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Better is the poor that walkth in his integrity. The word for "poor" is, here and in Proverbs 19:7, Proverbs 19:22, rash, which signifies "poor" in opposition to "rich." In the present reading of the second clause, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool, there seems to be a failure in antithesis, unless we can understand the fool as a rich fool. This, the repetition of the maxim in Proverbs 28:6 ("Than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich"), would lead one to admit. The Vulgate accordingly has, Quam dives torquem labia sua, et insipiens, "Than a rich man who is of perverse lips and a fool." With this the Syriac partly agrees. So that, if we take this reading, the moralist says that the poor man who lives a guileless, innocent life, content with his lot, and using no wrong means to improve his fortunes, is happier and better than the rich man who is hypocritical in his words and deceives others, and has won his wealth by such means, thus proving himself to be a fool, a morally bad man. But if we content ourselves with the Hebrew text, we must find the antithesis in the simple, pious, poor man, contrasted with the arrogant rich man, who sneers at his poor neighbour as an inferior creature. The writer would seem to insinuate that there is a natural connection between poverty and integrity of life on the one hand, and wealth and folly on the other. He would assent to the sweeping assertion, Omnis dives ant iniquus aut iniqui heres, "Every rich man is either a rascal or a rascal's heir."
Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good. "Also" (gam), Wordsworth would render "even," "even the soul, i.e. life itself, without knowledge is not a blessing;" it is βίπς οὐ βιωτός. At first sight it looks as if some verse, to which this one was appended, had fallen out; but there is no trace in the versions of any such loss. We have had a verse beginning in the same manner (Proverbs 17:26), and here it seems to emphasize what follows—folly is bad, so is ignorance, when the soul lacks knowledge, i.e. when a man does not know what to do, how to act in the circumstances of his life, has in fact no practical wisdom. Other things "not good" are named in Proverbs 18:5; Proverbs 20:23; Proverbs 24:23. And he that hasteth with his feet sinneth; misseth his way. Delitzsch confines the meaning of this hemistich to the undisciplined pursuit of knowledge: "He who hasteneth with the legs after it goeth astray," because he is neither intellectually nor morally clear as to his path or object. But the gnome is better taken in a more general sense. The ignorant man, who acts hastily without due deliberation, is sure to make grave mistakes, and to come to misfortune. Haste is opposed to knowledge, because the latter involves prudence and circumspection, while the former blunders on hurriedly, not seeing whither actions lead. We all have occasion to note the proverbs, Festina lente; "More haste, less speed." The history of Fabius, who, as Ennius said,
"Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem,"
shows the value of deliberation and caution. The Greeks recognized this—
Προπέτεια πολλοῖς ἐστὶν αἰτία κακῶν.
"Rash haste is cause of evil unto many."
Erasmus, in his 'Adagia,' has a long article commenting on Festinatio praepropera. The Arabs say," Patience is the key of joy, but haste is the key of sorrow." God is patient because he is eternal.
The foolishness of man perverteth his way; rather, overturns, turns from the right direction and causes a man to fall (Proverbs 13:6). It is his own folly that leads him to his ruin; but he will not see this, and blames the providence of God. And his heart fretteth against the Lord. Septuagint, "He accuseth God in his heart" (comp. Ezekiel 18:25, Ezekiel 18:29; Ezekiel 33:17, Ezekiel 33:20). Ec Proverbs 15:11, etc; "Say not thou, It is through the Lord that I foil away; for thou oughtest not to do the things that he hateth. Say not thou, He has caused me to err; for he hath no need of the sinful man," etc. The latter part of this important passage St. Augustine quotes thus: "Item apud Salomonem: Deus ab initio constituit hominem et reliquit eum in manu consilii sui: adjecit ei mandata et praecepta; si voles praecepta servare, servabunt te, et in posterum fidem placitam facere. Apposuit tibi aquam et ignem, ad quod vis porrige manum tuam. Ante hominem bonum et malum, vita et mors, paupertas et honestas a Domino Deo sunt". And again, "Manifestum est, quod si ad ignem manum mittit, et malum ac mors ei placet, id votuntas hominis operatur; si autem bonum et vitam diligit, non solum voluntas id agit, sed divinitus adjuvatur". Homer, 'Od.,' 1.32, etc.—
"Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free,
Charge all their woes on absolute decree;
All to the dooming gods their guilt translate,
And follies are miscalled the crimes of fate."
Wealth maketh many friends (Proverbs 19:6, Proverbs 19:7; Proverbs 14:20). A Greek gnome expresses the same truth—
Ἐὰν δ ἔχωμεν χρήμαθ ἕξομεν φίλους.
The poor is separated from his neighbour. But it is better to make the act of separation emanate from the friend (as the Hebrew allows), and to render, with the Revised Version, The friend of the poor separateth himself from him. The word for "poor" is here dal, which means "feeble," "languid;" so Proverbs 19:17; and the came word (rea), "friend" or "neighbor," is used in both clauses. The idea of man's selfishness is carried on in Proverbs 19:6 and Proverbs 19:7. The Law of Moses had tried to counteract it (Deuteronomy 15:7, etc.), but it was Christianity that introduced the practical realization of the law of love, and the honouring of the poor as members of Christ. Septuagint, "But the poor is deserted even by his whilom friend."
This verse is repeated below (Proverbs 19:9). It comes in awkwardly here, interrupting the connection which subsists between Proverbs 19:4 and Proverbs 19:6. Its right place is doubtless where it occurs below. The Law not only strictly forbade false witness (Exodus 20:16; Exodus 23:1), but it enacted severe penalties against offenders in this particular (Deuteronomy 19:16, etc.); the lex talionis was to be enforced against them, they were to receive no pity: "Life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." He that speaketh lies shall not escape. The Septuagint confines the notion of this clause to false accusers, Ὁ δὲ ἐγκαλῶν ἀδίκως, "He who maketh an unjust charge shall not escape," which renders the two clauses almost synonymous. We make a distinction between the members by seeing in the former a denunciation against a false witness in a suit, and in the second a more sweeping menace against any one, whether accuser, slanderer, sycophant, who by lying injures a neighbour. The History of Susanna is brought forward in confirmation of the well deserved fate of false accusers.
Ψευδὴς διαβολὴ τὸν βίον λυμαίνεται.
"A slander is an outrage on man's life."
Many will intreat the favour of the prince; Literally, will stroke the face of the prince, of the liberal and powerful man, in expectation of receiving some benefit from him (Proverbs 29:26; Job 11:19). Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts (see on Proverbs 17:8). The LXX; reading כָל־הְרֵעַ for בָל־הָּרֵעַ, renders, "Every bad man is a reproach to a man," which may mean that a sordid, evil man brings only disgrace on himself; or that, while many truckle to and try to win the interest of a prince, bad courtiers bring on him not glory, but infamy and shame.
This is one of the few tristichs in the book, and probably contains the mutilated remains of two distichs. The third line, corrected by the Septuagint, which has an addition here, runs into two clauses (Cheyne). All the brethren of the poor do hate him. Even his own brothers, children of the same parents, hate and shun a poor man (Proverbs 14:20). Much more do his friends go far from him. There should be no interrogation. We have the expression (aph-ki) in Proverbs 11:31; Proverbs 15:11, etc. Euripides, 'Medea,' 561—
Πένητα φεύγει πᾶς τις ἐκποδὼν φίλος.
"Each single friend far from the poor man flies."
Septuagint. "Every one who hateth a poor brother will be also far from friendship." Then follows an addition not found m the Hebrew, "Good thought draweth nigh to those who know it, and a prudent man will find it. He who doeth much evil brings malice to perfection (τελεσιουργεῖ κακίαν); and he who rouses words to anger shall not be safe." He pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him; or, they are gone. He makes a pathetic appeal to his quondam friends, but they hearken not to him. But the sense is rather, "He pursueth after, craves for, words of kindness or promises of help, and there is naught, or he gets words only and no material aid."
Wordsworth quotes Catullus, 'Carm.,' 38.5—
"Quem tu, quod minimum facillimumque est,
Qua solatus es adlocutione?
Irascor tibi. Sic meos amores?"
Vulgate, Qui tantum verba sectatur, nihil habebit, "He who pursues words only shall have naught." The Hebrew is literally, "Seeking words, they are not" This is according to the Khetib; the Keri, instead of the negation לא, reads לו, which makes the clause signify, "He who pursues words, they are to him;" i.e. he gets words and nothing else. Delitzsch and others, supplying the lost member from the Septuagint, read the third line thus: "He that hath many friends, or the friend of every one, is requited with evil; and he that seeketh (fair) speeches shall not be delivered." Cheyne also makes a distich of this line, taking the Septuagint as representing the original reading, "He that does much evil perfects mischief: He that provokes with words shall not escape." That something has fallen out of the Hebrew text is evident; it seems that there are no examples of tristichs in this part of our book, though they are not unknown in the first and third divisions. The Vulgate surmounts the difficulty by connecting this third line with the following verse, which thus is made to form the antithesis, Qui tantum verba sectatur, nihil habebit; Qui autem possessor est mentis, diligit animam suam, et custos prudentiae inveniet bona."
