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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ proverbs-10.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Part III. FIRST GREAT COLLECTION (375) OF SOLOMONIC PROVERBS.
First section. The sections are noted by their commencing usually with the words, "a wise son."
The proverbs of Solomon. This is the title of the new part of the book; it is omitted in the Septuagint. There is some kind of loose connection in the grouping of these proverbs, but it is difficult to follow. "Ordo frustra quaeritur ubi nullus fuit observatus," says Mart. Geier. Wordsworth considers the present chapter to contain exemplifications of the principles and results of the two ways of life displayed in the preceding nine chapters. The antithetical character of the sentences is most marked and well sustained. As the book is specially designed for the edification of youth, it begins with an appropriate saying. A wise son maketh a glad father. As wisdom comprises all moral excellence, and folly is vice and perversity, the opposite characters attributed to the son are obvious. The mother is introduced for the sake of parallelism; though some commentators suggest that as the father would be naturally elated by his son's virtues, which would conduce to honour and high estate, so the mother would be grieved at vices which her training had not subdued, and her indulgence had fostered. If this seems somewhat far-fetched, we may consider that the father in the maxim includes the mother, and the mother the father, the two being separated for the purpose of contrast (see on Proverbs 26:3). The word for heaviness occurs in Proverbs 14:13 and Proverbs 17:21.
Treasures of wickedness; treasures acquired by wrong doing (Micah 6:10). Profit nothing "in the day of calamity" (Ecclesiastes 5:8; comp. Proverbs 11:4). The LXX. renders, "Treasures will not profit the wicked;" so Aquila. "For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). Righteousness (Proverbs 14:34); not simply justice and moral goodness, but more especially liberality, benevolence. So in Matthew 6:1 the Revised Version (in accordance with the best manuscripts) reads, "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them," Christ proceeding to specify three outward acts as coming under this term, viz. almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In some analogous passages the LXX. renders the word by ἐλεημοσύντ, e.g. Psalms 111:9; Daniel 4:27; Tobit 12:9. Delivereth from death, shows that a man's heart is right towards God. and calls down special grace. Such a man lays up in store for himself a good foundation, that he may attain eternal life (1 Timothy 6:19; see on Proverbs 16:6).
The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish (comp. Proverbs 19:23). The soul is the life (comp. Proverbs 13:25). So the psalmist says (Psalms 37:25), "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." Christ speaks of the providence that watches over the lower creatures, and draws thence a lesson of trust in his care of man. concluding, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:26, Matthew 6:33). But he casteth away the substance of the wicked; Septuagint, "He will overthrew the life of the wicked;" Vulgate, "He overturns the plots of sinners." The word rendered "substance" (havvah) is better understood as "desire." God frustrates the eager longing (for food or other good things) of the wicked; they are never satisfied, and get no real enjoyment out of what they crave (comp. Proverbs 13:25).
That dealeth with a stack hand; that is lazy and indolent (comp. Proverbs 6:10, Proverbs 6:11; see on Proverbs 19:15). The Septuagint, with a different pointing, reads, "Poverty humbleth a man." The hand of the diligent (Proverbs 12:24) maketh rich. The words for "hand" are different in the two clauses as Wordsworth remarks. The first word is caph, the open, ineffective, hand or palm; the second term is yad, the hand tense and braced for vigorous work. The LXX. introduces a clause here which seems to interfere with the connection: Υίος πεπαιοευμένος σοφὸς ἔσται τῷ δὲ ἄφρονι διακόνῳ, χρήσεται, "A well instructed son will be wise. and he will use a fool as his minister;" i.e. he is aide to make even the foolish subserve his ends. The sentence is quoted by St. Augustine, 'De Civil Dei,' Proverbs 16:2. The Vulgate inserts another paragraph, which is also found in some manuscripts of the Septuagint at Proverbs 9:12 : Qui nititur mendaciis, hic pascit ventos; idem autem ipse sequitur aves volantes, "He who relieth on lies feedeth on the winds, and pursueth flying birds."
He that gathereth the harvest into the barn at the right season. The idea of husbandry is continued from the preceding verse. Son is here equivalent to "man," the maxim being addressed to the young. That sleepeth; literally, that snoreth; Vulgate, qui stertit (Judges 4:21). A son that causeth shame. The phrase is found in Proverbs 17:2; Proverbs 19:26; Proverbs 29:15. The Septuagint has, "The son of understanding is saved from the heat; but the sinful son is blasted by the wind in harvest."
Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked. So Proverbs 10:11. This is usually explained to mean either that the consciousness of his own iniquity silences the sinner when he would speak against the righteous, or his violence and injustice, returning on his own head, are like a bandage over his mouth (Leviticus 13:45; Micah 3:7), reducing him to shame and silence. Others, again, consider the signification to be—in default of the good, honest words which should proceed from a man's mouth, the sinner pours forth injustice and wickedness. But it is best (as in Proverbs 10:14) to take "mouth" as the subject: "The mouth of the wicked concealeth violence," that he may wait for the opportunity of practising it. The contrast is between the manifest blessedness of the righteous and the secret sinister proceedings of the evil. The Vulgate and Septuagint give, "the blessing of the Lord." For "violence" the Septuagint has πένθος ἄωρον, "untimely grief;" the Hebrew word chamas bearing also the sense of "misery."
The memory. The lasting, fragrant perfume of a holy life is contrasted with the noisomeness and quick decay of an evil name (comp. Psalms 72:17). As a commentator asks, "Who ever thinks of calling a child Judas or Nero?"
Will receive commandments. The wise in heart is not proud or conceited: he accepts the Divine Law with all its directions (observe the plural "commandments"), and is not above learning from others; at the same time, he makes no display of his wisdom. The fool of lips (Proverbs 10:10); one who is always exposing his folly. The literal antithesis is better shown by rendering "the solid in heart," and "the loose in lips." So Wordsworth. The Vulgate translates, "The fool is chastised by his lips;" i.e. the folly which he has uttered falls back upon him, and causes him to suffer punishment. The LXX. renders the last clause, "He who is given to prating (ἄστεγος χείλεσι), walking tortuously, shall be tripped up."
He that walketh uprightly (Proverbs 2:7); Vulgate and Septuagint, "in simplicity," having nothing to conceal or to fear. So Christ enjoins his followers to be guileless as children, and harmless as doves. Surely; equivalent to "securely;" ἀμερίμνως, Aquila, having no fear of inopportune exposure, because he has no secret sin. He that perverteth his ways; deals in crooked practices. Shall be known (Proverbs 12:16). He shall be exposed and punished, and put to open shame. Having this apprehension always present, he cannot walk with confidence as the innocent does. Hence the antithesis in the text.
He that winketh with the eye (Proverbs 6:13). This is a sign of craft, malice, and complicity with other wicked comrades. Ec Proverbs 27:22, "He that winketh with the eyes worketh evil." Causeth sorrow (Proverbs 15:13). He causes trouble and vexation by his cunning and secrecy. A prating fool (as Proverbs 27:8). The two clauses are intended to teach that the garrulous fool is even more certain to bring ruin on himself and others than the crafty plotter. The Septuagint and Syriac have changed the latter clause into a sentence supposed to be more forcibly antithetical, "He who reproveth with boldness maketh peace." But there are sentences not strictly antithetical in this chapter, e.g. Proverbs 27:18, Proverbs 27:22 (comp. Proverbs 11:10).
A well of life (Proverbs 13:14 : Proverbs 18:4). The good man utters words of wisdom, comfort, and edification. God himself is said to have "the well of life" (Psalms 36:9), and to be "the Fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 2:13): and the holy man, drawing from this supply, sheds life and health around. The second clause should be takes as in Proverbs 10:6, but the mouth of the wicked concealeth violence, the contrast being between the open usefulness of the good man's words and the harmful reticence of the malicious sinner. The Septuagint has, "A fountain of life is in the hand of the righteous; but destruction shall cover the mouth of the wicked." This is explained to mean that a good man's words and actions tend to spiritual health; a bad man's words bring down sorrow and punishment.
Hatred stirreth up strife (Proverbs 6:14). Love covereth all sins (Proverbs 17:9). The reference is primarily to the blood feud, the existence of which led to the establishment of the cities of refuge. Hatred keeps alive the old feeling of revenge, and seeks opportunities of satisfying it; but love puts aside, forgets and forgives all offences against itself. This sentiment comes very near the great Christian principle, "Love covereth a multitude of sins". The Talmud pronounces, "To love a thing makes the eye blind, the ear deaf;" and the Arab says, "Love is the companion of blindness." Septuagint, "Love (φιλία) covereth all those who love not strife."
Wisdom is found (comp. Psalms 37:30). The man of understanding is discreet in speech, and does not cause trouble by rash or foolish words. A rod (Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 26:3). A fool brings upon himself punishment by his insensate talk. Void of understanding; Hebrew, "wanting in heart;" Vulgate, qui indiget corde. The LXX. combines the two members into one proposition, "He who putteth forth wisdom with his lips is a rod to chastise the man without heart." In the Hebrew conception the "heart" is the seat, not only of the passions and affections, but also of the intellectual faculties.
Lay up knowledge; like a treasure, for use on proper occasions (Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 14:33; comp. Matthew 7:6; Matthew 13:52). Is near destruction. "Near" may be an adjective, equivalent to "imminent," "ever-threatening." The versions are proximum est and ἐγγίζει. The foolish are always uttering carelessly what may bring trouble on themselves and others.
