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Second section in this collection.
A wise son heareth his father's instruction. The Authorized Version introduces the verb from the second member. The Hebrew is elliptical, "A wise son, his father's discipline," i.e. is the object or the result of his father's education; he owes his wisdom to it. Septuagint, "A clever (πανοῦργος) son is obedient to his father." But a scorner (Proverbs 1:22) heareth not rebuke; one who mocks at goodness and despises filial piety will not listen to reproof. Septuagint, "A disobedient son is in destruction." Compare the case of Eli's sons, and their fate (1 Samuel 2:25; 1 Samuel 4:17).
A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth (Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 18:20). By his kindly speech and wise counsels he shall gain the good will of his neighbours and the blessing of God. Schultens observes that the word rendered "good" (tob) means what is pleasant to taste and smell, while that translated "violence" (chamas) signifies literally what is crude and unripe. The soul of the transgressors shall eat violence (Proverbs 1:31). The Authorized Version introduces the verb from the first clause unnecessarily. The meaning of this rendering is that sinners, especially the treacherous, bring on themselves retribution; the injuries which they devise against others recoil on their own heads (Proverbs 10:6). The Hebrew is, "The soul (i.e. the desire, or delight) of the perfidious (is) violence." Such men have only one thing at heart, viz. to wrong their neighbour, and to increase their own property by any, even nefarious, precedings. Septuagint, "Of the fruits of righteousness the good man shall eat; but the lives of transgressors shall perish untimely."
He that keepeth (guardeth) his mouth keepeth his life (Proverbs 18:21; Proverbs 21:23; comp. Psalms 39:1; James 1:26). Thus the gnome—
Ἡ γλῶσσα πολλοὺς εἰς ὄλεθρον ἤγαγεν.
"The tongue hath many to destruction led."
And Ecclesiasticus 28:25, "Weigh thy words in a balance, and make a door and bar for thy mouth. Beware thou slide not by it, lest thou fall before him that lieth in wait." But he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 10:14). The Vulgate paraphrases, "He who is inconsiderate in speech shall experience evils;" Septuagint, "will terrify himself"—will occasion to himself many terrible alarms and inflictions. Hence the psalmist prays, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my month; keep the door of my lips." So we have in the Danish, "A silent man's words are not brought into court;" and in the Spanish, "Let not the tongue say what the head shall pay for;" while the Italians tell us, "The sheep that bleats is strangled by the wolf:" and "Silence was never written down" (Kelly). (See on Proverbs 18:6; Proverbs 20:19.)
(Comp. Proverbs 10:4.) The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing; literally, and nothing is there—he gains nothing (Proverbs 14:6; Proverbs 20:4). He has the wish, but not the will, and the empty wish without corresponding exertion is useless (Proverbs 21:25, etc.). Vulgate, "The indolent wishers, and wishes not;" he wishes for something, but he wishes not for the labour of getting it; he would like the result, but he hates the process by which the result is to be obtained. Septuagint, "In desires every idle man is occupied;" his mind is fixed wholly on aimless wishes, not on action. Shall be made fat (Proverbs 11:25); Septuagint, "The hands of the valiant are fully occupied (ἐν ἐπιμελείᾳ)."
Lying; Vulgate, verbum mendax; Septuagint, λόγον ἄδικον; literally, a word of falsehood. But debar, "word," is used, like ῥῆμα in Hellenistic Greek, in a general sense for "thing," i.e. the subject of speech. So here it is not only verbal lying that is meant, but every kind of deceit and guile. This naturally betrays itself by the speech, according to the proverb, "Show me a liar, and I will show you a thief." A wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame. The clause is variously translated. Vulgate, confundit et confundetur, "causes shame to others and to himself." Septuagint, "is put to shame, and shall not have licence of tongue (παῤῥησίαν)." The Revised Version margin, "causeth shame and bringeth reproach." Delitzsch, "brings into bad odour (Genesis 34:30) and causes shame." Hitzig, "behaveth injuriously and shamefully." The antithesis is best brought out by the rendering that marks the effect of the wicked man's "lying;" "He brings disgrace upon others (who have trusted him or have been associated with him) and causes shame."
Righteousness keepeth (guardeth) him that is upright in the way; literally, uprightness of way, abstract for concrete, as in the second member, sin for sinner. Those who are good and innocent in the walk of life are preserved from evil, moral and material. Wickedness overthroweth the sinner; literally, sin "Overthroweth," makes to slip. Vulgate, supplantet. The LXX. inverts the clause, "Sin makes the impious worthless (φαύλους)" (see Proverbs 11:3, Proverbs 11:5, Proverbs 11:6). The verse is omitted in many Greek manuscripts.
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing. "Maketh" may mean "feigns." There are some who pretend to be rich while really they are poor (as Proverbs 12:9), and there are some who make themselves, i.e. pretend to be poor (as misers) while they have much wealth. The Vulgate elucidates this meaning by rendering, quasi dives and quasi pauper; and the Hebrew verbs confirm its correctness. The proverb in both members teaches one not to trust to appearances. Septuagint, "There are who enrich themselves, having nothing; and there are who humble themselves amid much wealth." It is obvious that such a version lends itself to a Christian interpretation. The first clause reminds one of the rich fool who laid up treasure for himself, and was not rich toward God (Luke 12:21; comp. Revelation 3:17, Revelation 3:18). The second clause teaches that wealth expended in God's service makes a man rich in the treasury of heaven (Luke 12:21, Luke 12:33). One who thus uses the means entrusted to him could be spoken of like St. Paul, "as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things" (2 Corinthians 6:10).
The ransom of a man's life are his riches. A rich man can save himself from many difficulties and dangers by the sacrifice of a portion of his wealth, e.g. when his money or his life is demanded by a robber; when men in authority make extortionate demands on pain of death; or when he has incurred extreme penalty by infringement of law (Exodus 21:22, Exodus 21:30). Spiritually discerned, the passage recalls Christ's injunction, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles" (Luke 16:9). The poor heareth not rebuke; has not to listen to (Job 3:18) threats from the covetous or abuse from the envious. He has nothing to lose, and no one can gain anything by interfering with him. So the poor man is at peace. "A hundred men cannot rob one pauper."
"Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator."
The light of the righteous rejoiceth; laetificat, Vulgate. But the verb is intransitive, and means "burn joyfully," bright and clear, as the sun rejoices as a strong man to run a race (Psalms 19:5). This light (or) is the grace and virtue which adorn the good man's life, and which beam through all his actions with a cheerful, kindly radiance (comp. Proverbs 4:18, Proverbs 4:19). This is a true light, kindled in his heart by God, different from the lamp (ner) of the wicked, which is devised and lighted by themselves, and has no element of permanence, but soon shall be put out (Proverbs 24:20; comp. Proverbs 20:20; Job 18:5; John 1:8; John 5:35, where the distinction between "light" and "lamp" is maintained). The lamp of the wicked is the false show of wisdom or piety, which may glimmer and deceive for a time, but is ere long detected and brought to naught. There may be here an allusion to a common custom in the East. "No house, however poor," says Dr. Geikie ('Holy Land,' 1.117), "is left without a light burning in it all night; the housewife rising betimes to secure its continuance by replenishing the lamp with oil. If a lamp goes out, it is a fatal omen". Septuagint, "The light of the righteous is everlasting; but the light of sinners is quenched." Then is introduced a couplet not found in the Hebrew, of which the latter part is borrowed from Psalms 37:21 or Psalms 112:5, "Crafty souls go astray in sins; righteous men show mercy and pity." The Vulgate inserts this paragraph after verse 13.
Only by pride cometh contention. Some render "surely" (raq) for only, as in Genesis 20:11. Others rightly translate, "By pride cometh only, nothing but, contention." Vulgate, "Between the proud disputes are always rife." One who is haughty and overbearing, or who is too conceited to receive advice, is sure to quarrel with others. Septuagint, "An evil man with insult doeth evil." With the well advised is wisdom; those who are not, like the proud, above taking advice and following it, are wise (Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 12:15). As the Vulgate puts it, "They who do all things with counsel are directed by wisdom." The LXX; reading differently, has, "They who know themselves are wise," which implies that the wise know their own weakness and imperfection, and hearken humbly to good counsel
Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished; literally, wealth by a breath; i.e. wealth obtained without labour and exertion, or by illegitimate and dishonest means, is soon dissipated, is not blessed by God, and has no stability. Vulgate, "riches acquired hastily;" Septuagint, "substance gotten hastily with iniquity." This makes the antithesis more marked, the contrast being between wealth gotten hastily and that acquired by diligent labour. Cito nata, cito pereunt, "Quickly won, quickly gone" (see on Proverbs 20:21; Proverbs 21:5). Says the Greek maxim—
Μὴ σπεῦδε πλουτεῖν μὴ ταχὺς πένης γένῃ
"Haste not for wealth, lest thou be quickly poor."