He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul. "Wisdom" is, in the Hebrew, leb. "heart;" it is a matter, not of intellect only. but of will and affections (see on Proverbs 15:32). Septuagint, ἀγαπᾷ ἑαυτόν, "loveth himself." The contrary, "hateth his own soul," occurs in Proverbs 29:24. By striving to obtain wisdom a man shows that he has regard for the welfare of his soul and body. Hence St. Thomas Aquinas ('Sum. Theol.,' 1.2, qu. 25, art. 7, quoted by Corn. a Lapide) takes occasion to demonstrate that only good men are really lovers of themselves, while evil men are practically self-haters, proving his position by a reference to Arislotle's numeration of the characteristics of friendship, which the former exhibit, and none of which the latter can possess ('Eth. Nic.,' 9.4). He that keepeth understanding shall find good (Proverbs 16:20). A man must not only strive hard and use all available means to get wisdom and prudence, he must guard them like a precious treasure, not lose them for want of care or let them lie useless; and then he will find that they bring with themselves innumerable benefits.
A repetition of Proverbs 19:5, except that shall perish is substituted for "shall not escape." Septuagint, "And whosoever shall kindle mischief shall perish by it." The Greek translators have rendered the special reference in the original to slanderers and liars by a general term, and introduced the notion of Divine retribution, which is not definitely expressed in the Hebrew.
Delight is not seemly for a fool (comp. Proverbs 17:7; Proverbs 26:1). Taanug, rendered "delight," implies other delicate living, luxury; τρυφή, Septuagint. Such a life is ruin to a fool. who knows not how to use it properly; it confirms him in his foolish, sinful ways. A man needs religion and reason to enable him to bear prosperity advantageously, and these the fool lacks. "Secundae res," remarks Sallust ('Catil.,' 11), "sapientium animos fatigant," "Even wise men are wearied and harassed by prosperity," much more must such good fortune try those who have no practical wisdom to guide and control their enjoyment. Vatablus explains the clause to mean that it is impossible for a fool, a sinner, to enjoy peace of conscience, which alone is true delight. But looking to the next clause, we see that the moralist is thinking primarily of the elevation of a slave to a high position, and his arrogance in consequence thereof. Much less for a servant to have rule over princes. By the unwise favouritism of a potentate, a slave of lowly birth might be raised to eminence and set above the nobles and princes of the land. The writer of Ecclesiastes gives his experience in this matter: "I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth" (Ecclesiastes 10:7). The same anomaly is mentioned with censure (Proverbs 30:22 and Ecclesiastes 11:5). What is the behaviour of unworthy persons thus suddenly raised to high position has formed the subject of many a satire. It is the old story of the "beggar on horseback." A German proverb declares, "Kein Scheermesser scharfer schiest, als wenn der Bauer zu Herrn wird." Claud; 'In Eutrop.,' 181, etc.
"Asperius nihil est humili, quum surgit in altum;
Cuncta ferit, dum cuncta timet; desaevit in omnes,
Ut se posse putent; nec bellua tetrior ulla
Quam servi rabies in libera colla furentis."
As an example of a different disposition, Cornelius a Lapide refers to the history of Agathocles. Tyrant of Syracuse, who rose from the humble occupation of a potter to a position of vast power, and, to remind himself of his lowly origin, used to dine off mean earthenware. Ausonius thus alludes to this humility ('Epigr.,' 8.)—
"Fama est fictilibus coenasse Agathoclea regem,
Atque abacum Samio saepe onerasse luto;
Fercula gemmatis cum poneret horrida vasis,
Et misceret opes pauperiemque simul.
Quaerenti causam, respondit: Rex ego qui sum
Sicaniae, figulo sum genitore satus
Fortunam reverenter habe, quicunque repente
Dives ab exili progrediere loco."
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; maketh him slow to anger. "A merciful man is long suffering," Septuagint; "The teaching of a man is known by patience," Vulgate. (See Proverbs 14:17, Proverbs 14:29.) The Greek moralist gives the advice—
Νίκησον ὀργὴν τῷ λογίζεσθαι καλῶς
"Thine anger quell by reason's timely aid."
The contrary disposition betokens folly (Proverbs 14:17). It is his glory to pus over a transgression. It is a real triumph and glory for man to forgive and to take no notice of injuries offered him. Thus in his poor way he imitates Almighty God. Here it is discretion or prudence that makes a man patient and forgiving; elsewhere the same effect is attributed to love (Proverbs 10:12; Proverbs 17:9). The Septuagint Version is hard to understand: Τὸ δὲ καύχημα αὐτοῦ ἐπέρχεται παρανόμοις, "And his glorying cometh on the transgressors;" but, taken in connection with the former hemistich, it seems to mean that the patient man's endurance of the contradictions of sinners is no reproach or disgrace to him, but redounds to his credit and virtue. "Vincit qui patitur," "He conquers who endures."
The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion, which inspires terror, as preluding danger and death. The same idea occurs in Proverbs 20:2 (comp. Amos 3:4, Amos 3:8). The Assyrian monuments have made us familiar with the lion as a type of royalty; and the famous throne of Solomon was ornamented with figures of lions on each of its six steps (1 Kings 10:19, etc.). Thus St. Paul. alluding to the Roman emperor, says (2 Timothy 4:17), "I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." "The lion is dead," announced Marsyas to Agrippa, on the decease of Tiberius (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 18.6, 10). The mondist here gives a monition to kings to repress their wrath and not to let it rage uncontrolled, and a warning to subjects not to offend their ruler, lest he tear them to pieces like a savage beast, which an Eastern despot had full power to do. But his favour is as dew upon the grass. In Proverbs 16:15 the king's favour was compared to a cloud of the latter rain; here it is likened to the dew (comp. Psalms 72:6). We hardly understand in England the real bearing of this comparison. "The secret of the luxuriant fertility of many parts of Palestine," says Dr. Geikie ('Holy Land and Bible,' 1.72, etc.), "lies in the rich supply of moisture afforded by the seawinds which blow inland each night, and water the face of the whole land. There is no dew, properly so called in Palestine, for there is no moisture in the hot summer air to be chilled into dewdrops by the coolness of the night, as in a climate like ours. From May till October rain is unknown, the sun shining with unclouded brightness day after day. The heat becomes intense, the ground hard; and vegetation would perish but for the moist west winds that come each night from the sea. The bright skies cause the heat of the day to radiate very quickly into space, so that the nights are as cold as the day is the reverse ….To this coldness of the night air the indispensable watering of all plant life is due. The winds, loaded with moisture, are robbed of it as they pass over the land, the cold air condensing it into drops of water, which fall in a gracious rain of mist on every thirsty blade. In the morning the fog thus created rests like a sea over the plains, and far up the sides of the hills, which raise their heads above it like so many islands The amount of moisture thus poured on the thirsty vegetation during the night is very great. Dew seemed to the Israelites a mysterious gift of Heaven, as indeed it is. That the skies should be stayed from yielding it was a special sign of Divine wrath, and there could be no more gracious conception of a loving farewell address to his people than where Moses tells them that his speech should distil as the dew. The favour of an Oriental monarch could not be more boneficially conceived than by saying that, while his wrath is like the roaring of a lion, his favour is as the dew upon the grass." רצוֹן (ration), "favour," is translated by the Septuagint, τὸ ἱλαρόν, and by the Vulgate, hilaritas, "cheerfulness" (as in Proverbs 18:22), which gives the notion of a smiling, serene, benevolent countenance as contrasted with the angry, lowering look of displeased monarch.
With the first clause we may compare Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 17:21, Proverbs 17:25. Calamity in the Hebrew is in the plural number (contritiones, Pagn.), as if to mark the many and continued sorrows which a bad son brings upon his father, how he causes evil after evil to harass and distress him. The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping (comp. Proverbs 27:15). The flat roofs of Eastern houses, formed of planks loosely joined and covered with a coating of clay or plaster, were always subject to leakage in heavy rains. The irritating altercations and bickering of a cross-grained wife are compared to the continuous drip of water through an imperfectly constructed roof. Tecta jugiter perstillantia, as the Vulgate has it. The Scotch say, "A leaky house and a scolding wife are two bad companions." The two clauses of the verse are coordinate, expressing two facts that render home life miserable and unendurable, viz. the misbehaviour of a son and the ill temper of a wife. The Septuagint, following a different reading, has, "Nor are offerings from a harlot's hire pure," which is an allusion to Deuteronomy 23:18.
House and riches are an inheritance of (from) fathers. Any man, worthy or not, may inherit property from progenitors; any man may bargain for a wife, or give a dowry to his son to further his matrimonial prospects. But a prudent wife is from the Lord. She is a special gift of God, a proof of his gracious care for his servants (see on Proverbs 18:22). Septuagint, Παρὰ δὲ Κυρίου ἀρμόζεται γυνὴ ἀνδρί, "It is by the Lord that a man is matched with a woman." There is a special providence that watches over wedlock; as we say, "Marriages are made in heaven." But marriages of convenience, marriages made in consideration of worldly means, are a mere earthly arrangement, and claim no particular grace.
Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; "causes deep sleep to fall upon a man" (comp. Proverbs 6:9; Proverbs 13:4). The word for "sleep" (תַרדֵמָה, tardemah) is that used for the supernatural sleep of Adam when Eve was formed (Genesis 2:21), and implies pro. found insensibility. Aquila and Symmachus render it, ἔκστασιν, "trance." Slothfulness enervates a man, renders him as useless for labour as if he were actually asleep in his bed; it also enfeebles the mind, corrupts the higher faculties, converts a rational being into a witless animal. Otium est vivi hominis sepultura, "Idleness is a living man's tomb." An idle soul shall suffer hunger. We have many gnomes to this effect (see Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 12:24; Proverbs 20:13; Proverbs 23:21). The LXX. has introduced something of this verse at Proverbs 18:8, and here render, Δειλία κατέχει ἀνδρόγυνον, "Cowardice holdeth fast the effeminate, and the soul of the idle shall hunger." "Sloth," as the proverb says, "is the mother of poverty."
