A COMMENTARY ON
New York/Pittsburgh: R. Carter, 1847.
PROVERBIAL teaching is one of the most ancient forms of instruction.
It was well adapted to the rudeness and simplicity of the first ages,
when books were few, and philosophy little understood. The mind,
unpractised to the slow process of reasoning, would be much more
easily arrested by terse sentences, expressing a striking sentiment in
the fewest words. The wise man himself has given the best definition
of these sententious maxims. Their elegance he describes under the
figure of "apples of gold in pictures (network) of silver."* Their force
and permanent impression are ''as goads and nails fastened by the
Master of assemblies"†--- driven closely home to the heart and con-
science, and fastened in the memories by the appointed instructor of the
The antiquity of this teaching was recognised in the Church even
before the age of Solomon. (1 Sam. xxiv. 13.) Classic Annals have
recorded Aphorisms similarly constructed from men of wisdom. All
of these however were of a later date. Some possibly might be dim
scintillations from this fountain light; so that the King of Israel was
---as an old expositor has remarked ---'the disciple of none, but the
instructor of them all.'‡ Indeed his mind largely dealt in this intel-
* Chap. xxxv. 11. This image reminds us of Mr. Addison's apt description conceived in
his best style of taste and beauty--'By similitudes, drawn from the visible parts of nature,
a truth in the understanding is, as it were, reflected by the imagination. We are enabled
to see something like colour and shape in a notion, and to discover a scheme of thoughts
traced out upon matter. And here the mind receives a great deal of satisfaction, and has
two of its faculties gratified at the same time, while the fancy is busy in copying after the
understanding, and transcribing ideas out of the intellectual world into the material.'
Concluding paper on 'the Pleasures of the Imagination.' Spectator, No. 421.
† Eccles. xli. 11. LXX. write paroimiai (para oimoj—via—sayings spoken in the way.
Comp. Dr. Johnson's definition) a word often used in the New Testament for parables.
(John, x. 6; xvi. 25, 29.) Marg. Both were of the same popular character. A proverb is
often given in the form of a parable.
‡ Lavater. Comment. in Prov. Pref. Tigur. 1596.
lectual exercise. "He spake three thousand proverbs." (1 Kings, iv.
32.) And from this valuable mass of thought he was directed, under
Divine inspiration, to "set in order" a collection for the instruction of
the Church to the end of time.*
Possibly some would rather have desired the preservation of his
discourses on Natural History (lb. iv. 33), than on Practical Wisdom.
But this Sovereign discrimination shews the real intent of the Scrip-
tures--not to teach philosophy, but religion; not to make men of
science, but men of sound godliness.
All competent judges will admit this Book to be eminently fitted
for this great end. What the Roman Orator pronounced of Thucydides,
applies far more truly to this King of Jerusalem ---'so full of matter,
that he comprised as many sentences as words.'† This wonderful Book
is indeed a mine of Divine wisdom. The views of God are holy and
reverential. The observation of human nature is minute and accurate.
The rule of life and conduct is closely applied, to make "the man of
God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. iii.
16, 17); so that, as Mr. Scott well remarks--'we shall perceive the
meaning and utility of the Proverbs, in proportion to our experience
in true religion, our acquaintance with our own hearts, and with
human nature, and the extent and accuracy of our observation on the
character and affairs of men.‡ Eusebius mentions the whole consent of
the ancients, considering the Book of Proverbs to be ‘Wisdom fraught
with every kind of virtue.'§ Bishop Hall drew out mainly from it a
complete system of 'Divine Arts.'|| And though the Apostate Julian
* Eccles. xii.9. Grotius supposes the Book to be a compilation from preceding writers.
This degradation of Solomon is a gratuitous conjecture, unsupported by a title of evidence.
But such are the irreverent liberties that proud learning dares to take with the Word of
† Cicero de Oratore, lib. ii. 14. Elsewhere he gives nearly the same judgment of Euripides.
Epist. Lib. xvi. 8.
‡ Pref. to Comment. On Prov.
§ Hist. lib. iv. c. 25. pana<reton sofi<an. Jerome's direction to one of his friends for
the education of his daughter is--'Let her have first of all the Book of Psalms for holiness
of heart, and be instructed in the Proverbs of Solomon for her godly life. '--Epist. vii. ad
Laetam. Matthew Henry, in his beautiful portrait of his mother, describes her as one,
that was ‘very well versed in Solomon’s Proverbs, and the rules of wisdom, which may be
fetched from thence for the conduct of human life, and knew how to apply them, and to use
knowledge aright.'--Sermon on the Death of Mrs. Katherine Henry.
|| 'Solomon's Divine Arts of Ethics, Politics, Economics --that is --the Government of
Behaviour, Commonwealth, Family --drawn into method out of his Proverbs, and Eccle-
Works, viii. 427. Edited by Rev. P. Hall. Oxford, 1837.
scornfully preferred to it the sayings of Heathen Philosophy;* yet the
apostrophe of the son of Sirach was justly applied to its author--
'How wise wast thou in thy youth, and as a flood filled with under-
standing! Thy soul covered the whole earth, and thou fillest it with
As to its canonical authority' ---Michaelis well observes, 'that no
Book of the Old Testament is so well ratified by the evidence of quota-
tions.'‡ A few of the Jewish Talmudists appear to have expressed
some doubt of its Divine stamp, but upon grounds so futile, that they
were abandoned upon a more mature consideration.§ Ecclesiastical
History has recorded only one dissentient from the judgment of the
universal Church; and that one condemned by her authoritative
council.|| Witsius has admirably refuted the neological cavils of his
day.¶ Nothing has been said from any quarter to weaken the unhesi-
tating decision of our judgment, that the pen is that of the King of
Israel; but the words are the wisdom of God.
Some difference exists among expositors as to the exact divisions of
the Book. We have been led to divide it into three parts. In giving a
more succinct account of these several parts, we shall avail ourselves
largely, though necessarily in an abridged form, of the observations of
a Biblical scholar, not more remarkable for his profound learning, than
for his elegant taste.**
The first Part--all agree--extends from the opening of the Work
to the close of the ninth chapter. It is--as Dr. Good observes--
‘chiefly confined to the conduct of early life. All the most formidable
* Apud Cyrill. Contra Julian. lib. vii.
† Ecclus. xlvii. 14, 15. The whole passage (verses 12-22) is very beautiful. Eusebius
remarks of Solomon, that while, inspired by Divine wisdom, "he consecrated all his writings
to the profit and salvation of souls; yet he used these dark 'parables' for the exercise of
the mind. Contr. Marcell. lib. i. c. iii p. 17.
‡ Introd. to New Test. i. 207. Comp. especially in LXX. Chap. iii. 7. with .Rom. xii. 16;
11, 12, with Heb. xii. 5, 6; 34, with James, iv. 6. 1 Pet. v. 5; x. 12, with 1 Pet. iv. 8; xi.
31, with 1 Pet. iv.18; xxv. 6, 7, with Luke, xiv. 8-10; 21, 22, with Rom. xii 20; xxvi. 11,
with 2 Pet. ii. 22; xxvii. 1, with James, iv. 13, 14. It is a marked distinction drawn
between this Book and the Apocryphal Book of Wisdom, so similar in character; that from
the latter no quotation can be adduced in the New Testament.
§ Hottinger, Thesaur. Philol. lib. ii. c. 1. sect. 14. Comp. Carpzov. Introd. ad Lib.
Canon. Part. ii. C. iv. § 7.
|| Theodore Mopsuest. condemned by 5th Council of Constaninople, A.D. 551.
¶ Miscell. Sacra, lib. i c. xviii. 30-34.
** Extracts from an unpublished Translation of the Book of Proverbs, by the late Dr.
Good, in his Life by Dr. Gregory, pp. 286-306.
dangers to which this season is exposed, and "the sins which most
easily beset it," are painted with the hand of a master. And while
the progress and issues of vice are exhibited under a variety of the
most striking delineations and metaphors, in their utmost deformity
and horror; all the beauties of language, and all the force of eloquence
are poured forth in the diversified form of earnest expostulation,
insinuating tenderness, captivating argument, and sublime allegory,
to win the ingenuous youth to virtue and piety, and to fix him in a
steady pursuit of his duties towards God and man. Virtue is pro-
nounced in the very outset to be essential wisdom, and vice or wicked-
ness essential folly. The only wise man therefore is declared to be the
truly good and virtuous, or he that fears God, and reverences his law;
while the man of vice and wickedness is a fool, a stubborn or perverse
wretch, and an abomination to Jehovah.
Wisdom is hence allegorized as a tree of life, yielding delicious
shade, fruit, and protection to those that approach her branches ;
throwing a garland of honour around their shoulders, and decorating
their heads with a graceful chaplet, more precious than rubies. She is
a sage and eloquent monitor, lifting up her warning voice at the gates
and in the squares of the city; denouncing to the young the snares
and dangers, to which they are exposed; and exhorting them to
abandon "the way of the wicked, which is as darkness," for the path
of the just, which is
--------'As the brightening dawn,
Advancing and brightening to perfect day.'*
The Second Part commences at the opening of the tenth chapter,
as is obvious from the introductory clause. The style and manner
of the second part are as different as possible from those of the first.
* We add two interesting testimonies, of a widely different character. 'The first part,
including the first nine chapters, is a kind of exordium, and is varied, elegant, sublime,
and truly poetical. The natural order is generally observed, and the parts are aptly con-
nected together. It is embellished with very beautiful descriptions and prosopopoeias, and
adorned with the most finished style, together with every kind of poetical ornament; so
that it scarcely yields, in beauty, to any specimen of Sacred Poetry'--Bp. LOWTH'S
Lectures on Heb. Poetry, xxiv. (Mr. Holden ventures to doubt whether this picture is not
somewhat over-wrought.--Pref. to Translation of Proverbs, xxxix.) 'The first nine chap-
ters of the Book of Proverbs present us with a most interesting specimen of "acceptable
words." There is in them an inimitable union of admonitory fidelity, and enticing and
subduing kindness. Like Paul, he "exhorts, comforts, and charges, as a father doth his
children." The whole soul of the writer is breathed out in the earnestness of benevolent
desire.'-- WARDLAW on Eccles. xii. 10.
It is evidently designed for the use of persons advanced from the state
of youth to that of manhood. While in the preceding, addressed to
the young, the richest ornaments of the fancy are made choice of to
captivate their attention, and allure them to a right practice; in the
present all is business and activity, brevity, continuity, and terseness.
Every thought, though as highly polished, is at the same time as
compressed as possible; and the Writer, thoroughly aware of the
value of every moment of time at this important period, lays down
a complete series of short rules of life, and concentrates the most
momentous precepts into the narrowest compass. The former appeals
to the imagination; the latter to the judgment. The one exhibits
all the genius of poetry; the latter all the art of composition; and
hence the general matter is rendered as attractive in the one instance
as in the other.
'The great object in each of the Proverbs of the present part,
is to enforce a moral principle in words so few, that they may be
easily learnt, and so curiously selected and arranged, that they may
strike and fix the attention instantaneously; while, to prevent the
mind from becoming fatigued by a long series of detached sentences,
they are perpetually diversified by the changes of style and figure.
Sometimes the style is rendered striking by its peculiar simplicity,
or the familiarity of its illustration;1 sometimes by the grandeur
or loftiness of the simile employed on the occasion;2 sometimes by
an enigmatical obscurity,3 which rouses the curiosity; very frequently
by a strong and catching antithesis;4 occasionally by a playful
iteration of the same word;5 and in numerous instances by the
elegant pleonasms or the expansion of a single or common idea by
a luxuriance of agreeable words.'6
The Third Part we conceive to comprise the last seven chapters.
The first five were written by Solomon, and edited some centuries
after by the royal scribes in the reign of Hezekiah. The two last
were written by separate hands, but preserved by Divine care and
altogether worthy of the place they hold in the inspired Canon.
The time when this book was written is a matter of some un-
 Chap. I. 19; xvi. 3; xxii. 2.
2 Chap. xii. 58; xv. 11; xxi. 16, 22.
3 Chap. xvi. 24; xvii. 8; xviii. 20.
4 Chap. xiv. 10; xvi. 16; xvii. 10; xviii. 4; xix. 12; xx. 14.
5 Chap. xi. 15; xiii. 20; xvii. 13, 15.
6 Chap. xvi. 32; xvii. 17, 27, 28; xix. 6.
certainty. We cannot doubt but its contents were a part of "the
three thousand Proverbs," which "he spake" before his most lament-
able fall. (1 Kings, iv. 32.) They were therefore the exercise of his
vast and comprehensive mind, under the full influence of his Divine
wisdom. (Ib. verse 29.) They might, however, as many judicious
critics have thought, have been "set in order" (Eccles. xii. 9) in their
present form at a period subsequent to that afflictive event. Both
parts of this hypothesis read a most solemn practical lesson. Do
we see "outlandish women causing him to sin" (Neh. xiii. 26)--
this "beloved of his God" falling himself into the snare, which he
so minutely described, and against which he so earnestly and re-
peatedly warned?1 Christian Ministers! does not Solomon, no less
than St. Paul,2 awfully teach us, that preaching to others will not
save our own souls? The supposition of the posterior arrangement
gives additional weight to his faithful admonitions. They come to
us, like the exhortations of the restored Apostle,3 with all the force
of painful experience, in the true spirit of his Master's command--
"When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."4
The interpretation of this Book requires much care and sobriety.
Believing the principles of the Old and New Testament to be essen-
tially the same, it seems reasonable to expound the more obscure by
the more clear. The primary duty is indeed to affix to each Proverb
its own literal and precise meaning. This is undoubtedly its spiritual
meaning--that is--the mind of the Spirit. In an extended appli-
cation of this discovered meaning, or in deducing inferences from it,
judgment, not imagination, must be the interpreter. When no other
than a literal meaning is plainly intended, the object must be, not
to search out a new and miscalled spiritual meaning, but to draw
practical instruction from its obvious sense.
There is, however--we may remark--a line to be drawn between
exposition and illustration. The figures used in this Book, after their
literal meaning has been wrought out, may fairly be used as illustrative
of other collateral truths, not specifically intended. The Sacred
Writers appear to warrant this principle of accommodation,* though
1 Chap. ii. v. vii. ix. xxii. 14; xxiii; 27, 28.
2 1 Cor. ix. 27.
3 1 Pet. i. 13, 17; iv. 7; v. 8, with Matt. xxvi. 35.
4 Luke, xxii. 32.
* See the Apostle's application of Ps. xix. 4, at Rom. x. 18, and DODDRIDGE'S and
GUYSE’S Paraphrase. Compo SCOTT on Chap. xxv. 6, 7.
its use requires great delicacy and consideration; lest it should
divest Scripture of its determinate meaning, and identify us with
those artists, whom Dr. South memorializes, 'who can draw any-
thing out of anything.'*
But with all care to preserve a soundly-disciplined interpretation,
we must not forget, that the Book of Proverbs is a part of the volume
entitled--"The word of Christ." (Col. iii. 16.) And so accurately does
the title describe the Book, that the study of it brings the whole sub-
stance of the volume before us. It furnishes indeed the stimulating
motive to search the Old Testament Scripture (John, v. 39)--the true
key that opens the Divine Treasure-house; so that, as Mr. Cecil ob-
serves--'If we do not see the golden thread through all the Bible,
marking out Christ, we read the Scripture without the Key.'† This
remark however does not undervalue its large mass of historical and
practical instruction. But unquestionably Christ is the Sun of the
whole Scripture system; "and in his light we see the light" (Ps.
xxxvi. 9), that reflects upon every point of practical obligation, and
quickens life and energy throughout the whole Christian path. There
is therefore, as Professor Franke reminds us--'much JOY, comfort, and
delight to be found in the writings of the Old Testament (especially in
reading those places, which before were wearisome and almost irksome)
when we perceive Christ is so sweetly pictured there.'‡
It has, been recorded, of Mary Jane Graham, 'that she was delighted
in the course of her study of the Book of Proverbs to have Christ so
much and so frequently before her mind'1--a recollection--her bio-
grapher ventured to observe--of great moment for the spiritual dis-
cernment of the divine wisdom treasured up in this storehouse of prac-
tical instruction.'§ Indeed, considering that these "Proverbs set in
order--these words of the wise"--were originally "given from one
Shepherd" (Eccles. xii. 9-11), whom we cannot surely fail to identify,
we might naturally expect them to record distinct testimony of himself.
We cannot but fear, however, that this portion of the sacred volume
 Chap. 1. viii. ix. &c.
* Sermon on Matt. v. 44.
† Mrs. HAWKES'S Life, p.171. So Augustine--'The Old Testament has no true relish
if Christ be not understood in it.' Ninth Tractat. on John.
‡ Christ the Sum and Substance of Holy Scripture. Sect. xxi.
§ Life, chap. v.
is not generally estimated at its just value. Doubtless its pervading
character is not, either explicit statement of doctrinal truth, or lively ex-
ercises of Christian experience. Hence the superficial reader passes over
to some (in his view) richer portion of the Scriptural field. Now we
readily admit, that all parts of the Bible are not of equal importance.
But to value one part to the disparagement of another, is a slight to the
divine testimony, that will be visited with a severe rebuke. Such a
reader will only be possessed of mutilated fragments of truth, severed
from their vital influence. He will never rise beyond a sickly senti-
mentalism. Seeking for novelty and excitement, rather than for the
food of solid instruction; like Pharaoh's kine,* he devours much, but
digests nothing. Never will he have light enough for the firm settle-
ment of his faith; neither can he receive the true moulding of the mind
of the Spirit, or the impress of the divine image.
But the question has been often asked--and that--not in cavilling,
but in an anxiously enquiring, spirit--'How can I read this Book pro-
fitably ?' Not unfrequently the confession has been added--'My mind
and soul do not get food from it. I think I am less interested in this,
than in any other, part of Scripture. I acknowledge the wisdom of its
sayings. I am fully persuaded, that, being the Word of God, it was
not written in vain. The fault therefore must be in myself. Still the
question returns-- How am I to read it with profit?'
Now it might almost appear, as if the rules given at the opening of
the Book were intended to answer this question. (Chap. ii. 1-4.) Cer-
tain it is, that they do furnish the most satisfactory reply. The first
and chief direction--that which gives life to every other--that which
applies to every page and every verse of the Bible is--Begin with
prayer--"Cry--lift up thy voice." Then combine a pondering mind
with a praying heart. Actively apply thyself to "seek and search for
the hid treasures." The riches lie not on the surface. Only those
therefore, that dig into the bowels of the earth--not the readers, but
"the searchers of the Scriptures"--are enriched. (John, v. 39.) If the sur-
face be barren, the mine beneath is inexhaustible. Indeed it is a wise
discipline, that has made an active spirit of meditation necessary to
give solid and fruitful interest to this study, and to possess ourselves of
* Gen. xli 20, 21. Comp. the picture drawn, 2 Tim. iii. 7.
a blessing, which carelessness or indolence will never realize. The pro-
mise here held out to diligent investigation fixed that intelligent
Christian just mentioned 'on one occasion in intense meditation for two
hours. She appeared to be lost in astonishment and gratitude at the
condescension and kindness of God in giving a promise, so free, so
encouraging. She grasped it, as if determined not to let it go.'*
The habit of interested attention being fixed, how shall we best
"apply the heart to the understanding" of the Book? Here the
valuable exercise of Scripture reference will greatly expand our own
thoughtful meditation. Gather contributions from all parts of the field.
Many a doubtful or apparently uninteresting Proverb will thus be
brightened in instructive application. We are persuaded, that an
enlarged Scriptural study, with whatever collateral helps may be within
our reach, will bring no regret in having rested awhile in this part of
the field, instead of passing onwards to a more inviting surface. To
advert once more to our Scriptural student--'She frequently employed
herself in the profitable exercise of "comparing spiritual things with
spiritual;" Scripture with itself; thus making God His own interpreter.
Much light and heavenly unction she conceived herself to have gained
by this means.'† The fruitfulness of this exercise will be, when we
"find God's words" as our treasure; "eat them" as our invigorating
food; and "they" thus become "the joy and rejoicing of our hearts."
(Jer. xv: 16.) 'Set your affection'--saith the apocryphal writer--
‘upon my words. Desire them, and ye shall be instructed. Wisdom is
glorious, and never fadeth away; yea, she is easily seen of those that
love her, and found of such as seek her. She preventeth those that
.desire her, in making herself first known unto them. Whoso seeketh
her early shall have no great travail; for he shall find her sitting at his
doors. Whoso watcheth for her‡ shall quickly be without care. For
she goeth about seeking such as are worthy of her, sheweth herself
favourably unto them in the ways, and meeteth them, however,
in every thought.'§
* Life of Mary Jane Graham, ut sup.
† Ib. Nicholls's Exposition of this Book, and Scott's Marginal References, will give
much valuable assistance to this study. No foreign help, however, should damp the
profitable interest of original research.
‡ [O a]grupnh<saj --whom wisdom scarcely affords time to sleep.
§ Wisd. vi. 11-16. The reader will find throughout this Exposition frequent reference
An accurate apprehension of the main end and scope of this Book
will greatly facilitate the understanding of it. Different portions of
Scripture may be seen to have different ends, all however subordinate
to one end--primary and supreme. Without entering into detail
foreign to our purpose, suffice it to remark, that the end of this Book
appears to be, to set out a system of practical instruction, generally
applicable. Nor let this be thought a low gradation in the Christian
scheme. Unpalatable as it may be to the mere professor of godliness,*
the true man of God will honour practical inculcation in its place, no
less than doctrinal statement. "The truth as it is in Jesus"--that
which flows from him, leads to him, and centres in him--that in which
"we are to be learned, and to be taught by him"--is practical truth.
(Eph. iv. 20-24.) While other parts of Scripture shew us the glory of
our high calling; this may instruct in all minuteness of detail how to
" walk worthy of it." Elsewhere we learn our completeness in Christ
(Col. ii. 10): and most justly we glory in our high exaltation as "joint-
heirs with Christ, made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ
Jesus." (Rom. viii. 17. Eph. ii. 6.) We look into this Book, and, as by
the aid of the microscope, we see the minuteness of our Christian
obligations; that there is not a temper, a look, a word, a movement,
the most important action of the day, the smallest relative duty, in
which we do not either deface or adorn the image of our Lord, and the
profession of his name. Surely if the book conduced to no other end,
it tends to humble even the most consistent servant of God, in the
consciousness of countless failures. Not only therefore is the last
chapter--as Matthew Henry would have it--'a looking-glass for
ladies,' but the whole Book is a mirror for us all.
Nor is it only a mirror to shew our defects. It is also a guide-
to the Apocryphal Books of Wisdom--but only as human authorities. Mr. Horne has most
demonstrably overthrown their claim to a place in the sacred canon. (Introd. to Scrip.
vol. i. Append. No.1. last edit.) Yet while we would most distinctly mark the wide gulf
between inspired and uninspircd writings, there seems no necessity to lose much valuable
and beautiful instruction, only because the writers were not inspired, or their writings were
tainted with pernicious errors.
* We fear that Mr. Scott's hearers at the Lock as a sect have not died away. Their real
objection--as his son admirably observed--'was not to Arminianism (of which they
very probably scarcely knew the meaning) but to half, or more than half the word of God.
They had been accustomed to overlook it themselves, and could not bear to have it pressed
upon their notice by another.'--Scott's Life, pp. 232-235. Yet the preceptive part of an
Epistle may be set out, so dissociated from the doctrine, that the main-spring of practical
godliness is weakened, if not destroyed.
book and directory for godly conduct. The details of the external
life, in all the diversified spheres, are given or implied with perfect
accuracy, and with a profound knowledge of the workings of the human
heart. 'Beside a code of laws directly religious, a variety of admirable
rules stream forth from the deep recesses of wisdom, and spread over
the whole field.'* All ranks and classes have their word in season.
The sovereign on the throne is instructed as from God.1 The princi-
ples of national prosperity or decay are laid open.2 The rich are
warned of their besetting temptations.3 The poor are cheered in their
worldly humiliation.4 Wise rules are given for self-government.5 'It
bridles the injurious tongue,6 corrects the wanton eye,7 and ties the
unjust hand in chains.8 It prevents sloth,9 chastises all absurd desires;10
teaches prudence11 raises man's courage;12 and represents temper-
ance and chastity after such a fashion, that we cannot but have them
in veneration.'† To come to important matters so often mismanaged
--the blessing or curse of the marriage ordinance is vividly pour-
trayed.13 Sound principles of family order and discipline are incul-
cated.14 Domestic economy is displayed in its adorning consistency.15
Nay--even the minute courtesies of daily life are regulated.16 Self-
denying consideration of others,17 and liberal distribution18 are enforced.
All this diversified instruction is based upon the principles of true
godliness.19 Thus if the Psalms bring the glow upon the heart, the
Proverbs "make the face to shine." Indeed the Writer may mention
as one motive that led him to this work; that, having in a former
Exposition‡ shewn at large Christian experience to be built upon the
doctrines of the gospel, he wished to exhibit Christian practice as rest-
ing upon the same foundation. That is not sound faith, that does not
issue in practical godliness. Nor is there any true morality, apart from
1 Chap. viii. 15, 16; xvi. 10-13; xx. 8, 26; xxi. 1; xxv. 2-5; xxviii. 16; xxix. 14; xxxi. 1-9.
2 Chap. xi. 14; xiv. 34; xxiv. 6; xxviii. 2. 3 Chap. xviii. 11; xxiii. 4, 5; xxviii. 20, 22.
4 Chap. xv.16,17; xvii. 1; xix.1, 22; xxviii. 6. 5 Chap. iv. 23-27; xvi. 32; xxiii. 1.-3.
6 Chap. iv. 24; x. 31; xvii. 20; xxv. 23; xxvi. 20-26.
7 Chap. v. 20, 21; vi. 25-29; xxiii. 26, 27. 8 Chap. xviii. 5; xxviii. 8.
9 Chap. vi. 6-11; xii. 27; 4; xix. 24; xx. 4; xxiv. 30-34. 10 Chap. xxi. 25, 26.
11 Chap. iv. 14, 15; vi. 1-5; xiv. 8, 15, 18; xxii. 3; xxv. 6-10. 12 Chap. xxviii. 1.
13 Chap. xviii. 22; xix. 14; xxxi. 10, with xii. 4; xix. 13; xxi. 9, 19.
14 Chap. xiii. 24; xiv. 1; xix. 18; xxii. 6; xxiii. 13, 14; xxix. 15, 17, 19, 21.
15 Chap. xxvii. 28-27; xxxi. 10-27. 16 Chap. xxiii. 6-8; xxv. 17. 17 Chap. iii. 27, 28.
18 Chap. xi. 24; xxii. 9. 19 Chap. xxxi. 10, 30.
* Lord BACON’S Advancement of Learning, Book viii. chap. ii.
† Chap. v. 15-19, with xxiii. 29-35. Basil, quoted by Bp. Patrick.
‡ On Ps. cxix.
"the principles of Christ." This Book, if it be not, as the New Testa-
ment,--the Rule of Faith, may surely be considered as a valuable Rule
of conduct. And--as Mr. Scott observes--'it would be very useful
for those, who can command their time, at some stated season every
day, to read and deliberately consider a few of these maxims with
reference to their own conduct, in the various affairs in which they are
concerned.'* Doubtless if the world were governed by the whole
wisdom of this single Book, it would be "a new earth, wherein
One other weighty consideration the Writer would advert to, as
having directed his attention to this Book--its distinctive character, as
a Book for the Young. The wise man's father propounded a most
anxious question--"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?"
His son in this Book has fully opened the answer--"By taking heed
thereto according to thy word." (Ps. cxix. 9.) Nay he expressly states
the Book to be written for the heeding of youth.1 It takes them as it
were by the hand, sets up way-marks to warn against coming danger
and imminent temptations,2 and allures them into the bright ways of
God by the most engaging motives.3 And never surely was the
object so momentous, as at the present day. Our young are growing
up at a period, when "the foundations of the earth are out of course;"
and when subtle and restless efforts are making to poison their hearts,
and pervert their ways. Nothing therefore can be more important, than
to fortify them with sound principles; that, when withdrawn from the
parental wing into a world or a Church (alas! that we should be con-
strained to use, the term!) of temptation, they may be manifestly under
a Divine cover, as the children of a special Providence. What this
invaluable Book impresses upon their minds is, the importance of deep-
seated principles in the heart; the responsibility of conduct in every
step of life; the danger of trifling deviations for expediency's sake;
the value of self-discipline; the habit of bringing everything to the
Word of God; the duty of weighing in just balances a worldly and a
heavenly portion, and thus deciding the momentous choice of an ever-
lasting good before the toys of earth. These lessons, thoroughly
inwrought, will prove the best security against all attempts to loosen
* Pref. to Comment. on Prov.
1 Chap. i. 4; iv. 1, &c.
2 Chap. i. 10-15; ii. 10-19; v. 1-13; vii.
3 Chap. iii. 1-18; viii. I7, &c.
the hold of principle, and to entice upon enchanted ground. This
practical godliness--so far from wearing a forbidding, look, or being
associated with gloom or sadness--casts a smile over a world of
sorrow, is a sunbeam of comfort in suffering, and ever a principle of
peace and steadfastness. "Great peace have they which love thy law;
and nothing shall offend them." (Ps. cxix. 165.)
As to the matter of the exposition, the Writer cannot indeed say,
with a Romish commentator,* 'that he has gone through all the circle
of Biblical exposition, versions of the Scripture, Patristic reading, and
classic literature bearing upon the Scripture.' He trusts, however, that
it will be seen by the mass of references throughout the work, that he
has taken due care to mature his own judgment, and to enlarge his
scanty resources, by availing himself of the assistance of those exposi-
tors, who appear to have been most conversant with the original
language, and to have given the most careful and sober interpretation.
By a wider range, he would have probably rather perplexed than
informed his readers.
He would not only add, in conclusion, in the words of one of the
most valuable expositors†--that 'if there should be anything here to
please the reader, ascribe not the writing to the pen, but to the writer;
not the light to the lamp, but to the fountain; not the picture to the
pencil, but to the painter; not the gift to the unfaithful dispenser, but to
God the bountiful Giver.'
* Cornelius á Lapide. † Geier.
Old Newton Vicarage,
Oct. 7, 1846.
TO THE FOURTH EDITION.
The Writer desires gratefully to acknowledge the many testimonies
of interest and edification connected with his Work. Deeply sensible
as he is of its great imperfections, may his God have the glory!
In reference to the mass of Scriptural references, he would state,
that his primary object in this, as in a former Exposition, was to draw
out into view the unsearchable riches of the Sacred field. And if he
may have sometimes inadvertently carried out this desire to an undue
extent, he trusts, that upon the whole it may encourage some of his
Readers to a meditative study of Holy Writ, so that "the Word of
Christ may dwell in them richly in all wisdom," to their own enlarged
profit, and to the edification of the Church.
He has been enabled to compress the work (without abridgement),
in order to reduce the price for wider circulation. He has now only to
commend it afresh to the blessing of his God, and to the kind accept-
ance of His Church.
Hinton Martell Rectory,
July 16, 1859.
In accordance with suggestions repeatedly made to the Author the Exposition
of the first nine chapters has been reprinted, apart, for more extensive
distribution, under the title of "A MANUAL FOR THE YOUNG;" at the
price of 2s. 6d.
EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF
1. The proverbs of Solomon, the Son of David, King of Israel; 2. To
know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understand-
ing; 3. To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and
equity; 4. To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and
THE Book naturally opens with a short account of its author. Solomon
is recorded as the wisest of men; a man of wisdom, because a man of
prayer. (1 Kings iii. 12. Comp. chap. ii. 1-9.) His extraordinary
wisdom was the admiration of the world. (1 Kings iii. 28; iv. 34.)
Had he been the Son of Jeroboam, he would have commanded respect;
much more as the son of David, formed by his godly prayers (Ps. lxxii.1.)
and counsels. (Chap. i-v. 1-4. 1 Kings ii. 1-4. 1 Chron. xxviii. 9.)
And if a King's sayings, even though without intrinsic merit, are pre-
served; the wise teaching of this King of Israel (Eccres. i. 1; xii. 9, 10)
may well demand our especial interest.
Valuable, however, as were Solomon's maxims for their own wis-
dom (exceeding the sages of his own or any other time) (1 Kings, iv.
29-31); they claim our reverence upon infinitely higher ground. "Be-
hold! a greater than Solomon is here." (Matt. xii. 42.) Often does he
speak in the person (Verse 20; viii. ix. xxiii. 26) always under the
inspiration (2 Tim. iii. 16) of "the wisdom of God;" so that his
sayings are truly "Divine sentences in the lips of the King." (Chap.
The great end of this inestimable book is to teach, not secular or
political wisdom (though many excellent rules of each are interspersed)
2 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
(Chap. vi. 1-11; xxvii. 23-27; with xi. 14; xiv. 28, 34; xx. 18); but
that knowledge of God (Verse 7), which, while it "maketh wise unto
salvation, perfects and furnishes the man of God unto all good works."
(2 Tim. iii. 15-17. Tit. ii. 11, 12.) Its glowing privileges are set forth.
(Chap. iii. 13-18.) It is pressed upon us with intense earnestness, as
"the principal thing," our very "life." (Chap. iv. 5-9, 13.) Instruction
is the means of gaining it. We are directed to perceive the words of
understanding; to receive the instruction as a complete rule of wisdom,
justice, judgment, and equity (Comp. chap. ii. 9); sound principles, and
their practical application. Here also the simple, so readily deluded
(Chap. xiv. 15; xxi. 11. Ezek. xlv. 20), learn that subtilty, so needful
to discriminate between truth and error (Philip. i. 10. 1 Thess.
v. 21); to guard them from false teachers (Ps. xvii. 4. 1 John, iv. 1.
Comp. Acts, xvii. 11); and to "convince gainsayers." (Tit. i. 9; ii. 8.
Comp. Matt. xxii. 15-46.) Specially is the young man directed to this
book.* His undisciplined ardour runs to waste. His mind fluctuates
at the mercy of the winds of opinion in the world around him; and
greatly does he need some settled master-principles to fix his purpose,
choice, and conduct. Here then he finds knowledge and discretion; a
religion, not of imagination, impulse, or sentiment; but the sound
practical energy of Scriptural truth.
5. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of under-
standing shall attain unto wise counsels; 6. To understand a proverb,
and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
Not only the simple and the young, but even the wise, may here gather
instruction. For a truly wise man is one, not who has attained, but who
knows that he "has not attained," and is pressing onward to perfection.
(Philip. iii. 12. Comp. 1 Cor. iii. 18; viii. 2.) David, while conscious
of comparative attainments, was ever seeking for higher light. (Ps.
cxix. 98-100; with 18, 33, 34.) Indeed the richest stores would soon
waste, without constant additions. Hearing is a great medium of know-
ledge. Jethro instructed Moses (Exod. xviii. 17-26); our Lord his
disciples. (Matt. xiii. 11-16. John, xvi. 12.) Peter enlightened his
fellow-apostles. (Acts, xi. 2-18.) Priscilla and Aquila "instructed
Apollos in the way of God more perfectly." (Ibid. xviii. 24-26.) In-
deed we must be hearers, ere we would be teachers. 'He gathers that
hears; he spends that teacheth. If we spend before we gather, we shall
soon prove bankrupts.'† The longer we learn, the more we feel our-
selves to be learners; and the more ready we shall be to hear, that we
* Ps, cxix. 9. Over the gates of Plato's school, it was written: Mhdeij agewmetrhtoj
eisitw. (Literally--Let no one who is not a geometrician enter.) But very different is
the inscription over these doors of Solomon--Let the ignorant, simple, foolish, young enter.
CARTWRIGHT in loc.--LAVATER in c. iv. 20-22.
† Bishop Hall.
CHAP. I. 7. 3
may increase in learning. (Chap. ix. 9; xviii. 15.) And at such a crisis
as this, both of the Church and of the world, how eagerly should we
improve every medium of instruction, by which we might become
"men of understanding, and attain wise counsels, to know what Israel
ought to do!" (1 Chron. xii. 32.) The wise man himself expounded
his words and dark sayings to the delight and instruction of his royal
scholar (1 Kings, x. 1-5); so to a teachable hearer "the deep things
of God" will be interpreted. (1 Cor. ii. 9, 10.) Hence the value of the
Minister of God; "an interpreter, one of a thousand" (Job, xxxiii. 23.
Comp. Acts, viii. 27-35); the divinely-appointed mean of bringing to
the perfection of knowledge. (Eph. iv. 11-15. 1 Thess. iii. 10.) Many
disorders and heresies might have been spared to the Church, if, instead
of indulging the perversity of an unsettled judgment, men had honoured
"the Priest, as the messenger of the Lord of Hosts," and in humble
simplicity had "sought the law at his mouth." (Mal. ii. 7. Comp. Heb.
xiii. 17, with 1 Cor. iv. 8; iii. 2-4.) Self-will may resist this sugges-
tion as Romish domination. But a humble subjection to the faithful
“steward of the mysteries of God," coming to learn, not to teach; to have,
not the curiosity fed, but the conscience satisfied. This reverence of
God's ordinance will issue in the "good things of the heart established
with grace." (Heb: xiii. 9.)
7. The fear of the Lord is the beginning (principal part, marg.) of know-
ledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The preface has stated the object of this Book of Wisdom. The
book itself now opens with a noble sentence. 'There is not'--as Bishop
Patrick observes--'such a wise instruction to be found in all their
books (speaking of Heathen ethics), as the very first of all in Solomon's,
which he lays as the ground of all wisdom.'* The fear of the Lord is
the beginning of knowledge. So Job had pronounced before. (Job, xxviii.
28.) So had the wise man's father. (Ps. cxi. 10.) Such is the weight
of this saying, that Solomon again repeats it.† Nay--after having
gone round the whole circuit; after having weighed exactly all the
sources of knowledge; his conclusion of the whole matter is this, that
the fear of God in its practical exercise "is the whole of man" (Eccles.
xii. 13. Comp. Job, xxviii. 12-14, with 28)--all his duty; all his
happiness; his first lesson and his last. Thus, when about to instruct
us from the mouth of God, he begins at the beginning, the principal part.
All heathen wisdom is but folly. Of all knowledge, the knowledge of
God is the principal. There is no true knowledge without godliness.
(Comp. Deut. iv. 6, 7.)
But what is this fear of the Lord? It is that affectionate reverence,
* Preface to his Paraphrase.
† Chap. ix. 10 Comp. the fine description by the son of Sirach. Ecclus. i. 14-20, 27.
4 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his
Father's law. His wrath is so bitter, and his love so sweet; that hence
springs an earnest desire to please him, and--because of the danger of
coming short from his own weakness and temptations--a holy watch-
fulness and fear, "that he might not sin against him." (Heb. xii. 28, 29.)
This enters into every exercise of the mind, every object of life. (Chap.
xxiii. 17.) The oldest proficient in the Divine school seeks a more
complete moulding into its spirit. The godly parent trains up his
family under its influence. (Gen. xviii. 19. Eph. vi. 4.) The Christian
scholar honours it as the beginning, the head, of all his knowledge; at
once sanctifying its end, and preserving him from its most subtle
Why then do multitudes around us despise wisdom and instruction?
Because the beginning of wisdom--"the fear of God--is not before their
eyes." (Ps. xxxvi. 1.) They know not its value. They scorn its obliga-
tion. Wise they may be in their own sight. But surely God here
gives them their right name. For fools they must be, to despise such
a blessing (Jer. viii. 9); to rush into wilful ruin (Verses 22, 24-32.
Comp. 1 Sam. ii. 25. 1 Kings, xii. 13. Jer. xxxvi. 22-32); to treasure
up work for despairing repentance. (Chap. v. 12, 13 j xxix. 1.) Good
Lord! May thy childlike fear be my wisdom, my security, my happiness!
8. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy
mother; 9. For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and
chains about thy neck.
Let the young mark the fear of the Lord connected with reverence to
parents. Thus the opening of this book puts honour upon “the first com-
mandment with promise." (Eph. vi. 2. Comp. 1 Tim. v. 4.) God here,
speaking by the mouth of a parent or teacher,* blends paternal tender-
ness with his Divine authority—My son. The command supposes the
godly character of parents, and recognises the responsibility of both
parents.† Children are rational creatures. Instruction, not blind sub-
mission, must be inculcated. Yet they are wayward. Instruction must
therefore be enforced with the authority of law. God puts his own
stamp upon parental discipline. Hear it--Forsake it not. Reverence
for his mother's law was the honourable mark of Timothy's profession.
(2 Tim. i. 5; iii. 14, 15.) Nor must this reverence be confined to the
years of restraint. The disciple of the Bible will own himself to be a
® Thus the prophets were called Fathers--2 Kings, ii. 12; xiii. 14. Our blessed Lord
used the same endearing address--John, xxi. 5. Comp. Matt. ix. 2, 22. Thus the Apo-
stles also acknowledged both their individual converts and collective Churches--l Tim. i. 2.
2 Tim. i. 2. Tit. i 4. 1 Cor. iv. 15; with 1 John. ii. 1; v. 21.
† See Judg. xiii. 12. No ancient system, so fully as the Bible, recognises the Mother's
just and equal claims. Comp. vi. 20; xv. 20; xx. 20; xxiii. 22; xxx. 17. Lev. xix: 3.
Deut. xxi, 18-21. Cartwright observes, that the names of Mothers of good and bad kings
are mentioned in Kings and Chronicles, as partakers in their credit or reproach. See also
Ecclus. iii. 1-16.
CHAP. I. 10-16. 5
child in relative obligations, long after he has ceased to be a child in
years. (Jer. xxxv. 8-10, 18.) Neither age nor rank gives any claim for
exemption. Joseph--when ripe in years, the head of a family, and
the first Lord in Egypt--bowed before his father's feet. (Gen. xlvi. 29;
xlviii. 12.) Solomon, in the glory of his crown, forgot not the respect
justly due to his mother.* Nor were the crown upon his head, and the
chain of gold about Joseph's neck (Comp. chap. iv. 9, with Gen. xli.
39, 42), so graceful as this ornament of filial humility. (1 Pet. v. 5.)
This indeed commands the praise of the world, and may sometimes be
a delusive, self-righteous dependence. But wherever it is grounded
upon right principle, it is the "putting on of the Lord Jesus Christ"
in his lovely example. (Rom. xiii. 14.) Though angels were subject
to him, yet was he "subject to his parents." (Luke, ii. 51, with Heb.
i. 6.) Yea, how did he honour his mother in his last dying command
to his disciple--"Behold thy mother!" (John, xix. 27.)
The same reciprocal obligation binds the spiritual father and his
children. Authority softened by tenderness--instruction moulded in
parental endearment--will always command its measure of reverential
and affectionate attention. Such was the Apostolical Ministry to the
Churches of Philippi and Thessalonica. Humility, tenderness, mutual
communion and cneerful subjection, formed the harmony of Christian
love and happiness. (Philip. iv. 9-19. 1 Thess. ii. 7-13.)
10. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. 11. If they say, ‘Come
with us, let us lay wait for blood; let us lurk privily for the innocent
without cause; 12. Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and
whole as those who go down into the pit; 13. We shall find all pre-
cious substance; we shall fill our houses with spoil: 14. Cast in thy
lot among us; let us all have one purse:’ 15. My son, walk not thou
in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: 16. For their
feet run to evil and make haste to shed blood.
Let the young hearken to the instruction, and law of the godly parent
and minister. Who that has the charge of youth does not mourn
over the baneful influence of evil companions? Would that the
Lord's Servants were as energetic in his work, as sinners are in further-
ing the ends of their master! Almost as soon as Satan became an
apostate, he became a tempter. And most successfully does he train
his servants in this work. (Chap. xvi. 29. Gen. xi. 4. Num. xxxi. 16.
Isa. lvi. 12.) If sinners entice thee--This is no uncertain contingency.
'My son'--said the wise son of Sirach--'if thou come to serve the Lord
prepare thy heart for temptation.' (Ecclus. ii. 1.) Yet we have one
rule against all manifold enticements (Chap. vii. 5-23. Comp. Deut.
® 1 Kings, ii. 19, 20. See also Queen Esther's respect for Mordecai, her reputed father--
6 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK: OF PROVERBS.
xiii.. 6-8.1 Chron. xxi. 1. 1 Kings, xiii. 15-19)--Consent thou not. Consent
constitutes the sin. Eve consented, before she plucked the fruit (Gen.
iii. 6); David, before he committed the act of sin. (2 Sam. xi. 2-4.
Comp. Josh. vii. 21.) Joseph resisted, and was saved. (Gen. xxxix. 8,
9.) Job was sorely tried; "yet in all this Job sinned not." (Job, i. 22;
ii. 10.) If the temptation prevail, charge it not on God; no--nor
on the devil. As the worst he can do, he can only tempt, he cannot
force us, to sin. When he has plied us with his utmost power, and
most subtle artifice, it is at the choice of our own will, whether we
yield or no. (See Jam. i. 13-15.) The habitual resistance of the will
clears us of responsibility. (Comp. Rom. vii. 14-17, 19, 20, 23.) The
consent, even if it be not carried out into the act, lays the responsi-
bility at our own door.
The enticement here was to robbery and blood; covetousness leading
to murder. Most fiendish was the plot. The innocent was to be mur-
dered without cause (Gen. iv. 8. Ps. x. 8), swallowed up alive and whole;
like Korah and his company, going down into the pit in their full strength.
(Num. xvi. 33.) The invitation at first was seemingly harmless--Only
come with us. Soon the demand rises--Cast in thy lot with us. 'But
we shall be discovered.' No--they reply--'we will do all so cleverly,
that there will be no more blood to be seen, than if the earth swallowed
them up; or they died a natural death, and were decently buried.’*
The spoil of precious, substance will be found, when our victim is destroyed.
(Comp. Matt. xxi. 38.) Precious substance! Why! This is as large a
promise, as that from the mouth of the Son of God. (Chap. viii. 21.)
But how can substance be found belonging to a world of shadows? (Ps.
xxxix. 6.) Much more, how can the fruit of robbery be precious, with
the curse of God? (Chap. xxi. 6. Ps. lxii. 9,10.)
Not that this horrible plot is usually propounded at first. But step
by step, unless the Lord graciously restrains, it may come to this at last.
The cover and varnish are; here taken off, to show what sin is in its
nature, character, and certain end. What young man, but would shud-
der, and start away from the wickedness, if presented to his imagination
alone? But many a deluded sinner is thus hurried on by the influence
of company to lengths of sin, that he had never contemplated.† Other
enticements are prepared for the amiable and the uninitiated, just enter-
ing into life; less fearful and obvious, and therefore more really danger-
ous. Such "advantage does Satan get of us by our ignorance of his
devices!” (2 Cor. ii. 11.)
Is it safe then to trust in our good resolutions or principles? No
--Walk not in the way with them. The invitation is --come with us.
The warning is--Refrain thy foot from their path. (Chap. iv. 14, 15.
* Cartwright. But see Gen iv.10. 2 Kings, ix. 26.
† Chartist Associations afford ample evidence of this awful delusion.
CHAP. I. 17-19. 7
Comp. Ps. i. 1.) Avoid parleying with them. No one becomes a pro-
fligate at once.* But "evil communications corrupt good manners."
(1 Cor. xv. 33.) The tender conscience becomes less sensitive by every
compliance. Who can stop himself in the down-hill road? One sin
prepares for another, pleads for it, nay, even makes it necessary for con-
cealment. David committed murder to hide his adultery, and for his
covering charged it upon the providence of God. (2 Sam. xi. 4, 17, 25.)
Again then—we repeat with all earnestness--Refrain. The path
may be strewed with flowers; but it is a path of evil, perhaps of blood.†
Every step on Satan's ground deprives us of the security of the promises
of God. Often has ruin followed by not refraining from the first step.
(Comp. Mark, xiv. 54, 71.) The only safety is in flight. (Gen. xxxix.
10, 12.) Run then into "thy hiding-place, and behind thy shield," and
boldly bid thy tempter "depart from thee." (Ps. cxix. 114, 115. Comp.
Matt. iv. 10.) Awful is the thought! There is not a sin, that the
highest saint of God may not commit, if trusting in himself. "Thou
standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear." (Rom. xi. 20.)
17. (Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.) 18. And
they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.
19. So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh
away the life of the owners thereof.
The sight of danger leads, when possible, to the avoiding of it.
Instinct directs the bird; reason the man. Yet such is the infatuation
of sin, that man in his boasted wisdom will not do, what the bird will
do by her native instinct. She shuns the net spread in her sight; man
rushes into it. These men thirsted for their neighbour's blood. But in
the end they laid wait for their own. They lurked privily for the innocent
without cause. But it proved to be lurking privily for their own lives.
(Verse 11 with 18. Comp. Job, xviii. 8. Hab. ii. 10.) Ahab and his
guilty partner, in plotting the destruction of their innocent victim, worked
out their own ruin. (1 Kings, xxi. 4-24.) Little did Haman, when
bent upon the murder of Mordecai (Esth. vii. 9); or Judas, when "seek-
ing opportunity to betray his Master" (Matt. xxvi. 14-16; xxvii. 3-5),
see, that they were "digging a pit for themselves." (Ps. vii. 15, 16; ix.
15, 16.) Yet the sinner, would he but use his own eyes, might see hell
at the end of his path. (Matt. vii. 13.) But sin is self-delusive, self-
destructive. So are the ways—such the end—of greedy, often mur-
derous, gain.‡ My son—once more hear thy Father's instruction, "Flee
these things." (Verse 8, with 1 Tim, vi. 9-11.)
* ‘Nemo fit repente turpissimus.'—Classical adage.
† Verse 16. Isa. lix. 7. An apt illustration of the total depravity of man in the perverted
use of the members of his body.—Rom. iii.15.
‡ Comp. Job, xxxi. 39, 40. Jer. xxii. 17-19. Mic. iii. 10—12. ‘How great a cheat is
wickedness! It ensnareth the ensnarers, and murders the murderers; holds a dark lantern
in one hand, while with the other it discharges silently a pistol into our bosom.’—JERMIN
(Dr. M.), Comment on Proverbs, folio, 1638.
8 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
20. Wisdom (Wisdoms, Marg.) crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the
streets: 21. She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of
the gates; in the city she uttereth her words, saying, 22. How long, ye
simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their
scorning, and fools hate knowledge? 23. Turn you at my reproof: behold, I
will pour out my Spirit unto you; I will make known my words unto you.
A Father's instruction has warned us against the enticement of Satan.
Wisdom--the Son of God himself, now invites us,--in all the plenitude
of his Divine authority and grace.* Full of yearning love to sinners,
he crieth, not only in the temple, but without in the streets, in the chief
place of concourse, in the openings of the gates (Comp. chap. viii. 1-5. Matt.
xiii. 2. John, vii. 37-39; xviii. 20, 21. Ps. xl. 9, 10)—How long?
Simplicity is another term for folly. It is the temper of mind of those
that fear not God. They weigh not what they say or do. They live
as if there were neither God nor eternity. Their understandings are
blinded by the love of sin. In other cases man delights, not in his
ignorance, but in its removal. But these simple ones, ignorant of the value
and danger of their souls, love-simplicity. They consider all endeavours to
enlighten them, as breaking in upon an indulgent repose, and exciting
a groundless alarm. For while they live riotously, slothfully, or licen-
tiously, "they consider not in their hearts, that God remembereth all
their wickedness," and “that for all these things he will bring them into
judgment." (Hos. vii. 2. Eccles. xi. 9.) They are encouraged by a few
more furious than themselves--scorners--who have neither fear nor
shame, remorse of heart, nor decency of manner; who take an active
delight in their scorning: shooting their poisoned arrows against godli-
ness. (See Ps. lxiv. 3, 4.) All earnestness in religion is with them a
weakness unworthy of sensible men. The very Scripture terms are
revolting. A saint in Scripture means one sanctified by the Spirit of
God. With them it means a foolish person or a hypocrite. Their souls
are too high to stoop to the vulgar thoughts and habits of the gospel of
Christ. Thus do they prove themselves (both the indolent mass of the
simple ones, and their scornful leaders) to be fools, that hate knowledge.
* The cry, the chief place of concourse, the outpouring fountain of the Spirit, are identified
John, vii. 37-39. This very remonstrance, accompanied, as here, with a stirring invitation,
is also given in prophecy from the Saviour's own mouth. Isa. lv. 1-3. The terms of the pro-
mise forbid any other than a personal application. We can easily conceive a spirit to have
wisdom. But that an attribute of wisdom may dispense his Spirit or influence to others, is
beyond conception. Moreover, the Messiah assumed this personal title (Matt. xxiii. 34, with
Luke, xi. 49); and his Apostle expressly gives it to him (1 Cor. i. 24). The plural noun
joined with the singular verb (marg. comp. chap. ix. 1) seems to point him out as the
author and whole substance of all wisdom; ‘the very wisdom of the most wise God, "in
whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and by whom rivers of wisdom
are poured into man by the word.' (Glass. Lib. iii. Tract. i. Can. 24.) The future tense in the
original may possibly give a prophetic character to the proclamation. Altogether, ‘this
interpretation gives to the exhortation of Wisdom a peculiar majesty and emphasis; setting
forth the eternal untreated Wisdom of the Father, using all means to draw men to God;
both by his works and by his word, inviting all men to know the truth.'--SCOTT. Bishop
Ball. Compare notes on v. 24, viii. 1.
CHAP. I. 20-23. 9
(Verses 7, 29, 30. Job, xxi. 14; xxiv. 13.) Aiming to keep out alarm,
with it they shut out all that would make them wise and happy. If
they hate the knowledge of their lost condition, they exclude all that
follows upon it, to make them "wise unto salvation." Of other know-
ledge they have often too much: mischievous, as keeping out better
things; giving them an evil eye, filling the soul with darkness; making
them "hate the light, so that they will not come to the light, lest their
deeds should be reproved." (John, iii. 19, 20.)
Our Lord deals with this case on the perfect freeness of the gospel.
He would melt down the hardness by pleading remonstrance—How
long? (Comp. Matt. xxiii. 37. Luke, xix. 41, 42.) He sweeps away all
the suggestions of unbelief, all the heartless excuses of indolence, by
inviting promises— Turn at my reproof. ‘I cannot turn myself.’ But
I will pour out my Spirit as a living fountain unto you. And—as the
consequence of this blessing---I will make known my words unto you.
The Bible, before a dark and sealed book, shall be made clear to you. ‘I
offer to you both my word outwardly to your ears, and a plentiful, measure
of my Spirit inwardly to your heart, to make that word effectual to
But we are often told, that all the illumination to be expected in our
day is the written word, interpreted, like every other book, by our
own reason; and that the Spirit's teaching is an enthusiastic delusion.
Now this may pass with the simple and the scorner— who know no-
thing of the blindness of their hearts, and of the power of natural
prejudice, which Divine grace alone can conquer. But the man that
knows his own darkness, and that nothing less than the power of God
can teach him--he will—he must--"cry for knowledge, and lift up
his voice for understanding" (Chap. ii. 3); not because the word is dark
(for it is light itself), but because he is dark, and therefore utterly
unable to receive its instructions. (1 Cor. ii. 9-14.) We do not want
a new revelation, we only want a Divine Teacher, we want the pouring
out of the Spirit to make known the word. The word is the same Divine
word as before. But it was not understood, discerned, not therefore
practically effectual. Now there is joy, a power and sweetness, of
which before we had no conception. It humbled us in the sense of our
ignorance, and makes us pant for more of its heavenly light and
But the proud caviller complains of God, as if he reckoned with
"him for a blindness and inability, which he cannot help,--innate with-
out his consent. "Nay, but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest
against God?" (Rom. ix. 20.) He at once answers this Satanic plea,
by offering to you present, suitable, and sufficient relief. He meets
you on your way to condemnation with the promise of free and full
* Bishop Hall.
10 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
forgiveness. (Isa. i. 18; xliii. 23, 26.) Your plea will be of force, when
you have gone to him, and found him wanting. The power indeed is
of him. But he hath said —"Ask, and it shall be given you." (Matt.
vii. 7.) If your helplessness is a real grievance, bring it to him with
an honest desire to be rid of it. If you have never prayed, now is the
time for prayer. If you cannot pray, at least make the effort. Stretch
out the withered hand in the obedience of faith. (Mark, iii. 5.) If your
heart be hard, your convictions faint, your resolutions unsteady; all is
provided in the promise —I will pour out my Spirit upon you. Move
then, and act in dependence upon the Almighty Mover and Agent.
(Comp. Philip. ii. 12, 13.) Christian experience explains a mystery un-
fathomable to human reason. It harmonises man's energy and God's
grace. There is no straitening, no exclusion, with God. His promises
with one mouth assure a welcome to the willing heart. If it cannot
move, his Spirit can compel, point, draw it to the Saviour. Yea, in the
desire to turn, has not the Saviour already touched it, and drawn it to
But remember — the call—How long? is to an instant conversion;
not to the consideration or resolution of the morrow, but to the de-
cision of to-day. Delay is mockery of God. "Quench not the
Spirit " now striving, but which "will not always strive with man."
(1 Thess. v. 19. Gen. vi. 3.) Add not thus to the mass of guilt ready
to sink you into perdition.
24. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand,
and no man regarded: 25. But ye have set at nought all my counsel,
and would none of my reproof: 26. I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock, when your fear cometh; 27. When your fear cometh, as a
desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress
and anguish cometh upon you. 28. Then shall they call upon me, but
I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me;
29. For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the
Lord: 30. They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.
31. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled
with their own devices.
The Saviour calls by his word, his providence, his ministers, con-
science. But ye refused. Not till his calls have been refused, does he
thunder forth his warnings. But such grace, so rich and free, yet
rejected--who can take the guage of this guilt? All creatures beside
are his servants. (Ps. cxix. 91.) Man alone resists his yoke. He
stretched out his hand (Isa. lxv. 2) to afford help; to confer a blessing;
to beseech its acceptance; yea, even to command attention to his call.
(See Acts, xxi. 40.) But no man regarded. The wisest counsel, the most
solemn reproof, all is set at nought. Thus does he "endure with much
CHAP. I. 24-31. 11
long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." (Rom. ix. 22.)
But, O sinner! the day cometh, when he, who once yearned, and
wept, and prayed, and died, will have no pity (Ezek. v. 11, viii. 18,
with xxxiii. 11); when he shall be, as if he laughed and mocked at your
calamity (Comp. Judg. x. 14. Isa. i. 24); when he shall delight in the
exercise of his sovereign justice over you. (Comp. Deut. xxviii. 63.
Ezek. v. 13.) All will then be the desolation of realized fear (Chap. x.
24); sudden as a whirlwind;* the distress and anguish of utter despair.
(Job, xv. 24. Dan. v. 5, 6, 30.)
This is his solemn denunciation. And then, as if he could bear
these despisers no longer in his sight, he changes his address, and
pictures the scene itself in its strongest colours. They would not hear
when I called. Then shall they call upon me, and I will not answer. They
would not listen to my warnings; I will not listen to their cries. They
shall call upon me — yea, they shall seek me early; but they shall not find
me.† Prayer, once omnipotent, will then be powerless. ‘The last
judgment before the very last of all is come; the very outward court
or portal of hell;‡ the misery of deserted souls. To be forsaken of
God at any time is awful woe (Hos. ix. 12); how much more in the
time of trouble! (1 Sam. xxviii. 15.) But to have his countenance not
only turned: from us, but turned against us, his eternal frown instead of
his smile — this will be hell instead of heaven.
Does this unmeasured wrath seem inconsistent with a God of love?
"The Lord our God is a consuming fire." (Deut. iv. 24.) And think of
his knowledge, instead of being a delight, being hated; his fear not
chosen; none of his gracious counsel regarded; all his reproof despised.
Is it not just, that the sinner, thus obstinately bent upon the choice of
his own way, should not only gather, but eat the fruit of it? (Chap. xiii.
2); that it should enter into him, and become his substance; that he
should be filled with it, even to satiety;§ and that--not only daring
his road. (Num. xi. 4, 20. Ps. cvi. 13-15), but at the end, throughout
eternity? (Isa. iii. 11. Gal. vi. 7.) The moral elements of sin constitute
a hell of themselves, apart from the material fire. ‘The fruit of sin in
time, when arrived at full and finished maturity, is just the fruit of sin
* Chap. x. 25. Ps. lviii. 9. Isa. xvii. 13; xl. 24. Eastern travellers furnish abun-
dant illustration of this striking figure. Paxton's Illustrations of Scripture Geography,
pp. 412-416. — (Oliphant.)
† Matt. xxv. 6-12. Luke, xiii. 24-26. Dr. Owen admirably remarks upon this remon-
strance as a proof of the Personality of Wisdom — ‘If these things express not a person,
and that a Divine person, the Scripture gives us no due apprehension of anything what-
ever. Who is it that pours out the Holy Spirit? Who is it that men sin against, in
refusing to be obedient? Who is it, that in their distress they call upon, and seek early in
their trouble? The whole Scriptures declare to whom, and to whom alone, these things
belong, and may be ascribed.' — Expos. of Hebrews. Prelim. Exercit. xxvii. 8-12. We
might add — Who besides could threaten rebels with ruin, and promise peace and security
to the obedient?
‡ Bishop Reynolds' Works, p. 97]..
§ Chap. xiv. 14. Comp. xxv. 16. — ‘Ad nauseam implebuntur, et comedent, ita ut consi-
liorum vehementer tandem, sed nimis sero, ipsos prnniteant.'--MICHAELIS.
12 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
through eternity. It is merely the sinner reaping what he has sown.
It makes no violent or desultory step from sin in time to hell in eter-
nity. The one emerges from the other, as does the fruit from the
flower. It is simply, that the sinner be filled with his own ways, and that
he eat the fruit of his own devices.'*
This picture might seem to be the foreboding of despair. Yet, such
miracles of Divine grace have we seen; nay—such are we ourselves
--that we despair of none. We must not, however, soften down God's
own words by a misplaced presumptuous tenderness. Have we never
seen them verified in the dying sinner, who has neglected and scoffed
at the Gospel, and never sent up one cry for mercy on his soul? Is this
no warning of the danger of a protracted repentance; of the worthless-
ness of confessions extorted by terror; "howling on the bed; hot weep-
ing at the cross?" (Hos. vii. 14, with Luke, xviii. 13.) And does it not
solemnly tell us, that the day of grace has its limits (Gen. vi. 3. Heb.
iv. 7); that there is a knock, which will be the last knock; that a
sinner may be lost on this side of hell; intreated, pleaded with, wept
over—yet lost! lost even in the day of salvation? To "do despite to
the Spirit of grace" (mark the endearing name) —the Spirit of all kind-
ness, of alluring love; who pleads so tenderly with us—to wound him, as
it were, to the soul (Heb. x. 29, Gr.) — this is a provocation beyond words,
beyond thought. "There remaineth" only that, which might strike
into the very centre of the man, "the fearful looking for of judgment
and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. It is a fearful
thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Ib. verses 26, 27, 31.)
32. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity
of fools shall destroy them, 33. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall
dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
Again is the sinner's ruin laid at his own door. He turns away
from Wisdom's beseeching voice. He despises the only remedy. He
dies a suicide. It matters nothing to what we turn. If we turn away
from God, we turn from our true, our eternal interests. And, oh ! be it
remembered, that every inattention, every wilful neglect, is a step
towards this fearful apostasy. The word gradually becomes a burden,
then a scorn. The fool may seem to be spared from judgment. But
his prosperity is his destruction.† To desire ease, therefore, is to embrace
a deadly enemy. Who that knows his own heart will not feel it a
matter, not of congratulation, but of deep and anxious prayer—'In all
time of our wealth--Good Lord, deliver us?’‡
* Chalmers on Rom. vi. 21.
† Job, xxi. 11-13. Ps. 1v. 19; lxxiii. 3-20. Jer xii. 1-3. Luke, vi. 24, 25; xii. 16-20;
xvi. 19-24. Jam. v. 1-5. Examples of Israel. —Deut. xxxii. 15-25. Jer. xxii. 20-22.
Hc's. xi ii. 6-9. Amos, vi. 1.-6. Babylon.— Isa. xivii. 7-9. Moab. —Jer. xlviii. 1-15. Sodom.
--Ezek. xvi. 49. Tyre.—Ezek. xxvii. 2, 25-27. ‡ Litany.
CHAP. II. 1-6. 13
But to close with the sunshine of promise--Art thou, Reader,
like God's own child, hearkening unto him? Then art thou under his
cover, where no evil can reach thee; dwelling not only safely, but
assured of safety; quiet even from fear of evil (Chap. iii. 21—26. Job, v.
21. Ps. xci. 5; cxii. 6, 7. Isa. xxxii. 17—19); as Noah in the ark, in con-
scious security, while the world were perishing around him (Gen. vii.
11-16); as David, fearless in imminent danger, because realizing a
refuge in God. (Ps. iii. Comp. 1 Sam. xxx. 6.) Yes — even the coming
day of distress and anguish brings with it no fear of evil. (Contrasting
verses 26, 27. Luke, xxi. 26. Rev. vi. 16-18.) "The day will burn like
an oven." Thou shalt behold the world on fire, and feel thou hast lost,
thou canst lose, nothing. The "day of darkness and gloominess" will
be to thee a day of unclouded sunshine, the entrance into everlasting
joy. (Mal. iv. 1, 2. Luke, xxi. 28. 2 Pet. iii. 10-13.)
1. My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with
thee; 2. So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine,
heart to understanding: 3. Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and
liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4. If thou seekest her as silver,
and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5. Then shalt thou under-
stand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. 6. For the
Lord giveth wisdom a out of his mouth cometh knowledge and under-
Wisdom, having solemnly warned rebellious scorners, now instructs her
dutiful children. The dark question long before asked—"Where shall
wisdom be found?" (Job, xxviii. 12, 20, 21) —is now answered. It is
here set before us, as the fear and knowledge of God (Verse 6); a prin-
ciple of practical godliness (Verses 7-9); a preservation from besetting
temptations (Verses 10-19); and a guide into the right and safe path.
(Verse 20.) Hence follow the security of its scholars (Verse 21), and
the certain ruin of its ungodly despisers. (Verse 22.)
The rules for its attainment are such as the simplest comprehen-
sion can apply. Carefully pondered, and diligently improved, they will
furnish a key for the understanding of the whole word of God. Let
us examine them more distinctly.
Receive my words —Let them be "the seed cast into the ground of
an honest and good heart" (Luke, viii. 15)—a heart prepared of God.
(Chap. xvi. 1.) Read the book of God as one who "sat at the feet of
Jesus, and heard his word." (Luke, x. 39.) Like the Bereans, "receive
it with all readiness" (Acts, xvii. 11); like the Thessalonians, with
reverential faith, acknowledging its supreme authority (1 Thess. ii. 13).
14 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
Hide my commandments with thee. Carry them about with thee as thy
choicest treasure for greater security (Col. iii. 16, with Matt. xiii. 44);
as thy furniture always at hand for present use. (Chap. iv. 20, 21; vii. 3.
Job, xxii. 22.) Let the heart be the hiding-place for the treasure.
(Luke, ii. 19, 51. Ps. cxix. 11.) Satan can never snatch it thence.
But there must be an active, practical habit of attention.* Yet to
incline the ear, and apply the heart —"who is sufficient for these things?"
Oh! my God! let it be thine own work on me—in me. Thou alone
canst do it.† Let it be with me, as with thy Beloved Son—"Waken
my ear morning by morning to hear as the learned." (Isa. L. 4.) So let
me under thy grace "incline mine ear, and hear, that my soul may
live." (Ibid. lv. 3.)
Without this spirit of prayer--there may be attention and earnest-
ness ; yet not one spiritual impression upon the conscience; not one
ray of Divine light in the soul. Earthly wisdom is gained by study;
heavenly wisdom by prayer. Study may form a Biblical scholar;
prayer puts the heart under a heavenly tutorage, and therefore forms
the wise and spiritual Christian. The word first comes into the ears;
then it enters into the heart; there it is safely hid; thence rises the cry
—the lifting up of the voice. Thus, "the entrance of thy word giveth
light; it giveth understanding to the simple." (Ps. cxix. 130.) God
keeps the key of the treasure-house in his own hand. "For this he
will be enquired of" (Ezek. xxxvi. 37) to open it unto thee. We look
for no other inspiration than Divine grace to make his word clear and
impressive. Every verse read and meditated on furnishes material for
prayer. Every text prayed over opens a mine of "unsearchable riches,"
with a light from above, more clear and full than the most intelligent
exposition. David (Ps. cxix. 18, &c.) and his wise son (1 Kings, iii.
9-12) sought this learning upon their knees; and the most matured
Christian will continue to the end to lift up his voice for a more enlarged
knowledge of God. (Eph. i. 17, 18.)
But prayer must not stand in the stead of diligence. Let it rather
give energy to it.‡ The miner's indefatigable pains ; his invincible
* Chap. xxii. 17; xxiii. 12. The Emperor Constantine stood hours to hear the word;
replying, when asked to sit, ‘that he thought it wicked to give negligent ears, when the
truth handled was spoken of God.'--(Euseb. de Vita Constant. lib. iv.) Foxe records of
Edward VI. ‘That never was he present at any sermon commonly, but would excerp
them, or note them with his own hand.'—Vol. v. 700. Yet Bishop Hooper thought, that
his royal master's love for the preached word needed to be quickened. — Sermon 7th on Jonas.
† Chap. xx. 12. "Thou giving me the ear, I have heard, as thou wouldest thy word to
be heard."—JEROME on Hab. iii. 2.
‡ On one side is Luther's inestimable axiom — ‘Bene orasse est bene studuisse.' On
the other side is the balance of the old proverb—'Ora et labora.' Comp. Matt. xi. 12. ‘We
are all,' says the heavenly Leighton, ‘too little in the humble seeking and begging this
Divine knowledge; and that is the cause why we are so shallow and small proficients. "If
thou cry, and lift up thy voice for understanding, search for it as for hid treasures;" sit
down upon thy knees, and dig for it. That is the best posture, to fall right upon the
golden vein, and go deepest to know the mind of God, in searching the Scriptures, to be
CHAP. II. 1-6. 15
resolution; his untiring perseverance; seeking, yea, searching for hid
treasures,—such must be our searching into the sacred storehouse.*
To read, instead of "searching the Scriptures," is only to skim the
surface, and gather up a few superficial notions.† The rule of success
is--Dig up and down the field; and if the search be discouraging, dig
again. The patient industry of perusal and re-perusal will open the
embosomed treasure. "Surely there is a vein for the silver." (Job,
xxviii. 1.) Yet what miner would be content with the first ore? Would
he not search deeper and deeper, until he has possessed himself of the
whole; not satisfied with taking away much, but determined to leave
nothing? Thus let us daily explore "the length, and the breadth, and
the depth" of our boundless stores, until we be "filled with all the
fulness of God." (Eph. iii. 18, 19.)
This habit of living in the element of Scripture is invaluable. To
be filled from this Divine treasury; to have large portions of the word
daily passing through the mind; gives us a firmer grasp, and a more
suitable and diversified application of it. Yet this profit can only be
fully reaped in retirement. We may read the Scriptures in company.
But to search them, we must be alone with God. Here we learn to
apply ourselves wholly to the word, and the word wholly to us. This
enriching study gives a purer vein of sound judgment. The mere
reader often scarcely knows where to begin, and he performs the routine
without any definite object. His knowledge therefore must be scanty
and ineffective. Nor is the neglect of this habit less hurtful to the
Church. All fundamental errors and heresies in the Church may be
traced to this source —"Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures." (Matt.
xxii. 29.) They are mostly based on partial or disjointed statements of
truth. Truth separated from truth becomes error. But the mind
prayerfully occupied in the search of Divine truth—crying and lifting up
the voice--will never fail to discern the two great principles of godli-
directed and regulated in his ways; to be made skilful in ways of honouring him, and doing him
service. This neither man nor angels can teach him, but God alone.'—Sermon on Ps. cvii. 43.
* ‘Viscera terae extrahimus, ut digito gestiatur gemma, quam petimus. Quot manus
afferuntur, ut unus niteat articulus! Simili studio, industria, constantia, Sapientiae in-
quisitioni incumbendum erat.'—Pram. lib. ii. c. 65.
† Comp. John, v. 39. Gr.— a similar allusion to the miner's toil. ‘I can speak it by
experience'—said a wise man—' that there is little good to be gotten by reading the Bible
cursorily and carelessly. But do it daily and diligently, with attention and affection; and
you shall find such efficacy, as is to be found in no other book that can be named.'
ERASMUS'S Preface to Luke. Peter Martyr gives the same testimony, Epist. Dedic. to Com-
ment. on .Rom. The following relic of our renowned Elizabeth will be read both with
interest and profit. It was written on a blank leaf of a black-letter edition of St. Paul's
Epistles, which she used during her lonely imprisonment at Woodstock. The volume itself,
curiously embroidered by her own hand, is preserved in the Bodleian:—‘August. I walk
many times into the pleasant fields of the Holy Scriptures, where I pluck up the goodli-
some herbs of sentences by pruning, eat them by reading, chew them by musing, and lay
them up at length in the high seat of memorie, by gathering them together, that so, having
tasted their sweetness, I may the less perceive the bitterness of this miserable life.'—MISS
STRICKLAND'S Queens of England, vi. 113.
16 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
ness— The fear and knowledge of God. There is no peradventure nor
disappointment in this search— Then shalt thou understand. The Lord
giveth wisdom; it cometh out of his mouth. None shall search in vain.
(Job, xxxii. 8. Isa. xlviii. 17; liv. 13. Jam. i. 5, 17. Comp. Gen. xli.
38, 39. Exod. iv. 12. Dan. i. 17.) Never has apostasy from the faith
been connected with a prayerful and diligent study of the word of God.
7. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them
that walk uprightly. 8. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and pre-
serveth the way of his saints. 9. Then shalt thou understand righteous-
ness, and judgment, and equity; yea every good path.
Vanity (Eccles. i. 18) and foolishness (1 Cor. iii. 19) are the stamp
on the wisdom of this world. Here is sound wisdom. It looks at things
not in their notions, but in their proper substance. It is sound, because
it is practical. It is indeed a hid treasure (Verse 4); so safe, that no
spoiler can reach it; yet so free, that every sinner may have access to
it. Yes; in the Son of God himself "are hid all the treasures of wisdom
and knowledge." All these treasures in him are laid up for the righteous
--made over to them. (Col. ii. 3. 1 Cor. i. 30.) Oh let us draw upon
this infinite treasure daily, hourly, for light to direct an upright walk.
‘To those that are true and upright in heart, he will in his own good
time reveal true: and saving knowledge, and that sound spiritual wisdom,
which shall make them eternally happy.'* Our faithful God is a buckler
to them that walk uprightly. (Chap. xxx. 5. Ps. lxxxiv. 11.) His wisdom
covers is from that subtle sophistry, which would spoil us of our
treasure. (Chap. xxii. 12.) The way of the saints is indeed fraught
with danger; beset with temptation: yet is it safe (Chap. iv. 11; viii.
20. Deut. xxxiii. 26-29. 1 Sam. ii. 9. Ps. xxxvii. 23, 24 lvi. 9)--
kept and preserved by Almighty power. even on the very edge of the
enemy's ground. (1 Sam. xxv. 39; xxvii. 1, with xxix. 2 Cor. xii. 7-9.)
Such also is the completeness of this godly privilege, that not only
does it enlarge our knowledge of God (Verse 5), but it brings us to a
full understanding of every practical obligation. Indeed that only is
sound wisdom, that guides our feet into every, good path; that "makes
the man of God perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
(2 Tim. iii. 15-17.) The gracious wisdom that saves the soul, sanctifies
the heart and life. (Tit. ii. 11, 12.)
10. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto
thy soul; 11. Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep
We have seen the good that wisdom brings to us. (Verse 5.) Now
see the evil, from which it preserves us. But observe its place —in the
* Bishop Hall.
CHAP. II. 12-45. 17
heart. Here only has it any light, life, or power. (Chap. iv. 23.) Clear
knowledge floating in the head is deep ignorance. While it only
glitters in the understanding, it is dry, speculative, and barren. When
it entereth into the heart, light beams out, all the affections are engaged;
and how pleasant is it to the soul! (Chap. xxiv. 13, 14. Job, xxiii. 12.
Ps. cxix. 103. Jer. xv. 16.) Religion now is no lifeless notion. It is
handled, tasted, enjoyed. It gives a discreet and understanding direction
to the whole conduct. It becomes not only an external rule, but a
preserving, keeping principle (Chap. iv. 6; vi. 22-24. Ps. xvii. 4; cxix.
9-11, 104); like the military guard for the safety of the royal person.
(1 Sam. xxvi. 16. 2 Kings, xi. 11.) Before, it was the object of our
search. Now, having found it, it is our pleasure. Until it is so, it can
have no practical influence. It is "the man, whose delight is in the law
of the Lord," who is preserved from "walking in the counsel of the
ungodly." (Ps. i. 1, 2; comp. ch. vii. 4, 5.) Education, conviction, high
moral principle, are at best only partially operative. The reclaimed
drunkard may be true to his Temperance-pledge; but, if the "root of
bitterness" be untouched, he may be a Socialist or a Chartist, or revel
in some other equally ruinous course. External wickedness may be
exchanged for decent formality. Vagrant affections may be turned
from some object of vanity; yet not fixed upon the Divine centre of
attraction. The mind may be disciplined from utter unprofitableness,
only to indulge in the idolatry of talent, or the fascinations of poisoned
literature. The folly of the pride of life may be resisted; yet pride in
other of its multiform fruits tenderly cherished. In all, these cases, the
principle is unsubdued. The forsaken sin only makes way for some
more plausible, but not less deadly passion. The heart, cast into the
mould of the Gospel, is the only cover from those snares within and
without (Rom. vi. 17, 18. 2 Cor. iii. 18), which so imperceptibly, yet
so fatally, estrange us from God. Never, till the vital principle is
implanted, is their mischief discerned. Never, till then, does the heart
find its proper object, its true resting-place.
12. To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh
froward things; 13. Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the
ways of darkness; 14. Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the fro-
wardness of the wicked; 15. Whose ways are crooked, and they froward
in their paths.
The various snares for the young, about to be detailed, furnish a
fearful picture of the temptations to which our children are exposed.
Will it not awaken our earnest cries for their deep and solid conversion
to God; that wisdom may indeed enter into their hearts, and its pleasures
be really enjoyed; that they may have a religious taste, as well as a
religious education; that they may know the Gospel, not only in the
18 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
conviction of their conscience, or the excitement of their feelings, but
in the entire renewal of their hearts before God? This, and nothing
less, will preserve them from the snare of their cruel foe. Every town
and village swarms with his emissaries; first, initiated themselves into
the mysteries of his art; then, going forth, laborious and practised
teachers, well instructed for his murderous work. Against one of these
enticements we have been before warned. (Chap. i. 10-13.) Another
is here given: The tempter bears his character upon his lips; the evil
man that speaketh proud things against God and his law; like a poisonous
fountain sending up poisoned waters. Oh! how quickly does the con-
tamination spread! He does not sin in ignorance. He and his com-
panions* have probably been trained in the paths of uprightness. Having
come in contact with the pestilential breath, of the ungodly, they have
caught the contagion, and eagerly spread it. Readily do they leave the
paths, which they never heartily loved, to walk in the ways of darkness,
which their hearts do love. (Chap. iv. 16, 17. Job, xiv. 13-16. John,
iii. 19, 20.) Having left the hated paths, they become therefore fore-
most in iniquity. Poisoned themselves, they would poison all around
them. They rejoice, like Satan himself, to do evil † to draw their
fellow-sinners into the net; and they delight in those, who are most
froward in their wickedness.‡ Thus they plunge deeper and deeper
into sin, till they lose all traces of the straight way, and all their ways
become crooked, leading with sure steps to eternal ruin. Is not this the
picture, drawn to the very life, of many a Sunday-scholar, or a child of
godly parents, the subject of deep and tender care; "hardened through
the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. iii. 13), the neglect of faithful warning,
the stifling of solemn conviction? How do they deserve to be left of
God, who have first left him with such fearful aggravation! Young
man! especially shun companions, who are sinning against better
knowledge and instruction. They are hardened in devotedness to
their master's work. Oh! if misguided sinners could but see sin in its
horrid deformity and certain end, would not "their hearts meditate
terror?" But the crookedness of their ways hides the end from view.
Satan presents the bait, palliates the sin, covers the enormity, closes
the eyes, and conceals the certain end of all—Hell. (Ps. cxxv. 5.
Rom. vi. 21; with 2 Cor. iv. 3, 4.) The froward in their paths cannot
—will not—turn back.
16. To deliver thee from the strange woman, from the stranger, which flat-
tereth with her lips: 17. Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and
forgetteth the covenant of her God. 18. For her house inclineth unto
* The change to the plural number (the man—who leave) implies confederacy.
† Comp. Isa. iii. 9 ; Jer xi. 15. God's heavy judgment. 2 Thess. ii. 12.
‡ The sin of the heathen, Rom. i. 32.
CHAP. II. 16-22. 19
death, and her paths unto the dead. 19. None that go unto her return
again: neither take they hold of the paths of life.
Another snare of the fowler is here graphically pourtrayed.* Wisdom
hidden in the heart is, as before, the most effectual deliverance; restraining
even the eye from the hurtful object.† Ought not the strange woman,
even if she be born and baptized in a Christian land, to be counted as
a stranger and foreigner among us? One who had forsaken the guide
of her youth,§ and forgotten the solemn bond of the covenant of her God||
—what else could she be to the unwary but a vile flatterer with her
lips? (Chap. v. 3; vii. 5, 21.) The slave of unlawful desire; having
no guide but her own will; no pleasure but sensual gratification;
quickly she becomes her own and her victim's murderer. Her house
is the land of death. (Chap. v. 5.) Eternal death is her doom. (Gal. v.
19-21. Eph. v. 5. Rev. xxi. 8 ; xxii. 15.) Her paths incline to the dead,
with the awful monuments of Divine vengeance in olden time.¶ Some
instances indeed of deliverance are given; not so much examples, as
special miracles, of grace, to show how far the "arm of the Lord" can
reach.** But so rare are they, that it is as if scarcely none†† that go unto
her return again. And what madness is it to rush into the snare upon
so faint and glimmering hope of escape! (Eccles. vii. 26.) The spell of
lust palsies the grasp, by which its victim might have taken hold of the
paths of life for deliverance. He that is "saved, is so as by fire" (1 Cor.
iii. 15), the wonder of heaven and earth. "Is not this a brand plucked
out of the fire?" (Zech. iii. 2.)
20. That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the path of
the righteous: 21. For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the per-
fect shall remain in it; 22. But the wicked shall be cut of from the
earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.
Here is the consummating blessing of engrafted wisdom. Not only
* Chap. v. 3-20; vi. 24; vii. 5-23; xxii. 14; xxiii. 27. Some commentators give an
allegorical interpretation to these pictures, as descriptive of idolatry or false doctrine.
'But surely,' as Holden well observes, 'if there be any dependence to be placed upon the
language of the sacred writer, any propriety in his expressions, it is to be understood in its
literal sense, as a warning against the seduction of harlots. The spirit of allegorical inter-
pretation may make the Scriptures speak whatever is prompted by the wildest fancy, or
the deepest fanaticism.'—HOLDEN in loco. Comp. SCOTT in loco.
† Comp. Job, xxxi. 1, and our Lord's rule :—Matt. v. 28.
‡ The strange woman—a stranger. Two different words in the Hebrew, the latter ap-
pearing to mark a foreigner. Comp. Deut. xxiii. 17; Lev. xix. 29. It is, however, but too
evident that this abandoned class was not confined to foreigners. Comp. Gen. xxxviii.
15, 16; Judg. xi. 1; 1 Kings, iii. 18.
§ Though an harlot, she might be (Chap. vii. 5, 10, 19) or might have been (John, iv.
17, 18) a married woman.
|| Mal. ii. 14-16. Comp. Ezra, xvi. 59, 60. Does not this sacred view of the marriage
ordinance rebuke the legislative sanction which has now degraded it to a mere civil contract?
¶ 'The dead.'— SCOTT and Bishop PATRICK in loco. Comp. chap. ix. 18. Heb. MEDE'S
Learned Discourse, vii.
** Solomon's own case. Comp. Luke, vii. 37-50; 1 Cor. vi. 9-11.
†† None in comparison, very few. Comp. Isa. lix. 4; lxiv. 7.
20 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
does it deliver from evil men; but it guides us into the way of good men.
Clad with this Divine armour, thou shalt have courage, like Joseph, to
turn thy face from the enchantment of Sin (Gen.. xxxix. 9, 10), and keep
the paths of the righteous, rugged indeed, yet the only paths of rest and
security. (Cant. i. 7, 8. Jer. vi. 16.) Thus shalt thou dwell and remain
in the land, as its original inheritor (Ps. xxxvii. 9, 11, 22, 29, 34. Matt.
v. 5), having the best portion in earth, and ap infinitely better portion
in heaven ; while the wicked and transgressors, though they may "enjoy
the pleasures of sin for a season," shall be ultimately cut of rooted out,
and "driven away " into everlasting ruin. (Chap. x. 30; xiv. 32; xv. 25.
Ps. lii. 5–7 ; xcii. 7. Matt, iii. 10.)
And now, what serious reader of this chapter can fail to estimate
above all price the privilege of being early enlisted under the banner
of the cross; early taught in the ways, and disciplined in the school, of
the Bible; and early led to hide that blessed book in the heart, as the
rule of life, the principle of holiness, the guide to heaven!
