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Proverbs 28:1. For the transgression, etc. Or, “In the rebellion.” “For this use of the word transgression in the sense of revolt, compare the verb employed in this sense in 2 Kings 1:1; also Exodus 23:21, etc.” (Zöckler). Zöckler translates the last clause, “through wise, prudent men, he (the prince) continueth long.” Delitzsch reads, “Through a man of wisdom, of knowledge, authority continues.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 28:1
COWARDICE AND COURAGE
I. This act of a wicked man reveals an unnatural condition. The sparrow flees to her nest when the hawk is on the wing, and the stag flees before the hunter or the hounds that are on his track. But neither bird nor beast is ever found fleeing in terror when it is not pursued. But bad men flee when they are not chased, and when there is nothing following them more substantial than their own shadow.
II. The cause of this unnatural action. There must be some influence at work somewhere which strikes this terror into the human spirit. There must be some hidden power which thus unnerves a man when he is out of the reach of any visible avenger, and causes him to tremble at the sound of his own footstep, or to see the reflection of the face of the man he has wronged in every human countenance that he meets. In the absence of all causes without we must look within, and there we find the pursuer. It is conscience that thus makes every wicked man a coward—that voice within him which thus bears witness to the existence of a Divine law which he has broken, and to a Divine Lawgiver to whom he must render an account whether he escape human justice or not.
III. The hopeless nature of the act. The man who flees when none are pursuing reveals that he is engaged in an attempt to flee from himself, and this is an endeavour that will ever be fruitless. A man may quit the scene of his crime and go into a country where all around him is entirely different, but he will be painfully conscious that he is himself the same being—that although he has changed everything outside himself he has preserved his identity. He can free his soul from his body and so flee from the world, but he cannot free himself from the consciousness of guilt and so break the tie that binds him and his sin together. For this flight from self is but another name for flight from God—from Him to whom alone the Psalmist’s words apply:—“Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall uphold me.” (Psalms 139:7; Psalms 139:10.)
IV. The entirely contrary attitude of a righteous man reveals an entirely opposite relation to conscience and to God. The natural position of any creature in relation to the Creator is the position which he held when he was originally created. Man was then on such good terms with himself and in such conscious favour with God that he had no sense of fear and no desire to flee from the Divine presence. It was not until the first sin had been committed that Adam and his wife hid themselves, and fled when no man pursued. But there are descendants of Adam who, although they cannot pretend to sinlessness, have no guilty fear of God, and consequently are not afraid of man. The original and natural relation between them and their Father in heaven has been re-established by their acceptance of His conditions of reconciliation, and being now on the side of righteousness they have no reason to flee even when many pursue them, much less when they are alone with themselves and God. They can sing with the Psalmist, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?… Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.” (Psalms 27:1; Psalms 27:3.)
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Moses “feared not the wrath of the king.” Caleb and Joshua stood firm against the current of rebellion. Elijah dared Ahab’s anger to his face. Nehemiah, in a time of peril, exclaimed—“Should such a man as I flee?” The three confessors stood undaunted before the furious autocrat of Babylon. The Apostles’ boldness astonished their enemies. Paul before the Roman governor, and even before Nero himself, witnessed a good confession. Athanasius before the Imperial Council of Heresy; Luther at the Diet of Worms, finely exemplified this lion-like boldness.—Bridges.
The wicked is a very coward, and is afraid of everything; of God, because He is his enemy; of Satan, because he is his tormentor; of God’s creatures, because they, joining with their Maker, fight against him; of himself, because he bears about with him his own accuser and executioner. The godly man contrarily is afraid of nothing; not of God, because he knows Him his best friend, and will not hurt him; not of Satan, because he cannot hurt him; not of afflictions, because he knows they come from a loving God, and end in his good; not of the creatures, since “the very stones in the field are in league with Him;” not of himself, since his conscience is at peace.—Bp. Hall.