Keepeth his own soul. Obedience to God's commandments preserves a man's natural and spiritual life (comp. Proverbs 13:13; Proverbs 16:17). So we read in Ecclesiastes 8:5, "Whoso keepeth the commandment (mitsvah, as here) shall feel no evil thing." He that despiseth his ways shall die. He that cares nothing what he does, whether his life pleases God or not, shall perish. Ἀπολεῖται, Septuagint; mortificabitur, Vulgate. The result is understood differently. The Khetib reads, יוּמַת (iumath), "shall be punished with death" according to the penalties enacted in the Mosaic Law. The Keri reads, יָמוּת (iamuth), "shall die," as in Proverbs 15:10; and this seems more in agreement with what we find elsewhere in the book, as in Proverbs 10:21; Proverbs 23:13. This insensate carelessness leads to ruin, whether its punishment be undertaken by outraged law. or whether it be left to the Divine retribution.
He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord. English Church people are familiar with this distich, as being one of the sentences of Scripture read at the Offertory. The word for "poor" is here dal, "feeble" (see on Proverbs 19:1 and Proverbs 19:4). It is a beautiful thought that by showing mercy and pity we are, as it were, making God our debtor; and the truth is wonderfully advanced by Christ, who pronounces (Matthew 25:40), "Inasmuch as ye have done it mite one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (see on Proverbs 11:24; Proverbs 28:27). St. Chrysostom ('Horn.,' 15, on 1 Corinthians 5:1-13), "To the more imperfect this is what we may say, Give of what you have unto the needy. Increase your substance. For, saith he, 'He that giveth unto the poor lendeth unto God.' But if you are in a hurry, and wait not for the time of retribution, think of those who lend money to men; for not even these desire to get their interest immediately; but they are anxious that the principal should remain a good long while in the hands of the borrower, provided only the repayment be secure, and they have no mistrust of the borrower. Let this be done, then, in the present case also. Leave them with God, that he may pay thee thy wages manifold. Seek not to have the whole here; for if you recover it all here, how will you receive it back there? And it is on this account that God stores them up there, inasmuch as this present life is full of decay. But he gives even here also; for, 'Seek ye,' saith he, 'the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you.' Well, then, let us look towards that kingdom, and not be in a hurry for the repayment of the whole, lest we diminish our recompense. But let us wait for the fit season. For the interest in these cases is not of that kind, but is such as is meet to be given by God. This, then, having collected together in great abundance, so let us depart hence, that we may obtain beth the present and the future blessings" (Oxford transl.). That which he hath given will he pay him again; Vicissitudinem suam reddet ei, Vulgate, "According to his gift will he recompense him." גִּמוּל (gemul), "good deed" (Proverbs 12:14, where it is rendered "recompense"). Ecclesiasticus 32:10 (35), etc; "Give unto the Most High according as he hath enriched thee; and as thou hast gotten give with a cheerful eye. For the Lord recompenseth, and will give thee seven times as much." There are proverbs rife in other lands to the same effect. The Turk says, "What you give in charity in this world you take with you after death. Do good, and throw it into the sea if the fish does not know it, God does." And the Russian, "Throw bread and salt behind you, you get them before you" (Lane).
Chasten thy son while there is hope; or. seeing that there is hope. Being still young and impressionable, and not confirmed in bad habits, he may be reformed by judicious chastisement. The same expression occurs in Job 11:18; Jeremiah 31:16. "For so he shall be well hoped of" (εὔελπις), Septuagint (comp. Proverbs 23:13). And let not thy soul spare for his crying. "It is better," says a German apothegm, "that the child weep than the father." But the rendering of the Authorized Version is not well established, and this second clause is intended to inculcate moderation in punishment. Vulgate, Ad interfectionem autem ejus ne ponas animam tuam; Revised Version. Set not thine heart on his destruction. Chastise him duty and sufficiently, but not so heavily as to occasion his death, which a father had no right to do. The Law enjoined the parents who had an incorrigibly bad son to bring him before the judge or the eiders, who alone had the power of life and death, and might in certain cases order the offender to be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18, etc.). Christianity recommended moderation in punishment (see Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Septuagint, "Be not excited in the mind to despiteful treatment (εἰς ὕβριν);" i.e. be not led away by passion to unseemly acts or words, but reprove with gentleness, while you are firm and uncompromising in denouncing evil. This is much the same advice as that given by the apostle in the passages just cited.
Some connect this verse with the preceding, as though it signified, "If you are too severe in chastising your son, you will suffer for it." But there is no connecting particle in the Hebrew, and the statement seems to be of a general nature. A man of great wrath; literally, rough in anger; Vulgate, impatiens; Septuagint, κακόφρων ἀνήρ. Such a one shall suffer punishment; shall bear the penalty which his want of self-control brings upon him. For if thou deliver him, yet must thou do it again. You cannot save him from the consequences of his intemperance; you may do so once and again, but while his disposition is unchanged, all your efforts will be useless, and the help which you have given him will only make him think that he may continue to indulge his anger with impunity, or, it may be, he will vent his impatience on his deliverer.
Βλάπτει τὸν ἄνδρα θυμὸς εἰς ὀργὴν πεσών
"Anger," says an adage, "is like a ruin, which breaks itself upon what it falls." Septuagint, "If he destroy (ἐὰν δὲ λοιμεύηται), he shall add even his life;" if by his anger he inflict loss or damage on his neighbour, he shall pay for it in his own person; Vulgate, Et cum rapuerit, aliud apponet. Another interpretation of the passage, but not so suitable, is this: "If thou seek to save the sufferer (e.g. by soothing the angry man), thou wilt only the more excite him (the wrathful): therefore do not intermeddle in quarrels of other persons."
(Comp. Proverbs 8:10; Proverbs 12:15.) The Septuagint directs the maxim to children, "Hear, O son, the instruction of thy father." That thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. Wisdom gathered and digested in youth is seen in the prudence and intelligence of manhood and old age. Job 8:7, "Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase." Ecclesiasticus 25:6, "O how comely is the wisdom of old men, and understanding and counsel to men of honour! Much experience is the crown of old men, and the fear of God is their glory." "Wer nicht horen will," say the Germans, "muss fuhlen," "He that will not hear must feel." Among Pythagoras's golden words we read—
Βουλεύου δὲ πρὸ ἔργου ὅπως μὴ μῶρα τέληται.
"Before thou doest aught, deliberate,
Lest folly thee befall."
The immutability of the counsel of God is contrasted with the shifting, fluctuating purposes of man (comp. Proverbs 16:1, Proverbs 16:9; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6). Aben Ezra connects this verse with the preceding, as though it gave the reason for the advice contained therein. But it is most natural to take the maxim in a general sense, as above Wis. 9:14, "The thoughts of mortal men are miserable, and our devices are but uncertain." The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand; permanebit, Vulgate; εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα μενεῖ, "shall abide forever," Septuagint (Psalms 33:11).
The desire of a man is his kind. nose. The Revised Version rather paraphrases the clause, The desire of a man is the measure of his kindness; i.e. the wish and intention to do good is that which gives its real value to an act. The word for "kindness" is chesed, "mercy;" and, looking to the context, we see the meaning of the maxim to be that a poor man's desire of aiding a distressed neighbour, even if he is unable to carry out his intention, is taken for the act of mercy. "The desire of a man" may signify a man's desirableness, that which makes him to be desired or loved; this is found in his liberality. But the former explanation is most suitable. Septuagint, "Mercifulness is a gain unto a man," which is like Proverbs 19:17; Vulgate, Homo indigens misericors est, taking a man's desire as evidenceing his need and poverty, and introducing the idea that the experience of misery conduces to pity, as says Dido (Virgil, 'AEn.,' 1.630)—
"Non ignara mali miseris succurrere disco."
A poor man is better than a liar. A poor man who gives to one in distress his sympathy and good wishes, even if he can afford no substantial aid, is better than a rich man who promises much and does nothing, or who falsely professes that he is unable to help (comp. Proverbs 3:27, Proverbs 3:28). Septuagint, "A poor righteous man is better than a rich liar." A Buddhist maxim says, "Like a beautiful flower, full of colours, but without scent, are the fine but fruitless words of him who does not act accordingly" (Max Muller).
The fear of the Lord tendeth to life (Proverbs 14:27). True religion, obedience to God's commandments, was, under a temporal dispensation, rewarded by a long and happy life in this world, an adumbration of the blessedness that awaits the righteous in the world to come. And he that hath it shall abide satisfied. The subject passes from "the fear" to its possessor. Perhaps better, and satisfied he shall pass the night, which is the usual sense of לוּן (lun), the verb here translated "abide" (so Proverbs 15:31). God will satisfy the good man's hunger, so that he lays him down in peace and takes his rest (comp. Proverbs 10:3). Vulgate, In plenitudine commorabitur, "He shall dwell in abundance." He shall not be visited with evil, according to the, promises (Le Proverbs 26:6 : Deuteronomy 11:15, etc.). Under our present dispensation Christians expect not immunity from care and trouble, but have hope of protection and grace sufficient for the occasion, and conducive to edification and advance in holiness. The LXX. translates thus: "The fear of the Lord is unto life for a man; but he that is without fear (ὁ δὲ ἄφοβος) shall sojourn in places where knowledge is not seen;" i.e. shall go from bad to worse, till he ends in society where Divine knowledge is wholly absent, and lives without God in the world. The Greek interpreters read דּע (dea), "knowledge," instead of רע (ra), "evil."