Parents, sponsors, teachers of youth; ponder your deep respon-
sibility with unceasing prayer for special grace and wisdom. Beware
of glossing over sins with amiable or palliating terms. Let young
people be always led to look upon vicious; habits with horror, as the
most appalling evil. Discipline their vehemence of feeling, and all ill-
regulated excitement. Keep out of sight, as far as may be, books cal-
culated to inflame the imagination. To give an impulse to the glowing
passion may stimulate the rising corruption to the most malignant
fruitfulness. Oh! what wisdom is needed to guide, to repress, to bring
forth, develope safely, and to improve fully, the mind, energies, and sen-
sibilities of youth!
Young man! beware! Do not flatter thyself for a moment, that
God will ever wink at your sinful passions; that he will allow for them,
as slips and foibles of youth. They are the "cords of your own sins,"
which, if the power of God's grace break them not in time, will "hold"
you for eternity. (Chap. v. 22.) Shun then the society of sin, as the
infection of the plague. Keep thy distance from it, as from the pit of
destruction. Store thy mind with the preservative of heavenly wisdom.
Cultivate the taste for purer pleasures. Listen to the fatherly, pleading
remonstrance, inviting thee to thy rest---"'Wilt thou not from this
time cry unto me, ‘My Father! thou art the guide of my youth?’"
(Jer. iii. 4.)
CHAP. III. 1, 2. 21
1. My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments;
2. For length of days, long life, and peace shall they add to thee.
THIS is not the stern language of command. It is our Father's voice
in all the endearing persuasiveness of promise—My son—He had
before instructed us to seek and search after wisdom, and set out before
us its invaluable blessings. Now he calls us to bring it into practical
exercise--Forget not my law, The wilful forgetfulness of the heart
(Chap. ii. 17. Ps. ix. 17; x. 4; comp. chap. iv. 5; Deut. iv. 23; Ps.
cxix. 93, 176), not the infirmity of the memory (for which a special,
though we fear too much neglected, help, is provided) (John, xiv. 26)
is here implied. Let thine heart, like the ark of the testimony, be the
keeping place of my commandments. (Chap. iv. 4. Deut. xi. 18. Isa. li. 7;
with Ezek. xi. 20. Heb. ix. 4.) And is not this the child's desire---"0
that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes.?" (Ps. cxix. 6; comp.
verses 69, 129), while his conscious helplessness takes hold of the cove-
nant promise—"I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it
in their hearts." (Jer. xxxi. 33.)
Indeed no laws, but God's, bind the heart. All acceptable obedience
begins here. The heart is the first thing that wanders from God: the
first also that returns. Here is the vital principle, (Chap. iv. 23. Rom.
vi. 17.) All religion without it is a mere name; and, however the
professor may practise a thousand arts to put life into it, all must fail,
" The root being as rottenness, the blossom goes up as the dust."
(Isa. v. 24.) If every moment were filled up with deeds of benevolence,
or external piety; yet, except the heart was quickened to keep the com-
mandments, the voice of rebuke would be heard—"Who hath required
this at your hand?" (Isa. i. 11, 12.) "The inner man's delight"
(Rom. vii. 22) stamps the excellency upon the service. And this plea-
sure and perseverance in duty flow from a gracious change upon the
heart. (See Ezek. xi. 19; xxxvi. 26, 27.)
Herein also lies our interest, not less than our obligation. The
reward of this hearty obedience (need we add--a reward of grace?) is
a long and happy life--the highest earthly good. (Ps. xxxiv. 12;
comp. verse 16; iv. 10; ix. 11; x. 27; Job, x. 12.) The wicked indeed
live long, and the godly often "live out only half their days." The
wicked die in outward comfort; the righteous in outward trouble.
(Eccles. ix. 2.) But length of days is the promise to the righteous;
whether for earth or for heaven, as their Father deems fittest for them.
In itself the promise, as regards this life, has no charm. To the un-
22 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
godly it is a curse (Gen. iv. 11–15. Isa. lxv. 20); to the people of God
a trial of faith and patience (Gen. xxvii. 46; xlvii. 9. 1 Kings, xix. 4.
Job, vii. 16. Philip. i. 23, 24. Rev. xxii. 20); to all a weariness. (Chap.
xv. 15. Ps. xc. 10. Eccles. xii. 1.) But peace added forms the sunshine
of the toilsome way (Ps. cxix. 165. Isa. xxxii. 17; xlviii. 17, 18):
peace with God through the blood of sprinkling" (Rom. v. 1. Eph. ii.
13, 14. Col. i. 20); eternal peace in his home and in his bosom (Ps.
xxxvii. 37. Isa. lvii. 2); where all the fightings of a rebellious flesh,
all the counter-strivings of a perverse and ungovernable will, shall have
ceased for ever. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they
might have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gate
into the city." (Rev. xxii. 14.)
3. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; bind them about thy neck; write
them upon the table of thine heart; 4. So shalt thou find favour and
good understanding (marg., success,) in the sight of God and man.
Mercy and truth are the glorious perfections of God; always in com-
bined exercise (Gen. xxxii. 10. Ps. xxv. 10; lxxxv.10; lxxxix.14; c. 5;
cxvii. 2. Mic. vii. 18–20) for his people's good. While we rest upon
them for salvation, let us copy them in our profession. Are not his
children new-created-in his image? Let then our .Father's image be
manifested in us, "as his dear children." (Eph. iv. 24; v. 1, 2, 8.) Let
these graces be, as with God, in combination. ‘The want of one
buries the commendation of the other. Such a one is a merciful man to
the poor; but there is no truth in him. Such a one is very just in his
dealings, but as hard as flint.’* "Put on, as the elect of God, bowels
of mercy. But lie not one to another. Speak every man truth with
his neighbour." (Col. iii. 12, with 9. Eph. iv. 25.) Indeed, ‘as a rich
sparkling diamond added both value and lustre to a golden ring ; so do
these virtues of justice and mercy, well attempered, bring a rich addi-
tion of glory to the crowns of the greatest monarchs.'†
But these virtues must not be in temporary or occasional exercise.
Let them not forsake thee. Bind them as jewels about thy neck. (Chap.
vi. 21 ; vii. 3. Deut. vi. 8.) Let them be “written, not in tables of
stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” (Chap. vii. 3. 2 Cor. iii. 3.)
God indeed is not thy debtor; yet none shall serve him for nought.
The man who shows mercy to his neighbour shall find it with him.
(Ps. xviii. 25. Matt. v. 7.) "They that deal truly are his delight."
(Chap. xii. 22.) So shalt thou find favour and good understanding (Ps.
cxi. 10)--(success) (Josh. i. 7, 8. M. R.) —both in his sight, and in
the sight of man. Witness Joseph in Egypt (Gen. xxxix. 2–4, 21–23;
* F. TAYLOR’S Comment on Chap. i.-ix.; 4to. 1655-1657.
† Bishop SANDERSON's Sermon on Chap. xxiv. 10-12.
CHAP. III. 5, 6. 23
xli. 37–43; xlv.16); David in the family of Saul (1 Sam. xviii. 5,14–16);
the servants of God in the eastern courts;* the early Christians with
the people around them. (Acts, ii. 44-47.) What is more lovely than
thus to live down reproach by consistent godliness? What more
acceptable to God, or more edifying to the Church? (Rom. xiv. 16–19.)
The Scripture connects the favour of God with the favour of men, as if
the one was often the fruit of the other. (Comp. chap. xvi. 7.) Such
was the record of the holy child. (Luke, ii. 52.) The highest crown of
a youthful profession is conformity to this Divine pattern. (Comp.
1 Sam. ii. 26.)
5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own under-
standing. 6. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy
This is the polar-star of a child of God —faith in his Father's pro-
vidence, promises, and grace. The unmeaning expression of trust on
the lips of the ignorant and ungodly is a fearful delusion. What
ground of confidence can there be when there is, everything to fear?
Can the sinner's God--a just, avenging God—be an object of trust,
What owe we to that precious atonement, which has opened. up our
way to a reconciled God (Rom. v. 11), and assured our-confidence in
him as our Friend and Counsellor! Nor is this the cold assent of the
enlightened judgment. It is the trust of the heart, of all the heart. It
is a child-like, unwavering (Ps. Ixxviii. 2 Chron. xiv. 11. Contrast
Jer. i. 6–8) confidence in our Father's well-proved wisdom, faithfulness,
and love. Any limit to this confidence is a heinous provocation. (Ps.
lxxviii. 18-21.) He is truth itself. Therefore he would have us take
him at his word, and prove his word to the utmost extent of his power,
But our trust must not only be entire: it must be exclusive. No
other confidence, no confidence in the flesh, can consist with it. (Comp.
Philip. iii. 3.) Man with all his pride feels that he wants something to
lean to. As a fallen being, he naturally leans to himself, to his own
foolish notions and false fancies. Human power is his idol. His
understanding is his God. Many would rather be convicted of want of
principle than want of talent. Many bring God's truth to their own
bar, and cavil at it, as an excuse for rejecting it. In these and other
ways, man "trusteth to himself, and his heart departeth from the Lord."
(Jer. xvii. 5.) This is the history of the fall; they history of man from
the fall; the dominant sin of every unhumbled heart; the lamented
and resisted sin of every child of God. Need we advert to it as the sin
of youth? How rare is the sight of the "younger submitting unto the
elder!" (1 Pet. v. 5.) If advice is asked, is it not with the hope of
* Dan. i. 8, 9; iv. 8, 9; v. 11; vi. 1-3, 27, 28. —His three Companions, iii. 30; Ezra,
vii. 9-12. Neh. ii. 1-6. Mordecai, Esth. x. 3,
24 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
confirming a previously-formed purpose? In case of a contrary judg-
ment, the young man's own understanding usually decides the course.
Great reason then is there for the warning—Lean not to thine own
understanding. Once, indeed, it gave clear unclouded light, as man's
high prerogative, "created in the image of God." (Gen. i 26. Col.
iii. 10.) But now, degraded as it is by the fall (Ps. xlix. 20), and
darkened by the corruption of the heart (Eph. iv. 18), it must be a false
guide. Even in a prophet of God it proved a mistaken counsellor.
(2 Sam. vii. 2–5.) Yet though we refuse to lean to it, to follow it may
be implicit trust in the Lord; because it is a trust in his Divine power,
enlightening it, as his lamp for our direction. The Christian on his
knees, as if he cast his understanding away, confesses himself utterly
unable to guide his path. But see him in his active life. He carefully
improves his mind. He conscientiously follows its dictates. Thus
practical faith strengthens, not destroys, its power; invigorates, not
supersedes, exertion. (Comp. Gen. xxxii. 9-20; Neh. 4–20; iv. 9.).
It is therefore our plain duty not to neglect our understanding, but
to cultivate it diligently in all its faculties in a world of such ex-
tended 'knowledge, ignorance is the fruit of sloth dissipation, or mis-
guided delusion. But lean not to thine understanding. Lean—trust in
the Lord. Self-dependence is folly (Chap. xxviii..26), rebellion (Jer.
ii. 13 ; ix. 23), ruin. (Gen. iii. 5, 6. Isa. dlvii. 10, 11.) 'The great
folly of man in trials'---as Dr. Owen justly remarks—'is leaning to or
upon his own understanding and counsels. What is the issue of it?
Whenever in our trials we consult our own understandings, hearken to
self-reasonings, though they seem to be good, and tending to our pre-
servation; yet the principle of living by faith is stifled, and we shall in
the issue be cast down by our own counsels.'*
Next—let our confidence be uniform— all thy ways acknowledge
him. Take one step at a time, every step under Divine warrant and
direction. (Comp. Ezek. viii. 21–23; Neh. i.11.) Ever plane for your-
self in simple, dependence on God.† It is nothing less than self-idolatry
to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day
without his counsel. He loves to be consulted. Therefore take all thy
difficulties to be resolved by him. Be in the habit of going to him in
the first place—before self-will, self-pleasing,‡ self-wisdom, human
friends, convenience, expediency. Before any of these have been con-
sulted go to God at once. Consider no circumstances too clear to need
his direction.§ In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy con-
* Treatise on Temptation, chap. viii. Comp. Job, xviii 7; Hos. x. 8.
† Jam. iv. 15. If the Lord will— as Fuller remarks with his pithy quaintness —'a
parenthesis, and yet the most important part of the sentence.'
‡ See the awful hypocrisy, and judgment of asking counsel of God under this deadly
influence. Jer. xlii. 1-3, 19-22. Ezek. xiv. 1-6.
§ See the evil consequence of this inconsiderate neglect. Jos. ix. 14.
CHAP. III. 7, 8. 25
cerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let him be supreme.
Who of us has not found the unspeakable "peace" of bringing to God
matters too minute or individual to be entrusted to the most confidential
ear?* Abraham thus acknowledged God. Wheresoever he pitched a
tent for himself there was always an altar for God. (Gen. xii. 7; xiii. 18.)
In choosing a wife for his son there was a singular absence of world-
liness. No mention was made of riches, honour, beauty; only of what
concerned the name and honour of his God. (Gen. xxiv. 1–8. Comp.
also his servant, verse 12-27.) Thus did the wise man's father in all
his ways acknowledge God, asking counsel of him in all his difficulties,
and never disappointed.†
Now if we be weaned from the idolatry of making our bosom our
oracle, and our heart our counsellor if in true poverty of spirit we go
every morning to our Lord, as knowing not how to guide ourselves for
this day; our eye constantly looking upward for direction (Ps. v. 3;
cxliii. 8–10; xxv. 4, 5), the light will come down.‡ He shall direct thy
paths. We want no new revelations or visible tokens. (Such as Exod.
xiii. 21, 22.) Study the word with prayer. Mark the Divine Spirit
shedding light upon it. Compare it with the observation of the pro-
vidences of the day (Ps. cvii. 43); not judging by constitutional bias
(a most doubtful interpreter), but pondering with sober, practical,
reverential faith. Let the will be kept in a quiet, subdued, cheerful
readiness, to move, stay, retreat, turn to the right hand onto the left, at
the Lord's bidding; always remembering that is best which is least our
own doing, and that a pliable spirit ever secures the needful guidance.
(Comp. Ps. xxxii. 8, 9; Isa. xlviii. 17, 18, with xxi. 21.) We may "be
led," for the exercise of our faith, "in a way that we know not" (Isa.
xlii. 16; l. 10) —perhaps a way of disappointment, or even of mistake.
Yet no step well prayed over will bring ultimate regret. Though the
promise will not render us infallible; our very error will be overruled
for deeper humiliation and self-knowledge; and thus even this myste-
rious direction will in the end be gratefully acknowledged, "He led me
forth in the right way." (Ps. cvii. 7.)
7. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and, depart from evil;
8. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
This warning against self-confidence is closely connected with the
preceding verse. The wise in his own eyes is he, that leans to his own
* Phil. iv. 6, 7. "In every thing."
† 1 Sam. xxiii. 9-11; xxx. 6-8. 2 Sam. ii. 1; v. 19. Comp. the smarting rod from the
neglect of this godly habit. 1 Sam. xxvii. 1, with xxix.
‡ Matt. vi. 22. Comp. Ps. xxxii. 8; xxxiv. 5. Neh. i. 4-11; ii. 4-8. Sir M. Hale left
it on record, when nearly eighty years old, as his experience, that whenever he had com-
mitted his way simply and unreservedly to the Lord, he had always directed his path.
26 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
understanding.* Such wisdom is folly and self-delusion.† Put it away, and
let it be thy wisdom to fear the Lord, and depart from evil. How striking
is this connexion between the fear of God and the fear of sin. (Chap.
xiv. 27; xvi. 6. Gen. xxxix. 9, 10. Neh. v. 15. Job, xxviii. 28.)
Where God is honoured, sin is hated, loathed, and resisted. (Rom. vii.
18-24.) It lives indeed; but it is conderined to die. (Ibid. vi.-6.) It
cleaves to the child of God; but his heart departs from it. Often is it
the cause of the sickness of the body:‡ always of the soul. (Hos. vii. 9.)
The departure from it in the exercise of self-denial and godly discipline,
is health to the body. (Verses 1, 2.) The soul, drooping under the bane-
ful influence of spiritual disease, revives in fruitfulness. (Hos. xiv. 5-7.)
The man that feareth the Lord, under "the healing beams of the Sun of
Righteousness, goeth forth" (Mal. iv. 2), as from his sick chamber, full
of life and Christian energy. "The joy of the Lord is his strength."
(Neh. viii. 10.)
9. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine
increase; 10. So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses
shall burst out with new wine.
This rule of sacrifice is a costly precept to the worldling and the
formalist. But to the servant of God, is it not a privilege to lay aside
a portion of substance with this sacred stamp,—"This is for God?"
(1 Cor. xvi. 2.) The first-fruits of the increase were the acknowledg-
ment of redemption from Egypt. (Exod. xiii. 12, 13. Deut. xxvi. 1-40.)
And shall we, redeemed from sin, Satan, death, and hell, deny the claim?
(1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.) 'Well, may we think our substance due, where we
owe ourselves.'§ Nay, could we be happy in spending that substance
on ourselves, which he has given us wherewith to honour him? (Luke,
xix. 13. Contrast xii. 16-22.) What a value, what a dignity, does it
give to the talent, that he should condescend to employ it for his own
grand, eternal purposes! This sacred devotedness is, moreover, the
true road to riches. (Chap. xi. 24.) God challenges us to "prove him
now herewith," if the abundant harvest, and the overflowing vintage,
shall not put unbelief and covetousness to shame. (Mal. iii. 10. 2 Chron.
xxxi. 5-10.) A niggardly spirit is, therefore, narrow policy; contract-
ing the harvest, by sparing the seed-corn. (2 Cor. ix. 6. Hag. i. 4-6.)
* Verse 5. Comp. xxiii. 4. Rom. xii. 3-18. See the mind of God expressed in that
solemn woe. (Isa. v. 21.)
† Even a heathen could remark—‘I suppose that many might have attained to wisdom,
had they not thought they had already attained it.' SENECA, de Ira, Lib. iii. c. 36. Comp.
1 Cor. viii. 2; Gal. vi. 3. ‘Our knowledge should hold the light before us, and help us for
the better discovery of our ignorance, and so dispose us to humility, not pride.’—Bp. SAN-
DERSON's Sermon on Rom. xiv. 3.
‡ In sensual indulgence--Chap. v. 8-11. Intemperance—xxiii. 29, 30. As a judicial
infliction — Ps. xxxii. 3, 4; xxxviii. 1-8. 1 Cor. xi. 30.
§ Bishop Hall.
CHAP. III. 11, 12. 27
There is no presumption, or enthusiasm in looking for the literal fulfil-
ment of the promise. If we doubt the temporal, should we not suspect
our assumed confidence in the spiritual, engagements? For if the
Lord's word be insufficient security for our substance: much more must
it be for the infinitely weightier deposit of our soul!
The rule and obligation are therefore clear. The law dealt with
us as children, and prescribed the exact amount. The gospel treats us
as men, and leaves it to circumstance, principle, and conscience. This
consecration of substance, as the seed-corn for the harvest, is as strange
to the world, as would be the casting of the seed in the earth to an
untutored savage. Yet is the result secure in both cases; only with
this difference, that the temper of the earthly sower has no influence on
the harvest; whereas the fruitfulness of the spiritual harvest mainly
depends upon the principles of the work. Most important is it to be-
ware of bye-ends and selfish principles; that we honour the Lord, not
ourselves. Let there be a self-renouncing spirit (1 Chron. xxix. 14-16.
Matt, vi. 1-4; xxv. 37-39), implicit faith (1 Kings, xvii. 12-16), con-
straining love (Rom. xii. 1. 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. Matt x. 42), special
regard to his own people. And doubt not, but he will affix his own
seal—"Those that honour me, I will honour." (I Sam. ii. 30. Comp.
chap. xi. 25; xxii. 9; Heb. vi. 10.)
11. My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his
correction; 12. For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a
father the son in whom he delighteth.
Prosperity and adversity in their wise mixture and proportion, form
our present condition. Each is equally fruitful in opportunity of honour-
ing the Lord; in prosperity—by the full consecration of our substance
(Verses 9, 10); in adversity —by a humble and cheerful submission to
his dispensation. 'In prosperity it is well to expect the rod; and sup-
pose it be his pleasure, let it not make thee either doubt of his gracious
Providence, or out of impatience take any unlawful course to remove
it from thee.’* His "exhortation"---the Apostle reminds us—"speak-
eth to us, as unto children."† And indeed, under no character does
he approach so near to us, and endear himself so closely to us, as that
of a Father, Most precious at all times, especially under correction, is
the privilege of adoption—My son.
Nowhere, indeed, are our corruptions so manifest, or our graces so
shining, as under the rod. We need it as much as our daily bread.
Children of God are still children of Adam; with Adam's will, pride,
* Bishop Patrick.
† Heb. xii. 5. We must not overlook the Apostle's testimony to the Divine inspiration
of the Book; showing the instruction throughout to be the teaching of our Heavenly
Father to his beloved children.
28 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
independence, and waywardness. And nothing more distinctly requires
Divine teaching and grace, than how to preserve in our behaviour the
just mean between hardness and despondency; neither despising the
chastening of the Lord, nor being weary of his correction.*
Too often, while we guard against an error on the right hand, we
forget one not less hurtful on the left; like the man, who, in guarding
against the precipice on the one side, rushes into some fearful hazard on
the other. The middle path is the right path. Doubtless the Lord means
his chastening to be felt. (2 Sam. xv. 26. Ps. xxxix. 10, 11.) A leviathan
iron-heartedness (Job, xli. 24-29. Jer. v. 3) is the stubbornness of the
flesh, not the triumph of the spirit; a frame most offensive to him, and
most unseemly for the reception of his gracious discipline. To be as
though no pain was felt or cared for; sullenly to "kick against the
pricks " (Acts, ix. 5. Comp. chap. xix. 3), and to dare God to do his
worst--this is, indeed, to despise his chastening.† But pride will lift
up the head, stiff and unbending: many a stroke does it require to
bring it down.
Yet, alas! this is not the sin only of the ungodly. Often do we see
the child of God in an undutiful spirit (Job, v. 17. Heb. xii. 6), caring
little whether his Father smiles or frowns. The chastening is lightly
passed over. He considers only second causes, or immediate instru-
ments. (Amos, iii. 6.) He is irritated by looking at the rod, rather than
at the hand that inflicts it. (2 Chron. xvi. 10-12.) He shrinks from
searching into the cause. He disregards his Father's loving voice and
purpose. Hence there is no softening humilation (Ps. xxxii. 3, 4);
no "acceptance of the punishment of iniquity" (Lev. xxvi. 41, 43);
no child-like submission; no exercise of faiths in looking for support.
Is not this to despise the chastening of the Lord?
But while some despise the hand of God as light, others "faint "
under it as heavy. (Heb. xii. 5. Ps. xxxviii. 2, 3; xxxix. 10.) They
are weary of his correction. Beware of yielding to heartless despondency,
or fretful impatience. (Ps. lxxiii. 14; lxxvii. 7.40.) Resist hard and
dishonourable thoughts of God. (Gen. xlii. 3; Judg. vi. 13. Jonah,
iv. 9.) Their very admission spreads destruction. Very apt are we to
judge amiss of our Father's dealings;‡ to neglect present duty; to
cherish a morbid brooding over our sorrows (Job, vi. 1-16): to forget
our title and privilege of adoption (Heb. xii. 5); or in obstinate grief
to "refuse to be comforted" with the "hope of the end" (Ps, lxxvii. 2.
* The philosopher's definition is striking and accurate, but infinitely above his own
Tactical standard-‘Non sentire mala tua, non est hominis; et non ferre, non est viri.’—
(It is inhuman not to feel thine afflictions, and unmanly not to bear them.)—SENECA, Consol.
ad Polyb. c. 36.
† Comp. Pharaoh—Exod. vii. 23. Jehoram—2 Kings vi. 31. Ahaz—2 Chron.
xxviii. 22. Israel--Isa. i. 6. Zeph. iii. 2. Comp. Job, xv. 25, 26.
‡ Chap xxiv. 10. Isa. xl. 27-31; Comp. 1 Sam. xxvii.1; 1 Kings, xix. 4; Job
iii. 1-3; Jer. xx. 14-18.
CHAP. III. 11, 12. 29
Comp. Jer. xxix. 11; xxxi. 15-17.) And is not this to be weary of his
But these rules imply much more than their negative meaning.
Instead of despising, reverence the chastening of the Lord. Let it be a
solemn remembrance to thee, that thou art under thy Father's correction.
(Lam. iii. 28, 29. Mic. vii. 9.) Receive it then in good part. Instead
of being weary of it, hang upon his chastening hand, and pour thy
very soul into his bosom. (1 Sam. i. 10–15.) Kiss the rod. (Job,
xxxiv. 31, 32. 1 Pet. v. 6.) Acknowledge its humbling, but enriching,
benefit. (Ps. cxix. 67–71.) Expect a richer blessing from sustaining grace,
than from the removal of the deprecated affliction. (2 Cor. xii. 7–10.)
After all we must add, that chastening is a trial to the flesh (Heb.
xii. 11); yet overruled by wonder-working wisdom and faithfulness to
an end above and contrary to its nature. This, very rod was sent in
love to the soul. Perhaps we were living at ease, or in heartless back-
sliding. The awakening voice called us to our Bible and to prayer.
Thus eyeing God in it, we see it to be love, not wrath; receiving, not
casting out. We might perhaps have wished it a little altered; that
the weight had been shifted, and the cross a little smoothed, where it
pressed upon the shoulder. But now that our views are cleared, we
discern blessing enough to swallow up the most poignant smart. We
see the "needs-be," for our preservation from imminent danger (Comp.
Chap. i. 32; Ps. lv. 19), and for "the trial of our faith." We come to
an unhesitating verdict in favour of the absolute perfection of the dis-
pensation. (Ps. li. 4 ; cxix. 75.) Faith understands the reasons of the
discipline (I Pet. i. 6, 7); acknowledges it as a part of his gracious
providence (Deut. viii. 2, 15, 16), and the provision of his everlasting
covenant (Ps. lxxxix. 30–32); waits to see the end of the Lord (Jam.
v. 11); and meanwhile draws its main support fro the seal of adoption.
For indeed it is the declared test of our legitimacy. (Heb. xii. 7, 8.
Rev. iii. 19.) He corrects whom he loves, the son it whom he delighteth.
His discipline is that of the family; not of the school; much less of the
prison. He corrects his children, not as criminal, but as those whom
he beholds without spot, "made accepted in the eloved." (Eph. i. 6.)
Nor is there caprice, as too often with an earthly father, in his chastise-
ment. (Heb. xii. 10.) It is wisdom in the spirit of love. " He
rejoiceth over his child to do him good" (der. xxxi. 41); yet as a wise
and affectionate father, he would not suffer him to be ruined for want
of correction. (Chap. xiii. 24. Deut. viii. 5.) It is correction—this is
for your humbling. It is only correction—this is your consolation.
The intolerable sting of penal infliction is removed. Here then the
child has rest indeed?* The rod is now meekly, yea—thankfully
borne, because it is in the hand of One supreme in wisdom, as in love,
* 1 Sam. iii. 18 2 Sam. xv. 25; xvi. 10, 11. Ps. xxxix. 9. Job, i. 21. Isa. xxxix. 8.
30 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
who knows what is our need, and how to apply the discipline. He
chooses the fittest time (Isa, xxx. 18. I Pet. v. 6), the surest yet
gentlest means, the most considerate measure (Isa. xxvii. 7, 8. Jer.
xxx. 11. Lam. iii. 31-33), the most effective instruments. And, com-
paring our affliction with our sin, is not the marvel that it is so light?
(Ezra, ix. 13. Ps. ciii. 10. Lam. iii. 39.) Have we not more than
deserved it all? 'I love the rod of my heavenly Father'-- exclaimed
the saintly Fletcher---'How gentle are the stripes I feel! How heavy
those I deserve!'* '0 God, I have made an ill use of thy mercies, if
I have not learnt to be content with thy correction.'†
Should he then at any dark season ask —"If it be so, why am I
thus?" (Gen. xxv. 22)—you are thus, because this is your Father's
training discipline for heaven.‡ He loves, thee so well, that he will
bestow all pains upon thee. He will melt thee in his furnace, that he
may stamp thee with his image. (Isa. xxvii. 9; xlviii. 10. Zech. xiii.
9. Mal. iii. 3.) He would make thee "partake of his holiness" (Heb.
xii. 10), that thou mightest partake of his happiness. But unless thou
enter into his mind, thou wilt, so far as thou canst, defeat his purpose,
and lose the benefit— a loss never to be told? (Comp. Jer. vi. 8.)
Look then well into the dispensation. (Job, x. 2. Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24.
Eccles. vii. 14. Lam. iii. 40.) Every rod is thy Father's messenger;
and he will not bear to have his messenger despised. Be anxious to
"hear the rod; and who hath appointed it " (Mic. vi. 9); well knowing
that "the Lord hath not done without cause all that he hath done."
(Ezek. xiv. 23.) Be more concerned to have it sanctified than removed;
yea, above all things deprecate its removal, until it has fully wrought
its appointed work. (Isa. iv. 4.) We can but admire that considerate
dispensation, which uses these "light" afflictions as the means of
deliverance from the most deadly evil. Should flesh and blood rebel;
should the earthly tabernacle shake with "the blow of his hand" (Ps.
xxxix. 10, ut supra): yet shalt thou bless him throughout eternity, that
even by this crushing discipline he should accomplish his most merciful
purpose. Meanwhile, give him unlimited confidence; and if some steps
of the way are hid, wait and "see the end." (Job, xxiii. 8-10; Jam.
v. 11.) Watch for the first whispers of his will, the first intimation of
his Providence, the guidance of his eye. (Ps. xxxii. 8, 9.) Many a
stroke will thus be saved to thy peace and quietness. This indeed is a
golden opportunity, requiring for its due improvement much study,
prayer, and retirement. No communion is so close, so endearing,
so fruitful, as with a chastening God. Never is Christ more precious to
Comp. John, xviii. 11. The heathen philosopher has accurately drawn the line—‘Chastise-
meat is on the sufferer's account. Vengeance is for the satisfaction of him that inflicts it.'
—ARIST. de Rhetor b. i. e. 10.
* Life of Rev. H. Venn, pp. 238, 584. † Bishop Hall.
‡ Job, xxxiii. 14-28; xxxvi. 8-10. Heb. xii. 7, 8, ut supra.---The term refers to the
education of children.
CHAP. III. 13-15. 31
us; his love never more sweet, than in the midst,--yea, in the very
form, of chastening. Never have we so full a manifestation of the
Divine character (Ps. cxix. 75), and perfections. What we have before
learnt in theory, we here learn experimentally; and what we have
before imperfectly understood, is here more filly revealed.* With
regard to the full weight and duration of the trial, and all its minute
circumstances, successively so bitter and piercing—we may ask—
‘Which of them could be spared?' It is quite clear as to the whole
time, the whole weight, the whole number and variety of circumstances
that all and each were as necessary as any part. Where could we have
stopped, without making that stop fatal to the great end? What does
it all mean, but the Lord holding to his determination to save us;
all the thoughts of his heart, every exercise of his, power, centering
in this purpose of his sovereign mercy?
13. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth (marg.
draweth out), understanding; 14. For the merchandize of it is better
than the merchandize of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold; 15.
She is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire
are not to be compared to her.
Who does not admire this glowing picture of happiness?† The
wisdom of this world affords no such happiness, (Eccles. i. 18.) Yet
cold and barren is admiration, without an interest in the blessing. The
happy man has found a treasure, where possibly the least expected it,
under the chastening of the Lord. David‡ and Manasseh (2 Chron.
xxxiii. 12, 13) found (as who hath not found?) ‘God's house of correc-
tion to be a school of instruction.’§ Under all circumstances, however,
prayerful diligence in the search of wisdom ensues success. (Chap. ii.
1-6.) The naturally wise man is a fool in heavenly wisdom. The man
of prayer getteth understanding, draweth it out to light, as out of the hid
treasure.|| We wonder not at the merchant-man's concentrated interest,
at his untiring toil.¶ Here the wise man, himself enriched with the
* Job, xlii. 5. Comp. the Apostle's most instructive and encouraging exposition, Heb.
xii. There is some slight variation between Heb. xii. 6, and verse. 12. The one describes
the mode and subject of the chastening. The other shows the Father's delight in his chas-
tened child. Some by inverting the first clause, ver. 12, grossly pervert the meaning, and
conclude themselves to be the Lord's children, because they are afflicted. But though every
child is corrected, not every one that is corrected is a child. The same hand—but not the
same character—gives the stroke,' to the godly and the ungodly. The scourge of the
Judge is widely different from the rod of the Father. Comp. I Sam. xxviii. 15-20, with
2 Sam. xii. 13, 14 ; Chap. i. 26. Isa. i. 24, with Jer. xxxi. 18-2. Hos. xi. 7. 8; also Isa.
xxvii. 7-9. Nor is it chastening, but the endurance of chastening, according to the rules pre-
scribed, that seals our adoption. Heb. xii. 7.
† Happy man —Heb. plural. Comp. Ps. i. 1; xxxii. 1. Blessedness—to mark supreme
and perfect happiness. See the beautiful description of Wisdom, Ecclus xxiv. 1-19.
‡ Ps. cxix. 67, 71. Hence he commends it, Ps. xciv. 12. § TRAPP, in LOCO.
|| M. R. Comp. Chap. viii. 35. M. R. Chap. ii. 4. Matt. xiii. 44
¶ Impiger extremos currit mercator ad Indos,
Per mare pauperiem fugiens, per saxa, per ignes. HOR. Epis. i. 1.45.
32 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
merchandize of fine gold (1 Kings, ix. 26-28) points out to us a better
merchandize. It is the search for " the pearl of great price," more precious
than rubies, yea, than all things that could, be desired.* So the Apostle
judged. So upon a trial he found it. All the world's show, all his
former valuable "gain, he counted as dung and dross" for "the true
wisdom"—"the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord."
(Philip. iii. 4-8.) Never will solid happiness be known without this
singleness of judgment and purpose. This inestimable blessing must
have the throne. The waverer and the half-seeker fall short. Deter-
mined perseverance wins the prize. (Philip. iii. 12-14.)
16. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and
honour; 17. Her ways are ways of pleasantness; and all her paths are
peace; 18. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and
happy is every one that retaineth her.
Behold this heavenly Queen dispensing her blessings! Her right
hand presents the promise of both worlds (Verse 2. Ps. xci. 16. 1 Tim.
vi. 8)—the rich enjoyment of the world's lawful comforts (1 Tim. vi. 17),
and the yet higher joy of serving the Lord and his church--a privilege
for which the Apostle was content for a while to be detained from
heaven. (Philip. i. 23, 24.) Add length of days for eternity to the
balance; and the amount sets at nought all computation. Her left
hand offers riches and honour,† so far as may be for her children's good;
yet in their highest splendour, only a faint shadow of her more "durable
riches," and of the honour of a heavenly crown.
But what say we of her ways? Is she a sullen matron, who enter-
tains her followers only on sighs and tears; so that to obtain the joys
of the next life, we must bid eternal adieu to the contents of this life;
‘we must never more expect a cheerful hour, a clear day, a bright
thought to shine upon us?'‡ This is the world's creed--a slander of
the great forger of lies, to deter us from wisdom's ways. They must be
ways of pleasantness, because "Thus saith the Lord." And if we feel
them not to be so, we know them not.
The man of pleasure utterly mistakes both his object and his pursuit.
The only happiness worth seeking is found here; that which will live
in all circumstances, and abide the ceaseless changes of this mortal life.
The ways may be dark and lonely; yet howl does the sunshine of recon-
ciliation beam upon their entrance! Every step is lighted from above,
and strewed with promises; a step in happiness, a step to heaven.
* Matt. xiii. 45, 46, with Chap. xxiii. 28. Comp. Chap. viii. 11, 19; Job, xxviii. 15-18.
Most truly does the great Moralist define Wisdom to be ‘The knowledge of the most
honourable things'—e]pisthmh twn timiwtatwn.—ARIST. Ethic. b. vi. chap. vii.
† See the treasures of right and hand promised to the wise man himself, 1 Kings,
‡ BISHOP HOPKINS' Works, iv 354, 855.
CHAP. III. 16-18 33
Wisdom's work is its own reward (Ps. xix. 11. isa. xxxii. 17)— strict-
ness without bondage. (Matt. xi. 29, 30.) God rules children, not slaves.
They work neither from compulsion, nor for hire; but from an ingenuous
principle of gratitude to their Benefactor; filial delight in their Father.
Pleasant therefore must be the labour—yea—the sacrifices--of love;
short the path; cheerful the way, when the heart goes freely in it.
It is saying far too little, that the trials of these ways are not incon-
sistent with their pleasantness. They are the very principles of the most
elevated pleasure. ‘The verdict of Christ,’— says Dr. South—‘makes
the discipline of self-denial and the cross—those terrible blows to flesh
and blood—the indispensable requisite to the being his disciples.'*
And yet, paradoxical as it may appear, in this deep gloom is the
sunshine of joy. For if our natural will be "enmity to God" (Rom.
viii. 7), it must be the enemy to our own happiness. Our pleasure,
therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge it; to mortify sinful appetites,
that only "bring forth fruit unto death." (Ib. vii. 5.) Even what
may be called the austerities of godliness are mere joyous than "the
pleasures of sin." Far better to cross the will; than to wound the
conscience. The very chains of Christ are glorious. (Acts, v. 41, 42;
xvi. 24, 25.) Moses endured not "his reproach" as a trial. He "es-
teemed it as a treasure--greater riches than the treasures of Egypt."
(Heb. xi. 26.) Our principles are never more consoling than when we
are making a sacrifice for them. Hannah yielded up her dearest earthly
joy. But did she sink under the trial? Did she grudge the sacrifice?
"Hannah prayed and said—My heart rejoiceth in the Lord" (1 Sam. i.
26; ii. 1); while—to show that none serve him for nought—for one
child that was resigned, five were added. (Ib. ii. 20, 21.)
In fact, the world have no just conception of the real character of
wisdom's ways. Religion to them is associated with cold, heartless
forms and irksome restraints—much to do, but nothing to enjoy. But
they only see half the prospect. They see what religion takes away.
But they see not what it gives. They cannot discern, that, while it
denies sinful, it abounds in spiritual, pleasures. We drudge in the ways
of sin. But we "shall sing in the ways of the Lord (Isa. lvii.10; with
Ps. cxxxviii. 5.) Here is the only thing below worth the name of joy
—solid—abiding—overflowing—satisfying (Hab. iii. 18)--God's
own joy. (John, xv. 11; xvii. 13.) It is not a mere impulse of vapid
sentimentalism, but a principle of Christian energy, invigorating for
duty, supporting for trial. (Neh. viii. 10.) Here, then, "we have less
toil, and reap more fruit." For will not any reasonable man, upon the
hearing of the names of the things only, presently yield, that "love, joy,
peace, and gentleness," which are "fruits of the Spirit," are far more
lovely, more easy, fuller of sweetness and calmness, less vexatious, than
* Sermons, vol. i. Matt. xvi. 24.
34 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
are "hatreds, emulations, murders," and those other "works of the
But ways of pleasantness are not always safe. Yet all wisdom's paths
are peace. The deadly breach is healed. The cloud vanishes. Heaven
smiles. And peace, the Saviour's last bequest, is realised even in the
heat of "this world's tribulation." (John, xvi. 33.) "The feet are shod"
for the rugged path "with the preparation of the Gospel of peace."
(Eph. vi. 15; with Deut. xxxiii. 25.) The subjugation of the will, the
sorrow of contrition, the weariness of the (cross--all end in peace.
(Ps. xxxvii. 37. Isa. lvii. 2, with 20, 21.)
Yet nothing can make wisdom's ways palatable to a carnal mind.
"They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;" so that,
as "they cannot please God," God's ways cannot please them. (Rom.
viii. 5, 8.) Nor again—though wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness,
are wisdom's children always happy. Sometimes a naturally morose
temper gives a gloomy tinge to religion. Professors forget, that it is
no matter of option, whether they should be happy or not; that it is
their obligation no less than their privilege to be so; that the commands
of God on this duty† carry weight, and demand obedience. The pro-
phets in the burst of their rapture search heaven and earth, bring forth
the most beautiful objects of nature; nay— call the inanimate creation
into glowing sympathy with the joys of the Gospel. (Ps. xcvi. 11-13;
xcviii. Isa. xliv. 23; lv. 12, 13.) A rejoicing spirit is the character of
the servants of God (Phil. iii. 3. Acts, ii. 46, 47), specially in affliction.
(2 Con vi. 10; viii. 2. 1 Pet. i. 6-8.) Is them thy happiness clouded?
Has there not been some deviation from wisdom's paths? Thy God calls
thee to search, to humble thyself, to return. (Jer. ii. 17-19. Hos. v.
15; vi. 1.)
Lastly—to the glory, beauty, and fruitfulness of wisdom, the Para-
dise of God alone can furnish the full counterpart. (Rev. ii. 7.) ‘The
tree of life was the means ordained of God for the preservation of last-
ing life, and continual vigour and health, before man sinned. So true
wisdom maintains man in the spiritual life of God's grace, and the
communion of his Spirit.'‡ Once our way was barred up, and none
could touch her. (Gen. iii. 22-24.) Now our way is opened to her in
a better paradise. (Heb. x. 19-22.) We "sit down under her shadow
with great delight." Her branches bend down upon this world of sin
and misery. Her clusters hang within the reach of the youngest child,
and "the fruit is sweet to the taste" (Cant. ii. 3); sweeter than ever
man tasted, since he became an exile from Eden. For what is so
refreshing, as near communion with God; access to him; boldness in
* Bishop SANDERSON'S Sermon on Gal. v. 22, 23.
† Such as Ps. xxxii. 11; xxxvii. 4. Phil. iv. 4. 1 These. v. 16. Comp. the warning,
Deut. xxviii. 47, 48. ‡ Diodati.
CHAP. III. 19, 20. 35
his presence; admission to his most holy delights? And if the earthly
shadow and fruit be so rich, what will be "on the other side of the
river,"--her monthly fruits, her healing leaves! (Rev. xxii. 2.) And
yet only the weeping, wrestling soul can lay hold upon the beloved
object (Gen. xxxii. 26–28. Hos. xii. 3, 4), and embrace it, in despite of
all the enemy's struggle to loosen the grasp. (Matt. xi. 12.) And
even, when Almighty power has enabled us to lay hold, the same con-
tinual miracle of grace, the same continually-renewed effort of faith, is
needed to retain it. (1 Tim. vi. 12.) There must be "continuance in
the ways" (Isa. lxiv. 5. John, viii. 31); "settled, rooted, and grounded"
(Col. i. 23 ; ii. 7); "keeping the works;" holding the beginning of our
confidence steadfast "unto the end." (Rev. ii. 26. Heb. iii. 6, 14.)