Conscience within a man is one extremity of an electric wire, whose other extremity is fastened to the judgment-seat.… A man may be saved from death by seeing the reflection of his danger in a mirror, when the danger itself could not be directly seen. The executioner, with his weapon, is stealthily approaching through a corridor of the castle to the spot where the devoted invalid reclines. In his musings the captive has turned his vacant eye towards a mirror on the wall, and the faithful witness reveals the impending stroke in time to secure the escape of the victim. It is thus that the mirror in a man’s breast has become in a sense the man’s saviour, by revealing the wrath to come before its coming.—Arnot.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 28:2
THE PENALTY OF REVOLT
As will be seen by a reference to the Critical Notes, the word transgression would be better translated rebellion. The proverb then sets forth,
I. The disadvantages attendant on revolt against the existing government. Whether the rebellion be a lawful one or not—whether the ruler that is dethroned be a tyrant or a wise and just monarch, the result is very much the same. There will be many claimants to the vacant place, and many to support the claims of each aspirant. This is an effect which is almost certain to follow any uprooting of the existing order of things, whether the order be good or bad. If the crew of a vessel put their officers in irons, the difficulty will immediately arise as to who is to guide the vessel. If this is not speedily settled, the ship will be in danger of running upon the rocks while she is drifting on without a guide. It is the same with the vessel of the State. Many justifiable efforts to better the government of a country have broken down at this point—although there has been entire unity of feeling in favour of a change, there has been a great diversity of opinion as to who should inaugurate it and succeed those who have been deprived of authority. The confusion and in security which such a division has caused, has often made way for a return to the old condition of things, and the last state of the land has been worse than the first. But this can hardly be used as an argument against all revolt against existing abuses, but only as a strong incentive to try every other means before resorting to this last extremity.
II. That which makes revolt unnecessary, and consequently conduces to the peace of the commonwealth. Wisdom and prudence on the part of the monarch and his ministers (for the words may be referred to either) will avert such a calamity. That kingdom is highly blest in which the throne is filled with a worthy occupant, and surrounded by men of intellectual ability and moral worth, and therein lies its only real security. For every reasonable man knows that the reins of government must be held by some one, and there is generally a sufficient number of reasonable citizens in a nation to uphold an enlightened administrator of righteous laws, and to keep in check those turbulent spirits to be found everywhere, who, under the name of patriots, only advocate change to serve their own selfish ends.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
“Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.” The kingdom to which they belong has one King; and a king whose reign is permanent as well as unparticipated. There are no rival powers there. If the princes of this world, in the plentitude of their presumption, take upon them to intrude themselves within the precints of His sole jurisdiction, and to intermeddle with what does not belong to them, the subjects of the King of Zion must stand by His prerogative, resist the encroachment, and, at all risks as to this world, refuse obedience. In the spiritual kingdom of which they are subjects, Christ is the only Head; and His word the only authoritative rule.
And there is no succession here. He reigns over the house of Jacob for ever; “and of His kingdom there is no end.” Blessed be God for this! The sceptre of our King can never, even to the end, be wrested out of his hands; and He never dies. He must reign, till all His people are saved with an everlasting salvation, and all His enemies are put under His feet.—Wardlaw.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 28:3
THE MOST INEXCUSABLE OPPRESSION
I. Oppression from an unexpected quarter. Although poverty sometimes has a very hardening influence upon men, we do not often find it takes the form of oppression of their fellow-sufferers in poverty. On the contrary, the sympathy of one poor man for another is often the brightest spot in his character. But the ability to oppress implies some elevation of the oppressor over the oppressed, and therefore leads us rather to look for the heartless tyrant among those who have known poverty, but who are now in some degree raised above it. And even here we should hardly expect to find an oppressor of the poor. Such a man cannot plead ignorance of the miseries of poverty. We might expect that he would be full of sympathy for those into whose trials his own experience has so fitted him to enter. If we wanted a tender nurse for a wounded man we should expect to find one in him who has himself been wounded, and who knows what bodily pain is, and in a man who has himself been poor we ought to find the most patient and generous ruler and judge of the poor. Oppression from such a quarter is a painful surprise.
II. Oppression to an extreme degree. The oppressor of the proverb is one who has sinned against the knowledge furnished by his own experience, and is therefore a greater transgressor than one who sins without such experimental knowledge. If this barrier is not strong enough to restrain him, he is not likely to be hindered by any less powerful ones, and will therefore allow his cruel and unnatural passions to have full dominion over his conduct. And so it will come to pass that a man, who has been poor if he become an oppressor, will be a more terrible one than he who has been always rich and powerful. It may be regarded as a rule with few exceptions, that he who breaks through the most restraints in order to sin will go to the greatest lengths in it.
This illustrative comparison is here most impressive. It is founded upon a phenomenon which I have frequently seen, and sometimes felt. A small black cloud traverses [the sky in the latter part of summer or beginning of autumn and pours down a flood of rain that sweeps all before it. The Arabs call it sale; we, a water-spout, or the bursting of a cloud. In the neighbourhood of Hermon I have witnessed it repeatedly, and was caught in one last year, which in five minutes flooded the whole mountain side, washed away the fallen olives—the food of the poor—overthrew stone walls, etc. Every summer threshing-floor along the line of its march was swept bare of all precious food … And such is the oppression of a poor man that oppresseth the poor. These landlords, and sheiks, and emirs are generally poor, hungry, greedy, remorseless, and they come in successive swarms, each more ravenous than his predecessor. On a gigantic scale, every hungry pasha from the capital is such a sale, sweeping over the distant provinces of the empire. Vast regions, formerly covered with golden harvests in their season, and swarming with people full of food and gladness, are now reduced to frightful deserts by their rapacity.—Thomson’s “The Land and the Book.”