A slothful man hideth him hand in his bosom; Revised Version, the sluggard burieth his hand in the disk. The word tsallachath, translated "bosom" here and in the parallel passage, Proverbs 26:15 (where see note), is rightly rendered "dish" (2 Kings 21:13). At an Oriental meal the guests sit round a table, on which is placed a dish containing the food, from which every one helps himself with his fingers, knives, spoons, and forks being never used (comp. Ruth 2:14; Matthew 26:23). Sometimes the holt himself helps a guest whom ha wishes to honour (comp. John 13:26). And will not so much as bring it to him mouth again He finds it too great an exertion to feed himself, an hyperbolical way of denoting the gross laziness which recoils from the slightest labour, and will not take the least trouble to win its livelihood. An Arabic proverb says, "He dies of hunger under the date tree." Septuagint, "He who unjustly hideth his hands in his bosom will not even apply them to his mouth;" i.e. he who will not work will never feed himself.
Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware; will learn prudence, Revised Verson (comp. Proverbs 21:11; and see note on Proverbs 1:22). The scorner is hardened to all reproof, and is beyond all hope of being reformed by punishment; in his case it is retribution for outraged virtue that is sought in the penalty which he is made to pay. Τιμωρία, not κόλασις—retributive, not corrective punishment. Seeing this, the simple, who is not yet confirmed in evil, and is still open to better influences, may be led to take warning and amend his life. So St. Paul enjoins Timothy, "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear" (1 Timothy 5:20). There is the trite adage—
"Felix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum."
Who from their neighbours' perils caution learn."
Septuagint, "When a pestilent fellow is chastised, a fool will be cleverer (πανουργότερος) So Vulgate, Pestilente flagellato stultus sapientior erit. Reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand, knowledge. The scorner does not profit by severe punishment, but the intelligent man is improved by censure, and admonition (comp. Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:12). Says the adage, "Sapientem nutu, stultum fuste (corripe)," "A nod for the wise, a stick for the fool."
Fourth section of this collection.
He that wasteth his father. The verb shadad, used here and in Proverbs 24:15, may be taken in the sense of "to spoil," "to deprive of property;" but it is better to adopt a more general application, and to assign to it the meaning of "to maltreat," whether in person or property. Chaseth away his mother; by his shameless and evil life makes it impossible for her to continue under the same roof with him; or, it may be, so dissipates his parents' means that they are driven from their home. A son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach (comp. Proverbs 10:5; Proverbs 13:5; Proverbs 17:2).
Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. This version fairly represents the terse original, if musar, "instruction," be taken in a bad sense, like the "profane and vain babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called," censured by St. Paul (1 Timothy 6:20). But as musar is used in a good sense throughout this book, it is better to regard the injunction as warning against listening to wise teaching with no intention of profiting by it: "Cease to hear instruction in order to err," etc.; i.e. if you are only going to continue your evil doings. You will only increase your guilt by knowing tile way of righteousness perfectly, while you refuse to walk therein. The Vulgate inserts a negation, "Cease not to hear doctrine, and be not ignorant of the war, is of knowledge;" Septuagint, "A son who fails to keep the instruction of his father will meditate evil sayings." Solomon's son Rehoboam greatly needed the admonition contained in this verse.
An ungodly (worthless) witness scorneth judgment; derides the Law which denounces perjury and compels a witness to speak truth (Exodus 20:16; Le Exodus 5:1), and, as is implied he bears false testimony, thus proving himself "a witness of Belial," according to the Hebrew term. Septuagint, "He who becometh security for a foolish child outrages judgment." The mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity; swallows it eagerly as a toothsome morsel (Proverbs 18:8). So we have in Job 15:16,"A man that drinketh iniquity like water" (see on Proverbs 26:6). Such a man will lie and slander with the utmost pleasure, living and battening on wickedness. Septuagint, "The mouth of the impious drinketh judgments (κρίσεις)," i.e. boldly transgresses the Law.
Judgments are prepared for scorners (see on Proverbs 19:25). The judgments here are those inflicted by the providence of God, as in Proverbs 3:34. Scorners may deride and affect to scorn the judgments of God and man, but they are warned that retribution awaits them. And stripes for the back of fools; Vulgate, Et mallei percutientes stultorum corporibus (comp. Proverbs 10:13 : Proverbs 26:3). We had the word here rendered "stripes" (מַהַלוּמוֹת, mahalumoth) in Proverbs 18:6. The certainty of punishment in the case of transgressors is a truth often insisted on even by heathens. Examples will occur to all readers, from the old Greek oracle, Οὐδεὶς ἀνθρώπων ἀδικῶν τίσιν οὐκ ἀποτίσει, to Horace's "Raro antecedentem scelestum," etc. (See on Proverbs 20:30, where, however, the punishment is of human infliction.)
Poverty and integrity
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR POVERTY TO BE FOUND WITH INTEGRITY. We do not always see integrity leading to wealth. Circumstances may not open up an opportunity for attaining worldly prosperity. Illicit "short cuts" to riches may be within the reach of a person who refuses to use them on grounds of principle. A man may be honest and yet incapable, or he may refuse to pursue his own advantage, preferring to devote his energies to some higher end. No one has a right to suppose that God will interfere to heap up riches for him on account of his integrity. He may be upright, and yet it may phase God that he shall also be poor.
II. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR INTEGRITY TO BE FOUND WITH POVERTY. We now approach the subject from the opposite side. Here we first see the poverty, and we then find. that there is no reason why the character should be low because the outside circumstances are reduced. There is no more vulgar or false snobbishness than that which treats poverty as a vice, and assumes that a shady character must be expected with shabby clothes. We sometimes hear the expression, "Poor but honest," as though there were any natural antithesis between the two adjectives! It would be quite as just to think of an antithesis between wealth and uprightness. But experience shows that no one section of society holds a monopoly of virtue.
III. WHEN INTEGRITY AND POVERTY ARE FOUND TOGETHER, THE ONE IS A CONSOLATION FOR THE OTHER. It may be said that a hungry man cannot feed upon his honesty. But when pressing wants are supplied, it is possible to endure a considerable amount; of hardship if a person is conscious of being upright and true. The sturdy independence of the honest man wilt lift him out of the shame of penury. If he feels that he is walking in the path of duty, he will have a source of strength and inward peace that no wealth can bestow. The gold of goodness is better than the guineas of hoarded wealth.
IV. INTEGRITY WITH ANY EXTERNAL DISADVANTAGES IS BETTER THAN CORRUPTION OF CHARACTER WITH ALL POSSIBLE WORLDLY PROFIT. Here is the point of the subject. It is not affirmed that poverty is good in itself—the natural instincts of man lead him, endeavour to escape from it as an evil It is not even asserted that it is right for upright men to be poor, for surely cue would desire that the power of wealth should be in the hands of those people who would use it most justly. But when we have to compare integrity joined to the disadvantages of poverty with an unworthy character in no matter what circumstances, the infinite superiority of metal to material worth should lead us to prefer the former. In higher regions, the Christian character is itself a source of blessedness, whatever be the condition of the outer life. Character and conduct are the essentials of life; all other things are but the accidents.
Fretting against the Lord
This is a condition of inward rebellion, or at best of grieving over the will of God instead of submitting to it in silence if it is not yet within our power to embrace it with affection. Consider this condition in its various relations.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE. It might be supposed that, however one fretted against his circumstances, he would not carry his complainings hack to God. But Moses told the Israelites that when they murmured against him they were really murmuring against God (Exodus 16:8). If we resist God's ordinances we resist God himself. He who fires on the meanest sentry is really making war on that sentry's sovereign. We may not intend to act the proud part of Milton's Satan, and wage war against Heaven. Overt blasphemy and rank rebellion may be far from our thoughts. Yet complaints of our lot and resistance to Providence have the same essential character. We may even try to confine our rebellious thoughts to our own breasts, and simply fret inwardly. But to God, who reads hearts and dwells within, this is real opposition.
II. IT SPRINGS FROM VARIOUS SOURCES.
1. Trouble. It is easy for Dives to talk of submission to Providence; the difficulty is with Lazarus. Job in prosperity offers glad sacrifices without constraint: will Job in adversity "curse God and die"?
2. self-will. We naturally desire to follow the way of our own choice, and when that is crossed by God's will we are tempted to fret, as the stream frets itself against an obstruction, though it may have been flowing silently and placidly so long as it had a free course. It is just this crossing, of wills that is the test of obedience, which is easy so long as we are required only to follow the path of our own inclinations. But that cannot be always allowed.
3. Sin. Direct sinfulness resists God's will of set purpose, just because it is his will. The evil heart will fret against God in all things.
III. IT IS FOOLISH. "The foolishness of man" is at the root of this mistake.
1. We do not know what is best. It is but foolish for the fractious shim to fret against his father's commands, for be is not yet able to judge as his father judges. All rebellion against God implies that the soul is in a position to determine questions that lie in the dark, and which only he who is resisted can answer.
2. We cannot succeed in rebellion. The poor heart that frets itself against God can but wear itself out, like the wave that breaks on the rock it can never shake. How foolish to raise our will in opposition to the Almighty!
IV. IT IS CULPABLE. We must never forget that "foolishness" in the Bible stands for a defect that is more moral than intellectual. It is next door to perversity. This fretting of the heart against the Lord is foolish in the biblical sense; it is sinful.
1. He is our Master. It is our duty to obey him, whether we like it or not. When we resist ordinances of man we may be fighting for rights of liberty. But we have no liberty to claim against the Lord of all.
2. He is our Father. This murmuring against him is a sign of domestic ingratitude. Impatience under the rod is even sinful, for we know that it can only smite in love.