Happy is every one that retaineth her. The promises are "to him that over-
cometh." (Rev. ii. iii.) God honours perseverance in the weakest saint.
This lovely description of wisdom's blessing is no fancy picture, but
Divine reality. Rest not, till thine heart is filled with its substance.
Take it to the Lord in prayer; and ere long, thou shalt rejoice in thy
19. The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth: by understanding hath he
established (marg. prepared) the heavens. 20. By his knowledge the
depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
We have seen wisdom, as it is in man, with all its enriching bless-
ings. Here we behold its majesty, as it is in the bosom of God, and
gloriously displayed in his works. 'Hereby he showeth, that this
wisdom, whereof he speaketh, was everlasting, because it was before all
creatures; and that all things, even the whole world, were made by
it.’* Behold it founding the earth "upon nothing;" and yet "so sure,
that it cannot be moved." (Job, xxvi. 7. Ps. xciii. 1.) See how this
great Architect hath established the heavens, fixing all their bright lumi-
naries in their respective orbits (Gen. i. 14–16. Ps., cxxxvi. 5. Jer. x. 12;
li. 15)—‘such a glorious canopy set with such sparkling diamonds!'†
Each of these departments declares his knowledge—In the earth, by
breaking up the depths, and gathering them up into rivers and streams
for the refreshment of man. (Chap. viii. 24–29 Gen. i. 9, 10. Job,
xxxviii. 8–12. Ps. civ. 8–13)—In the heavens, by collecting the mois-
ture into dew, and dropping down fatness upon the parched ground;‡
each of these countless drops falling from this Fountain of life. (Job,
xxxviii. 28.) Thus does every particle of the universe glitter with
infinite skill. (Ps. civ. 24.) The earth is its pavement, and the
* Reformers' Notes. † Leighton's beautiful fragment On Ps. viii. Works, vol. ii.
‡ Gen. xxvii. 28, 29. There is a philosophical difficulty in supposing "the clouds to drop
down the dew," which is the moisture rising from the lower re ion, sometimes a very few
feet from the earth. In the East, however, the dew is said to fall from a considerable
height. Gesenius states, that the Hebrew word represents a ‘gentle rain.'
36 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
heavens--its ceiling; both miracles of wisdom, to "declare the glory of
God." (Ps. xix. 1.) How beautiful is the uniformity of the two great
systems of God! Both are the work of the same Architect. Both dis-
play the wisdom and knowledge of God. (John, i. 1-14. Eph. i. 8; iii.
10. Col. i. 13-17.) The universe is a parable, a mirror of the gospel.
The manifestation of these Divine Perfections in the field of Creation opens
a rich provision for our happiness. Much more let their more glorious
exhibition in the great work of redemption fill us with adoring praise
—"O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”*
21. My son, let them not depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and
discretion: 22. So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace unto thy
Again we listen to Wisdom's voice. Her repetitions are not "vain
repetitions;" but well fitted to impress upon youth (Isa. xxviii. 9, 10)
the weight of her instructions. (Philip. iii. 1; 2 Pet. i. 12.) As thy
much-loved treasure, as thy daily guide--let them not depart from, thine
eyes. (Chap. vii. 1-3.) Worse than valueless are they, if received as
notions; of inestimable price, if kept as principles. God's teaching is
sound wisdom (Deut. iv. 9; vi. 8. Josh. i. 7, 8); full of light, and sub-
stance; transfiguring Divine truth with heavenly glory. Therefore
keep it close to thine heart. Exercise it in that practical discretion,
which disciplines all our tempers and duties. Man's wisdom is utterly
devoid of all energy. The soul, "alienated from the life of God" (Eph.
iv. 18), is in a state of death, until "the entrance of God's word giveth
light and understanding" (Ps. cxix. 130)--"the light of life." (John,
viii. 12.) "The excellency of this knowledge is, that," "with this
light and understanding," it giveth life to them that have it. (Eccles.
vii. 12. Comp. Chap iv. 22; vi. 23.) Every truth under its influence
springs up into the new creature with heavenly glow, and with all the
grace of "the beauty of the Lord;"† outshining, even in the most
despised garb, the richest glory of an earthly drown.
23. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safer, and thy foot shall not stumble.
24. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie
* Rom. xi. 33. Full of profound thought are the words of our admirable Hooker—
'That which moveth God to work is Goodness; that which ordereth his work is Wisdom;
that which perfecteth his work is Power. All things, which God in these times and sea-
sons hath brought forth, were eternally and before all time in God; as a work unbegun is
in the artificer, which afterwards bringeth it into effect. Therefore whatsoever we do
behold now in this present world, it was enwrapped within the bowels of Divine Mercy,
written in the book of Eternal Wisdom, and held in the hands of Omnipotent Power, the
first foundations of the earth being as yet unlaid. So that all things which God hath
made are in that respect the Offspring of God. They are in him, as effects in their highest
cause. He likewise is actually in them; the assistance and influence of his Deity is their
life.'—Book v. lvi. 5.
† Ps. xc. 17; cxlix. 4. Comp. Chap. i. 9. 'Grace to thy jaws'— is the Douay Version,
with the Marg. Explanation — 'Merit for the words of thy Month.'
CHAP. III. 23-26. 37
down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. 25. Be not afraid of sudden fear,
neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. 26. For the
Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.
The habitual eyeing of the word keeps the feet in a slippery path.
(Chap. iv. 11, 12. Ps. xvii. 4; xxxvii. 23; cxix. 9, 11, 133.) David,
from inattention to wisdom's words, "well-nigh slipped." (Ps. lxxiii.
2-17.) Peter from the same neglect fearfully stumbled. (Matt. xxvi.
33-35, 69-75.) But our sleeping hours, no less than our waking steps,
are divinely guarded. "So he giveth his beloved sleep." (Ps. cxxvii. 2.
Comp. cxxi. 3, 4.) "Underneath them are the everlasting arms." (Deut.
xxxiii. 27. Comp. Lev. xxvi. 6.) They enjoy a child-like repose, sleep-
ing in his bosom without fear. Thus did David 'sleep in God, and in
a state of salvation,' amid the tumultuous warfare with his undutiful
son!* Peter in prison, in chains, between two soldiers, on the eve of
his probable execution, when "there seemed but step between him
and death"--Yet in such a place, in such company, at such a moment,
did he lie down so fearless, and sleep so sweetly; that even the shining
light failed to disturb him, and an angel's stroke was needed to awaken
him.† What would not many in troublous times, waking at every
stir, give for one night of this sweet sleep! And yet bow many such
nights have we enjoyed; waking, as Jacob on his stony—we might
add—downy, pillar, in the consciousness of our Father's 'keeping!
But where has been our renewed dedication to God? (Gen. xxxvii.
But sudden fear may come. Yet be not afraid. (Job, v. 21--24.
Comp. 2 Kings, vi. 16, 17 ; Jer. xxxix. 15-18.) It is the desolation of
the wicked. They must fear. (Isa. lvii. 20, 21.) Child of God ! run you
to your confidence, and "be safe." (Chap. xiv. 26; xviii. 10. Isa. xxvi.
1, 20.) Surely he shall keep thy foot from being taken. (Ps. xci. 1-3.)
Noah found this security in the flood of the ungodly; Lot in the
destruction of Sodom (2 Pet. ii. 5-9); the Christians in Pella, in the
desolation of the wicked city. Luther sung his song of confidence--"God
is our refuge and strength." (Ps. xlvi.) In the consummating desola-
tion, when it cometh--what will then be the sudden fear—the undis-
mayed confidence? "All the-tribes of the earth will mourn" at the
sight of their despised Saviour—then their Judge. (Chap. i. 27. Luke,
xxi. 26. Rev. i. 7; vi. 15-17.) But, "when ye see these thing's, then
look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh."
(Luke, xxi. 28. Comp. 2 Thess. i. 7-10.)
* ‘Obdormit in Deo, et in statu salutis.'—Lyra.--Ps. iii. iv. 8. Compare the beautiful
picture, Ezek. xxxiv. 25-28, in contrast with chap. iv. 16. Deut. xxviii. 66.
† Acts, xii. 6, 7. Our Martyrologist records of John Rogers, the proto-martyr in the
Marian persecution, that ‘on the morning of his execution, being Found fast asleep, scarce
with much shogging could he be awaked.'—FOXE, vi. 699.
38 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
27. Withhold not good from them to whom it is due (the owners thereof,
marg.), when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. 28. Say not
unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to-morrow I will give;
when thou hast it by thee.
The wise man now comes to practical points. He shows the fruit
of selfishness—withholding dues. Many are the forms of this dis-
honesty—borrowing without payment (Ps. xxxvii. 21), evading the
taxes;* "keeping back the labourer's hire.” (Jam. v. 4. Jer. xxii. 13-17.
Comp. Gen. xxxi. 7; Dent. xxiv. 14, 15.) But the, rule probes deeper
than this surface. If we have no legal debt to any, we have a Gospel
debt to all. (Rom. xiii. 8.) Even the poor is bound by this universal
law to his poorer neighbour. (Eph. iv. 28. Comp. 2 Cor. viii. 1-3.)
Every one has a claim upon our love. (Comp. Luke, x. 29-37.) Every
opportunity of doing good is our call to do so. Our neighbours are the
real owners of our good. (Marg.) The Lord of all has transferred his
right to them, with a special reference to "his own brethren." (Gal. vi.
10. Mark, ix. 41. Matt. xxv. 31-40.) Kindness is therefore a matter,
not of option, but of obligation; an act of justice no less than of
mercy. Not indeed that it may be demanded by our fellow-men. But
the obligation lies upon conscience; and to withhold the due will be our
eternal condemnation. (Matt. xxv. 41-45. Comp. Deut. xxiii. 3, 4.)
Christian benevolence will also do good in the kindest manner.
Delay is an offence against the law of love. Too often the cold repulse
—Go, and come again—is a cover for selfishness. There is a secret
hope that the matter will be forgotten, dropped, or taken up by some
other party. Often an application is put off from mere thoughtlessness.
We have it by us.† But it does not just now suit our convenience.
This is a serious injury to the applicant. A little given in time of need
is more than a larger sum when the time is gone by. We should cul-
tivate a quick sensibility of the wants and sufferings of others; putting
ourselves as much as possible in their place; not only "doing good,"
but "ready to every good work." (Tit. iii. 1. 1 Tim. vi. 18.) If we are
to "do justly"--which sometimes (as in the' punishment of criminals)
may be our sorrow; we are like our gracious God (Mic. vii. 18), to love
mercy (Ib. vi. 8. Comp. Rom. xii. 8; 2 Cor. ix. 7); seizing the pre-
sent, perhaps the only (Chap. xxvii. 1. Gal. vi. 10), opportunity; rather
anticipating the need than wantonly or thoughtlessly delaying to
relieve it. (2 Cor. viii. 10.) The Gospel presents every neighbour
before us as a brother or sister needing our help, and to be loved and
cared for "as ourselves." (Lev. xix. 18.) Whey do we not more readily
* The example and admonition of Christ are evidently directed against this iniquity.
Matt. xvii. 24-27; xxii. 15-21,
† See how Job rebutted his friend's accusation, xxii. 9, with xxxi. 16. Comp. Jam.
CHAP. III. 29, 30. 39
acknowledge this standard? The Lord raise us from our selfishness,
and mould us to his own image of mercy and love!*
29. Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.
30. Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.
The command—withhold not good—is naturally followed by the
forbidding to do evil. The treachery here rebuked was a scandal even
to a heathen.† It is generally abhorred by the world, and should be
doubly hated by a godly man. With him all should be clear and open
as the day. An evil device against a neighbour, from whatever cause, is
a cursed sin. (Chap. vi. 14-18. Deut. xxvii. 24. Ps. xxxv. 20; lv. 20.
Jer. xviii. 18-20.) But to take occasion from confidence reposed,
betrays "the wisdom that descendeth not from above—devilish."
(Jam. iii. 15.) Such was the craft of Jacob's sons against the unsus-
pecting Shechemites (Gen. xxxiv. 13-29; xlix. 5-7); Saul's malice
against David, when under his protection (1 Sam. xviii. 22-26); Joab's
murder of Abner and Amasa (2 Sam. iii. 27; xx. 9, 10); Israel's of
Gedaliah. (Jer. xli. 1, 2.) No trial cuts so keenly. (Ps. lv. 12-14.)
This was one of the bitters in the Saviour's cup of suffering. (John,
xiii. 21, with Ps. xli. 9; Matt. xxvi. 46-50). And many a wounded
spirit has been cheered by his sympathy with this poignant sorrow.
(Heb. iv. 15.)
Yet we must guard not only against secret malice, but against
causeless strivings. A propensity to embroil ourselves in quarrels
(Chap. xvii. 14; xviii. 6 ; xxv. 8, 9) kindles strife, instead of following
the rule of peace. (Born. xii. 18.) This spirit is a great hindrance to
holiness (Heb. xii. 14. Col. iii. 12-15), and inconsistent with a true
servant of God. (2 Tim. ii. 24.) Irritable persons, strongly insist upon
their rights, or what they conceive to be due to them from others. "Is
there not"—say they—"a cause?" But impartial observers fre-
quently judge it to be striving without cause; that no harm has been
done; none at least to justify the breach of love; that more love on
one hand, and more forbearance on the other, would have prevented
the breach; that "there is utterly a fault--Why do ye not rather
take wrong?" (1 Cor. vi. 1-7.) How valuable is a close application
* Dr. South's caustic application may be wholesome probing--"Was ever the hungry
fed, or the naked clothed, with good looks or fair speeches? These are but thin garments
to keep out the cold, and but a slender repast to conjure down the rage of a craving appe-
tite. My enemy, perhaps, is ready to starve; and I tell him I am heartily glad to see him,
and should be very ready to serve him. But still my hand is closed, and my purse shut.
I neither bring him to my table, nor lodge him under my roof. He asks for bread, and I
give him a compliment—a thing indeed not so hard as a stone, but altogether as dry. I
treat him with art and outside, and lastly, at parting, with all the ceremonial of dearness,
I shake him by the hand, but put nothing into it. I play with his distress, and daily
with that which was not to be dallied with—want, and misery, and a clamorous
necessity.'—Sermon on Matt. v. 44.
† 'Fallere eum, qui laesus non esset, nisi credidisset.'—CICERO, pro Roscio.
40 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
of the self-denying law of Christ! (Such as Matt. v. 39-41.) How
earnestly should we seek from himself his own meek and loving spirit!
(1 Pet. ii. 21–23.) '0 Lord, pour into our hearts that most excellent
gift of charity, the very bond of peace, and of all virtues without
which, whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee:*
31. Envy thou not the oppressor (a man of violence, marg.) and choose
none of his ways. 32. For the froward is an abomination to the Lord;
but his secret is with the righteous.
What is there--we might ask--to envy in the oppressor? The love
of power is a ruling passion; and the slave of his own will enjoys a
brutish pleasure in tyranny. Yet little reason have we to envy him,
much less to choose his ways. (Chap. xxiv. 1. Eccles. iv. 1.) Can he
be happy, going froward in his way, in perverse contradiction to the
will of the Lord? with the frown of Heaven? 'For he who hateth
nothing that he hath made, abhors those who have thus marred them-
selves. They are not only abominable, but, ‘an abomination in his
sight.’† Really to be envied, or rather ardently, to be desired, is the lot
of the righteous, enriched with the secret of the Lord--"his covenant and
fatherly affection, which is hid and secret from the world."‡ Sinners are
an abomination. Saints are his delight. ‘They are God's friends, to
whom he familiarly imparts, as men used to do to their friends, his
mind and counsels, or his secret favour and comforts, to which other
men are strangers.'§ Communion with himself (John, xiv. 21–23);
peace (Phil. iv. 6, 7); joy (Chap. xiv. 10); assurance (Rev. ii. 17);
teaching (Matt. xi. 25; xiii. 11–17; xvi. 17. John, vii. 17. 1 Cor. ii.
12, 15); confidence (John, xv. 15); an enlightened apprehension of
providence (Gen. xviii. 17, 18. Ps. cvii. 43); yea, all the blessings of
his covenant (Ps. xxv. 14)—this is the secret between God and the
soul, an enclosed portion, hidden from the world, sealed to his beloved
people. Here then--child of God--a dwell in the secret place of the
Most High." (Ib. xci. 1.) If he hath given to thee the knowledge of
himself, and of thine interest in him; and to the froward oppressor only
worldly advantage; is it not the seal of his love to thee, and rejection
of him? Is it not infinitely more to dwell on high with thy God, than
in the vain pomp of an ungodly world? (Ib. lxXxiv. 10.)
33. The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked; but he blesseth the
habitation of the just.
The contrast between the sinner and the saint, affects us not only
* Collect for Quinquagesima Sunday. 1 Cor. xiii. 4-7.
† HENRY in loco, chap. vi. 14-18; xi. 20; xv. 9. Mic. i. 1, 2. See the Lord's open
judgment, Exod. ix. 16; xiv. 28. Isa. xxxvii. 21-38. Acts, xii. 1, 2, 23.
§ POOL’S Annotations, 'He loves them dearly as his intimste friends, to whom he com-
municates the very secrets of his heart.'—DIODATI.
CHAP. III. 33. 41
personally, but relatively. The curse or blessing of the Lord follows us
to our homes. Shall we then envy the wicked, with his cup of earthly
joy filled to the brim? The curse of the Lord is in his house (Mal. ii. 2)
— a "curse that never cometh causeless." (Chap. xxvi. 2.) Let him
think —'It is my Maker's curse--how awful, that my being and my
curse should come from the same sacred source!' It is not the impo-
tent wishing of ill. Could we trace its deadly work, we should see the
man wasting, withering, consuming under it. Observe "the roll in the
house of the thief, and of the swearer—twenty cubits long"— a long
catalogue of woes; "flying"—to mark its swiftness; "remaining in
the midst of the house; consuming it even with the timbers and stones
thereof." (Zech. v. 1-4.) Is this an idle dream? Surely— but for the
blindness of the heart, the wicked would see the naked sword hanging
by a hair over his head, or the awful "hand-writing upon the wall,"
solemnly proclaiming —"There is no peace— saith my God— unto
the wicked." (Dan. v. 5, 6. Isa. lvii. 21.) Vainly will the proud worm
resist. Ahab multiplied his house beyond all human average, as if to
set at defiance the curse pronounced against it. Yet at one stroke all
were swept away. (1 Kings, xxi. 20-22. 2 Kings, x. 1-11.) Similar
instances* abundantly prove whose words shall stand — man's or
God's. (Jer. xliv. 28.) "Who hath hardened himself against him, and
prospered? Who hath resisted his will?" (Job ix. 4. Rom. ix. 19.)
But bright is the sunshine of the just. Not only is the secret of the
Lord with their souls, but his blessing on their habitation. And when he
blesseth, who can reverse it? (Num. xxiii. 20. Job xxxiv. 29.) Many
a homely cottage, tenanted by a child of Abraham, shines more splen-
didly than the princely palace of the ungodly.† An heir of glory
dwells here. A family altar of prayer and praise consecrates it as the
temple of Jehovah. (Gen. xii. 8.) Promises, like clouds of blessings,
rest over it. God has been honoured, and God will honour. (2 Sam.
vi. 11. Jer. xxxv. 18, 19. 2 Tim. i. 18.) "They that dwell under his
shadow shall return." (Hos. xiv. 7.) Is then my house under the curse
or blessing of the Lord? Let my God be honoured in his own gifts: that
I and mine may be manifestly sealed with the full tokens of his love.
34. Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
Two Apostles have combined with the wise man, to set out this
rule of the Divine government.‡ On no point is the mind of God more
fully declared than against pride — the spirit of scorning. It displaces
* JEROBOAM: 1 Kings, xiv. 9—11; Amos, vii. 9. BAASHA: 1 Kings, xvi. 1-4, 12, 113.
JEHU: 2 Kings, xv. 8-12. Hos. I. 4. HAZAEL: Amos, i. 4. JEHOIAKIM: Jer. xxii. 13-19.
CONIAH: Ib. 24-30. ESAU: Obad. 18. Comp. chap. xiv. 11; xv. 25.
† Job, xxix. 4. Isa. iv 5. Enqa kai oi qeoi. ‘The gods are within’— said the Heathen
philosopher of his poor cottage.—F. TAYLOR in loco.
‡ James, iv. 6. 1 Peter, v. 5.—The exact quotation of the LXX. save the substitution of
42 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
man, and would, if possible, displace God himself. Jealous therefore of
his own glory, he sets himself in battle array, as against the usurper of
his prerogative, the rebel against his dominion.* Witness the Babel-
builders (Gen. xi. 1–9); Pharaoh (Exod. xiv. 13); Sennacherib (Isa.
xxxvii. 33–38); the proud opposers of his Gospel (Ps. ii. 1–4)--all the
objects of his scorn. But most hateful to him is the sinner, that will not
submit to his righteousness, that scorns the corner-stone of salvation.
How fearfully does it then become "a rock of offence," of eternal ruin!
(Rorn. x. 3, with ix. 32, 33. Matt. xxi. 41–44.) Surely without doubt,
without way of escape from his frown, he scorneth the scorners.
A lowly spirit--a deep conviction of utter nothingness and guilt--
is a most adorning grace. Nor is it an occasional or temporary feeling,
the result of some unexpected hateful disclosure, but an habit, "cloth-
ing" the man (1 Pet. v. 5) "from the sole of the foot to the head." It
combines the highest elevation of joy with the deepest abasement of
spirit. And those who sink the lowest, stand nearest to the most
exalted advancement. For "he that scorneth the scorners, giveth grace to
the lowly"—"more grace" (Jam. iv. 6), till his work is perfected in
them. ‘He pours it out plentifully upon humble hearts. His sweet
dews and showers of grace slide off the mountains of pride, and fall on
the low valleys of humble hearts, and make them pleasant and fertile.' †
The centurion (Matt. viii. 5–10); the Canaanite (Ib. xv. 21–28); the
penitent (Luke, vii. 44–50); the publican (Ib xviii. 13, 14); such as
these are the objects of his favour. (Isa. lxvi. 2.) Their hearts are his
dwelling-place. (Ib. lvii. 15.) Their inheritance is his kingdom.
(Matt. v. 3.) The soul, swelling with its proud fancies, has no room
for his humbling grace. Blessed exchange of the little idol of self-
esteem for Him; who alone has the right! when even his own graces
are only desired, as instruments to set out his glory.
35. The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools,
(exalteth the fools, marg.)
This is the last contrast drawn to restrain our envy at the prosperity
of the wicked. (Verse 31.) It carries us forward to the coming day,
when all shall "discern" in the full light of eternity. (Mal. iii. 18.) The
wise--the heirs of glory--are identified with the lowly (Verse 34; xi. 2)
—the heirs of grace. Self-knowledge--the principle of lowliness--
is the very substance of wisdom. Their inheritance also is one--grace
and glory. (Ps. lxxxiv. 11.) For what higher glory can there be than
qeoj for Kurioj. ‘The Apostle's quotation of this passage, though somewhat different in
the words, is the same in the sense with the original. For scorners in Scripture are proud,
insolent, wicked men. And to resist such persons, by rendering their schemes abortive, and
by humbling them, is emphatically called a scorning of them.'--MACKNIGHT on James, iv. 6.
* antitassetai, LXX.
† Leighton on 1 Pet. v. 5. Compare also on Chap. iii. 8.
CHAP. IV. 1, 2. 43
the grace, which “hath redeemed” a vile worm of, the earth, "and made
him a king and priest unto God?" (Rev. v. 9, 10.) Oh! let the re-
deemed cherish honourable thoughts of their present glory. Be careful
to clear it from the defilement and degradation of the world's dust, and
enjoy it in adoring praise to Him, who hath chosen thee to this so un-
deserved grace. (Ib. i. 5, 6.)
But who can tell the glory, of the after inheritance—not like this
world's glory—the shadow of a name; but real, solid; ‘an infinite
gain, in the exchange of dross for down-weight of pure gold.’* All
occasion of sin and temptation is shut out for ever; ‘The tree of know-
ledge shall be without enclosure. There shall be neither lust, nor
forbidden fruit; no withholding of desirable knowledge, nor affectation
of undesirable. The glorified spirits touch nothing that can defile, and
defile nothing they touch.'† But after all, the glory of this glory will
be communion and likeness with our Lord---"to be with him—to
behold his glory." (John, xvii. 24. 1 John, iii. 2.) We need not pry too
minutely. Thus much is clear. The value of our inheritance is beyond
all price; its happiness unspeakable; its security unchangeable; its
duration eternity. The wise shall inherit glory. "They that be wise
shall shine as the brightness of the firmament forever and ever." (Dan.
xii. 3. Matt. xiii. 43.)
Oh! will not the fools then discover the vanity of this world's
glory, too late to, make a wise choice? Shame is their present fruit.
(Chap. xiii. 18; x. 9.) Honour even now sits unseemly upon them.
(Chap. xxvi. 1.) But "what fruit will eternity bring" of those things,
whereof they will "then be ashamed?" (Rom. vi, 21.) Truly shame
will be their promotion. Their fame will be infamous, their disgrace
conspicuous; lifting them up, like Haman upon his elevated gallows
(Esther, vii. 9)—'a gazing-stock to the, world.' How solemn and
complete will be the great separation for eternity! "Many that sleep
in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to
shame and everlasting contempt." (Dan. xii. 2.)
1. Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know under-
standing. 2. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.
SURELY these frequent repetitions are as the angel's visit to the prophet
—"waking him, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep." (Zech. iv. 1.)
A mind like Solomon's, "large even as the sand that is on the sea-
shore" (1 Kings, iv. 29), might readily have made every sentence a
* Leighton on 1 Pet. v. 10.
† Howe's Blessedness of the Righteous. Chap. v. xi.
44 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
fresh discovery of his knowledge. But more suitable to our sluggish
and forgetful heart is "the word of the Lord, precept upon precept."
(Isa. xxviii. 13.) Children are often bereft of destitute of a parental
instructor. Here these orphans are taken up, and called to hear the
instruction of a father. For truly does the wise man, like the Apostle
in after days, "exhort and charge, as a father cloth his children."
(1 Thess. ii. 11.)
Solomon evidently speaks from the mouth of God, declaring his
doctrine--his law. Therefore he claims attention to know understanding,
for I give you good doctrine. (Eccles. xii. 9-11.) To many, exciting
(Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32), curious and speculative (2 Tim. iv. 3, 4),
compromising (Isa. xxx. 10. Jer. v. 31), self-righteous, self-exalting
doctrine (Gal. i. 6, 7), is more attractive. But--young people!—
remember—that which humbles the soul before God; that which
exhibits the free grace of the Gospel; which melt’s down the will,
consecrates the heart, imbues' with the spirit of the cross--however
unpalatable to the flesh—is alone good doctrine for the soul. Therefore
forsake it not. Do not be carried away with the senseless cry,--’Every-
body thinks contrary.' What is the judgment of the mass of mankind
worth on the great subject of religion? "This their way is their folly."
This is God's stamp upon man's "saying," however applauded and
"approved" by successive generations. (Ps. xlix. 13.) Shall this world's
judgment be preferred to the word of God?" The morning" of the
resurrection will reflect the glory of eternity upon the choice of the
narrow path. (Ib. v. 14.)
3. For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my
mother. 4. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart
retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. 5. Get wisdom,
get understanding; forget it not; neither decline from the words of my
mouth. 6. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and
she shall keep thee. 7. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get
wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding. 8. Exalt her, and
she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost
embrace her. 9. She shall give to thine head to ornament of grace; a
crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
Solomon here claims our attention as a teacher of youth, on account
of his own godly education by such a father. He was a tender child
(1 Chron. xxii. 5: xxix. 1), well-beloved, as an only son.* The more
dearly he was loved, the more carefully was he taught. Thus we are
brought into the family of "the man after God's heart," to hear him
* Not really the only son. 2 Sam. v. 14. 1 Chron. iii. 5. Thus Isaac was called the only
son (i.e. most beloved), when Ishmael was another son: Gen, xxii. 2, 12, 19, with xvii. 19.
So the Church is called "the only one—the choice"—implying others, out of which the choice
was made. Cant. vi. 9.
CHAP. IV. 3-9. 45
"commanding his child" in the fear and service Of the Lord. (Comp.
also 1 Kings, ii. 2-4; 1 Chron. xxii. 6-16; xxviii. 9, 10, 20. Comp. Gen.
xviii. 19. Deut. vi. 7.) A special mercy is it to us, if we can tell of an
Abraham or a David—of a Lois or an Eunice, having taught and bound
us to the ways of God! (2 Tim. i. 5; iii. 14, 15.) Parents remember,
a child untaught will be a living shame. (Chap. xxix. 15.) Training
discipline, not foolish indulgence, is the truest evidence of affection to
our tender and beloved ones. (Chap. xiii. 24; with 1, Kings, i. 6.)
But let us examine this beautiful specimen of parental instruction.*
Observe the anxiety for his son's heart-religion. Let thine heart retain my
words. Often (and this is a comfort to a weak memory) words may be
lost to the memory, yet practically retained in the heart. This heart-
keeping is the path of life (Verse 13; vi. 23; viii. 34, 35. Isa. lv. 3.
Zech. iii. 7), without which all is dead. Observe again, the extreme
earnestness of the exhortation. Many a parent, like Augustine's father,†
insists—‘Get wealth, worldly honour, or wisdom.’ This godly parent
inculcates "line upon line"— Get heavenly wisdom; get it with all thy
getting--at any cost and pains (Chap. xxiii. 23. Comp. 1, Kings, x. 1;
Matt. xii. 42), as the principal thing; and when thou,hast got it--forget
it not—decline not from it—forsake it not‡—love§--embrace--exalt
—her. Such a keeping is she for thy soul! (Chap. 10-18.) Such a
treasure for thy happiness! Such a promoting honour even in this life!
Such an ornament of grace in the Church! Such, a crown of glory in
heaven! This is not the style of a cold pleader, enforcing with decent
seriousness some unimportant truth. It is the father, feeling that his
child's soul is perishing, unless it be taught and led in wisdom's ways.
Parents! do we know this stirring concern, anxiously looking out for
the first dawn of light upon our child's soul? Do we eagerly point
out to him wisdom as the principal thing, to be gotten first (Matt. vi. 33.)
Is it our own first choice, infinitely above this world's glitter (1 Kings,
iii. 5-12. Phil. iii. 7, 8); not only important, but all-important? It
can have no place, if it has not the first place. If it be anything, it will
be everything. Earthly wisdom may be "a goodly pearl." But this
"wisdom from above is the pearl of great price;" worth getting
* Where David's instruction begins, is obvious. Where it ends, is not so clear—Whether
it be ver. 6, 10, 12, or 13 ; or as F. Taylor asserts, at the close of the ninth chapter. But as
Geier observes—'Let the reader form his own judgment; provided that we pay due obedi-
ence to the instruction, it matters little, whether we have it in the words of David or
† Of whom he records —'This father of mine never troubled himself with any thought
of— How I might improve myself towards thee, so that I proved eloquent, though I were
withal left undrest by thy tillage.'— Confess. ii. 3.
‡ See the great importance of this continuance, John, viii. 30, 31. Col. i. 22, 23. Heb.
iii. 6, 14, contrasted with Matt. xiii. 20, 21.
§ Thus Jerome wrote to a friend —'Beg now for me, who am grey-headed, of the Lord,
that I may have Wisdom for my companion, of which it is written—‘Love her, and she shall
46 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
indeed; but only to be got, by "selling all that we have, to buy it."
(Matt. xiii. 45, 46.)
10. Hear, 0 my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall
be many. 11. I have taught thee in the ways of wisdom; I have led
thee in right paths. 12. When thou goes, thy steps shall not be
straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. 13. Take
fast hold of instruction: let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.
It is instructive to see a king (whether David or Solomon) not for-
getting in the midst of his royal cares his domestic responsibilities.
We are told—'Youth will have its swing.' ‘So’--adds an old Com-
mentator solemnly—'it may—to hell.'* For where else can a way-
ward will lead? Let us see the need of guidance of every step, both
to take and to avoid. The ways of wisdom assure a happy life in the
favour of God. (1 Tim. iv. 8, with chap. iii. 1, 2. Ps. xxxiv. 12–14.
1 Pet. iii. 10–12.) And what rest to the parent's conscience on the death-
bed will be the recollection of children, not brought up for the world,
but taught in these ways! Yet this cannot be, if the rod, when needed,
has been spared; if the will has been indulged; the love of the world
cherished. This will be--if godly discipline has been exercised; if
the Bible has been laid down as the rule of lifer if habits of prayer, love
to the service of God, fellowship with his people, have been encouraged.
The path, though rough and sometimes lonely, is a right path, and a path
of liberty. (Ps. cxix. 32, 45.) The single eye will preserve a steady
walk. (Chap. x. 9. Isa. xlviii. 17, 18. Matt. Vii. 22.) Thou shalt run,
and shalt not stumble. (Chap. iii. 21–26. Hos. xiv. 9.)
And yet the animated exhortation to take fast hold, shows the
struggle necessary to retain our principles. Feeble, indeed, is our hold,
when connected merely with the excitement of novelty (Matt. xiii. 20, 21),
temporary convictions (Ps. lxxviii. 34–36; cvi. 12, 13), the restraint of
education (2 Chron. xii. 1; xxiv. 2, 15–18), unestablished knowledge
(Gal. iii. 1–4), or the indulgence of sin. (Mark, vi. 18–26.) Truths
received only in the understanding, not becoming the daily nourish-
ment of the soul, never fix on the heart. The fast hold of instruction is
by a personal living faith; including an intense interest, and persever-
ing pursuit; "continuing in the things which we have heard and been
assured of;" cleaving with purpose of heart unto the Lord. (2 Tim.
iii. 14. Acts, xi. 23; ii. 42.) As Jacob detained the angel (Gen.
xxxii. 26–29); as the spouse held fast hold of her Beloved (Cant. iii. 4);
as the disciples "constrained the Saviour to abide with them" (Luke,
xxiv. 28, 29)—So—young Christian—let her not go, Keep her, as the
man "for joy" guarded his precious treasure. (Matt. xiii. 44.) So let
thy heavenly treasure stand above every earthly blessing. Thus will
CHAP. IV. 14-17 47
it be thy life. (Chap. iii. 18. Eccles. vii. 12.) And while others "turn
back, and walk no more" in the way, thine heart will turn to its only
spring of happiness—"Lord, to whom shall I go? ''Thou hast the words
of eternal life." (John, vi. 67-69.)
14. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.
15. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. 16. For
they sleep not, except they have done mischief: and their sleep is taken
away, unless they cause some to fall. 17. For they eat the bread of
wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.
How often does fellowship with the wicked loosen the fast hold of
instruction! Their path is so contrary to the way of instruction, that
the very entrance into it is forsaking the way of God. Their character
is here drawn in their Father's image—first sinners, then, tempters.
Mischief is their meat and drink. (Job, xv. 16. Ps. xiv. 4.) 'To do
evil is more proper and natural than to sleep, eat, or drink.'* With
sleepless eagerness do they pursue their work (Job, xxiv. 15, 16. Ps.
xxxvi. 4. Mic. ii. 1), caring little for any lengths of violence, so that
they do mischief, or cause some to fall. (Chap. i. 10-14, 16; ii. 14; xxiv. 2.
Ps. x. 8. 2 Pet. ii. 14.) Judas with his midnight torches (John, xviiii. 3);
the early morning assemblage of the Jewish rulers (Luke, xxii. 66); the
frenzied vow of the enemies of Paul;† and many a plot in after ages
against the Church—all vividly pourtray this unwearied wickedness.
Yet if we be preserved from this undisguised malignity, what are
all the allurements for every rank and circumstance of life, but the more
subtle poison of the murderer? A light-minded young person pours
into his companion's ear—simple and inexperienced in the ways of
sin—perhaps filthy conversation; or presents before him images of
lasciviousness. What but a rooted principle of grace can save his
unsuspecting victim? Or again—the venomous infidel, intent upon
"spoiling" (Col. ii. 8) his fellow-creature of his most precious treasure,
drops into his bosom the repetition of the first lie (Gen. iii. 4.) No
principle appears to be given up, no fundamental doctrine denied; yet
the foundation of an unwavering confidence is shaken to pieces. And
is not this mischief and violence as the murderer's stab?
Surely then it is mercy, that forbids needless intercourse with the
evil man. (Eph. v. 11.) With a constitution prone to evil, when the
alternative is, whether we shall shun or dare the danger, can we doubt
our path? The whole Scripture is on the side or caution, to hazard
nothing, except on a plain call of Providence. ' Because we are free,
* Reformers' Notes.
† Acts, xxiii. 12. Such a spirit is graphically described by the Classics:—
Et si non aliqua nocuisses, mortuus esses. —VIRGIL, Eclog. iii. 15.
Ergo non aliter poterit dormire; quibusdam
Somnum rixa facit. —JUVENAL, Sat. iii. 278-202.
48 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
we may not run wild.’* Half our virtue we owe to being out of the
way of temptation. Observe how the wise man heaps up his words—
Enter not into the path—no—not so much as set thy foot into it. If
some accident throws thee into it, go not on in it; avoid it with detesta-
tion.† Pass not by it, lest thou shouldest unwittingly turn in. (Chap. v. 8.)
Not only avoid it when near, but avoid nearness to it. It is like living
in the atmosphere of contagion, in the midst of virulent and fatal dis-
ease. The earnest repetition of the warning shows at once the imminency
of the danger, and the certainty of the injury. The world around us is
the action of mind upon mind. We are continually, through the
medium of intercourse, moulding ourselves by other minds, and other
minds by our own. Intercourse with the ungodly must, therefore, be
fraught with fatal contamination. (1 Cor. xv. 33. Ps. cvi. 35. Chap.
xxii. 24, 25.) The occasions, the company, the borders of temptation
-- all must be avoided. (Chap. ix. 10, 15. Gen. xxxi. 9, 10.)
Young people are apt to plead with those who have the charge of
their best interests--'What harm is there in this or that path?' Apart
from other evils--this is plain. It is a contagious atmosphere. You
are drinking in poison. It is far more easy to shun the occasion of
sin, than the sin when the occasion presents it; to resist the begin-
nings, than the progress, of sin. There must, therefore, be no tam-
pering with it; no trial of strength, to see how far our resolutions will
keep us. Let the examples of Lot (Gen. xiii; 10-13; xiv. 12), Dinah
(Gen. xxxiv. 1, 2), Solomon (1 Kings, xi. 1-5), Peter (Matt. xxvi. 58,
69-74), warn us, how far only the entrance into the path of the wicked
may carry us; lengths that we could never have contemplated in pro-
spect without horror. It may appear an harmless outset. But how far
on? The entrance is fatally connected with the next step onward. The
frightful extent of the probability of falling might make the boldest
tremble. Those at least, that know their own corruption and weak-
ness, will shrink back, where you tread lightly. Here and there, in-
deed, there may be some special miracle of preservation. But no one
comes out of the path without hurt (2 Chron. xviii. 1–3; xix. 2; xx.
35–37); and the general issue is an open door to ruin. To pretend to
dread sin without fearing temptation, is self-delusion. Satan has too
nearly allied them for us to separate them. The evil company is loved,
then the evil of the company.‡ To pray "not to be led into tempta-
* Bishop HALL'S Contempl. B. xv. 3. † LEIGH'S Critica Sacra. See CARTWRIGHT.
Eusebius mentions a young man, whom St. John committed to the special charge of
the Bishop of Ephesus; but who by evil company was drawn away to be a captain of rob-
bers. until St. John went after him, and brought him back. B. iii. c. 20.--Augustine's
recollections of his youthful theft was—'By myself alone I would not have done it. It was
the company that I loved, with whom I did it.' He adds —'O nimis iniqua amicitia!'
When they said—'Come, let us go and do it, I was ashamed not to be as shameless as
they.'— Confess. Lib. ii. 8, 9.
CHAP. IV. 18. 49
Lion;" yet not to "watch, that we enter not into it"-- is practically to
contradict our prayers; to mock our God, by asking for what we do
not heartily wish. "Walk then with God and with his people, separate
from an ungodly world." (Chap. ix. 6. 2 Cor. vi. 17.) Yet do not
presume upon safety, even in separation from the ungodly. The whole
tempting world may be presented to your imagination. The unsearch-
able deceitfulness of the heart may bear fearfully upon you. The
tempter may in solitude, as with our Lord, put forth his special power.
(Matt. iv. 1.) Walk closely with God in secret, and he will spread his
almighty covering over you for your security. Avoid fellowship with
them, who hinder your fellowship with God. (Ps. cxix. 63, 1.14, 115,
also xvii. 4; xxvi. 4, 5.)
18. The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more
unto the perfect day.
This is a fine contrast of the Christian's path of light with the dark
and dangerous path of the wicked. It is not the feeble wasting light of
a taper, nor the momentary blaze of the meteor; but the grand lumi-
nary of heaven, "coming out of his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong
man to run his race" (Ps. xix. 5), from earliest dawn to his noon-day
glory. And a beautiful sight it is, to see the Christian thus rising out
of darkness; not indeed with'uniform brightness, but deepening from
the first faint beginning of his course; rising higher and higher;
widening his circle; advancing onward with increasing brightness unto
the perfect day. Knowledge, faith, love, holiness; irradiate every step.
It is at first but a glimmering ray, the first dawn of day. He does not
come at once into the "marvellous light." There is much--often
long-continued—struggle with his own wisdom and self-righteousness.
And even when brought to a simple dependence on the great work of
Christ, it is long ere he sees the fitness and proportion of its several
parts, providing for the honour of every perfection of God, as well as
the supply of every want of Man. Long also is it, ere he marks the
just balance of promise and precept; the sure connection between
justification and sanctification; the accurate arrangement, by which,
while we are not saved by works, we cannot be saved without them;
and while we work of ourselves, our strength and trust is in another.
Nor is it at the outset that we discern the identity of happiness with
conformity to Christ, and find heaven in communion with God, and
consecration to his service. Thus also, in the indistinct beginning of
the course, sin lies within a narrow compass. It includes little besides
the grosser enormities. Many things are thought harmless, which the
spiritual law condemns. But as the line becomes more marked, old
habits and associations, hitherto unsuspected, become convicted by a
clearer light, and are ultimately relinquished. It is in this path that
50 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
as the Christian "follows on," the eye is more unveiled (Hos. vi. 3.
Comp. Mark, viii. 22-25), the heart more enlightened, the truth more
vividly impressed upon the conscience, the "understanding" more
quick in "the fear of the Lord," the taste more discerning between
good and evil. Faith now becomes more strong in the Saviour's love,
more simple in the promises of God.
