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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Proverbs 23

Verses 1-35

Thought

Proverbs 23:7

The capacity of thinking is a most wonderful thing. Here lies man's supremacy over all the visible world about him. All the mighty deeds that have blessed humanity were once thoughts. Before ever the angel's song was heard on the heights of Bethlehem Christ's atoning work was a Divine thought.

If such is the province and potency of thought, we see how the character of a man's thoughts determines the character of his life: for as he thinketh, so is he. His actions are inspired from within. The utterance of his mind is seen in the movement of his feet and hands continually.

I. Every product of the soul, whether it be an action or a purpose, is first a germ. There is not a Christian but owed his or her spiritual birth to the direct act of the Holy Ghost bringing home conviction to your souls. There was the first thought I am a sinner; and the next thought I need a Saviour; and the next that Christ is the Saviour for me; and out of that comes your hope for this world and for heaven. It is not only true that every Christian life is a germ awakened by the Holy Spirit, but all after-actions and plans of that life have their origin there.

II. Sin lies in the soul in germs in germs as well as in actions. And, as good thoughts are to be nursed and encouraged and carried out, so the moral success of life consists in killing evil thoughts. Every sin was once a little thought The guilt lies not in having the thought; for fearful thoughts often come to the godliest people. The guilt lies in what? In opening the door and giving them house-room and heart-room. The real difference between good men and bad men is largely this, that one fosters a thought of evil and the other quenches it. Every sin was once a thought. The indulgence of wicked thought makes sinners. The acting out of the thought makes the transgressor. The time to kill the serpent is in the egg. Extinguish fire by putting out sparks. Keep thy heart bolted against evil thoughts. For 'as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he'. The miser's thought is all dwindled to a sovereign or a penny, and he cannot see God or eternity. Let me know what your soul turns to and thinks most about when left to itself, and I will determine your spiritual character before God. And at last such shall it be before the judgment.

III. There are few purer and richer pleasures in this world than the enjoyment of sweet thoughts, happy thoughts, holy thoughts.

The heart determines our everlasting destiny. A heart without holiness never shall see the Lord.

Christ is the one only purifier of the heart. He can change the fountainhead. He can make it to send forth not bitter water, but sweet, pure, refreshing water.

T. L. Cutler, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. II. p. 93.

References. XXIII. 7. J. Clifford, The Dawn of Manhood, p. 66. XXIII. 10, 11. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 465. XXIII. 15-23. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 240. XXIII. 15-35. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 473. XXIII. 17, 18. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2150. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 247. XXIII. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2152. XXIII. 19-23. H. Ward Beecher, Sermons (4th Series), p. 368.

Buying the Truth

Proverbs 23:23

I. Let us consider the two exhortations set before us as they stand. First, 'Buy the truth'. The expression is, of course, metaphorical; still, it enshrines a reality. The truth, if it is to be possessed by us, must be bought; it is not to be had for nothing. And we go further. We may notice that it is customary for pious persons of all schools of thought in the Church of God to speak of the whole body of things to be believed, experienced, and done in order to get salvation as, in the language of our text, 'the truth'. Now the truth that is to be possessed by us has to be bought, and it teaches us two lessons: First, that there are difficulties in the way of its attainment; and secondly, that, were it not so were truth to be had cheap like other things which cost little, it might be liable to be lightly regarded. We cannot but be reminded of two other portions of Holy Scripture, one in the Old and the other in the New Testament, which administer this counsel, 'Buy the truth'. The first is the prophecy of Isaiah. 'Ho, every one that thirsteth,' cries the prophet, 'come ye to the water, and he that hath no money; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.' Truth, then (for the wine may be taken for the truth in its strength, and the milk for the truth in its simplicity), though it must be bought, is not, we see, to be purchased with wealth; no money can buy it. In respect of this it is as free to all as the very air that we breathe. 'No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.' The second portion of Holy Scripture which we may refer to is one of our Lord's own parables. He represents 'a merchantman seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it'. So here we see that the truth is not only to be bought, but that it may cost us dear. Something which, in some cases, it may be, means 'all that he hath,' has to be bartered or given in exchange for it. 'If life,' to quote an old saying, 'were merchandise which men could buy, The rich would live, the poor, alas! would die.' But this does not apply at all to the merchandise of truth. Here both rich and poor are on exactly the same level, and have, as a rule, to pay the same price; it is not money that buys truth. We must be prepared to sacrifice something for its acquisition and retention. We may be called upon to sacrifice popularity, ease, wordly honour, the support of the important, the good opinion of the powerful, the counsels of the learned, the goodwill of friends. The truth, if we buy it, may be of so high a price as to cost all this. And there are regions of truth, more especially of theological or moral or social distinction, which dawn, perhaps, upon only one noble mind in an age, and we find that such truths demand a high price. They who first promulgate them have indeed to pay a high price for them, as the lives of the prophets of old have shown. Great truths are dearly bought.

II. Let us now consider the selling of the truth. The possibility of its being sold is what we are here warned against. 'Buy the truth and sell it not.' Sell it not after that you have had to buy it and have had very possibly to pay dearly for it. How is this selling of the truth brought to pass? Why, in this way: A man in an evil hour may be tempted to look upon what he parted from in order to become possessor of the truth, and it seems to him that he has paid too dearly for it; he considers what his principles have cost him, and is disposed to think that his principles have cost him too much. Then there are not wanting those around him to represent to him how much happier, richer, more prosperous, more respected perhaps, he might have been in the world had he not been so particular, so scrupulous, so conscientious, so uncompromising. And then, again, that liar, who from the beginning abode not in the truth, helps him to see even so, and he is at length prepared to sell the truth. And what does he expect to get by the sale of it? To regain popularity, to regain ease, to regain reputation, to regain the honour, the support, the counsels, the goodwill that he had to sacrifice in order to buy it. But, as in other cases, so in this buying is one thing, selling is another. In selling a thing you rarely receive what you gave for it; if you buy dear you sell cheap. You may sell the truth, but it is not certain that you will regain any one of those things which you had to sacrifice when you bought it.

References. XXIII. 23. J. G. Greenhough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 113. E. J. Miller, ibid. vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 133. XXIII. 26. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1995. F. B. Cowl, Straight Tracks, p. 124. A. F. Winnington Ingram, The Gall of the Father, p. 133. XXIII. 29-35. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Esther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 256. XXIII. 32. J. Wattem, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 356. XXIII. 34. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 272. XXIV. 1, 19, 20. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 184.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Proverbs 23". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/proverbs-23.html. 1910.