His strong city (Proverbs 18:11). Wealth is a help in many ways, securing from dangers, giving time and opportunity for acquiring wisdom, making one independent and free in action (Ecclesiastes 7:12; Ec 40:25, etc.). The destruction of the poor is their poverty. The poor are crushed, exposed to all kinds of evil, moral and material, by their want of means. The word for poor is here dal, which implies weakness and inability to help one's self; the other word commonly used for "poor" is rash, which signifies rather "impecuniosity," opposed to "wealthy." So in the present passage the LXX. renders ἀσθενῶν, "the feeble." The poor were but lightly regarded till Christ pronounced the benediction, "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). The view of Theoguis will speak the experience of many—
Καὶ γὰρ ἀνὴρ πενίῃ δεδμημένος οὔτέ τι εἰπεῖν
Οὔθ ἕρξαι δύναται γλῶσσα δὲ οἱ δέδεται
"A man, by crushing poverty subdued,
Can freely nothing either say or do—
His very tongue is tied."
Tendeth to life (Proverbs 11:19). Honest labour brings its own reward in the blessing of God and a long and peaceful life. The fruit of the wicked. All the profit that the wicked make they use in the service of sin, which tends only to death (Romans 6:21). The due reward of honourable industry is contrasted with the gains obtained by any means, discreditable or not.
He is in the way of life (Proverbs 5:6). It is a way of life when a man keepeth instruction, taketh to heart what is taught by daily providences and the wisdom of experience. Such teachableness leads to happiness here and hereafter. Erreth (Jeremiah 42:20); not "causeth to err," as in the margin, which weakens the antithesis. Septuagint, "Instruction (παιδεία) guardeth the ways of life, but he who is unaffected by instruction goeth astray" (comp. Hebrews 12:7, etc.).
This verse ought to be translated, He that hideth hatred is [a man] of lying lips, and he that uttereth slander is a fool. He who cherishes hatred in the heart must be a liar and a hypocrite, speaking and acting in a way contrary to his real sentiments; if he divulges his slander, he is a stupid fool, injuring his neighbour, and procuring ill will for himself. The LXX. reads, "Just (δίκαια) lips conceal hatred;" but probably δίκαια is an error for ἄδικα or δόλια, though Ewald defends it, and would alter the Hebrew to suit it.
There wanteth not sin; LXX; "Thou wilt not avoid sin." Loquacity leads to exaggeration and untruthfulness, slander and uncharitableness (comp. Ecclesiastes 5:1-3; and Christ's and James's solemn warnings, Matthew 12:36; James 1:26; James 3:2, etc.). "Speak little," says Pinart ('Meditations,' ch. 6.), "because for one sin which we may commit by keeping silence where it would be well to speak, we commit.a hundred by speaking upon all occasions" (see on Proverbs 17:27), Another rendering of the passage gives "By multitude of words sin does not vanish away;" i.e. you cannot mend a fault by much talking. But this weakens the contrast, and the Authorized Version is correct. Is wise. St. James calls the reticent "a perfect man" (comp. Proverbs 13:3). "This sentence of Scripture," says St. Augustine, in his 'Retractations,' "I greatly fear, because my numerous treatises, I know well, contain many things, if not false, at any rate idle and unnecessary."
Choice (Proverbs 8:10, Proverbs 8:19); tested, purified by fire; πεπυρωμένος, Septuagint. Is little worth; mere dross, in contradistinction to choice silver. So the tongue is contrasted with the heart, out of whose abundance it speaketh (Ec Proverbs 21:26, "The heart of fools is in their mouth; but the mouth of the wise is in their heart"). Septuagint, "The heart of the godless shall fail (ἐκλείψει)."
Feed many. The righteous by wise counsel teach, support, and guide others (Ecclesiastes 12:11; Jeremiah 3:15). So the clergy are the shepherds of their flocks (John 21:15; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2). The LXX. has a different reading, "know high things." Fools die for want of wisdom. Far from "feeding" others, they bring ruin on themselves (Proverbs 5:23). Others translate, "die through one who wanteth understanding;" but if the Hebrew will bear this rendering, it is obvious that fools need no guide to their fall; their fate is a natural result. In this case the meaning must be that the foolish man involves others in destruction. But it is best to translate as the Authorized Version.
The blessing of the Lord. The Septuagint adds, "upon the head of the righteous," as in Proverbs 10:6. Not chance and luck, not even industry and labour, but God giveth the increase (Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 5:19). He addeth no sorrow with it; i.e. with the Blessing. In acquiring and in using wealth thus blessed, the good man is contented and happy, while unsanctified fiches bring only trouble and vexation. But this seems rather feeble, and it is better to render, "And a man's own labor addeth nothing thereto." A man's own work must not be regarded as an equal cause of prosperity with the favour of God. This sentiment is in accordance with Psalms 127:1, Psalms 127:2, "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it so he giveth unto his beloved in sleep"—what others vainly labour for God giveth to the righteous without toil. The rendering of the clause, "Trouble is of no avail without it," is scarcely warranted by the wording of the text.
As sport. The wicked make their pastime and amusement in doing evil. A man of understanding hath wisdom. As thus put, the sentence is jejune. The Revised Version expresses the meaning better: "And so is wisdom to a man of understanding;" i.e. the wise man finds his refreshment in living a wise and prudent life, which is as easy and as pleasant to him as mischief is to the vicious. The wisdom intended is practical religion, the fear of God directing and showing itself in daily action. Septuagint, "A fool doeth mischief in sport (ἐν γέλωτι), but wisdom produceth prudence for a man."
This verse is connected in thought with the preceding. The wicked, though he lightly carries on his evil practices, is troubled with the thought of the retribution which awaits him, and that which he fears shall come upon him (Proverbs 1:26; Job 3:25; Isaiah 66:4); Septuagint, "The wicked is involved in destruction." The desire of the righteous. The righteous will desire only that which is in agreement with God's will, and this God grants, if not in this world, certainly in the life to come. The LXX. has, "The desire of the just is acceptable."
As the whirlwind passeth. According to this rendering (which has the support of the Vulgate) the idea is the speed with which, under God's vengeance, the sinner is consumed, as Isaiah 17:13; Job 21:18. But it is better to translate, as the LXX; "when the whirlwind is passing," i.e. when the storm of judgment falls, as Christ represents the tempest beating on the ill-founded house and destroying it, while that which was built on the rock remains uninjured (comp. Proverbs 12:3; Matthew 7:25, etc.; comp. Wis. 5:14, etc). Everlasting foundation (Job 21:30; Psalms 91:1-16; Psalms 125:1); like the Cyclopean stones on which Solomon's temple was built. It is natural to see here an adumbration of that Just One, the Messiah, the chief Cornerstone. The LXX. gives, "But the righteous turning aside is saved forever."
Vinegar (Ruth 2:14; Psalms 69:21). As sour wine sets the teeth on edge. Septuagint, "as the unripe grape is harmful to the teeth" (Ezekiel 18:2). Smoke. In a country where chimneys were unknown, and the fuel was wood or some substance more unsavoury, the eyes must have often been painfully affected by the household fire. Thus lacrimosus, "tear-producing," is a classical epithet of smoke (see Ovid, 'Metam.,' 10.6; Her; 'Sat.,' 1.5, 80). To these two annoyances is compared the messenger who loiters on his errand. The last clause is rendered by the LXX; "So is iniquity to those who practise it"—it brings only pain and vexation.
The fear of the Lord prolongeth days. The premise of long life as the reward of a religious conversation is often found in our book, where temporal retribution is set forth (see Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 9:11; Proverbs 14:27). Shall be shortened, as Psalms 55:23; Ecclesiastes 7:17.
The hope of the righteous shall be gladness. The patient expectation of the righteous is joyful, because it has good hope of being, and is, fulfilled. So the apostle (Romans 12:12) speaks, "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation." Septuagint, "Gladness delayeth for the just." The expectation of the wicked; that which the wicked eagerly hope for shall come to naught (Proverbs 11:7; Job 8:13; Psalms 112:10).
The way of the Lord; i.e. the way in which he has commanded, men to walk—the way of his commandments (Psalms 25:12; Psalms 119:27), that which the Pharisees confessed that Christ taught (Matthew 22:16). The Septuagint renders, "the fear of the Lord," which practically gives the meaning. Or "the Lord's way" may be his moral government of the world. Strength; better a fortress (Proverbs 10:15). Doing his simple duty, a good man is safe; for, as St. Peter says, "Who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good?" (1 Peter 3:13). But destruction shall be; better, but it (the way of Jehovah) is destruction. The two effects of the Law of God are contrasted, according as it is obeyed or neglected. While it is protection to the righteous, it is condemnation and ruin to sinners (see on Proverbs 21:15) So Christ at one time calls himself "the Way" (John 14:6); at another says, "For judgment I am come into this world" (John 9:39); and Simeon declares of him (Luke 2:34), "This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel".
The righteous shall never be removed (Proverbs 2:21; Proverbs 12:3, Proverbs 12:21; Psalms 10:6; Psalms 37:29). This is in agreement with the temporal promise made to the patriarchs and often renewed, as in the fifth commandment. St. Paul says (1 Timothy 4:8), "Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come." The wicked shall not inhabit (or, abide not in) the land. The punishment of exile was threatened upon the Jews for their disobedience, and they are still suffering this retribution (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 4:27; Isaiah 22:17). Christ gives the other aspect of God's moral government when he says (Matthew 5:5), "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."
Bringeth forth; as a tree produces fruit, and the fields yield their increase. The metaphor is common. Thus Isaiah (Isaiah 57:19) speaks of "the fruit of the lips" (comp. Hebrews 13:15 and Psalms 37:30, which latter passage occurs in the same connection as the present). The Septuagint renders, "distilleth wisdom." So So Isaiah 5:13, "His lips are like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh." The froward tongue (Proverbs 2:12, Proverbs 2:14 : Proverbs 8:13, which speaks only what is perverse and evil). Shall be cut out; like a corrupt tree that cumbers the ground (Matthew 3:10; Luke 13:7). The abuse of God's great gift of speech shall be severely punished. "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matthew 12:36, Matthew 12:37).