Obviously also love will increase as light expands. In proportion
to knowledge of our sinfulness and ruin must be the gratitude for the
remedy. The view of heaven — in proportion to the clearness of our
apprehension of it--must enlarge our love to him, who has obtained
our title to it. Thus our knowledge converts itself into a motive,
expanding our love more widely to all the legitimate objects of it. We
cannot, indeed, always compare its warmth at different periods. But
knowledge and love, like the light and heat, must go together under
the beams of knowledge; subjection to the Redeemer's sceptre becomes
more unreserved; love rises to a higher estimation, to a closer union
with him, to a more intimate complacency in him. Experience may
be confused. But light will clear away the mists. Practice in some
points may be inconsistent. But the advances, however weak, will be
sure. "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed
into his image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
(2 Cor. iii. 18. Job, xvii. 9. Ps. lxxxiv. 7.) Such is the path of the just.
The devout Nathanael was cheered with the promise of a brighter day.
(John, i. 46-51.) The clouds on the minds of the Apostles gradually
melted away before a brighter sun. (Mark, vi. 52; x. 35; xvi. 14, with
John, xvi. 13; Acts, ii.) The Eunuch and Cornelius, sincerely seek-
ing, rejoiced in the full sunshine of Gospel light. (Acts, viii. 27-39; x.)
The Thessalonian Church shone more and more with Christian graces.
(1 Thess. i. 3. 2 Thess. i. 3.)
But is this shining light the picture of my path? There is no com-
mand given—"Sun, stand thou still." (Josh. x. 12.) Therefore it re-
bukes a stationary profession. It is a rising and advancing, not a
declining, sun. Therefore it rebukes a backsliding state. It, is not
necessary that every thing should be perfect at once. There may be an
occasional cloud, or even (as in the cases of David and Peter) a tempo-
rary eclipse. But when did the sun fail of carrying its early dawn unto
perfect day? Despise not, then, "the day of small things." (Zech. iv.
10.) But be not satisfied with it. Aim high, and you will reach nearer
the mark. A fitful, fluctuating course, instead of illustrating this beau-
tiful figure, throws around the profession a saddening uncertainty.
Religion must be a shining and progressive light. We must not mis-
take the beginning for the end of the course. We must not sit down
on the entry, and say to our soul—"Soul—take thine ease." There
is no point, where we may repose with complacency, as if there were no
CHAP. IV. 19. 51
loftier heights, which it was our duty to climb. Christian perfection is
the. continual aiming at perfection. (Sep Phil. iii. 12-15.) Let us
hasten on to the perfect day, when the path of the just shall be eternally
consummated; when ‘they shall come to full perfection, which is --
when they shall be joined to their Head in the heavens.’* "Then
shall they shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
(Matt. xiii. 43.) And yet even here will not the path of eternity, no
less than of time, be shining more and more? Shall we not be exploring
that unsearchable "height, and depth, and length, and breadth, that
passeth knowledge," until we be filled with all the fulness o God?"
(Eph. iii. 18, 19.) Will not light therefore he more glorious, and love
more full of praise and adoration? Yes, surely, the world of eternity
will be one perfect day of ever-increasing light and joy. "Their sun
shall no more go down--for the Lord shall be their everlasting light.
The city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it,
for the glory of the Lord did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light
19. The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they
The contrast is more clearly repeated.‡ Each has his own way.
The path of the just is glowing light and joy. The way of the wicked is
darkness; without direction, comfort, safety, or peace, till "his feet at
last stumble on the dark mountains;" till he falls into "the blackness
of darkness for ever." (Jer. xiii. 16. Jude, 13. Comp. Job, xviii. 5, 6,
18.) His way is not only dark, but as darkness, a compound of igno-
rance, error, sin, and misery. The love of sin "rebels against the
light." (Job, xxiv. 13. John, iii. 19. Comp. Isa. v. 20.) The darkness
is wilful, and therefore accountable. There is no stumbling in the path
of the just. So far as he is upright, the Lord keeps him. (Verse 12;
iii. 23. Ps. xci. 11, 12.) The wicked go on, "groping on as if they had
no eyes" (Isa. lix. 10); hurrying on blindly into misery, that they can
neither foresee nor avoid. (Job, v. 14; xii. 25. Jer. xxiii. 12. Zeph. i.
17.) They know not at what they stumble. Oh! if they did, would they
not startle, and shrink back? For they stumble on the very foundation
of the Gospel! making the rock of salvation a rock of offence. (Rom. ix.
32, 33. 1 Pet. ii. 8.) Would they but listen to the merciful warning
* Reformers' Notes. Comp. Diodati in loco.
† Isa. Ix. 20. Rev. xxi. 23. The LXX. version is very beautiful—‘The ways of the
righteous shine like the light; they go on shining, until the day be perfected.' Dr. Watts'
Hymn on the Summer Evening—written for the infant mind, but glowing to the finest
taste— furnishes a most exquisite exposition of this verse,
'How fine has the day been; how bright was the sun,' &c.
‡ See the same contrast drawn by our Lord, Matt. vi . 22, 23. — Schultens considers the
original to express increasing darkness, answering to the increasing light of the opposite
path. Comment. in Prow. 4 to. 1748. Comp. Job, xv. 23.
52 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
of their Lord--"Yet a little time the light is with you: walk while ye
have the light, lest darkness come upon you; for he that walketh in
darkness knoweth not whither he goeth." (John, xii. 35, 36)
20. My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
21. Let there not depart from thine eyes: keep them in the midst of
thine heart. 22. For they are life unto those that find them, and health
to all their flesh.
These repeated injunctions (Chap. iii. 1; v. 1; vi. 20, 21; xxii. 17)
are an admirable pattern to the Christian Parent or Minister. The
desire of wisdom, the first step in the path, is encouraged. The means
of obtaining, and the privilege when obtained, are pointed out. Eye,
then, the treasure of wisdom habitually. A neglected Bible is the
melancholy proof of a heart "alienated from God." For how can we
have a spark of love to him, if that Book, which is the full manifes-
tation of his glory, be despised? And yet a superficial acquaintance
with it is of no avail. If our ears were bored to the doors of the sanc-
tuary; if the words never departed from our eyes; yet, except they were
kept in the heart, our religion would be a notion, not a principle; specu-
lative, not practical; conviction, not love. Nor even here must they
possess the mere threshold. Let the word be kept in the midst of the
heart. Here only can it be operative (Chap. xxiii. 26. Ps. xl. 8;
cxix. 11); "for out of the heart, are the issues of life." (Verse 23.)
Here it becomes lively and substantial truth. Here, then, let a home be
made for it,* a consecrated sanctuary in the most honoured chambers
of the heart. This inhabitation of the word is a covenant promise ---
the test of our interest in the Lord. (Jer. xxxi. 33.)
This keeping of the word will be life to those that find it. (Verses 4,
10, 13 ; iii. 18.) ‘Some medicines are good for one part of the body;
some for another. This is good for all the body, and all the soul.†
Vigorous and healthy (Chap. iii. 8) shall we be, in feeding upon this
heavenly manna. We shall net then bear our religion as our cross---
as a cumbrous appendage. We shall not drag on in Christian duties as
a chain. Godliness will be to us an element of joy. Its functions will
be free and lively. The spirit will be a vital glow. The mind will be
enriched with Divine wisdom. The heart will be established with
23. Keep thy heart with all diligence (above all keeping, marg.); for out
of it are the issues of life. 24. Put away from thee a froward mouth,
and perverse lips put far from thee. 25. Let thine eyes look right on,
and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26. Ponder the path
of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established (all thy ways: shall be
* Enoikei<tw en u[mi?n. Col. iii. 16. † Cartwright.
CHAP. IV. 23-27. 53
ordered aright, marg.) 27. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left:
remove thy foot from evil.
Invaluable are these rules as our safeguard. Assaulted as we are
at every point, every inlet of sin must be strongly guarded — the heart
— the mouth — the eye — the feet.
First—the heart— the citadel of man* — the seat of his dearest
treasure. It is fearful to think of its many watchful and subtle assail-
ants. Let it be closely garrisoned. Let the sentinel be never sleeping
on his post. "Take heed to thy way, and keep thy soul diligently."
(Dent. iv. 9.)
But the heart must be known in order to be effectually kept. No-
thing is more difficult, while nothing is more necessary. If we know
not our hearts, we know nothing to any purpose. Whatever else we
know, to neglect this knowledge is to be a fool at the best. If we know
not our weak points, Satan knows them well--"the sins that most
easily beset us."
Then when I know my heart, and feel it to be so dangerous, and in
such dangers, the question forces itself upon me —‘Can I keep my
heart?' Certainly not. But, though it be God's work, it is man's
agency. Our efforts are his instrumentality. He implants an active
principle, and sustains the unceasing exercise. (Phil. ii. 12, 13. Jude,
24 with 21.) Conscious faith "commits the keeping of the heart to our
faithful Creator." (1 Pet. iv. 19. Ps. xxv. 20.) This done—in his
strength and guidance diligently improve all the means of preserva-
tion. Watch unto prayer. Cherish an humble dependent spirit. Live
in the atmosphere of the word of God. Resist the admittance of an
evil world, even in its most plausible forms. (Judges, viii. 22, 23.
2 Kings, v. 5, 16.) Here lies the conflict to the end. ‘The greatest
difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God, and after conversion
to keep it with him.'† 'What is there'— asks Mede—‘that will not
entice and allure so fickle a thing as the heart from God?’‡ Above all
keeping — exhorts the wise man — keep thine heart. Here Satan keeps
—here therefore must we keep— special watch. If the citadel be
taken, the whole town must surrender. If the heart be seized, the
whole man— the affections, desires, motives, pursuits—all will be
yielded up. The heart is the vital part of the body. A wound here is
instant death. Thus — spiritually as well as naturally—out of the
heart are the issues of life. It is the great vital spring of the soul, the
fountain of actions, the centre and the seat of principle,§ both of sin
and of holiness. (Matt. xii. 34, 35.) The natural heart is a fountain of
poison. (Ib. xv. 19.) The purified heart is "a well of living water."
(John, iv. 14. Compare chap. xiv. 14.) As is the fountain, so must be
* Schultens. † FLAVEL'S Saint Indeed—a searching and valuable Treatise.
‡ See his valuable sermon on this text. § Schultens.
54 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
the streams. As is the heart, so must be the mouth, the eyes, the feet.
Therefore, above all keeping, keep thine heart. Guard the fountain, lest
the waters be poisoned. (Comp. Gen. xxvi. 18-21.) Many have been
the bitter moments, from the neglect of this guard. All keeping is
vain, if the heart be not kept.
But with this keeping, let us not forget to guard the outlets of sin!
(Chap. xiii. 3.) What a world of evil does 'the heart, pour out from the
froward mouth! (Jam. iii. 5, 6.) Commit, therefore, both heart and
mouth to Divine discipline. (Ps. xix. 13 ; cxli. 3, 4.) Then let prayer
and faith be the practical principles of Christian watchfulness. Not
only shun, but put away—yea—far from thee—the perverse lips.
Their evil--be it remembered—extends beyond ourselves. Even
should the peace-speaking blood speak peace to ourselves, still will
remain the painful sense of injury to our fellow-creatures, perhaps
Next to the heart and mouth—keep thine eyes—"the light of the
body" (Matt. vi. 22), the directive faculty of the soul. Yet too often
are they a most dangerous inlet to sin. (Gen. iii. 6; vi. 2; xxxix. 7.
Matt. v. 28. 2 Pet. ii. 14.) Therefore, like Job, "make a covenant with
them." (Job, xxxi. 1.) Place them under heavenly restraint. (Ps.
cxix. 37.) Let them look right on, 'like one ploughing, who must not
look back.'* Look straight before us. Had Eve done so, she would
have looked on the command of her God; not on the forbidden tree.
(Gen. iii. 3-6.) Had Lot's wife looked straight before, instead of
behind her," she would, like her husband, have been a monument of
mercy. (Gen. xix. 17, 26.) Achan was ruined by neglecting this rule
of wisdom. (Josh. vii. 21.) David's example calls the holiest of us to
godly jealousy.† In asking the way to Zion, be sure that your "faces
are thitherward." (Jer. i. 5.) The pleasure of sin, and the seductions of
a tempting world, do not lie in the road. They would not therefore
meet the eye looking right on—straight before us. They belong to the
bye-paths on the right hand and on the left, or to some backward track.
It is only, therefore, when the Christian lingers, turns aside, or turns
back, that they come in sight. Take the racer's motto--"This one
thing I do." Eye the mark, and press to it. (Philip. iii. 12-14.)
Lastly, keep your feet. Oh! has not experience, no less than Scrip-
ture, shown your need of a circumspect walk? (Eph. v. 15.) Snares
are laid out for every path, yea for every step in your path; for your
meat, your think, your calling--perhaps more than all—for the
service of God. What deep pondering should there be in a path so
beset with danger! Every step should be carefully weighed. (Gen.
xxiv. 5. Ps. xxxix. 1. Dan. i. 8; vi. 3, 4.) Joseph pondered, and thereby
* Cartwright. Comp. Luke, ix. 62. † 2 Sam. xi. 2. Mede, ut supra.
CHAP. IV. 23-27. 55
established his way. (Gen. xxxix. 9, 10. Comp. verses 14, 15.) Peter,
neglecting to ponder, was fearfully sifted. (Matt. xxvi. 58, 69-75.)
David also, looking at the trial of the path, instead of pondering its
direction, brought shame upon himself (1 Sam. xxvii.-xxix.); like the
trouble, which Christian made for himself in the smooth exchange of
Bye-path meadow for the rough and strait road. 'The habit of calm
and serious thinking makes the real difference between one man and
Here, then, is the voice of wisdom. Beware of mistaking presump-
tion for faith, temptations for Providential appointments. Never for-
sake a plain for a doubtful command. (1 Kings, xiii. 18-22.) Estimate
every step by its conformity to the known will of God. Dare not to
advance one step without God. (Josh. ix. 14.) In his path you may
"tread upon the lion and adder" without hurt. (Ps. xci. 11-13.) But
who shall venture into a path of his own choosing, without a wound?
See that "your feet are straight," like those of the Cherubim.† "The
pleasures of sin" lie on the right hand and on the left. The eyes there-
fore, looking right on, escape the sight. The pondering foot is established
in steady perseverance; and, by marking small deviations (See Ecclus.
xix. 1), and never turning out of the straight path to avoid a cross, is
removed from evil.
May we all have grace and wisdom to ponder these sound practical
rules! The man of God must only have one standard. (Isa. viii. 20.)
He must "know no man after the flesh." (2 Cor. v. 16.) He must
often put aside the Church, no less than the world, that he may listen
more closely to the command— Walk before me. (Gen. xvii. 1.) He
must discern and crush the first motions of corruption; guarding every
avenue of sin—the senses--the memory—the imagination—the
touch—the taste. He must walk by the straight rule of the Gospel;
else will he not only bring discomfort upon himself, but stumbling to
the Church. (Gal. ii. 11-14.) A single eye, steadily fixed upon the One
Object, will make the path luminous. (Matt. vi. 22.) Straightforward
progress will insure prosperity. (Deut. xvii. 20. Josh. i. 7, 8.) Keeping
the middle path, and daily lifting up the voice for restraint and
guidance. (Ps. cxix. 37; cxliii. 8-10.)
"Thine ears shall hear the word behind thee,, saying, This is the
way: walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn
to the left."‡
* Dr. Abercrombie.
† Ezek. i. 7-9. Comp. Heb. xii. 13. Nearly the LXX. translation of the last clause of
‡ Isa. xxx. 21. Comp. Deut. ii. 27; v. 32. The LXX. and Vulgate add here— ‘For
God knows the ways on the right hand. But those on the left axe crooked. But he shall
make straight thy paths, and advance thy goings in peace.' Geier remarks — ‘we have no
ear for these words, as not belonging to the holy fountain. We leave them to the Papists.’
Cartwright's exposition of this middle path is valuable. ‘It is as if the royal way was
56 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
1. My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding :
2. That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep
knowledge. 3. For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honey-
comb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: 4. But her end is bitter as
wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5. Her feet go down to
death: her steps take hold on hell. 6. Lest thou shouldest ponder
the path of life, her ways are moveable, that, thou canst not know them.
7. Hear me now, therefore, 0 ye children, and depart not from the
words of my mouth. 8. Remove thy way from her, and come not near
the door of her house: 9. Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and
thy years unto the cruel: 10. Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth,
and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; 11. And thou mourn at
the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, 12. And say, How
have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; 13. And have
not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that
instructed me! 14. I was almost in all evil in the midst of the con-
gregation and assembly.
PONDER this chapter—ye that know not the poison and corruption of
fleshly lusts. Perhaps painful experience (1 Kings, xi. 1-8. Eccles. vii.
26) had given the wise man wisdom and understanding. Therefore at-
tend to it with fear and trembling. Man's own strength, the restraint
of education or self-discipline, is powerless, as the green withs to bind
the giant. (Judg. xvi. 9.) Engrafted wisdom is the only effectual safe-
guard. This heavenly influence teaches us, both to regard discretion
for the covering of our souls, and to keep knowledge for the warning of
our fellow-sinners. (Chap. ii. 10, 11, 16; vi. 20, 24; vii. 1-5. Ps. xvii.
4; cxix. 9, 11.)
The extreme plausibility of the temptation calls our attention. The
deluded victim only tastes, or expects to taste, the honeycomb: only
hears the wily smoothness of the charmer's voice. (Chap. ii. 16; vi. 24;
vii. 21.) But never is the beginning so sweet as the end is bitter.
God shows the wormwood— the two-edged sword (Comp. Ps. lv. 21)--
her path of death—every step taking hold of hell, as if invading it with
a high hand; grasping it as her home. One feature of the tempter's
wiliness is most remarkable.* She winds herself in a thousand moveable
ways, to meet the varying humours and circumstances (Chap. vii. 21);
she works upon every weakness; seizes every unguarded moment--
hemmed, in by the sea, and a fall over either side were danger of drowning. Some are too
greedy; others too ascetic. Some are too bold; others too diffident. Some neglect the
Mediator; others seek new Mediators. Some flee the cross; others make one. Some
tamper with Popery; others, from the dread of it, hazard the loss of valuable truth.'
* Schultens in loco. Chap. ii. 18; vii. 17; ix. 18. 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. Rev. xx i. 8.
CHAP. V. 1–14. 57
all with one deeply-hidden object — lest thou shouldest ponder the path of
life. The checks of conscience must be diverted. No time must be
given for reflection. The intrusion of one serious though might break
the spell, and open the way of escape. (See Ps. cxiix. 59. Ezek. xviii. 28.
Luke, xv. 17.)
Can we wonder then at parental earnestness, forcing back the child-
ren playing on the brink of a precipice? Hear now, 0 ye children!
We mean no austere restraint upon youthful pleasures. Only avoid
the tempter's touch, her word, even her look. Remove thy way far from
her. Not only go not in to her; but--such is the contagion—come not
near the door. (Comp. ch. iv. 14, 15; vi. 27, 28.) To thrust ourselves
into temptation, is to throw ourselves out of God's protection. The
snare as it approaches becomes more enticing. The voice of wisdom
therefore is —"Flee youthful lusts."
The loss of honour (Chap. vi. 32. 33. Gen. xxxviii. 23–26), taking
the crown from the victim's head (2 Sam. xii. 11; xv. 30. Neh. xiii. 26);
years given to the cruel mockers of his misery (Chap. vi. 26; xxxi, 3.
Judg. xvi. 18–21); the waste of the family wealth (Chap. vi. 26, 35;
xxix. 3. Job, xxxi. 12. Hos. vii. 9. Luke, xv. 13, 30. Comp. Eccius. v.
6) ; servitude in a stranger's house (Luke, xv. 15, 16): consumption,
slowly bringing the body to the grave (1 Cor. vi. 18) — such is the
bitter fruit of the neglected warning. Add to this the voice of con-
science at the last; telling of slighted privileges, stifled convictions,
abused knowledge. And will not this be the sting of thousands
instructed in our schools, or the children of godly parents, now despising
the reproofs of God, and the voice of their teachers; proclaiming their
shame openly; perhaps making Christian assemblies the scenes of almost
all evil? (Num. xxv. 6, 7. Ezek. viii. 5–16.)
Such is the picture of sin. Its "pleasure is but for a season;" "its
wages death eternal." (Heb. xi. 25. Rom. vi. 23.) Every sin unre-
pented here will bring its perpetual torment in eternity. Impenitence
does not put away its sorrow. It only delays it to mourn at the last,
when mercy shall have fled away for ever (Chap. i. 24–31), and nothing
will remain, but the piercing cry of the accusing conscience —"Son!
remember." (Luke, xvi. 25.) There are no infidels in eternity, and
but few on a death-bed. Sinner! the path of life is now open to thee.
Ponder it anxiously, prayerfully. The light of the word, and the teach-
ing of the Spirit, guide thee to it.
15. Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine
own well. 16. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of
waters in the streets. 17. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers'
with thee. 18. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife
of thy youth. 19. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let
58 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou rvished always with
Desire after forbidden enjoyments naturally springs from dissatisfac-
tion with the blessings in possession. Where contentment is not found
at home — drinking out of our own cistern*-- it will be sought for, how-
ever vainly, abroad. Conjugal love is chief among the earthly goods
in mercy granted by God to his fallen and rebellious creature. Enjoy
then with thankfulness thine own, and desire not thy neighbour's well.
(Exod. xx. 17. 2 Sam. xi. 2, 3.) If a happy issue is given (Ps. cxxvii.
3-5; cxxviii.), let it be as fountains (Comp. Num. xxiv. 7; Deut. xxxiii.
28; Ps. lxviii. 26; Isa. xlviii. 1) dispersed abroad, to fertilize with
godly influence the way through which their course may be directed.
(Comp. Zech. viii. 5.) Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. (Deut. xxiv. 5.
Eccles. ix. 9.) Regard her as the special gift of thy Father's hand.
(Chap. xix. 14.) Cherish her with gentleness and purity (Gen. xxiv. 67),
as the loving hind and pleasant roe.† Whatsoever interrupts the strictest
harmony in this delicate relationship, opens the door to imminent
temptation. Tender, well-regulated, domestic affection is the best
defence against the vagrant desires of unlawful passion. Yea—it is
consecrated by the Word of God itself to the high purpose of shadowing
out "the great mystery—loving and cherishing our own flesh, even as
the Lord the Church." (Eph. v. 25, 29.)
20. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and
embrace the bosom of a stranger? 21. For the ways of man are
before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings. 22. His
own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with
the cords of his sins. 23. He shall die without instruction; and in the
greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
With such a view as we have had of the deadly enticement of sin
on the one hand (Verses 9–11), and the calm happiness provided on the
other by the ordinance of God (Verses 15-19), surely none but the
infatuated would leave the wholesome fountain for the poisoned and
forbidden spring. If he were not stupified, would he slight the
"honourable" state of marriage (Heb. xiii. 4), to embrace the bosom of a
stranger, 'loveless, joyless, unendeared?' Would not the thought, that
* The beauty of the figure is illustrated from the circumstance, that the houses of the
East appear each to have had their own cistern. 2 Kings, xviii. 31.
† Comp. 2 Sam. xii. 3. The hind and the roe were objects of special delight (Cant. ii.
17; iii. 5) and endearment—a picture of the lively delight, which the wife naturally
engages; relaxing in her society from severer duties; and taking the liveliest pleasure in
her company. As Bishop Davenant beautifully observes—‘Abroad the man may consider
himself as tossing in the waves; but at home with his wife, in repose, as in a desired
haven.'—On Col. iii. 19.
CHAP. V. 20-23. 59
the ways of man are before the Lord, arrest him in his course?* But no.
Practical atheism is the root of human depravity. (Ps. xiv. 1-3.) The
eye of man, even of a child, is a check upon him (Job, xxiv 1,15. Isa.
xxix. 15); but the thought of an all-seeing God, even if it enters his
mind (Ps. x. 4), inspires no alarm, conviction, or restraint. Oh! if
men would but read—would but believe--their Bibles, how would this
solemn truth — he pondereth all his goings--flash upon their consciences!
Not only does he see and mark them as the Omniscient God (Job, xxxi.
4. Ps. cxxxix. 1--4); but he ponders them as the just Judge. (Chap.
xvi. 2. 1 Sam. ii. 3. Dan. v. 27.) Not one is hidden from his piercing
eye. (Heb. iv. 13.) "He will bring every secret thing to judgment."
(Eccles. xii. 14.) He "will be a swift witness against the adulterers.
No unclean person shall enter into his kingdom." (Mal. iii. 2. Eph. v. 5.)
But if no regard to reason, or to the all-seeing Eye, will restrain the
sinner, let him think of the trouble that he is bringing upon himself.
God needs no chains or prison to bring him under his hand. Wher-
ever he goes, his sins go with him, as cords to hold him for judgment.
(Chap. xi. 3, 5, 6; xxix. 6. 1 Sam. xxviii. 5-10.) Does he think that he
can give them up when he pleases? Repetition farms the habit. The
habit becomes a ruling principle. 'Every lust deals with him, as
Delilah with Samson—not only robs him of his strength, but leaves
him fast bound.'† Shutting his eyes against the light, he dies without
instruction (Verse 12. Chap. i. 29; x. 21. Job, iv. 21; xxxvi. 12. Hos.
iv. 14, 17) -- The greatness of his folly leads him astray--to perdition.
(2 Pet. ii. 14, 15.)
But is there no remedy for this deadly curse? Thanks be to God!
cleansing is provided for the impure (Lech. xiii. 1. 1 Cor. vi. 11);
"deliverance is proclaimed to the captive." (Isak lxi. 1.) Blessed
Saviour! cleanse the leper in thy precious fountain. Perform thy
mighty commission. Set the captive free.
1. My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand
with a stranger, 2. Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth,
thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. 3.Do this now, my son,
and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend: go,
* Job, xxxiv. 21, 22. Ps. xciv. Jer. xiii. 25-27; xvi. 17; xxix. 23. Hos. vii. 2 See
some striking thoughts in MEDE'S Sermon on iv. 23.
† Archbishop Tillotson quoted in NICHOLL’S Commentary. Jude. xvi. 19-21. ‘Thus I,’
—said Augustine adverting to this hateful sin—‘delighted with the disease of the flesh,
and with the deadly sweetness of it, drew my shackles along with one, much afraid to have
them knocked off; and, as if my wound had been too hard rubbed by it, I put back my
friends' good persuasions, as it were the hand of one that would unchain me.'— Confess.
b. vi. c. 12. Comp. chap. xxiii. 29-35.
60 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVIERBS.
humble thyself, and make sure (so shalt thou prevail with, marg.)
thy friend. 4. Give not sleep to thine eyes, or slumber to thine eye-
lids. 5. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a
bird from the hand of the fowler.
THE son has just been warned against the deadly wound of a stranger.
He is now cautioned against a hurt from an imprudent friend. So gra-
ciously has our God made his book, not only our guide to heaven, but
the directory of our common life. We must, however, often take its wise
rules with some restriction. We are here earnestly warned against
suretyship. Yet in some cases it is plainly allowed and approved.*
"A man that hath friends must show himself friendly." (Chap. xviii. 24.)
And the passing of our word, or giving a bond, may be an act of pru-
dent friendship, and of solid and permanent advantage. The caution
is evidently directed against rash engagements (Comp. also chap. xi. 15;
xvii. 18; xx. 16; xxii. 26, 27), to which the young and inexperienced
are especially exposed; striking with hands (the usual mode of plighting
faith) (Chap. xvii. 18; xxii. 26. Job, xvii. 3), in an unguarded moment.
Often may they be snared and taken by the words of their mouth, by
entering into virtual promises, without knowing how far they were
pledged, or what might be the issue. Christian prudence will keep us
clear from such engagements, which bring distress upon our families,
dishonour upon our name, and reproach upon our religion. (Comp.
Ecclus viii. 13.) While the "good man showeth favour, and lendeth,
he must guide his affairs with discretion;"† however grating it may
be to incur the suspicion of unkindness. If, however; by any incon-
siderate bond, thou hast come into the hand of thy friend; the instant
duty is, to humble thyself for thy imprudence, and make sure thy friend,
if thou cant prevail with him to answer for himself; and, give thyself
no rest, till, like as the roe and the bird, thou be disentangled from the
Our God, while he warns us against suretyship, has taken it upon
himself. Praised be his name! He has give his word, his bond,
yea—his blood—for sinners—a security, that no powers of hell can
6. Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: 7. Which
having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8. Provideth her meat in the
summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. 9. Flow long wilt thou
sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10. Yet a little
* Reuben and Judah for Benjamin. Gen. xlii. 37; xliii. 9 ; xliv. 32, 33. Paul for
Onesimus. Philem. 18, 19.
† Ps. cxii. 5. P. Henry always cautioned sureties not to be bound for any more than
they knew themselves able to pay, nor for more than they would be willing to pay, if the
principal failed.— Life, chap. v.
CHAP. VI. 6-11. 61
more sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding! of the hands to sleep:
11. So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an
'It is a shame'-- said the heathen philosopher--'not to learn morals
from the small animals.’ Yet what a proof is it of the degradation of
the fall, that "man, created in the image of God," and made wiser than
the creation (Gen. i. 26. Job, xxxv. 11), should be sent, as here, to this
insignificant school for instruction! The ant, having no guide to direct
her work, no overseer to inspect her, or ruler to call her to account
(Comp. chap. xxx. 27, and contrast Exod. v. 13, 4; 1 Kings, v. 16);
yet gathereth with diligent foresight the summer and harvest store for her
winter need.† Let the sluggard consider her ways, and be wise. He
sleeps over his work, and, if for a moment half-startled by some rousing
call, still pleads for a little more sleep, and folds his hands to sleep. Pre-
sent ease is all he calculates on, all he provides for. The future he
carefully keeps out of sight, to be provided for, like the present, when
it comes. Thus life runs to waste. Poverty comes step by step as one
that travelleth, and, like an armed man, with irresistible violence. (Chap.
x. 4; xiii. 4; xix. 15, 24; xx. 4; xxi. 25; xxiv. 33, 34.)
Perhaps he perverts his Master's word to excuse his sloth. But, if
we are to "take no anxious thought for the morrow " (his true mean-
ing),‡ are we to take none at all? Care is a duty, parental obligation
(2 Cor. xii. 14. Comp. Gen. xxx. 30; xli. 33), and, therefore, a com-
ponent part of godliness.§ Carefulness is a sin (Luke, x. 41. 1 Cor. vii. 32),
a needless burden to ourselves, an unworthy distrust of God. (Matt. vi. 25-33.)
The diligent use of providential means honours God. (Chap. x. 5; xxiv. 27.)
But much more loudly would we call to the spiritual sluggard.
Thou that art sleeping away the opportunities of grace; not "striving
to enter in at the strait gate" (Luke, xiii. 24); taking thy salvation for
granted; hoping that thou shalt "reap that which thou hast not sown,
and gather where thou hast not strawed" (Matt. xv. 26) -- Go to the
ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Improve, after this
pattern, the summer and harvest season—the time of youth, the present,
* Pudeat ab exiguis animalibus non trahere mores.—SENECA, De Clementia. Lib. i.
† Chap. x. 5; xxx. 25. Horace's miser quotes this example as an excuse for hoarding.
But—as the poet replies—it was to use the hoard in the winter prudent care, not covet-
ousness. Sat i. 32. See also Virgil's exquisite picture, AEn. iv. 402, &c. The hoarding
spirit of the ants, though attested by numerous writers and naturalists, does not charac-
terise those known to us ; though the habits of the species in a warmer climate would
probably widely differ from our own. Some, however, have thought, that Solomon only
refers to their wisdom and prudence in preparing suitable food in summer and harvest,
when it is most plentiful.—See KIRBY and SPENCE's Entomology, ii. 46.
‡ Merimnaw. Matt. vi. 34.—Solicite et anxie cogito; at plus est solicitum esse, quam
cogitare, as Erasmus notices, and that of Tully confirms,—Solicitudo est aegritudo cum
cogitatione. ‘The root of the word expresses the dividing of the mind into divers thoughts.’
-LEIGH'S Critica Sacra. Comp. Philip. iv. 6.
§ 1 Tim. v. 8. Our Lord had a bag for the provision of his family. John, xiii. 29.
62 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
perhaps the only, moment. The ant hath no guide. How many guides
have you—conscience—the Bible—ministers! (Job, 8. Ps.
cxix. 105. Mal. ii. 7.) She has no overseer. You are living before Him,
whose "eyes are as a flame of fire." (Chap. xv. 3. Rev. i. 14 ; ii. 18.)
She has no ruler calling her to account. “Every one of us must give
account of himself unto God.” (Rom. xiv. 1 .) How long then wilt thou
sleep, 0 sluggard?—is the solemn remonstrance of thy God. (Comp.
chap. i. 22; 1 Kings, xviii. 21.) Thy sleep is not like that of the body,
refreshing at the dawn of day; but it is that of the poisoned draught,
heavier and heavier; the slumber of death. "Awake, thou that sleepest,
and Christ shall give thee light." (Eph. v. 4.) Slight not the call of
the present moment. The spell grows stronger, as resistance is delayed.
Every day's slumber makes it more improbable, whether thou wilt
ever awaken at all. The intended struggle of to-morrow is a delusion.
A thousand such to-morrows there may be; and yet thou mayest be
found at last perishing in thy poverty, and he King of terror will come
as an armed man to summon thee to judgment.
But how one is made to feel that from his deep slumber no voice
but Omnipotence can rouse! Enter the sluggard's chamber; put aside
his curtain; hang over his bed; sound a solemn cry in his ears—How
long? endeavour even to open his eyelids to the light of day ; and yet
the spell is too strong for man. He shifts his posture, murmurs his cry
—a little more sleep—and slumbers again. Christians! you feel the
helplessness of your work. Then call in the power of God in your
brother's behalf—"Lighten his eyes, lest lle sleep the sleep of death."
(Ps. xiii. 3.)
And then, as for thyself—grow intense energy in thy high
calling. Remember, faith without diligence is slumbering delusion.
Faith is the practical energy of a living faith. Always, therefore, look
at sloth, not as an infirmity, but as a sin, affecting the whole man:
growing upon us with unperceived power. Allow it therefore no rest,
no time to root itself. Resist it in all its forms—bodily, mental,
spiritual: indulgence of sleep and appetite: self-pleasing in all its
subtle and plausible workings. Live by rule. Have your time strictly
arranged. Be employed in early work for God. Store the mind with
useful knowledge; ever reserving the first place for an industrious and
prayerful study' of the book of God. "Mortify" this baneful lust
"through the Divine Spirit" (Rom. viii. 13); drawing all your motives
from the death (Ibid. vi. 6), the life (Mark, i. 2-35), the rules of Christ.
(Luke, ix. 23. Rom. xiii. 11-14.) Victory will soon declare for you;
and how enriching will be the spoil!
12. A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth. 13.
He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his
fingers. 13. Frowardness is in his heart; he deviseth mischief con-
CHAP. VI. 12-19. 63
tinually; he soweth discord. 15. Therefore shall his calamity come
suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.
What a contrast between the inactivity of the sluggard and the
unwearied diligence of the naughty person! This man of Belial (Heb.)
—as if his froward mouth—itself "a world of iniquity" (Jam. iii. 6)—
could not give sufficient scope for his malice, makes every member--
eyes, feet, and fingers—vocal and significant (Isa. iii. 16), an active
"instrument of unrighteousness." (Chap. x. 10. Rom. vi. 13-19.) These,
however, are only the external manifestations. Seep within lies the
laboratory of evil—"the chambers of imagery," terming with "greater
and yet greater abominations." (Ezek. viii. 8-15. Matt. xv. 19.) Fro-
wardness* is in the heart. Here is the restless devising of mischief,†
sowing discord, instead of piety and love. (Chap. x. 12.) Such a pest to
society brings on himself his own ruin, suddenly and without remedy.
The sight of this all-pervading power of sin is truly affecting. How
utterly powerless is any remedy save that involved in the solemn
declaration—"Ye must be born again!" (John, iii. 7. Tit. iii. 3-5.)
16. These six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination
unto him: (of his soul, marg.) 17. A proud look, a lying tongue, and
hands that shed innocent blood, 18. An heart that deviseth wicked
imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19. A false
witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
Man conceives of God in his heart as "such a one as himself"
(Ps. 1. 21), looking with indifference at sin. Here therefore Solomon
names six--yea—seven (Comp. chap. xxx. 15-18) abominations (most
of them mentioned in the preceding list) which the Lord--hateth—a proud
look,‡ a lying tongue,§ a blood-stained hand.|| And, lest we should
think, that he "looketh only on the outward appearance;" the heart,
active in devising wickedness,¶ is brought out ; and is ready organ, the
feet swift in running to mischief. (Chap. i. 16. Isa. ix. 7. Rom. iii. 1.5:)
How hateful also is the false witness (Zech. viii. 17), surely reserved by
him for judgment! (Chap. xix. 5. Zech. v. 4. Mal. ii 5.) Let the self-
willed separatist remember the double stamp (Vers:s 14, 19) upon him
that soweth discord among brethren. if the heavenly "dew descends
* ‘Frowardness,’ Heb. See POOLE's Synopsis—not one but many; the heart so filled
with them, that the vessel cannot hold more. Gen. vi. 5. Acts, x ii. 10.
† Ps. x. 7-9; xxxvi. 2-4. Compare the striking figure, Hos. vii. 6. Chap. xvi. 28.
Ps. lii. 2.
‡ Chap. viii. 13 ; xxx. 13. Ps. xviii. 27. Isa. ii. 12. Jer. i. 31—the examples of Pharaoh
—Ex, ix. 16. Haman—Esth. vii. 10. Nebuchadnezzar—Dan. iv. 28-33. Herod—Acts,
§ Chap. xii. 22. Ps. v. 6. Rev. xxi. 8. Gehazi--2 Kings, v. 25-27. Ananias and Sapphira
—Acts, v. 1-10.
|| Gen. ix. 6. Cain—iv. 8-12. Manasseh— 2 Kings, xxi. 15, 16. Specially the mur-
derers of his dear Son—Matt. xxiii. 31-38.
¶ Ahithophel—2 Sam. xvi. 20-23; xvii. 23. Mic. ii. 1. 2 Pet. ii. 14.
64 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
upon the brethren that dwell together in unity" (Ps. cxxxiii.), a
withering blast will fall on those, who, mistaking prejudice for principle,
"cause divisions" for their own selfish ends. (Rom. xvi. 17, 18.) Fearful
is the Lord's mark upon them—"sensual, having not the Spirit."* If
we cannot attain unity of opinion—"perfectly joined together in the
same mind, and in the same judgment;"† at least let us cultivate unity
of spirit—"Whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same
rule; let us mind the same thing." (Philip. iii. 16.)
20. My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy
mother: 21. Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about
thy neck. 22. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest,
it shall keep thee: and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
23. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and
reproofs of instruction are the way of life; 24. To keep thee from the
evil woman,‡ from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.
The authority of parental instruction is again enforced. (Chap. i.
8, 9; iv. 1.) God never intended young people to be independent of
their parents. Instruction from every quarter is valuable. But from
parents—always supposing them to be godly parents—it is the ordi-
nance of God. They will bring you God's word, not their on. There-
fore bind it continually about thine heart (Chap. iii. 3; iv. 21; vii. 3), as
thy rule; about thy neck (Chap. iii. 3. Comp. Job, xxxi. 36), as thine
adorning. Let the law be thy friend for all times and circumstances
—a guide by day (Chap. iii. 22, 23; iv. 12); a solace by night (Chap.
iii. 24. Ps. lxiii. 5), yea—a friend for thy waking moments. (Ps. exxxix.
17, 18.) Take care that nothing hinders thy early converse with this
faithful counsellor before the world comes in; as the best means of
keeping the world out. ‘Happy is the mind to which the word is an undivided
companion.'§ A lamp, so full of light, in this dark world|| is an inestimable gift.
Its reproofs of instruction, the discipline of our wayward will, are to us as the way
of life. (Ps. xix. 11. 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. Comp. Matt. vii. 13, 14.)
* Jude, 19. 1 Cor. iii. 3, 4. Let the wisdom of experience given by an accurate observer
of himself and the Church, be seriously pondered—'I am much more sensible of the evil of
schism, and of the separating humour, and of gathering parties, and making several sects
in the Church, than I was heretofore. For the effects have shown us more of the mischiefs.
I am much more sensible, how prone many young professors are to spiritual pride and self-
conceitedness, and unruliness, and division, and so prove the grief of their teachers, and
firebrands in the Church. I am much more sensible than heretofore of the breadth, and
length, and depth of the radical, universal, odious sin of selfishness, and the excellency and
necessity of self-denial, and of a public mind, and of loving our neighbour as ourselves.'—
BAXTER'S Narrative of his Life and Times.
† 1 Cor. i. 10—'A text'—says the godly Flavel—'to be commented upon rather by
tears than by words.'—Sermon on Text.
‡ Heb. Woman of wickedness—the woman full of wickedness—wholly given to it.
Comp. Zech. v. 7, 8.
§ Felix mens, cui verhum individuus comes.'—BERNARD, Serm. xxxii. in Cant.
|| Ps cxix 105. See Bishop Patrick’s note quoted in Scott.
CHAP. VI. 25-29. 65
Specially valuable are this lamp and light in sensual temptation.
(Chap. ii. 10, 11, 16-19; v. 1-8; vii. 1-5.) Those who choose their
own light fall into a flattering snare. (Chap. ii. 16; vii, 21. The neglect
of parental warning will furnish in the end bitter matter for unavailing
repentance. (Chap. v. 11–13.) Oh! let the Father's instruction be
heard betimes —"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?
by taking heed thereto according to thy word." (Ps. xix. 9. Comp. v.
11; xvii. 4.)
25. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with
her eyelids. 26. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought
to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life.
27. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
28. Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? 29. So he
that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not
Solomon here gives our Lord's own rule. (Matt. v. 28. Comp. Jam. i.
14, 15; Job, xxxi. 1; Ps. cxix. 37; also, Ecclus. ix. 3–5.) Resist lust
in its first rising in the heart. By vain beauty,* and wanton eyes,†
many a deluded victim has been brought to a piece of bread.‡ Like the
insatiable huntsman, who never loses sight of his prey, till he has
pursued it to death; never does the seducer cease to solicit, till she has
hunted for the precious life. (Gen. xxxix. 14. Judg. xvi. 18-21. Comp.
Ezek. xiii. 18, 20, 21.) Yet neither the present miseries, nor the certain
end, of this wretched course, can draw away the foot, that has dared to
tread the forbidden path. 'Self-confidence sees and fears no danger. ‘I
can look to myself; I need not go too far, and I shall get no harm.’