V. IT IS DANGEROUS.
1. It means present unrest. There is peace of soul in submission; to rebel is to be plunged into turmoil and distress.
2. It leads to future ruin. The foolishness of man not only "perverteth his way," but, as the phrase may be better rendered, "hurls his way headlong, to destruction." It is like the avalanche that sweeps the mountain path, and carries all on it to an awful death.
I. DEFERRED ANGER IS SAVED FROM FATAL ERROR. "Anger," says the familiar Latin proverb, "is a short madness." While it lasts a man loses full control of himself. Then he utters strong, hot words without weighing the meaning of them or considering how they may strike their object. He is tempted to hit out wildly, and to do far more mischief than he would ever approve of in calmer moments. The words and deeds of anger are but momentary; yet their fatal effects are irrevocable. These effects endure and work harm long after the fierce flame of passion out of which they sprang has died down into grey ashes of remorse. Inasmuch as it is not possible to reason calmly when under a fit of anger, the only safe expedient is to hold back and wait for a more suitable occasion of speaking and acting.
II. DEFERRED ANGER WILL MOST PROBABLY BURN ITSELF OUT. Anger is like
"A full-hot horse, who, being allow'd his way,
Self-mettle tires him."
It is of the nature of anger to be more fierce than the occasion demands. Therefore it is to be expected that time for reflection will moderate it. Now, if it is modified by lime, its earlier excess is demonstrated, and it is made evident that delay saved us from disaster. For it is not simply the case that we tire of anger, that we have not energy enough to be perpetually angry, that well earned wrath expires of its own feebleness. The fact is we are all tempted to show needless auger against those who in any way injure us. Time may reveal unexpected excuses for their conduct, or lead us to see the better way of forgiveness. We do but need an opportunity to go into our chamber, and shut to the door, and pray to our Father in secret, to discover how wrong and foolish and dangerous our hasty wrath was, and to learn the wisdom of meekness and patience.
III. DEFERRED ANGER MAY YET BE EXERCISED. There are circumstances under which we should do well to be angry; for, as Thomas Fuller says, "Anger is one of the sinews of the soul." Christ was "moved with indignation" when his disciples forbad the mothers of Israel to bring their children to him (Mark 10:14), and he showed great anger against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It is not right that we should witness cruel injustice and oppression with equanimity. It may reveal a culpable weakness, cowardice, or selfishness in us for sights of wrong doing not to move us to anger. But such anger as is earned and needed by justice can bear to be reflected on. Even with this justifiable wrath haste may lead to disaster. Thus the violent explosion of popular indignation that follows the discovery of some foul crime or some grievous wrong is in great danger of falling into fatal blunders; sometimes it makes a victim of an innocent person, simply for want of consideration. There is no excuse for "lynch law." "The courts are open," and calm investigation and orderly methods will not lessen the equity of the punishment they deliberately bring on an offender. Justice is not to behave like a ravenous beast raging for its prey. There is room for calmness and reflection in connection with those great waves of popular indignation that periodically sweep over the surface of society. When the anger has been wisely deferred, and yet has been ultimately justified, its outburst is the more terrible; it is the flowing out of wrath "treasured up against the day of wrath." Dryden says—
"Beware the fury of a patient man."
The "Power that makes for righteousness," though not impersonal, as Mr. Matthew Arnold assumed, is nevertheless active as by a constant law. It is so ordered in nature and providence that goodness preserves life, and badness tends to ruin and death. Let us endeavour to see how the process is worked out.
I. THE GREAT RESULT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IS SOUL KEEPING.
1. It may not be wealth. We cannot assume that goodness tends to riches. Keeping the commandments does not always result in a man's making his fortune. Christ was a poor man.
2. It may not be earthly happiness. Other things being , a clear conscience should bring peace and inward joy. But there are troubles that fall upon us independently of our conduct. There are distresses that come directly from doing right. Christ was a "Man of sorrows."
3. It may not be long life on earth. No doubt this was expected in Old Testament times, for then but dim notions of any existence beyond the grave ever entered the minds of men. On the whole, no doubt, goodness tends to health of body and mind. Still, very good people may die young. Christ died at thirty-three years of age.
4. It will be the real preservation of the soul. The true life will be safe. The self will abide. Now, all our being really resides in our personal self. If this continues in safety, we have the highest personal security. But if not, all other gain is but a mockery; for "what is a man profited if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul—his life, himself?" (Matthew 16:26).
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS LEADS TO SOUL KEEPING BY NATURAL LAWS. It is a matter of Divine ordering that obedience should be followed by life, disobedience by death. This was seen in the trial of Adam (Genesis 3:3). It lies at the root of the great sanctions of the Mosaic Law (Ezekiel 3:18). He who gave the commandments also gives life. Our life is in the hand of oar Lawgiver. It is in his power to withhold the life if we break the law. But we may look more closely into this princess. God's commandments are not arbitrary. They follow the natural lines of spiritual health. His prohibitions are really the warnings against the course that leads naturally and inevitably to death. Goodness is itself vitality, and badness has a deadening effect on the soul. The faculties are quickened by use in the service of what is right, and they are dwarfed, perverted, paralyzed, and finally killed by reckless, lawless conduct. The profligate is a suicide.
III. CHRISTIANITY HELPS US TO TRUE SOUL KEEPING BY LEADING US TO RIGHTEOUSNESS. We find ourselves in the unhappy condition of those who have not kept the commandments. Therefore we are in danger of death. We have "despised our ways." The law and the promise are not addressed to us as to new beings; but they meet us in our sin and on our road to ruin. Therefore, if there were no gospel, there would be no hope. Hence the need of a Saviour. But when we enter the realm of Christian truth we cannot turn our backs on the principles of the older economy. We cannot regard them as the laws of another planet, out of the reach of which we have escaped. They are eternal truths, and we are still within their range. Christ helps us, not by teaching us to despise moral considerations as though they were irrelevant to those who had entered into the covenant of grace, but by giving us his own righteousness to be in us as well as on us. He puts us in the way of obedience, while he cancels the consequences of the old disobedience. Thus he saves our souls by helping us to preserve them in a new fidelity to the ancient, eternal right.
Lending into the Lord
I. IN WHAT LENDING TO THE LORD CONSISTS. It is having pity upon the poor. This is more than almsgiving. Doles of charity may be given to the needy from very mixed motives, Inasmuch as "the Lord looketh at the heart," the thoughts and feelings that prompt our charity are of primary importance with him. In the same way, also, sympathy is prized by our suffering brethren on its own account, and the gifts that are flung from an unfeeling hand bring little comfort to the miserable. Therefore, both for God's sake and for the sake of our suffering brethren, the first requirement is to cultivate a spirit of sympathy with the helpless. When this spirit is attainted, the application of practical remedies will require thought. It is easy to toss a sixpence to a beggar, but the inconsiderate act may work more harm than good. True sympathy will lead us to inquire into the unfortunate man's circumstances, and to see whether there may not be some wiser way of helping him. This is one of the most pressing problems of our complicated condition of society. It is not so easy to be wisely helpful to the poor as it was in the simpler circumstances of ancient times. A true Christian sympathy must lead us to study the deep, dark problem of poverty. How can the lowest classes be permanently raised? How can they be really saved? How can we help people to help themselves?
II. HOW THIS COMES TO BE LENDING TO THE LORD. In the olden times people thought to offer to God in material, visible sacrifices by slaying animals on the altar. Now money and service given to a Christian Church and to directly missionary agencies for spreading the kingdom of heaven, and so glorifying God, are regarded as devoted to God. Thus we are to see that we can serve him by ministering directly to the well being of our fellow men.
1. Men are God's children. He who helps the child pleases the father.
2. God has pity on the suffering. Therefore for us to have pity is to be like God, and so to please him; it is to do his will, to do the thing he would have us do, and so to render him service.
3. This is within our reach. The difficulty is to see how we can do anything to help the Almighty, or give anything to enrich the Owner of all things. The cattle upon a thousand hills are his. But the poor we have always with us. Inasmuch as we do a kindness to one of the least of these, Christ's brethren, we do it unto him (Matthew 25:40). All real love to man is also love to God. The noblest liturgy is the ministry of human charity. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).
III. WHY THIS IS ONLY LENDING TO THE LORD. It is returned to the giver. Such a thought seems to lower the tone of the subject. To give, hoping for no return, is Christ's method, and this lifts us to a higher level. Love asks for no payment. The pity that calculates its recompense is a false and selfish sentiment. Assuredly we must learn to love for love's sake, and to pity because we are moved with compassion, irrespective of returns.
1. Yet the fact that there is a return remains. It may be well for selfish men who refrain from showing sympathy for the needy to reflect on this. Their selfishness is short-sighted.
2. The return is spiritual. We are not to look for our money back again. That would involve no real giving. The return is different in kind. It is of a higher character, and comes in peace of soul, in enlargement of affection, in the satisfaction of seeing good results flowing from our sympathy.
I. CHASTISEMENT SHOULD BE TIMELY. "Prevention is better than cure." It we wait till the weeds run to seed it is in vain for us to pull them up—they will have sown another and larger crop. The lion's cub may be caught and caged; the full-grown beast is dangerous to approach, and out of our power. Consider some practical applications of these truths.
1. They show us the importance of early home training. The first seeds are sown at home. If an evil disposition reveals itself there, it should be checked before it develops into a fatal habit. Foolishly fond parents laugh at exhibitions of bad temper and other faults in very young children, amused at the quaintness and pitying the helplessness of these miniature sins. But surely a wiser course would be to nip the evil in the bud.