Know. A good man's lips are conversant with what is acceptable to God and man. Such a person considers what will please God and edify his neighbour, and speaks in conformity therewith. The LXX. has," The lips of the righteous distil graces;" ἀποστάζει χάριτας, but probably the right verb is ἐπίσταται, which is found in some manuscripts. Speaketh frowardnsss; rather, knoweth, or is perverseness (comp. Ephesians 4:29); Septuagint, ἀποστρέφεται, or, according to the Sinaitic correcter and some other scribes, καταστρέφεται, "is turned aside," or "is overthrown." Delitszch translates, "is mere falsehood."
The influence of a son over his parents' happiness
It is impossible to estimate the tremendous influence which children have on the happiness of their parents. The unfortunate thing about it is that the children are the last to realize it. It may be that a misplaced modesty inclines them to imagine that their course in life cannot be of much consequence to any one. In many cases, unhappily, gross selfishness engenders sheer indifference to the feelings of those who have most claim upon them, so that they never give a thought to the pain they are inflicting. But behind these special points there is the universal fact that no one can understand the depth and overpowering intensity of a parent's love until he becomes a parent himself. Then, in the yearning anxiety he experiences for his own children, a man may have a revelation of the love which he had received all the days of his life without ever dreaming of its wonderful power. But surely, up to their capacity for understanding it, children should realize the great trust that is given to them. They are entrusted with the happiness of their parents. After receiving from them life, food, shelter, innumerable good things and a watchful, tender love throughout, they have it in their power to make bright the evening of their father's and mother's life, or to cloud it with a deep, dark gloom of hopeless misery.
I. THE SECRET OF THIS INFLUENCE IS IN THE MORTAL CONDUCT OF THE SON OR DAUGHTER. "The wise son" - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;" "the foolish son"—the fool in the Bible is more morally than intellectually defective. In the infancy of their children fond parents often dream of the earthly prosperity they would wish for them—a brilliant career, success in business, wealth, renown, happiness. But as life opens out more fully they come to see that these are of secondary importance. The mother whose brooding fancy prophesied a young Milton in her wonderful boy is perhaps just a little disappointed as by slow degrees she undergoes disillusion, and sees him develop into an ordinary city clerk; but she will not confess her disappointment to herself, and it is soon swallowed up in just pride and delight if he is upright and kind and good. But if she is not mistaken about the genius of her child, but only under an error as to the moral direction that genius will take; if her Milton becomes a Byron, then, though the world rings with his lame, she—supposing her to be a true, wise mother—will be broken-hearted with grief. It is not the dulness, nor the failures, nor the troubles, nor the early death of children that bring a father's "grey hairs with sorrow to the grave." It is their sins. If these sins show direct unkindness, the grief reaches its saddest height. Then the father may well say, with poor Lear—
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!"
It is heart rending for the mother to part with her infant if he dies an early death. But the grief she feels when she looks at the little grave, and thinks of her child quietly sleeping, safe with the God who called the children to himself—this grief is calm and endurable compared with the awful, crushing agony she would have experienced if the child had lived and had fallen into sin and brought shame upon his head. Parents are foolish as well as unsubmissive when they pray too positively for their children's lives. Our one great Father knows what is best. Perhaps it is safest for all that the child should be taken from the evil to come. But, of course, if he can be spared to live a life of usefulness and honour, this is most to be desired, and the parents' prayers should chiefly go out for the safe preservation of their children's better life.
II. THE POSSESSION OF THIS INFLUENCE SHOULD BE A STRONG INDUCEMENT TO WORTHY LIVING. It furnishes a new element in the obligations of right. The son has it in his power to make his parents happy or miserable. So great a trust involves a serious responsibility. "No man liveth unto himself." Besides his higher obligations, the son has a life in regard to his father and mother. He is not at liberty to run riot as he chooses, because he thinks his own future only is at stake. By all the terrible pain he inflicts, by the deep gladness he might have conferred, the guilt of his sin is aggravated. Should not such considerations urge strongly against yielding to temptation? If the mad young man cares little for abstract righteousness, if he has lost the fear of God, still is it nothing that every new folly is a stab in the heart of those who have done most for him and who would even now give their hoes to save him? It is not unmanly to say to one's self, "For my mother's sake I will not do this vile thing." It is devilish not to be capable of such a thought. Similar considerations may help us in our highest relations. God is our Father. We may "grieve" his Spirit by sin. When the prodigal returns God rejoices in the presence of his angels. Shall we not hate the sins that made Christ mourn, and seek to do better for the sake of the love of God?
Of late it has become fashionable to claim a cheap reputation for loftiness of moral aims by sneering at what are called the "smug virtues." There is a great deal about these despised virtues in the Book of Proverbs, and consequently a very low estimate is formed of that portion of Scripture. But is there not something hollow about this assumption of ethical elevation? It cannot be denied that the "smug virtues" have a real obligation. No one would venture to say that they can be dispensed with. They are simply of a comparatively inferior value. But till they are complied with it is often difficult to rise to more ethereal heights of goodness. Meanwhile that man is little short of a hypocrite who neglects the plain duties that lie at his door for the pursuit of some other more recondite graces. Diligence is one of the first of these duties, and it is requisite for various reasons. Note some of them.
I. WEALTH DEPENDS ON WORK. This is a primary law of providence. God might have fed us as he fed the ravens. But instead of putting food ready for our mouths, he gives us hands with which to work for it. Social arrangements only disguise this law. The son inherits the fruits of his father's industry. The idle man sucks the honey of other men's toil. But it remains truth that work makes wealth. Every man's wealth depends largely on the work of some one—his own or somebody else's. It is the duty of everybody to see that he is not dependent upon other people's labours if he can help himself. The man who squanders his money in prosperous times, and throws himself on public charity directly he is ill or out of work, is guilty of gross selfishness amounting to dishonesty. It is plainly every man's duty not only to keep himself and his family, but, where it is possible, to make fit provision for the future, or he will be robbing others of their maintenance. Hence one obligation to be industrious and thrifty.
II. WORK IS FOR OUR OWN GOOD. People talk of the curse of toil, little knowing that it is one of the greatest blessings we have. Better talk of the curse of idleness. It is a happy thing that man has to earn his bread with the sweat of his brow. Work develops strength—strength of mind as well as strength of limb. The self-made man is not invariably a model of grace; but he is usually a specimen of sturdy vigor of character, as different from the limp conventionality of indolence as granite rock from drifting seaweed.
III. WE ARE ALL STEWARDS. The servant is required to be industrious for his master's sake. His time is not his own. He is not at liberty, therefore, to lounge about in dreamy idleness. We are stewards of the things lent us by God. He has sent us to work in his vineyard. In duo time he will call us to account. "To be blameless as a steward of God" a man must be faithful, honest, industrious.
IV. CHRISTIANITY INCULCATES DILIGENCE. No greater mistake can be made than to suppose that the New Testament favours indolence. The ideal of Oriental monasticism is derived from other sources. Even the remake in the West knew better. In its palmy days European monasticism was the centre of honest toil. The monks cleared forests, reclaimed bogs, built cathedrals, cultivated farms, studied, laboriously copied and preserved for us the invaluable treasures of the literature of antiquity. Amongst other fruits of grace in the Christian's heart will be increased diligence in business. Christian principle, however, is necessary to consecrate industry. Without it wealth. will be a god, business an absorbing worldly influence, and success a source of low selfish pleasure. But he who is diligent on Christian principle will make his business holy by working in it as the servant of Christ, and his wealth holy by dedicating it to the use of God.
Sleep in harvest
I. SLEEP IN HARVEST IS FOOLISH, BECAUSE THIS IS THE TIME FOR THE HARVEST WORK. We may afford to be slack in the winter. Through the long frosts when the ground is like iron, during heavy rains when to poach on the fields is only injurious to the crops, much work is necessarily suspended. But harvest claims all time and all energy. Every man must be at work, fresh hands taken on, and longer hours spent in the field. How preposterous to be sleeping then! There are harvest times in life—times when we are called to awake to more than ordinary energy. Youth, though in many respects a seed time, also has some of the characteristics of harvest. It is the summer time when work is pleasant, and when there is little to hinder it. If a man will not work in these bright days, how can he expect to be able to labour when the cramps and agnes of wintry old age seize upon him? It is also the time of a great ingathering, when knowledge must be accumulated for future use. If this harvest season is passed in idleness, it will be impossible to fill the granary of the mind with stores of knowledge in after years. But there are other special opportunities for work. We seem to have come upon the great season of the world's harvest. "The fields are now white." India is open, China and Africa are opening up; and the call is loud for labourers to go forth and gather the precious sheaves into the garner of the Lord. If there may have been some excuse for indolence in the dark ages of tyranny and ignorance, there is none now, when communication is made easy and vast opportunities for service are afforded us,
II. SLEEP IN HARVEST IS FOOLISH, BECAUSE IT WILL RESULT IN THE LOSS OF ALL PREVIOUS LABOUR. The monotonous toil of the ploughman, the careful work of the sower, the tiresome weeding, all the labour of spring and summer, will be wasted if the harvest is to be left to rot in the fields. All this was only intended to prepare the way for the harvest. So there are times when we are called to make use of the long preparatory labours of after years. The barrister begins to plead, the surgeon to practise, the minister to preach. If they are remiss now, their university honours will add to the discredit of failure in real life. The training is all wasted if we neglect to put it to its final use. So the Christian labourer, the missionary, the preacher, the Sunday school teacher, should feel that all their work is to tend to the gathering in of souls for Christ. If they miss that result, the rest is of little good. Care, diligence, prayer, are most called for that the previous labour may not be "in vain in the Lord," Hence the responsibility of the teachers of elder scholars in a Sunday school. The harvest time of the school work falls upon them. If they are unfaithful, all the previous toil of preparing the soil in the infant school and sowing the seed in the lower classes may be thrown away.