But the temptation acts upon a congenial nature like fuel, not water,
on the fire. As well might we expect to take fire into our bosom, and
our clothes not be burned, or to go upon hot coals, and not be burned; as to
go wilfully into sin, and to escape the punishment.§ Sin and punish-
ment are linked together by a chain of adamant. ‘The fire of lust
kindles the fire of hell.'|| He cannot afterwards plead the strength of
the temptation. Why did he not avoid it? Who that knows how
much tinder he carries about him, would wilfully light up the sparks ?
Heedlessly to rush into temptation, is to provoke the corruption, which
is too ready to stir of itself. The influence of temptations though not
* Chap. xxxi. 30. Gen. vi. 2; xxxix. 6. 2 Sam. xi. 2. Comp. Ecclus. xxv. 21.
† Gen. xxxix. 7. 2 Kings, ix. 30. Marg. Isa. iii. 16. 2 Pet. ii. 14. Comp. Paradise Lost,
book xi. 1, 620.
‡ Chap. v. 10; xxix. 3. 1 Sam. ii. 26, 36. Job, xxxi. 9, 12. Luke, xv. 13, 30. Comp. the
difference between Solomon's chaste and unholy age. I Kings, x. 21, 27, with xii. 4.
§ Exod. xx. 14, 17. Lev. xx 10. 2 Sam. xii. 9. Mal. iii. 5. Even as a sin of ignorance
it was liable to be visited. Gen. xii. 15-15; xx. 1-6; xxvi. 10. So strictly has the holy
Lord fenced his own ordinance! See MEDE'S Sermon on Chap. iv. 23.
|| Henry in loco. Comp. Job, xxxi. 12; Jam. i. 14, 15.
66 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
always sensible, is immediate. The man must be in haste, who would
effectually resist it. Beware of suspicious familiarities on the borders
of sin. (Gen. xxxix. 10. Rom. xiii. 13. 1 Thess. v. 22.) The temptation
to criminality in this atmosphere is fearful. (2 Sam. xi. 2-4. Comp.
Eccius. ix. 8, 9.) Whosoever toucheth shall not be innocent. (Gen. xx. 6;
xxxix. 9. 1 Cor. vii. 1.)
30. Men do not despise a thief, if lie steal to satisfy his soul, when he is
hungry; 31. But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall
give all the substance of his house. 32. But whoso committeth adultery
with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his
own soul. 33. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach
shall not be wiped away. 34. For jealousy is the rage of a man;
therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35. He will not
regard (accept the face of, marg.) any ransom; neither will he rest
content, though thou givest many gifts.
Here is no excuse or impunity for the thief. The full restitution that
he is compelled to make*—perhaps sweeping away all his little sub-
stance—proves that no extremity can excuse "the transgression of the
law." (Comp. 1 Cor. vi. 10, with 1 John, iii. 4.) Let him earn his bread
by honest industry. If the fruits of industry fail, let him, trusting in
God, seek the help of his fellow-creatures. If he have faith to trust, he
will never be forced to steal. (See Matt. vi. 25-33.) Yet his extreme
temptation renders him an object rather of pity than of scorn—Men do
not despise him.
But the sin of the adulterer claims no sympathy. His plea is not
the cry of hunger, but of lust; not want, but wantonness; not the lack
of bread, but of understanding. (Comp. Eccles. vii. 25, 26; Jer. v. 8, 21.)
He is wilfully given up to his sin. He destroyeth his own soul. (Lev.
xx. 10. Chap. ii. 18, 19; v. 22, 23; vii. 22, 23. Eph. v. 5.) He gets a
wound—not like the soldier or the martyr for Christ—full of honour;
but rankling on his conscience (Ps. xxxii. 3, 4), and bringing dishonour
and indelible reproach upon his name.† The tremendous passions of
jealousy and rage shut out all forgiveness.‡ The face of no one who
offered a ransom would be accepted. No compensation (Gen. xxxix.
19, 20. Judg. xix. 29, 30), however costly, will content.
Such are the many sins (2 Sam. xi. 6-24), the awfully destructive
* Exod. xxii. 11-4. Seven-fold—not literally. Four or five-fold was the extent of the
Divine requirement. Comp. Luke, xix. 8. It means full (ver. 3) and satisfactory—an
indefinite number. Comp. Gen. iv. 15, 24; Ps. lxxix. 12, and cilia passim. Comp.
Job, xx. 18.
† Chap. v. 9. Gen. xxxviii. 23; xlix. 4. 2 Sam. iii. 13; xiii. 13. 1 Kings, xv. 5, with
Matt. i. 6. Neh. xiii. 26. Comp Deut. xxiii. 2.
‡ Gen. xxxiv. 7; xlix. 5-7. Num. v. 14. Esth. vii. 7-10. Ezek. xvi. 38. Schultens
remarks that no version fully expresses the strength of the original. Rage; ‘Ignitio.’
CHAP. VII. 1-5. 67
miseries,* flowing from the breach of God's holy commandment. ‘Oh!
how great iniquity'—exclaimed the godly Augustine—'is this adul-
tery! How great a perverseness! The soul, redeemed by the precious
blood of Christ, is thus for the pleasures of an hour given to the devil;
a thing much to be lamented and bewailed; when that which delighteth
is soon gone, that which tormenteth remaineth without end.'†
And shall not this fearful picture of sin and its consequences (which
Solomon, alas! was too well fitted to draw) teach us to avoid every-
thing that may be temptation; to be sensitive to the first intimations of
its becoming so; to close every avenue of sense to the entrance of this
seductive poison; to shun all communications that taint the purity of
taste, that familiarise the mind with impurity, that give a vivid interest
to associations from which a chaste imagination recoils with disgust?
Let us learn to seek Divine strength to "watch and pray" continually;
and, while we "think we stand, to take heed lest we fall." (1 Cor. x. 12 )
1. My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. 2.
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine
eye. 3. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine
heart. 4. Say unto wisdom—'Thou art my sister,' and call under-
standing thy kinswoman: 5. That they may keep thee from the strange
woman, from the stranger that flattereth with her words.
THE study of wisdom in the word of God is here commended to us with
affectionate earnestness, and with a beautiful variety of imagery. Let
us ponder these valuable rules for practical application.
Let the whole mind and heart be occupied with it. Keep it as the
daily means of life. (Chap. iii. 21, 22; iv. 4, 13. Isa.lv. 2, 3. Jer. xxii. 15.)
Sir Matthew Hale told his children—'If I omit reading a portion of
Scripture in the morning, it never goes well with me through the day.'
Lay it up (Chap. x. 14. Deut. xi. 18. Luke, ii. 19, 51) carefully, not on
our shelves, but on our hearts. Let the whole Word of God be our
precious treasure. Receive the promises from his grace with simple
affiance, and the commandments from his holiness with ready obedience.
Stand with your eye in the land of promise; but with your feet "in the
land of uprightness." (Ps. cxliii. 10.)
Maintain a jealous regard for the law. What care is necessary to
keep the apple of the eye—that most tender part of the most tender
* The quaint lines of an old Chronicler give an awful picture--
'Corpus, opes, animum, famam, vim, lumina. scortum
Debilitat, perdit, necat, aufert, eripit, orbat.'
Quoted by Trapp on verse 26.
† Lib. de Honest. Mulier. quoted by Lavater on verse 26.
68 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
member! (Deut. xxxii. 10. Ps. xvii. 8. Zech. ii. 8.) With the same
care preserve the integrity of the law. Let every part of it have its
full weight. To explain it away, or to lower its requirements, breaks
down the barrier, and gives an easy entrance to temptation. The sen-
sual sinner is often a covert infidel.
Let it be at hand for constant use. Bind them upon thy fingers (Chap.
iii. 3. Deut. vi. 8; xi. 18); that, being always in sight, they may be
always ready for the present moment. And for their practical influ-
ence, write them upon the table of thine heart. Oh! my God! this is thy
Almighty work. (Isa. xxvi. 12. 2 Cor. iii. 3.) But thou hast engaged
to do it for thy people. (Jer. xxxi. 33.) I "take hold of thy covenant."
Lord! seal thy promised grace.
Let it be the object of tender affection—as our sister--our kinswoman.
It is her embrace that throws the harlot's beauty into the shade. Man
must have his object of delight. If wisdom is not loved, lust will be
indulged. The Bible therefore—not merely read, but the cherished
object of familiar intercourse—proves a sacred exorcist to expel the
power of evil. (Chap. ii. 10, 16; vi. 23, 24; xxiii. 26, 27.)
6. For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, 7. And
beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths a young
man void of understanding, 8. Passing through the street near her
corner; and he went the way to her house, 9. In the twilight, in the
evening, in the black and dark night: 10. And, beholds there met him a
woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. 11. (She is
loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: 12. Now is she
without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) 13. So
she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto
him, 14. ‘I have peaces-offerings with me; this day have I paid my
vows. 15. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy
face, and I have found thee. 16. I have decked my bed with coverings
of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. 17. I have
perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18. Come, let us
take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.
19. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: 20.
He bath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day
appointed.' 21. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield;
with the flattering of her lips she forced him. 22. He goeth after her
straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction
of the stocks: 23. Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth
to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.
Solomon paints the deadly snare of the strange woman with a master's
hand, and with exquisite fidelity of colouring. A young man without
understanding (Chap. i. 4, 22 ; xiii. 16) in company with youths as simple
CHAP. VII. 6-23. 69
as himself, takes in the dark of evening the way to the harlot's house. She
meets him. Her attire (Gen. xxxviii. 14, 15): her subtilty (Chap. xxiii.
27. Eccles. vii. 26., Judg. xvi. 4–20); her loud and stubborn voice (Chap.
ix. 13); her feet at this late hour not abiding in her house (Comp. 1 Tim.
v. 13 ; Tit. ii. 5); lying in wait at every corner of the street;* her impudent
face and conduct—all show the harlot's forehead. (See Gen. xxxix. 7,
12. Jer. iii. 3.) She allures her victim with the garb of sanctity. She
had just been engaged in special religious duties. Now she was come
forth to seek diligently her lover, that they might feast together upon her
peace-offerings,† and solace themselves with love, with every indulgence.
‘The goodman (perhaps the name of husband might have awakened con-
science) is gone a long journey till the time appointed. Meanwhile, there-
fore, we may take our fill of love without fear of interruption.' Unarmed
with principle, the weakness of resolution yields to the seduction of lust;
and her unsuspecting prey rushes on to ruin.
Trace this sad end to its beginning. Was not idleness the parent of
this mischief? (2 Sam. xi. 2.) The loitering evening walk; the un-
seasonable hour (Job, xxiv. 15. Rom. xiii. 12, 13); the vacant mind—
all bringing the youth into contact with evil company (Chap. xiii. 20.
1 Con xv. 33)—was not this courting tempting the tempter?
"The house was empty," and therefore ready for his reception, and soon
altogether in his possession. (Matt. xii. 44, 45.) How valuable are
self-discipline, self-control, constant employment, active energy of pur-
suit, as preservatives under the Divine blessing from fearful danger !
See also the base varnish of religion. It is often a cover for sin!
(1 Sam. ii. 22. 2 Sam. xv. 8–11. John, xviii. 28.) ‘She durst not play
the harlot with man till she had played the hypocrite with God, and,
stopped the mouth of her conscience with her peace-offerings.'‡ Nay—
she seems to have emboldened herself in her wickedness, as if her
meeting was a happy providence, the reward of her religious services.
(Verses 14, 15. 1 Sam. xxiii. 7. Zech. xi. 5.) Beware of any voice,
though from the most revered quarter, that manifestly encourages for-
Observe also the infatuation of the snare. ‘Man cannot be ruined
till he has been made confident to the contrary. A man must get into
his victim's heart with fair speeches and promises, before he can come
* Chap. ix. 14, 15; xs:iii. 28. Dr. Richardson mentions seeing "these wretched women
in a large commercial town in Egypt, in the harlot's attire, sitting at the doors of their
houses, and calling on the passengers as they went by, in the same manner as we read in
the Book of Proverbs."—Travels, vol. i. p. 270.
† See Holden. Comp. Lev. vii. 16; xix. 6; Dent. xii. 6. Scott takes the same view—
adding— ‘that it is no wonder, that these sacred ordinances should have given occasion
to carnal indulgence, when our Christian festivals (Christmas especially) are abused for
‡ Gurnal. It is a well-known fact, that the favourite mistress of Louis XIV. was so
rigid in her religious duties, that her bread was weighed during Lent, lest she should
transgress the austerity of fasting.
70 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
at it with a dagger.'* Thus the harlot's flattering speech chained the
youth blindfolded for destruction. As the ox goeth to the slaughter,
unconscious of his fate, perhaps dreaming of rich pasture: or as a fool
goeth to the stocks (Eccles. vii. 26. Judg. xvi. 16-19), careless and un-
feeling; so does this poor deluded victim rush on with pitiable mirth
or indifference, till the dart strikes through his liver. (Hos. iv. 11, 14.)
He hasteth as a bird to the snare (Eccles. ix. 12), thinking only of the
bait; and he knoweth not that it is for his life. (Chap. ix. 18.) What
will recollection bring, but the fragrance of exciting perfume (Verses
16, 17), changed into the bitterness of wormwood and gall; the short
night of pleasure succeeded by the eternal night of infernal torment!†
for a cup of pleasure drinking an ocean of wrath! (Verse 27; ix. 18.)
Lastly—mark the danger of venturing into temptation. Could we
expect any other results, when we saw the youth going the way to the
harlot's house? (Chap. iv. 15; v. 8. Judg. xvi. 1.) He intended merely
his own idle gratification; and when he yielded, it was probably not
without some struggle. But it is a just judgment, that those who fear
not temptation should fall. 'Who would avoid danger must avoid
temptation to sin. Who would avoid sin must avoid temptation to
sin.'‡ The force, to which the youth's own folly subjected him, he
could not plead as an excuse. When the first bounds of modesty are
broken through, the door of the fancy is opened to the tempter for the
kindling of lust. Thus to rush into the very jaws of ruin is to "enter
into temptation" by our own will; instead of being led or falling into
it, under the providential discipline and dispensation of God. (Matt.
xxvi. 41, with iv. 1. Jam. i. 2.) Self-confidence has ruined many a pro-
mising profession. Tenderness of conscience, sensibility of weakness,
dependence on Divine strength and promise --in this frame "he that
is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him
not." (1 John, v. 18.)
24. Hearken unto me now therefore, 0 ye children, and attend to the words .
of my mouth. 25. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not
astray in her paths. 26. For she bath cast down many wounded: yea,
many strong men have been slain by her. 27. Her house is the way to
hell, going down to the chambers of death.
In the hand of a licentious poet or painter, this picture might serve
to contaminate the unsanctified imagination. But as it stands on the
page of inspiration, it is God's solemn warning to children, whether in
years, understanding, or experience. Now, therefore, that you have seen
the end of sin (Verses 22, 23), hearken unto me. That you may not go
astray in her paths, let not thine heart decline. (Chap. iv. 23; v. 8.) An
impure thought, a polluted fancy, an idle book, filthy conversation,
* SOUTH's Sermons, iii. 130.
† ‘Delectat in momentum; cruciat in aeternum'—JEROME. ‡ Geier on verse 9.
CHAP. VII. 24—27. 71
foolish company, theatres or places of vain resort—these are her ways.
Dread the first step, and dream not that you can stop yourself at pleasure
in her course. Familiarity with sin weakens abhorrence. Soon will
you begin to love the object of detestation. And what! should you
find too late, that you have chosen as your home her house, which is the way to
hell, and to the chambers of death?* Many, not of the meaner sort, but strong
men has she cast down wounded and slain. And a miracle it is of Almighty
power and grace, that plucks the child of God from the brink of destruction.
Let not then the most established Christian dismiss this subject as
of no personal concern. Be it so—that "you are risen with Christ;"
that you have “set your affections on things above;” that "your life is
hid with Christ in God;" that you are looking for the glorious hope of
his "appearing." It is to you, in whom "fleshly lusts are yet warring
against the soul" (1 Pet. ii. 11), that the exhortation is given—Mor-
tify, therefore, your members that are upon the earth—even the worst
members of the old man--fornication, uncleanness, evil concupiscence.†
And who, with the picture of the wounded and slain before him will
revolt?—"Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?"
(2 Kings, viii. 13)--that he should need this warning? Look at the
footsteps of the strong men who have gone in.‡ Whom do we see come
out whole? "Behold! kings stood not before her; how then shall we
stand?" (2 Kings, x. 4.)
Nor let present steadfastness, or seclusion from temptation, blind
our eyes to the liability of yielding to the vilest indulgence. The eye
of God discerns a far deeper corruption than appears in the outer man
—such a total depravation, that even the affections, designed to be the
sources of our holiest delight, become the principle and occasion of the
most awful departures from the ways of purity and peace.
The gospel presents the only remedy. The love of Christ is the
counteracting principle to the love of lust. ‘If impure love solicits,
remember the holy love of thy Saviour to thee, proved by his most
shameful death. Think of him, as looking into thy heart boiling over
with corruption, showing thee his wounds, and exciting thee to a
reciprocal love of himself.’§ The crucifixion of the flesh by a living
union with Him will "keep us from our iniquity." (Gal. v. 24, with
* Chap. ii. 18; ix. 18. The plural number (the ways, Heb.) seems to imply ‘many other
ways of guilt branching out, alaity other paths of ruin coinciding.'—HERVEY's Theron and
Aspasio. Letter v. Schultens insists, that the present most wretched state, full of all
horror and execration, is included; so that the man who hath entered the seducer's house,
may be said to have entered alive into hell, and gone down to the chamber of death.—
Chap. v. 5.
† Col. iii. 1-5. Compare the exhortation to the flourishing Thessalonian Church, 1 Thess.
iv. 3-5; and to a Christian Bishop, 2 Tim. ii. 22.
‡ Samson—David—Solomon. Neh. xiii. 26.
Felix, quern faciunt aliena pericula cautum!
§ Geier on verse 18. Comp. 1 Cur. vi. 18, 20; 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.
72 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
Ps. xviii. 23.) "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer
therein?" (Rom. vi. 2, 3.) "The flesh will still lust against the Spirit."
(Gal. v. 17.) But the man, who walks with God in Gospel liberty, and
Christian discipline and watchfulness, is safe. (Rom. vi. 14, with 1 Cor.
But if sin be not mortified by these principles, sooner or later it will
break out; if not, as here, to open disgrace; yet so as to defile the con-
science, to "quench the Spirit," and by a sure, though perhaps imper-
ceptible, course, to bring soul and body to hell—to the chambers of
eternal death. (Rom. vi. 21. Jam. i. 14, 15.)
1. Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? 2. She
standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.
3. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the
doors. 4. Unto you, 0 men, I call: and my voice is to the sons of man.
LISTEN we now to the calls of heavenly Wisdom—to the voice of the
Son of God.* Careless soul! shall thy Divine call be slighted, when
the allurements of sin and vanity have had power to arrest thine ear?†
Can ignorance be pleaded? Doth not wisdom cry? and that—not in
the hour of darkness, and in the secret corners, but in the high places—
the paths of the city—the doors of thy house? Has she not followed
thee to thy places of business—of diversion—of sin? Has she not
put forth her voice in the Bible—in the family—in the preached ward?
The loudness--the perseverance of the cry betokens earnestness in thy
* We assume the speaker to be personal—essential Wisdom. Apart from the general
reasons before given (Notes on chap. i. 20, 21, 24), this description could not without un-
natural force apply to an attribute It set out, I. Personal existence—brought forth—brought
up—in conjunction with Deity—by Him (verses 24, 30.) II. Personal properties (1.) set up
(anointed, Heb.) from, everlasting, for distinct office. (verse 23), (2.) The efficient cause in the
work of creation (verses 27-30), (3.) Having wisdom (verse 14) which, as an attribute itself,
could not be the property of an attribute ; and strength (verse 14) an independent quality,
not a property of wisdom, (4.) Personal authority (verses 15, 16), (5.) Leading into the
ways of truth (verses 19, 20), (6.) Causing to inherit. (Verse 21.) III. Personal affections—
hatred (verse 13), love (verse 17), joy. (Verses 30, 31.) IV. Giving personal promises.
(Verse 21.) V. Commanding obedience as a matter of life and death. (Verses 32-36.) Whe-
ther Solomon fully understood his own words, may be a question. 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. But
receiving the words as from God; weighing their natural force; comparing them with
Scripture parallels, we doubt not that they describe—not an attribute, but a Person—
Eternal—Omniscient—in the most endearing relation to man--his Creator—Mediator—
† Chap. vii. ‘Imagination cannot form to itself a more exquisite and affecting piece of
scenery, than that exhibited by Solomon in the Book of Proverbs. In his seventh chapter
he introduces the world, by its meretricious blandishments alluring the unwary to the
chambers of destruction. In the succeeding chapter, by way of perfect contrast, appears
in the beauty and majesty of holiness, the Son of the Father, the true and eternal Wisdom
of God, with all the tender love and affectionate concern of a parent, inviting men to the
substantial joys and enduring pleasures of immortality, in the house of salvation.’—Bishop
HORNE's Sermon on the Tree of Knowledge.
CHAP. VIII. 5—11. 73
friend, and danger in thy condition. For would she have cried so loud,
or continued so long, if she had not loved thy soul; if she had not
known the wrath that was hanging over thee—the hell that was before
The call is unfettered; not to devils, but to men: not to the right-
eous, but to the sons of men. Every child, therefore, of guilty Adam has
his name in the warrant. It is the proclamation of the Gospel "to
every creature." (Mark, xvi. 15.) Wherever the word reaches, the offer
is made. Wherever a lost sinner be found on this side of the grave,
the free welcome of the Gospel meets him. If he be not saved, he is
more lost than ever. His ruin lies at his own door. (Matt. xxiii. 37.)
5. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understand-
ing heart. 6. Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the
opening of my lips shall be right things. 7. For my mouth shall speak
truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8. All the words
of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse
in them. 9. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to
them that find knowledge. 10. Receive my instruction, and not* silver;
and knowledge rather than choice gold. 11. For wisdom is better than
rubies: and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared
The great Teacher calls the simple and fools to hear. (Chap. i. 23;
ix. 4, 5.) And where else can they hear such excellent things. Worthy
are they of the attention of princes† —his glorious person; his ever-
lasting covenant; his rich and sovereign love to sinners. (Verses 12–31.)
Often does the truth of God, by the tradition of men,‡ or the subtilty of
the father of lies (Comp. Matt. iv. 6, 7, with Ps. xci. 11), become virtually
a principle of error. (Gal. i..7–9.) But here all is unchangeable right-
eousness. There is no froward perversion. Every such wickedness is an
abomination. (Chap. xxx. 5. Ps. xix. 9; xxxiii. 4; cxix. 152, 160.)
But are they within the reach of the multitude? They who "lean
to their own understanding" (Chap. iii. 5. 1 Cor. i. 20; iii. 18); who care
more to be learned than to be holy; who value the tree of knowledge
more than the tree of life; who desire "meat for their lust," rather
than manna for their souls. Such, indeed, make difficulties for them-
selves. The "voice out of the whirlwind" rebukes them, as "darken-
ing counsel by words without knowledge." (Job, xxxviii. 1, 2.) Scrip-
ture difficulties belong not to the Book itself, but to man's blind and
* Rather than silver. See next clause, and Comp. Hos. vi, 6.
† Heb. princely.
‡ It was a keen reply of one of the Martyrs, when asking of Bonner's chaplain—‘Is not
God's book sufficient for my salvation?’—the answer was—'Yes, it is sufficient for our
salvation; but not for our instruction.' ‘God send me the salvation, and you the instruc-
tion.’—Exam. of Thomas Hawkes. FOXE, vii. 100.
74 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
corrupt heart. The carnal man cannot understand it, any more than
the blind can see the noon-day light of the sun. But ‘it is easy to all
that have a desire to it, and which are not blinded by the prince of this
world.’* The "babes" are taught of God. (Matt. xi. 25; xviii. 4.)
He not only unfolds the truth, but opens their hearts to receive it.
There will be, indeed, great depths. But they will grasp important,
saving truths. Here ‘the wisest Solomon may fetch jewels for orna-
ment, and the poorest Lazarus bread for life.’† Come then—sinner—
"sit," with one of old, "at the feet" of thy Divine Teacher. (Luke,
x. 39.) Receive his instruction more precious than silver or fine gold.
(Verse 19 ; xvi. 16. Job, xxviii. 15–19. Ps. xix. 10; cxix. 127.) Enrich
thyself with his satisfying and enduring treasures, compared with which
all the things that may be desired are lighter than vanity. (Chap. iii. 15.)
And will not the children of God daily draw more abundantly from
these treasures? Oh! let them not be, like the pomp of this world,
the object of gaze, but of active desire and increasing enjoyment.
12. I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty in-
How adorable is the Being here before us! His glorious perfec-
tions, each dwelling with the other in such harmonious combination!
All the witty inventions of science are ultimately traceable to this hea-
venly source. (Exod. xxxi. 3–6; xxxv. 30-35. 1 Chron. xxviii. 19. Isa.
xxviii. 24–29.) But his great mind was soaring far beyond. The vast
discovery of man's salvation was now before his eyes (Verses 22–31)
found out, not by laborious investigation, but by the intuition of the
Infinite Godhead. Here is his most splendid display of wisdom (Eph.
iii. 10) dwelling with prudence—wisdom contriving for the highest end
prudence directing the most effective means. The same perfect com-
bination controls all his arrangements, both as "the Head of the
Church" (Col. i. 18), and "the Head over all things to his Church "
(Eph. i. 22), for her present good, and his eternal glory. ‘And what’
owe we individually, to "the riches of his grace, wherein," by the
removal of insuperable difficulties, and the communication of suitable
grace," he hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence!"
(Ib. i. 7, 8.)
Prudence is commonly thought to be only a moral quality. Here
we see it to be an attribute of Deity. The humanity of our beloved
Lord was filled with this perfection. (Isa. xi. 2.) With what Divine
acuteness of wisdom did he find out the knowledge of the inventions of his
* Reformers' Notes. Comp. chap. xiv. 6; xvii. 24. ‘What wonder, if the unlettered
and despised Christian know more of the mysteries of Heaven than the naturalists, though
both wise and learned? Christ admits the believer into his bosom, and He is in the bosom
of the Father.'—LEIQHTON'S Sermon on Heavenly Wisdom.
† Bishop REYNOLDs on Hos. xiv. 9.
CHAP. VIII. 13, 14. 75
enemies, and put them to shame! (Matt. ix. 4-8; xxii. 15-46.) And
how did this combination of prudence restrain him from hasty confidence
(John, ii. 23, 24), remove him from premature danger (Matt. xii. 14-16.
John, vi. 15), and preserve him from giving needless offence! (Matt.
xvii. 27.) Praised be our God for such "treasures of wisdom," hid in
our glorious Head," ready for distribution for every emergency of his
people's need! (Col. i. 19; ii. 3.)
13. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil
way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Such is the holiness of Divine wisdom! She dwells with prudence.
But she cannot dwell with evil. Therefore, the fear of the Lord, which
is her very nature, is to hate evil. (Chap. iii. 7; xvi. 6.) Thus of pride
in all its branches —arrogancy of spirit, the evil way and the froward
mouth—the Wisdom of God declares without reserve—I hate them.
(Chap. vi. 16-19; xvi. 5. Ps. xlv. 7. Zech. viii. 17.) How clearly did
he mark his hatred in the days of his flesh by the full exhibition of the
opposite grace! "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto,
but to minister." (Matt. xx. 28. Luke, xxii. 27.) A proud disciple of a
lowly Saviour! how offensive is this contradiction to our Master! What
a cause of stumbling to the world!
14. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding; I have
This counsel, as we have just hinted (See on verse 12), is not, as
with man, the fruit of deliberation, but Divine intuition. It is not that
it flows from him; but that he is himself the essence—the fountain-
head. (Isa. xl. 13, 14. Rom. xi. 34.) It is not that he hath understanding
to order and govern the world. But he is understanding. All is in
him. All is derivable from him. (John i. 9.) "His understanding is
infinite; his strength Almighty, everlasting." (Ps. cxlvii. 5. Isa. xl. 28
xxvi. 4.) Thus we adore him—we rest in him — as the great "Coun-
sellor" (Isa. ix. 6); One with his Father in the everlasting plan of
salvation (Zech. vi. 12, 13); One with his Church, undertaking her
cause (Ib. iii. 1), guiding her in all her difficulties and perplexities.
(Isa. lxiii. 9-14.) His self-existent power is ever ready to execute the
purpose of his counsel. (Ib. verses 1-6. Ps. lxxxix. 19. Job, ix. 4;
xii. 13, 16. Dan. ii. 20.) Behold him then, surrounded with the majesty
of his mighty perfections—"Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom
of God." (1 Cor. i. 24.) In all thy doubts and anxieties—counsel is
mine, and sound wisdom. (Isa. xlviii. 17.) In all thy conflicts and
weariness—I have strength. (Ib. xl. 28, 29.) See him as man filled
with these Divine perfections. (Ib. xi. 2.) Remember—his fulness
is thy portion. (1 Cor. i. 30. Col. ii. 10.)
76 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
15. By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. 16. By me princes rule,
and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
Another glorious contemplation of this Divine Person! He pro-
claims himself to be the source of power and authority, no less than of
counsel and wisdom. "KING OF KINGS was" the mysterious name
written upon his vesture. (Rev, xix. 16; i. 5; xvii. 14.) Yet his crown
does not displace the regal diadem from the brow of earthly princes; nor
is the sceptre to fall from their hands. These ensigns of power are to be
held, but in subordination to his own. By me kings reign; not only by
my permission, but by my appointment. They bear my name. They are
stamped with my authority. (Exod. xxii. 28. Ps. lxxxii. 6. John, x. 35.)
Proud anarchy disputes the prerogative, and traces the authority to the
people; only that they may cast off the yoke of God, and "do that
which is right in their own eyes." (Judg. xvii. 6; xix. 1. Hos. viii. 4.
2 Pet. ii. 10. Jude, 8.) Scripture polities lay down the offensive truth
—"There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of
God. They are ministers of God," not servants of the people. (Rom.
xiii. 1-6.) Government in all its administrations—kings, princes,
nobles, judges—is a Divinely-consecrated ordinance.* Every king-
dom is a province of the universal empire of the "King of kings."
Men may mix their own pride, folly, and self-will with this appoint-
ment. But God's providential counter-working preserves the sub-
stantial blessing. Yet, if "the power be exclusively of God," then is
Wisdom, by whom kings reign, the very essence and person of God. And
here is our rest, our anchor in this world's agitating storm. "The
government of the world is on the shoulders" of "the Head of the
Church." (Isa. ix. 6.) All things— all power in heaven and in earth
—is delivered unto him of his Father.† The Lord reigneth; let the
earth rejoice." (Ps. xcvii. 1.)
17. I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
Now behold the grace of this Divine Person to his loving children.
None by nature are interested in it. (Rom. viii. 7.) But his free grace
first implants love in their hearts, and then cheers them with the assu-
rance of his own love. (1 John, iv. 19. John, xiv. 21.) The first kindling
of the flame is of him. We love, because we are drawn. (Jer. xxxi. 3.)
* Ps. lxxv. 7. Jer. xxvii. 5-7. Dan. ii. 37, 38; iv. 25; v. 18. Comp. John, xix. 11. It is
interesting to trace this acknowledgment even in the darkness of Heathenism. Kings in-
herited their sceptre from Jove; Magistracy was consecrated by Augurs, the Assessors and
Counsellors of Jove.
† Matt. xi. 27; xxviii. 18. Scott remarks the future tense in the original, as seeming
to agree with the prediction of righteous kings and rulers in the latter times of the Church.
Comp. Ps. lxxii. 1-3; Isa. xlix. 23; lx 16, 17. See the national blessing of godly rulers—
2 Chron. ix. 8. Isa. i. 26.
CHAP. VIII. 17. 77
We seek, not by the impulse from within, but by the grace from above
(Chap. xvi. 1. Ps. cxix. 32); and seeking, we find. (Isa. xlv. 19. Jer. xxix.
13. Matt. vii. 7, 8.) But it must be early seeking--the first desire and
choice of the heart. (Chap. xxiii. 26. Ps. lxiii. 1. Hos. v. 15. Matt. vi. 33.)
It must be early in the day (Ps. v. 3; cxix. 147 . Isa. xxvi. 9. Mark, i. 35),
the first-fruits of our time. Consecrate the whole to him. Take care that
God is the first person we speak to; that we see his face first before
any other; else will our lamp be untrimmed, our soul estranged from
his presence, our heart unready for his service. Let it be the early
breaking in of the day of grace (Job, viii. 5–7. Isa. Iv. 6. 2 Cor, vi. 2)—
the improvement of the first—who knows that they be not the only—
opportunities of salvation? (Chap. xxvii. 1. Heb. iv. 7.) Every present
opportunity for the soul is worth worlds. Mercy is in it—grace and
glory are in it—heaven and eternity are in it. But remember—the
door of grace, that is opened to-day, may he shut to-morrow—for ever.
Again—this early seeking. Oh! let it be the early spring and
morning of life (1 Kings, xviii. 12. 2 Chron. xxxiv. 3.) —when the eye
is full of life, and the heart of gladness. Let it be "the kindness of
youth" (Jer. ii. 2) "the first love:" before it has been devoted to the
world; before the hardening habits of sin have been formed and fixed.
Is he not the greatest—the most desirable—the most satisfying good?
Therefore, let him be to us—as he deserves to be—the first of the first
—the best of the best.
Children! Here is a special encouragement for you, added to the
general one. It can never be too early for you. Even now it is too
late. God has claimed you from the moment that you passed from
unconscious infancy to the dignity of a responsible being. The time
spent, so long estranged from God, has been all too long. Early de-
votedness saves from many follies and mistakes, retracing of steps, and
the after misery of being " made to possess the iniquities of our youth."
(Job, xiii. 26.). Early satisfaction—the pure fruit of early seeking—
(for they that thus seek shall find) will be the joy of your whole life
(Ps. xc. 14, with verses 34, 35)—the dawn of your blessed eternity.
Remember—the bud and bloom of life is specially acceptable to God
(Hos. xi. 1–4); specially honoured by him. (1 Sam. ii. 18; iii. 19. Ps.
xcii. 12–15.) But is it reasonable—nay—is it not a most abasing
thought—to offer the flower of youth to Satan; and, when you have
well worn yourself out in his service, to reserve only the dregs and
sweepings of life for your Saviour? (Mal. i. 8.) Every day you lose a
world of happiness; you bind a chain of sin; you take a step to hell.
Come, then, and answer the call that is drawing you to Him, who is
worthy of all. (1 Sam. iii. 9. Ps. xxxii. 8. Jer. iii. 4.) Never will you
regret that you have come too soon. But many have been the sor-
rowing cries—Lord, ‘I have loved thee too late!’ (Matt. xxv. 6–12.
78 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
Luke, xiii. 24, 25.) Come, then, by his help, and in dependence on his
grace make him your first, your present choice. Lay claim by faith to
this promise to early seekers, and you shall find.
18. Riches and honour are with me: yea, durable riches and righteousness.
19. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue
than choice silver. 20. I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst
of the paths of judgment: 21. That I may cause those that love me to
inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.
What a treasure do early seekers find! This fading world is too
poor a portion. (Ps. xvii. 14, 15.) Theirs are durable riches of eternity
(Matt. vi. 19, 20. Luke, x. 42. Rev. iii. 18); the honour of " reigning"
as kings "in life" (Rom. v. 17; viii. 17. Rev. i. 6); a righteousness, in
which they are accepted with God, and conformed to his image. (Rom.
iii. 22; xiii. 14. Eph. iv. 24.) Is not this fruit and revenue better than
choice silver? (Verses 10, 11; iii. 14, 15. Eccles. vii. 12.) And then,
when our way is shut up, how valuable is Wisdom's counsel! (Chap.
iii. 6; iv. 11, 12; vi. 22. Isa. xlviii. 17; xlix. 10) so carefully leading in
the midst of the paths; ‘at a distance from the extreme’* on either side
of the narrow way. The sober-minded Christian is equally remote from
formal service and enthusiastic delusion. His apprehensions of truth
are alike distinguished from the dryness of system, and from loose
unconnected principles. The intelligent and spiritually-minded Church-
man is alike separate from exclusiveness or idolatry on the one side,
and from indiscriminate Christianity on the other. He values highly
his Scriptural ordinances; yet he neither mistakes them for the sub-
stance of the gospel, nor does he substitute self-willed effervescence in
their room. This is the Via Media—Christian unity, consistency, and
fruitfulness. Here also is substance—things that have a being, in con-
trast with "things that have not" (Chap. xxiii. 5. Ps. xxxix. 6. 1 Cor.
vii. 31); solid realities (Isa. xxix. 8, contrasted with Isa. lv. 2); "faith
substantiating things hoped for." (Heb. xi. 1.) Sin pardoned: the
Father smiling acceptance; the Comforter witnessing our peace; a new
moulding of our mind and spirit. Here is no yawning vacuum, but a
grand object to give interest to life, to fill up every vacancy in the
heart—'perfect happiness.'† All that we could add from the world
would only make us poorer, by diminishing that enjoyment of God, for
the loss of which there is no compensation. There is one point—only
one— in the universe, where we can look up, and cry with the saintly
Martyn—'With thee there is no disappointment.'‡
Now contrast the portion in this life—of the men of this world.
Mark how the word of God pictures it—a fashion (1 Cor. vii. 31) — a
* Scott. Chap. iv. 23-27. See Bunyan's fine description of the middle path.
† Cartwright. ‡ Journals, vol. ii. 130.
CHAP. VIII. 22-31. 79
dream (Ps. lxxiii. 20)—a nonentity (Chap. xxiii. 5. Amos, vi. 13)—a
lie. (Jonah, ii. 8.) Thus men are spread over the world, "feeding upon
ashes, a deceived heart turning them aside." (Isa. xliv. 20.) The inlet
of their misery is, that they walk in a vain shadow, and "therefore they
are disquieted in vain." The child of God finds substance in "returning
to his "true" rest. Now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee."
(Ps. xxxix. 6, 7.)
But how does he come to his portion? Has he any part in de-
serving it? Far from it. Free grace, not free will, is the procuring
cause. It is an inheritance, now indeed "obtained," while "the earnest"
is in hand (Eph. i. 11); but to be fully enjoyed at the great consumma-
tion-day. Then, indeed, what here he promises will be fully make
good. His joyous welcome "to them on his right hand" will indeed
be causing them that love him to inherit substance (Heb. x. 34)—eternal,
unfading. (Matt. xxv. 34.) Even now from his royal bounty does he
fill their treasures. But what will be the burst of joy at that day—
what the unbounded delight throughout eternity, when, endowing them
with such a royal--yea—Divine bounty, the glorious Giver shall pro-
claim—I will fill their treasures! (1 Pet. i. 4, 5.) And the countless
throng of the redeemed shall unite in the testimony--One Christ hath
abundantly filled us all!
22. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of
old. 23. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the
earth was. 24. When there were no depths, I was brought forth: when
there were no fountains abounding with water. 25. Before the moun-
tains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: 26. While as
yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the
dust of the world. 27. When he prepared the heavens, I was there;
when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: 28. When he esta-
blished the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the
deep: 29. When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should
not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the
earth 30. Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I
was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; 31. Rejoicing in the
habitable part of his earth: and my delights were with the sons of men.
It must be a perverted imagination that can suppose an attribute
here. So glorious are the rays of eternal supreme Deity, distinct per-
sonality, and essential unity, that the mysterious, ever-blessed Being—
"the Word, who was in the beginning with God, and was God" (John,
i. 1, 2) —now undoubtedly stands before us. Curiously to pry into the
mode of his subsistence, would be "intruding into those things which
we have not seen." (Col. ii. 18. 1 Tim. vi. 16.) To receive his own
revelation of himself is our reverential privilege.
80 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
How clear is his essential unity with the Father! The Lord pos-
sessed* me—present with him in the bosom of Deity. Every movement
of the Divine mind was infinitely known—every purpose of Divine
counsel eternally present—fully developed, I was by Him†—in the
same essence and blessedness. (John, x. 30.) Such was "the glory
which he had with the Father before the world was!" (lb. xvii. 5.)
Neither man nor angel could declare it. No created intelligence could
tread one footstep in the course, that realises any conception of the
mystery. The mode of his existence in the Godhead (and this is all
that is revealed of this inscrutable subject) is generation—I was brought
forth—"the only-begotten Son"‡—a term which it is much safer to
adore than to expound; expressing, as it does, what is unsearchable.
‘Take care’—saith an old expositor—‘that in this generation we
invent nothing temporal, carnal, or human. But rather let us worship
this generation, beholding it by faith; and let us take heed from
searching further than Scripture doth teach us thereof. Otherwise we
should deserve to be blinded and punished for our great curiosity.’§
Not less clear is his eternal existence—in the beginning|| of the way of
God—coeval with his eternal counsels—before his works of old ¶ set
up or anointed** from everlasting for his covenant offices (1 Pet. i. 20);
‘destined and advanced to be the Wisdom and Power of the Father, Light and
Life, and All in All, both in the creation and the redemption of the world.’††
Connected with his eternity was his agency in the work of Creation.
Before the works was he brought forth. But when they were in operation
he was there—and that, not, like "the sons of God," an interested
* LXX. and Syriac Translation—‘created’—most unwarrantable—one of the main
pillars of the Arian heresy.
† John, i. 2. Geier remarks, that out of above sixty instances, where this preposition
occurs, not one can be produced, where vicinity is not supposed between two distinct per-
sons or substances.
‡ John, i. 18 ; iii. 16. Col. i. 15— ‘begotten before every creature.'—Bishop MIDDLETON.
§ CopE (MICHAEL), Exposition of Proverbs. 4to. 1580.
|| Holden strongly advocates the Translation—supported by many Ancient Versions,
and some of the best critics (see POOLE's Synopsis)—‘the beginning of the way’—and
expounds it—‘That Jehovah possessed by an eternal generation Wisdom or the Son, who
is the origin, or efficient cause, of all the works of God.’—Comp. Col. i. 18. Rev. iii. 14, also
i. 8; xxii. 13. Geier and other accredited authorities prefer the received version upon
critical grounds. Holden's remark, however, holds good on either hypothesis:—‘It is
scarcely possible in the whole compass of the Hebrew language to select terms more
expressive of the eternity of Wisdom than those which Solomon employs from this verse
to the thirtieth.’
¶ Contrast Job, xxxviii. 4, 5. Comp. verses 23-25, with Ps. xc. 2—the sublime adora-
tion of the eternity of God. Comp. also Exod. iii. 14, with John, viii. 58. Mic. v. 2.
Rev. i. 11.
** Heb. Anointing was the inaugurating ceremony in the consecration of prophets,
priests, and kings—a figure of the eternal consecration of Messiah to those high offices.