He that gathereth by labour; literally, with the hand, handful after handful. Vulgate, paulatim, "little by little," by patient industry. Labor improbus omnia vincit. Septuagint, "He that gathereth for himself with piety shall be increased." Then is added, "A good man is merciful and lendeth," from Psalms 37:26. The Septuagint here uses the term εὐσέβεια, which is received in St. Paul's pastoral Epistles and St. Peter's, taking the place of the earlier phrase, φόβος Κυρίου,
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. Delay in the accomplishment of some much-desired good occasions sinking of the spirits, languor, and despondence. Many refer this sentence to the impatient longing for heaven which holy men feel, such as we may read in 'De Imitatione,' 3.48, 49, and in the hymns, "For thee, O dear, dear country;" and "We've no abiding city," etc. And St. Paul can exclaim (Romans 7:24), "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (comp. Romans 8:23; Philippians 1:23). Septuagint, "Better is he who taketh in hand to aid with all his heart, than he who promises and raises hopes" (comp. James 2:15, James 2:16). When the desire cometh—when the object of the longing is obtained—it is a tree of life (Proverbs 11:30); there are then no longer languor and despondence, but strength and refreshment and vigorous action. Septuagint, "A good desire is a tree of life."
Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed. "The word" is either the commandment of God (Deuteronomy 30:14), or warning and instruction. He who despises and neglects this word "brings on himself destruction." Many good authorities take the latter verb in another sense, "is pledged by it;" as Revised Version in margin, "maketh himself a debtor thereto," i.e. is still bound to fulfil his obligations to it; he cannot escape duty by ignoring or despising it, but is pledged to do it, and will suffer for its neglect. Hence Christ's injunction to agree with our adversary quickly while we are in the way with him (Matthew 5:25). Vulgate, "He who disparages (detrahit) anything binds himself for the future." Septuagint, "He who despises a thing (πράγματος, τάγματυς, 'a command') shall be despised by it." Virtus se contemnentem contemnit. He that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded (Proverbs 11:31). The Vulgate rendering, "shall live in peace," and that of the Septuagint, "shall be healthful," are not so suitable. The "fearing the commandment" implies obedience to it; and reward is considered as fully pledged to obedience as punishment is to neglect. The Septuagint here adds a distich which Ewald regards as genuine, "Unto a crafty son there shall be nothing good; but to a wise servant all actions shall prosper, and his way shall be guided aright." This is also found in the Vulgate of Proverbs 14:15. The Vulgate here inserts the paragraph found in the Septuagint at Proverbs 14:9 (q.v.), Animae dolosae errant in peccatis; justi autem misericordes sunt et miserantur.
The law (instruction) of the wise is a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11), which has and imparts life (Ec Proverbs 21:13; Psalms 36:9). The rules and teaching of wise men are a source of life to those who follow them, so that they depart from the snares of death (Proverbs 14:27). Obedience to good teaching saves from many dangers, material and spiritual, especially from the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26). With "snares of death" we may compare Psalms 18:5 and Horace's ('Carm.,' 3.24. 8)
"Non mortis laqueis expedies caput."
Septuagint, "The fool shall perish by the snare."
Good understanding giveth favour (Proverbs 3:4); makes one acceptable to God and man. We are told of Christ that "he increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52). As a good and wise man uses his gifts and graces properly, he wins higher favour from God, and kindles the love and respect of his fellow men. Alter this clause the Septuagint introduces that which occurs also in Proverbs 9:10, "It belongs to a good understanding (διανοίας) to know the Law." The way of transgressors is hard; rough and rugged, leading to desolation, not to waters of comfort. Ec Proverbs 21:10, "The way of sinners is made plain with stones, but at the end thereof is the pit of hell." Vulgate, "In the way of scorners is an abyss;" Septuagint, "The ways of scorners end in destruction."
Every prudent man dealeth (worketh, acteth) with knowledge; i.e. with thought and deliberation, having previously well considered the bearings and issues of his plans. But a fool layeth open his folly; Revised Version, spreadeth out folly, as if exposing the wares of his shop (Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 15:2). One works; the other talks.
A wicked messenger falleth into mischief; misfortune, calamity (Proverbs 17:20). A messenger who is false to his employer shall be detected and punished. The LXX; reading melek for malak, renders, "A rash king shall fall into evils." Such a one adopts inconsiderate measures, makes war unadvisedly, etc. A faithful ambassador (literally, an ambassador of faithfulness, Proverbs 25:13) is health. One who faithfully performs his errand is a source of comfort and satisfaction both to his employer and to those to whom he is sent. Septuagint, "But a wise messenger shall deliver him"—the king.
Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction; correction, discipline. Nowack takes the two nouns as predicates: "He that refuseth discipline is poverty and shame," i.e. they are his lot. Such a one indulges his own lusts and passions, is headstrong in pursuing his own plans, and thus dissipates his fortune and acquires the contempt of all good men. Septuagint, "Discipline taketh away poverty and disgrace." He that regardeth reproof shall be honoured. To listen to rebuke and to profit thereby is a proof of humility and self-knowledge, which wins respect from others. Lesetre refers to Theodosius's submission to the sentence imposed upon him by St. Ambrose as a real honour and glory to him (comp. Proverbs 12:1; Proverbs 15:5, Proverbs 15:32).
The desire accomplished (comp. Proverbs 13:12). This is usually taken to mean the desire of what is good and honest, when it is fulfilled and realized, is a source of highest joy and comfort to the wise. Septuagint, "The desires of the pious are sweet to the soul." But it is abomination to fools to depart from evil. The antithesis is not very obvious, but it may be: it is sweet to a good man to obtain his wish; but for a wicked man to leave, to abandon evil to which he clings so fondly, is a detestable alternative. Or the latter clause may mean that the wicked will not give up the evil which makes the satisfaction of their desire impossible. But it is best to take the first clause as a general statement, viz. the satisfaction of desire is pleasant to all men; then the latter member gives a special case and will signify, "For the sake of this pleasure bad men will not give up their evil wishes and plans; they will pursue what they have set their heart upon because they hate the idea of foregoing their evil designs." Septuagint, "The deeds of sinners are far from knowledge," i.e. from practical wisdom, prudence, and piety. The Vulgate introduces quite another thought, "Fools abhor those who flee from evil." Compare the passage in Wis. 2, concerning the sinner's hatred of the good.
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; or, according to the Khetib, walk with wise men, and thou shall be wise. Ecc 6:1-12 :36, "If thou seest a man of understanding, get thee betimes unto him, and let thy foot wear the steps of his door." So the Greek maxim—
Σοφοῖς ὁμιλῶν καὐτὸς ἐκβήσῃ σοφός.
"With wise conversing thou wilt wise become."
and Eurip; ' Rhesus,' 206—
Σοφοῦ παρ ἀνδρὸς χρὴ σοφόν τι μανθάνειν
"A man that's wise will thee true wisdom teach."
A companion of fools shall be destroyed; literally, shall be broken, shall suffer moral ruin; Revised Version margin, "shall smart for it." But the antithesis is not well brought out by this rendering: and as the word may bear the sense of "doing ill" as well as of "suffering ill," the interpretation of the Vulgat. intimates the correct idea of the clause: "The friend of fools shall turn out the same;" "He who associates with fools shall do evil." Septuagint, "He who roams about with fools shall be known." "Tell me your companions, and I will tell you what you are."
"Talis quis esse putatur qualis ei est sodalitas."
A Dutch proverb says, "He that lives with cripples learns to limp;" and the Spanish, "He that goes with wolves learns to howl." We have a homely English proverb, "He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas;" so the Orientals say," He that takes the raven for his guide shall light upon carrion."
Evil pursueth sinners. Sinners suffer not only the natural consequences of crime in external evil, injury to body, estate, reputation, etc. (Psalms 11:6), but also stings of conscience and remorse; even seeming prosperity is often a chastisement, and long impunity is only augmenting the coming retribution. As the shadow attends the substance, so guilt is attached to sin, and brings with it punishment. To the righteous good shall be repaid; or, he, Jehovah, shall repay good (comp. Proverbs 12:14); Revised Version, "The righteous shall be recompensed with good." They shall have the answer of a good conscience, happiness here and hereafter. Septuagint, "Good shall take possession of (or, overtake) the righteous."