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Woeful is the condition when necessity and imbecility meet together and encounter. For necessity hath no mercy, imbecility hath no help. When poverty oppresseth anyone, there is no measure in his oppressing another that is poor. He spares not to strip him naked who hath already no clothes on. He fears not to be a spoiler whom spoiling hath left nothing. For there is nothing that doth so harden the heart of man as his own need; and he hath little or no feeling of another’s misery, who feels the biting of his own. As the rain falls, so the earth bears it; and as oppression dealeth, so must the poor suffer it; for as the earth lieth under all, so doth he. The rich man is a dashing rain upon him, and when he pleaseth, washeth away his means and succour from him … but there is no such sweeping rain unto him as when the oppressor is oppressed by poverty.… For he having nothing, takes all that he can get, and the hunger of his own distress so devoureth all, as that he Jeaveth no food.—Jermin.
Proverbs 28:5. Judgment, or, “what is right” (Delitzsch).
Proverbs 28:6. Perverse, etc., literally, “he who is crooked in two ways.” Delitzsch translates, “a double-going deceiver.”
Proverbs 28:8. Usury and unjust gain. Literally, “Interest and usury.” “These are so distinguished according to Leviticus 25:36, that the former denotes the annual revenue of a sum of money loaned out, the latter an exaction in other things, especially in natural product” (Zöckler).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 28:4-5
LAWKEEPERS AND LAWBREAKERS
I. A quick understanding in Divine things springs only from sympathy with Divine precepts. Spiritual truth can only be apprehended by a soul in love with what is good and true. A mere intellectual assent to certain moral propositions will not bring men to a real and intimate acquaintance with Divine realities, for the revelation of God is not a mathematical problem which appeals only to the intellect, but a message to the consciences and affections of men. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” (Psalms 25:14.) There must be spiritual sympathy before there can be spiritual perception, for sin puts out the eyes of the soul, and renders a man incapable of apprehending spiritual realities, as physical blindness makes him unable of seeing material objects. Hence our Lord made willingness to do His will the one essential condition to knowledge concerning His teaching. (John 7:17.)
II. Those who love and obey the Divine precepts contend with the wicked by their obedience. Love to God and obedience to Him are inseparable. The one is the necessary outcome of the other, so that the “seekers after God” described in Proverbs 28:5, and the “keepers of the law” mentioned in Proverbs 28:4, are the same persons. The lives of such people are a more powerful reproof to the godless and wicked than any words which they can utter. The feathers of the arrow have their place and value in helping the arrow to find its destination, but it is the steel point that penetrates the breast. So words of admonition fitly spoken have their worth, and are of some weight in contending with the wicked, but a constant life of obedience to God is more convincing and penetrating. So that every true servant of God is fighting against the servants of sin by simply seeking to bring his life into conformity with His Master’s will.
III. All neglect of God’s law is a commendation of sin. There are many men who would be ashamed openly to praise a wicked action who yet by their disregard of the Divine requirements encourage open transgressors. For there is no middle way here. Every man is on one side or the other, and all who are not contending with the wicked by obedience are countenancing their evil courses by their own forsaking of the law of God.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 28:4. “Forsaking;” simply evading or avoiding it, no matter on what pretence. Solomon strikes for the result. He scoffs at all apology. Do you, or do you not, obey direction? If you do not, the fact that you do not is all that is needed to mislead the looker-on, for, seizing upon that most villainous of all things, praising the wicked—a thing that scarce ruffians do, a thing that obscene seducers scarcely venture—he says, All disobedience does it … But the lonely widow, going quietly to heaven, who has asked carefully the road, and has moved on as she was directed, the text suddenly arms with a sword and spear! She is a warrior! In her quiet walk she is smiting down the rivals of her King. And Solomon literally means it. The most effective army of the saints is the quiet group that dream of nothing but obedience.—Miller.
Proverbs 28:5. The natural man perceiveth not the things that belong to God, but the spiritual man discerneth all things. Albeit there is some light in the wicked man which is sufficient to make him inexcusable, yet he is always so blinded by natural ignorance and malice that both Christ and the Law to him is a mystery. Hence it cometh to pass that he neither fully seeth what is to be believed nor yet what is to be done, either generally in all sorts of actions, or particularly in the course of his calling or office.—Muffett.