III. SLEEP IN HARVEST IS FOOLISH, BECAUSE IT WILL BEING FAMINE IN THE WINTER. The harvest is a brief, swift period. It is soon to give place to the chill autumn, and that to the dreary winter. If the fruit is not gathered then it can never be gathered in later days. Yet it will be sadly wanted. The old year's corn will run out, and a great cry for bread will go up from a famished people. Then the folly of ultimate indolence will be felt in slow agony and death. We need all to remember that there is a winter coming. Let the strong man labour in harvest for the winter of growing infirmities in old age; let the prosperous labour in seasons of plenty, that they may have by them fat kine to be devoured in years of scarcity; let the happy make use of their opportunities, that they may be ready for the sorrows of the future. Apply the lesson to national affairs. In times of peace and plenty see that debts are paid off, grievances reformed, and all things made right anti strong in preparation for possible national calamities. Apply it to commercial affairs, so that times of good trade may not lead to extravagance and luxury, but to more thrift. Apply it to spiritual things—to the church generally, that in peace and liberty sound principles may be instilled and strong Christian characters built up fit to stand the shock of persecution; to the individual, and see that we gather the bread of life now which shall make us able to withstand the barrenness of the winter of death. If we sleep in this our harvest time, what dread awaking must we look forward to?
The memory of the just.
I. THE WORLD CONCERNS ITSELF WITH THE REPUTATION OF THE DEAD. The words of our text describe a fact to which all history bears witness. No study is more absorbing than history—including biography; and the most interesting part of history is that which deals with individuals and discusses character. In spite of the protests of the philosophers, we are all more attracted by Shakespeare and Scott than by Hallam and Buckle. Statistics, generalizations, great laws and principles of national growth, all have their claims on our attention; but the characters of individual men appeal to us with a quite different human interest. Even the most commonplace gossip of the streetcorner has some justification in the element of sympathy with things human that it presupposes.
II. THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT IN POSTHUMOUS REPUTATION IS CHARACTER. Who cares for Croesus? But the slave Epictetus takes a high place in the world's thoughts. The reputation for wealth that brings fawning flatterers in a man's lifetime is the first to fade after death. So is that of empty titles. The present duke—say the seventh—is treated with the deference considered due to rank, but no one cares to ask in what the third duke differed from the fourth duke. Even the dazzling conqueror's renown soon tarnishes if it is not preserved by higher qualities. Few men now envy the reputation of Napoleon. Genius, perhaps, carries off amongst men the palm of fame; the first place, which is due to character, is reserved for the next world. Still, moral character counts for more in common human reputation than the cynical are ready to admit. At all events, in that inner circle where a man would most care for his reputation this takes its right place. If it is better to be loved at home than to be admired abroad, it is better to leave a fragrant memory for goodness in one's own circle than to leave sorrow in the home and to reap grand funeral honours in the outside world. It is remarkable to observe how fair is the verdict of history. A hypocrite may deceive his contemporaries. He can rarely deceive future generations.
III. IT IS OUR DUTY TO CHERISH THE MEMORY OF THE JUST. This is a duty we owe to them, to righteousness, and to succeeding ages. The honest canonization that comes from no papal authority, but from the honest conviction of admiring multitudes, is worthy tribute to goodness. Still, let us beware of the mockery of substituting this for our duty to the living—building splendid tombs to the prophets whom we have slain. How often have great men been slighted, misunderstood, cruelly wronged, during their lifetime; and then honoured by a chorus of repentant praise as soon as death has taken them beyond the reach of it! On the other hand, beware of indiscriminate adulation of the dead. There is wholesome truth in the words, "The name of the wicked shall rot." Nothing is more false than the common style of epitaphs. A visit to a graveyard would suggest that the world was a paradise of immaculate saints. Where you cannot justly praise, at least be decently silent. Left to itself, the name of the wicked will melt away and vanish—as all rotten things do.
IV. IT IS PROFITABLE TO CONSIDER THE LESSONS LEFT BY THE LIVES OF THE DEPARTED. We need not go the length of the early Christians, who, beginning by meeting in the catacombs where the martyrs were buried, soon came to worship the martyrs as demi-gods. But we may gain great good by contemplating the beauty of good lives. If we cherish the memory of those who have gone "to join the choir invisible," we may be helped to emulate their noble qualities.
The cloak of charity
One of the devices of the parallelism or rhythm of ideas, which is the general characteristic of Hebrew poetry, is the alternative treatment of the same thought from two opposite points of view—from positive and negative poles. The value of some good thing is emphasized by contrasting it with the repulsive nature of its contrary, as Venetian ladies tried to appear the more fair by having negro pages to attend them. Thus the beautiful work of love, in covering of sins, is here made most attractive by being brought out on the dark background of the ugly doings of hatred. It may be profitable, therefore, for us to glance at the more painful subject first.
I. THE DARK BACKGROUND. "Hatred stirreth up strifes."
1. Where there is hatred strifes will be stirred up. This hideous passion is active, powerful, and contagious. It is not content to consume itself in hidden fires; it will blaze out and spread its mischief abroad.
(1) "Hatred stirreth up strifes" because it starts new quarrels; it is irritating, provoking. An incendiary will always find plenty of fuel. When the spark is struck the tinder is ready to receive it. It is not in human nature to submit tamely to insult. Though it takes two to make a quarrel, when one man shows himself offensively quarrelsome he will not be long in finding an antagonist.
(2) Then "hatred stirreth up strifes" because it aggravates old quarrels. It pokes the fire. It freshens the smouldering embers and shakes them up so that they break out into a blaze again. It is the great mischief maker, and where it finds a little rift it sets diligently to work to widen this into a great chasm.
2. Where strifes are stirred up hatred is behind them. The strifes are a sign of the presence of hatred. True, a benevolent man may be dragged into a quarrel; but he will not provoke it himself, and he will not maintain it a moment longer than righteousness requires. A quarrelsome disposition is at bottom grounded on hatred. For if we loved one another, how could we desire to be at variance? Tale bearing, reporting words that one knows will only rouse ill feeling between two people, presenting things in their worst light so as to suggest offensive thoughts, exaggerating the unkindness of a person by imputing bad motives,—all such conduct is inconsistent with Christian charity; it is just the behaviour of the old serpent, who brought discord into Eden, and was "a murderer from the beginning."
II. THE BRIGHT PICTURE. "But love covereth all sins." This does not refer to one's own sins—to the fact that one who levee much is forgiven much (Luke 7:47). It is the sins of others that love covers.
1. Love covereth all sins against one's self. "Love suffereth long, and is kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4). The Christian must; forgive his enemies because he is taught to love them. All forgiveness springs from love. God pardons us for nothing that we do, but for the sake of his love in Jesus Christ. But our Lord has told us plainly that unless we forgive men their trespasses against us neither will our heavenly Father forgive us our trespasses. This is therefore no question of counsels of, perfection, but one of the first elements of the Christian life, if we cherish a vindictive spirit against anyone, we are ourselves still unforgiven by God, still dead in trespasses and sins. If we do not prove one love by forgiving, men, we do not possess it, and without love to our brethren we can have no love to God. Therefore so long as we obstinately refuse forgiveness to any one who has wronged us, our Christianity is nothing but hypocrisy; it is a lie.
2. Love covereth all sins in others generally, i.e. it leads us not to note them. not to report them, not to aggravate the guilt of them, not to make mischief by tale bearing. Further, it is not content to be negatively oblivious of sin. It must be active in throwing the cloak of charity upon it. Of course we must be just and truthful. But these obligations leave us free in most cases to labour to prevent mischief by a charitable behaviour in our social influence. The Christian is not called to be an informer. At least Christian love will make a man a peacemaker. If he cannot hide the sin without unfaithfulness to some trust, he can endeavour to prevent the rising of evil passions. This is the grand Christian method of conquering wickedness. The law chastises by punishment; the gospel reforms by forgiveness. So Christ, the incarnation of God's love, covers all our sins, and renews our hearts through the grace of forgiveness.
I. THE SINFUL CHARACTER OF MUCH ORDINARY CONVERSATION SHOULD INDUCE GREAT CAUTION IN SPEECH. It is a grave charge to bring against the tone of general society to say that "in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." But is it not as true now as it was in the days of Solomon? "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh;" but "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," and therefore, so long as human nature is corrupt, conversation will be corrupt also. If the well is poisoned, the less water we draw from it the better. In particular two or three bad features of common conversation may be observed, viz.:
1. Untruthfulness. There is probably a little more conscious lying even in society that professes to follow the code of honour than its members would care to admit. But untruthfulness may appear in a more disguised form. There is the equivocation that some people practise so skilfully—blinding their own conscience while throwing dust into the eyes of other people. The tendency to exaggeration for the sake of dramatic effect is very common. The falsification by means of caricature, which is dishonest because it is not confessedly caricature, is another source of deceit. But hasty speech may fall into unconscious errors; and then, though the sin of lying is not committed, harm is done by the spread of reports that are not true.