A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children. This would be especially notable where a system of temporal rewards and punishments was expected and generally experienced. The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. Property unjustly acquired, or wickedly used, is taken from those who have it, and ultimately finds its way into better hands. They cannot keep it, and consequently cannot leave it to their children.
"De male quaesitis non gaudet tertius haeres."
"Ill-gotten wealth no third descendant holds."
This has often been the fate of property obtained by the sacrilegious seizure of what was dedicated to God's service. For the general view of the clause, comp. Proverbs 28:8; Job 27:16, Job 27:17; Ecclesiastes 2:26; and the case of Jacob (Genesis 31:9), and the Israelites (Exodus 12:35, Exodus 12:36), when "the righteous spoiled the ungodly" (Wis. 10:20).
Much food is in the tillage (tilled ground) of the poor (Proverbs 12:11). The word rendered "tillage" (nir) means ground worked for the first time, and therefore that on which much labour is bestowed. Hence the Vulgate rightly renders, novalibus. It occurs in Jeremiah 4:3 and Hosea 10:12, where our version has "fallow ground." The poor, but righteous man, who industriously cultivates his little plot of ground, secures a good return, and is happy in eating the labour of his hands (Psalms 128:2). Intend of "the poor," the Vulgate has, "the fathers," taking ראשים in this sense; so that the meaning would be that children who properly cultivate their paternal or hereditary fields obtain good crops. But the Authorized Version rendering is doubtless preferable. There is that is destroyed for want of judgment; rather, as the Revised Version, by reason of injustice. Rich men are often brought to ruin by their disregard of right and justice (mishpat). Some (poor men) are amply supplied by honest labour; others (rich) lose all by wrong dealing. Vulgate, "For others it (food) is gathered contrary to justice;" Septuagint, quite astray, The righteous shall pass many years in wealth; but the unrighteous shall suddenly perish"—which seems to be an explanation or amplification of verse 22.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son. Correction of children is a great point with our author (see Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:13, etc.; Proverbs 29:15, Proverbs 29:17). So Ecclesiasticus 30:1, "He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end." Dukes, "Gold must be beaten, and a boy needs blows" ('Rabbin. Blumenlese,' 71). Chasteneth him betimes; literally, early in the morning (Proverbs 1:28; Proverbs 8:17), which may mean, in the morning of life, ere evil habits have time to grow, or directly after the offence. Or the expression may signify "diligently." Vulgate, instanter; Septuagint, ἐπιμελῶς.
The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul (comp. Proverbs 10:3; Psalms 34:10). The good man has always enough to satisfy his wants, because he is temperate, and his substance has the blessing of God. "The chief thing for life," says Siracides (Ec Proverbs 29:21), "is water, and bread, and clothing, and a house to cover shame." The belly of the wicked shall want. The wicked are punished by penury and desires never satisfied. These different results are providentially ordered.
A wise son.
The young man who considers himself to be exceptionally clever is tempted to idolize his own notions and despise parental correction. We are reminded that such conduct may be a grievous mistake and a proof of essential folly, and that true wisdom will follow a more humble course of filial duty. It is not merely obligatory on the son to submit to his father; it is for his own interest to follow paternal advice, and a mark of wisdom. Of course, this is taken as a general principle. A conscientious son may be cursed with a base-minded parent, whose directions it will be anything but wise to follow. By manly intelligence and with Christian liberty, general maxims can only be applied in view of suitable circumstances. We may take it that on the whole, when the relationship is normal, wisdom will prompt submission to paternal correction.
I. NO ONE CAN TRULY ESTIMATE HIS OWN CONDUCT. We cannot stand off from ourselves and view ourselves in perspective. We make the most egregious mistakes in judging ourselves, because we cannot see ourselves as others see us. The object is also the subject, and subjective feelings colour our objective perceptions of self. It is therefore a great security for a young man to have a guide apart from himself whom he can trust, as he can trust a father.
II. A FATHER CORRECTS IN LOVE. There are brutal parents, whose chastisement implies anything but sound correction. But the true father considers the highest interests of his son. If he expresses disapproval it is because he believes some material wrong has been done. His rebuke is for wholesome improvement.
III. A FATHER HAS LARGER EXPERIENCE THAN HIS SON. His age gives him the advantage of fuller knowledge and riper judgment. It mar also bring a certain stiffening of notions and aversion to innovation. But even then it may still be keen to detect real errors and right in warning against them.
IV. A FATHER HAS AUTHORITY OVER HIS SON. This was recognized longer in former times than in the present day, when many sons are over-anxious to emancipate themselves from parental control. Now, there is a certain wisdom in submitting to established authority. Rebellion can only be justified by extreme wrong. Where no plain cause for rebellion exists, it is wise as well as right to submit.
V. THE PARENTAL RELATION ON EARTH IS TYPICAL OF THE RELATION BETWEEN GOD AND HIS PEOPLE. All the arguments which point to the wisdom of a son's submitting to correction from an earthly parent apply with immensely greater force to man's position before God. God regards us with love; he knows everything; he has a right and power to direct and correct us. Whatever modern notions of domestic revolts may be entertained by any of us, it still remains clear that it is wise to bow before the correction of God, our great and good Father.
Pride and contention
I. THE REASONS WHY PRIDE PRODUCES CONTENTION.
1. It is self-assertive. The proud man claims a large and prominent place for himself. He will not endure a secondary position. He demands his fights not so much because he really wishes to enjoy them, as because they are his rights. He will not forego them even when he gains no advantage by the exercise of them. Now, this self-assertiveness threatens the supposed rights of others where the boundary line is as yet uncertain. It also provokes a similar spirit in a man's neighbours.
2. It is exacting. Pride claims its dues. The proud lord will have every ounce of respect from his underlings. Even those who are met on equal terms are narrowly scrutinized to see if they withhold a shadow of the supposed rights from the jealousy of pride.
3. It is overbearing, It will not endure opposition; it is intolerant of differences of opinion; it would rather trespass on the rights of others than surrender any of its own claims. Thus it is perpetually challenging all who cross its path.
II. THE REGIONS IN WHICH PRIDE PRODUCES CONTENTION,
1. Among nations. It was thought that war sprang from the pride and jealousy of monarchs, and that when the people gained power war would cease. But republics declare war. There is a dangerous form of national pride. It is possible for a whole people to be carried away by unreasoning elation, and to make inordinate claims for itself, or to be unduly sensitive to affront.
2. In society. Pride is here one of the chief dangers to the order and peace of cities. The poor would endure the sight of the prosperity of the rich if they were not goaded by the more irritating spectacle of insulting pride. The least that they can do who have more than their share of the good things of life is to hold them with quiet humility. To flaunt their superiority of good fortune in the face of their miserable fellow citizens, and to make it a ground for scorn and contempt, is to rouse the latent rage of men who are already chafing under what—whether rightly or wrongly—they regard as a grossly unjust social order.
3. In private life. Pride is the most direful source of family quarrels. It separates the best friends, and it sets up the most invincible barriers against a speedy reconciliation. When love would hold out the hand of forgiveness, pride hangs back in gloomy resentfulness.
III. THE WAY TO PREVENT PRIDE FROM PRODUCING CONTENTION. There is but one way; pride must be humiliated and cast out. This monster sin is directly aimed at in the preaching of the gospel of the cross. It is found lurking in the breasts of men who are regarded as saints; but it is no part of their saintliness. It is still a sin in the sight of God. Christ cannot endure it, and one who would follow Christ must forsake it. There is no better way. of destroying it than by submission to the yoke of him who was "meek and lowly."
I. THE DELUSIVE APPEARANCE OF FRAUDULENT GAIN. This looks very different from coarse, vulgar robbery. The sleek swindler owns no common brotherhood with the brutal burglar. Fraudulent gain is got in the way of business; it is not at all like the money directly stolen from a man's pocket. The process is so very roundabout that it is difficult to trace the transition from fair dealing to cheating. The decorous thief would be horrified at hearing his true name. He knows his actions are not quite straightforward, but the crookedness of them is almost hidden from himself by neat contrivances. Now, all this makes the pursuit of fraudulent gain the more treacherous and dangerous. A man who follows such a course is lost before he owns himself to be dishonest.
II. THE TEMPTATIONS TO MAKE FRAUDULENT GAIN. They spring from various sources.
1. Keen competition. It is so hard to make a living in the fierce contest of business life, when every rival is treated as an enemy, that any extra advantage is eagerly sought after.
2. Large promises. As the margin of profits shrink while the requirements of energy and alertness grow, any expedient that promises more speedy and remunerative returns is likely to present a fascinating appearance.
