find a man who has communed with God, drunk the very spirit of Christ, become imbued with the very meaning of the gospel, and Hebrews, Paul-like, gives great liberty, looks with magnanimous complacency even upon the controversies of the Church, asking only that they shall be conducted gently, quietly, lovingly, and that a good deal of allowance should be made by one man for the peculiarities of another. When did Paul—a Pharisee of the Pharisees—learn this lesson? To what school did he repair to study this philosophy? The man who said this, who gave this liberty, also said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Out of such lofty tabernacles he came to distribute amongst men rights and franchises and opportunities and privileges with the lavish hand of a princely donor. But about this conscience in the house, and in business. You may be killing your children with your conscience, because it may be an irrational conscience. Children will have amusement. You never can put down drama and dancing and recreation and jubilance; you never can cut off the foam and efflorescence and blossoming of life without doing great injury; and in attempting to do all this you may defeat yourself. That child of yours, whom you have oppressed with your conscience because you will not allow certain recreations, comes quietly in every night after having been enjoying them, and looks at you in the face with a blankness which you would understand if you were not so conscientiously stupid. Why not make your home the great joy of life, saying, Boys and girls, let us all do here what we can to alleviate life"s burdens and life"s darkness, and let us all be children together, so far as we may: do nothing behind me you would not do before me, and if I can join you I will, and the old man shall be as young as any of you? Then home will be church, and church will be almost heaven. Beware of the perverted conscience, the soured conscience, the right that is only secondary being put in place of the right that is primary and eternal. How is all this to be learned? Only by communion with Christ. Blessed Christ, Son of God! what liberty he gives; he said, If you like to wash your hands, well; if you prefer not to do so because the ceremony is unmeaning and fruitless, then sit down and enjoy the hospitality of the house. The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath. When men rebuked him because he went to eat with publicans and sinners, He said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." When they said, "This man eateth with sinners," he did not disdain the sneer; he took it as the highest eulogium that could be pronounced upon him by such lips. But let us beware lest we enjoy the secondary liberty without sustaining the primary relation. Do not play with sacred things. Be right at both ends. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself:" "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." Do not live an empty, superficial, linear life, but live a full, solid, cubic, square, all-round life—the very life of God. If any man says, "Such a life would I live," all God"s angels will take up their abode with him; yea, the Spirit of God will be his instructor, and sanctifier, and loving friend.

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Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/proverbs-20.html. 1885-95.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Этот стих описывает достоинства души – великой души человека – этого светильника, который освещает каждого человека.

1. Это божественный свет; это светильник Господа, светильник, зажженный Им в человеке, ибо дыхание Вседержителя дает ему разумение. Он образовал дух человека внутри него. человек обладает знанием, так как сотворен по подобию Божьему. Совесть – благородная способность человека – является посланником Бога в душе; эта свеча не только зажжена Им, но и для Него, поэтому Отец духов назван Отцом света.

2. Этот светильник раскрывает невидимое. С помощью разума мы узнаем людей, судим об их характерах и погружаемся в их планы; с помощью совести мы познаем себя. Дух человека имеет самосознание (1Кор.2:11); он исследует расположение и привязанности души, хвалит хорошее, осуждает плохое, судит мысли и склонности сердца. В этом заключается служение и сила совести, которую во избежание проступков мы стремимся иметь правильно проинформированной.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary
>
>on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-20.html. 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The rational soul and conscience are as a lamp within us, which should be used in examining our dispositions and motives with the revealed will of God.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 20:27". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary
>
>on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-20.html. 1706.