Origen saith, “Of them who do not see, some are blind, and do not see because of their blindness; others are in darkness, and therefore do not see; but others do not see because they shut their eyes.” And this it is which many times makes the evil man not understand judgment—he will not do judgment, and therefore will not understand it. But true also it is that wickedness is a great blinding of the understanding. For it turns away the eyes from the Son of Righteousness, and casteth also a black shadow before it … But what do they not understand, that understand Him that understandeth all things? In all things that are required of them, they understand what is to be done by them; in all things that are taught them, they understand the truth of them.… They understand the judgment that shall be upon the wicked; they understand the reward that shall be to themselves; they understand in all things to do judgment to others; they are general scholars in their duties both to God and man.—Jermin.
He who makes wickedness his element, falls into the confusion of the moral conception; but he whose end is the one living God gains from that, in every situation of life, even amid the greatest difficulties, the sense of what is morally right. Similarly the apostle John (1 John 2:20): “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things;” i.e., ye need to seek that knowledge which ye require, and which ye long after not without yourselves, but in the new Divine foundation of your personal life; from thence all that ye need for the growth of your spiritual life, and for the turning away from you of hostile influences, will come into your consciences.—Delitzsch.
For Homiletics on Proverbs 28:6, see on chap. Proverbs 19:1, page 561; on Proverbs 28:7, chap. Proverbs 10:1, page 137; on Proverbs 28:8, see the last remarks on chap. Proverbs 13:22, page. 332. On the subject of Proverbs 28:9, see on chap. Proverbs 15:8-9, pages 407 and 408, and on Proverbs 28:10, see on chap. Proverbs 26:27, page 722, etc.
Proverbs 28:12. Hidden. Or “sought for.” Delitzsch understands this to mean “plundered,” or “subjected to espionage.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 28:11
WISDOM IN WEALTH AND POVERTY
I. Riches tend to produce self-deception. The power of riches to give external position and influence is almost unlimited. Wealth can bring its owners into the palaces of princes, and place them on an equal footing with men of talent and rank. It can surround a man with servants who will obey his nod, and with friends who will flatter him to his heart’s content. By means of riches a man can make his name famous in both hemispheres while he lives, and cause it to be remembered after he is dead. It is not therefore surprising that many men who possess this potent means of influence should be so dazzled by it as to be unable to see themselves apart from it, and should credit themselves with being more than ordinary men, while the only difference is that they have more. A rich man is always in danger of mistaking his wealth, which is but an appendage to his personality, for the wealth of wisdom, which is a part of oneself, and so of being the subject of the worst of all deception, viz., self-deception.
II. But the possessor of riches does not often deceive other people as to his real worth. Men around him may flatter him and treat him as if they thought him very wise and clever, but they are often despising him all the time, and oftentimes there are those about him who, although they are beneath him in rank and wealth, are far above him in sagacity and penetration, and can read his character and motives far better than he can himself. Wealth can do much for a man, but it cannot purchase for him the respect and esteem of even the poor man who “hath understanding,” and poverty has many drawbacks, but it is free from this one—it does not minister to human vanity.
III. A poor man who has moral and mental wealth is a greater blessing to the world than even a rich man who is wise and good. He can show the world that there are some things better than wealth, and that these better things are in no sense connected with it or dependent upon it. He can convince men that gold is but a shadow and that riches of heart and mind are the substance, and he can demonstrate how much more lasting and satisfying is the influence gained by wisdom than that which is born of wealth.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
The phrase, “searcheth him out,” may be variously understood. He discerns his true character. He sees that wisdom and wealth do not always go together; that a full purse is quite compatible with an empty head. He sees, too, that a man’s wisdom is not to be estimated by his opinion of himself. He sees shallowness where the man himself fancies depth, and folly in what elates him with a vain consciousness of his own wisdom. He sees abundant reason for not making the rich man his oracle, or setting him up as his idol, or making his example the pattern for his imitation, merely for the number of his acres, or for the gold and silver in his coffers. He sees how prone men in general are to allow weight to counsel in proportion to the wealth of the counsellor. But the “understanding” which God has given him shows him the absurdity of this. He “searches out” the fallacy, and detects and exposes the imprudence and folly of sentiments and proposals, that are propounded and recommended by the wealthiest of the wealthy. And still further, taking “understanding” in its higher sense, as it is used in this Book, as including a mind divinely enlightened and under the influence of the fear of God and all the principles of true religion:—the poor man who has this, sees and knows that “a little with the fear of the Lord is better than the riches of many wicked;”—that “a good understanding have all they who do his commandments;”—that no folly can be more palpable and flagrant than the folly of “trusting in uncertain riches,”—“setting the eyes upon that which is not,” and neglecting provision for the soul and for eternity,—forfeiting the “unsearchable riches” provided by the mercy of God for sinners,—all the blessings, unspeakably precious, summed up in “life everlasting;”—spurning away the counsel that would put these in possession;—greedily coveting the treasures of the world that perish in the using, and rejecting the Divine offer of the treasures of immortality. The poor man who hath understanding—I can hardly say “searches out” the folly of this,—he discerns it by a kind of spiritual intuition.—Wardlaw.