3. Compromising customs. Business is not always conducted on perfectly honest grounds, and the dishonesty that is prevalent claims to be sanctioned by usage. Moreover, if some departure from absolute fight is permitted, a greater degree of dishonesty is but another step in the same direction.
4. Hopes of secrecy. The man of business cannot afford to lose his good name, and therefore plain self interest holds him back from open theft. But the subtle pursuit of a more refined form of dishonesty appears to be possible without any less of character. Thus as the pressure of the opinion of society is eluded, the only conscience which some men recognize ceases to operate.
III. THE RUINOUS RESULTS OF MAKING FRAUDULENT GAIN.
1. It is a great sin. The delusive appearance of the pursuit blinds people to its true character. But theft cannot be made honest by becoming refined. All the laws of righteousness bristle up in front of the man who pursues dishonesty, and threaten his ruin. Even though social and civil retribution be evaded, there is a higher court of justice than any of man's jurisdiction, and before its awful bar the wealthy, respected thief must ultimately stand condemned.
2. It is likely to lead to earthly ruin. The man whose life is one huge lie lives in a frail shell, which may be broken at any moment to expose him to pitiless punishments. Then what has he to fall back upon? He who has laid up treasures in heaven can afford to lose his poor, earthly stores; but one who has sold his prospects of heaven for brief earthly profits loses all when the gains of this life are snatched from him. The way of peace and safety can never be any other than the way of right.
I. THE HOPE THAT IS DEFERRED. Most men who live to any purpose live by hope. It is scarcely possible to press forward with energy to a future that is wholly dark. The prospect of some future good is a present inspiration. Thus hope takes a large place in the heart of man. Note some of its forms.
1. The hope of youth. It is natural for youth to believe in the future, to treat its possibilities as certainties, and to colour its grey outline with the gorgeous hues of a fresh imagination.
2. The hope of this world. Pursuits of business or pleasure allure those who enter them with good promises.
3. The hope of heaven. They who have been disappointed in all earthly anticipations may cherish this glorious dream.
4. The hope that is unselfish. Hope need not be centred in personal pleasure. We may hope for a great cause, and hope to see some good effected, though by the sacrifice of ourselves.
5. The hope that is in God. A sorrowful soul may hope in God with no distinct visions of any possible future advantage, making God himself the Hope. "Christ our Hope."
II. HOW THE HOPE IS DEFERRED.
1. By disillusion. From the first the hope may be too sanguine. The mirage is mistaken for the oasis. Or perhaps distance is misjudged. We think that we are near to the future that still lies in the remote distance with leagues of desert between us and it. Experience must dispel such an illusion.
2. By direct disappointment. The well founded hope may be deferred by a change of circumstances, or failure of ability to accomplish it, unfaithfulness to a promise, etc. Thus in life the expected "good time coming" is continually receding as men approach it. Hope may be deferred by trying changes of circumstances, or by a man's own mistakes and failures.
III. WAY THE HEART IS MADE BITTER. To be lifted up and dropped down gives a shock which is not felt if we remain on the low ground. Disappointment is a source of keen pain in any case; but when it is repeated after vague anticipations and uncertainties, it is far more distressing. The hope deferred is not denied. We cannot banish it as a mistake. Such an act would be easier to bear; there would be first a great shock of disappointment, and then the dead hope would be buried out of sight, and the grief of the loss of it would grow lighter with time. But when the hope is deferred, it is continually present, yet as a disappointment. The mind is first on the rack of wondering expectation, and then there follows a sense of unutterable weariness—true heart-sickness. It is said that seasickness is produced by the sinking from beneath a person of the support on which he rests. The heart-sickness of a hope long deferred arises from a similar cause in the experience of souls.
IV. HOW THIS BITTERNESS MAY BE CURED.
1. By the satisfaction of the hope. Long deferred, it may yet come. When we are most despairing the tide may turn. The heart-sick mother is startled with a sudden joy in the return of her long lost sailor lad when she is relinquishing the weary hope of ever seeing him again.
2. By the rising of a new hope. If this may not be found in earthly experience, and the very mention of it sounds like treason to the faithful soul, it may indeed appear in higher regions of life. In the bitterness of earthly disappointment Christ's great hope may be received.
3. By trusting in God. "Oh rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." The earthly hope may be deferred, disappointed, shattered; yet some soul-satisfying answer will be given to the prayer of faith.
A faithful messenger
In early times, when no public postal arrangements existed, and when reading and writing were not generally cultivated, communications were more often sent by verbal messages and personal messengers. Great mischief would then accrue through unfaithfulness on the part of one of these agents of business or friendship. But important as would be the social effects arising out of this condition of affairs, far more momentous consequences must flow from the action of messengers between God and man. They indeed need to be faithful.
I. THE CHRISTIAN PREACHER IS A MESSENGER.
1. He carries a message. He has to declare the truth of God as he has received it. He is the custodian of a gospel. The prophet has to utter the word of inspiration, and the apostle to proclaim the kingdom of heaven, and Christ as its King. Something of the prophet and apostle must be found in every Christian preacher. He is to go forth with the message that God has given him.
2. He delivers his message in person. The message is not posted; it is carried personally, and delivered by the mouth of the messenger. It is not enough that God's truth is recorded in the Bible, and that the Bible is circulated throughout the world. The living voice of the living man is needed. The missionary is God's messenger—so also is every true preacher of the gospel.
II. THE MESSENGER IS REQUIRED TO BE FAITHFUL.
1. He must deliver his message. The missionary must travel; the preacher at home must work among his people. Jonah was unfaithful in fleeing to Tarshish. Mere silence is unfaithfulness when one is entrusted with a message to deliver.
2. He must give it intact. He may neither add to it nor detract from it. Faithfulness in a Christian preacher means not shunning to declare the whole counsel of God, and not adding "vain philosophy" or "traditions of men" thereto. Of course, there is room for thought, reasoning, imagination, adaptation of the truth to the hearer, but not so as to modify the essential message.
3. He must disregard consequences. It may seem to him that the message is useless. Men may reject it; they may resent his offer of it; they may turn upon him and rend him. Yet it is just his duty to give the message that is entrusted to him.
III. THE FIDELITY OF THE MESSAGE SECURES HEALTH OF SOUL. Elsewhere we read, "The tongue of the wise is health" (ch. 12:18).
1. It is an evidence of honesty and moral courage. The existence of messengers who are faithful even under the most trying circumstances proves that honour and right are regarded. It is for the health of a community at large that such virile qualities should be found among the leaders of thought.
2. It secures the presentation of truth to men. All lies and delusions are noxious poisons. Truth is food and medicine for the soul. A community that is fed on truth, though the truth be tough or bitter, is nourished with wholesome diet. That is indeed a healthy society in which all the citizens are led by honest teachers to unsophisticated truth.
3. It brings the most needful messages to the world. The Christian teacher is called upon to preach Christ—to show the need of Christ in the ruin of sin, the grace of Christ to save, and the right of Christ to rule. These are health-giving truths; they constitute the direct antidote to the deadly poison of sin. He who honestly proclaims them makes for the health of his fellow men.
Sparing the rod
The primitive rigour of the Book of Proverbs is repudiated by modern manners. Not only in domestic training, but even in criminal law, people reject the old harsh methods, and endeavour to substitute milder means of correction. no doubt there was much that was more than rough, even brutal, in the discipline of our forefathers. The relation between father and child was too often lacking in sympathy through the undue exercise of parental authority, and society generally was hardened rather than purged by pitiless forms of punishment. But now the question is whether we are not erring towards the opposite extreme in showing more tenderness to the criminal than to his victim, and falling to let our children feel the need of some painful discipline. We idolize comfort, and we are in danger of thinking pain to be worse than sin. It may be well, therefore, to consider some of the disadvantages of neglecting the old-fashioned methods of chastisement.
I. IT IS A MISTAKE TO SUPPOSE THE ROD TO BE CRUEL BECAUSE IT HURTS. This mistake is made quite as much by the hand that should hold the rod as by the back that should feel it. Pain may he most wholesome. The highest form of punishment is that in which the cure of the offender is aimed at. To think more of the sufferings of the offender than of his sin is to show a failure of conscience, a lack of appreciation of the really evil condition of the sinner. We should learn that it is worse to sin than to suffer.
II. THERE ARE CERTAIN SPECIAL CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH PAINFUL CHASTISEMENT IS THE MOST WHOLESOME FORM OF CORRECTION.
1. In the offender. Some natures are redeemed by a process of punishment which will only crush others. A low and creel nature especially needs painful punishment.