2. Unkindness. How much of the gossip of the parlour is made up of the criticism of one's neighbours—at least in some circles of society! No ill feeling may be felt, but cruel injustice is done when a man's actions are discussed and his motives dissected on very insufficient evidence, in the absence of the accused, by a small coterie of persons whom he trusts as friends. But if "love covereth all sins," it is uncharitable to make even the proved offences of our neighbours the topic of idle conversation.
3. Unholiness. When no impure words are spoken, conversation may be more dangerously defiled by innuendo. The obscene word is disgusting in its coarseness, but the skilful equivoque, supposed to be more fit for ears polite, carries its poison to an unsuspecting imagination. When nothing directly immoral is suggested, how much conversation would come under the category of what our Lord calls "idle words"? Such words are very different from genuine criticisms, or even from light banter, which may not be idle, but useful as mental refreshment.
II. THE DANGEROUS INFLUENCE OF SPEECH CONFIRMS THE WISDOM OF SILENCE.
1. Speech is remembered. The word once out cannot be recalled. It remains to rankle in the wounded breast or to stain permanently the imagination of the hearer. What is said in the heat of passion will be remembered against us in the coolness of vindictive spite. The unseemly joke of a frivolous moment may perpetually haunt the sacred subject it tampers with.
2. Speech is suggestive. The utterance may be little in itself, but it starts a long train of associations. One unkindly word will suggest a whole realm of ungenerous thoughts. A single unholy phrase may bring to view a whole theatre of unclean images. The word is but a spark; yet it may kindle a great fire (James 3:5). The most hasty speech may cut deepest, like the swiftest sword thrust.
III. IN MANY SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES SILENCE IS PECULIARLY DESIRABLE.
1. In quarrelsome society. When we know that our words will only fall like firebrands iu a powder magazine, the less said the better. If we cannot persuade a person to maintain friendly intercourse with us, we had better have no intercourse with him.
2. In unsympathetic society. It is foolish to cast pearls before swine. We must beware of the pharisaical use that pride will make of this maxim, leading us to preserve a silence of contempt. But in all humility and charity we may refrain from speaking where we shall only be misunderstood. If our hearer cannot receive the ideas of our speech, we only waste time in giving him the words—probably we do worse, and lead him into delusions through the wrong construction that he will put on our language.
3. In degraded society. When to enter into conversation will only stir up the mud that lies at the bottom of the now stagnant pool, we had better be quiet. In general a few well weighed words have more force than many hasty, thoughtless utterances. We do not all possess the gift of laconic terseness. But we can at least set a guard on our speech, and when called to speak seek Divine grace that oar words may be "seasoned with salt."
The hope of the righteous
I. WE ALL LIVE BY HOPE. The righteous has his "hope," the wicked his "expectation;" both live in the future. The present takes its colours chiefly from our anticipations of the future. It is dark or bright according as shadows or light fall on it from that visionary world. The man who has no hope here or hereafter is practically dead. Despair is suicide. Hence the importance of seeing to our hopes. If they are ill-grounded, all life is a mistake.
II. THE LOTS OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED DIFFER LESS IN THEIR PRESENT CONDITION THAN IN THE FUTURE OF THEIR HOPES. Old Testament saints were often distressed at the sufferings of the good and, the prosperity of the bad. It is when we see "their end" that we discover the just allotment. The house on the sand stands as fairly as the house on the rock—till the storm comes. "When the whirlwind passeth, the wicked is no more; but the righteous is an everlasting portion" (Proverbs 10:25). Men of very different deserts may have equally bright hopes; for hope is not founded on the verdict of justice, but on a man's own ideas, or even his idle fancies. The vigour of the hope is no guarantee of the certainty of its fulfilment.
III. THE PROVIDENTIAL JUSTICE OF GOD WILL OVERRULE THE ISSUE OF ALL HOPES. Our views of the future can only be safely depended on when they are determined by what we know of God. The future is in his hands. So, of course, is the present. But it is only in the course of a long time that the modifying influence of temporary accidents is removed and great general laws exert their full force. What will then happen we cannot tell by only investigating present phenomena, because of the confusion of transient influences. We must study the character of God. Then we shall be constrained to exclaim, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Because God is just, justice must be the ultimate outcome of all things. Through all time God is surely working on to this end. We are deceived by the tardiness of the process, yet this very tardiness is effecting the more complete final result.
"The mills of God grind slowly,
But they grind exceeding small."
IV. THE DIFFERENT NATURE OF THE HOPES OF MEN OF DIFFERENT CHARACTER LARGELY DETERMINES THE QUESTION OF THEIR FUTURE FULFILMENT. God works through means and laws. Some hopes are naturally doomed to failure, others contain seeds of immortal fruition. Now, the nature of our hopes is dependent on our character. Better than professions, words, or even deeds, as a test of character, are a man's hopes. Tell us what he hopes, and we can say what he is. The hope is an emanation of the very essence of the soul. Therefore bad men have bad hopes, and good men good hopes. If both seem to hope for the same thing, the hopes are still wide apart as the poles; for the same thing objectively is quite different to us according to the thoughts with which we view it. The heaven for which a wicked man hopes is very unlike the Christian's heaven. Good men hope for what is good; i.e. for what agrees with God's will. Thus their hope will not be disappointed. Christians have faith in "Christ in us the Hope of glory." Such an expectation presages its own satisfaction.
Righteousness and wisdom
These two attributes appear to belong to different spheres—the one to the moral and the other to the intellectual. Yet they are here associated as parent and child, and righteousness is seen to sprout into wisdom. Righteous men are represented as speaking wisely. Now, we know that good people have not a monopoly of intellect. Aristides the virtuous was not as clever as Themistocles. There are small-minded saints, and there are sinners of giant intellect. Where, then, is the connection between righteousness and wisdom?
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS STRENGTHENS THE WHOLE SOUL. It will not convert a peasant into a philosopher, but it will brighten the faculties of the peasant. While sin deadens the soul, dissipates its faculties, and lowers its powers, the calm and temperate life of a good man helps him to attain to such vigour of thought as is within the reach of his powers.
III. RIGHTEOUSNESS REMOVES THE HINDRANCE OF PREJUDICE. No doubt many good people have their prejudices. But that is in spite of their goodness, and the goodness is an antidote of more or less efficacy. The root of prejudice is self-will, and this is also the root of sin. Just in proportion as we learn the self-distrust of humility we shall be freed from the blindness of prejudice.
III. RIGHTEOUSNESS INSTILS THE LOVE OF TRUTH. The good man wishes to know truth; he acknowledges the duty of seeking light; he will not let indolence keep him in ignorance. Now, an earnest pursuit of truth is not likely to be rewarded with failure. They who seek Wisdom earnestly will find her (Proverbs 8:17). Thus the rousing of a motive to strive after wisdom helps us to reach it, and this is the fruit of righteousness.
IV. RIGHTEOUSNESS OPENS THE EYES OF THE SOUL. It has a direct influence in purging the inward vision. There are truths which can only be revealed through channels of sympathy. The way of holiness lies hidden from the gaze of the corrupt. To be good is to see the best truth.
V. RIGHTEOUSNESS LEADS TO THE PRACTICAL USE OF TRUTH. Wisdom is not a merely intellectual attainment. While intimately connected with the thoughts of the mind, it also has vital relations with the resolves of the will. The wise man is not only one who knows the right way; he practises his knowledge by walking therein.
VI. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS TRUTHFUL. When a good man speaks he will not knowingly deceive. His earnest desire will be to utter just what he believes to be true. But such a desire will help him to put forth words of wisdom.
A practical result of this association of wisdom with righteousness is that we should look well to the character of our teachers. The merely popular preacher, or the merely clever thinker, will not be so useful a guide in the higher reaches of the spiritual life as the good man of less brilliant natural gifts and intellectual attainments. Thus true wisdom may be discovered where the world only expects foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:20, 1 Corinthians 1:21).
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
We enter upon a mosaic-work of proverbs, which perhaps hardly admit of any one principle of arrangement except that of moral comparison and contrast. This governs the whole. Life is viewed as containing endless oppositions, to which light and darkness correspond in the world of sensuous perception.
Early appearance of moral contrast
I. THE FAMILY LIFE ELICITS CHARACTER. It is a little world, and from the first provides a sphere of probation and of judgment which is the miniature of the great world.
II. THE TRAINING OF THE PARENTS IS REFLECTED IN THE CHILDREN'S CONDUCT. And the conduct of the children is reflected in the parents' joy or grief. Hence the duty of wise training on the one side, loving obedience on the other; that the happy effects may be secured, the unhappy averted, in each case.
III. TO LIVE TO MAKE ONE'S PARENTS (AND OTHERS) HAPPY IS ONE OF THE BEST OF MOTIVES. To see our actions mirrored in their mirth and others' joy, what pleasure can be purer, what ambition nobler?—J.
Moral contrast in earthly lot and destiny
I. ILL-GOTTEN WEALTH AND RECTITUDE. (Proverbs 10:2.) The former cannot avert sudden death or shame (Proverbs 10:25, Proverbs 10:27); the latter is vital, and stands the man in good stead in every hour of human trial, and of Divine judgment.
II. HONEST POVERTY AND PROFLIGATE GREED. (Proverbs 10:3.) The former does not hunger, is contented with little, has true satisfaction. The latter is never satisfied, expands with every indulgence, is like the "dire dropsy." It is an unappeasable thirst. God repudiates it by fixing it in perpetual impotency, while the temperate and chastened doilies are rewarded by fulfilment.