The thought in Proverbs 28:12 is the same as in chap. Proverbs 11:10. See Homiletics on page 206.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 28:13
CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS
I. Sin tends to produce shame. Even a child often tries to hide an act of disobedience to a good mother’s law, and this not from fear of punishment merely, but from an undefined sense of shame. And this feeling clings to all men through life who are not entirely hardened in iniquity. So long as the conscience is not entirely stifled, men try to hide their wrong actions from their fellow-men even when no human punishment would follow the discovery, and they even try to cover them from themselves by inventing excuses for them. They often endeavour to cloak their sin before their fellow-creatures by putting on the garb of special sanctity, and so add hypocrisy to their other transgressions, and they will try to palliate their guilt at the bar of their own conscience by lowering the standard of morality which God has set up within them, or by persuading themselves that He is a hard taskmaster, requiring them to render Him an unreasonable and a burdensome service. There are other motives which induce men to cover their sins beside this one of shame, and other methods by which they try to do it, but whatever impels them, and whatever means they use, the truth taught in the proverb is always verified, viz., that all such makeshifts are worse than useless.
II. The only prosperous method of dealing with sin. This method consists of two acts which God has joined together, and which man may not put asunder, because neither of the two by itself would give evidence that the sinner was fit to receive full absolution. If a man confesses his sin without forsaking it, he seems almost to aggravate his transgression, for he acknowledges that he sins knowing that it is sin, and that it is useless to pardon him to-day, because he will do the same thing to-morrow. And if he forsakes sin without confessing his guilt he shows that he does it from some other motive than abhorrence of evil. Certain sins are sometimes forsaken from expediency, or from self-righteous motives, but in such cases there is no guarantee that there will not be a return to them. Our Lord describes such when he speaks of the unclean spirit going out of a man, but returning to find an empty house—a soul with none of the newborn hopes and desires and aims which always come with true repentance—and of such He says that “the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:26.) But when hearty and sincere acknowledgment of sin is joined with earnest endeavour to forsake it, God sees a soul which will know how to value His pardon, and will find strength in it to fight against evil and finally to overcome it. And to such a soul it is given to know the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered, unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (Psalms 32:1-2.)
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
There are various ways of endeavouring to cover sins. By denying them. A lie is a cover which men put over their sins to conceal them from others. They sin and deny the fact, they wrap up their crimes in falsehood. Thus Cain, Rachel, Joseph’s brethren, Peter, Ananias and Sapphira, endeavoured to hide their sins. By extenuating them. Men plead excuses. The influence of others, the power of circumstances, the moral weakness of the constitution. Extenuation is a common cover. By forgetting them. They endeavour to sweep them from the memory by revelry and mirth, by sensuality, worldliness, and intemperance.—Dr. David Thomas.
A child of God will confess sin in particular; an unsound Christian will confess sin by wholesale; he will acknowledge he is a sinner in general, whereas David doth, as it were, point with his finger to the sore: “I have done this evil” (Psalms 51:4); he doth not say I have done evil, but this evil. He points at his blood-guiltiness.—Watson.
Confession of sin will work a holy contrition and a godly sorrow in the heart. (Psalms 38:18.) Declaration doth breed compunction. Confession of sin is but the causing of sin to recoil on the conscience, which causeth blushing, and shame of face, and grief of heart.… Secret confession gives a great deal of glory to God. It gives glory to God’s justice. I do confess sin, and do confess God in justice may damn me for my sin. It gives glory to God’s mercy. I confess sin, yet mercy may save me. It gives glory to God’s omnisciency. In confessing sin I do confess that God knoweth my sin.—Christopher Love.
It is fearful for a man to bind two sins together when he is not able to bear the load of one. To act wickedness and then to cloak it, is for a man to wound himself and then go to the devil for a plaster. What man doth conceal God will not cancel. Iniquities strangled in silence will strangle the soul in heaviness. There are three degrees of felicity:—the first is, not to sin; the second, to know; the third, to acknowledge our offences. Let us, then, honour Him by confession whom we have dishonoured by presumption.… Sinfulness is a sleep, confession a sign that we are waked. Men dream in their sleeps, but tell their dreams waking. In our sleep of security we lead a dreaming life, full of vile imaginations; but if we confess and speak our sins to God’s glory, and our own shame, it is a token that God’s spirit hath wakened us.… This is true, though to some a paradox; the way to cover our sins is to uncover them.—T. Adams.