2. In the offence. Sins of the morally degrading class are best punished with sharp pains. The treatment which may suit a more spiritual sin, and may well reveal the shame and evil of it, would not touch these coarser forms of wickedness.
III. IT IS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS OR SELFISHNESS TO WITHHOLD NEEDFUL CHASTISEMENT.
1. Of weakness. The lawful authority may not have the energy to proceed to an extremity. So serious an action requires strength of purpose.
2. Of selfishness. It must be simply agonizing for a kind-hearted father to have to bring pain and disgrace on his son. But to hold back from the exercise of wholesome discipline on this account is really to give way to sinful self-indulgence. The true father will hurt himself in punishing his child. No doubt a certain self-indulgent softness is to be found in the present objection of society to punish criminals with due severity.
IV. GOD'S CHASTISEMENT OF HIS CHILDREN IS FOR THEIR GOOD. He does not hate his sons; therefore, at times, he does not spare his rod (see Proverbs 3:12). There is neither weakness in the Almighty nor selfishness in the All-merciful. He must and will chastise sin for the correction of the sinner. We must suffer if we sin, though it is for us to choose whether we are to endure the punishment of the impenitent or the chastisement of the penitent.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
General truths of health and salvation
I. DOCILITY AS CONTRASTED WITH STUBBORNNESS. (Proverbs 13:1.) Let us carry this into the distinctly religious sphere. To he wise is to be a good listener. In the expressive phrase of the Bible, to "hearken to the voice of Jehovah," to listen to the suggestions of the inward monitor, is the secret of a sober, well balanced habit of mind, and of every safe line of conduct. All that God teaches, by the voice of inspired teachers, by our own experience, by the inner revelations of the heart, is "a father's instruction." Above all, instruction by means of suffering is God's fatherly way with souls. And we have the great example of Christ to guide us and to sweeten obedience, for he "learned" it by the things which he suffered. On the other hand, the scorner has cast aside all reverential awe in the presence of the Holy One. To refuse the faithful warnings of friends, to be no better for those lessons of experience which are written in personal suffering, is to disown one's filial relation, and to estrange one's self from God.
II. TRUE LIFE ENJOYMENT AND ITS CONTROL. (Proverbs 13:2.)
1. Enjoyment represented under the figure of eating. As indeed eating is a most significant act, the foundation of life. the pledge of social communism.
2. The foundation of enjoyment is in one's inward state and ones social relations. The more widely we can enter into the life of others, the richer our life joy. The unsocial life not only dries up the springs of joy, but is positively punished—in extreme cases by law, as in crimes of violence alluded to in the text, always by the alienation of sympathy.
III. THE USE AND ABUSE OF SPEECH. (Proverbs 13:3; see on Proverbs 10:19, Proverbs 10:31; Proverbs 21:23.) How often this lesson recurs!
1. In the lower aspect it is a lesson of prudence. Reserve and caution make the safe man; loquacity and impulsiveness of speech the unsafe man.
2. In a higher point of view, the habit of silence, implying much meditation and self-communion, is good for the soul.
"Sacred silence! thou that art offspring of the deeper heart,
Frost of the mouth and thaw of the mind."
How easy, on the other hand, to injure our souls by talking much about religion or subjects that lie on the circumference of religion, and falling into the delusion that talk may be substituted for life!—J.
Proverbs 13:4, Proverbs 13:7, Proverbs 13:8, Proverbs 13:11
The value and use of property
I. THE WORTH OF THIS WORLD'S GOODS IS ASSUMED. It is needless to show that property is a necessary institution of life under present conditions. All the strong things said in the gospel about riches do not dispute their value; it is in the relation of the spirit to them that evil arises. Their value as a means to the ends of the spirit is unquestioned, and everywhere assumed.
II. THE VANITY OF RICHES WITHOUT CORRESPONDING ACTION. Wishes are a great force in our nature (compare Mozley's sermon on the 'Power of Wishes'). Still, they have no practical effect unless they are transformed into will and into exertion of means to an end. It is the very characteristic of the fool that his mind evaporates in wishes; he is always desiring, but never at the pains to get anything. He is always idly expecting something to "turn up." This is a sheer superstition, a sort of clinging to the magical belief that the course of nature can be altered for one's private benefit. The lesson is, of course, equally applicable to higher things. "He would lain go to heaven if a morning dream would carry him there." He wishes to be good, to die the death of the righteous, but, at the same time, to continue in a way of life that can lead neither to the one nor to the other. Hell is paved with good intentions.
III. THE SECRET OF PROSPERITY IS DILIGENCE. Here desire is united with exertion, and it is an almost irresistible combination, as the careers of men who have risen constantly show. To conceive a good thing with such is to desire it; to desire it is to begin at once to work for it. This course must bring "rich satisfaction"—the satisfaction, by no means the least, of the pursuit, and the satisfaction in the end of entire or partial fruition. And so in moral and spiritual progress. We cannot overcome our weaknesses and sins by direct resistance, but we may react upon them by filling the mind with profitable matter of thought. The rich satisfaction depends in every case upon the same law; the personal energies must be aroused, and an object must be aimed at. Satisfaction is the complete joy of the mind in closing with and possessing a worthy and desirable object.
IV. THE CONCEIT OF RICHES IS NOT REAL RICHES. (Proverbs 13:7; comp. Proverbs 12:9.) The saying may he directed against the foolish pride of birth and ostentation without anything real to back it up. It strikes a common vice of modern times—the aim to keep up appearances, and to pass for something greater in position than one really is. The contrasted example teaches the lesson of preferring the substance to the show, of being willing to appear much less than one is. And so in higher matters; take care to be what is sound and good in principle, and the seeming may be left for the most part to take care of itself. No appearances deceive God, and nothing that is real escapes him.
V. THE PRACTICAL SERVICE OF RICHES. (Proverbs 13:8.) They may provide a ransom from captivity, from penal judgment, from the hand of robbers. Their power to procure deliverances from the evils of life is much wider in the present day. The poor man, on the contrary, "listens to no rebuke," i.e. no threats can extort from him what he has not got. He is helpless for want of means. A lesson not often taught from the pulpit, and perhaps not needed for the majority—prudent regard to the possible advantages of money, stimulating to industry in the quest for it. Still, some do need the lesson. And the Bible has no affectation of a false contempt for the means of living. Business men should be encouraged in their pursuit of wealth, and guided in their application of it.
VI. WEALTH ONLY PERMANENT WHEN WELL-GOTTEN. (Proverbs 13:11.) Perhaps the, translation to be preferred is, "Swindled wealth becomes small." Hastily gotten generally means hastily spent. And dishonest gain burns the fingers. How often do we see a feverish passion for spending going hand in hand with unlawful or unhealthy getting! A healthy acquisition of wealth is gradual, and the result of steady industry. Rapid fortune making, or sudden "strokes of luck," are certainly not to be envied in view of the good of the soul.
1. Wealth is a good in itself. When we speak of it as an evil, we are using a certain figure of speech; for the evil is in the false relation of the soul to this as to other earthly objects.
2. In the desires that relate to wealth, their proper control and direction, the moral discipline probably of the majority must ever lie.
3. Safety is to be found in the religious habit, which sees in earthly objects good only as they can be connected with that which is beyond themselves, and is Divine and eternal.—J.
Purity and impurity of sentiment
I. AVERSION FROM ALL UNTRUTH A LEADING CHARACTER OF PURITY. This does not imply that the good man never falls into acts or words which are untrue to his nature. But as a child of God, there is in his spiritual or ideal nature a rooted antipathy to lies, and a deep sympathy with truth in all its forms. 'Tis only truthfulness which can impart fragrance, charm, delight, to character.
II. THE CONTRARY DISPOSITION OF THE WICKED IS LOATHSOME AND SHAMEFUL. Antipathy to truth—and, alas! perversion may actually bring men to this—produces upon the pure moral taste an impression akin to that of nausea or deformity upon the physical sensibility. And we blush for it as a common odium and disgrace of human nature.—J.
The outward correspondence with the inward
I. UPRIGHTNESS IS THE DESIGNATION OF BOTH AN INWARD AND AN OUTWARD STATE.
1. As a sensuous image, uprightness suggests strength, confidence, well grounded stability.
2. As a figure of the mind and character, it denotes moral principle, fixed purpose, based upon firm faith in God and his moral order.