2. They enhance the value of Sunday school work. Five million children were under Sunday school teaching in England during the year 1888. The great mass of the population passes through this instruction. Surely more should be made of the golden opportunity thus afforded of giving a right course to the lives of the people. Most working men will not go to church. But they will permit their children to attend Sunday school. We have the working classes with us in their childhood.
3. They point to an enlargement of the agency of industrial schools. Already juvenile crime has been reduced by one-half—this is one of the most cheering signs of the times. But still there are multitudes of children who breathe an atmosphere of crime from their cradles. There is no more Christian work than the effort to save these victims of the vices of their parents. The juvenile offender should be an object of peculiar solicitude to one who has the well being of society at heart.
II. CHASTISEMENT SHOULD BE HOPEFUL. There is hope for all in their youth. We may not be able to recover the degraded, besotted wrecks of humanity in their more advanced years. But the children are amenable to saving influences, and the treatment of them should be inspired with a belief that they may be trained. Directly any parent or teacher despairs of a child he proves himself no longer competent to have the charge of him. Reading the second clause of the verse in the language of the Revisers, we are warned against vindictive chastisement: "And set not thy heart on his destruction." The old notion of punishment was purely retributive; the newer notion of it is more disciplinary. We want fewer prisons and more reformatories. But for encouragement in such efforts we must have grounds of hope. Observe some of these.
1. The elasticity of youth. The young are capable of great changes and of large development.
2. The Divine direction. The providence of God overruling our attempts at correction is needed to bring them to a successful issue. But we have a right to look for this end, for God desires the salvation and recovery of his children.
3. The power of love. We can never correct to good purpose unless we do so from motives of love. When these motives are felt they cannot but make themselves effective in the end. Thou, though the chastisement may have been resented at first, the good purpose that instigated it will be ultimately recognized, and may rouse the better nature of the wrong doer,
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The lowly and gentle life
He who is truly humble before his God will be sweet, kind, and peaceable in his relations to men.
I. THE ATTRIBUTES OF THIS LIFE. (Proverbs 19:1-3.)
1. It is the life of innocence, in the seeking to have a conscience "void of offence toward God and toward men." This makes poverty rich and privation blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is for such. The consciousness of being dear to God is the true wealth of the soul; the sense of being alienated from him darkens and distresses even amidst wealth and luxury. In addition to this, let us recollect the paradox of the apostle, "Poor, yet making many rich." It is such lives that have indeed enriched the world.
2. It is the life of thoughtfulness.
3. It is the life of content.
II. ITS TRIALS AND CONSOLATIONS.
1. It often incurs the coldness of the world (Proverbs 19:4). A man who goes down in the scale of wealth finds, in the same degree, the circle of ordinary acquaintances shrink.
2. But there is consolation—a sweetness even in the heart of this bitter experience, for the soul is thrown the more entirely upon God. When friends, when even father and mother forsake, the Lord takes up. Deus meus et omnia! We are naturally prone to rely more upon man than upon God; and have to rewrite upon our memories the old biblical maxim, "Put not your trust in man." Poverty may separate us from so called friends, but "who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"
III. THE REPULSIVE CONTRAST TO THIS LIFE. A victim of vice and moral poverty amidst outward wealth.
1. Folly and untruth. (Proverbs 19:1.) The words and the thoughts are interchangeable. The godless, selfish rich man's life is a living lie. The outward parts of Dives and Lazarus are in the sight of Heaven reversed.
2. Thoughtless rashness. (Proverbs 19:2.) The "making haste to be rich," so strong a passion of our day, may be chiefly thought of. But any excessive eagerness of ambitious desire, or sensual pleasure which blinds the soul to thought, and indisposes for serious reflection, comes under this head. But the unreflective life is neither safe nor happy. It is to such thoughtless ones the solemn warning comes, "Thou fool! thy soul shall be required of thee."
3. Murmuring discontent. (Proverbs 19:3.) The source of the vicious kind of discontent is a conscience at war with itself, and perversely mistaking the true nature of the satisfaction it needs. The "Divine discontent" which springs from the sense of our inward poverty carries in it the seed of its own satisfaction. It is the blessed hunger and thirst which shall be fed.
4. False social relations. (Proverbs 19:4.) Of the friends made by riches it is true that "riches harm them, not the man" (Bishop Hall). And the great man lives amidst illusions; and, in moments of insight, doubts whether among the obsequious crowd there be a heart he can claim as his own. In such an atmosphere, false witness and lies, in all their forms of scandal, slander, destruction, spring up (Proverbs 19:5). It is a hollow life, and the fires of judgment murmur beneath it. Yet the fulsome flattery which rises like a cloud of incense before the rich man, and the throng of easily bought "friends," still hide from him the true state of the case. Well may Divine Wisdom warn of the difficulty which attends the rich man's entrance into the kingdom. Here there are great lessons on compensation. God hath set the one thing over against the other, to the end that we should seek nothing after him (Ecclesiastes 7:14). The gentle and humble poor may convert their poverty into the fine gold of the spirit; while the rich man too dearly buys "position" at the expense of the soul.—J.
Maxims of intelligence
I. THE WORTH OF INTELLIGENCE.
1. It is self-conservative (Proverbs 19:8). We all love our own soul or life in any healthy state of body and mind. We all want to live as long as possible. It is natural to desire to live again beyond the grave. Then let us understand that there is no way to these ends except that of intelligence, in the highest and in every sense.
2. It is the source of happiness. (Proverbs 19:8.) The truth is very general and abstract, like the truth of the whole of these proverbs. It does not amount to this—that good sense will in every case procure happiness, but that there is no true happiness without it.
II. SOME MAXIMS OF INTELLIGENCE.
1. The sorrow that falsehood brings. (Proverbs 19:9.) It is certain. Many a lie is not immediately found out in the ordinary sense of these words; but it is always found in the man's mind. It vitiates the intelligence, undermines the moral strength. The rest must follow in its time—somewhere, somehow.
2. Vanity stands in its own light. (Proverbs 19:10.) Those who have given way to over weening self-esteem and arrogance of temper—like Rehoboam, or like Alexander the Great, or Napoleon—become only the more conceited and presumptuous in success. The opposite of vanity is not grovelling self-disparagement, but the sense which teaches us to know our place.
3. The prudence of toleration and of conciliation. (Proverbs 19:11, Proverbs 19:12.) Socrates was a noble example of these virtues in the heathen world. We who have "learned Christ" should not at least fall behind him. To bear our wrongs with patience is the lower degree of this virtue. Positively to "overcome evil with good" stands higher. Highest of all is the Divine art to turn persecutors into friends (1 Peter 2:19; Matthew 5:44, sqq.).
4. The arcana of domestic life. (Proverbs 19:13, Proverbs 19:14.)
(1) The foolish son. "Many are the miseries of a man's life, but none like that which cometh from him who should be the stay of his life." "Write this man childless" would have been a boon in comparison.
(2) The tiresome spouse. Wearing the heart that is firm as stone by her continual contentions.
(3) The kind and good wife. No gift so clearly shows the tender providence of God.
5. The inevitable fate of idleness. (Proverbs 19:15.)
(1) It produces a lethargy in the soul. (Proverbs 6:9, Proverbs 6:10.) The faculties that are not used become benumbed and effete.
(2) Thus it leads to want. Although these are general maxims of a highly abstract character, still how true on the whole—if not without exception—they are to life! "He that will not work, neither let him eat."
6. The wisdom of attention to God's commands. (Proverbs 19:16.)
(1) To every man his soul is dear; i.e. his life is sweet.
(2) The great secret, in the lower sense of self-preservation, in the higher of salvation, is obedience to law.
(3) Inattention is the chief source of calamity. In the lower relation it is so. The careless crossing of the road, the unsteady foot on the mountain-side seems to be punished instantly and terribly. And this is the type of the truth in higher aspects.
7. The reward of pity and benevolence. (Proverbs 19:17.) Sir Thomas More used to say there was more rhetoric in this sentence than in a whole library. God looks upon the poor as his own, and satisfies the debts they cannot pay. In spending upon the poor the good man serves God in his designs with reference to men.—J.
The true prudence
I. IN THE PARENTAL RELATION. (Proverbs 19:18.)
1. The necessity of discipline. The exuberance of youth needs the hand of the pruner; the wildness of the colt must be early tamed, or never. Weak indulgence is the worst unkindness to children.
2. The unwisdom of excessive severity. Cruelty is not discipline; too great sharpness is as bed as the other extreme. Children are thus made base, induced to take up with bad company, and to surfeit and run to excess when they become their own masters.
II. IS THE RELATION OF SELF-GOVERNMENT.
1. The folly and injuriousness of passion. (Proverbs 19:19.) Not only in the harmful deeds and words it may produce towards others, but in the havoc it produces in one's own bosom. How fine the saying of Plato to his slave, "I would beat thee, but that I am angry"! "Learn of him who is meek and lowly of heart."
2. The wisdom of a teachable spirit. (Proverbs 19:20.) Never to be above listening to proffered advice from others, and to find in every humiliation and every failure an admonition from the Father of spirits,—this is life wisdom. And thus a store is being laid up against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal life.
III. PRUDENCE BUT A FINITE WISDOM. (Proverbs 19:21.) God is our best Counsellor; without him our prudence avails not, and along with all prudence there must be the recognition of his overruling, all-controlling wisdom. To begin with God is the true secret of success in every enterprise. May he prevent, or go before, us in all our doings!—J.
Mixed maxims of life-wisdom
I. HUMAN KINDNESS. (Proverbs 19:22.) There is no purer delight than in the feelings of love and the practical exercise of universal kindness. If the mere pleasure of the selfish and the benevolent life be the criterion, without question the latter has the advantage.