III. THE LAX AND THE INDUSTRIOUS HAND. (Proverbs 10:4; comp. Proverbs 12:24.) The one leading to poverty, the other to fiches. Languor and energy have their physical conditions; but how much lies in the will? We live in a day when it is the fashion to talk of "determinism," and to extend the doctrine of "causes over which we have no control" beyond all reasonable limits. We need to fall back on the healthy common sense of mankind, and on the doctrine of these proverbs. There is a moral question involved. Laziness is immoral, and receives the condemnation of immorality; industry is a virtue, and brings its own reward in every sphere. The opposition is amplified in Proverbs 10:5; active forethought being contrasted with supine indifference. The hard field labour referred to belongs particularly to young men; and to young men idleness is peculiarly corrupting.
IV. ASSOCIATIONS OF BLESSING AND THOSE OF VIOLENCE. (Proverbs 10:6.) However the verse may be rendered and interpreted, this is the opposition. Blessing leads the mind through such a series of associated ideas as peace, tranquillity, order, security; violence through a contrasted series—trouble, disquiet, disorder, and all that implies a curse.
V. BRIGHT AND DARK RECOLLECTIONS. (Proverbs 10:7.) The good man lives in thankful memories; the bad man's name is like an ill odour, according to the literal meaning of the Hebrew word. When the saying is quoted, The ill men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones," we should recall by whom this was said, or feigned to be said, and for what purpose. In the memory of Caesar's ambition Antony is afraid the Romans will forget his services. Momentarily good may be forgotten, but ultlmately must come to recognition and honour. The course of time illustrates the worth of the good, and enhances the odium of evil memories.—J.
Folly and wisdom in manifold contrast
I. THE WISE MAN IS MORE READY TO RECEIVE THAN TO GIVE COUNSEL; THE FOOL, THE OPPOSITE.
II. THE WISE MAN KNOWS THE VALUE OF RESERVE; THE FOOL WILL "STILL BE TALKING."
III. THE WISE MAN IS THRIFTY, ECONOMICAL OF WORDS, A CAPITALIST OF THOUGHT; THE FOOL, A SPENDTHRIFT OF WORDS, A BANKRUPT OF THOUGHT.
IV. THE WISE MAN RISES IN REPUTATION, IN POSITION; THE FOOL COMES SOONER OR LATER TO A "FALL."
V. GUILELESSNESS IS SAFE, WHILE CRAFT AND CROOKED POLICY ARE CERTAIN, SOONER OR LATER, OF EXPOSURE. (Proverbs 10:9.) In that widest sense in which alone the saying is noble and true, "Honesty is the best policy." Cunning overreaches itself and gets into trouble; and the mere talker never ends well. Speech should only be prophetic of deed; otherwise, Many will say to me in that day, etc.—J.
A fourfold opposition
I. SPEECH THAT QUICKENS AND SPEECH THAT KILLS. (Proverbs 10:11.)
1. The speech of the wise and good is sound, "seasoned with salt;" that of the wicked is hollow or else poisonous.
2. The former edifies, builds up and strengthens the good principle in the minds of those who convene with him; the bluer destroys the good, and sows evil in its stead.
II. QUARRELSOMENESS AND AMIABILITY. (Proverbs 10:12; see on Proverbs 6:14.) The former begets evil, increases that already existing, inflames wounds lets nothing pass that may serve as fuel to its fire. The latter puts an end to much evil, prevents the rise of more, soothes every wound, and mitigates every mischief. The former is ever dividing, the latter reconciling. They undo one another's work; but love in the end prevails (Proverbs 17:9; 1 Corinthians 13:4; James 5:20; 1 Peter 4:8).
III. THE GRACE OF WISDOM AND THE DISGRACE OF FOLLY. (Proverbs 10:13.) The pure eloquence of the good man attracts admiration and wins confidence; while the fallacies of the pretender, the spurious rhetoric of the insincere certain to be exposed and castigated. The life of the, House of Commons, or of any great assembly, furnishes constant illustrations.
IV. PRUDENT RESERVE AND PERNICIOUS LOQUACITY. (Proverbs 10:14.) There is a time end place for silence, the wise man knows—both for the recovery of his own thoughts, and for the opportunity of watching others. By a bold figure of speech, it may often be that silence is the greatest eloquence. In many instances we think we have produced no effect, have not committed ourselves to the expression of opinion; on the contrary, our reserve has spoken. In all this lies a science and art of living. The fool does not see this; he is too self-absorbed to see anything that passes in others' minds, or too unsympathetic to feel; and hence blurts out things that had better have been left unsaid, hurts sensibilities, blackens reputations, causes false positions for himself and others.
1. The heart must be watched. There is no other source of pleasing, gentle manners, nor of sound behaviour in society. Reserve and unreserve of the right kind are simply the government of the tongue by charity.
2. The tongue must be watched. And regulated by good models of Conversation. Never must it be forgotten how much we learn by imitation.—J.
A sevenfold strain of experience
For the most part these sayings relate to earthly goods—their value, and the means for their acquisition. Godliness has the promise of both lives. Equally incredible would a religion which ignored the future be with one which ignored the present. Equally one-sided is the expectation only of earthly good from wisdom, and the expectation only of heavenly good. We must beware of a false materializing and of a false spiritualizing of religion.
I. THE POWER OF WEALTH AND THE WEAKNESS OF POVERTY. The former like a strong city or fortress; the latter like a ruinous dwelling, which threatens at any moment to tumble about the dweller's head. The teacher is thinking, as the following verse shows, on the one hand, of wealth wisely and honourably won, which becomes a means to other wise ends; on the other hand, of blameworthy poverty, which leads in time to further vice and misery. To desire competent means for the sake of worthy objects, and to fear poverty because of its temptations, is a right and true attitude of mind.
II. THE TENDENCY OF WEALTH DEPENDS ON THE MIND OF THE POSSESSOR. (Proverbs 10:16.) The "tendency of riches" is in itself an incomplete thought. Silver and gold have no tendency, except by a figure of speech. In the heart of man the directing force is found. Used justly, riches are a good; they are simply, like bodily strength, knowledge, skill, a mass of available means. Used wickedly, so that they simply feed our senses and our pride, or become corrupters of others' integrity, they simply increase the possessor's power and range of mischief. When we poetically speak of accursed gold, or base dross, we should be aware that these are figures, and that the curse can never rest on anything in God's creation except the will which perverts what is a means to good into a means to evil.
III. THE CAUSES OF DIRECTION ADD MISDIRECTION IN LIFE. (Proverbs 10:17.) Why do some men succeed, and others fail, in perpetual blundering and error? The particular cases may be complex; but as to the general rule there can be no question. In the one case there is admission of faults and attention to the correction of them. In the other, blindness to faults, inattention to warnings, obstinate persistence in error. Be not above taking a hint, especially from a foe. "Temper" is the bane of many. Any opportunity is sacrificed rather than the whim, the humour which seems to the man so thoroughly a part of himself that he cannot give it up. The habit of calm revision of one's progress and failures in the hour of prayer seems needful both to preserve from over self-confidence and from over-reliance on the advice of others.
IV. CONCEALED HATRED AND OPEN MALICE EQUALLY ODIOUS. (Proverbs 10:18.) Resentment that one dares not, or thinks it polite not to, express makes the lips turn traitor; and the victim is both "contemned and flattered." God has placed a natural hatred of duplicity in our hearts. It was levelled as a reproach against Euripides that he had put into the mouth of one of his characters the sentiment, "My tongue did swear, my heart remain'd unsworn." Not so dangerous in many cases, but morally worse, is the deliberate slanderer, who goes about to despoil his neighbours of that which leaves them much poorer, makes him none the richer. He is a fool, because his arts recoil upon himself.
V. THE PERIL OF THE BABBLING TONGUE; THE PRUDENCE OF RESERVE. (Proverbs 10:19.) The man may be confronted with his words. The "written letter remains," and "many witnesses" may serve equally well to convict of the authorship of a malicious speech. It is far more easy for men to forgive abusive things said to their faces than things reported to have been said behind their backs. And even injurious acts can be got over more readily than stinging words of sarcasm. Words have a more definite shape in thought than deeds; they reveal a certain view of you which has some truth in it. You cannot forget it, which means with most you cannot forgive it. A clean-cut sarcasm, a slander which has just that vraisemblance about it which gives currency to gossip, stamps a certain image of the victim in the public mind. The gentler motive to prudence is the hurt we may do others; the motive consistently here is the treatment we may experience ourselves. If a person, on grounds like these, were to take a pledge of total abstinence from "personal talk" of the critical kind, his prudence must be respected. An approach to this is found in well bred society. And how lamentable the condition of some so called religious circles, when there is so little culture that conversation gravitates as if by necessity to the discussion of the character and doings of popular preachers, etc.!
VI. THE TONGUE AND THE HEART ARE IN IMMEDIATE CONNECTION. (Proverbs 10:20.) Just as Napoleon said his brain and hand were in immediate connection. The analogy will serve. The "silver tongue" (no accents are silvery but those of truth) bespeaks the fine disposition, the noble heart. And what can the produce of the "worthless" heart be but "rot" upon the tongue?
VII. GOOD BREEDS GOOD, WHILE EVIL CANNOT KEEP ITSELF ALIVE. (Proverbs 10:21.) The lips of the just pasture many. Good words, good preachers, good books,—these are the food of the world, and there cannot be an oversupply. Bad books and teachers may be let alone. As Dr. Johnson said of a poem, it had not enough life in it to keep it sweet (or, "not enough vitality to preserve it from corruption").—J.
Leasing says of the Old Testament, as an elementary book of childlike wisdom, that "its style is now plain and simple, now poetic, full of tautologies, but such as exercise the penetration of the mind, while they seem now to say something fresh, yet say the same; now seem to say the same, and at bottom signify, or may signify, something different." The Proverbs are the constant illustration of the Law.