3. Its consequence is a state of security amidst danger, freedom from evil.
II. WICKEDNESS AND RUIN ARE INTERCHANGEABLE THOUGHTS.
1. The ruin begins in the inward decay of moral principle.
2. It is consummated in outward decay—of reputation, of possessions, of health, of life.—J.
Joy and gloom
I. LIGHT IS THE SYMBOL OF JOY.
II. HENCE THE CHEERFUL BURNING OF A LIGHT IS THE SYMBOL OF THE GOOD MAN'S HEART. He sits in the centre and enjoys clear day.
III. GLOOM IS THE NATURAL EMBLEM OF SORROW.
IV. THE PUTTING OUT OF A LAMP IN DARKNESS IS THE EMBLEM OF THE EXTINCTION OF JOY, OF HOPE—Of all that makes life worth having, and of life itself.—J.
Pride and teachableness
I. PRIDE BEGETS CONTROVERSY, WHICH CAN SELDOM BE CARRIED ON LONG WITHOUT DEGENERATING INTO EGOTISM.
1. There is contention for contention's sake, which is ever idle and baneful.
2. There is contention for truth's sake. But in the latter lie many dangers to purity of temper. Whenever we become angry in controversy, as a great man said, we cease to contend for the truth, and begin to contend for ourselves.—J.
The sickness of disappointment and the joy of fruition
I. HOPE DELAYED. Who has not known that sickness of the heart, that slow-consuming misery of which the text speaks? It is a sorrow of every age. Life itself is by some spent in this still lingering delay. The stern experience of the course of the world teaches us that the sentimental and romantic view of the future, so natural to youth, must give way to realities.
II. HOPE DELAYED IS THE TRAIL OF FAITH. The duration of the trial rather than the intensity is painful. So with Abraham in reference to Isaac (Genesis 15:2, Genesis 15:3).
III. THERE IS A LOVING PROVIDENTIAL MEANING AT THE HEART OF THESE TRIALS, They are essentially time trials; they have an end—the "end of the Lord." So the boy named "Laughter" came to Abraham; so the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, and the delivered Were like unto them that dream! So Simeon could sing his Nunc dimittis on the appearance of the long expected Saviour; and on his resurrection the disciples "believed not for joy, and wondered."
IV. A CERTAIN FRUITION IS PROMISED TO THE DESIRE OF THE RIGHTEOUS. "Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (comp. Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:2-4).—J.
The value of the Divine Word
I. REVERENCE AND IRREVERENCE FOR THE DIVINE WORD. The "Word" is any revelation man receives of God, whether through nature, oracles of the prophets, or in his immediate consciousness. The last, in the deepest sense, is the condition of all other revelations. Irreverence is shown either when men are deaf and indifferent to the Divine voice, or when they suffer it to be out-clamoured by other voices—of passion, policy, etc. The result is that he who thus sins is "pledged" or forfeited to the Divine Law, here personified or regarded as a superhuman power. Hence appears the truth from this figure, that in disobedience our freedom is lost. On the contrary, reverence and obedience receive a certain reward: "Glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good" (Romans 2:10).
II. THE DOCTRINE OF THE WISE. (Proverbs 13:14.) The teaching that is founded on Divine revelation is a source of life, and a safeguard against the snares of death (comp. Proverbs 10:11).
III. THERE MUST BE RECEPTIVITY TOWARDS THIS. DOCTRINE. The Word must be "mixed with faith in those that hear." The favour of God is free in one sense, i.e. is no earned result of our conduct; but it is conditional in another, viz. it depends on our compliance with his will. The contrast to the life in the light of God's favour, watered by vital nourishment from the springs of truth, is the "way of the faithless," which is "barren," dry, as in "a dry and thirsty land where no water is."
IV. PRUDENCE AND GOOD COUNSEL MUST BE ADDED TO REVERENCE. (Proverbs 13:16.) Thougtfulness is Deeded in studying the evidences, the substance, the applications of religion. And in the practical conduct of life how necessary! for more errors are committed for want of judgment and discrimination as to time, place, and circumstances, than for want of true and right purpose. The man destitute of tact pours folly abroad; temper, vanity, caprice, are exposed in all that he does and says.
V. FAITHFUL AND UNFAITHFUL MINISTRY. (Proverbs 13:17.) The wicked messenger prepares misfortune both for his master and for himself; while the faithful servant will amend even his master's mistakes. Applied to sacred things, every Christian should consider himself a messenger, an apostle in however humble a sphere, of God and his truth. And "it is required of stewards that they be found faithful."—J.
The blessings of obedience and their counterpart
I. THE BLESSINGS OF OBEDIENCE.
1. Honour. (Proverbs 13:18.) "'Tis a good brooch to wear in a man's hat at all times," says one of our old poets. Love is common to all the creatures, as life and death; honour belongs to men alone; and dishonour must be worse than death. The praise of others is the refiection of virtue, and a good name like flagrant ointment.
2. Satisfied desire. (Proverbs 13:19.) And what is sweeter than the attainment of worthy "ends and expectations"? And if we will but have faith, this satisfaction may be ours, by setting our hearts on internal blessings, the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
3. Improving companionship. (Proverbs 13:20.) Friendship with the wise makes daylight in the understanding out of darkness and confusion of thoughts. Our wits and understanding clarify and break up in communicating and discoursing with one another. "We toss our thoughts more easily, marshal them more soberly; see how they look when turned into words; we wax wiser than ourselves, and that more by an hour's discourse than by a day's meditation" (Lord Bacon).
4. Unfailing compensations. All things are double, one against another. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, on the one side; measure for measure, love for love, on the other. "Give, and it shall be given you;" "He that watereth shall be watered himself." "What will you have?" saith God; "pray for it, and take it." "if you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on. compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer."
5. Hereditary good. (Proverbs 13:22.) We desire to prolong our blessings, in the view of fancy, beyond our lives; and the desire to leave behind a fortune, or a name and fame, is one of the most common and natural. The thought that all the good our life has produced wilt be still a germinant power with our descendants after we are gone, is one of the noblest and most inspiring.
6. Fruitful poverty. (Proverbs 13:23.) The image is that of the poor man's field, which becomes rich in produce through the investment of his toil in it. The improvement of the ground is the most natural way of obtaining riches; it is our great mother's blessing, the earth. The blessing of God visibly rests upon the behest labour of the poor.
7. Wise training of the young. (Proverbs 13:24.) The rod may stand as a figure for all correction, firm yet kindly discipline, and instruction. The wise father will seek to anticipate moral evil by subduing early the passionate temper. He will incessantly follow up his child with prayer, with discipline, with exhortations, that he may not later rue the absence of seasonable warnings.
8. Temperate enjoyment and sufficient supplies. (Proverbs 13:25.) The mind governed by religion and wisdom learns to reduce its wants to a small compass; and this is a great secret of content and of true riches. He who wants only what is necessary for the life and free action of the soul may rely with confidence on the infinite bounty of Providence.
II. THE COUNTERPART.
1. Poverty and shame. (Proverbs 13:18.) The one an outward misery, patent to all; the other not so patent, but more acute; for contempt, as the Indian proverb says, pierces through the shell of the tortoise. So long ago as old Homer, we find the sentiment, "Shame greatly hurts or greatly helps mankind". "Take one of the greatest and most approved courage, who makes nothing to look death and danger in the face,… in a base and a shameful action, and the eye of the discoverer, like that of the basilisk, shall strike him dead. So inexpressibly great sometimes are the killing horrors of this passion" (South, vol. 2.Proverbs 13:7.). The Bible designates this as a peculiar fruit of sin.
2. The unquenchable fire of lust. (Proverbs 13:19.) To this the correct rendering of the second member of the verse appears to point (James 1:14, James 1:15). 'Tis hard to give up the bosom sin, which still in better moments is hated—a loathsome tyranny, yet one which cannot be cast off.
3. Depraving companionship. (Proverbs 13:20.) Wicked companions invite to hell. "There are like to be short graces when the devil plays the host."
4. Haunting troublers. (Proverbs 13:21.) Much romance has been woven about "haunted houses;" but what haunted house so gruesome as the bad man's heart? His sin draws God's wrath and punishments after it, even as the shadows follow his feet.
5. Forfeited wealth. (Proverbs 13:22.) Riches that come from the devil go back to him. Fraud, oppression, and unjust dealing are not really retentive; or wealth obtained by flattering, complying with others' humours, and servility does not prosper. The Proverbs see the outrush of life with great clearness; they do not always explain the inner connection of cause and effect, which should be clear to us.
6. Self-destruction. (Verse 23.) Many a man is "carried away by his unrighteousness." "In contrast with the contented, humble condition of the good man, the selfish and profligate 'lovers of themselves without a rival,' are often unfortunate; and whereas they have all their time sacrificed to themselves, they become in the end themselves sacrifices to the inconstancy of fortune, whose wings they thought by their self-wisdom to have pinioned" (Lord Bacon).
7. Weak indulgence to children. (Verse 24.) A most injurious error. It tends to weaken the young minds and foster all the violent passions; just as the opposite extreme tends to debase and incite to deceit. E. Irving, in one of his works, hints that a great proportion of the inmates of lunatic asylums have been only and spoilt children.
8. Want. (Verse 25.) "Great wants," it has been said, "proceed from great wealth; but they are undutiful children, for they sink wealth down to poverty."—J.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Proverbs 13:1, Proverbs 13:13, Proverbs 13:18
The wisdom of docility, etc.: a sermon to the young
We have the positive and negative, the happy and the sorrowful aspects of the subject brought into view.
I. THE WISDOM OF DOCILITY. The excellency of docility is seen in its results:
1. In character. It is a "wise son" who heareth his father's instruction.
(1) Already he is wise. Apart from all that he will gain by his teachableness, readiness to receive instruction is in itself an admirable feature of character; it is so more particularly in the young. In them it is positively essential to spiritual beauty and worth; and it goes a long way to constitute such worth. It is an attribute of mind which is pleasing to God, and which commends itself greatly to the esteem of man.
(2) It has the promise of wisdom further on. For he who is ready to learn, and more especially if he is willing to "regard reproof," is on the high road to much attainment in knowledge, and also to heights of virtue and godliness. This habit of his will save him from many snares, and will enrich his soul with pure principles and houourable aspirations and right affections.
2. In circumstance. The docile son will "be rewarded," will "be honored." The path he treads is one which leads to competence, to comfort, to health, to honour, to "a green old age." But there are three things which must be included in this readiness to learn. No one will be "wise," and no one can expect to reap these desirable results, unless he
(1) is docile in the home, receiving "his father's (and his mother's) instruction (Proverbs 13:1);
(2) has respect to the "commandment," the will of God as revealed in his Word (Proverbs 13:13);
(3) is willing to be corrected when he has gone astray, unless he "regards reproof" (Proverbs 13:18). For all of us fall into some error, make some mistakes, go astray in some directions; and we all need the kind hand that will lead us back and replace us in the right road.
II. THE FOLLY AND THE DOOM OF THE UNTEACHABLE. What should we think of the young captain who insisted on setting sail without any chart, trusting to his native cleverness to shun the shoals and rocks, and to make his way to port? We know what to judge concerning him, and what to prophesy concerning his vessel; we are sure that the one is a fool, and that the other will be a wreck. And what shall we think of youth when it resolves to sail forth on the great sea of life, disregarding the experiences of the wise, and trusting to its own sagacity? To take this course is:
1. To be unwise. Apart from all consequences which are in the future, it is the indication of a foolish spirit which is in itself deplorable. It shows a very ill-balanced judgment, a very exaggerated conception of one's own ability, a lack of the modesty the presence of which is so great a recommendation, and the absence of which is so serious a drawback. It calls for and it calls forth the pity of the wise; it is well if it does not elicit their contempt.
2. To move in the direction of disaster. It is to be in the way which conducts
(1) to the loss of much that is very valuable, to "poverty" of more kinds than one (Proverbs 13:18);
(2) to shame (Proverbs 13:18), the forfeiture of good men's regard, and a descent to a condition in which self-respect also is lost;
(3) to ultimate destruction (Proverbs 13:13). He that feareth not God's commandment, nor regards man's warning, is a candidate for contempt, is a swift traveller on the road to ruin.—C.
(See homily on Proverbs 27:23.)—C.
Wrong views of ourselves, given and received
One proverb may have many interpretations and many applications. This is such a one. It may well suggest to us two things.
I. THE GUILT OF CONVEYING A FALSE VIEW OF OURSELVES; whether this be done by the merchant in his office, or by the charlatan on the platform, or by the quack in his surgery, or by the preacher in his pulpit, or by the "philanthropist" in the newspaper, or by the man or woman of embellishment in society, or by the artist on canvas, or by the author in his book, or whether done by the common miser or the conscienceless beggar. Here is the double iniquity of:
1. Falsehood, or, at any rate, falseness. The man is false to himself, and forgets what is due to himself; consequently, he does that which wrongs and injures himself.
2. Fraud; imposture. A man practises on his neighbours; he deceives them; in the worst cases he induces others to run most serious risks to their health or their fortune.
II. THE MISFORTUNE OF FORMING A WRONG ESTIMATE OF OURSELVES.
1. This is sometimes an appropriate penalty. For if a man "makes himself" rich or poor in the eyes of others, it is extremely likely that he will before long imagine himself to be so. It is one of the well attested facts of human experience, that what men try to persuade their fellows to think, they come in time to believe themselves. And this holds good when the object as well e,s the subject is the man himself. Try to convince others that you are clever, learned, kind, pious, and before many months have been spent in the endeavour you will actually credit yourself with these qualities. And the result is an entirely mistaken view of yourself. This is a punitive consequence; for there is no moral condition from which we have such urgent need to pray and strive that we may be delivered. Is it not the last stage on the downward road?
2. It is a grave spiritual peril. Solemn, indeed, is the warning addressed by the risen Lord to the Church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-19). But no warning can be too serious or too strong, whether addressed to the Church or the individual, when there is a false estimate of self, a supposition of wealth which is but imaginary, a false confidence which, if not awakened now, will be terribly aroused and shattered further on.
3. But a false estimate of ourselves may be, not a penalty, but rather a pity. When the heart thinks itself (makes itself) poor and destitute, while it is really "rich toward God," it suffers as it need not suffer, and it lacks the strength for doing good which it need not lack. And this is not unfrequently the case. Men have been misinstructed concerning the kingdom of Christ; and long after they have been within it they have been supposing themselves to stand outside it. Wherefore let those who teach take care how they teach, and let all disciples "take heed how they hear," that they may not think themselves wrong when they are right with God, rebels against the Divine Ruler when they are his accepted children.—C.
with Proverbs 13:9 (first part) and Proverbs 13:19 (first part)
Hope and disappointment
We learn that—
I. HOPE IS PLANTED AS AN INSTINCT IN THE HUMAN HEART, "Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts," says the psalmist (Psalms 22:9). We start on our course with a precious store of hopefulness in our soul; and it takes much to kill or to exhaust it. It lasts most men through life, though the troublous experiences we pass through weaken it, if they do not wound it unto death.
II. IT IS A SOURCE OF GREAT STRENGTH AND JOY TO US.
1. It is a source of strength to us. It leads us to entertain and to enter upon new ventures. It carries us on during many toils and through many difficulties. It sustains us to the end, when we are weary, and when we are opposed and baffled. "We are saved by hope."
2. It is also a perennial source of joy. Rob life of its anticipations, and you deprive it of a very large proportion of its sweetness and satisfaction.
III. SIN HAS INTRODUCED DISAPPOINTMENT. We must regard this as one part, and one very serious part, of the penalty of sin. Not, of course, that each case of disappointment is the consequence of some particular antecedent wrong doing; but that it forms a part of that whole burden and trial of life which is the mark and the penalty of human sin. There are lighter disappointments which may not count for much, though these put together would make up no small aggregate of evil. But there are heavier disappointments which constitute a very large and serious part of our life sorrow. "Hope deferred" does indeed make the heart sick. The long and weary waiting for the return of the absent; for the manifestation of love ungratefully, and perhaps cruelly, withheld; for the health and strength which no treatment will restore; for the opening which would prove a great opportunity; for the signs of reformation in a beloved relative or friend; for the relenting and reconciliation of one who has been long estranged;—this does fill the soul with an aching such as no other trouble brings. It is one of life's very heaviest burdens. It is sometimes the burden and even the blight of a human life.
IV. IT IS THE PART OF CHRISTIAN WISDOM TO AVERT IT. Not that it can be wholly averted—that is quite beyond our power. Not that there is any real blessing in the absence or the littleness of expectation. But that:
1. We should discourage and renounce the perilous and injurious habit of idle day dreams.
2. We should moderate our hopes according to our circumstances, and be contented only to look for that which, in the providence of God, we may reasonably and rightly expect to partake of.
V. IT IS THE PART OF CHRISTIAN SUBMISSION TO ACCEPT IT. We must suffer when our hopes are unfulfilled; but we may find great relief in the though; that it is the will of God that we are submitting to. The feeling that it is our Divine Friend who is letting us pass through the dark shadow of disappointment, and that it is the holy Lord seeking our highest good who is sending us through the refining fires,—this will give balm to our wounded spirit; this will lighten the heavy load we bear.
VI. GOD WILL GIVE HIS PEOPLE SOME GOOD MEASURE OF FULFILMENT. We shall prove by our experience in many ways and in many spheres—particularly in those of
(1) our inner life and
(2) our work for our Lord—that "the light of the righteous rejoiceth," that "when desire cometh, it is a tree of life," that "desire accomplished is sweet to the soul." If we rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, he will give us our heart's desires (Psalms 37:4, Psalms 37:7).
VII. THERE IS ONE SUPREME HOPE which may well sustain us in the darkest trials (1 Peter 1:3, 1 Peter 1:4).—C.
Friendship: a sermon to the young
We have here a topic which comes very close home to us all, but especially to the young.
I. GOD HAS GIVEN US GREAT POWER OVER ONE ANOTHER. There are two sources of power we exercise.
1. That of ideas. As we speak or write to one another, we impart ideas to the mind; and as thought lies beneath feeling, and feeling beneath character and conduct (see homily on Proverbs 12:5), it is clearly of the gravest consequence what ideas we do instil into the mind of another. These ideas include information or knowledge, the presentation of motive and inducement, new aspects in which things are regarded, new views and conceptions of life, etc.
2. That of influence. As we associate with one another, we influence one another by
(1) the character which commands respect;
(2) affectionateness of disposition;
(3) charm of manner;
(4) strength of will;
(5) superiority in age or in social position;
(6) facility and force of utterance.
All these are elements of influence; they are sometimes united, and in combination they become a great moral force.
II. CLOSENESS OF INTIMACY SHOWS THIS POWER AT ITS HEIGHT. When two "walk together because they are agreed;" when there is a close and intimate union of heart. with heart, of mind with mind,—there is an opening for the exertion of a power immeasurably great. Friendship has done more than anything else to enlarge or to warp the mind, to save or to betray the soul, to bless or to corrupt the life. The influence of a beloved friend or of a favourite author is wholly beyond calculation, and is almost beyond exaggeration. We give ourselves to one another; we impress our mind upon one another; we draw one another up or we drag one another down. Hence—
III. IT IS OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE THAT WE CHOOSE OUR FRIENDS WELL. The friendships we form will either make or mar us. We shall certainly be conformed in spirit and in character to those whom we admit to the sanctuary of our soul; our lives will move with theirs toward the same goal; and we shall share their destiny for good or evil. How needful, then, that we bring to this choice our whole intelligence, our greatest care, that we do not let the accidents of locality or family connection or business association decide the intimacies of our life! There is no action on which our future more decisively depends than on this choice we make; let youth and young manhood (womanhood) look well to it. He that walketh with wise men will himself be wise, and he will reap all the fruits of wisdom; but the companion of fools, of those who fear not God and who honour not man, of the irreligious and the immoral, will be destroyed with a terrible, because a spiritual, destruction.
IV. HOW WISE TO WALK THE PATH OF LIFE WITH A. DIVINE FRIEND!—with him who himself is "the Wisdom of God;" intimacy with whom will draw our spirit up toward all that is worthiest and noblest; whose presence will ensure guardianship from all serious evil, and enrichment with every true blessing, and will gladden with all pure and lasting joy.—C.
Penalty pursuing sin
These are striking words, and they give us a graphic picture of penalty in pursuit of the guilt which is seeking and hoping to escape, but which is certain to be overtaken.
I. SIN AND SUFFERING ARE INSEPARABLY ASSOCIATED IN THOUGHT, In our judgment and in our feeling they go together; they belong to one another. There is no need to go beyond this point; it is ultimate. If we sin, we deserve to suffer, and must expect to suffer. It is right that we should, and the hand that brings it about is a righteous hand.
11. THEY OFTEN SEEM TO BE DIVIDED IN FACT. As we observe human life, we see that the murderer sometimes escapes the reach of law, that the swindler sometimes flourishes upon the losses of his victims, that the tyrant sometimes reigns long over the nation he has defrauded of its freedom, that sometimes the man who lives in the practice of vice continues to enjoy health for many years, that the dishonest author may reap a considerable reputation and may long remain unexposed, etc. but in this case—
III. PENALTY IS PURSUING SIN AND WILL OVERTAKE IT. "Evil pursueth sinners" Justice is on the track, and sooner or later will lay its hand upon its victim.
1. It will most likely do so here. Very frequently, indeed almost always, some penalty immediately overtakes guilt; if not in bodily loss or suffering, yet in spiritual injury. And if not at once, penalty soon follows crime, vice, wrong doing. Or if not soon, yet after many years, the "evil" comes and lays its stern hand upon the shoulder. The man may not, probably does not, see or even believe in its approach. Its step is silent, and it may be slow, but it is constant and certain. The "evil" may be physical, and very of, on it is so; or it may be mental, intellectual; or it may be circumstantial; or it may be in reputation; or it may be in character, and this last, though least seen and often least regarded, is in truth the saddest and the most serious of all, for it affects the man himself—he "loses his own soul." Thus, "though leaden-footed," penalty is "iron-handed."
2. It will surely do so hereafter. (See Matthew 25:31, Matthew 25:32; 2 Corinthians 5:10, etc.) Yet not inconsistent with all this,—
IV. THERE IS ONE MERCIFUL INTERCEPTION. If we truly repent of our sin, we shall be freely and abundantly forgiven.
1. God will change his condemnation into acceptance and parental favour, so that we shall walk thenceforward in the light of his countenance.
2. He will avert the heavier consequences of our sin by introducing into our heart and life all the remedial and restorative influences of righteousness. And there must be considered—
V. THE CONVERSE BENEFICENT LAW AFFECTING THE RIGHTEOUS. "To the righteous good shall be repaid."
1. All right acts are immediately followed by an inner and spiritual blessing; we must be something the better in soul forevery really right thing we do.
2. All right actions, done in a reverent and filial spirit, will bring God's blessing down further on. He is "not unrighteous to forget our work of faith and our labour of love." Such blessings come in many forms, and at various intervals; but they do come; they are following the upright, and they will overtake them and cream them.
3. The reward of integrity and faithfulness only comes in part below; God holds great things in reserve for us (Matthew 25:21; 1 Corinthians 4:5).—C.
Few proverbs "come home" to us like those which affect the daily government of our household. They make their appeal to the human heart, to universal experience.
I. THE PARENTAL INSTINCT.
1. This is, to let the child have his way; to give him the gratification be desires, to find a present pleasure in his momentary happiness.
2. This is, to spare him suffering. No parent can hear his child cry without suffering himself (herself). Our instinct is to save our children from every trouble, small and great, from which we can exempt them. And it "goes against the grain" to inflict punishment, to cause pain, to deprive of some known enjoyment. But we dare not be blind to—
II. THE LESSON OF EXPERIENCE. Universal experience proves that to act on mere parental instruct is nothing less than selfish cruelty. It is to act as if we positively hated our children. For it is the one sure way to spoil them for life, to ruin their character. The undisciplined child becomes the wayward boy, the dissipated young man, the wreck of manhood. He becomes self-centred, incapable of controlling his spirit, exacting in all his relations, disregardful of all law and of all claims. It is to withhold the one condition under which alone we can expect any one to attain to an admirable and honourable manhood. It is to deny to our own children the most essential element of education. Experience proves that he who spares the rod acts as if he positively hated his son.
III. THE PRACTICE OF WISDOM. This is the well-moderated correction of love. This correction should be:
1. Carefully proportioned to the offence; the lighter ones, such as carelessness or inaptitude, being followed by the lighter rebuke, and the graver ones, such as falsehood or cruelty, being visited with severer measures.
2. Administered, not in the heat of temper, but in the calmness of conviction, and with the manifest sorrow of true affection.
3. As free as possible from physical violence. The "rod" need not be made of wood or iron. A look of reproach (Luke 22:61), a just rebuke or remonstrance, a wisely chosen exclusion from some appreciated privilege, may do much more good than any blows upon the body.
4. Strictly just, with a leaning to charitable construction. For one unjust infliction will do more harm than many just ones will do good.
5. Occasional and of brief duration. Nothing defeats its own purpose more certainly than perpetual fault- finding, or constantly repeated punishment, or penalty that is unrighteously severe. It behoves us always to remember that as our heavenly Father does not "deal with us after our sins" with rigorous penalties, and is not "strict to mark iniquity" with unfailing chastisement, so it becomes us, as parents, in the treatment of our children, to let pity and charity have a very large, modifying influence on our correction. He that loveth chastens "betimes;" he is not always chastening. He takes care to let his children know and feel that beneath and above and throughout his fatherly righteousness is his parental love.—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26