Sin is in a man at once the most familiar inmate and the greatest stranger.… Although he lives in it, because he lives in it, he is ignorant of it. Nothing is more widely diffused or more constantly near us than atmospheric air; yet few ever notice its existence and fewer consider its nature. Dust, and chaff, and feathers, that sometimes float up and down in it, attract our regard more than the air in which they float; yet these are trifles that scarcely concern us, and in this we live, and move, and have our being.… Such, in this respect, is sin. It pervades humanity, but, in proportion to its profusion, men are blind to its presence. Because it is everywhere, we do not notice it anywhere.… But the chief effort of the alienated must ever be to cover his sins from the eye of God.… All the wiles of the tempter, and all the faculties of his slave, are devoted to the work of weaving a curtain thick enough to cover an unclean conscience from the eye of God. Anything and everything may go as a thread to the web; houses and lands, business and pleasure, family and friends, virtues and vices, blessings and cursings—a hideous miscellany of good and evil—constitute the material of the curtain; and the woven web is waulked over and over again with love and hatred, joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, to thicken the wall without, and to deepen the darkness within, that the fool may be able, with some measure of comfort, to say “in his heart, No God.”—Arnot.
Sin and shifting came into this world together. Sin and Satan are alike in this, they cannot abide to appear in their own colour.… We must see our sin to confession, or we shall see it to our confusion … No man was ever kept out of heaven for his confessed badness; many are for their supposed goodness.—Trapp.
St. Gregory speaketh, “He that covereth his sin, doth not hide himself from the Lord, but hideth the Lord from himself, and that which he doth, is that himself may not see God, who seeth all things, not that he be not seen.”—Jermin.
For Homiletics on Proverbs 28:14 see on chaps. Proverbs 12:15, and Proverbs 14:16, pages 271 and 365
Proverbs 28:16. Ewald, Zöckler, Delitzsch, and others read this verse, “O prince devoid of understanding, he that hateth unjust gain continueth long.”
Proverbs 28:17. First clause. “A man laden with the blood of a soul.”
Proverbs 28:18. Perverse ways. Rather “double ways.”
Proverbs 28:21. Zöckler reads the last clause, “And (yet) even for a piece of bread (many) a man will transgress”
Proverbs 28:22. Rather “The man of an evil eye hasteth, etc.
Proverbs 28:23. Delitzsch reads this verse, “He that reproveth a man that is going backwards,” etc.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Proverbs 28:15-17
VICE AND VIRTUE IN HIGH PLACES
I. A cruel ruler is on a level with the most cruel of the brute creation. The more power a man holds in his hand over the destinies of his fellow-creatures the greater is his responsibility, and the blacker is his crime if he abuses his opportunities of blessing them. In proportion to the unlimited character of his authority ought to be his care not to overstep the limits of the strictest justice, and he is bound to lean rather to the side of mercy than to severity. The less reason he has to fear any retaliation from those whom he rules, the more is he bound to mingle much gentleness and forbearance with his government, for it is the act of a coward to act towards the weak and defenceless as we should fear to act towards one who is our equal in strength. The man who can be capable of such cowardice no longer deserves the name of a man, but puts himself on a level with those beasts of prey from whom we shrink in terror, knowing that in them there is no reason, or conscience, or pity to which we can appeal.
II. Incapacity in a ruler may work almost as much misery as cruelty. A mother may not be guilty of positive acts of cruelty towards her children, and yet they may suffer very keenly and very seriously from her unfitness to train their souls and her ignorance as to how to take care of their bodies. Her neglect may in the end bring consequences as fatal as the greatest severity would have done. This rule holds good wherever one human creature has others dependent upon him, and the more entire the dependence the more miserable will be the results of his or her incapacity. In countries where rulers do not bear absolute sway, a “prince who wanteth understanding” is not so great a curse as where his will is the only or the supreme law, but the history of our own country contains instances of monarchs who, although they would have been harmless in private life, were, from lack of capacity to rule, very great oppressors of the people.
III. The curse which rests upon all such oppressors of their kind. Like Jehoram of old, they depart undesired. (2 Chronicles 21:20). The blood of their brothers crieth out for vengeance upon their heads, and no man puts forth a hand to arrest their doom. Even those who pity as well as blame, if they wish well to the body politic, feel it is a blessing when such tyrants are removed from the earth—when their power of doing violence to the rights of their fellow-creatures is at an end. “Let no man stay him” for the sake of those whom he leaves behind, and let no man hinder his departure for his own sake, for his continuance in his place upon the earth would but give him opportunity to add to his crimes, and thus increase the weight of his punishment. (For illustrations of this subject and additional Homiletics see on chap. Proverbs 11:17, page 220—also page 208.)