I. THE BLESSING OF JEHOVAH INDISPENSABLE; ALL TROUBLE VAIN WITHOUT IT. (Verse 22.) We adopt the rendering, "Trouble is of no avail without it." His blessing is all in all. The thought thus yielded is a beautiful one, identical with that in Psalms 127:1-5. Jehovah gives bread to his beloved while they sleep and take no "anxious thought" about it. The thought was familiar to the ancient mind, and has been wrought up in parable and fable. The counterpart is that the blessing of God is not given to the idle; that "God loves to be helped;" that "Heaven helps those who help themselves." The opposite faults are indolence and over-anxiety.
II. THE TRUTH AND THE FALSE SOURCE OF CHEERFULNESS. (Verse 23.) The fool makes mirth out of mischief. He takes delight in seeing the image of his restless and mischievous activity everywhere. The man of principle, on the contrary, draws his serene cheerfulness from faith in the Divine law of things—the sense that he is reconciled to it, and that good must ever flow from it.
III. THE FEARFUL AND THE HOPEFUL TEMPERS TRACED TO THEIR SIGNIFICANCE. (Verse 24.) There is a timidity bred of an evil conscience—a buoyant expectation of the future bred of a good conscience. Both are creative in their effect on the imagination, and thus men dwell with shapes of gloom or radiant forms of fancy. Both are prophetic, and tend to realize themselves. This is a profound truth. For imagination in turn influences the will, and we reap the guilty fears or the pure hopes our habits Bowed.
IV. THE RESULTS OF TRIAL AND TROUBLE. (Verse 25.) The storm sweeps by and overturns the hollow and untrue; while they who are based on the righteousness of God remain unmoved (comp. Matthew 7:24, seqq.). We do not know a man's principles nor whether he has any, until the time of suffering. Theory is one thing, fact another; it is not the statement of the engineer, but the trial of winter's floods that must prove the soundness of the bridge. We have to learn the truth of life in theory first; but we do not make it our own until it is put to the test of experience. Experience throws us back upon the truth of the theory, enriches our conception of it, and should enable us to teach it with the greater confidence to others.—J.
The lazy man a nuisance
I. HE IRRITATES HIS EMPLOYERS. The images of the teeth set on edge, the blinded, smarting eyes, give the thought with great force and great naivete.
II. HE IS WORSE THAN USELESS. The Bible shows a great aversion from idleness, sluggishness (Proverbs 6:6, seqq.; Proverbs 12:27; Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 22:13).
1. Laziness is a vice and the parent of worse.
2. The swift discharge of duty is acceptable to God and man.—J.
Impression by tautology
These verses contain mostly iterations of maxims already delivered (on Proverbs 10:27, see on Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 9:11; on verse 28, see on verse 24; Proverbs 11:7). That religion is a protector to the man of good conscience, while overthrow awaits the ungodly, again brings out an often expressed thought with emphasis (Proverbs 10:30; see on Proverbs 10:25; Proverbs 3:21). Proverbs 10:31, Proverbs 10:32 again contrast the speech of the good and the wicked; the former like a sappy and fruitful tree, the latter destined to oblivion; the former appealing to the sense of beauty and grace, the latter shocking by its deformity.
I. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN GOD. He does not and cannot change. He is invariable substance, unalterable will and law.
II. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN NATURE. The heavens above us, with all their worlds, the great mountains and features of the landscape, the daily sights of sunrise and evening, form and colour. Abraham and Solomon looked upon essentially the same world with ourselves.
III. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN HUMAN NATURE—its passions, strength, and weakness. The same types of character appear and reappear in every age in relatively new forms. And it is proverbial that history repeats itself.
IV. THE ESSENTIAL RELATIONS OF MAN TO GOD MUST BE THE SAME IN EVERY AGE. Hence the teacher's deliverances must constantly recur to the same great points.
V. THAT WHICH VARIES IS THE TRIVIAL OR TRANSIENT ELEMENT; THAT WHICH DOES NOT VARY IS THE SUBLIME AND THE ETERNAL.
VI. EVERY TRUE TEACHER MAY THUS VARY THE FORM OF HIS INSTRUCTION AS MUCH AS HE WILL. Let him see to it that he works in unison with God and nature, experience, the conscience, and leaves a few great impressions firmly fixed in the mind. "Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little."—J.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Our joy in our children: a sermon to parents
We may take it for granted, as commonly understood—
I. THAT THE FOUNDATION DUTY AND INTEREST, with us all, is to be in a right relation, personally, with God. Until we are right with God we must be wrong altogether. Then we must contend—
II. THAT THE QUESTION OF NEXT VITAL CONSIDERATION is the character of our children, it is conceivable that God might have placed the human world on an entirely different basis than that of the family. But he has rested it on the human home. This is that decision of our Creater which makes the greatest difference to us and to our life. How much it is to those who are parents that they are such! How would their life have been another and a smaller thing without that pure and sacred bond! What deep chasms of experience has it opened! what fountains of feeling has it unsealed! what secrets of life has it unlocked! What heights of joy, what depths of sorrow, has it made possible to the heart!
III. THAT THERE IS A SONSHIP WHICH GLADDENS, as there is one that grieves, the parental heart. Who is the wise son (of the text)? Not necessarily the learned, or the clever, or the prosperous son. A child may be any or all of these, and yet may be a grief and not a joy, a shame and not an honour, to his parents. It is he who has learnt wisdom of God, who has sat diligently and effectually at the feet of that great Teacher who came to be the Wisdom of God. It is he
(1) who has found his home and his heritage in a Divine Father;
(2) Who has secured an unfailing Friend in a Divine Redeemer;
(3) who has stored his mind with eternal truth and filled his soul with everlasting principles;
(4) who is building up his Character by the teaching, and regulating his life by the will, of Jesus Christ, This is the son of whom the father will never be ashamed, who will not use the language which it would pain him to hear, nor choose the friends he would be unwilling to acknowledge, nor be guilty of the conduct it would wound him to witness. This is the son on whose character and on whose life, in all its phases and developments, he looks with profoundest gratitude and unspeakable delight.
IV. THAT THE CHARACTER OF OUR CHILDREN depends mainly on ourselves. They will:
1. Believe what we teach them.
2. Follow the example we set them.
3. Catch the spirit we manifest in their presence.—C.
Four conditions of well being
That we may enjoy a prosperity which is truly human, we must do well and be well in three directions—in our circumstances, in our mind (our intellectual powers), and in our character. And that which tends to build up on the one hand, or to destroy on the other hand, will be found to affect us in these three spheres. The conditions of well being as suggested by the passage are—
I. RECTITUDE. (Proverbs 10:2, Proverbs 10:3.) Righteousness before God is essential to all prosperity:
1. Because, if we deliberately choose the path of iniquity, we shall have to work against the arm of Omnipotence. "He casteth away the substance of the wicked" (Proverbs 10:3).
2. Because, on the contrary, if we walk in moral and spiritual integrity, we may count on the direction and even the interposition of the Divine hand. "The Lord will not suffer," etc. (Proverbs 10:3).
3. Because righteousness means virtue and prudence; it means those qualities which work for health and for security, which "relieve from death" (Proverbs 10:2).
4. Because the gains of ungodliness are never satisfactory; "they profit nothing."
(1) They are unattended by the joy of gratitude, and they are (often) accompanied by the miseries of self-reproach;
(2) they are spoilt by the condemnation of the good and the holy;
(3) they are apt to be dispersed far more freely than they are acquired;
(4) they cannot and they do not satisfy the soul, though they may continue to fill the treasury,—they leave the heart empty, aching and hungering for a good which is beyond, for a blessing which is from above.
II. DILIGENCE. (Proverbs 10:4.)
1. The inattentive and sluggish worker is constantly descending; he is on an incline, and is going downwards. All things connected with his vocation, or with his own mind, or with his moral and spiritual condition, are gradually but seriously suffering; decline, decay, disease, have set in and will spread from day to day, from year to year.
2. The earnest and energetic worker is continually ascending; he is moving upwards; his hand is "making rich"—it may be in material wealth, or (what is better) in useful and elevating knowledge, or (what is best) in the acquisitions of spiritual culture, in the virtues and graces of Christian character.
III. WAKEFULNESS. (Proverbs 10:5.) This is a very important qualification; we must be ready to avail ourselves of the hour of opportunity. To gather when the corn is ripe is necessary if the toil of the husbandman is to bear its fruit; to let the crop alone when it is ready for the sickle is to waste the labour of many weeks. Readiness to reap is of as much consequence as willingness to work. The wakeful eye must be on every field of human activity, or energy and patience will be thrown away. We must covet and must cultivate mental alertness, spiritual promptitude, readiness to strike when the hour has come, or we shall miss much of "the fruit of our labour." It is the general who knows when to give the word to "charge" that wins the battle.
IV. PEACEABLENESS. (Proverbs 10:6.) The consequences of violence shut the mouth of the wicked. He that "seeks peace and ensues it will see good days (1 Peter 3:10, 1 Peter 3:11).—C.
The memory of the just.
It is a fact that the name of the good man is fragrant, and that long after his departure there lingers in the memories and hearts of men a sense of loss, a feeling
"Which is but akin to pain
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain;"
a feeling of tender regret not unmingled with sacred joy and reverent gratitude, This fact is—
I. A STRENGTH TO THE JUST MAN WHILE HE LIVES. "What has posterity done for us?" asks the cynic. "The idea of posterity has done great things for us," replies the moralist. That idea and the hope to which it gives birth have done much to fortify virtue, to establish character, to enlarge and ennoble the good man's life. That thought has been fruitful of earnest work, and has helped men to gird themselves for heroic suffering. Good men have been better, noble lives have been nobler, because we care to be tenderly remembered and kindly spoken of when we are no longer among the living.