II. TRUTHFULNESS. (Proverbs 19:22, Proverbs 19:28.) So the honest poor outweighs the rich or successful liar in intrinsic happiness as well as in repute. The worthless witness is pest to society, an abomination to God.
III. PIETY. (Proverbs 19:23.) It is a living principle in every sense of the word—hath the promise of life in both worlds. It provides for the soul satisfaction, rest, the consciousness of present and eternal security.
IV. IDLENESS. (Proverbs 19:24.) Exposed by a vivid picture of the idle man's attitude. It reminds one of the saying concerning a certain distinguished writer's idleness, that were he walking through an orchard where the fruit brushed against his mouth, he would be too idle to open it to bite a morsel. No moral good can be ours without seeking.
V. SCOFFING FOLLY CONTRASTED WITH SIMPLICITY AND SENSE. (Proverbs 19:25, Proverbs 19:29.) He that places himself above instruction ends by bringing himself beneath contempt. Scorn for good has, like every sin, its own determined punishment. And "God strikes some that he may warn all."
VI. FILIAL IMPIETY. (Proverbs 19:26, Proverbs 19:27.) The shame and sorrow that it brings to parents is constantly insisted on as a lesson and a warning to the latter. If these bitter experiences are to be avoided, let children be timely trained to obedience, respect, and reverence for God. God's Word is the true rule and guide of life, and he who departs from it is a corrupt and seductive teacher.—J.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The evil of ignorance
Manifold are the evils of ignorance. All evil of all kinds has been resolved into error; but, if we do not go so far as this, we may truly say—
I. THAT IGNORANCE OF GOD IS FATAL. "This is life eternal, to know God;" and if the knowledge of God is life, what must the ignorance of him be? History and observation only too fully assure us what it is: it is spiritual and moral death; the departure of the soul from all that enlightens and elevates, and its sinking down into grovelling and debasing superstitions. To be without the knowledge of God is simply fatal to the soul of man.
II. THAT IGNORANCE OF OUR HUMAN NATURE IS PERILOUS.
1. Not to know its nobler possibilities is to be without the needful incentive to lofty aspiration and strenuous endeavour.
2. Not to know its weaknesses and its possibilities of evil is to go forward into the midst of bristling dangers, unarmed and undefended.
III. THAT IGNORANCE OF THE WORLD (OF MEN AND THINGS) IS HIGHLY UNDESIRABLE.
1. To study, and thus to be acquainted with nature as God has fashioned it, to be familiar with the ways and with the arts and sciences of man,—is to be braced and strengthened in mind, is to be far better able to understand and to apply the truth of God as revealed in his Word.
2. To be ignorant of all this is to be correspondingly weak and incapable. Knowledge is power, and ignorance is weakness, in every direction. To go on our way through the world, failing to acquire the grasp of fact and truth which intelligent observation and patient study would secure,—this is to leave untouched one large part of the heritage which our heavenly Father is offering to us. There is one particular consequence of ignorance which the wise man specifies; for he reminds us—
IV. THAT PRECIPITANCY IN WORD AND DEED IS POSITIVELY GUILTY. "He that hasteth with his feet sinneth." An unwise and hurtful precipitancy is the natural accompaniment of ignorance. The man who knows only a very little, does not know when he has heard only one-half of all that can be learnt; hence he decides and speaks and acts off hand, without waiting for additional, complementary, or qualifying particulars. And hence he judges falsely and unjustly; hence he act, s unrighteously and foolishly, and often cruelly; he takes steps which he has laboriously and ignominiously to retrace; he does harm to the very cause which he is most anxious to help. It is the man of wide knowledge and expanded view, it is the large-minded and well informed soul, that bears the best testimony, that does the worthiest and most enduring work, that lives the largest and most enviable life.—C.
Disquietude and complaint
I. GOD'S RIGHTEOUS WAY. The way in which God intended man to walk was that way of wisdom, all of whose paths are peace. This divinely appointed way is that of holy service. Man, like every other being above him, and every other creature below him in the universe, was created to serve. We were created to serve our God and out kind; and in this double service we should find our rest and our heritage. This, which is God's way, should have been our way also.
II. MAN'S PERVERTED WAY. Man, in his sin and his folly, has "perverted his way;" he has attempted another path, a short cut to happiness and success. He has turned out of the high road of holy service into the by-path of selfishness; he has sought his satisfaction and his portion in following his own will, in giving himself up to worldly ambitions, in indulging in unholy pleasure, in living for mere enjoyment, in making himself the master, and his own good the end and aim of his life.
III. HIS CONSEQUENT DISQUIETUDE. When anything is in its wrong place, there is certain to be unrest. If in the mechanism of the human body, or in the machinery of an engine, or in the working of some organization, anything (or anyone) is misplaced, disorder and disquietude invariably ensue. And when man puts his will above or against that of his Divine Creator, that of his heavenly Father, there is a displacement and reversal such as may well bring about disturbance. And it does. It is hardly saying too much to say that all the violence, disease, strife, misery, poverty, death, we see around us arise from this disastrous perversion—from man trying to turn God's way of blessedness into his own way. Man's method has been utterly wrong and mistaken, and the penalty of his folly is heartache, wretchedness, ruin.
IV. HIS VAIN AND GUILTY COMPLAINT. He "fretteth against the Lord." Instead of smiting himself, he complains of God. He falls to see that the source of his unrest is in his own heart; he ascribes it to his circumstances, and he imputes these to his Creator. So, either secretly or openly, he complains of God; he thinks, and perhaps says, that God has dealt hardly with him, has denied to him what he has given to others; in the dark depths of his soul is a guilty rebelliousness.
V. THE ONE WAY OF REST. This is to return unto the Lord in free and full submission.
1. To recognize God's righteous claim upon us, as our Creator, Preserver, Redeemer.
2. To acknowledge to ourselves and to confess to him that we have guiltily withheld ourselves from him, and sinfully complained of his holy will.
3. To ask his mercy in Jesus Christ our Saviour, and offer our hearts to himself and our lives to his service. This is the one way of rest and joy; it is "the path of life."—C.
Proverbs 19:8, Proverbs 19:16
Making the most of ourself and our life
How shall we most truly "love our own soul" but by making all we can make of the nature and the life God has entrusted to our care! And how shall we do this? Surely by "getting wisdom" and "keeping understanding." To look at the subject negatively and, beginning at the bottom, to take an upward path, we remark—
I. THAT CONTEMPTUOUS CARELESSNESS MEANS CERTAIN RUIN. "He that despiseth his ways shall die." The man who never pauses to consider what he can accomplish, how he shall spend his days and his powers, but who goes aimlessly onward, letting youth and manhood pass without any serious thought at all, and content to snatch the enjoyment of the passing hour,—is a man of folly, and he can expect nothing, as he certainly will find nothing, hut the most meagre portion and a very speedy end of everything. He sows to the flesh, and of the flesh he reaps corruption. To "despise our way" in this fashion is to forfeit our inheritance and come to utter destitution. Moving higher up, but still failing to reach the right standard, we remark—
II. THAT ANY COUNSEL WHICH IS NOT OF GOD WILL PROVE DISAPPOINTING. There is much cleverness and keenness that is not wisdom; there is much concern about ourself and our future which is not a true "love for our own soul." There are many counsellors who will advise us to seek certain pleasures, or to aim at certain honours, or to climb to a certain position, or to seek entrance into some particular society, or to secure a certain treasure,—and it will be well with us. But any counsel which fall, short of telling us the will of God, which leaves untold the wisdom which is from above, will certainly prove to be unsound. A point will come in our experience where it will break down. It will not meet the deeper necessities of our nature nor the darker passages of our life. We must take higher ground—that on which we see—
III. THAT DIVINE WISDOM WILL LEAD US TO TRUE AND LASTING BLESSEDNESS. "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding" (Job 28:28; see Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10). And surely:
1. To know God is, in itself, a real and a great blessing (Jeremiah 9:24). To know God as he is revealed in Jesus Christ is to be enriched in the most precious and valuable knowledge; it is "to be wiser than the ancients;" it is to have that in our mind which is of more intrinsic worth than all that men can put into their pockets.
2. To know God in Jesus Christ is to have rest of heart (Matthew 11:28, Matthew 11:29). Those who love themselves will surely care for spiritual rest—for a peace which no favouring circumstances can confer.
3. To learn of Christ and keep his commandments is to be preserved in moral and spiritual integrity; he that "keepeth the commandments" by consulting the will of Christ will certainly "keep his own soul" from all that stains and slays a human spirit and a human life—from impurity, insobriety, untruthfulness, dishonesty, profanity, selfishness; he will "keep his soul" in the love of God, in the light of his countenance, under his guardian care. To remain loyal to the wisdom of God (to "keep understanding") is to find every good that is open to us. It is to move along that path which is evermore ascending; which conducts to the loftier heights of moral excellency, of exalted spiritual joy, of holy and noble service; which leads to the very gates of heaven and the near presence of God.—C.
(see also Proverbs 10:14, Proverbs 10:31; Proverbs 17:5)
I. THAT HAUGHTY UNKINDNESS IS A HEINOUS SIN. To mock the poor or to oppress the poor is to reproach our Maker. For he that made us made them; and, in many instances, made them to be as they are. The Son of man himself was poor, having nowhere to lay his head; and although it is true that poverty is very often the consequence and penalty of sin, yet, on the other hand, it is often
(1) the accompaniment of virtue and piety; and
(2) frequently it has been the penalty of faithfulness to conviction, and therefore the sign of peculiar worth.