Comp. 1 Kings, xix. 16, with Isa. xli. 1; lxii. 1. Exod. xxix. 7, with Ps. cx. 4. 1 Sam. x. 1;
xvi. 13. 2 Kings, ix. 6, with Ps. ii. 6, marg. x1v. 6, 7.
†† HENRY in loco. Comp. Eph. iii. 9.
CHAP. VIII. 22-31. 81
spectator (Job, xxxviii. 6, 7), but an efficient cause.* The whole detail
of the creative work is brought out—the highest part or summits of the
dust of the world, with its deep and unsearchable foundations. Thus is
uncreated Wisdom displayed in clear and undoubted glory—'the
Divinity and eternity of Wisdom, meaning thereby the eternal Son of
God, Jesus Christ our Saviour.'†
Next he describes his unspeakable blessedness in communion with his
Father. I was by him, as one brought up with him— embosomed in him
as the object of daily delight;‡ rejoicing before him as the Fountain
and Centre of infinite joy. All this mutual intimate satisfaction and
delight had respect to the beginning of the way of God.—his eternal pur-
pose, and "the counsel of peace, which was between them both."
(Zech. vi. 13.) Here it was that the Father once and again proclaimed
him to be his delight; "His elect, in whom his soul delighted; his
beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased" (Isa. xlii. 1. Matt. iii. 17
xvii. 5. Comp. Col. i. 13, Gr.); ‘willing that by the Son we should ap-
proach to him; in the Son we should honour and adore him; and honour
the Son as himself.'§
Yet how deeply interesting is it to see him rejoicing, not only before his
Father, but in the habitable part of the earth! And what was it that
here attracted his interest? Man had been created in the image of
God—free to stand or fall. This freedom was the perfection of his
nature. His fall was permitted as the mysterious means of his higher
elevation. His ruin was overruled for his greater security. This
habitable earth was to be the grand theatre of the work, that should fill
the whole creation with wonder and joy. (Ps. xcviii. Isa. xliq. 23.) Here
"the Serpent's head was to be visibly bruised" (Gen. iii. 15. Heb. ii.
14, 15. 1 John, iii. 8), the kingdom of Satan to be destroyed, precious
"spoil to be divided with the strong." (Isa. liii. 12. Luke, xi. 21, 22.)
Here was the Church to be framed, as the manifestation of his glory,
the mirror of all his Divine Perfections. (Eph. iii. 10, 21.)
Considering the infinite cost at which he was to accomplish this
work—the wonder is — that he should have endured it —a greater
wonder that, ere one atom of the creation was formed— ere the first
blossom had been put forth in Paradise, he should have rejoiced in it.
But the wonder of wonders yet remains—that he, who was his
* John, i. 3. Col. i. 16. Even in the creation of man he was a co-worker, Geri. ii. 7,
with i. 26.
† Reformers' Notes.
‡ Comp. John, i. 18—the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father—‘exhibiting
at once,’ as Dr. Jamieson admirably observes—'the idea conveyed by both the terms—
brought forth, and brought up.'—Vindication of Doctrine of Deity of Christ, i. 224. Holden
with some others prefers the rendering ‘Fabricator’ for brought up, But the scope appears
to be—not the power of Messiah, but the mutual delight and communion between himself
and his Father, as it were, never absent from each other.
§ Quoted by Scott.
82 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
Father's infinite delight, and infinitely delighting in him, should find
his delights from all eternity in the sons of men; that he should, as it
were, long to be with us; that he should solace his heart with the
prospect; that he should anticipate the moment with joyous readiness
(Ps. xl. 6—8. Heb. x. 7); that he should pass by the far nobler nature of
angels "to take hold of man" (Heb. ii. 16, marg.), to embrace man as
one with his All-perfect self! But though he foresaw how they would
despise, reject, and put him to shame; yet they were the objects of his
everlasting love (Jer. xxxi. 3.), the purchase and satisfaction of the
"travail of his soul" (Isa. liii. 10, 11), the eternal monuments to his
praise (Ib. lv. 13). Yet for their sakes did he make humanity a temple
of the Deity, for them did he exchange the throne of glory for the
accursed cross (Philip. ii. 6-8) — the worship of the Seraphim for the
scorn and buffeting of men (Isa. vi. 1, 2, with Matt. xxvii. 22-31).—
inexpressible joy for unknown sorrow. (John, xvii. 5, with Matt. xxvi.
38; xxvii. 46.) Yes — thou adorable Redeemer, nothing but the
strength of thine own love could have brought thee out from the
bosom of ineffable delight to suffer such things for such sinners! But
this was "the joy set before thee, for" which — unfathomable love! —
thou wast content "to endure the cross, despising the shame." (Heb. xii.
2.) For this love dost thou inherit thy Father's justly proportioned
reward. (Philip. ii. 8-11.) On this foundation is thy people's confidence
— rest — security.
32. Now therefore hearken unto me, 0 ye children: for blessed are they that
keep my ways. 33. Hear instruction and be wise, and refuse it not.
Now therefore hearken. It is no mean and undeserving person that
calls. It is none other than the Wisdom of God; the source of all light
and knowledge (Verses 12-14); the King of kings (Verses 15, 16);
the loving rewarder of his children, especially of his young children
(Verse 17. Comp. Heb. xi. 6); the rich portion and unfailing guide of
his people. (Verses 18, 19.) Look at him once again in his Divine
glory, as "the only-begotten Son of God " (Verses 22, 24); the Medi-
ator in the everlasting Councils of Redemption (Verse 23); the Al-
mighty Creator of the world (Verses 27-30); the adorable Friend of
sinners (Verse 31). How should his Divine Majesty and condescending
love endear his instruction to us!* Yet his promised blessing belongs
only to practical hearing—to those that keep his ways (Isa. lv. 2, 3.
Luke, xi. 28. John, xiv. 21-23. Jam. i. 25) with godly fear, con-
stancy, and perseverance; keeping their eye on them, their hearts
towards them, their feet in them. Such are truly blessed. They choose
rightly; they walk surely; they live happily; they progress honour-
* See how the Father manifested the glory of his Divine Son to give constraining force
to his instruction. Matt. xvii. 1-5.
CHAP. VIII. 34-36. 83
ably; they end gloriously. Is it not therefore our wisdom to hear in-
struction with "the obedience of faith"—not doing what he commands
— (in which we may sometimes do — not his will, but our own) but
doing because he commands — doing his will in it--obeying as well
when it crosses our nature, as when it is more congenial with it? But
for this cheerful, child-like obedience, sovereign grace must open the
heart, and give the ear. (Chap. xx. 12, with Acts, xvi. 14.) The guilt
of refusing is inexcusable — a resolved will against the most gracious
call. (Acts, iii. 22, 23. Heb. ii. 1-3.)
Now therefore hearken, 0 ye children. Oh! happy moment, when
the soul is made "willing in the day of his power" (Ps. xc. 3); when
"the bands of love are drawing" (Hos. xi. 4) unto him! The cold,
dead indifference is gone. The enmity is slain. And who will not now
joyfully swear fealty; yea, count it his unspeakable delight to take
such a yoke; to be bound to such a service, where there is nothing but
for our good? (Dent. x. 12, 13.) Oh, my Prince—my Saviour! thou
hast based thy dominion on thy blood. Thou hast purchased thy right
by thy cross. (1 Cor. vi. 19, 20. Rom. xiv. 9.) Thou rulest, only that
thou mightest save. Take to thyself the glory of thy victory. I am
thine — not my own — for ever.
34. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting
at the posts of my doors. 35. For whoso findeth me, findeth life, and
shall obtain favour of the Lord. 36. But he that sinneth against me
wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
This is the hearing of faith—the voice of Christ to the inmost ear—
the impression of his word upon the heart. (John, v. 25. Rev. iii. 20.)
The effect is unwearied diligence and patient expectation; like the priest
waiting at the doors of the tabernacle for the assured blessing (Exod. xxix.
42); or the people watching at, the temple gates for his return from his
holy ministrations. (Luke, i. 10, 21.) This free and habitual attend-
ance upon Sacred Ordinances indicates an healthy appetite for Divine
nutriment. The superficial professor excuses himself from this "weari-
ness" (Mal. i. 13) by the fear of legality, or the danger of overvaluing
the means. But is there not at least equal danger of undervaluing the
means, to which our gracious Lord has engaged his blessing? (Exod.
xx. 24. Isa. lvi. 7. Matt. xviii. 20.) In gazing on the heavenly Jeru-
salem, the Apostle "saw no temple therein." (Rev. xxi. 22.) But what
right-hearted Christian will doubt that the life-blood of his soul while
on earth consists in watching, like the servants of the temple, daily at
her gates (Ps. lxxxiv. 1, 4, 10), when not involving the neglect of imperative
obligations. Wisdom's child will ever be familiar with Wisdom's gates.
The Weekly as well as the Sabbath assemblies will be his delight.
Most thankful will he be for the service, which invigorates him in the
84 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
midst of the toils of his worldly calling. "The way by the footsteps of
the flock, beside the Shepherds' tents," will be his constant resort. (Cant.
i. 7, 8.) And never would he wound the feelings of his Shepherd by
wilfully absenting himself from the well, when he comes to water his
flock. All the ordinances of prayer, meditation, Scripture reading, or
godly conference, will be his salutary provision. When it is not so;
when the common routine satisfies; when the intervals between the
Sabbath pass without any appetite for food, or any effort to seek the
bread of the sanctuary — Christian, is not thy pulse beating feebly ?
Hast thou not lost many a precious message from thy Lord (see John,
xx. 19, 24) —the fruit of thy Minister's special study, a word of distinct
application to thy state, and which might have guided and comforted
thee to the end of thy days? Oh, listen to thy Lord's rebuke —"Be
watchful and strengthen the things that remain that are ready to
Observe the blessing breathed down upon the Lord's waiting ones.
They find life. (Isa. lv. 3. John, v. 24.) For he on whom they wait is
the Author (John, i. 4 ; xi. 25 ; xiv. 6), the Dispenser (lb. x. 10), the
Keeper of life. (Col. iii. 3. 1 John, v. 11. Jude, 1.) "He therefore that
hath him, hath life" (1 John, v. 12), with all its present privileges of
favour of the Lord. (Isa. lxiv. 5.) ‘The smiles of God make heaven;
and they that obtain favour of the Lord, have a heaven upon earth.'†
Set then this expectation before thine eyes in waiting on thy God. ‘I
am seeking life for my soul; I will wait at the post of his doors, missing
no opportunity of a means of grace; I shall not wait in vain.'
Would that the sinner—the thoughtless sinner—not the daring
and ungodly only—pondered how his heartless neglect of wisdom
wronged his own soul! (Chap i. 17-19, 31; ix..12. Jer. viii. 19. Acts,
xiii. 46. Num. xvi. 38.) How cruel he is to himself, while he is despis-
ing his Saviour. Every bait of sin is the temptation to suicide—soul-
murder. The snatching at it is as if men were in love with damnation.
‘They that hate me love death. They love that which will be their death,
and put that from them which would be their life. Sinners die, because
they will die; which leaves them inexcusable, makes their condemna-
tion more intolerable, and will for ever justify God when he judges.
"0 Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.'"‡
* Rev. iii. 2. ‘The places where the Gospel is faithfully preached, are "the gates, and
the posts of the doors of wisdom," at which Christ would have his disciples to "wait
daily." And may not Christians, consistently with other duties, redeem time for this
waiting, as well as the children of this world find time for their vain amusements, who yet
do not neglect their one thing needful? Is not the time spared from attending on a week-
day, often spent in unprofitable visits or vain discourse? Ought Ministers to be "instant
in season, and out of season," in preaching the word; and ought not the people to be glad
of an opportunity of hearing it?' — SCOTT.
† Lawson (George) Exposition of Proverbs. 2 vols. 12mo. 1821.
‡ Hos. xiii. 9 Henry in loco.
CHAP. IX. 1-6. 85
1. Wisdom* hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:
2. She bath killed her beasts;† she hath mingled her wine; she hath
also furnished her table. 3. She hath sent forth her maidens: she
crieth upon the highest places of the city. 4. Whoso is simple, let him
turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,
5. Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.
6. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.
WE have delighted to contemplate the Divine Saviour in his
glorious majesty, and specially in his wondrous love to the sons of men.
(Chap. viii. 22-31.) Here his love is poured out before us. The
parable of the marriage-feast clearly identifies the speaker. Then the
King made the feast, and sent his servants to invite the guests. (Matt.
xxii. 1-4, also Luke, xiv. 16, 17.) Here Wisdom is a Queen, according to
Eastern custom, attended by her maidens (Exod. ii. 5. Esth. iv. 4), and
she sends them forth to bid to the feast. She hath builded her house—
"the church of the living God"— firm upon the pillars of eternal truth.
(1 Tim. iii. 15. Eph. ii. 20-22. Heb. iii. 3, 4. Matt. xvi. 18.) The great
sacrifice supplies her feast. (1 Cor. v. 7. Ps. xxxvi. 8. Isa. xxv. 6.) She
hath killed her beasts, mingled her wine with the choicest spices,‡ and
plentifully furnished her table. And now she cries to the simple—igno-
rant of his danger (Chap. xxii. 3), and easily deceived (Chap. xiv. 15)
—to him that wanteth understanding (Hos. vii. 11)—who has no appre-
hension of his need, or desire for the blessing—Let him turn in hither.
Here is a feast, not to see, but to enjoy. Come, eat of the bread of life
drink of the wine of gospel grace and joy.§ Is there not besides a special
invitation for her children—a table richly furnished for their refresh-
ment; where they eat of the bread, and drink of the wine, such as "the
world know not of " (Matt. xxvi. 26-28.)
But are not all corners welcome to the Gospel feast? The Master's
heart flows along with every offer of his grace. His servants are
ministers of reconciliation. (2 Cor. v. 18-20.) Their message is to tell
of the bounty of Messiah's house, and to bid sinners welcome to Him.
Here, sinner, is thy warrant—not thy worthiness, but thy need, and
the invitation of thy Lord. All the blessings of his Gospel are set
before thee—love without beginning, end, or change. Honour the
freeness of his mercy. Let him have the full glory of his own grace,
* Wisdoms. Heb. Comp. note Chap i. 20. † Comp. Gen. xliii. 16. Marg.
‡ Bishop Lowth remarks the difference between the Classics and the Hebrews The one by
mingled wine understand wine diluted with water; the other intend wine made stronger by
spices, or other exhilarating ingredients. Note on Isa. i. 22. Comp. chap. xxiii. 29-31. Cant.
§ Matt. xxii. 44. Isa. lv. 1. Comp. Bishop Hall's note.
86 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
who invites thee to a feast, when he might have frowned thee to hell.*
Let his heavenly hope be enthroned in the soul, displacing every sub-
ordinate object from its hold on thine affections, eclipsing the glories of
this present world, absorbing thy whole mind, consecrating thy whole
Here only are the ways of peace. The very severities of the Gospel
prepare the way for its consolations. But never can these blessings be
valued, till the path of the foolish be forsaken. Thou must forsake
either them or Christ. (Jam. iv. 4.) To abide with them, is to "remain
in the congregation of the dead." (Chap. xxi. 16.) To forsake them, is
the way of life and understanding. (Chap. xiii. 20. Ps. xxvi. 3-6; xxxiv.
12–14; cxix. 115. Amos, v. 15.) Are they more to you than salvation?
To "be the friend of the world is to be the enemy of God." "Come
out, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will
receive thee, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor. vi. 17, 18.)
7. He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh
a wicked man getteth himself a blot. 8. Reprove not a scorner, lest he
hate thee: rebuke a arise man, and he will love thee. 9. Give instruc-
tion to a wise man, and he will yet be wiser: teach a just man, and he
will increase in learning.
Wisdom's messengers must discriminate in the proclamation of their
message. If the simple welcome it, the scorner and wicked will rebel.
Yet we must distinguish between the ignorant and the wilful scorner.
Paul "did it ignorantly, in unbelief." (1 Tim. i. 13.) His countrymen
deliberately refused the blessing, and shut themselves out from the free
offers of salvation. (Acts, xiii. 45, 46, 50; xviii. 6. Matt. x. 14, 15.)
One cannot think of the scorner without compassion. He cannot
bear to commune with himself. Under an assumed gaiety, he would
envy—as did Colonel Gardiner—the dog his existence. ‘I hate life’
— said Voltaire—‘yet I am afraid to die.’ Such is the bitterness of
soul linked with rebellion against God! Wretched indeed must he be,
when the thought of God is an abomination, and when it is necessary
to his peace to expunge all idea of him from his creed. (Ps. xiv. 1.)
Yet, in dealing with him, Solomon here gives us the rule of Christian
prudence. The gospel is a thing too holy to be exposed to scoffing
fools. (Matt. vii. 6.) Why should we reprove, where more harm than
good may be occasioned? Avoid irritations. Await the favourable
opportunity. Sometimes a sad, serious, intelligible silence is the most
effective reproof. (Amos, v. 13; vi. 10.) Whereas open rebuke might
stir up a torrent of hatred (Chap. xv. 12; xxiii. 9. 1 Kings, xxii. 8.
* Calvin speaks of the pleading invitations of Christ, as ‘his sweet and more than
motherly allurements,' and beautifully adds—that ‘the word of God is never opened to us,
but that he with a motherly sweetness opens his own bosom to us.' On Matt. xxiii. 37.
CHAP. IX. 10, 11. 87
2 Chron. xxv. 16) and abuse (Gen. xix. 9. Amos, vii. 10. Matt. vii. 6);
and under provocation of spirit, the reprover might get to himself a blot.
(Isa. xxix. 21.)
Yet this prudence must not degenerate into cowardice, and compro-
mise the primary obligation boldly to rebuke sin (Eph. v. 11. 1 Thess.
v. 14. 1 Tim. v. 20. Matt. xiv. 3, 4), and confess our Master. (Matt. x.
32, 33. Acts, iv. 19, 20.) Every sinner is not a scorner. And a "word
spoken in due season, how good is it!" (Chap. xv. 23.) That false
delicacy, therefore, which recoils from an unflinching profession, is
treachery to our Lord, and deep—perhaps eternal—injury to our
fellow-sinners. Have not each of us a tongue to speak? To suffer any
therefore to rush into perdition without opening our mouths to save
them, is a sin of omission, which will cause a bitter pang to the
The wise and just man gladly encourages well-timed reproof.
(Chap. xxviii. 23.) Conscious of his own failings, he loves his reprover as
a friend to his best interest (Lev. xix. 17. Ps. cxli. 5. 1 Sam. xxv. 33.
2 Sam. xii. 7-14); and he would receive instruction from the lowest, as
a means of becoming yet wiser, and increasing in learning. (Chap. i. 5.
Exod. xviii. 17-24. Acts, xviii. 26.)
After all—wisely to give, and humbly to receive, reproof, requires
much prayer, self-denial, love, and sincerity. But where the mind of
Christ is mutually exhibited, it cements a bond of the warmest affection.
(1 Sam. xxv. 32-42.) "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." (Chap.
xxvii. 6.) Happy is that church which receives the loving admonitions
of the Christian pastor with humility and thankfulness.*
10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of
the holy is understanding. 11. For by me thy days shall be multiplied,
and the years of thy life shall be increased.
The repetition of this weighty sentence (Chap. i. 7. Job, xxviii. 28.
Ps. cxi. 10) deepens our estimate of its importance. The fear of the
Lord was a lovely grace in the perfect humanity of Jesus. (Isa. xi. 2, 3.)
Let it be the test of our "predestination to be conformed to his image."
(Rom. viii. 29.) It is the genuine spirit of adoption. The child of God
has only one dread—to offend his Father; only one desire—to please
and delight in him. Thus is the fear of the Lord connected with his
love. ‘The heart that is touched with the loadstone of Divine love,
trembles still with godly fear.’† If this temper is the beginning, it is
* 2 Cor. ii. 1-9. Mr. Martyr — his Biographer observes— ‘felt reproof to be ‘a duty of
unlimited extent and almost insuperable difficulty.’ But, said he, ‘the way to know when
to address men, and when to abstain, is to love.’ And, as love is most genuine, where the
heart is most abased, he resolved not to reprove others, when he could conscientiously be
silent, except he experienced at the same time a peculiar contrition of spirit.’—Life, chap. ii.
† Leighton on 1 Pet. ii. 17.
88 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
also (as the word imports) the head—of wisdom—not only its first
rudiment, but its matured exercise. It is obviously combined with the
knowledge of the Holy One.* For if men did but know his holiness--
who would not fear thee, 0 Lord?" (Rev. xv. 4.) Days multiplied
were the Old Testament reward. (Chap. iii. 2, 16; iv. 10; x. 27.) And
truly the value of life is only realized in the knowledge and service of
God. Inconceivably joyous to us is the prospect of years of life increased
into a boundless eternity—infinite desires; fully satisfied, yet excited
unceasingly to more full and heavenly enjoyment.
12. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou
alone shalt bear it.
The consequences of our conduct, good or bad, chiefly reflect on
ourselves. (Chap. xvi. 26.) God cannot be profited by us (Job, xxii.
2, 3. Ps. xvi. 2. Luke, xvii. 10); and he is infinitely above our injury.
(Job, xxxv. 6, 7.) The wise man's light is a blessing to the Church and
to the world. (Matt. v. 14, 16.) But he is wise for himself— for his own
advantage. (Chap. iii. 13-18; xxiv. 3. Eccles.. viii. 1.) The scorner is
a grief to his minister, and a stumbling to his church. But he hurts
no one so much as himself. He alone shall bear it. (Chap. viii. 36.
Ezek. xviii. 20. Luke, vii. 30.) A surety indeed there is. But his
scorning rejects him. He sinks therefore into perdition under a mill-
stone of guilt without remedy. (Chap. xxix. 1. Heb. x. 28, 29. Lev.
xxiv. 15.) This then is the ordinance of God. "Every man shall bear
his own burden. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap:"
life or death—a double harvest—for time and for eternity. (Gal. vi. 5, 7, 8.)
13. A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple, and knoweth nothing.
14. For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places
of the city. 15. To call passengers who go right on their ways:
16. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that
wanteth understanding, she saith to him, 17. Stolen waters are sweet,
and bread eaten in secret (of secresies, marg.) is pleasant. 18. But he
knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the
depths of hell.
Wisdom's free and gracious invitation has been before us. And we
* The parallelism with the former clause seems to demand this meaning. The applica-
tion of the plural number to the sacred name is elsewhere used by Solomon (verse i. 1-20.
Eccles. xii. 1) as well as by others of the inspired Writers. Gen. i. 26. Job, xxxv. 10. Isa.
liv. 5. Compare the Heb. of Hos. xii. 1. Josh. xxiv. 19. Bishop Horsley remarks— God
is the only Being, to whom the same name in the singular and in the plural may be indis-
criminately applied. And this change from the one number to the other, without any
thing in the principles of language to account for it, is frequent in speaking of God in the
Hebrew tongue, but unexampled in the case of any other Being.' Sermon xxix. on the
Watchers. The reason of this peculiar usage—we may add—is obvious to any one, who
receives with implicit and reverential faith the Scriptural revelation of the Divine Essence.
CHAP. IX. 13-18. 89
might almost ask—who could resist it? Now we have an allurement
from the opposite quarter. For sin is no less earnest to destroy, than
wisdom is to save. The distinct character of folly here alluded to,
may be gathered from the pictures formerly given. (Chap. ii. v. vii.)
Fleshly lusts are in open opposition to Divine wisdom. ‘The delight
of the soul fixed on anything but God and his grace, is but spiritual
adultery.'* The woman of foolishness is clamorous (Chap. vii. 11), and,
though "subtil in heart" (Ib. verse 10) in the devices of Satan, she is
simplicity itself in her utter ignorance of right. So fearfully do sensual
pleasures darken the understanding, that the tempter, from the very
habit of deceiving, becomes the victim of her own delusion! (Hos.
iv. 11. 2 Tim. iii. 13.) With a shameless front she dares to present
herself in the highest places of the city (Gen. xxxviii. 14, 21. Jer. iii. 2, 3.
Ezek. xvi. 24, 25, 31), alluring, not only those who are "going the way
to her house " (Chap, vii. 8), but the inexperienced who are going right
on their ways. Thus, even the highway of God, though a path of safety
(Chap. x. 9), is beset with temptation. Satan is so angry with none as
with those, who are going right on. When Israel was in the straight
path, quickly did he turn them aside by the golden calf. (Exod. xxiv. 7,
with xxxii.) And now enticements or assaults wait on every step.
The temptation to open sin would be revolting. But must you give up
all your pleasures? May not some stolen waters (Chap. v. 15-17. 2 Sam.,
xi. 2), some secret indulgences (Chap. xx. 17. Job, xx. 12-14), be
allowed? Ah! sinner—there is no such thing as secret sin. All is
naked and open as day before the eye of God. (Job, xxiv. 15; xxxiv.
21, 22.) All will soon be proclaimed before the assembled world.
(Luke, xii, 1, 2.) But the strength of this temptation is, that they are
forbidden pleasures. (Gen. iii. 1-6.) Restraint provokes the dormant
power of sin;† as children will do that which is forbidden, because it is
forbidden. But what will be the end? Satan shows only the sparkling
cup, and the glaring light. Ask to look into the inner chamber. The
blinded fool hath wilfully closed his eyes (Chap. vii. 22. Isa. i. 3. 2 Pet.
iii. 5); else might he know that the dead are there; and that her guests
—the wilful despisers of wisdom, are in the very depths of hell. (Chap.
ii. 18; vii. 27.)
Reader— the wisdom of God, and the great deceiver of man—stand
† Rom. vii. 8. 1 Cor. xv. 56. See Augustine's description of his robbing the pear-tree —
not for the gain of the fruit (the greater part of which he threw away), but for the mere
pleasure of sin as sin—as breaking God's law. Truly affecting also is it to see him, like the
Psalmist (Ps. li. 5) tracing the sin to its root—'Behold my heart, 0 Lord, behold my heart,
which thou hadst pity upon in the very bottom of the bottomless pit!'—Confess. iii. 4, 6.
‘Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata :
Sic interdictis imminet aeger aquis.
Quidquid servatur, cupinius magis, ipsaque furem
Cura vocat pauci, quod sinet alter, amaut.'—OVID.
90 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
before you. Both are wooing thine heart; the one for life--the other
for death. Both are intensely anxious for success. Wisdom crieth.
The foolish woman is clamorous. (Verse 3 with 13.) Both take their
station in the high places of the city. (Verse 3 with 15.) Both spread
out their feast for the simple and ignorant (Verse 4 with 16), smiling
and happy on the brink of ruin. But how opposite their end? The
one makes the simple wise unto eternal life. The other bears away her
willing captive into unutterable misery. Which voice arrests thine
ear, and allures thine heart? Which feast excites thine appetite?
Whose guest art thou? Wilt thou not open thine eyes to the infatua-
tion and pollution of this house of horror and death? Oh! remember
that every listening to the enticement rivets thy chain, rejoices thy
grand enemy, cheats thee out of thy present, no less than of thine
eternal, happiness, and will banish thee for ever from the paradise re-
opened as thy home. Thou mayest sink into the grave and perish.
But it will be with the Saviour's voice crying in thine ears, "How long,
ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?" (Chap. i. 22.) The voice of
mercy now warns thee against estranging thyself from thy God. But
mercy is limited to time. Then justice, without mercy, will hold the
scales with relentless severity, and the sentence of condemnation will
bind thee in the lost and blasted kingdom of eternal death. What
then is our heart's desire and prayer, but the free grace and love of the
Gospel may draw and fix thine heart; and that the Lord may preserve
thee from the tempter's snare, by keeping thee closely walking with
1. The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a
foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
THE former chapters have beautifully set forth in continuous discourse
the nature and value of heavenly wisdom, contrasted with the fascina-
tions of sinful folly. We now come to what are more properly (not
excluding the foregoing) (Chap. i. 2) the Proverbs of Solomon. They
are for the most part unconnected sentences, remarkable for profound
thought, and acute observation, expressed in an antithetical or illustra-
tive form; the whole comprising a Divine system of morals of universal
application; a treasury of wisdom in all its diversified details, personal,
domestic, social, civil. The previous chapters form a striking introduc-
tion to the book. The glorious description of the Great Counsellor (Chap.
i. viii.) commends to us his gracious instruction as the principles of
true happiness and practical godliness.
Perhaps this first sentence may have been placed in the front, to
CHAP. X. 2. 91
point to the value of a godly education in its personal, social, national
influence, connected both with time and eternity. We naturally look
for rest in our children, as the choicest gift of God. (Gen. v. 28, 29;
xxxiii. 5. Ps. cxxvii. 3.) Faith, indeed, may he tried, perhaps severely
tried. (Eccles. xi. 1.) But the child, watched, prayed over, instructed,
and disciplined, shall, in the Lord's best time, choose wisdom's paths
(Chap. xxii. 6), and be the gladness of his father's heart. (Chap. xv. 20;
xxiii. 15, 16, 24, 25; xxvii. 11; xxix. 3. Gen. xlv. 28; xlvi. 30.)
Many a mother, alas! is chastened with the heaviness of a foolish son.
(Gen. xxvi. 34, 35; xxvii. 46.) In such cases, has not indulgence, in-
stead of wholesome restraint; pleasure, instead of godliness; the world,
instead of the Bible—educated the child? Want of early discipline;
passing over trifles; yielding when we ought to command—how little
do we think to what they may grow! (1 Sam. ii. 24; iii. 13. 1 Kings,
i. 5, 6; ii. 25.) God has laid down plain rules, plain duties, and plain
consequences flowing from their observance (Chap. xxii. 6; xxiii.
13, 14) or neglect. (Chap. xxix. 15.) To forget a daily reference to
them; to choose our own wisdom before God's (1 Sam. ii. 29);— can
we wonder that the result should be heaviness?*
2. Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from
The most substantial earthly treasures profit nothing. (Chap. xxiii. 5.
Matt. vi. 19.) Much inore do treasures of wickedness. (Jer. xxii. 13.
Ezra, vii. 19. Amos, iii. 10, 11. Hab. ii. 6-9.) ‘A man may seem to
profit by them, and to come up wonderfully for a time.’† But what
was the profit of Naboth's vineyard to Ahab, when in his "ivory palace"
he was withering under the curse of God? (1 Kings, xxi. 4-24, with
xxii. 39.) What was the profit of the thirty pieces of silver to Judas?
Instead of delivering from death, their intolerable sting plunged him
into death eternal. (Matt. xxvii. 5.) What else will be the fruit of
covetousness, but shame (2 Kings, v. 23-27. Rom. vi. 21), disappoint-
ment (Jer. xvii. 11), and ruin? (Chap. xxi. 6, 7. Josh. vii. 20-26. Dan.
v. 1-6.) "Thou, O man of God, flee these things, and follow after
righteousness." (1 Tim. vi. 11.) This is "the breast-plate" (Eph. vi. 14.
1 Thess. v. 8), that covers the vitals in the fearful conflict. This is the
path-way to eternal life. (Chap. xii. 28. Ps. xv.; xxiv. 3-5. Isa. xxxv. 8.
* Bishop Lowth supposes an antithesis between the relative terms (Prelim. Dissert.
Isaiah), which Bishop Jebb illustrates by the distinctive character of the father's gladness,
whose affections are more disciplined, and the mother's grief, whose tenderness might bind
her to the faults of her children, or lead her weakly to excuse them. — Sacred Literature,
Sect. ii. But, probably, this refinement of criticism is beside the meaning of the inspired
Writer, who interchangeably ascribes these exercises of feeling to both parents. Chap. xvii.
24, 25; xix. 13; xxiii. 24, 25. Comp. Gen. xxvi. 35. 2 Sam. xiii. 37-39. Comp. Glass. Phil.
Sacr. Lib. iv. Tract ii. Obs. 13. Schultens in loco.
† Bishop SANDERSON's Sermon on 1 Sam. xii. 3.
92 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
Matt. v. 8.) This is the deliverance from the sting, the terror, the taste
of death. (Chap. xi. 4. John, viii. 51.) We must not flinch from this
scriptural statement from fear of legality. Lay the foundation of accept-
ance deep and clear upon the righteousness of Christ. But upon this
foundation fear not to raise the superstructure of inherent righteousness.
Take up the prayer and confidence of the man of God—"Let integrity
and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee.” (Ps. xxv. 21.)
3. The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish; but he
casteth away the substance of the wicked.
To spiritualize the temporal promises would be to lose great en-
largement of faith. They are not restricted to the Old Dispensation.
If David was preserved from famishing, and that too by those most
unlikely to help him,* Paul could also in similar trial "set to his seal"
—"I have all, and abound, I am full." (Philip. iv. 18.) How does our
gracious God double and redouble his engagements!† He sends us to
the fowls of the air for the confirmation of our little faith. "Are not ye
much better than they?" (Matt. vi. 25, 26.) ‘Yet the promises require
faith, whereby we believe that God helpeth us.’‡ He may for the
exercise of faith suffer us to hunger (1 Cor. iv. 11. 2 Cor. xi. 27, with
Deut. viii. 3. Matt. iv. 2-4); yet not to famish. (Ps. xxxvii. 3. Isa.
xxxiii. 16. Matt. vi. 32.). And does not his unfailing care for temporal
provision convey the assurance, that he will not suffer the soul to famish?
"The good Shepherd knows his sheep." He "seeks them out in the
cloudy and dark day," and brings them into his fold, where "they go in
and out, and find pasture." (John, x. 9. Ezek. xxxiv. 12.) Awful
indeed is the contrast of the wicked—their substance cast out (Job, xx.
15); themselves buried in the ruins of their own family. (Ps. xlix. 6,
&c. Luke, xii. 19, 20; xvi. 23.)
4. He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack (deceitful, marg.) hand: but
the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
Every day's observation confirms the fact, that a slack hand im-
poverishes (Chap. xix. 15; xx. 4; xxiii. 21; xxiv. 30-34. Eccles. x. 18),
and the hand of the diligent enriches (Chap. xiii. 4; xxi. 5), the harvest's
lord. Justly is the slothful condemned as, deceitful; because he
pretends,to serve his Master, when in truth be has been doing nothing.
(Matt. xxv. 26. Jer. xlviii. 10. M.R.). He becometh poor by wasting his
trust. (Chap. xviii. 9. Comp. Matt. xxv. 28, 29.) His life, which might
have been a continued feast, is a continual vexation. Industry was the
law of Paradise (Gen. ii. 15); and though now it bears the stamp of
* By Shobi the brother of his bitter enemy. 2 Sam. xvii. 27, with x. 4. Machir also of
the house of Saul. Ib. ix. 4. Comp. Ps. xxxvii. 25.
† Heb. xiii. 5; five negatives in the original. ‡ Cope in loco.
CHAP. X. 5. 93
the fall (Ib. iii. 19), it is overruled as a blessing; and in the ordinary
course of Providence maketh rich. (Chap. xii. 24, 27 ; xxii. 29.) The
Lord's visits of favour were never given to loiterers. Moses and the
Shepherds of Bethlehem were' keeping their flocks. (Exod. iii. 1, 2.
Luke, ii. 8, 9.) Gideon was at the threshing-floor. (Judg. vi. 11.)
‘Our idle days’—as Bishop Hall observes—‘are Satan's busy days.’
Active employment gives us a ready answer to his present temptation
—"I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down." (Neh. vi. 3.)
Is then the man of God waxing low in his store? Has there not
been a slack hand in drawing upon the sacred treasury? Has not he
gazed upon the heavenly treasures, with "his hand in his bosom?"
(Chap. xix. 24.) Has he not become poor by slighting his rich con-
solations? The Lord gives his blessing, as he gives the fruits of the
earth, not to those that wish (Chap. xiii. 4; xx. 4), but to those that
"labour" (Verse 3 with 4. John, vi. 27); not to sentimental indolence,
but to Christian energy and perseverance. The trade of the world is
uncertain. The trade of godliness is sure. There are no bankrupts
here. The diligent servant is honoured with an increase of his grace
(Matt. xxv. 29), and the enlargement of his confidence.*
5. He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in
harvest is a son that causeth shame.
Indolence has just been contrasted with diligence. Forethought is
here opposed to improvidence. (Chap. vi. 6-8.) The importance of
opportunity is practically admitted in temporal matters. (Eccles. iii. 1;
viii. 5.) Joseph wisely gathered in summer and harvest for the coming
need. (Gen. xli. 46-56.) The woman of Canaan (Matt. xv. 22-28) —
the blind men (lb. xx. 30) —improved their present opportunities.
The wise son will thus gather his blessing at the fittest time. The fresh-
ness of youth is a summer harvest. It is as much the will of God, that
the young should gather knowledge, as that the farmer should gather
his harvest. The wise gathering in this summer gives substance, vigour,
high tone and power of usefulness in after-life! How often may we
trace poverty of mind, enervation of character, unprofitable habits, to
sleeping in this fruitful harvest! ‘He who idles away the time of his
youth will bear the shame of it when he is old.’† Specially looking at
this, as the season of Christian instruction, anxious promise, our Father's
* 2 Pet. i. 5-11. Bp. SANDERSON'S Sermon on 1 Cor. vii. 24.
† Henry in loco. See Bp. HORNE's Sermon on the Redemption of Time. Sir Walter Scott's
testimony in his Auto-Biography is most instructive—’If it should ever fall to the lot of
youth to peruse these pages. let such a reader remember, that it is with the deepest regret
that I recollect in my manhood the opportunities of learning which I neglected in my
youth; that through every part of my literary career I have felt pinched and hampered by
my own ignorance: and that I would at this moment give half the reputation I have had
the good fortune to acquire, if, by doing so, I could rest the remaining part upon a sound
foundation of learning and science.'
94 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
pleading time with the wayward heart (Jer. iii. 4), ere yet it be
hardened in habits of sin—is not the sleeper in such an harvest a son
that causeth shame? Look again at the large harvest of opportunity in
labouring for God—the great and diversified machinery of religious
societies, needing direction and energy; the mass of fellow-sinners
around us, claiming our sympathy and helpfulness—"While we have
time, let us do good." (Gal. vi. 10.) How high is the privilege of
gathering with Christ in such an harvest! (Matt. xii. 30.) How great
the shame of doing nothing, where there is so much to be done! What
a harvest also is the present "accepted time!" (2 Cor. vi. 2.) Mark the
abundance of the means of grace, the living verdure of the gospel. The
Bible opens the way. The Saviour invites. The Holy Spirit strives
with the conscience. The Sabbath also is a golden gathering time for
the week. It draws us aside from the world, and beams with the peace,
joy, and hope of heaven. Now, am I diligently improving this harvest?
or am I sleeping—perhaps in the very house of God--instead of
listening to the voice from heaven—a shame to my minister, to my
church, to my Lord?
The Lord preserve me from the ruin of sleeping (Matt. xxv. 5. Comp.
Isa. lv. 6. Luke, xiii. 28, 29. Chap. i. 24-28) away the invaluable hours
of " the day of salvation!" Can I bear the thought of that desponding
cry of eternal remorse—"The harvest is passed; the summer is ended—
and I am not saved?" (Jer. viii. 20. Comp. chap. v. 11-13.)
6. Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth
of the wicked. 7. The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of
the wicked shall rot.
Is not affliction the lot of the just? (John, xvi. 33. Acts, xiv. 22:
2 Tim. iii. 12.) Yet how abundantly is it compensated by the blessings
that are upon his head (Chap. xxviii. 20. Gen. xlix. 26) —blessings tem-
poral (Deut. xxviii. 1-6. 1 Tim. iv. 8) and spiritual (Isa. xxxii. 17);
from man (Chap. xvi. 7. Job, xxix. 11-13) and from God. (Ps. iii. 8;
v. 12. Isa. lxiv. 4, 5. Matt. v. 3-12.) His very memory is a blessing to
his family and to the Church. (Ps. cxii. 6.) Fragrant is the "good
report of the elders" immortalized in the Apostolic Book of Martyrs.
(Heb. xi. 2.) Truly blessed is the memory of a godly parent (Chap. xxxi.
28); of a faithful minister (Heb. xiii. 7); of a righteous king (2 Chron.
xxxv. 24, 25); of a public benefactor (2 Chron. xxiv. 6); of a self-
No such honour belongs to the wicked. Often some outward stroke
* Mark, xiv. 9 ‘No spices can so embalm a man; no monument can so preserve his
name and memory, as a pious conversation, whereby God bath been honoured, and man
benefited. The fame of such a person is, in the best judgments, far more precious and
truly glorious, than is the fame of those, who have excelled in any other deeds or qualities.'
CHAP. X. 8. 95
of violence covers their mouth (Ps. cvii. 42), and marks them for con-
demnation (Esth. vii. 8. Job, ix. 24), as they will all be so marked at
the day of retribution. (Rom. iii. 19.) And even now their memory rots
in corruption. (Job, xviii. 17. Ps. xlix. 11, 12; cix. 13. Eccles. viii. 10.
Isa. lxv. 15. Jer. xxii. 18, 19; xxix. 22, 23.) Contrast the memory of
the "man after God's heart," with that of "Jeroboam the son of Nebat"
(1 Kings, xi. 26; xiv. 14-16. 2 Kings, xiv. 3); or in later times, Ridley
and Latimer with the name of their wicked persecutors. Such is the
blessing and curse of God, long after the men had passed into eternity.
‘Thou mayest choose’— said godly Bishop Pilkington—'whether thou
wilt be remembered to thy praise or to thy shame.’*
8. The wise in heart will receive commandments; but a prating fool will
fall, (be beaten, marg.)
The heart is the seat of true wisdom, and a teachable spirit is the
best proof of its influence. For who that knows himself would not be
thankful for further light? No sooner, therefore, do the commandments
come down from heaven, than the well-instructed Christian receives
them, like his father Abraham (Heb. xi. 8. Gen. xxii. 1-3), with un-
disputing simplicity; welcomes the voice of his heavenly teacher
(1 Sam. iii. 10. Acts, x. 33. Ps. xxvii. 8; lxxxvi. 11; cxliii. 10); and,
when he knows that "it is the Lord, girds himself " with all the ardour
of the disciple to be found at his feet. (John, xxi. 7.)
But look at the professor of religion destitute of this heart-seated
wisdom. We find him a man of creeds and doctrines, not of prayer;
asking curious questions, rather than listening to plain truths (Ib. verses
21, 22); wanting to know events rather than duties; occupied with
other men's business, to the neglect of his own. (Luke, xiii. 23, 24.
1 Tim. v. 13.) In this vagrant spirit, with all his thoughts outward
bound, he wanders from church to church, and from house to house, a
prating fool upon religion; bold in his own conceit (3 John, 10), while
his life and temper fearfully contradict his fluent tongue. Too blind
to respect himself (Chap. xviii. 2), too proud to listen to counsel (Verse
17; xv. 32), he will surely fall into disgrace, beaten with the rod of his
own foolishness. (Chap. xviii. 6, 7. Eccles. x. 12. 2 Kings, xiv. 8-14.)