II. A COMFORT TO THOSE WHO MOURN HIM.
1. It is true that the more admirable and loving a man is, the greater is our loss when he is taken from us.
2. But it is also true that they are blessed who lose the worthiest and the best.
3. For the sorrow we feel at such loss is a very sacred thing; it comes from God himself; it can be borne with simple and pure resignation; it is unembittered with the most painful regrets; it works for the renewal and purification of our spirit and character.
4. And it is attended with a very precious mitigation; we have a pure and holy joy in the recollection of what the departed one was, what he did, how he laboured and triumphed, how many hearts he comforted, how many lives he brightened, what he was to ourselves. And these remembrances bring sunshine over the shadowed fields; they sweeten the bitter cup; they give "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
III. AN INSPIRATION TO ALL WHO KNEW HIM. For the completion of a true and godly life is an inspiration.
1. It is another proof that goodness can triumph over every obstacle and persevere to the end.
2. It is an unspoken, but not inaudible summons, saying, "Follow me."
3. It is a thing of beauty as well as worth; and it attracts all who have an eye to see as well as a heart to feel.
(1) Resolve that, whatever else you leave (or fail to leave) behind, you will bequeath the memory of a just man; that is the best legacy to leave.
(2) Be drawn, as by a Powerful fascination, toward the character and the destiny of the good and wise who have gone before you.—C.
Proverbs 10:8, Proverbs 10:10, Proverbs 10:11, Proverbs 10:14, Proverbs 10:18-21, Proverbs 10:31, Proverbs 10:32
The service of speech, etc
"Man is a talking animal," we say. But if we are distinguished from the brute creation by the mere fact of speech, how truly are we divided from one another by the use we make of that human faculty! To what height of worthiness one man may rise, and what inestimable service he may render, but to what depth of wrong another man may fall, and what mischief he may work, by the use of his tongue!
I. THE SERVICE OF SPEECH. "By our words" we may do great things, as our Master has told us, and as his apostle reminds us (see Matthew 12:37; James 3:9).
1. We may give deep and pure gratification (Proverbs 10:32; and see Ecclesiastes 12:10). We may speak (or read) words which shall be
(1) charming, soothing, comforting, encouraging, even inspiring, in the ear of man; and also
(2) pleasing and satisfying to our Divine Master.
2. We may follow in the footsteps of the Divine. For "the mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom" (Proverbs 10:31). We may utter in the ears, and may thus convey to the minds and hearts of men, the truths which are nothing less than the wisdom of God. Thus we may be speaking to others the very thoughts and making known the will of God. We ourselves may be, on our scale and in our sphere, like the Lord whom we serve and follow, "the Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24, 80).
3. We may enrich the life of our fellow men. "The tongue of the just is as choice silver" (Proverbs 10:20). And surely fine thoughts, brilliant images, sound principles, sustaining truths, elevating conceptions of God, charitable ideas of men,—these are more enlarging and enriching than many pounds of silver or many piles of gold.
4. We may nourish the soul. "The lips of the righteous feed many" (Proverbs 10:21). Their words are spiritual bread which "strengtheneth man's heart," and makes him able to watch, to work, to battle, to endure. They are the wine which gives new life when he is ready to perish (Proverbs 31:6), which restores him in the languor of doubt and difficulty, and fills his soul with hopefulness and energy.
5. We may thus contribute to the true and real life of men. Our mouth will be "a fountain of life" (Proverbs 10:11, Revised Version). Whithersoever the river of Divine wisdom, of Christian truth, runneth, there will be that spiritual upspringing which is the true life of man.
II. THE MISCHIEF OF ITS ABUSE. The abuse of the power of speech, the talking which is idle and vain, is a great and sore evil.
1. It brings the speaker into contempt; he is thought and spoken of as "a prating fool" (Proverbs 10:8, Proverbs 10:10), and he comes under the contempt of the wise.
2. It involves men in sin. "In the multitude of words," etc. (Proverbs 10:19). The man that is ever speaking with little forethought is sure to violate truth and righteousness before many hours have passed.
3. It works mischief of many kinds (Proverbs 10:14 and Proverbs 10:18). It is sure to end in slander, in the robbery of reputation. The mouth of the foolish is "a present destruction" (Revised Version). The habit of bad speech, especially if it be that of falsehood, or lewdness, or profanity, is a "present destruction,"
(1) in that it constitutes a real calamity; for in the sight of God there can be few things worse than such a pitiful abuse of the powers he has entrusted to us. It is also a "present destruction,"
(2) in that it leads with a fatal swiftness to the deterioration and corruption of those in whose hearing it is uttered.—C.
(See homily on Proverbs 11:3.)—C.
The conquest of love
"Love covereth all sins." It does this in that—
I. IT CARRIES THE WEIGHT OF MANY SHORTCOMINGS.
1. On the one band, many proprieties will not atone for the absence of love. We are wholly unsatisfied if one who sustains to us a very near relationship (husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.) is scrupulously correct in behaviour if love be wanting from the heart. Nothing can compensate for that. The kindness that is not prompted by affection is of a very poor order, and it does not satisfy the soul.
2. On the other hand, the presence of pure and strong affection makes many things tolerable which in themselves are hard to bear. Not that any one has a right to excuse himself for transgressions of law, of whatever kind they may be, on the ground of his tenderness of heart. It is a complete and dangerous misreading of our Lord's word (Luke 7:47) to suppose that he meant that sins are forgiven because of the presence of much love; it is the presence of much love that is the proof, not the ground, of forgiveness (see homily in loc.). But it is a patent and common fact of human life that we can not only bear with one another, but can love and honour one another when love dwells in the heart and shines in the countenance and breathes and burns in the words and actions, even though there may be much faultiness and many infirmities that have to be forgiven.
II. IT IS PREPARED WITH GENEROUS INTERPRETATIONS of much misbehaviour. Where a hard, cast-iron severity sees nothing but transgression, love sees much extenuation or even complete excuse; or it goes beyond that, and sees, or believes that it sees, a worthy and not an unworthy motive. It magnifies or invents a reason which puts conduct in another light, and makes it appear pardonable, if not creditable. It has quite a different account to give of the transaction; it is that which only generous love could see and could supply.
III. IT HAS A LARGE FORGIVENESS FOR EVEN GREAT OFFENCES. The Divine love "abundantly pardons." It blots out the worst misdeeds and pardons the negligence and impiety of whole periods of a sinful life. The human love that is likest to the Divine can overlook very dark misdoings, and take back to its embrace those who have gone away and astray into a very "far country" of sin.
IV. IT REDEEMS AND RESTORES. When law does not avail, love will succeed in winning the erring to wiser and better ways. It can lay its hand upon the sinner with a touch that will tell and will triumph. It has a power to break the obduracy of guilt for which violence is utterly inadequate. It alone can lead the rebellious spirit into the gate of penitence and faith, and make its future life a life of obedience and wisdom. Thus in the best way, winning the noblest of all victories, it "covers sin" by conquering it, by leading the heart to the love of righteousness and the practice of purity. Where the rough winds of penalty will fail, the soft, sweet sunshine of love will succeed most excellently.—C.
(See homily on Proverbs 29:11.)—C.
There is no inconsistency in the teaching of the text with that of Proverbs 10:4. For God blesses us by means of our own efforts and energy; indeed, we are more truly and fully enriched of God when his blessing comes to us as the consequence of our faith and labour.
I. THE OBJECTS AT WHICH WE AIM. Those without which we are apt to consider ourselves poor. They are these:
1. Material substance, or (as we commonly put it to ourselves) money.
2. Honour. A good measure of regard, duly and clearly paid by our fellows.
3. Power. The holding of a position in which we are able to decide and to direct.
4. Learning, or unusual sagacity; that intellectual superiority which enables us to lead or to command.
II. THE CONDITION UNDER WHICH THESE MAY BE REGARDED AS THE BLESSING OF GOD. This is when we can truly say that there is "no sorrow," i.e. no real cause for regret that we have come to possess and to enjoy them. But when is this?
1. When they have been acquired without any mason for self-reproach—justly, purely, honourably.
2. When we have not lost as much as we have gained by their acquisition. We may lose so much in time, or in health and energy, or in wise and elevating friendship, or in the opportunity for worship and service, that the balance in the sight of heavenly wisdom may be against us.
3. When they do not become a heavy burden which we can ill bear. This they often do become. Frequently wealth becomes more of a burden than a blessing to its possessor. He would be a much lighter-hearted and less care-encumbered man if he had not so much substance to dispose of and to preserve. And so of power and influence.
4. When they do not become a snare to us, leading us into pride, or into a selfish separateness and unneighbourliness, or into a guilty self-indulgence, or into "an unenlightened and unchristian disdain of the common people," or into an overweening and fatal miscalculation of our own power and importance, or into a deadening and suicidal worldliness. These great evils may not mean present "sorrow,' as we ordinarily understand that term. But they are such evils as our Divine Father sees with Divine regret; they are such as our heavenly Friend would fain deliver us from; and when riches of any kind end in them, they cannot be said to be the result of his blessing. Moreover, they all lead on and down, sooner or later, to grievous ends,; those who yield to them are on their way to "pierce themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:10). Hence—
III. THE PROFOUND WISDOM OF MODERATION in all human and earthly ambitions. Who shall say how much of riches he can stand? Who can tell where that point is to be found, on the other side of which is spiritual peril and ultimate "sorrow" of the worst kind? "Give me neither poverty nor riches" is the wish and the prayer of the wise and reverent.—C.