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
Proverbs 28:15. But these emblems were insufficient to represent the monstrous barbarities that have been often exercised by those that were at the head of the Roman empire in its pagan or antichristian state; and, therefore, Daniel and John represent them under the figure of monsters more dreadful than any that were ever beheld by the eyes of man. (Jeremiah 31:18; Daniel 7:10; Revelation 13:0) The language of inspiration could not furnish out more terrible images for the devil himself, than those which have been used to represent the wickedness of tyrannical and persecuting powers. We ought to be thankful for the wounds that have been given to the beast with seven heads and ten horns, and for the civil and religious liberties which we enjoy.—Lawson.
Proverbs 28:16. As want of understanding maketh a man an oppressor, so to be an oppressor sheweth a want of understanding in him. But the special want at which the verse seems to aim is the greedy want of covetousness. For as a covetous man wanteth understanding, because he seeketh that so eagerly which he cannot keep, so a covetous prince wanteth understanding, because he seeketh that so earnestly which he hath already.—Jermin.
Proverbs 28:17. God’s jealous regard for the life of man was strongly expressed at the second outset of our world’s history; and expressed in terms of evident allusion to the early and awful violation of its sacredness in the antediluvian period:—“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:5-6). For my own part, having examined the various principles of interpretation by which those who are for doing away all capital punishments have explained these words, I have not been able to satisfy myself with any one of them. They seem to be all forced and unnatural, and, on different critical grounds, inadmissible. I cannot but regard the language as bearing no fair and natural interpretation, but that which makes it a Divine requisition, on the part of man, of blood for blood—that is, of life for life; and as thus affording more than a sanction, as laying down a requirement. Though I am far from conceiving that we are bound by Jewish criminal law, yet in the law regarding murder there is so evident an allusion to this original and universal injunction, and the language withal is so very pointed and emphatically reiterated, that I cannot go the length of those who would include murder among crimes to be punished with infliction short of death. When set beside the original and universal law it serves, by its very emphasis and peremptoriness, to confirm the ordinary interpretation of that charge to the second progenitors of our race as the just one, and to show, therefore, the universality of its obligation.—Wardlaw.
Even the heathen judged this awful transgressor to be under the Divine vengeance. (Acts 28:4.) The death therefore of the murderer is an imperative obligation. It is miscalled philanthropy that protests against all capital punishments. Shall man pretend to be more merciful than God? Pity is misplaced here. The murderer therefore of his brother is his own murderer.—Bridges.
This is not directly an admonition against that which is immoral; it may also be a declaration of that which is impossible.—Delitzsch.
The subjects of the next six verses have all been treated before. For Homiletics on Proverbs 28:18, see on chaps. Proverbs 10:9 and Proverbs 11:3, pages 153 and 195.Proverbs 28:19; Proverbs 28:19 is almost a verbal repetition of chap. Proverbs 12:11, see page 266. On the main subject of Proverbs 28:20; Proverbs 28:22, see on chaps. Proverbs 13:11 and Proverbs 21:5, pages 306 and 609. On Proverbs 28:21 see on chap. Proverbs 17:23, page 524, and on Proverbs 28:23 chap. Proverbs 27:5-6, page 728.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 28:24
I. A parent’s sacred rights. A father and mother, if they are worthy of the name, have a very strong claim upon their children’s consideration. Their children owe them obedience in their childhood, and reverent and loving regard when they have reached manhood. If their parents are rich, their possessions are to be held as peculiarly sacred. “A feeling,” says Wardlaw, “should attach to it somewhat like that which attaches to holy things—things pertaining to God and His service. The violation of their property should be felt to be a description of sacrilege.” On the other hand, if the parents are poor, their children are certainly bound to help to support them, and so in some measure to repay to them the expenses of their own bringing up. Christ puts this duty to parents before that of giving even to the support of Church ordinances, and severely condemns the Pharisees and Scribes for inculcating opposite teaching (Mark 7:11).
II. The character of the child who violates these rights. There are, alas, many sons and daughters who, instead of rendering more honour to their parents than to other people give them less, and instead of showing more regard to their parents’ rights than to those of a stranger, seem to ignore the fact that they owe anything to them. In the matter of money, those who would not touch the possession of any other person will sometimes appropriate what belongs to their parents, and say, “It is no transgression;” or if they do not go quite so far as this, do not hesitate to live upon them when they ought to be earning their own living, or to incur debts which they know their parents will discharge. He who is guilty of any of these negative or positive transgressions “robs,” his father and mother, and his character is given here. Although he may not be openly a vicious man—although he may seem to be much less blameworthy than the man who openly violates the law of the land, he is here put on a level with him. The sin in the sight of God is as great, and there is in such a man the capability of developing into an open transgressor, for he who can violate such holy demands of duty, and trample upon the rights of such a sacred relationship, only wants the motive and opportunity to commit actions which would at once class him among the criminals of society.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
“But if any widow have children or nephews, let them first learn to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents.” (1 Timothy 5:4.) It is observable, children’s kindness to their parents is termed piety or godliness, because it is a part thereof, and very acceptable to God. Besides, it is called a requiting them, intimating that it is not an act of grace, but of justice.—Swinnock.
To say that we did not look upon a thing to be a transgression will be no just excuse for any piece of conduct we might have known to be criminal. It will only shew us to be so depraved that even our minds and our consciences are defiled.—Lawson.
For Homiletics on the first clause of Proverbs 28:25, see on chap. Proverbs 13:10, page 305.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF Proverbs 28:26, AND LAST CLAUSE OF Proverbs 28:25
I. He that trusts in his own heart is a fool, because he refuses to profit by the experience of others. If a man who has made a perilous voyage declares at the end of it that he has found his compass utterly untrustworthy, we should count him a madman who would set out upon a similar expedition with the same faulty guide; and if he went down in mid-ocean to rise no more, we should certainly say that it was his own fault. To trust to a guide which another man had proved to be unworthy of confidence when so much was at stake, would be universally condemned as obstinate foolhardiness. Yet this is what men do in the voyage of life. The testimony of most men who, rejecting the guidance of a higher wisdom, have shaped their lives according to their own ideas and inclinations, has been at the end that they have trusted a guide that had misled them. Solomon himself steered a good deal of his life by this deceiving compasss, and at the end confessed that he had acted foolishly in so doing (Ecclesiastes 1:2). It may be that the words of our text were the expression of his own bitter experience on the subject, and that he is here counselling others to avoid the error into which he had fallen.
II. He is a wise man who seeks guidance from God because he trusts in One who has proved Himself worthy of confidence. He who has declared that the human heart “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) has offered Himself as the object of man’s trust and as His infallible guide. Millions of the human family have assented to the truth of the Divine statement, and have testified to the blessedness of submission to Divine guidance, and have been manifestly delivered by their submission from the bondage of evil, and elevated into a region of moral purity and freedom to which other men are strangers. They are living proofs that He who exhorts men to trust in Him is not a deceiver, but can justify the demands He makes upon our confidence and submission. Human experience has set its seal to the inspired word:—“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8). Surely, then, he is a wise man who makes the trial for himself.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
The heart, indeed, has instrumentality to save us. We must trust everything to that. But it is the heart dwelt in by Christ. He that takes his heart and confides it to the Son of Man, receives for it an altered life, and will be able to trust that heart thus trusted to Christ as the instrument in the battle of deliverance.—Miller.
Though the mariner sees not the pole-star, yet the needle of his compass, which points to it, tells him which way he sails. Thus the heart that is touched with the loadstone of Divine love, trembling with godly fear, and yet still looking towards God with fixed believing, interprets the fear by the love in the fear, and tells the soul that its course is heavenward towards the haven of eternal rest.—Leighton.
Whoever trusts another for his guide must do it upon account of two qualifications to be found in him:—
1. That he is able to direct and lead him.
2. That he also faithfully will give the best directions.… There are two things which may make a trust foolish:—
1. The value of the thing which we commit to a trust.
2. The undue qualifications of the person to whose trust we commit it. In both respects the confidence reposed by men in their own hearts is exceeding foolish.
1. The honour of God is entrusted. So far as the manifestation of God’s honour depends upon the homage of His obedient creatures, so far is it at the mercy of our actions, which are at the command of the heart, as the motion of the wheels follows the disposition of the spring. God is never disobeyed but He is also dishonoured. II. Man trusts his heart with his happiness in this world, and this is two fold—spiritual and temporal. III. He entrusts his heart with the eternal concernment of his soul hereafter.… The heart of man will also be found to have eminently these two ill qualities utterly unfitted for such a trust. I. It is weak, and so cannot make good a trust. Its weakness is twofold.
1. In point of apprehension it cannot perceive and understand certainly what is good.
2. In point of election, it cannot choose and embrace it. II. The heart is deceitful, and so will not make good its trust.… The delusions of the heart may be reduced to three sorts.
1. Such as relate to the commission of sin.
2. Such as relate to the performance of duty.
3. Such as relate to a man’s conversion, or change of his spiritual estate.… The heart if it does not find sins small, has this notable faculty, that it can make them so … and in duty is willing to take up with the outside and superficies of things, and … it will persuade him that he is converted from a state of sin, when perhaps he is only converted from one sin to another; and that he has changed his heart when he has only changed his vice.—South.
On the subject of Proverbs 28:27, see on chap. Proverbs 11:24-26, page 234, and chap. Proverbs 14:31, page 389. The subject of Proverbs 28:28 has been treated in chap. Proverbs 11:10, page 206.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 28". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19