Let me look at this picture as a beacon against the folly of my own
heart. Young Christian! beware of a specious religion, without
humility, consistency, love; because separated from close walking
9. He that walketh uprightly walketh surely; but he that perverteth his
ways shall be known.
An upright walk is Christian, not sinless, perfection (Job, i. 8);
* Works, Parker Society, p. 36G.
96 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
"walking before God," not before men. (Gen. xvii. 1.) Impurity
indeed defiles the holiest exercise. But if the will be rightly bent, the
integrity will be maintained. ‘Show me an easier path’—is nature's
cry. ‘Show me’—cries the child of God—‘a sure path.’ Such is the
upright walk under the shield of the Lord's protection (Chap. ii. 7. Ps.
lxxxiv. 11) and Providence (Chap. i. 33. Eccles. viii. 5. Isa. xxxvii. 15,
16); under the shadow of his promises (Ps. xxiv. 3-6); in the assurance
of his present favour (1 John, iii. 18-22), and in its peaceful end. (Ps.
xxxvii. 37. Isa. lvii. 1, 2.) There will be difficulties. But a deliver-
ance will be wrought through them; as the Babylonish captives were
delivered through the fire from the infinite greater danger of apostacy.
(Dan. iii. 21-29.)
From the want of this uprightness of walk, Peter denied the founda-
tion of the Gospel. (Gal. ii. 14.) Learn then the value of this principle
for an enlightened and full reception of the truth; that we may wel-
come " a Prince as well as a Saviour" (Acts, v. 31); combine his
sceptre with his sacrifice, his holy precepts with his precious promises
and prove the influence of a vital faith in godly practice. We shall
thus carry out the rule of the Gospel into everything, making God the
master of every thought, word, temper, motive, not less in our secular
calling than in our spiritual devotedness. (1 Cor. x. 31. Col. iii. 17.)
Such an upright walk will bring a happy confidence. ‘The man, con-
scious to himself of an honest meaning, and a due course of prosecuting
it, feeleth no check or struggling of mind, no regret or sting of heart.
He therefore briskly moveth forward with courage, there being within
him nothing to make him halt, to distract or disturb him.'*
But to bend our rule to our own humour; to pervert our ways to
escape trouble, or for some interested end, will shake our confidence far
more than the heaviest cross. The eye of God knows the deviation
already (John, vi. 70, 71), and will bring it to shame. (Luke, xii. 1, 2.
1 Tim. v. 24.) Thus was Jacob chastened to the end of his days. (Gen.
xxvii. with xlii. 36-38.) Peter was openly rebuked. (Gal. ii. 11-44.)
Judas (Matt. xxvii. 3-5) and Ananias (Acts, v. 1-40) are known in
the records of the church as a beacon to the end of time. "Let my
heart be sound in thy statutes, that I be not ashamed. I will walk
in my integrity; redeem me, and be merciful unto me." (Ps. cxix. 80;
10. He that winketh with his eye causeth sorrow; but a prating fool
The contrast here intended seems to be between the man who
brings trouble on his fellow-creatures, and one who brings it upon
CHAP. X. 11, 12. 97
himself.* Mischievous sport indeed is it to cause sorrow for selfish
gratification (Verse 23; xxvi. 18, 19); to make the eye an instrument
of wanton sin. (Chap. vi. 13. Ps. xxxv. 19.) Scarcely less affecting is
it to see the tongue a world of foolishness. But not a trace is visible of
the likeness, in which man was first created. Every member is per-
verted from its proper use and glorious end. Man is a plague to his
neighbour, because he is an enemy to his God. And because "the fool
despises wisdom" (Chap. i. 7), he falls the victim of his own folly.
11. The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life; but violence covereth
the mouth of the wicked.
The Indwelling Spirit—"a well of living water"—is the glorious
privilege of the righteous. (John, iv. 14; vii. 38.) Hence his mouth,
replenished from the heavenly source, is a well of life, sending forth
refreshing waters. (Chap. xvi. 23.) The precious talent of speech is
thus consecrated to His service, "who made man's mouth." "Grace in
its measure is poured upon our lips" (Ps. xlv. 2); and our "tongue"
becomes "our glory." (Ps. lvii. 8 ; cviii. 1.) Wit, originality, imagin-
ation may furnish ‘the feast of reason, and the flow of soul.’ But how
poor is this pleasure compared with the godly instruction—perhaps
with little intellectual attraction—that pours forth from a well of life!
Servant of God! honour your high privilege of thus ministering a
blessing to the Church. (Verse 21; xv. 7. Eph. iv. 29.) Enlarge its
exercise by increasing your spiritual store, and walking in closer fel-
lowship with your God. What owe you to His grace, who hath made
your mouth a well of life; while the violence of the wicked falls back upon
themselves, and covers their mouth with confusion?
12. Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
A simple but forcible contrast! Hatred, however varnished by
smooth pretence, is the selfish principle of man. (Tit. iii. 3.) Like a
subterraneous fire, it continually stirs up mischief, creates or keeps
alive rankling coldness, disgusts, dislikes, "envyings and evil sur-
misings;" carps at the infirmities of others; aggravates the least slip
(Isa. xxix. 21); or resents the most trifling, or even imaginary, pro-
vocation. These strifes are kindled (Chap. xv. 18; xvi. 27, 28; xxviii.
25; xxix. 22) to the great dishonour of God, and the marring of the
beauty and consistency of the gospel. Is not here abundant matter
for prayer, watchfulness, and resistance? Let us study 1 Cor. xiii. in
all its detail. Let it be the looking-glass for our hearts, and. the
standard of our profession. Love covers, overlooks, speedily forgives
and forgets. (Chap. xvii. 9. Gen. xlv. 5-8.) Full of candour and inven-
tiveness, it puts the best construction on doubtful matters, searches out
* See Bishop Hall.
98 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
any palliation, does not rigidly eye, or wantonly expose (Gen. ix. 23)
a brother's faults; nor will it uncover them at all, except so far as may
be needful for his ultimate good. To refrain from gross slander, while
abundant scope is left for needless and unkind detraction, is not covering
sin. Nor is the "seven-times forgiveness" the true standard of love
(Matt. xviii. 21), which, like its Divine Author, covers all sins. And
who does not need the full extent of this covering? What is our
brother's all against us, compared with our all against God? And
how can we hesitate to blot out a few pence, who look for the covering
of the debt of ten thousand talents? (Ib. verses 22-35.) Oh! let us
"put on the Lord Jesus" in, his spirit of forbearing, disinterested, sacri-
ficing love—"Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye."*
13. In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found; but a rod
is for the back of him that is void of understanding.
Solomon and his son admirably illustrate this contrast. Such
wisdom was found in his lips--the fruit of an understanding (1 Kings,
iii. 12) heart—that "all the world came to hear of it." (Ib. iv. 31;
x. 1.) And "happy were they" justly pronounced, which stood con-
tinually before him, and "heard his wisdom." (Ib. x. 8.) Rehoboam
was as void, as his father was full, of understanding. His folly prepared
a rod for his back.† Learn then to seek for wisdom at the lips of the
wise. (Verses 11, 21; xiii. 20; xv. 7.) The want of this wisdom, or
rather the want of a heart to seek it, will surely bring us under the rod.
In many a chastisement we shall feel its smart, for the loose education
of our children (Chap. xxix. 15); for the neglect of family discipline
(Ib. verse 21); for carnal indulgence. (2 Sam. xii. 9-11.) And how
different is this rod from our Father's loving chastisement! That—
the seal of our adoption (Chap. iii. 11, 12. Feb. xii. 6, 7)—This the
mark of disgrace. (1 Pet. ii. 20.) Will not the children of God cry—
"Turn away the reproach that I fear, for thy judgments are good."
(Ps. cxix. 39.)
14. Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near
Did not Solomon prove his title as a wise man by his diligence in
* Col. iii. 13. Comp. I Pet. iv. 8. The first clause of the verse, compared with the
Apostle's application of the second, clearly proves that the subject is the covering our bro-
ther's sin before men. Este—one of the most evangelical of the Romish interpreters—
thus limits the application. The gloss, therefore, of man's covering sins before God is
utterly groundless. Comp. chap. xvii. 9. Calvin and Geier conceive Jam. v. 20 to be only
an allusion to the Proverb. The latter adds—'It is one thing to cover sin before men;
another thing to cover it before God. The first is the act of love. (1 Cor. xiii. 4. Gal. vi. 2.)
The last requires an infinite price, equal to the turning away of the eternal wrath of God.'
Rom. iii. 25. 1 John, i. 7. Ps. xxxii. 1, &c.
† 1 Kings, xii. 13-24. Comp. chap. xix. 29; xxvi. 3. The rod was the usual corporal
punishment under the Mosaic law. Deut. xxii. 18; xxv. 2, 3.
CHAP. X. 15. 99
laying up knowledge? (Eccles. xii. 9, 10.) No wonder that wisdom is
found in the lips, where "out of the abundance of the good treasure of
the heart the mouth speaketh."* It is "the householder" storing his
mind not for selfish gratification, but for liberal and useful distribution.
(Matt. xiii. 52.) If the hoarding wisdom be cultivated in youth (Chap.
vi. 6; xviii. 1, 15), what a store of valuable treasure would be laid up!
yet all little enough to meet the coming trial. Let every day add
something to the stock. So inexhaustible is the treasure, that no doubt,
difficulty, temptation, or duty, will be found unprovided for!
Wise men lay up knowledge, for their own use—Fools lay it out.
For want of sound wisdom, they only open their mouths for their own
mischief, in profane rebellion (Exod. v. 2. Ps. xii. 3-5; lii. 1-5); gro-
velling selfishness (1 Sam. xxv. 10, 11, 38); ungodly worldliness (Luke,
xii. 18-20); or hateful pride (Acts, xii. 21-23)—near to destruction.
(Chap. xii. 13; xiii. 3; xviii. 7. Eccles. x. 12, 13.) How near--who
can say?—But if they be not " taken away with a stroke" without
remedy (Job, xxxvi. 18); they only stand out as monuments of the
"much long-suffering of God, enduring the vessels of wrath fitted to
destruction." (Rom. ix. 22.)
15. The rich man's wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is
This is as it appears on the surface. The rich man's wealth fences
him from many invading evils (Eccles. vii. 12), obtains for him influ-
ence and respect (Chap. xix. 4, 6. Gen. xxiii. 6), and serves to him as a
talisman against all sorrows. (Eccles. x. 19.) Thus "in his own con-
ceit" it is his strong city. (Chap. xviii. 11.) So prone are we to rest on
the creature as the stay and comfort of life. (Ps. xlix. 6; lxii. 10. Jer.
ix. 23. 1 Tim. vi. 17.) All notions of God are blotted out, and man
becomes a god to himself. The poor, having no such defence, dwell as
"in a city without walls," exposed to every assault. (Chap. xiv. 20;
xix. 7; xxii. 7. John, vii. 48, 49.) "Poverty comes upon them as an
armed man" (Chap. vi. 11), and sinks the spirit in consternation.†
How secure--how happy then—we are ready to say—are the
rich! How wretched the condition of the poor! But the glass of
God's word discovers a more even balance. "Hath not God chosen the
poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom?" (Jam. ii. 5.
Zeph. iii. 12.) Think of Jesus sanctifying the state of poverty by his
own blessed example. (Luke, ii. 7-12; iv. 22; viii. 3. Matt. viii. 20.)
Think of the riches of his grace, raising the poor out of the dunghill,
* Matt. xii. 34. Jerome mentions of his friend Nepotian, that, ‘by daily reading and
meditating in the sacred volume, he had made his soul a library of Christ.’— Letter to
† This is the accurate rendering.—See Schuiteus, Holden, Scott.
100 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
that he may set him with the princes of his people. (Ps. cxiii. 7, 8.
1 Sam. ii. 8.)
Both states however have their besetting temptations, needing
special grace. (Chap. xxx. 8, 9.) The safety of both is, when the rich
are poor in spirit (1 Chron. xxix. 14) and large in heart; and the poor
"rich in faith," and "contented with the gain of godliness." (Job, i. 21.
1 Tim. vi. 6-8.) "Let the brother of low degree rejoice, in that he is
exalted; but the rich, in that he is made low." (Jam. i. 9, 10.)
16. The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked
Labour, not idleness, is the stamp of a servant of God: thus cheered
by the glowing confidence, that it tendeth to life. (John, vi. 27.) "Occupy
till I come--Do all to the glory of God" (Luke, xix. 13. 1 Cor. x. 31)
--this is the standard. Thus the duties even of our daily calling tend
to life. (Chap. xi. 19. Jer. xxii. 15, 16.) God works in us, by us, with
us, through us. (Isa. xxvi. 12.) We work in and through him. Our
labour therefore is work--wrought in dependence on him; not for
life, but to life. (Rom. viii. 13. 1 Cor. xv. 10. Philip. ii. 12, 13.) And
this is life indeed; the only exercise deserving the name; the only
object worth living for. (Philip. i. 21.) Lord! quicken us to "life
more abundantly." Thus sowing "to the Spirit, of the Spirit we shall
reap life everlasting." (Gal. vi. 8.) With the wicked, self is both the
object and the end. His fruit therefore is sin. (Chap. xxi. 4. Tit. i. 15.
Matt. xii. 33 j xv. 19.) His Master, so long as he serves him faithfully,
cares little how or in what sphere. "He that soweth to the flesh, shall
of the flesh reap corruption." Each tendeth to its own end. "What-
soever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Gal. vi. 7.)
17. He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth
Mercy unspeakable is it, that the way of life is opened! Instruction
sets the way before us. He that keepeth instruction cannot fail of finding
and enjoying it. (Chap. viii. 34, 35.) The more we value that most
needful part of instruction-discipline (Chap. vi. 23; xxii. 17), the
more shall we regard every practical lesson in the heavenly school.
To refuse the reproof; to be deaf to the voice that would save us from
ruin--is a most fearful error--the proof of a foolish and unhumbled
heart (Chap. xii. 1. 2 Chron. xvi. 7-10; xxv. 15, 16); the certain fore-
runner, if not corrected, of irremediable destruction. (Chap. i. 25, 26,30;
v. 12; xv. 10 ; xxix. 1. Jer. vi. 10. Zeph. iii. 2.) Child of God! is it
not matter of shame and sorrow, that you should be so slow to keep
such irestimable instruction; so prone to err from the way of life; and,
CHAP. X. 18. 101
though having the full promise of Divine guidance, still so often acting
as the slave of your own will?
18. He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander is
Scripture history from the first chapter of fallen man abundantly
illustrates this proverb. Cain talking with his brother (Gen. iv. 8);
Saul plotting against David (1 Sam. xviii. 21, 22, 29); Joab's treachery
to Abner and Amasa (2 Sam. iii. 27; xx. 9, 10. Comp. xiii. 23, 29; Ps.
v. 9; lv. 21); the enemies of the Church on the return from Babylon
(Ezra, iv. 1-16. Neh. vi. 2)--all hid hatred with lying lips. Such was
also the smooth tongue of the Herodians (Luke, xx. 20, 21), and more
than all--the deadly kiss of Judas. (lb. xxii. 47,48, with Ps. lv. 12-14;
xli. 9.) So perfectly, yet with the most exquisite sensibility of pain,
did our Blessed Lord identify himself with the trials of his people!
Closely allied with the hypocrite is the slanderer (Ps. 1. 16-20)--both
stamped by God with the mark of fools. For of what avail is this
mask? Is there not an Eye that looks through, and a Hand that will
tear off, the flimsy cover? (Chap. XXVI. 23-28. Comp. Ps. 1. 21; Luke,
xii. 1,2.) And if their hatred be vented against the godly, is not the
day at hand, when their "rebuke and slander shall be taken away from
the earth?" (Isa. xxv. 8.)
But is this "root of bitterness" thoroughly mortified in the Christian's
heart? Is there no insincerity in our intercourse with those, to whom
we feel, if not hatred, at least strong repugnance? In the language of
polite courtesy, there is much that is hollow, if not false. Do we really
mean what we say? Or rather is not the profession of regard often ill
absolutely contrary to our real feelings? Do we never bring them
under ridicule, set them out in an unfavourable light, assert things upon
mere suspicion,* or attempt to raise our own name upon the ruin of
their reputation? In common society, how is it often considered the
acme of disappointment, when this conversation flags, or comes to a
pause; whereas the reverse ought to be the true subject of regret.
This spirit surely in the eyes of God is slander; an offence against the
"new commandment of love"--which is the badge of all the disciples
of Jesus. (John, xiii. 34, 35.) These noxious humours are the bane of
* Occasions of evil report can never be wanting to them who seek, or are ready to embrace
them. No innocence, no wisdom, can anywise prevent them; and if they be admitted as grounds of
defamation, no man's good name can be secure. It is not every possibility, every seeming, every
faint show, or glimmering appearance, which sufficeth to ground bad opinion, or reproachful
discourse concerning our fellow-creature. The matter should be clear, notorious, and palpable,
before we admit a disadvantageous conceit into our head, a distasteful resentment into our heart, a
harsh word into our mouth about him…. Justice requireth full proof, "Charity thinketh no evil,
and believeth all things" for the best. Wisdom is not forward to pronounce before full evidence.'
102 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
true godliness. They must not only be restrained, but "laid aside," if
ever we would, ''as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the
word, that we may grow thereby." (1 Pet. ii. 1,2. Jam. i. 21.) Lord,
purge our hearts from these hateful hidden corruptions; even though
it be by "the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of burning." (Isa. iv. 4.)
19. In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth
his lips is wise.
Hypocrisy and slander are not the only sins of the tongue. Indeed,
considering the corrupt fountain from whence they flow (Gen. vi. 5.
Matt. xii. 34), we cannot conceive of words, much less a multitude of
words, without sin. There is the sin of egotism. "Our own mouth
praises us, not another." (Chap. xxvii. 2.) We love to hear ourselves
talk; and present our own judgment intrusively)". There is also the sin
of vain babbling, a canker to the vital principle. (2 Tim. ii. 16, 17.
Eccles. x. 13, 14. 1 Tim. v. 13.) The fool talks for ever upon nothing;
not because he is full, but because he is empty; not for instruction, but
for the pure love of talking. This wantonness is a sin of the flesh,
trifling with the most responsible talent, when conversation is, as
Bishop Butler truly remarks, 'merely the exercise of the tongue; no
other human faculty has any place in it.'* The government of the
tongue is therefore a searching test of the soundness of our religion.
(Jam. i. 26; iii. 2.) Considering, therefore, the sin connected with the
multitude of words, it is surely our wisdom to refrain our lips (Chap. xvii.
27, 28. Job, xiii. 5. Eccles. v. 3. Jam. i. 19), not indeed in silence, but
in caution; to weigh our words before uttering them; never speaking,
except when we have something to say; speaking only just enough;
considering the time, circumstances, and person (Job, xxxii. 4-7); what
is solid, suitable, and profitable. (Chap. xv. 23. Eph. iv. 29. Col. iv. 6.)
Indeed a talent for conversation is valueless both to the possessor and
to the auditors, except it be connected with a talent for silence. The
sphere of social intercourse, that stimulates the conversational powers,
at the same time teaches the wholesome discipline of the tongue--that
beautiful accomplishment of silence; which however, alike with its
opposite grace, derives its chief loveliness, as the fruit of Christian
humility and kindness. The wisdom is especially valuable under pro-
vocation. (1 Sam. x. 27. 2 Kings, xviii. 36.) And even in the unbend-
ing of innocent recreation, the discipline of godly sobriety is of great
moment. The sins of this "little member" are not trifles. They need
the full application of the gospel? What but "the blood of sprinkling,"
* Sermon on the Government of the Tongue. ‘One meets with people in the world, who
never seem to have made the wise man's observation, that "there is a time to keep
silence." These times, one would think, should be easily distinguished by everybody;
namely, when a man has nothing to say, or nothing but what is better unsaid.' Ib. Comp.
Ecclus. xix. 6; xx. 5-7.
CHAP. X. 20, 21. 103
could enable us to meet "the account for every idle word at the day
of judgment?" ‘Light words weigh heavy in God's balance.'* Woe
to us, if the great Surety did not bear the sins of our vain words, no less
than of our grosser wickedness! Never let us think of these sins as
anything less than the nails that pierced his hands and his feet. And
will not this sensibility of sin quicken our prayer for an increase of this
refraining wisdom? "Set a watch, 0 Lord, before my mouth, and keep
the door of my lips." (Ps. cxli. 3.)
20. The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is
little worth. 21. The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for
want of wisdom (of heart, marg).
The wisdom of refraining our lips must always be connected with
diligence in improving our talent. If our tongue be our shame in the
overflowing of sin (Verses 18, 19): is it not also our glory? (Ps. lvii.8;
cviii. 1.) When "speaking of the things touching the king" (Ib.
xlv. 1), or sketching the features of his transcend ant loveliness (Ib. 2.
Cant. v. 10-16); is it not then as choice silver, refined from this world's
dross, and shining with heavenly brightness? Who would not eagerly
gather up the silver scattered in the streets? And shall not we enrich
our store from the choice silver of the just man's tongue, pouring out its
precious instruction before us? If, as regards this world's wealth, the
Lord's poor must say--"Silver and gold have I none;" at least they
may scatter choice silver with a widely-extended blessing--"As poor,
yet making many rich." (Acts, iii. 6. 2 Cor. vi. 10.)
Observe also the usefulness of this member. If we be living with
God, it will diffuse a salt, a heavenly leaven, a rich propagation of
holiness in our various circles. The lips of the righteous feed many from
the rich stores of "the indwelling word" (Col. iii. 16); "ministering to
them grace," the soul's true and proper nourishment! (Eph. iv. 29. Job,
iv. 3, 4; xxix. 22, 23.) ‘Their breath is food to others, as well as life
to them.'† When "the priest's lips keep knowledge, and they seek the
law at his mouth," he feeds the church of God.‡ And as our great
Master broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples for their distribution
( John, vi. 11); so does he now dispense to his servants heavenly pro-
vision, suitable, and abundantly sufficient for tile need of their charge.
And every Sabbath is the wondrous miracle displayed before our eyes.
The imperishable bread multiplies in the breaking. The hungry, the
* Nicholls. Matt. xii. 36.
† FLAVEL On Soul of Man.- Works, 8vo. ii. 551.
‡ Mal. ii. 7, with Jer. iii. 15. John, xxi. 15. Acts, xx. 28. 1 Pet. v. 2. Of Bishop
Ridley our Martyrologist records in his own beautiful style, that ‘to his Sermon
the people resorted, swarming about him like bees, and coveting the sweet flowers
and wholesome juice of his fruitful doctrine.'-Foxe, vii. 407.
104 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
mourners, the weary and fainting; yea, all that feel their need, are
refreshed and invigorated.
The wicked – his coffers may be full. But his heart, being empty
of the choice silver, is little worth. (Jer. xxii. 28.) So far from feeding
others, the fool dies himself for want of wisdom; or rather for want of
heart to seek it. He despises the lips that would feed him, and 'dies of
famine in the midst of the rich pastures of the Gospel.'* Oh! how
often are we reminded that sin is self-destruction! (Hos. xiii. 9.)
22. The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow
We have been told (Verse 4), that the hand of the diligent--here we
see that the blessing of the Lord--maketh rich. Both are consistent.
The one marks the primary, the other the instrumental and subordinate,
cause. Neither will be effective without the other. The sluggard looks
for prosperity without diligence; the practical atheist from diligence
alone; the sound-hearted Christian from the blessing of God in the
exercise of diligence. This wise combination keeps him in an active
habit; humble, and dependent on God. (John, vi. 27.) For "except
the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. The race
is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong." (Ps. cxxvii. 1. Eccles.
ix. 11.) The rich then may receive their portion (Eccles. ii. 24-26;
iii. 13; v. 18-20) as the blessing of the Lord (Gen. xxiv. 35; xxvi. 12.
1 Chron. xxix. 14. Deut. viii. 17, 18); carefully using it as a talent for
his service (Luke, xix. 13), and for the good of their fellow-creatures.
(I Tim. vi. 17, 18) The poor may enjoy the same enriching blessing in
the "gain of godly contentment." (Ib. verse 6.) Their cottage is a
palace, as the habitation of the King of kings; and neither life nor
death, neither time nor eternity, can separate them from their God.
(Rom. viii. 38, 39.)
The blessing of the Lord moreover hath this prerogative. He addeth
no sorrow with it; at least no sorrow, but what turns to a blessing.
Accumulation of riches may be the accumulation of sorrows. (Chap.
xx. 21; xxviii. 22. 1 Tim. vi. 9, 10.) Lot's covetous choice was fraught
with bitterness. (Gen. xiii. 10, 11; xiv. 12; xix. 15. 2 Pet. ii. 8.) Ahab
wore a crown and "lay sick on his bed" in discontent. (1 Kings, xxi. 4.)
Gehazi was laden with his bags; but the plague of leprosy was on him.
(2 Kings, v. 27.) Haman's mortification was the canker in his boasted
glory. (Esth. v. 13.) The rich youth's rejection of Christ was the source
of present- must we not fear?--everlasting sorrow. (Luke, xviii. 23.)
The worldling's recompense for his daily toil is "eating the bread of
sorrows. So"--mark the striking contrast--"he giveth his beloved
* Schultens. Comp. Acts, xiii. 41, 45, 46.
CHAP. x. 23, 24. 105
sleep." (Ps. cxxvii. 2. Eccles. ii. 26; v. 12.) Happy portion of the
children of God! They "know both how to be abased, and they know
how to abound." (Philip. iv. 12.) "All things are theirs." (1 Cor. iii. 21.)
"Thy blessing is upon thy people." (Ps. iii. 8.)
23. It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath
The wanton sport of putting others to pain argues the perverseness
of a fool both in judgment and heart. (Chap. xxvi. 18, 19. 2 Sam. ii.
14-16.) Sometimes this cruel amusement may engage a man in the
tempter's work. (Chap. i.11-14.) For fools, who make sport of mischief,
may heedlessly go on to "make a mock of sin." (Chap. xiv. 9.) But
even without going so far, should not we guard against mischievous
jokes, tending to wound a neighbour's character, or to give him
uneasiness? Are we sufficiently careful against indulging our wit
or humour at his expense? All this is not less unmanly, than it is
inconsistent with the sobriety and gravity of a Christian profession. It
is the pure native selfishness of the human heart. Should not also
children's play be sometimes under restraint? Young people cannot
be too strongly disciplined to thoughtfulness and consideration of
others. Never let their hilarity of spirits lead to make sport of that,
which ought to call forth sympathy and tenderness. A man of under-
standing is too wise to find a reckless delight in his neighbour's injury.
The spirit of our Divine Master was according to his own law (Gal. vi.
2)--eminently considerate and sympathizing. (Luke, vii. 13.) Let
us who bear his name, cultivate his self-denying, loving mind.
(Philip. ii. 4, 5.)
24. The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the
righteous shall be granted.
The sport of the wicked: how soon is it gone! (Eccles. vii. 6.) But
his fear--the evil which he feared--comes upon him. The Babel
builders were punished with the evil, which they had laboured to
prevent. (Gen. xi. 4,8.) Ahab's device could not shelter him from
his foreboded judgment. (1 Kings, xxii; 28-37.) The rebellious Jews
rushed into the ruin from which they fled. (Jer. xlii. xliii.) Belshazzar's
trembling was realized in his speedy destruction. (Dan. v. 6,30.) Thus
are "the wicked" tossed, "like a troubled sea." (Isa. lvii. 20, 21.) Do
not "their hearts" in solitude "meditate terror?" (Ib. xxxiii. 18. Comp.
Deut. xxviii. 67. Job, iii. 25; xv. 21.) Do not their consciences turn
pale at the question--"Where shall the ungodly and the sinner
appear?" (1 Pet. iv. 18.) And will it not be the constrained confession
at the great day--"According to thy fear, so is thy wrath?" (Ps. xc.
11. Mal. iv. 1.) Unwilling are they now to be reckoned among the
106 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
righteous. Much more will they then be to be found in their sins--
fear their portion--ruin their doom--without hope--without end.
But if the fear of the wicked--so also will the desire of the righteous
--be fully realized. As the one cannot fear anything so bad, so the
other cannot desire anything so good, as what is really in store for them.
Desires bounded by the will (1 John, v. 14), and centered in the enjoy-
ment, of God (Ps. iv. 6; xxxvii. 4), will be granted to their utmost
extent. (lb. lxxxi. 10. Jer. xxxiii. 3. John, xvi. 23, 24.) God did not
raise them to be our torment, but our rest.
Granted they are upon the principle, that they "are only good."
(Chap. xi. 23.) Yet too often the desires of the righteous are not righteous.
The defilement of a worldly spirit (Mark, x. 37), or the hastiness of an
impatient spirit*--far better that they should be denied than granted.
(Ps. cvi. 15. Jam. iv. 3.) So generally indeed are they mixed with
infirmity, that their unreserved gratification might be our destruction.
(Exod. xxxiii. 18, 20.) But he is no less wise than kind: he separates
the evil, and fulfils the good (lb. verse 19); answering, not according
to our wishes, but our wants; not as in our ignorance we may have
asked, but as an enlightened regard to our best interests would have
led us to ask.
But 'I have desired a thousand times on my knees, and yet it has
not been granted.' Yet is it not worth being upon our knees for it a
thousand times more? May not the blessing be withheld a while, till
our sensibility of need be quickened (Isa. xli. 17); or to prepare us
ultimately for a richer enjoyment? (Chap. xiii. 12.)
But if our desires be granted, and even exceeded (Gen. xlviii. 11.
1 Kings, iii. 13. Eph. iii. 20); faith and patience will be tried in the
very grant. Growth in grace is given by deep and humbling views of
our corruption. Longings for holiness are fulfilled by painful affliction.
Prayers are answered by crosses. Our Father's dispensations are not
what they seem to be, but what he is pleased to make them.† Yet in
the darkest cloud the ground of our confidence is firm. All things
needful will be given, and at the grand consummation every desire will
be eternally fulfilled--‘As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteous-
ness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." (Ps. xvii.
15, xvi. 11.)
25. As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is
an everlasting foundation.
Thus suddenly, as the whirlwind,‡ does the fear of the wicked often
* Elijah, 1 Kings, xix. 4. Jonah, iv. 1-4. The disciples, Luke, ix.54-56.
† See a beautiful hymn in Olney Collection.--Book iii. 36.
‡ See note* p. 11. Comp. Jer. xxiii. 19. Hos. xiii. 3; also Job, xx. 8, 9; xxi. 13,19-21. Ps. lxxiii.
CHAP. X. 26, 27. 107
come upon him. All his hopes, pleasures, and dependencies; all his
opportunities of grace, and offers of mercy, are swept away in a moment
for ever. Such a whirlwind was the destruction of the old world, of the
cities of the plain (Luke, xvii. 26-29); of Sennacherib's army. (2 Kings,
xix. 35.) And such a whirlwind, infinitely more terrible, will be the
coming of the Lord. (Luke, xvii. 30. 1 Thess. v. 2, 3.) "But he that
doeth the will of God abideth ever" (1 John, ii. 17), as an everlasting
foundation. Faith hath fastened him to the Rock of Ages; hath built
his house upon this Rock; and no storm can root him up. (Matt. vii.
25. Ps. cxii. 7.) But remember, this is the confidence of the righteous.
Sin allowed and indulged will shake this foundation far more than all
the outward assaults of earth and hell. "Hold fast then thy rejoicing"
in a jealous godly fear. Thy portion is secure. Thy hopes, joys, and
prospects are unchangeable. Thou canst look at trouble-yea, at
death itself--without dismay, and feel--'I am safe.' But while "thou
standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear." (Rom. xi. 20.)
26. As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to
them that send him.
A lively figure of the vexation of the sluggard to his employers!
(Contrast Chap. xxvi. 6, with xiii. 17; xxv. 13.) Suppose a fire to be
extinguished, medical assistance needed, a message of urgent haste to
be conveyed--he is worse than unserviceable. Common prudence
dictates the selection of active and industrious servants. And such
when influenced by godly principles, are "worthy of double honour."
(Chap. xxii. 29. Gen. xxiv. 1-14. 1 Tim. v. 17.)
Does then the sluggard disappoint and provoke his earthly master?
See that we be not such sluggards to our heavenly Master. Laodicean
professors are specially hateful in his sight. (Rev. iii. 16.) The slothful
Minister carries in a tremendous account to him that sent him. No more
pitiable object is found, than the man who has time to spare; who has
no object of commanding interest; and is going on to the end, as if he
had spent his whole life in children's play, and had lived for no useful
purpose. He may probably have parcelled out a portion of his time
for some miscalled religious duty. But he might as well be asleep as
on his knees; in idleness as in meditation--so little pains--so little
heart, is connected with his duties! Why "standeth he idle in the
market-place?" It cannot be--"No man hath hired him." His
Master's call sounds in his ears--"Go ye into the vineyard." (Matt. xx.
7.) And at his peril he disobeys it. (Ib. xxv. 30.)
27. The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall
The fear of the Lord is not a single grace. It includes the substance
108 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
of all godly tempers. For all are radically one principle, from one
source. It essentially differs from the fear of the wicked. They fear
those whom they hate. The child of God-whom he loves. Whether
his temporal life be shortened or prolonged, he lives long in a little
time. He is an infinite gainer by the contraction of life; when his
days are prolonged and swallowed up in the one unclouded day, of
which "the sun shall no more go down." (Chap. ix. 11. Ps. xci. 16.
Isa. Ix. 19.) Justly is the fear of the Lord contrasted with the wicked;
because the absence of this grace is their distinguishing mark (Ps.
xxxvi. 1), the principle of all their ungodliness. (Rom. iii. 10-18.) And
often do we see the letter of this curse realized in the shortening of their
years. Excessive worldliness wears out the spring of life (Eccles. v.
10-12), and often brings it to an untimely end.* Sometimes the God
of vengeance breaks out, and "takes away" the daring offender "with
his stroke." (Job, xxxvi. 18. 1 Sam. ii. 32; iv. 11. Acts, v. 1-10.) Yet,
if he be "visited after the visitation of all men," awful indeed is the
course of a long life wasted in folly and sin; living little in a long
time--"The sinner, being an hundred years old, shall be accursed."
(Isa. lxv. 20.)
28. The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the
wicked shall perish.
The fear of the Lord, so far from being opposed to, is often con-
nected with, the hope of the righteous. Ps. xxxiii. 18; cxlvii. 11.) And
well may this hope be gladness; for it is 'accompanied with sweet
patience, joyful hope, and crowned with a happy issue.'† It has its
origin in eternity. (Tit. i. 2.) Its substance is Christ and heaven.
(Rom. v. 2. 1 Pet. i. 3,4. Col. i. 27.) The foundation is the work of
Christ. (1 Pet. i. 3, 21.) The security, the unchangeable engagements
of God. (Heb. vi. 17, 18.) "Who then but must see it to be "a hope
that maketh not ashamed; sure and stedfast?" (Rom. v. 5. Heb. vi. 19.
2 Thess. ii. 16.) Instead of, as is commonly supposed, bidding fare-
well to gladness, it brings the only sunshine of the soul. Beaming from
the precious cross, how does it dry up the penitent's tears. (Isa. xii. 2.)
Or, if the gladness be withheld for a time, yet it is sown: and the
"sheaves of joy shall doubtless " follow the "weeping." (Ps. xcvii. 11;
cxxvi.6. Isa. xxxv. 10.) And then-carrying as it were heaven in
and about us (Heb. x. 34)-how refreshing is this hope in its clear
insight into eternity! as Bunyan describes, in one of his beautiful
touches, his feelings on witnessing Christian and Hopeful's welcome
* Impurity, Chap. v. 9-11. Drunkenness, xxiii. 29-32. Malice, Ps. Iv. 23.
1 Kings, ii. 31-44. Wickedness, Ps. xxxvii. 9, 20. Eccles. vii. 17. Jer. xvii. 11.
Comp. Job, xv. 32, 33; xxii. 15, 16.
CHAP. X. 29. 109
into the heavenly city--'which when I had seen, I wished myself
among them.' Oh! there must be a reality in that hope, which bears
us away from earth, and makes its meanest heir richer and happier,
than if he were the sole possessor of this world's glory. Let me hasten
towards it, longing, yet not impatient. For how can I but desire to
change my traveller's lot for my home; my toil for rest; my sorrow
for joy; my body of sin for the likeness to my Lord; "the tents of
Kedar" for "the innumerable company of angels, and the church of the
first-born?" (Ps. cxx. 5, with Heb. xii. 22, 23.) Do I grasp this hope?
Then--as a godly man exclaimed--'Let who will be miserable; I will
But the wicked--they too have their expectation. For none have a
stronger hope than those, who have no ground for hope. (Deut. xxix. 19.)
And this delusion often reaches to the moment of eternity (Matt. xxv.
10)--nay, even to the "day" of the Lord (Ib. vii. 22, 23); expecting
the door to be "opened to them," after it has been "shut " for ever
(Ib. xxv. 11); dreaming of heaven, and waking in hell! The expecta-
tion of the wicked shall perish.*
Christian! make sure the ground of your hope. (2 Pet. i. 10.) Then
set out its gladness, as becomes an heir of glory. Let not a drooping
spirit tell the world the scantiness of your hope. But show that you
can live upon its gladness, until you enter into its perfect and everlast-
ing fruition. (Ps. xvi. 11.) Doubtfulness leaves believers and infidels
nearly on the same level. A clear apprehension of its infinite joy
stimulates our "diligence to make our calling and election sure."
29. The way of the Lord is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be
to the workers of iniquity.
Observe how the gladness of the righteous is "their strength." (Neh.
viii. 10.) In the roughness of the way "Go in this thy might"--is
the cheering voice--"Have not I sent thee?" (Judg. vi. 14.) "He
giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth
strength." (Isa. xl. 29.) This promise, however, implies help for our
work, not rest from our labour. We shall have strength for the conflict.
But "there is no discharge from the war." There is supply for real,
not for imaginary, wants; for present, not for future, need. The health-
ful energy of the man of God is also supposed. He is alive in the way.
His heart is set in it. This makes it practicable. What before was
drudgery is now meat and drink. Indeed, the more godly we are, the
more godly we shall be. The habit of grace increases by exercise.
One step helps on the next.
Thus was the way of the Lord strength to the upright Nicodemus.
* See the hope of the worldling. Ps. xlix. 6-14. Luke, xii. 19, 20. Of the wicked, Job, xi. 20;
xviii. 14. Of the hypocrite, Ib. viii. 13, 14; xxvii. 8.
110 EXPOSITION OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
His first step was feebleness and fear. Walking onwards, he waxed
stronger (Job, xvii. 9); standing up in the ungodly council, and ulti-
mately the bold confessor of his Saviour, when his self-confident dis-
ciples slunk back. (John, iii. 2; vii. 50, 51; XIX. 39.) Innate sufficiency
we have none. The strongest in their own strength shall "faint and
be weary." The weakest in the Lord's strength shall "march on, and
not faint."* Thus, in the hour of temptation, the upright will find their
way to be strength. (2 Chron. xv. 2.) Joseph in Potiphar's house
(Gen. xxxix. 10); Obadiah in Ahab's house (1 Kings, xviii. 3); Daniel
in the Persian court (Dan. vi. 10), held on a fiery trial, sustained from
on high. Thus--thus alone--"the righteous shall hold on their way;
going from strength to strength; strengthened in the Lord, and walk-
ing up and down In his name." (Job, xvii. 9. Ps. lxxxiv. 5-7. Zech.
x. 12.) When we look at our own resources, we might 'as well
despair of moving sin from our hearts, as of casting down the moun-
tains with our fingers.'† Yet none of us need to shrink from the con-
fession--"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
(Philip. iv. 13.)
No such resources support the workers of iniquity. Captives instead
of soldiers, they know no conflicts; they realize no need of strength.
Even now "destruction is in their ways” (Isa. lix. 7. Rom. iii. 16. Isa.
l. 11), and the "voice of the Judge will fearfully seal their doom.
Depart from me, ye workers of iniquiy." (Luke, xiii. 27. Chap. xxi. 15.
Job, xxxi. 3. Ps. xxxvi. 12.)
30. The righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit
The frailty of our present condition, common to all (Eccles. ix. 2, 11),
was not in the wise man's eye; but the state of the two classes as in
the purpose and mind of God. His way is strength to the upright. The
righteous, walking steadily in the way, shall never be removed. (Ps. xv.;
xxxvii. 22; cxii. 6; cxxv. 1. 2 Pet. i. 5-11.) 'They enjoy in this life
by faith and hope their everlasting Life."‡ "No weapon that is formed
against them shall prosper. The mountains shall depart, and the little
hills shall be removed: but my loving-kindness shall not depart from
I thee; neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed; saith the Lord
I that hath mercy on thee." (Isa. liv. 10.) Is not this a confidence, that
earth nor hell can never shake? (Rom. viii. 38, 39.)
The wicked--have they any such confidence? So far from being never
removed, they shall never inhabit. They have no title, like the righteous
(Matt. v. 5. 1 Cor. iii. 22), as sons and heirs, to the blessings of earth; no
hope or interest in the land, of which the earth is the type.
* Isa. xl. 31. Bishop Lowth's version † Bishop Reynolds.
‡ Reformers' notes.
CHAP. x. 31, 32. 111
(Ps. xxxvii. 29.) Often are they cut off from inhabiting the one. (Verse
27; ii. 22. Ps. xxxvii. 22. Ezek. xxxiii. 24-26.) Never will they be
suffered to inhabit the other. (1 Cor. vi. 9. Rev. xxi. 27.) As our cha-
racter is, so is our hope and prospect. We gain or lose both worlds.
31. The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the forward tongue
shall be cut out. 32. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable:
but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.
Another image (Comp. Verses 11, 20, 21) of the fruitfulness of a
gracious tongue! It bringeth forth wisdom (Ps. xxxvii. 30), and that
too in the practical exercise of knowing what is acceptable. This gift
needs to be deeply pondered, and carefully cultivated (Chap. xv. 23;
xxv. 11. Job, vi. 25), to give it a free scope, while we jealously confine
it to its own sphere of influence. There is evidently much diversity
of application. The same statement of truth does not suit all. And
how--what--when--to whom--to speak--is a matter of great
wisdom. (Eccles. viii. 5.) Yet this consideration of acceptableness must
involve no compromise of principle. Let it be a considerate accom-
modation of mode to the diversity of tastes; a forbearance with lesser
prejudices and constitutional Infirmities; avoiding--not all offences
(which faithfulness to our Divine Master forbids), but all needless
offences; all uncalled-for occasions of design and irritation. "The
meekness of wisdom" (Jam. iii. 13) should be clearly manifested in
Christian faithfulness. Thus Gideon melted the frowardness of the
men of Ephraim. (Judg. viii. 2, 3.) Abigail restrained David's hands