To treat with disdain a condition which God himself has associated with piety and even with nobility of character is to mock our Maker. And to oppress such is to he guilty of a flagrant sin; it is to take advantage of weakness in order to do a neighbour wrong; this is to add meanness to cruelty and injustice. It is, moreover, to do that which our Lord has told us he will consider to be directed against himself (Matthew 25:42, Matthew 25:43).
II. THAT PRACTICAL PITIFULNESS IS A MUCH REWARDED VIRTUE,
1. It is accepted by our Divine Lord as a service rendered to himself (text; Matthew 25:35, Matthew 25:36). How gladly would we minister to Jesus Christ were we to recognize in some weary and troubled neighbour none other than the Redeemer himself clothed in human form again! But we need not long for such an opportunity; nor need we wait for it. It is ours. We have but to show practical kindness to "one of the least" of his brethren, and we show it unto him, the Lord himself (Matthew 25:40). And what we do shall be rendered unto us again; i.e. we shall receive in return from our Father that which will fully compensate us. Our reward will include not only this gracious acceptance, but:
2. We shall earn the gratitude of thankful hearts; and if (as is likely enough) we go sometimes unblessed of man, yet at other times we shall not want the cordial, loving, prayerful gratitude of a human heart; and what better treasure could we hold than that?
3. God will bless us in our own hearts forevery kindness we render. He has so made our spirits that they are affected for good or evil by everything we do. Each thought, each deed, leaves us other than we were; stronger, wiser, worthier, or else weaker, less wise, less excellent, than before. Our character is the final result of everything that we have ever done, both in mind and in the flesh. So that each gracious word we speak, each kindly service we render to any one in need, is one more stroke of the chisel which is carving a beautiful character, fair in the sight of God himself.
4. We gain the present favour of our Divine Lord, and may look for his strong succour in our own time of need.
5. We shall receive his word of honour in the day "when every man shall have praise of God" (1 Corinthians 4:5).—C.
(See homily on Proverbs 13:24.)—C.
Ready at the end
The wise man always shows his wisdom by looking well before him. It is the sure mark of a fool to content himself with the immediate present. We do not wonder that proverbs should deal much with the future. "Passion and Patience" is the picture which is always being exhibited before the eyes of men.
I. THE NEED OF READINESS AT THE END. "How shall we enjoy the present time?" asks one; "How shall we make ready for the end?" asks another and a wiser soul. The question presents itself to the youth, as he looks forward to the end of the term and the coming of the examination or the writing of the report; to the young man—the apprentice, the articled clerk, the student—as he considers how he shall go through his trial hour and be prepared for his business or profession; to the man in middle life, as he foresees the time coming when he can no longer do as he is doing now, and must have something to fall back upon in his declining days; to the man in later life, as he is compelled to feel that his powers are fast failing, and that the hour is not distant when he will stand on the very verge of life and confront the long and solemn future. It should also be present in the mind of those who are soon to go forth into the sterner conflict of life, to meet alone, away from home influences, the serious and strong temptations of an evil world. Whatever the stage through which we are now passing, it moves towards its close—an end which is sure to open out into something beyond, and, most likely, something more important, weighted with graver responsibilities and leading to larger issues. Are we so living, the wise will ask, that we shall be ready for that end when it comes?
II. THE CONSEQUENT NEED TO LEARN OF GOD. "Hear counsel," etc.
1. There is much need to learn of men—from our parents, from our teachers, from every form of instructive literature, from all that the experiences of men, as we watch their life, are saying to us. Whoso would be wise at the end of his career should have an open mind that everyone and everything may teach him. Lessons are to be learnt from every event, however simple and humble it may be. The wide world is the school which the wise will never "leave."
2. There is much more need to learn of God, to learn of Christ. For:
(1) He can speak authoritatively, as man cannot.
(2) He gives us wisdom unmingled with error, as man does not.
(3) He can tell us how to find his Divine favour and how to reach his nearer presence, as no man can.
Let us learn of Christ and be wise.—C.
The mind of man and the mind of God
Here is a contrast which we do well to consider. Between our human spiritual nature and that of the Divine Spirit it is possible to find resemblances and contrasts. Both are interesting and instructive.
I. THE THOUGHTS OF MAN'S MIND. We know how fugitive these are; how they come and go like the flash of the lightning; and even those which linger are but short-lived, they soon give place to others. Even those thoughts which become "fixed," which settle down into plans and purposes, have but a brief tenure in our brain; they, too, pass away and make room for others in their turn. Our thoughts are:
1. Fluctuating and therefore many. We care for one pleasure, we pursue one object now; but in a few weeks, or even days, we may weary of the one, we may be compelled to turn our attention from the other.
2. Feeble and therefore many. We propose and adopt one method, but it fails; and then we try another, and that fails; then we resort to a third, which also fails. We pass from thought to thought, from plan to plan; our very feebleness accounting for the manifoldness of our devices.
3. False and therefore many. We hold certain theories today; tomorrow they will be exploded, and we shall entertain another; before long that will yield to a third.
4. Sinful and therefore many. Nothing that is wrong can last; it must be dethroned, because it is evil, immoral, guilty.
5. Selfish and therefore many. We are concerning ourselves supremely about our own affairs or those of our family; but these are passing interests, changing with the flitting hours.
II. THE THOUGHTS WHICH ARE IN THE MIND OF GOD. His counsel stands (text). "The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations" (Psalms 33:11). God's purpose holds from age to age. For:
1. He rules in righteousness. He is governing the world by Divine and unchanging principles. "With him is no variableness," because he ever loves what is righteous and hates what is unholy and impure and unkind. He cannot change his course, because he cannot change his character.
2. He is working out one great beneficent conclusion. He is redeeming a lost world, reconciling it unto himself, uprooting the multiform sources of wrong and wretchedness, establishing the blessed kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of heaven on the earth.
3. He has ample time and power at his command; he has no need to change his plan, to resort to "devices."
"His eternal thought moves on
His undisturbed affairs;"
and is working out a glorious consummation which nothing shall avail to avert.
4. His perfect wisdom makes quite unnecessary the adoption of any other course than that which he is employing.
(1) Steadfastness is one sign of wisdom. If we see a man or a Church perpetually changing its methods, we may be sure that it is weak.
(2) Let us make God's great and holy purpose ours;
(a) for it is that with which our eternal interest is bound up;
(b) it is certain to be victorious.
3. Let us work on for our Lord and with him, in the calmness that becomes those who are confident of ultimate success.—C.
The praise of piety
What could he said more than is said here in praise of piety? What more or better could anything do for us than—
I. ENSURE OUR SAFETY. So that we shall not be visited with evil. But is not the good man visited with evil? Do not his crops fail, his vessels sink, his shares fall, his difficulties gather, his children die? Does not his health decline, his hope depart, his life lessen? Yes; but:
1. From the worst evils his piety secures him. The "fear of the Lord," that Holy One before whom he stands and with whom he walks, keeps him from folly, from fraud, from vice, from moral contamination, from that "death in life" which is the thing to be dreaded and avoided.
2. And the troubles and sorrows which do assail him lose all their bitterness as they wear the aspect of a heavenly Father's discipline, who, in all that he sends or suffers, is seeking the truest and the lasting well being of his children. The man who is living in the fear of God, and in the love of Jesus Christ, may go on his homeward way with no anxiety in his heart, for he has the promise of his Saviour that all things shall work together for good—those things that are the least pleasant as well as those that are the most inviting.
II. SATISFY OUR SOUL. "Shall abide satisfied." Certainly it is only the man of real piety of whom this word can be used. Discontent is the mark which "the world and the things which are in the world" leave on the countenance and write on the heart of man. Nothing that is less than the Divine gives rest to the human spirit. Mirth, enjoyment, temporary happiness, may be commanded, but not abiding satisfaction. That, however, is found in the devoted service of a Divine Redeemer. Let a man yield himself, his whole powers and all his life, to the Saviour who 1oved him unto death, and in following and serving him he will "find rest unto his soul." Not half-hearted but whole-hearted service brings the joy which no accident can remove and which time does not efface or even lessen. The secret of lifelong blessedness is found, not in the assertion of an impossible freedom from obligation, but in an open, practicable, elevating service of the living God, our Divine Saviour.
III. CONSTITUTE OUR LIFE AND CONDUCT TO A STILL HIGHER FORM OF IT. "The fear of the Lord tendeth to life." It is not merely that a regard for God's will conduces to health and leads to long life (Psalms 91:16); it is not only that it tends to secure to its possessor an honourable and estimable life among men. It is much more than this; it is that it constitutes human life. "This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God." For man to live in ignorance or in forgetfulness of his Divine Father is to miss or to lose his life while he has it (or seems to have it). On the other hand, to live a life of reverence, of trustfulness in God, of love to him, of filial obedience and submission, of cheerful and devoted cooperation with him in the great redemptive work he is outworking, to be attaining more and more to his own spiritual likeness,—this is life itself, life in its excellency, its fulness, its beauty. Moreover, it itself, with all its worth, is but the prelude of that which is to come. It is the "fair beginning" of that which shall realize a glorious consummation a little further on. With all that hinders and hampers taken away, and with all that facilitates and enlarges bestowed upon us, we enter upon the nobler life beyond, which we have no language to describe because we have no faculty that can conceive its blessedness or its glory.
1. Let the perils of human life point to a Divine Refuge.
2. Let the weariness of earthly good lend to the Divine Source of rest and joy.
3. In the midst of the deathfulness of sin, lay hold on eternal life.—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany