EXPOSITION

 

                                      OF THE

 

         BOOK OF PROVERBS.

 

 

 

 

                                               BY THE LATE

 

      REV. GEORGE LAWSON, D. D.

 

              PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY TO THE ASSOCIATE SYNOD,

                                                   SELKIRK.

 

 

 

                                           IN TWO VOLUMES.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                       VOL. I.

                                                EDINBURGH:

                                                 PRINTED for

                       DAVID BROWN, NO. 6. ST ANDREW'S STREET,

            1 W. OLIPHIANT, AND F. PILLANS, EDINBURGH; M. OGLE,

                        GLASGOW; OGLE, DUNCAN & CO. AND

                                            J. NISBET, LONDON.

                                                             1821.

 

 

 


                 ADVERTISEMENT.

 

DURING his life-time, the Author of the

following Lectures had been frequently so-

licited by some of his earliest and most es-

teemed friends in the ministry to publish

them. For some time before his death, he

had entertained serious thoughts of comply-

ing with their solicitations. It has been

judged, by the surviving members of his

family, not improper to carry into effect what

they knew to have been his intention.

            A desire, which it is presumed will appear

natural and proper, to follow out his design,

and thus to gratify the friends in conse-

quence of whose request this design was ori-

ginally formed, led to the selection of DR

LAWSON'S Lectures on the Proverbs from

the Discourses on many books of Scripture

which are found among his writings.

            While it is probable that these Discourses

will be judged not altogether free from the


                               (vi )

 

defects incident to posthumous publications,

it is at the same time hoped that they will

be found to exhibit the same characteristic

qualities which have secured for his other

Expository Writings the approbation of the

Public.

            At the suggestion of some valued friends,

the present mode of publication was adopted;

and much gratitude is due to the ministers

and others, whose exertions have promoted

its success.

            It would have been the earnest prayer of

the Author had he been still alive, and it is

the prayer of his surviving relatives, who

have sent the Work to the Press, that the

Work may be rendered instrumental in ad-

vancing the best interests of mankind.


 

          EXPOSITION

 

      OF THE

 

   BOOK OF PROVERBS.

 

 

Of Augustus Caesar it is said, that when he read the

works of men of learning and genius, he used to ex-

tract such precepts as might prove useful to him in his

government. This part of his conduct manifested wis-

dom; the precepts thus collected, served to assist him

and his ministers in managing the affairs of the em-

pire. But the necessity of our imitating this part of

his conduct, has been in a great measure superseded

by that Spirit of truth, under whose guidance Solomon

wrote his Proverbs, and transmitted them to future

ages for their instruction in righteousness. In this

little book there appears more wisdom than in the

combined monuments of Greek and Roman learning.

The wisest of men wrote it, and his object is to make

us wise:—But a greater than Solomon is here, for

Wisdom speaks in her own person.

The first nine chapters are a preface to the book.

In it Solomon recommends to our study, that wisdom

which he designs to teach, and insists on some of her

most useful precepts.

VOL. I.            A


 

2          EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. I.

 

CHAPTER I

 

In this chapter, Solomon gives us an account of the 

writer, and the design, of this book; recommends the

fear of the Lord, a dutiful regard to the instructions

of parents, and diligence in guarding against the temp-

tations of bad company, as principal parts of wisdom.

It is concluded with an earnest call to the unwise to

learn wisdom.

Let us hear, first, what Solomon has to say, for re-

commending this much neglected book to our at-

tention.

Verse 1. The Proverbs of Solomon, the son of David,

King of Israel.

This book consists of proverbs, which are wise, and

short sayings of great use to direct us in the conduct

of life. Proverbs were much valued in ancient times.

But no proverbs deserve so much esteem and attention

as these, for they are the proverbs of Solomon, another

name almost for wisdom. In his days he was honoured

like an angel of God, for his understanding. All kings

that heard of him, admired him, and thought them-

selves happy if they could hear some of his wise in-

structions. The Queen of Sheba came from the utter-

most parts of the earth to hear his wisdom; although

she had not heard the one half of what she found to be

true concerning him, yet even these imperfect accounts

were such as to exceed her belief. Did she come so

far, upon uncertain reports, to hear his wisdom? and

shall not we receive with gladness his instructions,

since he is come to us, to be our teacher? We have

no need to cross dangerous seas, and travel into distant


CHAP I.]         BOOK OF PROVERBS.                3

 

countries, to hear the lectures of this divine teacher,—

he cries to us in our streets, he talks with us in our

closets. He died some thousands of years ago, but he

yet speaks.

Though Solomon had been the son of an Ahas, or

of some poor herdsman, his wisdom would have en-

titled him to our respect. But this wisest of men was

the son of the best of men. He that was raised on

high,—the anointed of the God of Jacob,—the man

after God's own heart,—was his father. This wise son

enjoyed all the advantages to be expected from the in-

structions and the example, the prayers and the bless-

ings, of so good a father. Solomon was a prophet,

and the son of a prophet,—he was the son of the best

of kings; and of the many Sons whom God had given

to David, he was chosen to fill his father's throne.

Great men are not always wise, and except from

their own subjects, the words of kings are seldom en-

titled to more regard than those of other men. But it

was in Israel, where God was well known, that Solo-

mon was king; and he was advanced to that dignity,

because he was the worthiest of it in the kingdom.

These words are the instructions of that king, who

excelled in wisdom and grandeur all the kings of the

earth. This great prince is our teacher; but not he

alone,—the only wise God here condescends to become

our instructor;—he, then, who disregards this book,

despises a greater than Solomon.

This book is the work of a noble writer, and truly it

was written with a noble design-

Ver. 2. To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive

the words of understanding—

To give us the knowledge of wisdom, and that in-

struction by which knowledge is conveyed into our

minds; for man is born without wisdom, and without

instruction must continue foolish all his days.


4          EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. I.

 

The words of understanding are the instruction of

wisdom, and this book will lead the simple and inex-

perienced to perceive these words. But what sort of

wisdom is it that Solomon means to teach in this book?

The best kind of wisdom-

Ver. 3. To receive the instruction of wisdom; justice,

and judgment, and equity.

The careful reader of this book will receive the in-

structions of that wisdom which directs men to prac-

tise justice, regulated by discretion, and tempered by

moderation and mercy. It teaches us our duty to God

and man, and leads us in every good path. Solomon

could have given us lectures on Astronomy and Poe-

try, on the nature of birds and beasts, and every

thing that attracts the curiosity of men; but as the

wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, he is

directed by the Spirit of God to give us in this book

the instructions of divine and moral wisdom, to remain

for the use of men till the latest posterity.

They thought themselves happy that were admitted

to hear the discourses of this great philosopher, while

he lived among men. But the best of his instructions

are left on record for our benefit. The best knowledge

is the knowledge of God, and of Christ, who is his re-

presenting image to men, and holiness, which is the

image of God in men. The most necessary truths are

first to be learned, and these are clearly represented in

this little book.

But who are the persons that may receive benefit

from it? This you may learn from the next verse-

Ver. 4. To give subtilty to the simple, to the young

man knowledge and discretion.

Plato wrote on the door of his Academy, "Let no

man unskilled in Geometry come hither." Solomon

writes the very reverse on the door of his school:

"Let the simple man who is easily deceived come


CHAP. I.]          BOOK OF PROVERBS.                5

 

hither, and he shall learn that subtilty which is neces-

sary to preserve him from the snares of the destroyer,

and is yet fully consistent with integrity. Let the

young and inexperienced come and learn knowledge

and discretion."

Which of us does not, need subtilty to preserve us

from the wiles of the great deceiver and his agents?

This book not only teaches, but gives subtilty to the

simple. When its truth enters into the soul, and

takes possession of the heart through the grace of the

Spirit who dictates the Scriptures, and makes use of

them as his instrument of illumination, then the simple

are made wise, and the hearts of the rash understand

knowledge.

It were our happiness if we understood our own

simplicity, that we might thankfully receive the in-

structions of wisdom, and fervently pray for the Spirit

of God to open our ears and seal our instructions. If

any man would be wise in this world, let him become

a fool, that he may be wise.

Persons to whom books are dedicated, may be ex-

pected to give them a careful perusal. Solomon dedi-

cates this book to the young, as well as to the simple.

He knew that young people stand in great need of ad-

vice and direction, and earnestly desired to do them

good; and could they be persuaded to accept of Solo-

mon as their teacher, he will speak to them with the

kindness of a father, and communicate to them know-

ledge and discretion.

But is this book of no use but to the unwise and the

untaught?—It is of great use to the wise also; and if

men are truly wise, they will value it above much fine

gold, and by the diligent use of it, will greatly im-

prove in wisdom.

Ver. 5. A wise man will hear, and will increase learn-


 

6                  EXPOSITION OF THE             [CHAP. I.

 

ing; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise

counsels.

This book contains wise counsels for directing a man

under every perplexing difficulty in the way of peace

and safety, and enabling him to give the most season-

able and prudent counsels to others.

How precious are wise counsels! and what a treasure

is a wise counsellor to his friends and neighbours! —

This book will also enable a wise man,

Ver. 6. To understand a proverb, and the interpre-

tation thereof; the words if the wise, and their dark

sayings.

The dark sayings of fools and triflers are not worth a

thought; but the dark sayings of the wise are worthy

to be studied till we obtain a complete knowledge of

their meaning; for they are dark at first hearing only,

on account of the sublimity of their views, and the force

of their manner of expression, which contains much

useful instruction in small compass.

Are we old or young, wise or unwise? Here is milk

for babes, and strong meat for those that are of full

age. Here are plain instructions for the ignorant, and

depths of wisdom proper to exercise and enrich the

minds of the most intelligent.

Let us attend, and learn, and practise. It is Solo-

mon the son of David, and king of Israel, that speaks.

He speaks to the simple and inexperienced, and to the

wise. He speaks of the most important points of truth,

and a greater than Solomon is here. Christ spoke by

his Spirit in the prophets, and he still speaks from

heaven to us, He speaks by his word and by his

Spirit. He opens the understandings of men, that they

may understand the Scriptures. Christ is the Word

and the Wisdom of God, and he is made to us wisdom.

Let us depend upon him as our wisdom, that his Spirit


 

CHAP. I.]            BOOK OF PROVERBS.                  7

 

may write in our hearts the things written in this book:

so shall we be the epistle of Christ, written not with

pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God,

and our conversations will be living commentaries on

the proverbs of Solomon.

Some of the most necessary parts of wisdom are ex-

plained and enforced from the 7th to the 17th verse.

The first of these is, that-

Ver. 7. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of know-

ledge.

The fear of the Lord, so often recommended in this

book, is not that fear which hath torment in it, and is

excluded by love; but that fear which is joined with

faith, and keeps it from degenerating into presumption,

whilst faith keeps fear from sinking into despondency.

It is a lively impression of the excellency of God upon

the soul, whereby a man is disposed to walk before him

unto all pleasing, and to put far away every thing pro-

voking and offensive to the eyes of his glory. It is

therefore justly made to signify the whole of religion

in the heart and life of man.

Great commendations are bestowed on this grace in

Scripture. It makes a chief part in the noble charac-

ters of Abraham and Job, and here Solomon tells us

that it is the beginning, the ground-work, and the com-

prehensive sum of all true knowledge.

He that wants the fear of the Lord does not know

him; and he that knows not God, knows nothing as

he ought to know it. He knows neither his business

in life, nor his happiness. A rational creature without

the fear and knowledge of God, is like a soldier that

never saw a sword, or a lawyer that never read an act

of parliament. But he that knows the Lord so as to

fear him, knows Christ, through whom we see those

glorious perfections that are the object of our reverence.

He knows his duty and happiness, and he is on the


 

8                     EXPOSITION OF THE                [CHAP. I.

 

plain road to the knowledge of every thing necessary to

make the man of God perfect.

Let no man say that this kind of knowledge deserves

not our study, because it is generally despised; it is in-

deed despised, but by whom? The wise man tells us,

—But fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Who would despise a pearl because an idiot would not

give his rattle for it? It is no dishonour to the divine

wisdom to be despised by any man; but it is the utmost

dishonour to any man to despise the wisdom of God.

tie is an unreasonable and foolish man that has not the

faith of Christ and the fear of the Lord*.

The next part of doctrine taught by the wise man,

respects the reverence due to the instructions of parents.

Ver. 8. My son, hear the instruction if thy father,

and forsake not the law of thy mother.

This exhortation speaks to us as unto children;

Solomon is entitled to the authority, and addresses us

with the tenderness of a father. If such, then, be the

affection with which he addresses us, surely we owe

him the reverence of children.   God is our heavenly

Father. All his precepts are the expressions of divine

goodness, and we are unnatural to our Maker if we

forget them.

It is here supposed that parents will instruct their

children. They are monsters rather than parents, who

do not love the fruit of their own bodies. Love will

dispose persons to do all the good they can to the objects

of it; and the best thing that can be done for children,

is to teach them the fear of the Lord. To be careful

about providing the supports of life, or raising portions

for children, without taking care of their souls, is like

taking care of the clothes, and being indifferent

about the body that wears them. "O ye people,”

 

* 2 Thess. iii. 2.


CHAP. I]                BOOK OF PROVERBS.                  9

 

cried an ancient philosopher, "why do ye toil in rais-

ing estates for your children, and neglect to prepare

them by needful instructions for enjoying them?"

Mothers are to instruct their children, as well as

fathers. Solomon gratefully remembered the instruc-

tions he received in his younger years from Bathsheba;

and the last chapter of this book contains the noble

instructions which a wise king had learned from his

mother.

Perhaps the reason why the names of the mothers of

the kings of Judah are recorded along with their cha-

racters is, because the lessons and example of their

mothers had a considerable influence in forming their

behaviour.

Children are required to hear, and reverence, and

obey the instructions of their fathers. Next to the

duties we owe immediately to God, the commandments

require us to obey our parents in the Lord*. He that

despiseth his earthly father, is no doubt a despiser of

the Father of spirits. A proper regard to the wise 

and godly instructions of parents, gives a happy pre-

sage of good behaviour in after life. Vice and ruin, on

the other hand, are the ordinary consequences of irre-

verence to these natural guardians of our tender years.

The sages of heathen antiquity, though themselves

born of women, usually held them in such small re-

spect, that they almost confined to the father precepts

that regarded filial duty. The more enlarged wisdom

of Solomon, however, pleads the cause of the mother

in forcible words. The instructions of a mother are to

be considered by us as a law that we are never to for-

sake. When old, she is still entitled to our respect;

and we are never to leave those good paths into which

her affectionate care has directed our steps.

 

*Exod. xx.

 


10               EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. I.

 

But what advantage is proposed to us by attending

to the voice of parental admonition?

Ver. 9. For they shall be an ornament of grace unto,

thy head, and chains about thy neck.

Young people are generally fond of fine clothes, and

of ornaments to their bodies; but with regard to this,

Solomon here sets their notions right. Reverence to

parents, a dutiful regard to their instructions, and the

wisdom which is learnt from them, is by far the most

beautiful ornament. It will make the face to shine;

it will be a chain to the neck; it will be a graceful or-

namenl, more beautiful than a crown of gold, to the

head. With such ornaments was our Lord himself ar-

rayed, while he dwelt among us. He was subject to

his parents, though himself their Maker and Saviour*.

Young people are generally disposed to hearken to

advice; but because human nature is in a corrupt state,

they are generally more prone to follow bad advice than

good. Having therefore exhorted them to reverence

and to obey God and their parents, he now proceeds

to warn them against hearkening to the enticing words

of seducers to sin, ver. 10.-19.

Ver. 10. My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou

not.

Sinners have generally so much of the venom of the

old serpent in them, that they do not wish to go unat-

tended to hell, but desire to make others as much the

children of the devil as themselves. Sinners, after com-

plying with the suggestions of their tempter, generally

proceed from evil to worse, till they become devils

themselves, and aid their master in ruining others.

The young ought to remember, that they will meet

with ill advisers; and if so, how firmly should they

resolve, through the grace of God, to hold on in the

 

*Luke ii. 51, 52.


CHAP. I.]        BOOK OP PROVERBS.      11

 

way of virtue, and to refuse the least compliance with

that advice which causeth to err from the words of

knowledge!

Solomon arms us against these deceivers, by making

us acquainted with their devices.

Ver. 11. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait

far blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without

cause.—

These are not the express words of seducers, but a

translation of them into the language of truth. They

will say, ‘Come let us pick the pocket of some cove-

tous miser, who has made himself rich by cunning,

and scraped money together by such cowardly prac-

tices, as cannot expose him to the vengeance of the

law.’ Solomon tells us not the express words of the

tempter, but puts into his mouth such language as

expresses the real meaning and tendency of his solici-

tations. When transgressors varnish over their crimes,

it is our part to pluck of the false covering, and to

represent sin to ourselves in its true colours, and in its

tendency to other iniquities of higher aggravation.

When the drunkard invites us to go to the tavern, and

drink a cheerful glass with him, let his words sound

in our ears as if he had said, ‘Let us go to the tavern,

and there drown our reason, and make ourselves

monsters.’ When another desires us to take a hand

at cards, let us take his meaning to be, ‘Come, let

us rob our friend of his money, without incurring the

pains of law.’

Perhaps those men whom the tempters here spoken

of wish to rob or kill, may be like themselves, strangers

to every good way; but they are innocent in compa-

rison with those pests of society, who plot against their

property or their lives. The treasons of Abner and

Amasa, did not exempt Joab, their murderer, from

the guilt of innocent blood.


12        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. I.

 

These tempters to iniquity will try to persuade the

inexperienced, that there is no danger of being detected.

Ver. 11. Let us swallow them up alive as the grave,

and whole as those that go down to the pit.

We shall manage matters in such a manner, as that

there cannot be even the possibility of detection. So well

concerted shall our plans be, that the thing will be as

effectually concealed from public view, as those bodies

which are covered by the grave. Vain hopes! can

men flatter themselves that they shall escape the

righteous judgment of God? Even in this life, mur-

derers seldom escape punishment. But what though

men neither see nor suspect? conscience sees, angels

see, the great Avenger of blood sees; the assembled

world shall know their crimes, shall hear their sentence,

and witness their punishment.

The devil told our Lord, that he would give him all

the kingdoms and glories of the world, if he would

comply with his persuasions. The ministers of Satan

in like manner endeavour to persuade men that they will

obtain much advantage by sin, that the gains of it

shall fill all their treasures, and every corner of their

houses.

Ver. 13. We shall find all precious substance, we shall

fill our houses with spoil.

These promises are lies; or if such treasures be pro-

cured, they will last but for a moment. What profit

had Judas the traitor in his thirty pieces of silver,

though paid him to the last farthing? Though thirty

thousand talents of gold had been his reward, they

could not have soothed his racked conscience, they

could not have retained his breath when his own hands

had applied the halter, they could not have preserved

his separated soul from going to its place. The profits

of sin are the worst of losses *.

 

* Rev. x. 3. Matth. xvi. 26.


CHAP. I.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS.                    13

 

These wretches, abandoned as they are, have yet

the effrontery to pretend a regard to honesty, and a

generous disinterestedness in their mutual dealings—

Ver. 14: Cast in thy lot among us, let us all have one

purse.

Let the security and profit of our way of living in-

duce thee to join our society; we shall lead a merry

life, we shall faithfully share our gains, and none shall

want while another has.

In what manner ought a young man to act when

offers so tempting are made to him?

Ver. 15. My son, walk not thou in the way with them,

refrain thy foot from their path.

Let us attend with filial regard to the kind advice

of a venerable father, who tells us, that we must not

only shut our ears against these ensnaring words, and

resolve to keep the path of innocence, but shun their

company, and avoid those places which they haunt.

If we knew a place that was said to be a haunt of

ghosts and infernal spirits, we need not shun it, for

these terrors are but creatures of fancy; but places

frequented by men who have the devil in their hearts,

and who hire him their tongues for the purpose of de-

ceiving their fellow-men,—such places are dangerous

indeed. All of us have corrupted natures ready to be

inflamed; how infatuated the man who, carrying gun-

powder, enters a smith's shop, where the sparks fly

from the anvil in every direction

But may we not take a single turn with them? No.

Ver. 16. For their feet run to evil, and make haste to

 shed blood.

Let us never forget the evil that is in sin. How-

ever men may dress it out in beautiful colours, it is

the very quintessence of naughtiness. All men see a

great deal of evil in some infernal crimes, but the God

whose judgment is always true, sees more evil in the


14                EXPOSITION OF THE             [CHAP. I.

 

least sin, than we are able to do in the greatest.

It is a dangerous and detestable thing for a man wil-

fully to transgress the smallest commandment of the

law of God. But the men of whom we now speak,

are desperately bent upon sin. Their feet run to evil.

and that of the most damnable sort, for they make haste

to shed blood.

Perhaps it will be said, that they have no design to

load their souls with such bloody crimes, but only to

cheat or rob somebody that well deserves to be plun-

dered. But let us remember, that no man becomes

desperate in wickedness all at once. Hazael had no

intention to murder the king of Syria, or rip up wo-

men with child; he would have abhorred the thoughts

of such wickedness, till interest and ambition uniting,

gradually hardened his heart, and prepared him for

perpetrating without remorse deeds of darkness and of

horror. Young sinners are like travellers, who at first

setting out cannot bear a speck of mud to alight upon

their clothes, but who in the course of their journey

become inured to bad roads, and can suffer themselves,

without feeling uneasiness, to be all bespattered with

mire.

They are like silly birds, who suffer themselves to

be ensnared by the arts of the cunning fowler.

Ver. 17. Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight

of any bird.

Birds have not the gift of reason, to warn them

against the snares of the fowler. But how lamentable

is it, that men, whom God hath made wiser than the

fowls of heaven, should be as easily deceived as the

silliest of these animals, and that in matters of greater

importance! Do not reply, that the snares are set,

not for the sinner himself, but for those whom he in-

tends to destroy. It is for his own life that a sinner

spreads his nets.


CHAP. I.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS.                15

 

Ver. 18. And they lay wait for their own blood, they

lurk privily for their own lives.

            It is not the sufferer, so much as the doer of evil,

that is hurt. Whom did Judas destroy by his treach-

ery? The death to which Jesus was sold was glo-

rious to himself; the treason which Judas wrought was

his own destruction. Abel lives and speaks, and his

name is embalmed in the memories of the good; the

life which his murderer led was more miserable than

death, and his name is remembered only to be exe-

crated. The sinner designs mischief to his neighbour;

but all things are under the direction of the just Lord,

under whose administration mischief recoils upon its

author, bringing him to the scaffold here, or to hell

hereafter *.

But is such the natural tendency of covetousness?—

Yes.

Ver. 19. So are the ways of every one that is greedy

of gain, which taketh away the lie of the owners thereof.

“Take heed and beware of covetousness," said he

who knew the heart of man, and the native tendency

of every vice. It is a mother of abominations and

miseries. They that are determined to be rich, would

have money by honest means if it could be got, but at

any rate they must have it.” If it cannot be had to fill

their desires (which indeed are insatiable) by fair

means, it must by chicanery and cunning. When the

conscience has been brought to this, it is prepared for

advancing in wickedness, till at last it offers but small

resistance, even at the commission of crimes, from the

very thought of which their author would once have

shrunk. The last step in vice, is less painful to a man

than the first departure from honesty †.

 

* Matt. vii. 2. Psal. vii. 11.-17. ix. 15, 16.        † 1 Tim. vi. 10.


16        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. I.

 

If the eyes of these pests of society were not alto-

gether shut, they would see that a man's life depends

not on the abundance of his wealth. In their own

hands it becomes a sword to slay its owner; and can

they anticipate comfort in that ill-gotten wealth which

has proved fatal to its honest possessor?

We must therefore flee from unrighteousness, and

stand at a distance from the way of sin. Every one

that would tempt us to evil, is to be looked upon as a

factor for Satan.

Sinners are addressed, through the remaining part

of this chapter, by Wisdom herself, who speaks to men

in solemn and awful language.

Ver. 20, 21. Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her

voice in the streets. She crieth in the chief places of con-

course, in the opening of the gates; in the city she uttereth

her words, saying,

How can wisdom cry? Is not wisdom a quality,

and not a person? Wisdom cries to men when God

speaks to them, for he is the fountain of wisdom. The

words of men may be wise, but when God speaks, Wis-

dom itself addresses us. He opens his mouth in in-

finite wisdom, and speaks to us by him who is the Word

and Wisdom of God. He who despiseth that wisdom

which is from above, despiseth the Father and the Son,

and brands with the imputation of folly the emanations

of unsearchable wisdom.

Wisdom desires to be heard, and therefore speaks

not in secret; she whispers not in the ears of a few

favourites, but in the public places of resort, she pro-

claims to every one that will  listen her interesting

truths. She crieth without, in every place where a

crowd is likely to be collected, in the streets, in the

chief place of concourse, in the gates, the place of

judgment, and in every part of the city.

No disobedient sinner can make a valid excuse for


CHAP. I.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   17

 

his conduct. The voice of wisdom is heard every

where. It sounds from the pulpit. From every crea-

ture it is heard*. The word is in our very hearts,

and conscience echoes the voice to our souls. Let

us go where we will, we must hear it, unless we wil-

fully shut our ears. And what does she say?

Ver. 22. How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplici-

ty, and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools

hate knowledge!

‘Had I a mountain for a pulpit, and a voice capable

of reaching to the ends of the world, (said a venerable

father), I would preach on that text, "O ye sons of

men, how long will ye love vanity?"’  Wisdom proclaims

the like words to all the world as far as her voice is heard.

If persons ruin themselves by their folly, it will be

no excuse to them that they were cheated by the great

deceiver. Who will excuse Eve for hearkening to the

voice of the serpent, or Adam for hearkening to the

voice of his wife, in opposition to the voice of God?

The simpleton and the fool are justly condemned, be-

cause they love simplicity and hate knowledge. So

strongly are they bent upon their foolish courses, that

every suggestion of the devil meets with a cheerful

compliance. Sin is loved with the whole heart, and

those truths which might be the means of salvation, are

the objects of extreme aversion.

Many are so mad upon their idols, that they take

pleasure in scoffing at holiness, and at the preachers and

professors of it; some run to such a pitch in wicked-

ness as to jest with the word of the Most High, though

safer far it were to sport with fire and death.

Were the Physician of souls like earthly physicians,

he would leave such creatures to pine away in their sins

till their obstinacy terminate in eternal death. But

 

*Job xii. 7, 8.


18              EXPOSITION OF THE                 [CHAP. I.

 

O how merciful is he! He is in earnest with them

when he urges them to admit of his salutary medicines.

It is a grief to him that they will not come to him for

health. He cries to them,

Ver. 23. Turn ye at my reproof I behold, I will pour

out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my word unto

you.

The lovers of folly must turn or perish; for Christ is

an all-sufficient Saviour from sin and wrath, but he

will deliver none to continue in abominations: "Except

ye repent, ye shall all perish."

The lovers of sin, and those that delight in scorning,

are graciously called by him to turn,—a plain evidence

that there is pardoning and saving mercy for these

worst of sinners*.  Even scoffers at religion are among

the number of those sinners whom the Son of Man call-

ed to repentance, when he came to seek and to save

the lost.

Such profligates have for the most part an intention

to turn from their evil ways at some future but inde-

finite period; but if they turn not at present, they refuse

to hear the voice of wisdom. "Turn ye," says the Wis-

dom of God, "at my reproof."  "To day," says the

Spirit, "if ye will hear my voice, harden not your

hearts."  We harden our hearts when we intend to

take our pleasure in sin to-day, though we resolve to

bear the voice of God to-morrow.

The reproof of wisdom is a means of alarming us,

and of impressing our souls with a sense of the necessi-

ty of turning. If we harden our hearts against these

reproofs while they are sounding in our ears, the im-

pression is not likely to be deeper or stronger when the

bustle and noise of the world have helped us to forget

the awful admonition.

 

* Isa. 1v. 7.


CHAP.I.]         BOOK OF PROVERBS.      19

 

It is at the reproof of the word of God that we

are called to turn. It is brutish for a son to despise

the reproof of a parent. It is devilish for a creature

to despise the reproof of its Creator. It is a sin which

devils could never commit, for a guilty creature to

shut his ears against the reproof of a Saviour, who ad-

dresses us in earnest and affectionate language, and

calls us to turn our feet from the paths of death.

But how can fools turn? —Are they not infatuated by

sin?—are not their affections possessed with the love of

it?— "Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you," says

the Saviour. By his influences you shall be enabled to

understand my words, and to comply with them. —Let

not sinners imagine that it will excuse them to say,

they had no ability to repent. They were not called to

turn by any power of their own, but in the strength

of divine grace. They were unwilling, and therefore

unable. Their sins were so dear to them, that they

disliked the reproofs of Christ, and resisted his Spirit.

Our Lord does not make a jest of the lovers of sin,

when he calls them to turn. His words do good even

to sinners, or the fault is their own *.

Do we then feel the necessity of turning, and yet an

unconquerable aversion to it in our hearts? Let us plead

for the abundant communications of the enlightening

and renewing Spirit. If persons are made heartily

willing to submit to his influence, it is a happy presage

that he will be granted, or rather a sign that he has

already begun to work †.

But there are many so foolishly devoted to sin, that

they reject the counsel of God, and instead of welcom-

ing the good Spirit, resist his motions till they provoke

him to depart. The doom of such persons will be very

terrible, but very just.

 

*John v. 40. Matt. xxiii. 37. † Jer. xxxi. 18. 19.20.


20                  EXPOSITION OF THE                [CHAP. I.

 

Ver. 24-27. Because I have called, and ye refused;

I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but

ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of

my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will

mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as

desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind;

when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

Do none then, or next to none, regard the admo-

nitions of wisdom? Strange. Are men enemies to

themselves? are they in love with destruction? Is it

their joy to please the devil, and to cross the benevo-

lent intentions of a Saviour? Was the devil crucified

for them? or do they think the burnings of eternity,

and the pain of condemnation, more tolerable than the

tears of repentance or the self-denial which Jesus pro-

scribes?

John's disciples complained to him, that all men

went after Jesus, but John complained that so few

believed his report : "No man receiveth his testimony."

How wonderful is that grace, which continues to deal

with men when it is so ungratefully despised!

The sin of unbelief and impenitence is exceeding

great. Various are the forms of expression by which in

the passage before us, the wickedness of it is inti-

mated, and the offence which it gives to him who

comes in the name of the Lord to save us, pointed out.

It is a refusal of divinely gracious offers and advises;

a disregard of the most earnest importunities of the

wisdom of God; a sovereign contempt of all the counsel

of that wonderful Counsellor who is given to be the

leader and commander of the people; a stubborn op-

position of the will to the most needful and salutary

reproof.  Hear, O ye heavens, and be horribly afraid!

Rational creatures rebel against the Father of spirits;

Diseased sinners scorn the great Physician, and refuse

to accept of that sovereign cure for all their maladies,


CHAP. I.]         BOOK OF PROVERBS.                 21

 

which he so graciously offers. Abhorring, as they do,

the name of devils, they yet spurn at those companions

which devils can never experience.

But let sinners remember, that there is justice as

well as grace in the Most High. Justice shall avenge

the contempt of mercy. Sinners feel some presage of

that vengeance in their own guilty conscience. Fears

of punishment often make them uneasy. They would

gladly persuade themselves that these are but the

terrors of a distempered fancy; but the day is coming

when the will find them to be terrible realities; or if

they want truth, it is because they are nothing to that

vengeance which is their object. No passion is so tor-

menting fear, but no fear can equal the power of

God's anger.

The fear of sinners shall come upon them, and their

feet shall slide in due time. It shall come like a deso-

lating judgment, which with resistless violence lays

waste a country. It shall come like a raging tempest,

and a furious whirlwind, at once sweeping away every

comfort and every hope. Then shall distress and

anguish seize upon the mind of the stubborn transgres-

sor, when he feels himself involved in remediless sorrow.

This threatening will have its great accomplishment in

the everlasting world, when the torrents of wrath shall

swallow up the impenitent sinner, and the whirlwind

of fury all beat upon him with ceaseless violence.

Wrath an indignation shall press him down in the

lake of fire. Anguish and despair shall prey upon his

soul, without the intermission of a moment; no ray of

hope shall ever enter the abodes of darkness and of

horror.

But will the poor victim of suffering find no pity

from the Saviour of men? Not says the Spirit of God,

‘I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your

fear comes.”  With relentless eye shell he behold that


22        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. I.

 

terrible vengeance which now overtakes the wicked.

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but

rather that they should turn and live; yet he will take

pleasure in the death of them that turn not, for in this

manner is his justice glorified, and the dishonours done

to his love repaired.  God sometimes laughs at the

trial of the innocent. He took pleasure in bruising his

own Son. He is comforted in the pain of the wicked*.

But may not prayer avail in this deplorable condi-

tion? By no means.

Ver. 28. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not

answer; they shall seek me early, (i.e. earnestly,) but they

shall not find me.

The prayer of faith is ever heard, and they that seek

God shall find him, when they seek him with all their

heart. But the prayers of these desperate rebels,

are like the howlings of a dog. They are cries

extorted by strong necessity, and intolerable anguish.

They are the cries of such as sought not the Lord

whist he was to be found, nor called on him whilst

he was near.

Sinners miserably delude their own souls by propos-

ing to live in the indulgence of their sins, and die in

the exercise of repentance. True repentance is never

too late, but late repentance is seldom true. Christ is

not every day hanging on the cross, nor are thieves

every day converted, and sent from the place of pu-

nishment meet to the paradise above.

Prayers are of no use in the eternal world. The

day of grace is at an end, and the wretched shall cry

in vain to the rocks and mountains to fall upon them,

and hide them from the wrath of the Lord God and

of de Lamb. Behold, now is the accepted time,

 

*Job ix. 3. Isa. 1iii. 10. and i. 24.     Ezek. v. 13.


CHAP. I..]         BOOK OF PROVERBS.              23

 

now the Lord waits to be gracious; but the day is

coming that is cruel with wrath and fierce anguish; no

place shall then be found for mercy, though sought

with an ocean of tears. But why does he who takes

pleasure in the voice of prayer, and listen so graciously

to the cry of the supplicant,—why does he refuse to

accept the petitions of those who are reduced to such

an extremity of distress? The reason is,

Ver. 29, 30. For that they hated knowledge, and did

not chuse the fear of the Lord. They would none of my

counsel; they despised all my reproof.

The punishment is indeed tremendous, but the sin

that cause it is atrocious. It is no less than a con-

tempt and hatred of the counsels of the Lord. What

is this but an undeniable proof of enmity against God

himself? and will not God ease himself of his adversa-

ries, and; avenge himself of his enemies?

When men do not chuse the fear of the Lord, but

prefer to it the base pleasures of sin, they give plain

proof of their hatred to every thing that is good, and

how can they escape the damnation of hell? If we

think that the punishment is greater than the sin, the

reason is, that we are under the power of iniquity.

Self-love disposes the malefactor to prescribe to his

judge. Let us impartially consider what malignity

lies in impenitence, and what a complication of wick-

ednesses is contained in the rejection of the great sal-

vation, and we must acknowledge that the ruin of

sinners is entirely owing to themselves. God is not to

be blamed, but on the contrary, he will be eternally

glorious as their avenger. His insulted mercy will be

glorious in the punishment of its despisers. His justice

shall shine in dispensing to the workers of iniquity

the reward of their works: "They despised all my

reproof" ¾


24             EXPOSITION OF THE                [CHAP. I.

 

Ver. 31. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their

own way, and be filled with their own devices.

They laughed at God's threatenings, as if they had

been idle tales; and God shall laugh at them. They

despised his counsels, and he shall despise their prayers.

They were always the same, and continued unchanged

all admonition; and God will prove an immutable

avenger, and will pay no regard to their cries for help.

They took pleasure in sin, and God will take pleasure

in punishing on account of it.

If a man plants and dresses a poisonous tree in his

garden, it is just that he should be obliged to eat of

its fruit. If our vine is the vine of Sodom, and our

clusters the clusters of bitterness, we must leave our

complaint on ourselves; if we must drink till we are

drunken, and fall, and rise no more.

Sinners never think they have drunk deep enough

of the poisoned cup of sin; but they shall at length be

filled with it. Then shall it satiate them; when they

find that intolerable misery is its native consequence.

That cup which now delights the lover of evil, will

then be found a cup of fury, and the wicked of the

earth must drink it out to its bitterest dregs.

Ver. 32. For the turning away of the simple shall slay

them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

The sins of men, unless pardoned through the blood

of Christ, shall be their destruction; for he that turns

away from God and his law, turns his back upon hap-

piness; and he that cherishes iniquity, warms in his

bosom the most venomous of serpents*. Sinners owe

their ruin to their willful hardness of heart, their abuse

of mercy, and their indifference about salvation.

It may be alleged, that sinners often prosper; but

their prosperity is a part of their misery, for it will in-

 

*Job xx. 11. &c.


CHAP. I.]         BOOK OP PROVEBRS.              25

 

crease their guilt, and render their damnation terrible.

It nourishes their vicious affections, and tends to inspire

them with pride and insolence, with sensuality and

earthliness of mind. It is so strong a temptation, that

our Lord has declared it almost impossible for a rich

man to enter into the kingdom of God. This saying

has been justified by fact. In times of persecution,

the prosperous have been ordinarily the apostates who

made shipwreck of faith, while the poor loved the

world less, and stood out more firmly against temptation.

If the prosperity of fools leads them to the indul-

gence of sin, and the neglect of holiness, it renders

their damnation more certain and more dreadful.

Their provocations are like those of the Israelites, who

provoked God, by turning the Egyptian gold and

silver, which he had given them, into an idol of jea-

lousy. They are like the impious ingratitude of Jero-

boam the son of Nebat, whom God raised to a throne,

but who degraded God into the image of a four-footed

beast.  When the favours of God are turned into

means instruments of unrighteousness, Oh! what

wrath is then treasured up against the day of wrath,

and revelation of the righteous judgment of God!

But the prosperity of the wise has a very opposite

tendency. When they act like themselves, it excites

their gratitude; it stimulates them to serve God more

effectually and to do good to men more diligently.

Wisdom teaches those who hearken to her voice, to

make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrigh-

teousness; so that while riches serve to expose the folly

of the foolish, they prove a crown to the wise. But

though disciples of Wisdom should never attain

prosperity, they are happy; for says Wisdom,

Ver. 33. But whose hearkeneth unto me shall dwell

safely, a be quiet from the fear of evil.

 

 


26        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP.I.

 

They that love knowledge, and chuse the fear of

the Lord, and value the instructions of wisdom more

than thousands of gold and silver, are the men that

hearken to Wisdom, ver. 29, 30. Many of these

once loved folly, and took pleasure in scorning;

but they have received the atonement, and all their

unrighteousnesses are blotted out. They now share in

the privileges of the children of wisdom, and while

prosperous sinners are set in slippery places, they dwell

safely, for they dwell in God, and God dwelleth in

them. They are safe from the devil, and from the

power of sin, from death and from hell. They may

endure tribulation in the world, but in Christ they

shall have peace. They enjoy quiet consciences, and

pleasant hopes. They are quiet, not only from evil,

but from the fear of evil. They may indeed have fears,

but they are clouds that shall soon be blown, away, and

succeeded by everlasting serenity. Even while these

fears continue, they have a refuge where they can find

safety, and hopes sufficient to give them such happi-

ness as worldly men cannot enjoy amid their ill-

grounded confidence. Paul had often fightings with-

out, and fears within; but this was his comfort, that

nothing could separate him from the love of God,

which is in Christ Jesus.

Let us examine ourselves impartially, whether we

are the despisers or the lovers of wisdom. The ques-

tion is not, whether we attend the means of grace, and

make a profession of religion. Herod heard John

gladly, and did many things. Ananias and Sapphira

parted with a considerable share of their substance.

But do we chuse the fear of the Lord? Do we value

Christ above the whole world? Do we prefer holiness,

in its most painful exercises, to the most pleasant sins?

Are we yet despisers of wisdom? Let us tremble

at the vengeance threatened. Let our prayers ascend


CHAP. I..]       BOOK OF PROVERBS.                 27

 

up on high, that the Lord by his Spirit would open our

hearts that we may attend to the dictates of heavenly

wisdom.

Are we lovers of wisdom? Let us bless God who

hath opened our ears to discipline, and sealed our in-

struction. Let us thankfully rejoice in the blessings

that Wisdom bestows. Let us testify our regard to

Wisdom, in the manner directed in the succeeding

chapter.  In vain do we pretend to religion, unless

that which we call by this honourable name, be ap-

prove by that word whereby, we must be judged.

 

CHAPTER II.

 

Wisdom is an excellent thing, therefore get wisdom.

But how shall we get wisdom? or in what shall the

attainment of it profit us? You have an answer to

both of these questions in this chapter.

How shall we get wisdom? The wise man answers,

Ver. 1.-7. My son, if thou wilt receive my words,

and hide my commandments with thee, so that thou in-

cline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to un-

derstanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and

liftest thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her

as silver and searchest for her as for hid treasure;

then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and

find the knowledge of God; for the Lord giveth wisdom:

out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He

layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous. ¾


28        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. II.

 

It is not enough for us to attend the public ordi-

nances of God, and to read a chapter or two of the

Bible at home every day, but we are required to re-

ceive the words of wisdom, to keep them in our hearts,

and apply our souls to them.

We are to receive the words of our heavenly Father,

with reverence and love, with faith and diligent atten-

tion. No gift is so precious as that knowledge which

God parts to us in the scriptures, and we ought to

receive it with eagerness, like that which the covetous

man shews for gold and silver; and as he who receives

money is careful to lay it up where he may find it

when he has occasion to use it, so in like manner it

becomes us to lay up in the midst of our heart the in-

structions of wisdom, collecting and hiding the pre-

cious treasure, till the word of Christ dwell in us richly

in all wisdom. When we give due attention to the 

word of truth, it will dwell in our minds, dispelling

ignorance and error, and communicating that light

which is necessary to direct the whole of our conduct;

in our memories, affording a constant supply for spi-

ritual meditation, ready for use on every emergency;

in our wills, to guide their choice and inclination; in

our affections, to direct their motions, to curb their ex-

travagance, and to inflame their ardour towards spiri-

tual objects; and in our consciences, to preserve alive

the impressions of the divine law, and to direct them

in judging of the spiritual state of the soul.

The ear must be inclined to wisdom, that we may

learn it. The senses of the body minister to the soul.

The eye, surveying the wonders of God's hand, fur-

nishes the soul with apprehensions of his power and

wisdom; but the ear is that learning sense by which

the richest treasures of spiritual knowledge are admit-

ted into to the soul. As the mouth tastes the food of the


CHAP. II]       BOOK OF PROVERBS.      29

 

body, the ear receives and tries those words that

nourish the soul. We attend to our friends or neigh-

bours when they are informing us of some new thing;

we count it a piece of good manners to listen, when

nothing is to be heard but dullness and insipidity: shall

we not, then, attend to Him that made the ear, when

he condescends to speak to us, and to disclose truths

of eternal moment?

Whilst our ears are attentive, our hearts must be ap-

plied to wisdom. Angels, who are so much our su-

periors, apply themselves to the learning of it. They

are already replenished with the stores of truth, and

yet the  desire to pry deeper into the mystery of wis-

dom.  Great as was the measure which Solomon had

received he still continued to apply his heart to it;

surely, then, the wisest of us ought to apply our whole

hearts; or what is so needful to us, and so valuable in

itself?

But after all our application, we have understand-

ings so dark, that the Bible must remain a sealed book

unto us, unless our eyes are enlightened to discern the

wonders of God's law. With our instructions, there-

fore, earnest prayer must be mingled, that the Spirit

of wisdom and revelation may illuminate our under-

standings, and fit our souls for receiving and retaining

the truths of God. David was wiser than his teachers,

and yet he still lifts up his voice for wisdom to the

Father of lights, and pleads, with fervent importunity,

that God would open his eyes, and not conceal his

laws from him, nor take the word of truth out of his

mouth. Let us, in imitation of such a holy example,

earnestly pray that we may stand perfect and complete

in all the will of God; and particularly, that we may

be furnished with all that wisdom and knowledge that

is requite for directing us in our respective stations

and circumstances. Solomon was already a wise man,


30        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. II.

 

yet when commanded to chuse what he would have,

he chose a greater measure of wisdom, of that wisdom

especially which would be most useful for him in go-

verning the kingdom of Israel.  With this petition

God was well pleased. He gave him not only what he

requested, but everything most highly valued by men.

But while we cry after wisdom, and depend on God

to bestow it on us, it would be presumptuous to ne-

glect the means of obtaining it. We must seek it as

silver and search for it as for hid treasure. We every

day see with what anxious diligence men seek for sil-

ver. They fatigue their bodies, and waste their spirits;

they destroy their health, and expose their lives;

they even mound their consciences, and expose them-

selves to shameful deaths and everlasting misery, that

they may load themselves with shining clay. Shall

the professed disciples of the great Teacher set less

value upon knowledge, than other men set upon sil-

ver?  David well knew the value of this knowledge,

and esteemed it above thousands of gold and silver.

Job prefers it to every thing that dazzles with its lustre

the eyes of mortals*.

It is therefore highly reasonable, that we diligently

and carefully use all those means which God hath ap-

pointed for this end; that we hear sermons with ear-

nest attention; that we read and search the word of

God, and make it the subject of our frequent medita-

tion; that we make use of edifying conversation; that

we go to the wise, who have the law of God in their

hearts, so that their mouth speaks wisdom, and their

tongue talks of judgment. To the use of such means

of improvement as these, we must add prayer for the

divine blessing, to render them effectual to our instruc-

tion and salvation. Truth is like a mine, more pre-

 

*Job xxviii,


CHAP. II.]      BOOK OF PROVERBS.       31

 

cious than that which is the depository of gold and of

diamonds. Had any of us such a precious treasure as

this in our garden, we would not travel over the ground

for pleasure, but employ ourselves day and night in

digging, till our houses should be enriched with the

precious store. Why, then, are we careless about

that which will enrich us to eternity, and fill all our

treasures?

You see the means to be used by us for attaining

wisdom. Our ears and hearts must be employed in

the search.  We must lift up our voices to the Author

of wisdom and seek for it with all the desire of our

souls and with such earnest endeavours as men use in

digging or hid treasures. Through the blessing of

God the search shall not be unsuccessful; for "then

shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find

the knowledge of God." It is plain that those who 

employ themselves in the diligent pursuit of wisdom,

have been already blessed with some degree of true

knowledge; for how could they value so highly that

with which they were altogether unacquainted? He

is already wise, who prefers wisdom to every earthly

object; and he shall be wiser still, for to him that hath

shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly.

The fear of the Lord, and the sound knowledge of

God, are inseparably connected. Religious fear is not

a blind and tormenting passion of the soul, but a holy

and delightful grace, founded in true apprehensions

of the awful and lovely glories of the divine nature,

and disposing him who possesses it, to walk with God.

The knowledge of God regulates this fear, and pre-

serves it from sinking into terror, or degenerating into

superstition, but guides it to express its power in

checking and subduing every corrupt affection, and

animating the soul to every instance of obedience.

If men are careless about wisdom, and use no dili-


32        EXPOSITION OF THE        [CHAP. II.

 

gence in seeking it, they make it evident that they are

destitute of the knowledge and fear of the Lord.

They have not, and from them shall be taken even

that which they seem to have.

The efficacy of every means of knowledge is from

God, for "the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth

cometh knowledge and understanding." Every beam

of reason in men, is communicated from the wisdom

of God*. The simplest of the mechanical arts cannot

be acquired unless men are taught of God †. How,

then, can we expect to understand the mystery of the

divine will, without spiritual light communicated from

that God who is the Father of lights, and the author of

every good and perfect gift!

Knowledge and understanding cometh out of the

mouth of God. By his Spirit he bestows upon us

this blessing through his word, for it is the inspira-

tion of the Almighty that giveth understanding to

men. Experience, however long, observation, however

close,  human teaching, however skilful, can do nothing

to supply us with true knowledge, without the influ-

enc of that Spirit which rested upon Christ as a Spirit

of wisdom and understanding, and which is given by

him to all his followers in their measure ‡.

The wisdom that God in his kindness bestows upon

men is sound and substantial. There are many kinds

of knowledge of little importance. The knowledge

which some possess tends only to vex and disquiet

them or to inspire them with vanity and self-conceit.

How different the knowledge that God imparts to the

diligent students of wisdom!  Far from perplexing or

elating, it fills their understanding with the most

pleasant truths, and directs them in the way ever-

lasting.

 

* 1 John i. 9.    † Isa. Xxviii. 26.      ‡ Job xxxii. 7, 8.  Matt. xvi. 17.


CHAP. II.]      BOOK OF PROVERBS.       33

 

But who are the blessed persons that are favored

with this divinely excellent wisdom?  “The Lord lays it

up for the righteous.”  God is said to teach sinners in

the way *; for man’s unworthiness does not exclude

him from divine mercy.  Saul the persecutor had the

Son of God revealed in him by divine grace, and

neither his stubborn prejudices, nor his cruelty to the

church of Christ, could shut out the beams of heaven-

ly light.   Sinners are invited to Christ as the light of

the Gentiles, and the salvation of the lost †; but here

it is said, he lays it up for the righteous.  Sinners and

fools may have it, but the righteous shall have it.  They

are already made sensible of their need of it, and de-

sire it more than silver and gold.  They ask it from

God, who giveth liberally to all men, and upbraideth

not, and it shall be given them.  The Lord layeth up

this wisdom for them.  There are infinite stores of it

in his possession, and they are all treasured up in

Christ, and out of his fullness shall the righteous re-

ceive supplies suited to their exigencies.

To encourage God’s people to expect all needful

supplies of wisdom from him, let them consider his

peculiar regard to them, and the constant protection

he has engaged to afford them.

Ver. 7, 8.  He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.

He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way  

of his saints.

Whoso hearkeneth unto wisdom shall dwell safely,

for God is a sure defense to those that walk in wisdom's

ways.   There are many adversaries that would destroy

them if they could, and these are too strong for them;

but there none like unto the God of Jeshurun, that

rideth on the heavens in their help, and in his excel-

 

*Psal. xxv. 8.              † Eph. v. 14.

 

 

 


34        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. II.

 

lency in the skies. While therefore they are walking

to their eternal home, they may sing in the ways of the

Lord.   Mighty is their protector; in the shadow of his

wings they may trust, and to his faithfulness they may

look as their shield and buckler.

The most dreadful enemies of them that walk up-

rightly, are those that endeavour to turn aside the way

of their paths; but against these enemies God is a

mighty defense, for he keepeth the paths of wisdom

and righteousness. He is a fence about their ways,

and a wall of fire around those that walk in them.

The devil casteth his fiery darts, but they are safe

from the arrow that flieth by day, and from the noisome

pestilence. No weapon formed against them shall pros-

per. They are commanded still to trust in the name

of the Lord, and their faith is like a shield that will

quench every fiery dart. The world displays its ter-

rors and its charms to terrify or allure them into the

paths of sin. Against this, as well as the adversary

formerly mentioned, they must exercise vigilance. Still,

however, in the hottest part of the combat they may

be of good cheer, for the Captain of their salvation hath

overcome the world, and shall make them through their

faith to share in his victory*.

Their own remaining corruptions give them many

alarms.  Nor is it wonderful that they feel alarmed

when ready to halt by its influence, or powerfully soli-

cited to turn aside unto the flowery but destructive

paths where poisons grow and serpents haunt. But

their fears shall not overpower them, for the spirit lusts

against the flesh, and shall prevail. What says their

Almighty guide?  "Sin shall not have dominion over

you.”

Those that walk in the paths of judgment are God's

 

* 1 John 5.


CHAP. II.]      BOOK OF PROVERBS.       35

 

saints. He has beautified them with holiness, and he

acknowledges them as his own property. They are

his portion and the lot of his inheritance, his treasure

and his glory, and he will suffer none of them to be

lost.  Every one of them shall be hid in the day when

he maketh up his jewels.

Let us ask for these good old ways, and walk in them,

and we shall find rest and safety for our souls. They

are safe paths when God guards them, and preserves

the way of those that walk in them. No lion, no

ravenous beast is found there; and the wayfaring man,

though a fool, shall not err therein. But it is our duty,

while we trust in God to guide and preserve us, to

make use of our eyes. None of Zion's travelers shall

be found wanting in the end, but many too that

thought themselves in the good way shall fail of the

end of their hopes, because they entered not in at the

gate, neither trod the narrow path. He that is born of

God keepeth himself, that the wicked one toucheth him

not. We cannot by our utmost care keep ourselves

in safety; but a true dependence upon God will dispose

us to be as sober and vigilant as if we had none else

to keep us, while we yet trust entirely in God, and not

in ourselves, knowing that if left to ourselves one

hour, we must perish.

You see that the lovers of wisdom are furnished

with the best wisdom, and led into those paths of holi-

ness where safety is to be found. In order to persuade

us to hearken to the instructions of wisdom, the wise

man adds¾

Ver. 9. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and

judgment, and equity, yea, every good path.

There is no end of the commendation of the ways of

wisdom. The fear and knowledge of God is not only

the beginning, but the perfection of wisdom. But the

lovers of wisdom have those instructions also which


36        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. II.

 

are necessary for guiding them in their behaviour to-

ward men. They are taught how to walk justly and

wisely, and in what manner to behave in every affair.

When a traveler is going to a distant place, it is

pleasant to him to be informed that his way is safe,

and that it may be found without difficulty. Now, as

the way of holiness is the way of peace, so the scriptures

give us sufficient directions for every step of it. Are

we at a loss about our duty in any case? We may then

safely infer, either that we have forgotten what our

directory says, or that we are not skilful in applying it.

Our carelessness in the study of this rule of life may

often put us to a stand, therefore we ought to have

it daily in our hands, and to meditate on it day and

night, so shall we find it a counsellor in all our straits.

The Spirit is promised as our guide through this

world, and he directs us by his word, opening our

minds to understand it, and directing our conduct in

the way that it prescribes. Is the saint at a loss with

regard to the way of duty in any particular instance?

Let him pray, as David did in such cases, and like this

holy man, he shall be led in the way of truth*.

Solomon has instructed us how to obtain wisdom,

and in part shewn the advantages of it.  He insists on

this last point through the remaining part of this chap-

ter, telling us that it will preserve us from the snares

of irked men and women, ver. 10-19. and lead us

in the way that has been traced by the saints in every

age who have found it to be the way of happiness and

joy, ver. 20, 21, 22.

Wisdom will be a preservative from the worst dangers.

Ver. 10, 11. When wisdom entereth into thine heart,

and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul, discretion shall

preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee.

 

* Psal. xxv. 4, 5.


CHAP. II.]      BOOK OF PROVERBS.       37

 

That we may enjoy the advantages of wisdom, it

must enter into our heart, which is naturally disposed

to enter sin and folly; for man, however fond he

may be of the reputation of wisdom, is born like the

wild ass's colt. Some receive the words of wisdom

into their ears, but understand not what they hear;

others hear and form clear apprehensions of what they

hear, so to be able to talk of them, like Balaam or

Judas, and instruct others. But the children of wis-

dom not only hear and understand, but love the truth.

The Spirit of God writes it in the inward part; then

it comes to them in power and in the Holy Ghost, and

the testimonies of God are received by their spirits with

pleasure and joy. Knowledge becomes sweeter than

honey dropping from the comb, and is esteemed more

than necessary food. Paul counted every thing but

loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.

When Jeremiah found the word of God, he did eat it,

and it was to him the joy and rejoicing of his heart.

The pleasure that saints take in knowledge, is very

different from the transient affection experienced in the

word by those hearers whom our Lord compares to

stony ground. These false believers were moved and

transported by the novelty of the truth, by the pros-

pect of deliverance from hell and possession of heaven

which it presented to them, but they had no spiritual

apprehensions alone of its divine glory, nor any deep-rooted

affection to it. They still loved the world more than

the testimonies of God, and this reigning earthliness of

spirit in time choked the beautiful springing of this

seed in their souls. But those into whose hearts wis-

dom enters, have their eyes opened to see its glory,

and the affections sanctified to relish its genuine sweet-

ness.    They rejoice in the truths that oppose their

most darling corruptions. They take pleasure in the

way of God's testimonies, as well as in the glorious


38        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP.II.

 

prospects which they present. They heartily esteem

all God's precepts concerning all things to be right,

and delight in the law of God after the inward man,

because it is pure and spiritual. They delight in it,

though it forces them to confess that they are carnal,

sold under sin.

This wisdom entering into their souls, furnishes them

with understanding to see their way, and discretion to

manage their affairs with prudence and judgment to

the end *.

This understanding and prudence is an antidote

against the poisonous infection of evil men and strange

women. —It is, first, a means of preserving us from the

snares of bad men.

Ver. 12-15. To deliver thee from the way of the evil

man, from the man that speaketh froward things; who

leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of

darkness; who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the fro-

wardness of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and

they forward in their paths.

Such is the portrait drawn by Solomon of those bad

men by whom his pupils are in danger of being seduc-

ed, unless furnished with wisdom to avoid the snare.

They speak froward things; they pay no regard to truth,

but bend their tongue like their bow for lies. Among

these pests of men, none are such virulent pests of

every thing that is good, as those that once made a

profession of religion, but have left the way of upright-

ness to walk in those miserable and gloomy paths,

to which begin in the darkness of the mind, and end in

the darkness of hell. The stings of conscience which

such persons experience, instead of reclaiming them,

tend only to irritate their spirits, and inflame them

into fierce enmity against religion. If, instead of being

 

* Psal. cxii. 5.


CHAP.II.]       BOOK OF PROVERBS.      39

 

pierced with such stings, they are cursed with the con-

quest of their own consciences, they are hardened

enough for the blackest sin, and prepared not only to

do evil, but to work it with both hands greedily. They

rejoice in the service of Satan, and no greater pleasure

do they know than that which arises from seeing that

his interests flourish, that his kingdom prospers. Such

persons are crooked in their ways. The only straight

way is the way of uprightness, but that sinners leave,

and wander into paths where they are bewildered and

lost.  They know not whither they go, because dark-

ness path blinded their eyes. One sin leads them on

to another, and that to a third, till at length they run

into wickednesses of which they could not have thought

without horror when first they set foot in these deceit-

ful paths.

These miscreants are froward and stubborn in their

ways; and why? Custom has become a second nature

to them, their hearts are become impenetrably hard,

and proof against admonition. Yet look back to their

early days and you shall find them to have evinced

tempers and dispositions very different. They would

then have abhorred gross impieties, and were not with-

out impressions of the necessity of virtue and holiness.

But the unwearied adversary of mankind spread his

toils around them, and employed such men as they are

now become to efface every good impression, and to

lead them on, by slow and imperceptible degrees, to

those lengths in wickedness at which they have now

arrived.  Had they been armed with the instructions

of wisdom, and employed these in their own defense,

what different persons might they now have been!

Whilst they would mislead us by their persuasions,

let us learn instruction from their miserable situation,

and thankfully improve those means which God has

afforded, to keep us out of the paths of destruction.


40        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. II.

 

God is our preserver, but he has been pleased to ap-

point the instructions of wisdom as our great defense

against these instruments of mischief. The knowledge

of the truth, and the cordial love of it, will open our

eyes to our danger, and possess our hearts with a set-

tled aversion to the practices of the ungodly. As our

Lord repelled every temptation of the devil by the

word of God, so when it abides in us, it will enable us

to meet every temptation of the old serpent, and of his

instruments, with safety and steadfast resolution *.

Grace in the soul is weak of itself, but the seed of

God shall remain for ever. The powers of hell shall

never be able to extinguish it utterly, for it receives new

supplies from the fountain of grace †.

Secondly, Wisdom, by its instructions received into

the heart, will preserve us also from the malignant in-

fluence of bad women.

Ver. 16.-19. To deliver thee from the strange woman,

from the stranger that flattereth with her lips; which for-

saketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant

of God: For her house inclineth unto death, and her

paths unto the dead: None that go unto her return again,

neither take they hold of the paths of life.

It is a great happiness for young people to escape the

snares of the harlot, in which so many have been en-

tangled and lost. A true love to the word of God is

eminently fitted to secure such a happiness.

There is no viler object in nature than an adulteress.

Her beauty is but a jewel of gold in a swine's snout.

Though born and baptized in a Christian land, she is

to looked upon as a heathen woman and a stranger;

and as self-made brutes are greater monsters than na-

tural brute beasts, so baptized heathens are by far the

worst of pagans.

 

* Acts. xx. 32.            † Jer. xxxii. 40.   Rev. iii. 10.


CHAP. II.]      BOOK OF PROVERBS.      41

 

Her words may be sweet and soft to the inexperi-

enced ear of a thoughtless youth, but she is only flat-

tering with her lips. Honey and milk seem to be un-

der her tongue, but it is the cruel venom of dragons.

She is monster of ingratitude to that husband who

was the guide and protector of her youth. All the

fervours of her first love are forgotten. She returns

the most cruel treatment for all that fond affection by

which he bound her to him in the most endearing ob-

ligations.

But her profaneness is still more shocking; for she

violates it sacred bond which was instituted by him

whom she presumes to call her God, and regards not

the marriage- oath which she swore by his great and

awful name.

Shall a woman unfaithful to the best and kindest of

friends, wretch that commits perjury without re-

morse,— prove faithful to any man? When she speaks

fair, believe her not, for there are seven abominations in

her heart.

Miserable are they who trust to her alluring profes-

sions, for there is scarcely a hope that they will recover

themselves from the snare of the devil. Her house is

full of the pestilence of sin, and will infect every one

that enters with a mortal and almost incurable distem-

per. The mind is darkened, and the conscience dead-

ened; the affections, too, are by uncleanness sunk into

sensuality.  How then can they again take hold of the

paths of life? No doubt there is virtue in the blood

and Spirit of Christ for the remission of the greatest sins,

and the purification of the most defiled souls. It is

even admitted, that whoremongers have been made il-

lustrious monuments of the power of divine grace*; but

let it be remembered that these are miracles of grace.

Who would cast himself into a deep pit, in the hopes of

 

*1 Cor. vi. 11.


42        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. II.

 

coming out alive, when almost all that fell into it were

dashed in pieces or buried alive!

Whosoever pleaseth God, shall escape from this de-

vouring deep. Let us therefore cleave to God's judg-

ments, and follow their direction, and keep at a distance

from the place of temptation. How worthy of our imi-

tation is the example of Joseph, who was tempted day

by day, but hearkened not to his mistress to lie by

her or to be with her, because he would not sin

against God *.

But wisdom will not only keep us from the paths of

the wicked, it will also lead us in the way of good

men.

Ver. 20. That thou mayest walk in the way of good

men, and keep the path of the righteous.

It is not enough to refrain from wickedness, we

in also work righteousness. We profess to be the

servants of God, and it will be no sufficient excuse for

a servant that has slept all day, to say that he did no

mischief. There are two ways, in one or other of

which all men walk, ¾the narrow way that leads unto

life and the broad way that leads to destruction. In

the former way few walk, but it has been trodden by

the feet of all who are worthy of our imitation. In it

Abraham, and Job, and David walked, whilst those

whose memorials are now perished, or whose names

are remembered only to be execrated, were traveling

in the broad way that leads to destruction. Which of

these classes of persons would we chuse to follow in

our course of life? If the former, we must take our

directions from the wisdom taught by Solomon, and

the other inspired writers. Those venerable men who

have obtained a good report, and who through faith

and patience inherit the promises, were close students

 

*Gen. xxxvii.


CHAP. II.]      BOOK OF PROVERBS.      43

 

of the word of God, so far as they enjoyed the benefit

of its instructions; and by faith in its doctrines and

promises, and a constant regard to its precepts, they

obtained their good report. Happy shall we be if, like

them, we esteem the word of God more than our neces-

sary food and keep the judgments of God still in our

view;

Ver. 21. For the upright shall dwell in the land, and

the perfect shall remain in it.

They shall enjoy a long and a prosperous life, as far

as it is for their real advantage, in that good land which

God bestowed on his people, and shall, even when

they are dead, possess it in the persons of their pos-

terity, who are blessed for their sakes. Sinners enjoy

not this happiness,

Ver. 2 . But the wicked shall be cut of from the

earth, an the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

Must not the righteous leave the earth too? Yes:

But the earth is a very different thing to the righteous,

and to the wicked. To the latter it is all the heaven

they ever have; to the righteous it is a place of pre-

paration or heaven. Death is a kind messenger sent

to the righteous by their heavenly Father, calling them

to the possession of their eternal inheritance; to the

wicked it is a messenger of wrath, summoning them to

the abodes of misery. It is almost the beginning of hap-

piness to God's people, but the final conclusion of all

that the wicked counted their happiness. To the

righteous, death is a translation to a better life. To

the wicked, it is destruction and woe. And is it all

one to us whether we share with the wicked in the

miseries of their latter end, or with Zion's travelers in

those everlasting joys that shall crown them when they

attain the end of their faith *?

 

* Psal. xxxvii. 36-40.


44        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

CHAPTER III.

 

This chapter contains a variety of useful precepts

enforced by the strongest motives.

First, To remember and keep in our hearts the

things written in this book, ver. 1, 2.

Ver. 1. My son, forget not my law, but let thine heart

keep my commandments.

This inspired teacher is to be reverenced as a spiri-

tual father. His word is to be regarded as a law pub-

lish by Solomon, but binding on us by the authority

of God *. We must never forget this law, but make

it familiar to our memories, that we may have a guide

ready to direct us in every situation in which we may

be placed; and when we treasure it up in our memory,

we are to keep it in our heart. Richly does it deserve

to form the object of our constant love, and the sub-

ject of our meditation all the day. Our obedience to

it must proceed from the heart. What is the difference

between good men, and false pretenders to religion?

To the latter, the religion which they have is a burden,

to the former a pleasure; to the one the law is a dis-

agreeable restraint, to the other God's commandments

are of grievous, for they rejoice in the way of his tes-

timonies, more than in all riches. Interest dictates to

us the propriety of keeping God's commandments¾

Ver. 2. For length of days, and long life, [Heb.

years of life,] and peace, shall they add to thee.

A long and happy life is the desire of all men, and

 

* Mal. iv. 4.


CHAP. III.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.       45

 

riches and good physicians appear to them the most

likely means of obtaining it. But religion is better

than all the gold and physicians in the world, for it

has the promise of this life, as well as of that to come.

Solomon knew well that good men sometimes die

young, while the wicked live, become old, yea, mighty

in power; but still he asserts and often repeats the

promise of long life which belongs to godliness.

Surely, then it is not without meaning and truth.

The godly shall enjoy life as far as it is really a bless-

ing in their particular circumstances, and the mean-

ing carried beyond this would convert the blessing

into a threatening. Peace is enjoyed by the godly,

even that of God which passeth all understand-

ing, and it keeps their hearts and minds through

Jesus Christ.  Outward prosperity is enjoyed by them,

as far as it is consistent with their spiritual interests.

Tribulations and enemies they may meet with, but

they live in peace. Though slaughtered by the hand

of violence, or the sword of war, they die in peace;

and when they die, they enter into everlasting peace.

The second precept in this chapter, is one requiring

us to live in the exercise of mercy and truth.

            Ver. 3.   Let not mercy and truth forsake thee. Bind

them about thy neck, write them upon the table of thine

heart.

Mercy and truth are to be exercised by us in every

part of our intercourse with our fellow-creatures, how-

ever defective they may be in the practice of these

virtues to us.  They are to be tied about our necks as

a precious ornament, to be worn through life, and

made visible to all men. Our light should shine be-

fore men, not for our own praise, but for the glory

of our heavenly Father.

But it is not enough to practice mercy and truth,

so as to obtain a character for fidelity among men.


46        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

Our outward acts must proceed from the heart. As

the law of commandments was written upon tables of

stone, so is the law of Christ written on the fleshly

tables of the Christian's heart, by the Spirit of the living

God. As workers under the Spirit, we are required

to write the law of kindness and of truth upon the

tables of our heart, by maintaining deep impressions

of it, by meditating upon the peaceful motives that

should excite us to that virtue, and by endeavouring,

through the grace of Christ, to have our hearts habi-

tually disposed to all those duties which are the na-

tural fruits of love and integrity.

Ver. 4. So shalt thou find favour and good under-

standing in the sight of God and man.

God is well pleased, not only with the reverence

and love which his people shew to himself, but with

that generosity and mercy, that sincerity and faithful-

ness, which they evince to their fellow-men. Mercy

and truth are glorious perfections in the Deity, ¾per-

fections which shall be for ever praised as the springs

of our felicity. Of these, the mercy and truth found in

wisdom's disciples, are to be regarded as a faint imi-

tation. To find in his children this his true, though

perfect image, the Deity is greatly delighted. To

the merciful he will shew himself merciful, and they

that deal truly are his delight. He not only smiles

upon them with the light of his countenance, but gives

them favour in the sight of men also. Kindness and

truth are qualities so amiable as to engage the esteem

even of those who are too selfish to practice them.

They attract the good-will of men. They procure

that good name which is better than precious ointment.

For a good man some have even dared to die.

That understanding which is good in the sight of

God and man, is another fruit of the constant practice

of mercy and truth, A good understanding appears

 

 

 


CHAP. III.]     BOOK OF PROVERBS.       47

 

already in his behaviour, but it is also promoted by it;

for the practice of what we know, tends greatly to

render our knowledge more dear, and certain, and

extensive *.

The next precept is, to depend on God, and not on

our own understanding.

Ver. 5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and

lean not to thine own understanding.

To trust in God, is to depend on him for bestowing

on us every needful blessing, and preserving us from

all evil.

Faith in Christ for eternal life is included in this

dependence on God, for by him we believe in God.

But we are commanded to trust in God for every thing

necessary for us in this life also; for the Lord God is a

sun and shield, he will give grace and glory, and every

good thing. O Lord God of hosts, blessed is the man

that trusteth in thee!

This dependence on God is to be exercised with all

our hearts, our judgments being persuaded that God

is the only and the all-sufficient object of confidence,

and our souls resting with full satisfaction in his power

and faithfulness. This holy exercise is fully and clearly

exemplified, to us in many of the psalms of David †.

Whilst we trust in the Lord, our hearts must cleave

to him, and renounce every sublunary dependence.

To divide our confidence between God and the crea-

ture, is to lean with one hand upon a rock, and with

the other hand upon a broken reed. David charges

his soul to wait upon God only, for his expectation

was from him, and from none else.

We must not make our own understanding a staff

to our hearts.—Dependence on our own wisdom, will

 

* Psal. cxix, 100,       † Psal. 1xii, &c.


48        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

lead us from trusting in God, to make lies our refuge,

and to adopt unhallowed means for the attainment of

our wishes. When men reject the testimony of God

concerning Christ, when they depend on their own

righteousness and strength instead of Christ, or on

creatures rather than on God for help in difficulty, or

when they expect to obtain pleasure or profit by sinful

means, it is evident that they are departing from God,

through an evil heart of unbelief, and trusting for the

direction of their behaviour to their own corrupted

minds.

Do we trust in God, and not in ourselves? It will

then give us much pleasure to know that we are direct-

ed and encouraged to make known all our affairs to

God, according to the following words of the wise king,

Ver. 6. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall

direct thy paths.

God is well acquainted with all our affairs, and yet

he graciously requires us to present them to him in

prayer, and to ask from him direction in the manage-

ment of them, that we may be guided by his provi-

dence and Spirit, according to his word. The saints

have found much relief in their perplexities, by spread-

ing their case before him, and petitioning this interpo-

sition for their help *. But times of distress are not

the only seasons in which we ought to apply to him,

“Be careful for nothing, (says Paul,) but in every

thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving,

make known your requests unto him." We are every

day to pray that our steps may be so ordered, as that

we may not be led into temptation. Joshua in the

midst of his prosperity erred, by neglecting to ask

counsel at the mouth of the Lord, because he thought

 

* Psal. xiv. 2, 3.


CHAP. III.]     BOOK OF PROVERBS.       49

 

the matter so clear, as that he might safely trust to his

own understanding.

Our encouragement to this duty is a promise that

our path shall be directed. Having shewed to God

our way, we must wait on God for direction, not by a

voice from heaven, or by a new inspiration, but by his

Spirit enabling us to understand his word, and apply

it to particular affairs, and by his providence making

the way where we should walk clear before us. Thus will

our path be so directed, as that we shall be preserved

from falling into sin, from meeting with temptations

that might prove too hard for us, and from being sub-

jected to more than needful calamity.

What a pleasure is it to have a wise and kind friend

to consult with in all our affairs! but how much sweeter

the pleasure, that we know where to find God, that we

are invited to go even to his seat, and to utter all our

words before him! When we interest God in our

affairs by prayer, we may cast away every care, and

walk on cheerfully, believing that he will guide every

step of our journey; for his eyes are not only upon the

way of his people, but upon every step of it *.

But when we acknowledge the Lord in all our ways,

let us be sure to do it with self-diffidence, and with sin-

cere resolutions to adhere to that way that will be pleas-

ing to God .

Ver. 7. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord,

and depart from evil.

Vain man would be wise, although man is born like

the wild ass's colt. The world is full of wise men, or

of men that would be thought wise. But we cannot

be truly wise unless we become fools, renouncing all

dependence on our own wisdom, and depending with hu-

mility upon the Lord, for those supplies of wisdom that

 

* Psal. xxxvii. 23. 31.

 


50        EXPOSITION OF THE        [CHAP. III.

 

are necessary for enlightening our minds and directing

our paths. When we pretend to ask counsel from God,

whilst we have a secret dependence upon ourselves,

and a reserved determination to pay no regard to his

word or providence if it should cross our own humours,

we play the hypocrite with God, and cover over that

self- confidence which he abhors, with false professions

of faith and resignation to the will of God. Johanan

and his proud companions were terribly threatened for

this dissimulation by the prophet Jeremiah *.

A high opinion of men's own wisdom is so danger-

ous, that Isaiah pronounces a heavy woe upon it.

We are not indeed to pull out our own eyes, to re-

nounce our own understandings, or to believe con-

tradictions; but we ought certainly to keep our rational

powers in subjection to the word of God, to be sen-

sible of our great liableness to err, and of our absolute

need of the divine direction, especially in those mat-

ters that concern religion †.

That we may have our paths made straight, we must

also fear the Lord and depart from evil. To them that

fear the Lord is addressed a promise of divine teach-

ing ‡. This religious affection has a native tendency to

prevent men from turning out of the way of truth:

By the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil. It acts

as a sentinel to the soul, which keeps temptation from

entering. God makes use of the grace of fear, as well

as that of faith, in repelling temptation, and in sub-

duing corruption.  “I will put my fear," says he,

"into their hearts, and they shall  not depart from me."

Abraham displayed his fear of God, as well as his un-

conquerable faith, when nothing could for one moment

 

* Jer. x1ii. 19.—22.

†Jer. x. 23. 1 Cor. ii. 14, 15.            ‡ Psal. xxv. 12.-14.


CHAP. III]      BOOK OP PROVERBS.       51

 

withhold him from obeying the strangest command

which mortal ever received. "Now I know that thou

feared God," said the angel," seeing thou had not

withheld from me thy son, thine only son *."

The fear of God preserves men from bodily disease,

As well as from sin.

Ver. 8.  It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to

thy bones.

The navel is a useful part of the body, being sort

of ligament to knit the bowels together; ¾the bones

are the strength and fence of the body.  The fear of

God is health to the outward, as well as to the inward

man.  Health is an object of desire to all, and

the wise man will not only use medicines when sick,

for the restoration of it, but will attentively consider

what food and what exercise are the most proper for

preserving health in the navel, and marrow in the

bones.  The spiritually wise will remember, that in

God's hands is our life, and breath, and all our

ways, ¾that diseases are his servants, which come and

go at his pleasure, ¾and that the surest way to health

is to walk before him unto all pleasing.  Does he

then enjoy health?  he has a blessing along with it

Is he the victim of disease?  it will be more beneficial

to him than is to the wicked his unsanctified health.

Religion has a natural tendency to impart health and

vigor to the body, because it preserves a man from

those distempers which proceed from unsubdued lusts,

and diffuses over the mind that calm serenity and

heartfelt joy, which even upon the body exercise a 

medicinal influence

We are next required to be liberal in the service of

God.

 

* Gen. xxii. 12.         


52        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

Ver. 9, 10. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and

with the first fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy

barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out

with new wine.

Earthly substance is necessary for the use of our bo-

dies, but we are called to make a nobler use of it than

the snare service of the outward man. We are to ho-

nour the Lord with it, making no use of any part of

our increase, till we have set apart a reasonable propor-

tion of it for the service of God. God needs nothing

at our hands; but for our own benefit, he will have us

to render back a part of all he gives us for the decent

support of his worship, and for the maintenance of the 

poor.  Is it any hardship to give a part to him from whom

we have received all?  Can we make a better use of

our wealth, which is often a snare and a trap to men,

by serving God, and thus making to ourselves

friends of the mammon of unrighteousness?

By this means we honour the Lord. He is the

Creator and Redeemer of our souls and bodies, and

therefore we are to glorify him with our bodies and

our spirits, which are his. Our substance is his also,

and we must honour him with it by a liberality in his

service, proportioned to the extent of his bounty. By

the practice of this duty, we shew our faith in his pro-

vidence and promises, our love to God, our gratitude

for his goodness, and our preference of his service to

that of mammon.  In this manner we justify our pro-

fession of the gospel of Christ, and others are made to

glorify God, while they enjoy the benefit of our minis-

trations to this purpose.

By the neglect of this duty, we are guilty of robbing

God himself of that rent which he requires from us as

his tenants. We dishonour him by shewing that we

love the world better than his service, and that we trust

more to our chests, or to our bonds upon our fellow-


CHAP. III.]     BOOK OF PROVERBS.       53

 

creatures, than to his promises; for has he not assured

us, that instead of being losers, we shall be great gain-

ers by what we bestow upon him?  Liberality on God's

account brings down the blessing of providence to such

a degree, that our barns shall be filled, and our presses

need enlargement. God has the sun, and winds, and

rain, an creatures of every description, in his hand;

and these he manages in such a manner, as that none

shall be a loser by him, nor a gainer by withholding

from him. Robbers of God are visited with a curse,

which like a moth wastes, or like a fire destroys, their

substance *. Liberality opens the windows of heaven,

destroys, the devouring locust, and turns the barren

field in a delightful land †.

Health and riches are the advantages that attend the

fear of the Lord, and liberality in his service; but we

must not imagine that these blessings are promised

without a reservation of the cross, when God sees it

needful for us, nor suppose that God is unfaithful when

he administers correction to his children. This truth

is inculcated in the next instruction of the wise king, 

which teaches us how to behave under afflictive provi-

dences.

Ver. 11. My son, despise not the chastening of the

Lord, neither be weary of his correction.

This exhortation, like many of the others, speaks to

us as unto children; and it is a piece of ingratitude in

the children of wisdom, to forget it, by suffering it to

be obliterated from their memories, or to produce no

practical influence ‡.

We are here warned against despising divine re-

bukes, or fainting under them. The rebukes of provi-

dence are despised, when persons regard not the supreme

 

* Hag. i. 6. ii, 16.       † Mal, iii. 10- 12.      ‡ Heb. xii. 5.
54        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

hand that afflicts; when they consider not the design of

God in afflicting; or when, through stupidity of mind

or hardness of heart, they neglect to comply with it.

This is a great affront to God. It is as if a child should

say his father when he strikes him, I do not care,

do with me what you will, I shall behave no better

than I have done.  Ahaz was a very wicked man, but

nothing shewed the stubbornness of his heart so much,

as his walking contrary to God, when he sent sore dis-

tress upon him *.

God's people may fall into this sin, sleeping like Jo-

nah amidst the storm that God sends to testify his dis-

pleasure with them. But those whom he loves, he will

awaken out of their sleep; and this he sometimes does

by terrible tempests of outward calamity or of inward

terror, sufficient to rouse them from the deepest slum-

ber. As the lively Christian is thankful for the least

mercy so the afflictions which others despise are im-

proved by him as calls to serious thought.

Afflictions may be despised in another sense, which

seem to agree better with the argument used in the

following verse. Men despise them, when they do not     

value them as necessary and useful. We need afflic-

tions and yet we are ready to think that they might

be very well spared, and the work designed by them

effected by gentler means. This notion is to be reject-

ed by us with abhorrence, because it implies a reflec-

tion upon the wisdom and love of our heavenly Father,

who does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children

of men; though now for a season, if need be, he af-

filcts  them, because the beneficial consequences are

far more than sufficient to counterbalance the pain of

it.  The original word often signifies to abhor.

 

* 2 Chron. xxviii. 22.
CHAP. III.]         BOOK OF PROVERBS.                55

 

Weariness under the divine correction is another

fault, which we must avoid with care. Our

hearts must not fret against the Lord, nor suffer re-

flecting thoughts to spring up, for God never exceeds

the due measure in distressing us. No ingredient is

poured to the cup of affliction, but by infinite wis-

dom and grace; nor shall the rod of Jehovah rest upon

the lot of the righteous, longer than need requires.

Weariness will make the heart to sink like a stone, and

produce harsh suspicions of the divine goodness. It

will disqualify the mind for relishing the consolations

of God, and answering the designs of the Almighty.

To keep our minds from fainting, let us consider

who it is that corrects us. It is the Lord, and all

flesh must be silent before him, and receive what evils

he is pleased to appoint, with reverence and resigna-

tion.   It is the Lord, let him do unto us what seemeth

good in his sight. He is excellent in judgment, and

in plenty of justice, and cannot do wrong to any of his

creatures. But it is a sweeter consideration, that he is

a Father, and chastens us in love.

Ver. 12. For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth,

even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

He intends, not to destroy but to reform, and correc-

tion is one of those privileges that belong to the family

of God. Christ himself, though a Son in an infinitely

higher sense than we, though altogether free from the

need correction, yet learned obedience by the things

which he suffered. Christ was the first-born among

many brethren, and we are predestinated to be con-

formed to him in sufferings and in holiness, and the

sorrows which we endure are means appointed for

making us partakers of God's holiness. Earthly fa-

thers correct their children, in order to drive away

folly from them; and that misguided lenity which

withhold the rod, is but cruelty in disguise. Now, we


56        EXPOSITION OF THE        [CHAP. III.

 

yield reverence and submission to earthly parents;

how much more do we owe it to that heavenly Father,

who exercises love infinitely wiser and greater than

theirs!  He knows the greatest afflictions have not so

much bitterness as the least sin, and he loves his chil-

dren too well to spare correction when it is requisite

to purge away their sin.

The best commentary we can have on this text, is

that given by Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews*.

Did we understand it aright, we should bless God for

correction, as well as for smiles; and the wormwood

and the gall of our miseries would be turned into ho-

ney and the honey-comb.

Whatever corrections the children of God suffer,

they are still happy, and it is our duty to be-

lieve them so. Behold, happy is the man whom God

correcteth!   Nothing can make that person unhappy

who is possessed of wisdom, as the inspired philoso-

pher tells us in the next part of this chapter. In it

he again recommends wisdom to our esteem and pur-

suit, ver. 13. -26.

Ver. 13. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and

the man that getteth understanding.

Where shall wisdom be found, and who is the man

that getteth understanding? Wisdom is to be found

in the Bible, and in Christ, who is revealed in it.  The

Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation,

through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All the trea-

sures of wisdom are hid in him, and he communicates

this precious gift by his word and Spirit, to those who

apply to him for this purpose. And while they dill-

gently make use of the prescribed means, they in-

crease in wisdom, and with it their happiness increases

too.

 

*Heb. xii. 5.- 11.
CHAP. III.]             BOOK OF PROVERBS.                57

 

None can tell how happy the man is that finds wis-

dom.  They are accounted happy who possess large

quantities of gold, or silver, or precious stones; but

these lose all their value when brought into comparison

with this heavenly treasure.

Ver. 14, 15. For the merchandise of it is better than

the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine

gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the

things thou cant desire are not to be compared with

her.

Silver is much esteemed by men, and gold is almost

adored by them. Rubies are still more precious, and

perhaps there are some things still preferred to these

shining stones.  But none of them all are to be named

in one day with wisdom; and he has no true judg-

ment of the real value of things, who would give a

grain of true wisdom for a mountain of diamonds.

Earthly riches are for the body, wisdom is for the

soul; the former may enrich a man for the space of

threescore and ten years, the latter for numberless

millions of ages.  Gold and rubies are the true riches

in the eyes of erring mortals, wisdom and grace in

the eyes of Christ; and if we follow his judgment, the

diseased beggar Lazarus was incomparably happier than

the rich man who was clothed with purple, and who

fared sumptuously every day.

A venerable father, when he saw Rome in its splen-

dour, took occasion to contemplate the ineffable glories

of the celestial city, compared with which Rome itself

was but a pitiful village. The Scripture teaches us,

when we are charmed with the lustre of earthly riches,

to consider how incomparably these are surpassed by

the excellency of wisdom.

He is not a true Christian who would not wish to be

rich in faith rather than in silver and gold; for every

one that partakes of heavenly wisdom is enlightened by

 

 


58        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

the Spirit of God, and disposed, in his judgment of the

value of things, to listen to the instructions of God in

his word.

The excellency of wisdom further appears in the

gifts she bestows.  She is a munificent princess, hold-

ing in both hands the richest presents, to be given to

her servants.

Ver. 16. Length of days is in her right hand; and in

her left hand riches and honour.

A happy life extended to old age is given to the

lovers of wisdom; or if cut off in the midst of their days,

they are no losers. They cannot even in this case

complain that God is unfaithful to his promise, for in

another world they enter on a state of life which excels

the present as much in value as in duration. If a man

promises to give us threescore and ten acres of ground

in a barren country, and instead of them gives us ten

thousand in a fruitful soil, watered by the river of God,

and blessed by the smiles of heaven, he is not worse,

but a great deal better than his word.

Riches and honour are given in the same sense as

length of days. When Solomon testified his high re-

gard for wisdom, God bestowed upon him the riches

and glory of this world. But experience taught Solo-

mon that these things did not make him wiser, or

better, or happier. Let us, from the history of the

wise man, learn to implore the accomplishment of this

promise in a spiritual sense. There are eternal treasures

and unfading diadems reserved for the wise in another

world.  There they will be so rich, that the streets of

their city of habitation are paved with pure gold,—so

honourable, that they shall sit with Christ himself on his

throne.

But great as are the advantages, splendid as are the

honours which wisdom confers, the world is generally

prejudiced against it, and prepossessed with the idea of


CHAP. III.]     BOOK OP PROVERBS.      59

 

its being burdensome and unpleasant. Worldly plea-

sure appears so desirable, so essential indeed to human

happiness, that for this sole reason multitudes abhor

the thoughts of becoming religious. In order to re-

move this mischievous prejudice, Solomon assures us,

that religion is not less conducive to pleasure than it is

to honour and wealth.

Ver. 17. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all

her paths are peace.

Call not religion Marah, but call her Naomi, for she

is in every respect desirable. True, indeed, it is no rare

occurrence to find a religious man leading an unplea-

sant life, but this is to be ascribed to his own mistakes

and dispositions, and not to religion, than which nothing

tends so much to render the present life a scene of

happiness.

It is pleasant to enter into wisdom's ways by believ-

ing on Christ. It is pleasant to go on in these paths,

by walking in him who is the new and living way. In

God's presence is that fullness of joy into which those

travellers shall enter at the termination of their journey.

Even now some drops of those rivers of pleasure that

are with him enter into their souls, and give them more

delight than the highest earthly enjoyments can impart

to those whose portion is in this life.

It will readily be admitted, that some of wisdom's

ways are pleasant; but are they all so? Yes, all her

paths are peace itself, for the work of righteousness, as

well as the erect of it, is peace.

There is peace and pleasure in repentance, which is

sweetened by the apprehension of God's mercy in Christ;

so that the true penitent enjoys more satisfaction in one

hour's mourning, than the votary of worldly pleasure

in twenty years' carnal gratification.   There is pleasure

in self-denial, for he that practices it knows that he is

the true self-seeker; and of this he is assured by the


60        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

word of Christ *. There is pleasure and peace in bear-

ing the cross of Christ, for it is made light by the Spirit

of Christ, and the prospect of sharing with him in his

glory †. There is pleasure and peace in tribulations,

because when they abound, consolations abound much 

more by Christ ‡. There is peace in fighting the Lord's

battles against the mightiest enemies, for the Christian

soldier fights under the banner of the Prince of Peace.

His feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of

peace. The God of peace will bruise every enemy

under his feet. More exquisite is that pleasure which

the subjugation of one sinful affection produces, than

that which results from the gratification of a thousand.

—Should the Christian be called to die a violent death,

there is peace in his latter end, as we find there was

in the death of the good Josiah when he fell in battle.

The pleasures of the world are like the gleams of a

wintry sun, faint, and feeble, and transient. The plea-

sures of religion are satisfying and eternal. The ca-

lamities of this life are not able to interrupt, far less to

destroy them. This is verified in the experience of

every one whose soul is under the lively influence of

that faith which constitutes an essential part of religion.

David, though in deep waters, yielded not to despond-

ing thoughts, believing that the Lord would yet com-

mand his loving-kindness; though about to walk

through the valley of the shadow of death, he saw no

ground for the fear of evil.

All the exercises, all the privileges, all the hopes of

religion, are full of pleasure. Even the trials to which

religious men are exposed afford pleasure, if not whilst

they are felt, at the farthest when they come to a

period ||.

 

* Mat. xxvi. 25.          † 1 Pet. iv. 13, 14.     ‡ 2 Cor. 1. 5.

|| Jam, 1. 4, 12. 1 Pet. i. 6, 7. Isa. x1ix, 10.


CHAP. III.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS.               61

 

Such is the pleasure and peace with which wisdom

is attended, that,

Ver. 18. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon

her; and happy is every one that retaineth her.

Nothing in the present state of the creation is suffi- 

cient to furnish out a proper emblem of the happiness

that wisdom affords, and therefore the wise man goes

back to the state of the world under innocent Adam,

comparing the delights of religion to the fruits of the

tree of life. For the sin of Adam we were driven from

Paradise, and our approach to the tree of life in the

midst of the garden for ever prevented. But a second

Adam has opened our way to a better paradise, in which

is the tree of life that bears every month twelve man-

ner of fruits. The branches of this wide-spreading

tree bend down to this lower world, and those that are

wise unto salvation sit under its shadow with great de-

light, while its fruit is sweet to their taste.

If we wish to eat of these delicious and soul-reviv-

ing fruits, we must take fast hold of wisdom, and keep

that hold against all the enemies that would tear it from

us. To wisdom we must cleave with purpose of heart,

when the devil and the world would persuade us to fore-

go some part of truth or duty, or to make some small

compliance with sin, in order to serve some worldly

end *.   "To him that overcometh, [i. e. to him that 

keepeth Christ's works unto the end,] will he give to

eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the para-

dise of God †."

To all the great things that have been said of wis-

dom, let us add the glory which belongs to wisdom, as

it appears in creation and providence.

Ver. 19, 20. The Lord by wisdom hath founded the

earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.

 

  *James i. 12.            † Rev. ii. 7.


62        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the

clouds drop down the dew.

Knowledge and wisdom belong to God in their high-

est perfection, and shine forth in all his works. By his

wisdom he established the world, and formed every

creature beautiful in its kind. By his knowledge, the

heavens and the earth, and all their inhabitants, were

formed into one universe, which incessantly proclaims

the greatness of its Creator's wisdom. The language 

of every creature when considered by itself, and especi-

ally when viewed as part of the grand system, is, "We

come forth from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful

in counsel and excellent in wisdom."  The world could

never have afforded us a convenient dwelling-place, had

not the depths by the knowledge of God been broken

up, and the waters separated from the dry land, to be

laid up in the vast repository of the sea, or to flow along

in rivers for our benefit. It is wisdom that draws up

the moisture from the earth in waters, and exhales it

in vapours, forming them into clouds, and again distill-

ing them in dew, or pouring them down in rain, that

food may spring out of the earth for man and beast.

This wisdom calls for our gratitude, and praise, and

imitation.  We cannot pretend to make or govern a

world, but we are enjoined to manage our own con-

cerns with wisdom. The God whose understanding is

infinite, hath dignified us with rational powers, and di-

rected us to that wisdom which is proper for us. When

he displayed the wonders of his infinite understanding

at the creation of all things, he said unto man,  "The

fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from

evil is understanding." He is the giver of wisdom, and

he gives it from his own exhaustless stores. Every

beam of wisdom in man is a ray from that eternal Sun;

and the divine image, which we lost by our folly in

departing from God, begins to be renewed in us when


CHAP. III]      BOOK OF PROVERBS.       68

 

we attain that knowledge and wisdom so earnestly re-

commended by the royal teacher.

Is wisdom so incomparably useful and excellent? let

us then listen with reverence to the instruction that

again speaks to us as unto children.

Ver. 51. My son, let not them depart from thine eyes;

keep sound wisdom and discretion.

There are some kinds of wisdom highly esteemed by

the world, yet of these some are so far from being use-

ful, that they are brutish folly. No wisdom is sound

but that which is taught by the word of God, and ap-

proved by him who is the Author of wisdom, and who

has given us plain marks for distinguishing it from

that which is earthly, sensual, and devilish *. This

sound wisdom makes us discreet and prudent, and

guards us against that selfish cunning which has so 

often assumed its name.

This sound wisdom and discretion must be like

frontlets before our eyes, that we may keep them al-

ways in our view. Then will our steps be ordered in

God's word; for by what means shall we purify our

way? By taking heed thereto, according to God's

word.

There are many adversaries that would rob us of this

treasure, and we are but too ready to let it slip out of

our hearts. For this reason, we need to be frequently

reminded of our duty to keep it. If we retain it on

our minds and hearts, if we uniformly exhibit it in our

practice, we shall certainly find that our labour is not

in vain in the Lord.

Ver. 22. So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace

to thy neck.

Fools can scarcely be said to live; they neither glo- 

rify God nor enjoy him, so that they are dead whilst

 

* James iii. 17.


64        EXPOSITION OF THE        [CHAP. III.

 

they live. But the excellency of knowledge is, that

wisdom giveth life to them that have it. It imparts to

life that happiness which alone renders it worthy of

the name. True wisdom is real life, communicated

from him who is the quickening Spirit, to them that

were dead in trespasses and sins. It is an ornament

of grace to the neck, which renders the meanest beg-

gar who possesses it more noble than the mightiest

monarch, who is acquainted with no brighter ornament

than his regal crown.

Safety is another of the great advantages which al-

ways attend wisdom.

Ver. 23, 24. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely,

and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down,

thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy

sleep shall be sweet.

Whilst we keep wisdom and discretion, we are safe

by the protection of the Almighty. We are safe

whether we walk in the way, or sit in the house, or re-

pose on the couch. There shall no evil happen to the

just; even those events which are evil to others, are

sanctified and blessed to them.

"He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee

in all thy ways, (says the scripture), lest thou shouldst

dash thy foot against a stone." Happy it is to be the

care of angels, but happier far to be under his protect-

ing eye who is the keeper of Israel.

We must remember, that this promise has a direc-

tion embodied with it,  "Thou shalt walk in thy way."

Satan endeavoured to cheat our Saviour out of this im-

portant part of the promise, that he might cheat him

out of the benefit of it altogether. But Jesus knew

well the regard due to every jot and tittle of the word

of God.  We are required still to keep the way of the

Lord, and in the affairs of life to attend to our own


CHAP. III.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS.                  65

 

concerns, shunning the character of busy-bodies, by

not meddling in the affairs of others. In the calling

wherewith we are called, let us abide with God, and

we shall dwell in safety under the shadow of the Al-

mighty.

Sleep commonly flies from the victims of wretched-

mess and calamity; but quiet and peaceful are the

slumbers of those who can lie down in safety, because

the Lord sustaineth them. Even in the prospect of

danger and distress, they can repose in calm serenity,

for Jehovah giveth his beloved sleep. Such were the

calamitous circumstances of David, when exiled and

pursued by the unnatural Absalom, that all the people

who were witnesses of his banishment, wept for him.

Yet what says David himself?  "I laid me down and

slept; I awaked, for the Lord sustained me." When the

most prosperous sinners lie down to rest, they want cove-

nant protection, and know not but they may open their 

eyes in hell. The servant of God knows, that when buried

in the arms of "Nature's sweet restorer," he is under

that guardian eye which neither slumbers nor sleeps.

There may be seasons in which the good man can-

not enjoy pleasant slumbers. But what does he lose,

if by the thoughts that Wisdom suggests, he enjoys a

feast of holy contemplation, more refreshing to him

than sleep is to others *!

In order to enjoy this tranquility of mind, we must

believe the promises of God, and by the exercise of

holy confidence, banish those fears that would distress

the soul,

Ver. 25, 26. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither

of the desolation of the wicked when it cometh. For the

Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot

from being taken.

 

* Psal. 1xiii 5.


66        EXPOSITION OF THE        [CHAP. III.

 

Sudden fears are attended with a stupifying influ-

ence upon those that want faith, but far different is the

fact with regard to the righteous. The righteous man

is bold as a lion, for he knows, like the three children

in Babylon, that the God whom he serves is able to

deliver him, or to render him happy, though the deso-

lation of others should involve the destruction, not only

of all his outward comforts, but of his mortal life *.

The Lord is a sure ground of confidence in the

worst of times. Our proper exercise in such seasons,

is to trust in the Lord, and to pour out our hearts be-

fore him, knowing that he will be a refuge for us.

This comfortable doctrine is illustrated and enforced

in almost every Psalm.

May not one, then, exclaim with the royal philoso-

pher, "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and

the man that getteth understanding!" The way in

which wisdom leads us, is attended with every bless-

ing, and free from every evil; or if there be any evil

in it, so wonderful is the providence of God, that it is

turned into good. Thus is Sampson's riddle verified

to every afflicted saint. May our lives be those of the

righteous, and our last end their's!

The wise man next directs us, to make no unneces-

sary delay in the performance of any good work.

Ver. 27. Withhold not good from them to whom it is

due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

To do justly, is one great point of religion; and we

ought not unnecessarily to delay giving every man his

due, for the delay of justice is temporary injustice.

When we owe money to our neighbours, which they

require from us at present, and we, though able, defer

payment till afterwards, we are plainly guilty of injus-

tice; for a man has the same right to his property now,

 

* Hab. iii. 17, 18. Psa1. xlvi,


CHAP. III       BOOK OF PROVERBS.       67

 

that he will have a year hence. We find men re-

proved and threatened for keeping in their own hands

the hire of the labourer. The same censure may be ap-

plied to those who refuse to pay just debts, or to re-

store to its rightful owner any piece of lost property

which they have found; for we are not to do what we

will with that which is not ours, nor are we to owe to

another any thing but love.

We owe love and the proper fruits of it to our fel-

low-creatures, according to their necessities and cha-

racters, and our connection with them; and we trans-

gress the rule of righteousness, if we withhold even

from our enemies that which is due to them by the

law of Christ; for many things are to be reckoned just

debts from us on his account, which they have no title

to claim for their own sakes. It may be difficult for

us to render to others what is due to them by the laws

of justice or charity; but the question is not, whether

it is easy, but whether it is in the power of our hands,

to render unto others that good which is due to them. 

The fruits of love are often labours, but they are not

such labours of love as those which our Redeemer

cheerfully performed for us, nor is any man a loser by

them *.

What is in the power of our hands to-day, may not

be in our power to-morrow, and therefore we ought

not to delay the performance of any good work †.

Ver. 28. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come

again, and to-morrow I will give thee; when thou hast it

by thee.

Delays in any part of duty, furnish a strong pre-

sumption that we do not perform it cheerfully. We

are commanded, not only to do good works, but to be

ready to every good work; not only to shew mercy,

 

* Heb. vi, 10.             † Gal. vi. 10.  Eccl. xi. 2.


68        EXPOSITION OF THE                    [CHAP. III.

 

but to shew it with cheerfulness. He that gives

speedily, gives twice; but he that gives with slow re-

luctance, gives in part a denial. Much of the benefit

is often lost to the receiver, and much of the gratitude

to the giver, by telling our neighbour to go and come

again.

There is a manner of giving that but ill accords

with that humanity and mercy which should dispose

us to give. Airs of superiority assumed even to the

meanest of our fellow-creatures, are unbecoming; for

however inferior to us in point of station, they are still

our neighbours, and God commands us to love them

as ourselves. God often delays answering our prayers,

but he is infinitely and essentially superior to us; yet

his delays are all in wisdom and love. When it is fit

that his petitioners should receive what they ask, he

gives before they ask, or whilst they are yet speaking

he hears.

In one case, the wise man allows us to defer giving.

When we have it not by us, and when we cannot

give at all in a consistency with more urgent duties,

we may refuse to give; but still we must have hearts

to give, were it in our power. And if there be first a

willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man

hath, and not according to what he hath not.

The next direction is against doing evil to our neigh-

bours.

Ver. 29. Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing

he dwelleth securely by thee.

Our fellow-men are our neighbours, and we are des-

titute of the love of God if we feel no love to them.

If the practice be an index of what passes within, we

must conclude that man to be wholly destitute of

love, who can wilfully hurt those whom he is required

to love as himself. Such a man cannot surely pretend

to religion; or if he does, he is at best like a tinkling


CHAP. III.]       BOOK OF PROVERBS.            69

 

brass, or a sounding cymbal, for his professions are

emptiness and hypocrisy.

At the day of judgment, they shall be doomed to hell,

who did not serve their neighbour in love; where, then,

must those appear whose practice was quite the reverse?

All injurious persons are wicked, and the more con-

trivance there is in any evil that we do, it has so much

the greater malignity in it *. It is criminal to devise

evil against any person; but it is double iniquity to

hurt those that dwell securely by us, for this in effect is

a breach of trust, and an indication of a heart base and

depraved beyond the common pitch of human wicked.

ness. The meek and the quiet of the land are the

persons who dread no injury from us, as they plot

none against others; and the Lord Jesus, to whom all

judgment is committed, is the Redeemer of all such

persons. He hath pronounced a blessing on them,

and will avenge them of their enemies; for with righ-

teousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with

equity for the meek of the earth †.

We must not even contend with our neighbours by

hard words, when they have done nothing to provoke

us; otherwise we are volunteers in the devil's service,

sinning without putting him to the trouble of tempt.

ing us.

Ver. 30. Strive not with a man without cause, if he

have done thee no harm.

If a man has injured us, we ought to forgive him.

Do we believe that God for Christ's sake hath for-

given us ten thousand talents, and shall we reckon it

a hard matter, at Christ's command, to forgive our

brother a few pence?

If the unforgiving shall never enter into heaven,

what curses shall for ever lie upon those who are

 

* Mic. ii. 1.    † Iss. xi. 4. Mic. ii. 9, Psal, 1xxii. 12, 14.


70        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

guilty of unprovoked injuries?  Railers and revilers

stand excluded from the kingdom of God, and the ad-

mission of injurious persons, like Saul the Pharisee,

into the kingdom of God, is to be regarded as a miracle

 of mercy.

It may possibly be alleged, that injurious persons

are often prosperous in the world. It may be so in

some circumstances, yet,

Ver. 31. Envy thou not the oppressor, and chase none

of his ways.

Imagine not that a man can be happy in the enjoy-

ment of that which he has gained by dishonest means.

Envy or admiration of his success, might lead us to

imitate his unrighteous behaviour. Though his wine

sparkle, let us remember that there is poison in the cup.

Ver. 82. For the froward is abomination to the Lord;

but his secret is with the righteous.

That man who is detested by the Lord, is so far

from being happy, that he is miserable and accursed.

Can he know true happiness, who is looked upon with

an angry countenance by him whose smiles are heaven,

and whose frowns are hell? Such is the situation of

oppressors of every rank, from the mighty Nimrods of`

the world, who employ themselves in general mas-

sacres and desolations, down to the petty parish op-

pressors, who grind the faces of their poor neighbours,

and by adding field to field, to the ruin of many fami-

lies, endeavour to plant themselves alone in the country-

side *.

"But his secret is with the righteous." They en-

joy a fellowship with God unknown to the World. He

discovers to them the secret mysteries of grace, re-

freshes their souls with the manifestations of his spe-

cial love, and blesses their substance by the unper-

 

* Is. v. 8, -10. Hab. ii.


CHAP. III.]     BOOK OF PROVERBS.      71

 

ceived workings of his gracious providence *. God not

only enriches them with his goodness, but treats them

as friends, and to them all his paths are mercy and

truth.

The blessing of God upon his people, and his indig-

nation toward his enemies, spread through their dwell.

ings, rendering them happy or miserable. The cottage

Of the just is a quiet and pleasant habitation. The

palace of the wicked is blasted by a secret curse.

Ver. 38. The curse of the Lord is in the house of the

wicked, but he blesseth the habitation of the just;

And happiness or misery lies in the blessing or curse

of God †. When you behold the magnificent struc-

tures in which sinners dwell, let not your thoughts be

lost in wonder, or your hearts rankle with envy. They

are fabrics, stately indeed, but not solid. You may

pronounce them cursed. Eliphaz saw the wicked

taking root, but suddenly he cursed his habitation, for

his children are far from safety. The curse of God

has often destroyed the timber and the beams of the

most towering palaces; often has it kindled a fire, by

which they have been destroyed to the lowest founda-

tion. Such dwellings as these are houses of infection,

for the leprosy of sin has taken possession of them, and

it can be ascribed only to wonderful mercy, if the

children and servants in them escape the plagues pre-

pared for their lords.

By the blessing of the Lord, the meanest cottage is

converted into a dwelling of joy and praise. We read

of whole houses that have been blessed for the sake of

godly servants; how much more may the divine blessing

be expected, where the masters are pious, and make

their dwellings a little church, where the melody of

 

* Psal. xxv. 14.   John xiv. 21.—xv. 15.    Hag. ii. 19.

                        † Psal. xxxvii. 22.


72        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. III.

 

thanksgiving and the voice of prayer are daily heard!

The blessing of God, that is daily asked, shall not be

refused; and the members of the family are blessed

with instructions and examples that must produce

good effects on them, unless they harden their hearts

like an adamant. The holy conversation of good wives 

may be a means of winning their husbands; and many

children and servants have found the greatest reason to

thank God for the appointment of their dwelling in a

family of saints.

From among the wicked, we find that proud and

haughty scorners are singled out as signal monuments

of the vengeance of God.

Ver. 84. Surely he scorneth the scorner, but he giveth

grace unto the lowly.

It is pride that makes men scorners. When men

have an overweening conceit of themselves, they are

likely to behave insolently to others, and contemptu-

ously to God himself *.   But on such arrogant worms

of the dust, Jehovah looks down with contempt, and

makes them objects of derision to all men. We read

in scripture of many, whom the pride of their heart and

countenance brought to the lowest disgrace. Nebu-

chadnezzar, and Haman, and Herod, and the proud

Pharisee, are set forth for examples, to shew us that

these men stand not on an even place, whose hearts are

not kept low by that grace which cherishes humility.

That God whose eye turns away with disdain from

the splendour of haughty princes, and the diadems of

imperious kings, looks with kindness upon the mean-

est of those who walk humbly with their God †. He

visits them in mercy, and refreshes their spirits with

his love ‡. He gave them that grace which makes

 

* Compare 1 Peter v. 5. and James iv. 6.                † Isa. lxvi. 2.

‡ Isa. lvii. 15.


CHAP. III.]         BOOK OF PROVERBS.              73

 

them humble, and he giveth more grace. God bestows

grace on men, that he may be glorified; and the lowly,

who are made sensible of their emptiness and guilt,

are the persons who will ascribe praise to him, for the

least of his favours: In them he will display the ex-

cellency of his love, and enrich them with his bless-

ings in this and in the everlasting world.  "Blessed are

the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

With the lowly is wisdom, and,

Ver. 35. The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall

be the promotion of fools.

Some by their birth and fortune inherit high sound-

ing titles, and celebrated kingdoms. But if they are

not wise, their lofty situation is the theatre of their dis-

honour. Those who are blessed with sound wisdom,

have an inheritance of glory in reserve, compared with

which the crowns and sceptres of the world deserve

not a name. The prudent are even at present crowned

with knowledge; but the happy day is coming when

they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the

firmament, and they that have turned others to the

wisdom of the just, as the stars for ever and ever.

Fools are fond of honours, but all the honours they

can enjoy are like bubbles when they glitter in the

sun. They shall be promoted, indeed, but their exal-

tation shall be like that of Haman, who was exalted

when he was hung upon a gallows fifty cubits high.

Their shame shall be conspicuous to the world, when

they shall be covered with everlasting disgrace, and

become an abhorring to all flesh *.

 

* Luke xiv. 11.

 

 


74        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

 

CHAPTER IV.

 

IN this chapter, Solomon renews his exhortations to

us to get wisdom, ver. 1-18, and to avoid tempta-

tions, ver. 14.7-19. The chapter concludes with a

short sum of practical religion.

In his exhortation to wisdom, he makes use of

many of the same motives by which he had already

recommended it. Solomon had a heart filled with

knowledge, beyond all the sons of men; and he could

have charmed and astonished, by the discoveries of

new truths in every sentence; but he had Wisdom to

manage his knowledge, and therefore prefers those dis-

courses which are solid and useful, to those which, by

their dazzling brilliancy, are fitted only to produce ad-

miration and surprise. He desires not our applause, 

but our benefit; and his aim is not to shine, but to in-

struct. He was a wise householder, instructed into

the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and brings

out of his treasure things old as well as new.

God speaks to us more than once or twice by this

inspired penman, and shaIl we not listen to his voice?

We have precept upon precept, and line upon line; and

if we do not receive instructions pressed upon us so

warmly, we must go and fall backwards, and be broken,

and snared, and taken. May God open our hearts to

hear what is said by him who was the wisest of men,

and who spoke under the guidance of unerring Wisdom.

Ver. 1. Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father,

and attend to know understanding.


CHAP. IV.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS.               75

 

Our Lord teaches us to pray to God, as children to

a father. Have we such confidence toward God, and

shall we not attend with the reverence and love of chil-

dren, to him who addresses us with the infinite tender-

ness of a heavenly Father?

Some have lost their fathers; some have fathers who

give no food to the souls of their children. There is a

Father who will take up these orphans, and supply

than with the best and kindest instructions. He calls

upon all of us to attend to his understanding, for he

still opens his mouth in wisdom. That blessed God

who makes the sun to shine upon our world, has

caused this luminary still to shine for enlightening the

souls of men. It was in mercy to Israel that the sun

was made to stand still upon Gibeon, that the people

might avenge themselves of their enemies; but it is a

richer favour, that this light of his age still shines, to

direct our paths in wisdom and safety. But let us

hear what he can say in recommendation of what he in-

culcates upon us. 

Ver. 2. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not

my law.

The many say, "Who will shew us any good?"

But they know not what is good for them, and suffer

themselves to be deceived with shadows. Here God

shews us what is good, and gives it to us. All the

things that the sons of men can desire, are not to be

compared to good doctrine.

But is it becoming in a wise man to commend his

own discourses? Solomon might well commend them,

for they are not his, but God's, and God is graciously

pleased to commend them to our acceptance. He calls

us to buy wisdom without price, and discovers as much

earnestness in recommending this precious merchan-

dize, as if he were to be enriched by the price.

Were a thousand volumes to be written in commen-


76               EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

dation of this book, they could not say so much for it,

as it can say for itself in a few words. God is not

only the author, but the recommender of it. He calls

it good doctrine, and requires us not to forsake it in

our practice. To despise it, is to despise the authority

and love of him who guided the pen of Solomon in

writing and commending it to us. To forsake his law

is to forsake the king's highway, which is ever under

his eye and protection, (chap. ii. 9.) and to turn into

those paths which are haunted by ravenous beasts.

The words of Wisdom here sounding in our ears,

are the words, not only of Solomon the wise, but of

David, the man after God's own heart. He delivers

to his children, what he heard from his blessed father,

by whom also the Spirit of the Lord spake.

Ver. 3, 4. For I was my father's son, tender and

only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me

also, and said unto me,—

His parents had, in his tender years, instructed him

in the principles of religion; and the reason why they

did so, was, that they loved him; for the best evidence

of parental love is to instruct, and when necessary, to

correct children. Solomon was the best loved son in

the family, and the greatest pains were employed in

training him up in the way wherein he should go. Of

him, accordingly, we find, that his parents had more

joy than of all the rest.

His mother gave him instruction, as well as his fa-

ther.  Her crime had lost her a child, but her reli-

gious care was rewarded with double comfort in the

best and dearest of her sons. Were there more women of

the spirit of Bathsheba, and Lois, and Lemuel's mother,

we might hope to see a greater number of Solomon's,

and Timothy's, and Lemuel's in the world.  Solomon

was a wise and good king, but his mother's name was

Bathsheba. Rehoboam was a bad king, and his


CHAP. IV.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS.                 77

 

mother's name was Naamah, an Ammonitess. It was

peculiarly creditable to Asa that he behaved well,

though Abijah was his father, and Maacha his mother,

or grandmother.

Solomon communicates to his children the instruc-

tions which his father had given him. We do injus-

tice to our children, if we do not endeavour to leave

them that estate which our forefathers acquired for

their posterity. It is a more grievous iniquity, if the

fathers transmit not to their children those pious in-

structions, which in their tender years they received

from their own parents. Families are reckoned ho-

nourable, when a rich estate passes from father to son,

through many generations; but it is a far more lovely

sight, to behold the same faith dwelling in a rising

family, that dwelt in their mother, and father, and

remote ancestors.

We have a specimen of David's instructions to Solo-

mon in the twenty-eighth chapter of the first book of

Chronicles. The reading of it is sufficient to warm

our hearts, and make us wish to hear more of the ve-

nerable king's instructions to his son. Solomon, who

did not forget what his affectionate father said, gives

us more of them in this place. Let us hear them with

reverence, that we may not be found despisers of him,

by whose direction David spoke, and Solomon wrote.

Ver. 4. Let thine heart retain my words: keep my

commandments, and live.

Children must attend to the words of their pious

parents, and treasure them up in their hearts, to be ob-

served in their lives; for it is no vain thing, but their

life, to which they are called to hearken *. When our

fathers leave us money or land, we will not part with

these gifts of their love; but the instructions of life are

 

* Deut. xxxii. 46.


78        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

more precious than any earthly heritage. The wisdom

which Solomon learned by his father's counsels, was

better than his kingdom. When proved by God, it

appeared that he valued an increase of wisdom above

an addition to his dominions, or his wealth, or even to

the years of his life.

Ver. 5. Get wisdom, get understanding; forget it not,

neither decline from the words of my mouth.

How earnestly are we called to seek after wisdom,

till we find it! It would be a happy token of getting

it, were we so deeply convinced of its value; as to

make the attainment of it our grand concern; for bless-

ed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, 

they shall be filled.  If we cry for wisdom, and lift up

our voice for understanding, our cries shall not remain

unanswered. The success of Solomon's petition is re-

corded as an encouragement to our prayers and our

hopes *.

It is not enough to get wisdom; we must also use

it, and walk in its ways. They are all pleasantness and

peace, but pain and misery will meet us, if we turn ei-

ther to the right hand or to the left.

Ver. 6. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee;

love her, and she shall keep thee.

There are some who think it necessary, in particular

cases, to forsake wisdom, lest their strictness should

expose them to damage. But David here tells Solo-

mon and us, that this must be a dangerous error. The

way of duty and of safety is still the same.  Those

who walk by faith will believe this, though it appear

to such as walk by sight, an absurdity contradicted by

a thousand facts. It is incomparably safer and hap-

pier, to lose our credit and our life, by cleaving to the

 

* Chap, ii. 1-5.


CHAP. IV.]          BOOK OF PROVERBS.                 79

 

truths and ways of Christ, than to preserve both by

base compliances with the enemies of the truth *.

That we may not forsake wisdom, we must embrace

and love her. A miser will never forget where his

treasure lies, and he will lose his life sooner than be

robbed of his precious store. The love of wisdom

will in like manner induce us to lay it up in our hearts,

and to keep fast hold of it in defiance of every danger.

When persons receive not the truth in the love of it,

they provoke God to leave them to the influence of

strong and soul-ruining delusions. When we receive

it into our hearts, it makes us strong and victorious

over the wicked one †.

Ver, 7. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get

wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.

David had got understanding by meditating on

God's testimonies, and he found it the principal thing.

His crown and palace were not comparable to it in his

eyes. Setting so high a value upon it himself, it was

his great desire that his beloved son should get it also.

And those parents who are possessed of David's spirit,

would rather see their children wise unto salvation,

than rich and great in the world. Evil parents are

not so bad as to refuse bread and fishes to their chil-

dren. Good parents use every means to make them

sharers of that wisdom, which they have found to be

their own happiness.

Whatever we get, let us get wisdom.  I remember

to have read of two religious women in the reign of

Queen Mary of England, who parted with a consider-

able portion of their estate, for a few leaves of the

Bible. They who look upon the bargain as a foolish

one, have little knowledge of the worth of the scrip-

tures. If a man has acquired thousands of gold and

 

* Mat. xvi.      † 2 Thes. ii. 10.  1 John ii. 14.


80        EXPOSITION OF THE        [CHAP. IV.

 

silver, and is without wisdom, he has gained thousands

of shining nothings.  If he has acquired wisdom, and

nothing besides, he has gained the one thing needful *.

Having gained wisdom, we ought to value her as

she deserves to be valued.

Ver. 8, 9. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee;

the shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace

her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace;

a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.

All that truly know wisdom, must embrace and

exalt her. The only reason why any treat her with

indifference, is that they are entire strangers to her.

None knew her better than David and Solomon, and

we hear how eloquent in her praises they are.

We must prize wisdom as a pearl of inestimable

value, and we must testify our regard for her, by

growing in grace and in knowledge; by improving

every means and opportunity afforded us of increasing

this divine treasure; by valuing, for the sake of wis-

dom, the teachers and lovers of it; by earnest endea-

vours to make our friends and neighbours sensible of

its value; and, in a word, by giving it the throne of our

hearts, and the government of every action of our lives.

They who honour wisdom, obtain the noblest ho-

nours; for by wisdom they are promoted. Their heads

are adorned with a diadem of beauty, and a crown of

glory is delivered to them.

None are so apt to be vain of earthly honours as

those who, like David, are unexpectedly raised to the

possession of them, or who, like Solomon, surpass in

majesty all their contemporaries. Yet we find, that

neither David nor Solomon was greatly charmed with

the lustre of a crown. The reason is obvious,—their

eyes were open to the glories of true wisdom, and all

 

* Mat. xiii. 44- 46.


CHAP. IV.]      BOOK OF PROVERBS.             81

 

the glories of earthly kingdoms were lost in the su-

perior brightness. They would rather have exchanged

conditions with the poorest saint in Israel, than with

the most magnificent monarch in a land where God

was no known.

Solomon received and readily assented to his father's

good doctrine; we need not wonder therefore that he

prayed for wisdom rather than for long life, or glory,

or power. He had learned not only that wisdom was

a nobler possession than any of these things, but that

it brings these along with it. If we receive in faith and

love these instructions of the holy man, our desires

will be like his. He that is told of a rich treasure hid

in his ground, will soon make it appear whether he be-

lieves the report. He who believes the report of God

concerning the excellency of wisdom, will dig for it as

for hid treasure.

The are the instructions of David to Solomon,

which he communicates to us. Solomon now appears

again to address us in his own person.

Ver. 10. Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings;

and the years of thy life shall be many.

Who is the man that desires to live long, that he may

see good? Let him hear and receive the sayings of

David * and of Solomon. There are few men that do

not wish to live long, but there are few too that can

trust as much to the counsels of the sovereign arbiter

of life an of death, as to the counsels of a good phy-

sician; for all men have not faith. Many shorten their

days by seeking to the physicians rather than to the Lord.

A wise man would not chuse, for the sake of a long

life, to expose himself to guilt and misery. But Solo-

mon, in is prescription, consults our innocence and

happiness as well as the length of our lives.

 

* Psal. xxxiv. 11 -14.

 

 


82        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

Ver. 11-18. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom;

I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps

shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt

not stumble. Take fast hold of instruction; let her not

go: keep her, for she is thy life.

In our journey through life we have great need of

one to guide us, for it is not in man that walketh to

his steps. God only can  lead us in a safe way, 

and he does it by his Spirit through his word. This

inspired writer does not only teach, but guide us. He

is like a companion in our journey; who points out

every step that we should take, and every step that we

ought to avoid.

The way in which he leads us, is the way of wisdom,

for we are taught to keep our great end constantly in

view and to adopt the proper methods for reaching

it.  It is a right way, for our interest and duty are

jointly pursued; and every point is gained, when these

two most important objects are combined. Our duty 

to God and to man, and to ourselves, are all clearly

explained by this divinely instructed teacher.

It is a straight way, —a way in which we shall not

be straightend, and in which we shall not stumble.

They that walk in the ways of sin and folly, imagine

themselves the only persons that enjoy liberty. But

how vain the thought! They are very slaves, for they

are in bondage to impetuous passions, which prescribe

service hard and impossible to be performed. One of

the tyrants contradicts the orders of another; and

though one should gain the sovereignty, and crush

ever insurrection of the rest, the servant of sin is still

straightened, because conscience terrifies him, or divine

providence crosses him in his pursuits.  He, on the

contrary, that walks in the way of God's precepts,

at liberty; for though he is in the strait way


CHAP. IV.]     BOOK OF PROVERBS.       83

 

that leads to life, that way is broad enough to allow

him all the room that a reasonable being can desire.

We taught to manage our civil and spiritual

business with ease and safety, and to avoid every thing

that might encumber or ensnare us. Stumbling-blocks

lie before us in our journey through life, and they that

have not a skilful guide often fall upon them to their

hurt. Sometimes we are under the necessity of run-

ning, an there is then most danger of falling into sin

and mischief, when, without being allowed time to de-

liberate, we must instantly resolve upon one of two

courses that lie before us, or must act with vigour and

alacrity, at the risk of being by our passions hurried

forcibly along, without time to take due care of our

steps.  In such cases as these, it is needful to have re-

ligious principles rooted in our hearts, and religious

knowledge stored up in our minds, which through

divine grace will prevent us from adopting any course

of action displeasing to God, and enable us to deter-

mine by what means we may best consult the glory of

God and our own real interest. When we act with re-

solution, and shew our fervent zeal in religion, this

knowledge and wisdom will preserve us from those

dangerous extremes which have so often brought dis-

honour on religion and the professors of it.

Many temptations surrounded David in the days of

his youth and he was sometimes ready to slip with his

feet; but he meditated on God's testimonies, and in all

his ways acknowledged God, and the Lord directed

his steps and enlarged them under him. If at any

time he stumbled, the reason was, that he lost sight of

that word which was the light of his path, but he was

never left to turn aside from following the Lord.

Let us therefore receive the instructions of life with


84        EXPOSITION OP THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

all the desire of our hearts. Let us value them as our

life, and abhor sin and folly more than death.

That we may keep fast hold of instruction, and walk

in this straight way in which we shall not stumble, it

is necessary to keep out of the way of evil men.

Ver. 14, 15. Enter not into the path of the wicked, and

go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it,

turn from it, and pass away.

We must not have fellowship with bad men. Their

course and company are to be avoided *. We must

not much as enter into their path, or if we have

entered, we ought instantly to turn out of it. Their

path is to be avoided by us when we are at a distance

from it.   It is unsafe to pass by it, lest we should be

tempted to take a step or two in it. When we find

ourselves near, it is our duty to hasten away till we get

at a distance from danger.

This wise leader calls out to us with a loud voice, to

keep at a great distance from the way of evil men.  He

calls as if it were a haunt of robbers and murderers;

and so indeed he may, for they that would rob us of

our innocence and peace, are more dangerous than

those that would rob us of our money.  The sins to

which they would tempt us by their example and per-

suasions, may prove the destruction of our comforts and

our souls.

            We pray to be kept from temptation, and our prac-

tice ought not to contradict our prayers; otherwise it is

evident, that as one man mketh another, so we mock

God, by asking from him what we wish not to have.

            No wonder that the wise man is so peremptory in

urging us to avoid the society of the wicked,

            Ver. 16, 17. For they sleep not, except they have done

mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause

 

* Eph. v. 13.
CHAP. IV.]           BOOK OF PROVERBS.                85

 

some to fall.  For they eat the bread of wickedness, and

drink the wine of violence.

            They are faithful servants of him who is a murderer

from the beginning, and their pleasure lies in doing

mischief.  It is their meat and their drink to do the

will of the wicked one.  They subsist on robbery and

spoil, and if they have not been eating the bread of

wickedness, they retire to their beds with the reluctance

of those who have been unable to procure for themselves

necessary food.

            These wicked persons may teach us how zealous we

ought to be of good works.  Why should the servants

of the best Master labour in his service with less fidelity

and resolution than those that serve the devil, and

work for his poor wages *?  If we have David’s spirit,

we will not give sleep to our eyes, nor slumber to our

eye-lid, till we have done the work of the day for

God.  The faithful followers of Christ will count it

their meat and their drink to do the will of their heaven-

ly Father.

            He was a heathen, but he had the soul as well as the

purple of an Emperor, who said on the evening of a

day in which he had not done any good, “Friends, I

have lost a day.”

            There are many whom it would be difficult to per-

suade to manifest the same zeal in the service of right-

eousness, which these profligates discover in the service

of iniquity; but it may reasonably be expected that we

should flee their company when their character is laid

before us.  Let us not form the mistaken idea, that the

worse they are, we are in the less danger of imitating

them, for the heart of man is deceitful above all things,

and desperately wicked.  Of little sins we are not

afraid, but say within ourselves, “These sins are at-

 

*Rom. vi. 23.

 

 


86        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

tended with little danger, are they not little ones?  sure-

ly our souls shall not die though we fall into them."

We are as little afraid of great sins, because we think

them so shocking that we cannot fall into them. Fre-

quently does it happen, that labouring under such mis-

apprhensions as these, men lay down their heads upon

the 1ap of temptation, and awake like Sampson in the

hand of their enemies. By these enemies they are

captive at their will, and to this punishment

God has given them up for neglecting to follow his

counsels, and preferring to them the instructions of

those who cause to err.

There is as great a difference between the path of

the just and that of the wicked, as there is between

light and darkness.

Ver. 18, 19. But the path of the just is as the shining

light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at

what they stumble.

The righteous man possesses an understanding

brightened by the rays of divine truth, for the Sun of

righteousness hath shone into his soul. His heart is

beautified by the light of purity, diffusing a pleasant

lustre around him in his conversation; and his spirit is

cheered with the light of joy and consolation from the

countenance of God.

This light is not like that of a taper which burns it-

self away into darkness, but like that of the morning

sun, which shines brighter and brighter, till it blazes

with meridian splendour.

Christians increase in knowledge, and grace, and

happiness, in this world, and are perfected at death and

the resurrection. Clouds may indeed- obscure their

brightness, and thick darkness may occasionally cover

them. Their progress may be suspended, like that of

the sun in the days of Joshua; or they may go back-

 


CHAP. IV.]         BOOK OF PROVERBS.                87

 

ward, as the same glorious luminary did in the days of

Hezekiah but these days of threatening aspect shall not

extinguish their light. The Lord will make their light

to spring forth speedily, and their darkness as the noon-

day. He will remove or turn back in their progress

the causes that obstructed them, and he that began the

good work in them will perform it until the day of

Christ. Then shall they shine forth as the sun in the

kingdom of their Father, for the Lord shall be to them

an everlasting light. They shall see God as he is; they

shall, love him to the utmost extent of their capacity,

and enjoy full satisfaction in the presence of him with

whom is the fountain of life.

The wicked travel in darkness all their days. This

is true, not only of those rebels against the light who

abandon themselves to all manner of wickedness, but

of all who follow not him who is the light of the world,

and live without that charity which is the distinguish-

ing mark of the disciples of Christ *. Unbelievers may

have some glimmerings of light in their minds and con-

sciences, but these are not sufficient to keep them from

walking in darkness; their eyes are evil, and their whole

course of life is full of the darkness of ignorance and

error, of misery and sin.

So great is this darkness, that they often stumble and

wound themselves without knowing the cause of it, or

even that they are wounded; and hence arises their

ignorance of their need of healing. The wise are not

ignorant of Satan's devices, and when they fall they are

instructed to avoid the stumbling-block by which their

fall was occasioned; but it is the misery of fools walk-

ing in darkness, that being insensible to the means of

their seduction into sin, they fall again and again by

the same instruments of temptation. Instead of learn-

 

* John viii. 12. 1 John ii. 11, 12.


88        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

ing caution by their sins, one fall is the occasion of

another, and perhaps a worse.

There is indeed a great difference between the dark-

ness of their path, and that region of darkness to which

it 1eads. Their minds being blind, there is no light

within them; still, however, the light of Christ shines

around them, and they are called upon to give it ad-

mission *. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, O thou

that long dwellest in darkness! If you are deaf to the

voice of him who has come to shed light into your

souls, you know not when your feet may stumble

upon the dark mountains, and your souls drop into

the regions of eternal darkness, where there is not the

light of a candle to mitigate the horrors of the gloom.

If, after all that our wise instructor says, we still

chase the path of evil men, let us hear the sentence of

our Judge †.

This chapter is concluded with a short but compre-

hensive sum of practical directions; but before address-

ing them to us, the preacher again summons us to

attend.

Ver. 20-22. My son, attend to my words; incline

thine ear unto my sayings, Let them not depart from

thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For

they are life unto those that find them, and health to all

their flesh.

When a preacher has truths of great importance to

communicate, and sees many of his hearers asleep, he

endeavours to rouse them up; so this wise man, know-

ing that we are dull of hearing, frequently renews his

calls to us to hear and treasure up his words.

It is our duty to be frequently summoning the

powers of our souls to attend with reverence to the

word of God, our Maker and our Judge, and to pray

 

* John xii, 33. Eph, v. 14. Mat. viii. 16.      † John iii. 19, 20.


CHAP. IV.]          BOOK OF PROVERBS.            89

 

to God that he may open our ears to discipline, and

seal our instruction.

He that hath ears, let him hear. Let him place

these necessary instructions before his eyes, that they

may be a rule to his life, and let him lay them up in

the midst of his heart, believing them to be the faith-

ful sayings of God, and loving them with a cordial af-

fection, because they are more precious than gold, and

sweeter an honey from the comb.

The motives that call for our attention are ex-

ceedingly powerful. It is a father that speaks. The

things which are spoken are of quickening and in-

vigorating virtue. They are life to such as find

them, an health not only to the soul but to the body;

not to a particular part of it, but to all the flesh. A

medicine effectual to the cure of a single member might

soon enrich the inventor of it. Here is a medicine for

all the flesh, and yet the physician that prescribes it

without reward, finds so few willing to make use of it

that he must proclaim its virtues again and again. He

speaketh once and again, but man perceiveth it not.

Are we then dead not only to every generous principle,

but to every feeling of self-interest? Are life and

death become matters of indifference to us? Is it all

one in our eyes whether we enjoy health in our bodies

and spirit, or pine away under the power of deadly

distemper? Here is healing balm. Here is a physi-

cian of infinite value. Attend to the directions which

he gives for the management of our whole life.

He that is born of God keepeth himself, and the

wicked one toucheth him not. The Lord is our keeper;

and in the history of Peter we are furnished with a

melancholy proof, that unless he keep us, our care of

ourselves will be unavailing; but if we commit the care

of ourselves to God by a lively faith, it will not make

us careless about ourselves, for God keeps us by his


90        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

power through faith, by putting his fear into our

hearts, and by exciting into activity those beneficial

graces. If God keeps his fear alive in our hearts, we

shall be powerfully disposed to guard our hearts and

tongues, our eyes and feet from evil. We are here in-

structed by Solomon in what manner to manage this

important affair.

Ver. 23. Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of

it are the issues of life.

The heart is the fountain of vital action. It is out

of the good treasure of the heart that a good man brings

forth good things, and out of the evil treasure of the

heart that the evil man brings forth evil things. No

actions can be good unless the heart be good, more

than the fruit can be good when the tree is corrupt.

The heart of Simon Magus was not right with God,

and therefore his professions were hypocrisy. This

corrupt fountain must be purified by the Spirit of

Christ, or the streams issuing from it will be corrupt

and poisonous. But even when purified by renewing

grace, it is not altogether pure. Such is the remain-

ing tendency to corruption, that the heart must still be

kept with all diligence.

We ought carefully to keep our tongues and hands,

our eyes and feet; but above all, we ought to keep

our hearts. This will be the best means for keeping

all the rest, and without this, however well our exter-

nal behaviour is regulated, we are but corrupt and

false-hearted professors of religion *.

That our hearts may be kept, we must observe them

with a watchful eye, and endeavour to be well acquaint-

ed with their leading principles and their inward work-

ings. It is a shame for one who knows many things

 

* Psal. cxix. 80,


CHAP. IV.]           BOOK OF PROVERBS.               91

 

not to know himself, and the chief thing about our-

selves to be known is the heart.

With a strong hand must the heart be ruled; and it

ought to our constant endeavour to subject to the

word of be our every imagination and reasoning, every

opinion and thought, every inclination and affection.

A neglected garden will not be so full of weeds, as a

neglected soul of vain thoughts and exorbitant passions,

hateful to God, and dangerous to our own happiness

and peace.

The heart must also be guarded against those dan-

gers that perpetually threaten our best interests. It is

like a besieged city attacked by mighty and cunning

enemies, and in danger of being betrayed by a trea-

cherous within.

It is a great encouragement to us in performing this

difficult duty, that our labour shall not be in vain. Nu-

merous the promises made to us of assisting grace*,

and if we suffer from a surprise of the enemy, Christ

prays that our faith fail not.

The tongue is that member of the body which com-

municates most readily with the heart. For this reason

it is to be regarded as its most active instrument, either

for good or evil service; therefore, in the next place,—

Ver. 24. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and

perverse lips put far from thee.

A wry mouth is a great deformity to the counte-

nance; a perverse tongue is a more ugly blemish to

the conversation.

The tongue is a world of iniquity, and needs a world

of care to manage it. We must not only refrain from

evil discourse, but put it far from us, avoiding every

thought and feeling that might set an evil tongue in

motion, a refusing to listen to evil speakers, that we

 

*Ezek. xxxvi, 26. Jer. xxxii, 40.


92        EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP. IV.

 

may not be tempted by them to retail their infamous

orders.

It is a sad thing to think evil, for that corrupts our-

selves; but if we have done foolishly in thinking evil,

let us lay our hands upon our mouths, lest we corrupt

others also.

We must repent bitterly of evil imaginations, but

the manifestations of pardoning grace restore complete

comfort and calm serenity to the wounded spirit. But

when we have given our tongues a license, whereby

others also have been drawn into sin, we must remem-

ber that, though pardoning mercy may clear our con-

sciences from the terrors of guilt, deep remorse must

still be felt for the irreparable injury done to others.

Who can tell how far its baneful influence may have

spread?

The commandment of God must also give direction

to our eyes.

Ver. 25. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eye-

lids look straight before thee.

Sincere views in the course of our life to the great

end of our being is a necessary part of religion, and

without these there is no truth in our religious profes-

sion. The Pharisees abounded in prayers and giving of

alms; but the praise of men was in their eye, and our

Lord tells us that they had their reward. Their desire

was to be seen and honoured by men; that they no

doubt by their religion obtained, but it was all that

they obtained by it. Jehu thought himself a very

zealous man, but he took not heed to walk in the way

of the Lord with all his heart; and it is testified of

him that he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam all

his days. He did many good things, but his eyes

looked aside to his honour and profit. All the splendid

actions he performed, were but so many splendid sins.

None of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to him-


CHAP.IV.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS.                93

 

self. The glory of God must be our great aim, other-

wise it appears that redeeming grace has not taken

effect upon us.

Heaven is in the Christian's eye, and from it his

views must never be turned aside to the world *. No

doubt the enjoyments of the world may be sought by

us, but still in subordination to the hope of our call-

ing. Heaven is our home, earth our inn. If the

world be our home, we are not strangers and pilgrims

here, neither are we citizens of heaven †.

We must not, under the pretence of serving God,

make earthly motives our end, otherwise we are guilty

of that kind of sacrilege which is of all others the worst,

—that which consists in alienating God's own service

from him. It is not less dishonourable to God, when

in our zeal or the accomplishment of good ends, we

have recourse to means disapproved by him, for the

command of God combined with his glory must be kept

in our eye ‡

Our actions must be all ordered in the word of

God.

Ver. 26, 27. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all

thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor

to the left; remove thy foot from evil.

Consideration is one of those things in which man

excels the irrational animals, and it is absolutely neces-

sary in the religious life. If we shew not ourselves

men, we never please him, who made us wiser

than the beasts of the earth! If we walk not circum-

spectly, we can with no propriety be numbered among

the wise ||.

Our actions will be weighed by God in an even ba-

 

*Heb. xi. 25.              † Phil. iii. 18.-20.

‡ Job xiii. 7.-9, Rom. iii. 5.              || Eph. v. 15.


94               EXPOSITION OF THE              [CHAP. IV.

 

lance at last, and it is necessary for us to weigh them

now in the same balance. As we ought to compare

our past actions with the word of God, in order to

know what occasion there is for repentance; so in like

manner those which we design to perform, that we may

know whether it be lawful to perform them or not.

This is necessary for the direction and establishment

our ways. They that ponder not their paths are like

a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed; but

in the hearts of such as receive and apply it to the

cleansing of their way, the word of God has an estab-

lishing efficacy *.

Our ways ought to be stable and consistent. It is

disgraceful for men to have their religion modelled and

varied by their company and circumstances of life.

Let us resemble, not the osier, but the oak. Our good-

ness, if like the morning cloud, is no goodness at all,

for the path of the just is as the morning sun. To be

unstedfast in God's covenant, is to be treacherous to

God. The truly righteous man is faithful unto death.

His frames of mind may vary, and his steps may some-

times be seduced from the straight way, but the good

Spirit of God will restore his soul, and make him again

to walk in the paths of righteousness. David slipped

with his feet, and he once turned aside, yet could he

say in truth that he had not wickedly departed from

his God. He finished his course with joy, and receiv-

ed the crown of life.

It is dangerous to turn either to the left hand or the

right from the way of God's commandments. On each

side of the King's highway are those crooked paths,

which are full of precipices and pitfalls. Men may be

destroyed by being righteous, as well as by being

wicked overmuch. The Pharisees in the days of Christ's

 

* Psal. cxix. 9. 11.     Eph. iv. 14.


CHAP. IV.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS.             95

 

flesh, sinned as much by adding to God's law as by

taking from it. To add to God's precepts, is a reflec-

tion upon the wisdom of the Lawgiver; to violate them,

is an insult upon his authority. It commonly happens,

that when men have the presumption to make some

new articles of religion, they make compensation to

themselves for their additional restraints on their liber-

ty, by straitening the law of God in some other points,

and thus make it on the whole much easier to flesh

and blood, than it was made by God.

Our foot must be removed from all evil. Sin must

not be indulged in thought, word, or action. No de-

gree of this abominable thing is to be allowed in our

practice. Saints have fallen into some of the greatest

sins, but is inconsistent with holiness to take liberty

in the 1east *. Even the garment spotted by the flesh

must be hated by us.

From this whole directory, we may see our need of

pardoning mercy; for which of us can say, "We have

made our hands clean, or kept our tongues from every

evil thing?" But the blood of Jesus is a fountain open-

ed to cleanse from all sin.

Without renewing grace, our labour in guarding our

hearts, and restraining our tongues and feet from evil,

will be as vain as to attempt washing an Ethiopian

white. The old heart cannot be reformed, but God

hath promised to give us a new heart, and to put a new

spirit wit us.

With our vigilance, faith and prayer must be

joined †.

 

* Mat. v. 19.               † Psal. xvi. 5. 1vi. 12, 13
96               EXPOSITION OF THE             [CHAP. V.

 

 

CHAPTER V.

 

THE wise man gives us this chapter, as an antidote

against those youthful lusts by which so many are

ensnared. Let such as are tempted by their own hearts,

or by the agents of Satan, to sins of uncleanness, se-

riously consider its contents, and pray that God may

bless them for their benefit. None of us are superior

to all temptations of this nature; let us therefore give

heed to the things that are spoken, in order to repre-

sent the danger and mischief of impurity, and to shew

us in what manner to avoid it.

Ver. 1, 2. My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow

thine ear unto my understanding: That thou mayest

regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep know-

ledge.

The wisdom which Solomon teaches in this chapter

cost him dear; but if we attend to his instructions, we

shall have them at an easy rate. It may save us much

bitter repentance, and preserve us from some of the

most dreadful dangers; for it will teach us that spiri-

ual subtilty and discretion, by which, like David, we

shall become wiser than our enemies, and be enabled

to escape their snares.

Attention will enable us to keep knowledge in our

hearts, for a wanton imagination, ever dictating cor-

rut conversation to the lips, proves the beginning of

ruin to many of the sons of men. They accustom

the selves to speak of things not fit to be named among

Christians; and from foolish talking, and impure


CHAP. V.]          BOOK OF PROVERBS.                97

 

jesting, by which they corrupt themselves and their

companions, they proceed to the works of darkness.

When the word of God enters into our hearts, it

will banish all pollution from the tongue, and dispose

us to entertain our companions with that discourse

which is good for the use of edifying. Thus our own

hearts will be more deeply impressed, God will be

honoured and other men guarded against the snares of

the destroyer.

Now it is of great importance for men, especially

in their  younger days, to furnish themselves with pre-

servative from that word which is able to keep us,

against the snares of the strange woman. Solomon had

already warned us against her; but he is directed by

God to do it a second time at greater length.

Ver. 8. For the lips of a strange woman drop as an

honey-comb and her mouth is smoother than oil.

She talks of nothing but love, and pleasure, and

perpetual delights. To hear her, one would suppose

that she possessed the most generous and disinterested

spirit. Her tongue is taught by him who betrayed

Eve to paint the vilest sin with the most beautiful co-

lours, an to conceal all its deformity and danger; but

it is the part of a reasonable creature to look beyond

the present moment, and to consider the end of things,

as well as their beginning. There is sweetness indeed

in the mouth of this strange woman,

Ver. 4. But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a

two-edge sword.

The venom and sting of a serpent is concealed under

the honey of her lips. Those who repent of their un-

cleanness will experience far more bitterness than ever

they tasted pleasure, in their unlawful gratifications.

But few get so well off, and if persons continue har-

dened; the end is more bitter than death. it is like a

 

 


98                    EXPOSITION OF THE         [CHAP.V.

 

two-edged sword, which wounds and destroys

both soul and body at once.

Ver. 5. Her feet go down, to death, her steps take

hold on hell.

She is on the highway to eternal ruin, and thither

she is carrying those that listen to her bewitching

voice. Her house is in the suburbs of the place of de-

struction, and her steps take hold of hell. David was

in great fear when he said to his friend, "As the Lord

liveth, there is but a step between me and death." But

there is not even this small interval between the steps

of the strange woman and hell. They already take

hold of it. But may not persons, when they see this

danger before their eyes, make a timely retreat to the

paths of life? No. In most cases this is not to be ex-

pected.

Ver. 6. Lest thou shouldst ponder the path of life,

her ways are moveable that thou canst not know them.

When men enter into a course of sin, they have no

intention to be damned. They intend only to indulge

the selves in the pleasures of sin for a time, and then

to return to the paths of life. Millions of souls have

been seduced to everlasting destruction by this one

temptation of the old serpent,— "Ye shall not die al-

though you eat; grace is free, and there is abundance

of time to repent." The wise man gives what may re-

pel is temptation, by letting us know how foolish it

is for men to flatter themselves with the hope, that

they shall be truly disposed and enabled to repent of

their sin.

“Her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know

them." She can form her mode of behaviour into a

hundred different shapes, to entangle the heart of the

lover. She spreads a thousand snares, and if you es-

cape one of them, you will find yourself held fast by

another. She knows well how to suit her words and


CHAP.V]          BOOK OF PROVERBS.                  99

 

behaviour to your present humour, to lull conscience

asleep, and to spread before your eyes such a mist, as

shall prevent you from being able to descry the paths

of life. If you ever think of the danger of your course,

and feel the necessity of changing it, she will urge you

to spend a little time longer in the pleasures of sin. If

her solicitations prevail, if you linger within the pre-

cincts of guilt, your resolutions are weakened, and

your passions gain new strength. What is the awful

result? The devil obtains more influence; conscience,

forcibly repressed, ceases to reclaim with so loud a voice;

God gives you up to the lusts of your own heart, and

leaves you to chuse your own delusions. Attend, then,

to the wisest of men, who instructs you to keep free of

these dangerous temptations.

Ver. 7. Hear me now, therefore, O ye children, and

depart not from the words of my mouth.

If a father saw his son walking on the edge of a pre-

cipice, how greatly would he be alarmed! how loud

would be his cries! And if the adventurous youth still

kept his dangerous post, he would fly to him, and

try to force him from the brink of destruction. No

less earnest is this kind instructor to save us from im-

pending ruin. His words are cries; they have life and

power in them. He is deaf who will not attend; he is

stuborn who will not comply.

Ver. 8. Remove thy way far from her, and come not

nigh the door of her house.

But what need is there for so much preciseness?

May not a man be permitted to talk with her, merely

by way of amusement? Is it unlawful to drink a glass

in her house, and to satisfy our curiosity by observing

what passes in it, and by what arts she contrives to se-

duce those who are less established in virtue than our-

selves? Yes; it is unlawful to have the least corres-

pondence with her. By the requirements of the cere-


100               EXPOSITION OF THE             [CHAP. V.

 

monial law, no man was to be in the same house with

a leper. The moral law forbids us to enter into a house

full of the leprosy of sin. Her house is full of snares,

and her hands are as bands. The devil glances in her

smiles and lurks in her dress and in her motions. He

is there, ready to discharge at you his fiery darts of

temptation; and to aid his efforts, you have much com-

bustible matter about you. Dare you then promise

yourself that the fire of licentious passion shall not be

kindled, and blown up into a flame that you cannot

quench. The devil will tempt you enough without

own help. To tempt is his business. As you

love your life and your own soul, give him no assist-

ance in the work of destruction.

Ver .9-11. Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and .

thy years unto the cruel; lest strangers be filled with thy

wealth, and thy labours be in the house of a stranger;

mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body

are consumed.

A good name is better than precious ointment, but

of a good name this abominable sin is the ruin. The

credit of David and of Solomon was greatly sunk by it.

By it has the honour of thousands been irrecoverably

lost.

Life is a great blessing, and may be regarded as the

foundation of every earthly blessing. But unclean

persons part with every thing that renders life worthy

of the name, and in a literal sense, they often give

their years unto the cruel. Their lives are lost in the

pursuit of this sin by the just vengeance of God, by its

native consequences, or by the accidents to which it ex-

pose those who practise it.

And for what are these years given away? Did men

generously part with their lives in the defence of their

country or for the sake of a generous friend, the loss

would be amply compensated by honour, and by the

 

 


CHAP. V.]                  BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   101

 

pleasure of a good conscience. But how infatuated are

they to give their years unto the cruel, who conceal

a selfish and malignant heart under the mask of love!

All unlawful love is hatred, and all tempters to it are

cruel enemies to our happiness. Shall we then gratify

inhuman enemies, at the expense of honour and life,

and every thing dear to us?

            The false friends and malicious enemies rob you

of your honour and life, with as much eagerness as if

they could enjoy these precious blessings of which you

are deprived. Their real views, however, are direct-

ed to your money or estate, and why should men give

away fruits of their own labour and toil? or if

they wish to be rid of them, why should strangers be

filled with them, rather than friends?

            Some are so foolish, as to live in the lust of un-

cleanness, to save the necessary expences of a family.

But observation, as well as Scripture, might convince

them of their error. The followers of vice are often at-

tacked by poverty, that comes upon them like an armed

man; and how distressing is poverty to those who

have indulged themselves in lewd courses, contracted

insatiable desires after carnal pleasure, deprived them-

selves of their friends, and disqualified themselves for

any business that might retrieve their circumstances,

or supply their wants!

            Poverty is still more distressing when it is attended

by weakness and disease, the natural consequences

which Providence has annexed to those courses by

which men dishonour God and themselves.

            When the body is tortured, and the spirits dejected

by the loathsome distempers which sin brings in its

train, their conscience, which was formerly trampled

under foot, rises up and regains its power, and in-

flicts severe vengeance for the injuries it has received.

Then, O profligate sinner! thou wilt mourn--


102                             EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. V.

 

            Ver. 12-14.  And say, How have I hated instruc-

tion, and my heart despised reproof; and have not

obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to

them that instructed me!  I was almost in all evil in the

midst of the congregation and assembly.

            Religion has received many testimonies in its favour

from enemies, whose hearts have at last forced them to

curse the day when they were so mad, as to turn a

deaf ear to its friendly voice.

            The word of God read and preached, is God's ap-

pointed means of keeping or reclaiming men from sin,

and a Christian land the votaries of vice are rebels

against the light. They are, to their own loss, fatally

successful in fighting against that God who opposes

their wickedness by the sword of the Spirit, which is

the Word of God, written by prophets and apostles,

and preached by the ministers of God.

            It is not in vain for ministers, and parents, and tu-

tors, to use means for acquainting young persons with

the Scripture, and imprinting it upon their hearts.

The confession of profligates, when arrived at the end

of their career, makes it evident, that if any thing would

have proved effectual to preserve them from ruin, it

would have been the instructions and reproofs of

teachers.  Such means have no doubt been the instru-

ments of preserving many, and reclaiming some.

            The confession of the wretch tortured by his con-

science, is not introduced by the inspired sage as the

humble confession of a penitent, who looks for pardon

through the merits of Christ.  How greatly are they

deluded who think that misery can produce true re-

pentance, or that sorrow pressed out of the soul by dis-

tress of body and anguish of conscience, are signs of

real grace!  Persons may cry out of their folly, and

warn others, and beg others to pray for them; and


CHAP. V.]                  BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   103

 

yet, like Simon Magus, remain all the while in the

gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.

            Sinners who will not comply with the calls of God,

may now make them the object of their scorn; but at

the latter end, when conscience shall preach with a

voice louder than any minister, sorrow shall be their

inevitable portion. Then, in the breasts of desperate

sinners, despised admonitions shall burn like raging

fire. Then shall multitudes of iniquities, once over-

looked, present themselves like so many dismal appari-

tions to the eyes of the sinner, and make him a terror to

himself.

            The pleasure derived from the present moment is

nothing.  Our enjoyment is derived from the recollec-

tion of the past, or from the prospect of what is to

come.  Sensualists cannot flatter themselves so gross-

ly, as to fetch any pleasure from that part of life which

they have already spent, but their hopes are ever on

the wing to seize on anticipated pleasure. It frequent-

ly happens, that when their course is run, and hope

can no longer be indulged, their attention is forced

back on the scenes of life, through which they have

already passed.  When in this manner they are brought

to recollect the numberless sins, to the commission of

which their various dispositions have led them, and to

forebode the punishments that await them, their souls

are convulsed with remorse, and horror takes full pos-

session of them:  "Wretched creatures that we are!

Our impetuous passions have hurried us into all wick-

ednesses, those only excepted which our powers were

too feeble and narrow to add to the rest. Would to

God we had been brutes, or could yet have our por-

tion with them, to be turned for ever into earth and

rottenness!  O that we had been heathens, and had

never heard the gospel of Christ, and the law of the

Most Holy!  Our abominable iniquities are dreadfully


104                             EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. V.

 

aggravated by the opportunities we have had of being

present in the assemblies of Zion, and receiving the in-

structions and reproofs of life.  Instead of deriving

benefit from the ordinances of God's worship and the

communion of saints, we have exposed ourselves to

the reproach of the whole assembly of the pious.  By

our example we have grieved some, and caused others

to stumble.  Our hell must be heated seven times

more than the hell of heathens!”

            The words in the 14th verse may be translated, In

a moment I am in all evil, &c.  ‘I am suddenly pu-

nished with all the plagues threatened by the minis-

ters of God, and made a spectacle of misery and horror

to the whole congregation.'  It is an aggravation of

that misery which is the fruit of a man's own ways,

when publicity is one of its attendant circumstances*.

            They who will not believe the threatenings of God

shall feel them.  There are no free-thinkers in hell,

and but few on a death-bed.  How happy are they

who are preserved by the grace of God from laying up

treasures of wrath against the last days, and planting

thorns to line their death-bed pillows!

            To avoid uncleanness, let every man have his own

wife, and let him love her as himself.  This remedy

against such a vice Solomon illustrates in a beautiful

allegory.

            Ver. 15-19.  Drink waters out of thine own cistern,

and running waters out of thine own well.  Let thy foun-

tains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the

streets.  Let them be only thine own, and not strangers

with thee.  Let thy fountain be blessed, and rejoice with

the wife of thy youth.  Let her be as the loving hind and

pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times, and

be thou ravished always with her love.

 

                        * Isa.  lxvi, 24.


CHAP. V.]                  BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   105

 

            Children are in the language of Scripture sometimes

compared to waters*.  We find Solomon in this pas-

sage comparing both wife and children to fountains;

for there is as great a difference between the joys of

lawful and unlawful love, as there is between the wa-

ters of a clear spring, and those which are drunk out

of an impure and poisonous stream.

            Let every man, to avoid fornication, have his own

wife.  Then may he reasonably expect to have child-

ren who shall be like olive plants around his table, or

like fountains dispersed in the streets, pleasant to others,

and likely to become one day comforts to their neigh-

bours as well as to their parents.  Is not this far bet-

ter than to have a bastard progeny imposed on him,

which he does not know, and yet cannot deny to be his

own?

            Husbands ought to praise God for virtuous wives,

and to observe their good qualities, and call them

blessed.  They ought to love them as themselves, to

wear a cheerful countenance in their company, to take

pleasure in them as the companions of their youth, to

rejoice in their love, and to treat them with the tender-

est affection.  They ought to view them with feelings

of delight.  The pleasant roes are the delight of their

masters, who are charmed with that bland and insinu-

ating manner of behaviour which nature teaches them.

Much more may it be expected, that this human crea-

ture will be dear to our souls, whom God has given

us to be the solace of our lives.  In old age, when their

beauty fades, the kindness of youth is to be retained

for them, more especially if they retain those amiable

virtues which fade not with the complexion of the

countenance.

            Wives are to be hated in comparison with Christ;

 

                        * Isa. xlviii. 1.

 


106                             EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. V.

 

but the sake of Christ, they are to be loved with

an affection so ardent, that other women, however

beautiful, may appear in their presence like painted

flowers*.

            It is the duty and the interest of wives, to be adorned

with those beauties which will render easy the duties

which their husbands owe them. It is indeed the

duty of husbands to love their wives, for the sake of

God's command, and Christ's example; but it is very

difficult to love, where this pleasant affection is not en-

gaged by lovely qualities in the object. Why should

husbands and wives tempt one another to sin against

God to their own prejudice?

            This cordial love in the married state, will produce

pleasures far sweeter than were ever found in unlawful

love; and what chiefly recommends them is, that they

have no sting attending them, and give no offence to

God, our Witness and our Judge.

            Ver. 20, 21.  And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished

with strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stran-

ger?  For the ways of man are before the eyes of the

Lord, and he pondereth all his goings.

            Is it a pleasure to men to affront their Judge, and to

provoke the vengeance of an Almighty arm? Will

they prefer these poor, and spiritless, and unsatisfying

pleasures which he forbids, to those pure delights

which are licensed by his goodness? Remember, sin-

ners, that God is present in your close retreats of

wickedness! You see him not, because you are blind,

but your stupidity cannot banish an omnipresent Deity;

your bars and bolts cannot exclude him who fills hea-

ven and earth. Darkness hideth not from him of

whom it is said, "The day is thine, the night also is

thine.” Why should men dare to affront Jehovah,

 

                        * Eph. v. 28-32.

 


CHAP. V.]                  BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   107

 

their Maker and their Judge, by doing that in his

presence, which they would be ashamed to do in the

presence of a child? God will not be mocked. He

will punish the wanton glance, and the lascivious

thought. Where, then, shall they appear who indulge

themselves in acts of criminality? Will a thief steal in

the presence of the judge, and yet hope to escape ven-

geance? And shall abandoned sinners flatter them-

selves with the thought of escaping the damnation of

hell, from Him who will come to judgment, and will

be a swift witness against adulterers*?

            Sinners think that they will repent, after having for

a while enjoyed the pleasures of sin,--pitiable delu-

sion!

            Ver. 22. His own iniquities shall take the wicked him-

self, and he shall be holden with the cords of his own sins.

            Sinners will find, when too late, if wonderful mercy

prevent not, that the sorrow which springs from self-

love, is a very different thing from repentance, and

that it is not so easy a matter as the devil told them,

to venture their salvation in the hands of a Redeemer.

They look upon saints as slaves who live an unpleasant

life, but time will convince them, since admonition can-

not, that themselves are the slaves, bound in the strong-

est and most ignominious chains. They are fettered

by vicious affections, and they have neither power nor

will to assert their liberty. The cords of their own

sins shall hold them fast, till they are cast into that

prison from whence there is no release.

            This is a wretched condition, but they may thank

themselves. Their own hands forged the chains which

are rivetted upon them. They refused that glorious

liberty proclaimed to them in the word of Christ.

            The sinner flattered himself that he did not refuse

redemption, he only delayed the acceptance of it. But

 

                        * Mal. iii. 3.  Heb. xiii. 4.


108                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. V.

 

such delays are refusals in God's estimation. To the

sinner they are for the most part fraught with ruin.

            Ver. 28. He shall die without instruction; and in the

greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

            He despised instruction during life, and he shall die

without it. He expected, that when his mortal career

should draw near its close, good ministers should at-

tend him and pray with him. He shall either want

that comfort, or it is to be feared that it will not be

blessed to him. None but God can awaken a sleeping

and stupified conscience; and when it is awakened,

its clamours drown the voice of him who says, "Be-

lieve Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

            In his amazing folly, he goes astray in his crooked

ways, and is led forth in the first rank of the workers

of iniquity*.

            Let those who are not yet tainted by this vice bless

God, and let them watch and pray. Let the guilty

tremble and mourn; yet despair not. The arm that

rescued Solomon is not weakened. The blood that

cleansed the Corinthian whoremongers has lost none of

its virtue.

 

 

 

 

                                    CHAPTER VI.

 

 

In this chapter we are cautioned by the wise man,

against rash suretiship, idleness, mischievousness, and

especially against impurity, together with a variety of

other sins, exceedingly hateful to God.

 

                        * 2 Pet. ii. 11.

 


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS                    109

 

            The first five verses contain a warning against sure-

tiship.

            Ver. 1, 2. My son, if thou be surety for thy friend,

if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, thou art

snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with

the words of thy mouth.

            God graciously directs our temporal affairs by his

providence, and condescends, in his word, to give us

instructions concerning them. If we regard not these,

we need not be surprised though his providence con-

vince us, by dear-bought experience, of our folly and

sin.

            He forbids us to become surety, even for a friend,

(except for some weighty reason,) and to strike hands

with a stranger, in token of our becoming bound for

our friend’s debts. Men who think only of the present

time, are generally too rash in undertaking; but they

ought to remember, that the time to come is before

them, and will be present time when the time now

present is past. If the money were to be paid just

now, they would hesitate and deliberate before acting,

lest they should wrong their families; but Solomon

tells them, that men may ensnare and entangle them-

selves with the words of their mouths, as well as with

the works of their hands.

            This consideration may alarm those who have al-

ready implicated themselves by such engagements.

This kind teacher, therefore, puts them on a plan to

get free.

            Ver. 3. Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when

thou art come into the hand of thy friend: go, humble thy-

self and make sure thy friend.

            By rash suretiship, you put yourself into the power,

not only of the creditor, but of the debtor, for whom

you are bound. You lie at his mercy. He has it in

his power to make you smart severely for your foolish


110                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

kindness to him. The world is full of complaints

about ungrateful men, who have basely abused, to the

prejudice of their benefactors, the goodness they

have experienced. Endeavour, therefore, by the

humblest behaviour toward your friend, to induce him

to take the proper steps to bring you out of your pre-

sent embarrassed situation; for if you peevishly re-

flect on him as the means of bringing you into it,

he may be provoked to use his advantage to your

loss.

            The wise man is very urgent with his scholars to

take this step.

            Ver. 4, 5. Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slum-

ber to thine eye-lids. Deliver thyself as a roe from

the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of

the fowler.

            A roe and a bird are creatures destitute of reason,

yet when entrapped by the arts of the sportsman, they

will try every method of escape, and make no delay

in using every effort for regaining their freedom. May

not equal prudence and attention to their own interests,

be expected from reasonable creatures!

            But what is the great importance of this precept, that

Solomon will not allow his disciple to rest till he is free

from these rash engagements? Has this precept any

connection with our spiritual interest? It has. It is a

part of the eighth commandment, and though men re-

gard it rather as a loss than a sin to endanger their out-

ward estate, it is both a sin and a temptation. Men

who once seemed upright in their dealings, have

brought reproach upon religion, by living and dying

in other men's debt, and by having recourse to unjus-

tifiable methods, suggested by distress, to relieve them-

selves.

            The effect of suretiship, even with the most upright

men, has often proved hurtful to their souls, embitter-


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   111

 

ing their days, and unfitting them for the cheerful

services of religion. It has not unfrequently ren-

dered them unable to perform those services to God

and to his church, for the sake of which a competency

of the good things of life is to be valued. We are the

servants of Christ, and must not disqualify ourselves

for his service, by making ourselves needlessly the ser-

vants of men.

            The precept here given may remind us, how foolish

it is for us to make ourselves debtors to divine justice,

to please any friend in the world. When one tempts

you to commit any sin, however small, consider whe-

ther it would be wise in you to make yourselves debt-

ors even to man on his account.

            As we are all in debt to God, let us give no sleep to

our eyes, till we implore his mercy. How powerful

must be that lethargy which closes in sleep eyes that

shall awake in hell, if another day of life is not granted

by the abused long-suffering of God! We may be asha-

med to humble ourselves to our friends, or our applica-

tions to them may be fruitless. But God is equally glo-

rious in majesty and mercy. He delights in forgiving

thousands of talents.

            The wise man next proceeds to warn us against the

vice of sluggishness, to which he was a constant

enemy.

            Ver. 6. Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her

ways, and be wise.

            God has taught us more than the beasts of the earth,

and made us wiser than the fowls of heaven. But the

sluggard equals not in wisdom the least of insects.

He complains that he is not able to work, but has

he less strength than an emmet? "The ants, (says an-

other wise man), are a people not strong, yet they pre-

pare their meat in the summer;” they therefore shall

be his judges.

 


112                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

            Why has God made such a multitude of creatures,

that are of no use to man? Why has he made some

that destroy his property? This is a vain question.

We are sure that God has made them all in wis-

dom, and that he has made some of them teachers of

wisdom to us. The ant devours some part of our

sustenance, but it will pay us well for it, if we are

wise enough to improve by its lessons. Every ant-hill

is a school, and the wisest of men gives these little

animals a testimonial, recommending their instructions

to us. That man makes a god of his belly, who thinks

no creature of anyuse to us but such as gives us its flesh

to eat, or its labour to provide for our sustenance or

comfort. The wisdom which some of them teach is

far more valuable than the food with which they sup-

ply us.

            Other creatures are teachers to us as well as the ant.

Look on the whole brutal creation, O atheist! and

confess their Maker. Go to the oxen and the asses, O

unthankful man! and be wise to acknowledge thy

Benefactor. Consider the fowls of the air, ye that are

of little faith, and trust the providence of God!

            Why does the wise man single out the ant as a

teacher of wisdom to the sluggard? Agur gives us one

reason in the 30th chapter of this book,—their weak-

ness, which may render the sluggard ashamed of his

silly excuses. Another reason we find assigned by So-

lomon in this place.

            Ver. 7, 8. Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her

food in the harvest.

            The bees are a very industrious people, but they

have a queen to require their labour, and if she dies

they will work no more. The ant has no guide to set

her example, no overseer to inspect her work, no

ruler to exact her task; and yet she neglects not a day

 


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   113

 

in summer, when the roads are clean and the sky

clear; or in harvest, when the grain can be had in

plenty. She improves every opportunity to store up

provisions, that she may spend in comfort the days of

cold and scarcity. And what is the result of all her

toil? In winter she enjoys plenty, when other creatures

are pinched with poverty, or perish with cold and

hunger.

            We have guides to set us a good example. We have

overseers and rulers appointed us by the King of

nations and the King of Zion. Yet how many slug-

gards are to be found among us, who spend their days

in vanity! They are like butterflies, which wanton

away the best days of their existence, when they ought

to be like ants, suffering no summer day to pass un-

improved.

            These little animals have knowledge of the times,

and are wise to improve opportunities. They join with

the stork, and the crane, and the swallow, in reprov-

ing those who know not the judgment of the Lord, and

neglect the duty of the day in its day.

            There are sluggards who bring misery upon them-

selves in this world. There are far more who bring

eternal misery upon their souls, by neglecting the hap-

py opportunities afforded them by the long-suffering of

the Lord, or securing their everlasting interests. They

see many days of the Son of man, and enjoy the beams

of the Sun of righteousness. They are called with a

loud voice to arise and shine, but they are less con-

cerned about an everlasting duration of happiness or

misery, than the despised ant about the provisions of a

few months. How will they mourn at the last, and

say, "The summer is past, and the harvest is ended,

and we are not saved!"

            The sluggard will not awake from his sleep to go and

 


114                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

learn wisdom, but the wise man goes to him to break

his slumbers.

            Ver. 9. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard! when

wilt thou awake out of thy sleep?

            It is a great waste of time, to spend in sleep more

hours than are necessary. Yet from the prac-

tice of how many does it appear, that they have adopt-

ed the maxim of the Indians,—That rest is better than

work, and lying better than sitting, and sleeping bet-

ter than waking, and death better than life!

            It is a shame for men to give up to sleep a third part

of their time, but it is not less so to spend our waking

hours in doing nothing, or in doing what is as unprofit-

able. All the world would despise a man who should

keep his bed from morning till night, though in the

possession of perfect health; but in what respect is he

better employed, who trifles away in idleness every

hour of the day? He is still worse, for want of employ-

ment and weariness of life will lead him to seek relief

in impertinent and mischievous talk, or in sensual in-

dulgencies, or in meddling with the matters of others.

            If a man of rank should come to the sleeper's bed-

side while he is dozing away the morning-hours, and

should call him to rise, it might be expected that

he would be covered with confusion, and instantly

shake off the bands of slumber; but here the wise king

comes and draws aside his curtains, and expostulates

with him, —"How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard!”

The sluggard's ears are heavy with sleep, and cannot

hear. Solomon cries again, "When wilt thou awake

out of thy sleep?" Does the sluggard now hear?

The voice is loud enough to pierce his ears, but he

hears as if he heard not. He is nailed to his bed by

sloth , and though conscious that he should arise and

walk, he pleads hard for a little delay.

 


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   115

 

            Ver. 10. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little

folding of the hands to sleep.

            He forms some faint resolutions to awake, and it is

only a short respite from that torment that he begs—"a

little sleep.” If that is too much—"a little slumber;"

or if even that cannot be granted, "a little folding of

the hands to sleep," is but a moderate request.

            The sluggard himself cannot vindicate his sloth, and

is resolved to shake it off, only he will not do it pre-

sently. From time to time he defers the hated refor-

mation, and what is the consequence?

            Ver. 11. So shall thy poverty come as one that travel-

leth, and thy want as an armed man.

            The house of the sluggard is the haunt of poverty,

and it comes not like an invited guest, whose visit is ex-

pected, but like a traveller, whose approach is unfore-

seen. It comes like an armed man, and gains an easy

victory over the naked and slumbering sluggard.

Had he been awake and busy, he might easily have

defended himself against its assaults.

            Sleep, sloth, and delay, are the thieves of time. By

them vigorous bodies have been often enervated, shining

talents covered with rust, estates melted into nothing;

and what is a thousand times worse, millions of souls

have been betrayed into perdition. The Spirit of God

says, "To-day, if ye will hear his voice." The slug-

gard is not at leisure to-day, but he will hear it to-mor

row. To-morrow comes, but the cause of this delay

still exists. A thousand to-morrows pass away, and

the sluggard is never awakened to wisdom. At last

the king of terrors seizes him with irresistible violence,

and hurries him to that place of darkness where there

is no work, nor device, nor counsel. The soul must

then appear before the awful Judge; and what excuse

can be made for these delays of complying with the

voice of the great God? If a king were to call us to

 


116                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

come to him, in order to receive some great favour at

his hands, we surely would not shew so little respect

to royalty, and so little regard to our own interest, as

to defer from day to day compliance with the kind in-

vitation. Is the majesty of earthly princes so much

revered by us? Yet to the majesty of heaven's great

Lord, it bears only the same proportion that a spark

does to the sun.

            The idle man is bad, but the mischievous man is still

worse; but indeed it generally happens, that he who

is enslaved by the one of these vices, becomes in pro-

cess of time the slave of the other also.

            Ver. 12-15. A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh

with a froward mouth. He winketh with his eyes, he

speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers: Fro-

wardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually;

he soweth discord. Therefore shall his calamity come

suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.

            The mischievous person casts off the yoke of God,

but he remains the willing and active servant of the

devil. He rebels against God beyond his might, and

beyond nature presses the members of his body into

the service of iniquity. He not only speaks, but walks

with a froward tongue, making a constant trade of

slandering his neighbours, and spreading dissension.

His tongue is a world of iniquity, and yet it does not

serve him sufficiently for expressing the wickedness of

his heart. To supply its defects, therefore, he makes

artificial tongues of his eyes, his fingers, and his feet.

By winking with his eyes, by stamping with his feet,

and by pointing with his fingers, he shews the scorn

and the malice which he bears towards others, and

conveys his instructions to his accomplices in wicked-

ness.

            It is the malice of his heart that employs all the

members of his body, as the instruments of his un-

 


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   117

 

righteousness. His heart overflows with malignity,

and is still running over into the words and works of

mischief. The greatest miser takes some rest to his

body, from the toils by which he expects to enrich

himself; but the heart of this profligate wretch takes

no rest from the contrivances of wickedness. He is

perpetually torturing his own brain, in devising me-

thods for destroying the happiness and the peace of

others.

            What will be the end of a fiend like this? He shall,

while dreaming of success in his hellish plans, fall a

prey to some unexpected calamity. He may possibly

flatter himself with the intention of repenting of his

misdeeds, before called to that war in which there is

no discharge; but he is suddenly and irremediably

broken. He lived like a devil clothed with flesh, and

his soul shall be chased out of his body, to dwell with

its kindred devils. He that does evil to others, does a

thousand times greater hurt to himself.

            O my soul! come not thou into the secret of such

creatures. Blessed be God, who checks that corrup-

tion which abounds in the hearts of men, and makes

the earth a habitable world. Who could live an hour

in peace, if God did not provide for our safety, by his

all-governing providence? To this must our safety be

all ascribed, since evil spirits, numerous and crafty,

constantly traverse our earth, and men whose hearts

are filled with all iniquity, abound on the face of it*.

            The mischievous man is a compound of vices ab-

horred by the Lord.

            Ver. 16-19. These six things doth the Lord hate;

yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look,

a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood: An

heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift

 

                        * Rom. iii. 10-18.

 


118                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

in running to mischeif: A false witness that speaketh lies,

and him that soweth discord among brethren.

            Every sin is hateful to God. The sins enumerated

in this passage are not mentioned, because there are

not others as hateful to God, but because they are

nearly allied to that vice which had been last repro-

bated by the wise man, and are generally found in the

character of the mischievous person. They are all ab-

horred by him who is the guardian of his creatures,

and the avenger of injuries done to his saints.

            Pride leads the van of this troop of iniquities. Its

palace is the heart, but its throne is erected in the eye,

whence it looks with disdain upon men, and lours

defiance towards Heaven. The proud man is not only

a rebel to God, but a usurper of his dignity. He

would be a God to men, but the living and true God

looks upon him with contempt and indignation, and

spurns him into hell*.

            A lying tongue is abhorred by men, because it tends

to the dissolution of society. The devil was a liar

from the beginning, and is the father of lies. It is by

means of lying that this adversary of man carries on

his work. The God of truth hates liars. He has bar-

red the gates of heaven fast against them, for none of

them are his people†.

            Murder is a crime against which the first law enact-

ed after the fall was passed‡. Providence seldom

suffers it to escape unpunished in this world. Mighty

tyrants, who shed the blood of the innocent without

fear of human vengeance, escape not punishment from

the King of nations. The wicked Emperors of Rome;

and many persecuting and bloody kings, are instances

of this truth. They shed the blood of men, and God

 

* Chap. iii. 32.           † John viii. 44.  Rev. xxi. 27.  Isa. lxiii. 8.

                                                ‡ Gen. ix. 5.

 


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   119

 

gave them blood to drink. That murder which lies

hidden in the heart, or breaks forth only in the tongue,

escapes not the eye and the vengeance of the Almighty*.

            The first motions of sin in the hearts of men are of-

fensive to God. How greatly then must he abhor that

heart, which employs itself in contriving wickedness,

and forms deliberate purposes of sin! A royal cham-

ber, filled, like that of Pharaoh, with frogs and vermin,

is not so loathsome as a human heart, that should be

the residence of God, filled with evil imaginations and

hellish contrivances. It may well be called, like Ba-

bylon in ruins, a habitation of devils, and a hold of

every unclean and foul spirit.

            Sin is bad enough when men venture upon it with

reluctance and fear, but when they are cheerful in the

practice of it, and thus run swiftly to mischief, it is a

sign that they are veterans in the devil's army, and

have in a great degree conquered their consciences.

The feet of such transgressors shall slide in due time,

for the things that shall come upon them make greater

haste than their feet can possibly do, either to do evil,

or to escape the punishment which is their due.

            A false witness that speaketh lies, is the most dan-

gerous pet of human society. Who can insure any

man's life or fortune, or character against his tongue,

which is like a two-edged sword, or against his throat,

which is an open sepulchre, to swallow up every thing

dear to men? But the God whose awful name is pro-

faned by these enemies of mankind, holds them in ab-

horrence, and will by no means permit them to escape

punishment†.

            The sowers of discord among brethren, are worse

than those who set fire to the houses of their neigh-

bours. They kindle flames which burn with unre-

 

            * I John iii. 19.  Matt. v. 22. † Psal. xxxvi. 4.

 


120                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

lenting fury, and set on fire families and provinces,

and sometimes even nations themselves. They not

only sin, but, like Jeroboam the son of Nebat, they

cause multitudes to sin, destroying that charity which

is the soul of every commandment, and disseminating

those corrupt passions, which prove incentives to all

the works of mischief. The God whose command-

ments are all included in love, and who sent his Son

to be our peace, cannot but abhor these sons of Belial.

Surely he will make their mischiefs to recoil with an

awful vengeance upon their own heads.

            The wise man proceeds again to warn us against the

snares of the strange woman; but first he renews his

call to attend to those instructions which are the only

effectual preventives from her dangerous artifices.

            Ver. 20-21. My son, keep thy father's commandment,

and forsake not the law of thy mother. Bind them con-

tinually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

            The inspired writer takes it for granted, that the

instructions of parents will correspond with the law of

God. Can it be supposed that parents will give stones

instead of bread, or serpents instead of wholesome

nourishment, to their children? If they do, they are

not to be obeyed, for they act not as parents, but as

enemies.

            The children of Jonadab denied themselves, for many

generations, some of the pleasures of the land of Ca-

naan. This they did from a regard to the advice of

their progenitor. But when the commands of our

earthly parents only enforce those laws of our heaven-

ly Father which are designed for our own benefit,

every motive of interest and duty, whether divine or

human, concurs to enforce our obedience.

            These laws ought to be bound continually upon our

hearts, that they may be ever present to our souls.

The ancient Israelites wore them on their garments, but


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   121

 

let us wear them on our hearts, and tie them about our

necks as the most precious ornament.

            We must read the instructions of God, and hear the

good instructions of men, with attention. We must

transcribe them into our hearts, and meditate upon

them, and make them the guide of our lives. Here-

by much good shall come unto us.

            Ver. 22. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when

thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest,

it shall talk with thee.

            We derive much enjoyment and security from hav-

ing a companion who can entertain us with agreeable

conversation, direct us in doubtful paths, and protect

us from impending dangers. All these valuable pur-

poses are served by the word of God.

            When we walk, it will be our guide, and enable us

to avoid every bad step. It will lead us in safety to

the land of uprightness, at which none can arrive,

who walk according to the course of this world, fulfil-

ling the desires of their flesh and their mind*.

            When we sleep, it will keep us. There is nothing

improbable in supposing that foolish and distressing

dreams may be prevented, by the sweet composure

which it imparts to the spirit. But be this as it may,

we know well that the providence of God will perform

the promises of the word of God. By it we shall be

preserved from the pestilence that walketh in darkness,

and from the malicious snares of those invisible enemies

who wake when we sleep, and who, when not check-

ed by the power of God, have methods of disquieting

our minds and destroying our peace in the season of

rest. Job's fancy was harassed by the devil in his

sleep. That, however, was an extraordinary case, and

 

                        * Psal. cxix. 1.

 


122                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

even then the rage of that cruel enemy was under

restraints.

            The word of God will be an entertaining and useful

companion to us, when we awake from sleep. It will

talk to us of the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the

grace of our Redeemer. It will give us the best ad-

vices about the business of the day, and teach us to

order every step with discretion. If we cannot sleep

in the night, it will suggest meditations far more plea-

sant to our minds, than is refreshing sleep to the body,

of the worn-out labourer*.

            How does the law of the Lord answer all these pur-

poses?

            Ver. 23. For the commandment is a lamp, and the law

is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.

            It is necessary to have a lamp, when one is in a dark

place. The law of God is a lamp to dispel the dark-

ness of this world, and to guide our steps in safety.

But as it may be compared to a lamp, because it gives

us light in the night, so also to the sun, because it is

the light of the world. Christ, who is the Sun of righ-

teousness, shines upon us by the word of his grace,

enlightening our minds in the knowledge of every

useful truth, and guiding us in safety to a better world.

If we shut our eyes on this light, we walk in darkness;

but those who walk under its beams, have the light

of Heaven shining on their paths. The places that

want it, are the dark places of the world; and the souls

that receive not the rays of this luminary, are but dun-

geons in which the day-star has not risen.

            It will be allowed, that the doctrines and precepts of

the word of God are useful and pleasant as the light;

but are not the reproofs of it very disagreeable? No†;

the reproofs of it convey necessary and most bene-

 

            * Psal. lxiii. 5. cxxxix. 18.    † Psal. cxix. 103.


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   123

 

ficial instruction. They are like the admonitions of a

kind father, who will not suffer his son to follow those

courses which he knows would be his ruin. The

reproofs of the law may alarm and terrify, but they

are not to be less valued on that account. The threat-

enings of hell guard the way to heaven, and strongly

urge us to keep the King's highway, the only way of

safety. The admonitions given us against sin, have a

powerful tendency to keep us from the paths of the

destroyer.

            Ver. 24. To keep thee from the evil woman, from the

flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.

            The insinuating language of a bad woman is no-

thing but flattery. She professes the fondest love, but she

designs the gratification of her own detestable passions,

and the serving of her interests, at the expense of

what is most valuable to her fond admirer. Her

tongue is full of falsehood. By her fair speeches the

unwary youth, whom she wishes to seduce, is in great

danger of being entangled, and is therefore in great

need of some effectual preservative. Now, the only

effectual preservative against the dangers of temptation

is the word of God. A good education, a sense of

honour, the principle of self-interest,—may have some

efficacy for this end; but the great means blessed by

God for this purpose is his own word, which is the

sword of the Spirit, by which he enables us effectually

to resist and baffle, not only flesh and blood, but

principalities and powers. Every part of the word

of God serves to promote purity in all its branches. No

passages of it are more effectual to preserve us from

fleshly lusts, than the warnings of Paul to the Corin-

thians*, and those of Solomon in various parts of this

book.

 

                        * I Cor. vi.


124                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

            Solomon knew well from experience, that it is ex-

tremely dangerous to give sin indulgence in the heart,

though we design not to practise it. He therefore

warns us against lusting after the beauty of the strange

woman in our heart.

            Ver. 25. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart;

neither let her take thee with her eye-lids.

            The beauty that sparkles in the eye of a virtuous

woman is a lovely ornament. The beauty of the

strange woman is a temptation to the unwise, for to

others it appears like a beautiful garment on a body

covered with loathsome sores, or a jewel of gold in a

swine's snout.

            The lust of the heart is adultery in the sight of God,

and it were better to have our eyes plucked out, than

to have our hearts inflamed with lust*. But impure

imaginations do not ordinarily rest in quiet. They

push on the man that harbours them, to outward acts

of sin. When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth

sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth mi-

sery.

            Ver. 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.

            Poverty is the object almost of horror to the greater

part of men. The desire of removing or preventing it,

is the grand spring which keeps, the world constantly in

motion. But the adulterer drives on furiously towards

it, for though as much afraid of it as other men, he is

hurried along in his wild career by tyrannizing pas-

sions, that have blinded his eyes, and taken possession

of his soul to such a degree, that he must have them

gratified, though ruin be the inevitable consequence.

            Life is so precious, that a man will give for it all

 

            * Matth. v. 29.            Luke xv.

 


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS                    125

 

that he hath. Yet the infatuated whoremonger sells

his life at a cheaper rate than a wise man would sell

his dog. He flatters himself indeed that he shall es-

cape vengeance; but the scripture assures us that

such hopes are self-delusions, and that a man may as

well expect to remain unhurt though he take fire to

burn himself; or walk on burning coals.

            Ver. 27-29. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and

his clothes not be burnt? Can one go upon hot coals, and

his feet not be burnt? So he that goeth in to his neigh-

bour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be inno-

cent.

            Sodom and Gomorrah are standing illustrations of this

awful truth. You say, "The burning of these cities was

a strange act, scarcely any thing similar to it has hap-

pened since." But God hath set forth these cities as

an example, making them to suffer the vengeance of

eternal fire*; and impenitent sinners will find at the

last, that they who despised the words of Solomon,

and of Christ himself, shall suffer more severely than

the cities of the plain, whose iniquities were not so

terribly aggravated, by despised means of instruction

and reformation.

            Stealing is a detested sin, and exposes men to severe

punishment; but it is much less heinous than adultery,

nor will the punishment of it be so great.

            Ver. 30-35. Men do not despise a thief, if he steal

to satisfy his soul when he is hungry: But if he be

found, he shall restore seven-fold; he shall give all the

substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery

with a woman, lacketh understanding; he that doeth it de-

stroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he

get, and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For

jealousy is the rage of a man, therefore he will not spare

 

                        * Jude 6.  Job xxxi. 12.


126                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VI.

 

in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom;

neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.

            Theft is a sin deservedly abhorred, and they who

are guilty of it expose themselves to contempt and

indignation. Yet when necessity tempts a man to

steal, he is the object of pity rather than of scorn. No

necessity can excuse any sin, but apparent necessity

may extenuate it. This plea, however, cannot be urg-

ed to palliate the crime of adultery, which is always

the effect of a wicked disposition, and an impure ima-

gination.

            When a man steals, it is perhaps to satisfy his soul,

and to appease the cravings of hunger, which is an ap-

petite too fierce for human nature to oppose. But un-

clean actions are the gratifications of brutal lust, and

tend not to the preservation, but to the destruction of

the life.

            Yet a thief must suffer, although he is pitied when

hunger urges him on to steal. He shall restore mani-

fold, according to the law; and if he cannot make the

ample restitution required, he must give all the sub-

stance of his house. How then does the adulterer, hope

to escape a much more grievous punishment, for a

crime which can admit of no reparation? A thief

may steal for want of bread, but the adulterer sins be-

cause he has no understanding. He exposes himself

to a deadly wound from a jealous husband, or an

avenging magistrate. He contracts a blot upon his

name which adheres to it indelibly, and spreads itself

even to his children*. He may give all the substance

of his house to the man whom he has injured, but it

will not be accepted as an atonement for his life; for a

fire of jealousy is kindled, which can be quenched only

in his blood.

 

                        * Deut. xxiii. 2.


CHAP. VI.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   127

 

            This argument may be supposed to have little

weight among us, who punish theft more severely

than adultery. But when crimes that deserve death

escape punishment from men, God, the King of all

nations, punishes them by his providence, and some-

times with greater severity, because his earthly minis-

ters neglect to shew his resentment of them. Hophni

and Phineas, Amnon and Absalom, gained nothing

by the indulgence of their fond parents. David him-

self smarted severely under the rod for this sin, though

divine mercy exempted him from death. Earthly ma-

gistrates often punish thieves and highwaymen more

severely than adulterers, but whoremongers and adul-

terers God will judge. We may without presumption

suppose, that even in this world he often brings them

to a gibbet, by suffering them to imbrue their hands in

blood, or to commit other capital crimes. The Bible

assures us, that God often punishes one sin, by per-

mitting the transgressor to fall into another; and par-

ticularly, that God has given up men to uncleanness,

for the indignities they have done to his own name*,

and along with it, to other iniquities that bring venge-

ance in their train.

            If these sinners escape outward punishment, let

them remember how terrible that destruction is, which

God has designed for them, and how impossible it

will be to escape from the Judge of all. They com-

plain that they cannot extinguish their burning lusts,

but it shall be more impossible to extinguish the fire

that shall never be quenched‡.

 

            * Rom. i. 23.              Rom. i. 29. &c.

                        ‡ Job xxxi. 3.  Matt. v. 28.

 


128                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VII.

 

 

 

                          CHAPTER VII

 

 

Solomon was deeply impressed with a sense of the

evil of profligate courses. Nor was he less fully

convinced of that danger to which young men are ex-

posed, from the temptations presented by those factors

for hell, who, lost to all sense of shame and interest,

precipitate themselves, and as many along with them ,

as they can, into an everlasting hell, and all for the

momentary gratification of a base and brutal passion.

On this subject he had already said as much as might

have served to guard any man against this danger, who

was not under the influence of a very dark mind, and

a very depraved heart. But he wishes to penetrate the

heart of the most hardened, to rouse to thought the

most inconsiderate of the sons of men. He thinks that

too much cannot be said on a matter of such concern-

ment to us.

            We have in this chapter an affecting illustration of

the danger of youthful lusts. The mode of instruction

to which our teacher in the present instance has re-

course, is the narration of a piece of history or para-

ble, (for it matters not which), of the most instructive

kind. Will any one dare to venture on temptations

that lead to impurity, after Solomon has set before

his eyes in so lively a manner, the danger of so much

as going near the harlot's house? Then is he as in-

excuseable as the man who dances on the brink of a

precipice, when he has just seen another, who ven-

tured to display his courage in the same manner, fall

 


CHAP. VII.]                BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   129

 

headlong from his place, and dashed to pieces on the

rocks below, perish the sad victim of his own rashness

and folly.

            The danger of vicious courses should mightily re-

commend to us the word of God, which is able to

keep us from falling*, and to which self-ruined sin-

ners give testimony, when they must acknowledge too

late, that their misery began in their disregard to that

blessed book. What would not men give for an anti-

dote that could preserve them from every bodily dis-

ease? If any person, possessed of such a medicine,

were to perish by some fatal distemper, in consequence

of neglecting to have recourse to it, surely his fate

would excite no commiseration.

            Ver. 1-5. My son, keep my words, and lay up my

commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and

live, and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them

upon thy fingers, and write them upon the table of thine

heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call

understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee

from the strange woman, from the stranger which flatter-

eth with her words.

            When a man has got possession of some precious

jewel, he will deposit it in some place secured from

the depredations of thieves. The words of God are

infinitely more precious than diamonds, and ought to

be laid up in our hearts, and kept with constant dili-

gence and caution. They are to be kept as our life,

for we are but dead men if we lose them, and they are

the effectual instruments by which God is pleased to

quicken men to newness of life, and to nourish, and

strengthen, and preserve their souls. Without them,

 

                        * Acts xx. 32.


130                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VII.

 

the life of the body is no better than a dream. It is

our advantage that God has in view, in furnishing us

with a rule of conduct. “Be holy," is the sum of

the whole law; and its excellency is, that it is as

good as it is holy and just. Those, therefore, who ne-

glect it, regard lying vanities, and despise their own

mercy.

            God expresses that regard which he has for his peo-

ple, and that compassionate care which he exercises

over them, by affirming that he who touches them

touches the apple of his eye. No less regard is cer-

tainly due on our part to that divine word of his, with-

out which our souls must remain in darkness. The

eye is a most precious member, and the apple of the

eye is its most precious part. The Author of the body

has guarded that part of it with a natural fence, and

no less vigilance is exercised by us in its protection.

We will not, if possible, permit the smallest mote to fall

into it. With equal care ought we to observe the law of

God, and to avoid every temptation which might induce

us in the smallest degree to transgress its command-

ments*.

            The law is to be fixed as a ring upon our fingers,

that it may constantly present itself to our view, and

deeply impress our hearts. These are the living tables,

on which the statutes of the Lord are to be inscribed,

that every inward power may be wrought into a suita-

bleness unto them.

            We take great pleasure in the society of amiable

friends. Wisdom ought to be our most beloved friend,

and our constant companion. With this best of

friends let us daily converse, and thus shall we be

preserved from the danger of infectious company,

 

            * Matt. v. 19.              Rom. vi. 16.


CHAP. VII.]                BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   131

 

and the allurements of seducers to vice. Those who

love understanding, and call wisdom their sister, are

acknowledged by our Saviour himself as his dearest

relations*.

            When we familiarise ourselves to wisdom, and

treat her as a kinswoman, we shall find ourselves

great gainers by it. She will preserve us from the

strange woman, and from her flatteries. The charms

of wisdom will sink her beauty into deformity. The

music of wisdom's voice will render us deaf to the

most inviting eloquence of her who would tempt us to

forget the covenant of our God. Her lips drop as a

honey-comb, but wisdom assures us that her end is

bitter as wormwood.

            But those who reject wisdom, will find this tempter

too cunning for them. Of this Solomon gives us a

proof from his own observation. He was a wise ob-

server of men and manners, and the result of his ob-

servation, as well as the wisdom which he learned by

experience, he has communicated for our caution and

instruction.

            Ver. 6-10. For at the window of my house, I look-

ed through my casement, and beheld among the simple

ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of

understanding, passing through the street near her cor-

ner; and he went the way to her house, in the twilight,

in the evening, in the black and dark night; and, behold,

there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and

subtile of heart.

            Though this story were to be considered as a para-

ble, the instruction it contains is grounded on the ob-

servation of Solomon. He was, no doubt, acquainted

with many who owed their ruin to the arts which are

here described.

 

            * Matt. xii. 46. 50.                Chap. v. 3, 4.


132                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VII.

 

            Persons of every age, and sex, and condition, ought

to watch against the temptations incident to their par-

ticular situations, for the great master of deceit knows

how to suit his temptations to the different circumstan-

ces of men. Young persons, whose passions are warm

and whose experience is little, are easily seduced into

those sins which gratify the lusts of the flesh. The

man whom Solomon observed going towards the house

of the strange woman, was a young man. He was

void of understanding, for he had not supplied the

want of experience on his own part, by the instruc-

tions of the aged, or of the word of God. If young

men would be prevailed on to read and study the

Book of Proverbs, they would not deserve to be

classed among the simple ones; for it gives subtilty

to the simple, to the young man knowledge and dis-

cretion.

            This young man had no intention to pollute his

body with acts of wickedness, (ver. 21.), but in the

evening he wished to have a little amusement; and,

forgetful of the danger of going near the dwellings of

the wicked, he went in the way that leads to the har-

lot's house. We ought daily to pray that we may be

preserved from running into temptation; for if we in-

vite our enemies to spread their snares for us, how can

we expect to escape?

            The time of work was over; and for the purpose of

recruiting our spirits, a little evening's relaxation is

allowable. Those amusements, however, that lead us

into the company of the wicked, are exceedingly dan-

gerous.. In our evening walks, let us avoid the places

where we are likely to meet with devils, possessed

indeed of human shapes, but not of human hearts.

Isaac goes out at the evening-tide, to converse with

himself and his God, and God sends him a virtuous

 


CHAP. VII.]                BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   133

 

wife. This poor simpleton goes out to walk in the

purlieus of vice, and, behold, he meets with a common

harlot, dressed out with that gaudiness of attire which

befitted her wicked dispositions; for sometimes the

dress of the female is like the sign-post hung out be-

fore the house, telling what is within. Her heart was

subtle, for she possessed the art as well as the venom

of the old serpent. Her manners accorded with her

dress and her heart.

            Ver. 11, 12. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet

abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the

streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)

            Her obstreperous tongue is the token of her impe-

rious and stubborn spirit. She loves to reign, and

cannot brook subjection to the guide of her youth;

thus exemplifying a spirit completely opposite to those

godly women who call their husbands lord. But cla-

morous and stubborn as she is at home, (where indeed

she is seldom to be found), she has the art, when she

comes abroad, to fashion her speech to her designs.

With soothing words and insinuating flattery, she se-

duces the unhappy victim of her wiles. She is fierce,

like a tiger, but when a purpose is to be gained, can

assume all the meekness of a lamb.

            She hates her own house, because she abhors useful

labour, and holds her husband in detestation; but she

is still roaming about those places where she may meet

unwary passengers. Like a wild beast of the desert,

she constantly prowls about those places where a prey

may be expected.

            Let women that desire to be thought virtuous be

keepers at home; and let them beware of eating the

bread of idleness, which, though not always, is often-

times the companion of profligacy, and never the at-

tendant of virtue.

 


134                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VII.

 

            Thus was the unwary youth caught by one but too

well versed in the arts of seduction.

            Ver. 13-20. So she caught him, and kissed him,

and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace-

offerings with me, this day have I paid my vows:

Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy

face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with

coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen

of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes,

and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until

the morning; let us solace ourselves with loves. For

the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey:

He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come

home at the day appointed.

            Modesty is the lovely ornament of the female sex,

and nothing can be more hateful than a woman that

hath renounced it. When this fence of virtue is de-

molished, profligacy is the natural and unavoidable

consequence.

            The words and the behaviour of this abandoned

creature are alike shameless. Yet, with marvellous in-

consistency, she pretends to a sense of religion. The

feast which she intends for her lover, is that part of

the peace-offerings which, according to the law, she

had reserved for herself and her friends, after paying

her vows to the Lord. It is strange to tell, and yet

certainly true, that there are persons who endeavour

to join together the service of God and Belial. They

must have their passions gratified, and in all other

things they will be obedient to the dictates of con-

science. But those who think that they may some-

times eat a little poison, provided they take whole-

some food at other times, and yet live and enjoy to-

lerable health, are not more foolish. God is glo-

 


CHAP. VII.]                BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   135

 

rious in shewing mercy to sinners, but he will show

none to sin*.

            She pretends a special and tender regard for this

miserable youth, whom she wishes to draw into her

snares, and has the address to avail herself of an acci-

dental meeting for the proof of it. Words are very

cheap, and the warmest professions of kindness are for

the most part the most insincere. The old serpent made

use of this artifice to deceive our common mother.

There is nothing that renders the young a more easy

prey to deceivers, than their inexperience of the emp-

tiness of the professions of many.

            This abandoned woman artfully entangles the heart

of the simple youth, by promising him every thing

that can afford delight to any of his senses. She will

entertain him with the delicate provision of which

feasts were made, after performing the ceremonies of

religion. His eyes shall be entertained with the sight

of furniture, equally valuable for its materials and

workmanship. The bed is decked with the finest

linen, and the whole house perfumed with odours,

emitted by the most fragrant herbs. All these pleasures,

she informs him, may be enjoyed in the most perfect

security, for the goodman (she takes care not to call

him husband,) is gone far from home; and it is cer-

tain that he will not return till the time appointed, for

he has a great deal of business to transact, and has car-

ried a great deal of money with him, to bear his ex-

pences, and to employ in trade.

            Beware of those sins that are represented to you as

pleasant sins. They are more dangerous than others,

because they most easily gain the heart, and most

powerfully guard it against repentance. Eve found

 

            * Psal. lxviii. 31.  Zeph. i. 15

 


136                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VII.

 

that the pleasure of forbidden fruit was only an intro-

duction to horror and remorse.

            Our hearts must be guarded against the admission

of sin, by stronger motives than the fear of detection

and disgrace; for artful solicitors to evil, will easily

baffle such restraints as these. Joseph might have

expected his master's favour by complying with the

desires of his mistress, but the motive that induced him

to decline her company was irresistible,—" How can

I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"

            But the unhappy subject of the wise man's story

was not a Joseph.

            Ver. 21. With much fair speech she caused him to

yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.

            There is a force in words, which it is often almost

impossible to resist. Good words have a wonderful

virtue in them to work upon the mind, and a great

part of the good which we are called to do in the

world, is to be accomplished by means of that little

member—the tongue. But corrupt minds are often

found to have greater influence in persuading men to

sin, because human nature is depraved, and needs only

a temptation to draw men to the practice of the worst

of evils.

            No words have greater force in them to persuade

men to sin, than the flatteries of the strange woman ;

and therefore the apostle Paul, who directs us to strive

against sin, calls loudly to us to flee youthful lusts.

Such lusts can scarcely be conquered but by flight,

because the temptations to them, when they meet

with a simple mind and an impure heart, are like

sparks of fire lighting upon stubble fully dry.

            The force that is in the tongue of the strange wo-

man, will not excuse the deluded youth; for his yield-

ing to her is to be attributed to the depravity of his

own heart, which inclines him to prefer the advice of

 


CHAP. VII.]                BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   137

 

a bad woman, to the counsels of the Supreme and

Eternal Wisdom. When a thief is arraigned before a

magistrate, he is not suffered to escape punishment,

because it appears that he had such a propensity to

steal, that he could not find in his heart to resist the

influence of a temptation.

            Ver. 22, 23. He goeth after her straightway, as an

ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction

of the stocks: Till a dart strike through his liver, as a

bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for

his life.

            Poor deluded creature! The cursed enchantress per-

suaded him that she would conduct him to a paradise;

but he soon finds his feet entangled in the stocks, and

bound with fetters of iron. He is more brutish than

the ox, which will not without reluctance go to the

place of slaughter, but must be forced and goaded on-

ward by its driver. He is sillier than a bird, which

will not sit to be shot, but flies from the appearance

of danger: Whereas he wilfully sets himself up as a

mark for the arrows of justice. A bird may indeed fly

into the snare, for it has not the gift of reason; but

for men to hasten into a snare, there is no excuse.

God hath made them wiser than the fowls of heaven.

            It was a good maxim, said to be delivered by an

eastern sage,—Do nothing till thou hast well consider-

ed the end of it. The time to come will be soon pre-

sent, and by the exercise of reason and faith, we

should make it now present to us. The pleasures of

sin will then be seen in a very different light. They

will appear to be remorse and anguish, varnished over

with a little transient pang of delight that never reaches

the heart, or at least plays only on the surface of it.

Were a man to live as long as Methuselah, and spend

all his days in the highest delights of sin, one hour of

 


138                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VII.

 

the anguish and tribulation that must follow will far

outweigh them.

            What must we do in order to avoid that infatuation

which is so common, and which is attended with con-

sequences so awful?

            Ver. 24, 25. Hearken unto me now, therefore, O ye

children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let

not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her

paths.

            Let us give the most earnest heed to these calls,

that are addressed to us with such urgent and repeat-

ed importunity, and let us guard our hearts and ways

with all diligence. Indulgence given to any impute

imagination, is an indication of a sensual heart, and

an introduction to a licentious behaviour, which will

in all probability lead to a miserable end.

            Ver. 26, 27. For she hath cast down many wounded,

yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her

house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of

death.

            When but one of the disciples was to betray Christ,

all of them were anxious lest they should fall into such

a horrid sin. When not a small number, but multi-

tudes, have fallen by the force of temptations to impu-

rity, and when the same depraved disposition conti-

nues in men, and the same temptations expose

them to danger, shall we not fear, and depart from

evil?

            Men have been wounded and slain by the arts of the

strange woman, who seemed to possess resolution and

strength to support them against the most dangerous as-

saults. David was sore wounded; Sampson was slain; and

when cedars are shaken and fall, it is time for the fir-

trees to be afraid. It is a dangerous piece of self-con-

fidence in us to imagine, that we are possessed of more

 


CHAP. VII.]                BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   139

 

strength than Sampson, or endowed with more steady

virtue than David.

            Uncleanness is not the blasphemy against the Holy

Ghost, but it is ordinarily a sin unto death. He that

has entered on a course of it, is on a staircase that

leads down to death and hell; and the descent makes

the brain so giddy, that power is seldom left to make

a timely retreat. They are gross self-flatterers, who

imagine that they may go on for a time in sensuality,

and stop short, and repent when they please. Who

but God can say to the waves of sin, " Hitherto shall

ye come, and no farther, and here shall your proud

swellings be stayed?"

            David repented, and was pardoned, and so we hope

was Sampson. The three children were cast alive

into a burning fiery furnace, and came out unsinged;

but we will not cast ourselves into the fire, in hope

that the same miracle will be wrought for our deliver-

ance. May the Lord keep us from temptation, and

pluck out hardened sensualists as brands out of the

fire!

 

 

 

 

                         CHAPTER VIII.

 

 

The grand question in this chapter is, What are we to

understand by that wisdom which is here introduced,

recommending her instructions to us? The fear of the


140                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VIII.

 

Lord is said to be the beginning of wisdom*. But the

wisdom that speaks in this passage appears to be a per-

son; and it is disputed whether we are to understand

it of Christ, the great Fountain of wisdom, or of the

noble quality of wisdom, represented by a strong eas-

tern figure under a personal character.

            This wisdom has been generally understood in the

Christian church to mean the Lord Jesus Christ,—the

Word (Logos) spoken of by John, who ascribes to him

under that name several of those glories which are

here ascribed to wisdom.

            There are some things spoken of men in the pro-

phetical passages of Scripture, too great to be under-

stood in their full meaning of any of the sons of men,

except the man Christ. These we are taught by the

Scriptures of the New Testament, to understand of

him who is the glory of our race, to whom all the

prophets bare witness. Now, if Solomon say con-

cerning wisdom things that are true to their full ex-

tent of signification in Christ only, may we not with

good reason conclude, that the Spirit who directed

his pen, meant to lead our thoughts to the personal

Word of God, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom,

and to whom the church of Israelites and Christians is

indebted for all the discoveries that were ever made?

The voice of Christ is the voice of wisdom itself. The

wise will hear, and will increase their learning, and

fools only will despise this wisdom and instruction;

for surely they cannot be reasonable creatures, who

resist the fervent eloquence and the persuasive argu-

ments addressed to us in this chapter.

            Ver. 1. Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put

forth her voice?

 

            * Chap. ix. 10.            Heb. i. 5.  Compare 2 Sam. vii. 14

 


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   141

 

            Our consciences bear testimony to this truth, that

wisdom not only speaks, but cries to us with a voice

like the sound of a trumpet. If we do not hear, it is

because our ears are shut, or because we turn them

away from the truth, to hear the alluring and enchant-

ing voice of sin and its servants; and how shall they

excuse themselves who give ear to the voice of the

cunning serpent, rather than to the voice of the

Eternal Wisdom? But where does wisdom put forth

her voice?

            Ver. 2, 8. She standeth in the top of high places, by

the fray in the places of the paths. She cried at the

gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the

doors*.

            If we hear not the voice of wisdom, we have our-

selves to blame. Her pulpit is erected in the high

places, and her voice is heard from afar. She preaches

at the places of concourse, the gates of the city, and

in the places where roads meet. At our very doors

we may hear her publishing her precious doctrines;

and ignorance, when chosen and wilful, will by no

means excuse us. If we are in darkness, it is not

for want of light, but because we hate light, and by

winking hard exclude its beams.

            Why should we not use all due pains to find wisdom,

when wisdom uses such pains to find us out, and to

proclaim her necessary instructions in our ears? Sure-

ly our Lord Jesus was willing to communicate his

saving instructions, when he preached in mountains

and in fields, in public roads and in deserts, in syna-

gogues and in ships, inviting men to receive his salva-

tion, and pressing them to repent. Nor is the voice

of wisdom in our days become more feeble, or heard

 

                        * See Chap. i. 21, 22.


142                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VIII.

 

in fewer places. Unless we are stupidly inattentive,

we may still hear it sounding in our ears, whether we

are at home or abroad, walking in the fields or sit-

ting in the church. The voice of the gospel, the

voice of providence, the voice of conscience, the voice

of honest friends, is a cry of wisdom, to which we do

well to take heed, for to all of us she speaks.

            Ver. 4. Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the

sons of men.

            The mercy of God is sovereign, and therefore the

sons of Adam are called to repentance; while by the

angels that fell, no voice of mercy was ever heard.

They were nobler in their origin, and more excellent

in their natures. But the Son of God loved us because

he loved us, and was made of God unto us, and not

to them, wisdom and righteousness.

            There are many of the sons of Adam, that never

heard the calls of wisdom; but all within hearing are

called, and earnestly importuned to comply with the

call. Let us not then give reason for that complaint,

"Wherefore when I came was there no man, when

I called was there none to answer." The disobedient

and unbelieving shall be tormented in hell with a

soul-rending remorse, which devils and heathens can-

not feel.

            Say not that the calls of wisdom are not to you, be-

cause ye are fools; for to such she speaks-

            Ver. 5. O ye simple, understand wisdom; and ye fools,

be ye of an understanding heart.

            Those that are easily seduced, those that live under

the power of error and sin, are here called to hear the

wisdom which is from above. Your case, O ye simple

ones! is not hopeless. Eternal Wisdom is your teacher,

and calls you to learn; and to none does wisdom say,

Seek ye me in vain. The teacher is the Lord our God;

and he teacheth to profit, because there is power and

 


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   143

 

light in his words, and in the Spirit that accompanies

them*.

            Have you been foolish and disobedient? you are

called to turn to the wisdom of the just; and there is

pardoning mercy revealed to encourage you to turn to the

Lord, there is converting power in the words of wis-

dom‡. Your situation is bad, but not desperate ||.

Hear the words that are spoken to you, and let them

sink into your souls; consider the excellencies of the

words, and of the speaker of them.

            Ver. 6. Hear, for I will speak of excellent things;

and the opening of my lips shall be right things.

            Where the words of a king are, there is power.

The words of wisdom are the princely words of the

eternal King. As the sun and moon, these works of

God's hands, are more excellent than a machine or

clock made by some curious artist, so is the word of

God more excellent than the sayings of the wisest and

greatest of men. The same divine excellency which

appears to reason's eye in the works of God, appears to .

the eye of faith in the word of God. In the words

of the wisest philosophers and most eloquent orators,

there are some good and some bad things. There is dross

mingled with their silver; but all the words of wisdom

are right words, they are like silver seven times puri-

fied. They are spoken in perfect righteousness and

faithfulness.

            Ver. 7. For my mouth shall speak truth, and wickedness

is an abomination to my lips.

            Why do we not all believe the words of Christ?

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or tittle.

shall not pass from his word. Let us never again be

so impious as to suspect the faithfulness of his pro-

 

            * Isa. xlviii. 17.  Prov. i. 23.  Psal. cxix. 130.

Isa. lv. 7.                  ‡ Psal. xix. 7.             || Ezek. xxxiii. 11.


144                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VIII.

 

mises, or the sincerity of his invitations, or the truth of

his precious doctrines. We believe the word of an ho-

nest man; but Christ is the Amen, the faithful and true

Witness. All lying is wickedness in his esteem, and is

abhorred by his heart. If we believe the word of a man

who will not lie, shall we disbelieve the word of him

that cannot lie, nor suffer liars to stand in his pre-

sence?

            We attend with diligence to the words of a man

famous for wisdom and integrity; but all the words of

Christ are the words of wisdom itself, and the things

spoken are uprightness, even words of truth.

            Ver. 8. All the words of my mouth are in righteous-

ness, there is nothing froward or perverse in them.

            One of the characters which our Lord takes is, "I

that speak in righteousness." Eternal righteousness

in our Lord Jesus Christ, and shines in all his adminis-

trations and in all his words. God has given us in

his word a representation of the righteousness of his

own nature and will, and framed it as a rule of righ-

teousness to us. Those are froward and perverse who

walk in ways not authorized by this rule*; and by the

degree of our conformity to it, are our improvements

in righteousness and true holiness to be estimated.

There is righteousness in the promises and doctrines,

as well as in the commands of it. God's words of

grace are spoken by him in his holiness, and are

therefore to be received with an unshaken confidence.

Hath God promised us eternal life, and called us by his

word to depend on his Son for salvation?—We may

safely venture our souls upon the faithful word of

Jehovah. To doubt whether these addresses to us

are sincere or not, is to suspect that there is something

crooked or perverse in the faithful sayings of God.

 

            * Psal. cxxv. 5.           Psal. lx. 7.


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS.                   145

 

            But is it possible for us to understand the words of

wisdom? Yes.

            Ver. 9. They are all plain to him that understandeth,

and right to them that find knowledge.

            The words of wisdom are a great depth. In them

are mysteries which cannot be fully comprehended;

for we find that the all-wise God has laid up in every

part of Scripture, stores of wisdom too deep for mor-

tal minds to fathom. There are some passages of

Scripture, especially in that part of it which was writ-

ten after the time of Solomon, in which are things

hard to be understood; and yet all the words of wis-

dom are here said to be plain to him that understand-

eth. The meaning is, that every thing necessary for

faith and practice is clearly revealed in the Bible by

the great Author of it, who meant not to insult our

ignorance, but to instruct our minds, by that sacred

book. When we are wailed with difficulties, we

ought not to quarrel with the Bible, but to ascribe it

to our own stupidity or sloth. If, after the due use

of means, some parts of Scripture still continue dark

to us let us bless God that the needful doctrines con-

tained in them are in other passages taught with suffi-

cient plainness.

            But if these words are plain only to him that under-

standeth, of what service can it prove for simple* and

foolish persons to attend to them? Fools are called

not only to hear, but to receive wisdom from our

great Teacher, for none teaches like him. Socrates

confessed that he could not make any man wise who

was not furnished by nature with talents for acquiring

wisdom, more than his mother Phoenareta could de-

liver a woman who was not pregnant. But the en-

 

                        * Ver. 3.


146                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VIII.

 

trance of God's word gives understanding to the sim-

ple, and the Spirit of Christ makes them wise unto

salvation, who were born like the wild ass's colt.

            The words of God meet with reproach and banter

from some, who would found a reputation for wit

upon wickedness; but wisdom will be justified of

her children, and her words will be esteemed to be

right concerning all things by them that find know-

ledge.

            What improvement should we make of these com-

mendations given to the words of wisdom? We ought

to receive them with superlative esteem.

            Ver. 10, 11. Receive my instructions, and not silver;

and knowledge, rather than choice gold. For wisdom is

better than rubies, and all the things that may be desired

are not to be compared to it*.

            We profess to prefer wisdom in our judgment to the

most valued things upon earth; but we are hypocrites,

if there is not a consistency between our profession and

our practice. If wisdom is better than silver, we must

receive it rather than silver; and if it were put to our

choice whether to be rich or holy, we ought not for a

moment to hesitate in deciding,

            It is actually put to our choice, whether we will seek

first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, or the

delights of sense, and the riches that shine to the eye

of flesh. If we are resolved at any rate to be rich; if

we value the means of enriching ourselves with gold

above the means of grace; if we grudge the necessary

expence that may attend the means of religious instruc-

tion; then we receive gold, and not wisdom. The

truly wise have some degree of Paul's spirit in them,

and are taught by God to count every thing loss and

 

            * See Chap. iii. 14, 15.         Deut. xxx. 15, 19.

 

 


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS                    147

 

dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ

Jesus their Lord*.

            Silver and gold are good things, under the direction

of wisdom. But they must not be the chief object

of our esteem; for if any man love the world, the love

of the Father is not in him. Luther, having received

large presents from some princes of Saxony, protested

that he would not have them for his portion. If gold

or rubies are equal to wisdom in our judgment, we

have not the mind of Christ.

            That we may be disposed heartily to prefer wisdom

to every thing that our eyes have seen, or our fancies

have imagined, let us hear and believe what more can

be said on wisdom's behalf.

            Ver. 12. I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out

knowledge of witty inventions.

            For a man to search out his own glory, is no glory;

but for the Son of God, to discover his own glory to us,

is one of the innumerable instances of his condescend-

ing grace. Had he not manifested his own glory to us,

we should, to our loss, have remained for ever ignorant

of it.

            Prudence is the companion of wisdom, and infinite

prudence was from eternity familiar to the personal

Wisdom of God, who abounded toward us in all pru-

dence, in the contrivance of that glorious plan by

which the wisdom of God is raised to the highest pitch

in the salvation of men. For the Word was with God,

and was a sharer in the glory of his eternal purpose of

grace. Consummate prudence and divine invention

shine with illustrious splendour in the whole adminis-

tration of our Lord Jesus Christ, and out of his trea-

sures we receive all that prudence and skill that is ne-

 

            * Phil. iii. 8.               Ezek. vii. 11.


148                 EXPOSITION OF THE                                 [CHAP. VIII.

 

cessary for us, whilst sojourning in a world full of

enemies and snares.

            Who would not rather go for water to a fountain

that ever flows, than to a brook that often disappoints

the thirsty traveller?  The Son of God has the foun-

tain of life with him, and in his light shall we see

light.

            Perfect purity is another excellency of our divine

Teacher, and his instructions have a sanctifying effect

upon us.

            Ver. 13. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.  Pride

and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward tongue,

do I hate.

            Some men refrain from evil actions through fear of

shame or punishment; but true wisdom teaches men

not only to refrain from evil, but to hate it, through

the fear of God. Then we are possessed of this gra-

cious principle, when we abhor not only evil actions

but evil words and dispositions. Pride and arrogancy

of spirit, wickedness in the course of the conversa-

tion, or frowardness in spirit, are equally abhorred by

our Lord; and such as have received his instructions

into their hearts, cannot love that which is declared

in every part of his word to be utterly offensive to

him*.

            Were any thing deserving the name of wisdom to

be found any where else, we might with less damage

despise the word of exhortation; but Christ claims it

as his peculiar excellency--

            Ver. 14. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am

understanding, I have strength.

            Bildad had referred Job to the wise men that lived

in the days of old, as the oracles of wisdom, for deter-

 

                                    * Chap. vi. 17-19.


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS                    149

 

mining the disputes between Job and his friends.

Job acknowledged that the ancients had some degree

of wisdom, but would not implicitly submit his un-

derstanding to their maxims, because there was no

comparison in this respect between the wisest sages

and the Ancient of days*. What is the wisdom of

philosophers, who frequently became vain in their rea-

sonings, and spoiled men by their philosophy and vain

deceit, to the wisdom of the Eternal Word ? But why

should we speak of wise men, when the angels are

charged with folly ?

            There is no sound wisdom but in Christ, or from him,

who is the Fountain of human reason, and the Author of

that wisdom which has procured so high a reputation

to some that were ignorant of the name of Christ.

Whether these great men made their celebrated disco-

veries by the mere force of their own genius or by the

help of tradition, it is plain that their light was but a

beam from that true light that lighteth every man that

cometh into the world. Counsel is his, for he is the

wonderful Counsellor, between whom and his eternal

Father the council of peace was formed, and who by

his counsel conducts us in the right way to happiness,

The very quintessence of wisdom is his. He is under-

standing itself, and his eyes penetrate to the bottom of

the deepest mysteries. Blessed be God that such a

person is made to us wisdom!

            Wisdom is better than strength, and yet wisdom

needs strength to execute its plans. The eternal wis-

dom of God is joined with omnipotence. The eternal

Word is the Almighty, by whom all things were made,

and all the purposes of grace effected. He gives cou-

rage and power to all that learn wisdom from him, so

 

            * Job xii. 12, 13, 16.             John i. 9.

 


150                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. VIII.

 

that a man of understanding increaseth strength.

Where counsel to contrive and wisdom to propose the

noblest end, understanding to discern the true nature

and tendencies of things, and strength to execute, con-

cur, there can be nothing wanting.

            The wisdom and power of kings, and of those

that have power delegated from kings, is derived from

him.

            Ver. 15, 16. By me kings reign, and princes decree

justice. By me princes rule, and, nobles, even all the

judges of the earth.

            Eternal wisdom has devised magistracy, and deter-

mined the persons to be entrusted with it. From the

same source is derived all the majesty, and wisdom,

and righteousness which ever appeared in the world,

to adorn the thrones of princes. When David govern-

ed the people of God according to the good skill of his

hands and the integrity of his heart,—when Solomon

governed the same nation with wisdom and righ-

teousness, they were indebted for all their noble qua-

lifications to that Word of God, by whom all crea-

tures were formed, and from whom all light is de-

rived*.

            When magistrates of inferior rank distinguish them-

selves by their wise and righteous administration, they

owe their glory and usefulness to the same fountain of

wisdom.

            Those princes that are strangers to the name of

Christ are the ministers of his providence, and are

furnished from his treasures with every ornamental

and useful qualification which they may possess. If

we admire the courage and fortune, the generosity

and wisdom of Cyrus king of Persia, we ought to give

 

            * John i. 3, 9.             Isa. xxii. 24.  Prov. xxi. 1.


CHAP. VIII]               BOOK OF PROVERBS                    151

 

glory to the King of Israel, by whom that heathen

prince was guided *.

            The histories of every nation, through the light of

this text, may lead us to contemplate the excellency

of the Son of God, from whom every good gift comes.

All the wisdom in the world must be ascribed to him,

but none of that folly which always attends wisdom

in men. His treasures of wisdom are not diminished

in the least degree. Let the simple ones apply to

him with faith and importunity, and they shall be

made wise unto holiness and salvation, for says Wis-

dom—

            Ver. 17. I love them that love me, and they that seek

me early shall find me.

            All of us profess to love wisdom, but few justify

this profession. We do not truly love that person

whose friendship we do not seek to share, and whose

company we do not desire to enjoy. We do not love

Christ if we do not seek him with our hearts, and with

all earnestness of spirit desire fellowship with him in

his wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and

redemption.

            They that seek him are accounted by him lovers of

his name, and this love to him is a proof that they are

loved by him. He loved them before they loved him.

His good-will disposed their hearts to love him, and

he takes pleasure in that love which was kindled by

himself; and will not disappoint those ardent desires

which were excited by his Spirit. He has been found

of them that sought him not, and will he hide himself

from them that seek him ?

            Young persons have good encouragement from this

Scripture to seek wisdom. Christ was kind to those

young children that were brought to be blessed by

 

                        * Isa. xlvi.


152                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. VIII.

 

him. He loved a young man who came to ask him

what he should do to inherit eternal life, although he

neither asked a right question, nor shewed a proper

regard to Christ's answer. It is mentioned as the ho-

nour of Josiah king of Judah, that when he was

young, he sought the God of his fathers. The word

translated seek early may be rendered seek earnestly

or diligently*.

            All the true lovers and seekers of Christ shall find

him, and find inexpressible happiness in him. They

are sharers in his fulness, and he opens all his trea-

sures to them.

            Ver. 18, 19. Riches and honour are with me, yea, du-

rable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than

gold, yea, than fine gold, and my revenue than choice

silver.

            On whom do the kings of this world bestow their

gifts? On their own friends, or on strangers and

enemies? On their friends, no doubt, unless they

are restrained by an interested policy. No motives of

that kind can direct the managements of the eternal

King. The silver is his, and the gold is his; and he

would give silver and gold to all that love him, if he

did not see it better for the greater part of them to

want these perishing riches. It is not for want of

riches and honours to bestow. It is not for want of

love to his people, that he does not bestow on every

one of them crowns of gold, and mines of precious

metals. The riches of Christ are incomparably more

valuable than gold and silver. His justifying righ-

teousness, which is upon all them that believe, enriches

them for ever, though formerly they were indebted

millions of talents, and unable to pay one farthing to

 

            * Chap. vii.                 John xiv. 21, 22.


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS                    153

 

the justice of God. The grace of the Spirit enriches

them above what the finest gold or the choicest silver

could ever do. These shining metals glitter in the

eye, but they cannot shed joy or contentment in the

heart. The only use that riches can answer, is to

help us to be content; but even here riches can do

little, whilst godliness does all, and is justly esteemed

great gain*.

            How wisdom enriches men, we are more dearly told

in the next verse.

            Ver. 20, 21. I lead in the way of righteousness, in

the midst of the paths of judgment; that I may cause

those that love me to inherit substance, and I will fill all

their treasures.

            Great was the favour bestowed by God on the chil-

dren of Israel, when he conducted them through the

wilderness to the land of promise by a pillar of cloud

and fire. Had he left them to their own conduct,

they must have lost themselves, and perished in that

land of deserts, of pits and serpents, of drought and

of the shadow of death. Nor could we find the way

to the celestial city without the Captain of salvation,

who is given by God to be a Leader to the people.

He leads us in the paths of righteousness for his own

name's sake, and in the midst of the paths of judg-

ment, keeping us from every dangerous mistake, and

preserving us from the snares which on each side of

our way are spread for our feet.

            Our great Teacher leads us in this way, to enrich us

with the most precious substance. The followers of

Christ shall be no losers by him. They shall not in-

herit the wind, nor possess for their portion those un-

substantial things, of which it is said—they are not,

because they are not the true riches; but they shall pos-

 

            * Tim. vi. 6.                Prov. xxiii. 5.


154                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. VIII.

 

sess, by the right and tenure of the children of God, that

which is durable and solid riches. The fashion of this

world passeth away, but he that doth the will of God a-

bideth for ever, and shall be for ever rich, for all his trea-

sures are filled by the wisdom of God. In this world

he receives every needful supply, and can say in truth

that all things are his*. In the eternal world every

craving shall be fully satisfied, and no uneasy desires

shall remain.

            Blessed are the lovers of wisdom, though the world

may account them poor. Have they no silver or gold?

The apostles for the most part bad none, and yet they

made many rich. The angels have none, and desire

to have it as little as we desire to have our treasures

filled with gravel. Saints are like angels, rich in hea-

venly treasure; and whilst God is rich, they shall not

be poor. Here is a short way of becoming rich, and

here covetousness is a virtue.

            These blessed treasures of righteousness and glory

were designed for the possessors of them before the

foundation of the world, and God entered into a co-

venant of grace with his own eternal Son to provide

them; for Christ existed from eternity, and before all

worlds he was appointed to be the Author of our sal-

vation, and rejoiced with his Father in the prospect

of it.

            Ver. 22. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of

his way, before his works of old.

            The Son of God was begotten by the Father before

all worlds; and if we may speak it with reverence, it

was the unspeakable blessedness of the most holy God,

that he possessed a Son the same in essence with him-

self, and the brightness of his glory, by whom he de-

signed to make and govern the world, and to shew the

 

            * 1 Cor. iii. 22.          Compare Gen. iv. 1. Heb.


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS                    155

 

glory of wisdom in repairing the ruins of it. When

the eternal decrees of God were framed in his infinite

mind, before any of his creatures were made, the Word

was with God, even in the bosom of the Father, and

the purpose of God was purposed in him*.

            Ver. 23. I was set up from everlasting, from the be-

ginning, or ever the earth was.

            It was a profane question which a philosopher once

asked at a Christian, What God was doing before he

made the world? But we have here a serious and de-

lightful answer to it. The Son of God was ordained

before the foundation of the world to be the Author

of wisdom and salvation to us, and he accounted it his

glory to be the foundation of the counsel of God about

the administration of grace. The eternal power and

Godhead of Christ, are enlarged upon by himself at

great length in the following verses.

            Ver. 24, 25. When there were no depths I was brought

forth, when there were no fountains abounding with water.

Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I

brought forth.

            The antiquity of his existence, of his generation by

the Father, and his appointment to be our Redeemer,

are expressed in the same language in which the un-

beginning duration of the Godhead is described.

            Ver. 26. While as yet he had not made the earth, nor

the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.

            The Wisdom of the Father was in the beginning,

but had no beginning to his own existence. The Fa-

ther himself did not exist before the only-begotten Son,

and he that spread abroad the earth by himself, without

the assistance of other beings, or the agency of instru-

ments, did not create the world without the everlast-

ing Word.

 

            * Eph. iii. 11.             Psal. xc. 2.


156                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. VIII.

 

            Ver. 27. When he prepared the heavens I was there,

when he set a compass upon the face of the deep.

            Fashioning the great mass of earth and water by a

divine architecture, into the most regular form.

            Ver. 28, 29. When he established the clouds above,

when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When

he gave to the sea his decree that the waters should not

pass his commandment, when he appointed the founda-

tions of the earth. Then was I by him.

            The power and wisdom of God appeared in the

order and stability which he gave to the various crea-

tures, as well as in the formation of them. He sepa-

rated the waters below from the waters above the fir-

mament, and fixed both in their respective places.

He confined the waters of the sea within their proper

channels, and appointed foundations to the earth, that

it might not be removed.

            It is our duty to consider the works of God with

attention, and to contemplate them in their different

parts, which make one beautiful whole; and every

one of these parts is fitted to excite our veneration for

the great Author of nature,—the three-one God.

            When we survey the earth and the waters, the

mountains and the valleys, and consider that they had

a beginning, we are led by the Scripture to adore the

Word which was with God, and was God, when these

creatures that make so good a figure in our eyes were

nothing.

            When we consider the wisdom and power that

shine with amazing lustre in the fabric of the world,

let us raise our thoughts to the Son of God, by whom

God made the world, and by whom he has now re-

covered it from the ruins that were the fruits of our

sin.

            If we reverence the wisdom of the aged, what re-


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS                    157

 

verence is due to the unbeginning Word, who conde-

scends to reveal to us the Father, and to disclose the

secrets of his wisdom!

            When we behold the immense repository of waters,

and the spacious earth, when we lift up our eyes to the

lofty mountains, and to the immeasureable circuit of

the heavens, can we forbear saying, What is man, that

he who is before all these things, and by whom they

all consist, should regard him with such astonishing

favour! and how ungrateful must we be, if we turn

a deaf ear to the merciful instructions of our Divine

Teacher!

            But let us admire, with increasing wonder, the glory

and grace of Him who speaks to us from heaven, when

we hear him declaring his infinite happiness in the

bosom of his Father.

            Ver. 30. Then I was by him, as one brought up with

him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always be-

fore him.

            The blessedness of rational creatures lies in their

fellowship with God. Those are blessed whom God

makes to approach to himself; and the nearer the ap-

proach, the greater the blessedness. But there is in-

finite blessedness in the Godhead itself, and in that

divine and incomprehensible fellowship which the Son

of God enjoyed from eternity, whilst he was in the

Father's bosom, as his only-begotten Son. The Fa-

ther was in the Son, and the Son in the Father, and

both in the Spirit, and the Spirit in both, and they

were infinitely blessed in one another. These things

are so mysterious to us, that it is safer to adore and

wonder, than to speak. But one thing we cannot

overlook, that when we consider the infinite happi-

ness of the Son of God, in his oneness of nature with

the Father, and in that infinite nearness of person to

him, which must be inferred from the unity of essence,


158                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. VIII.

 

and mutual relation of the persons, we must be a-

mazed to think that he bestowed a thought upon

men,—upon creatures whose apostacy and wickedness

were foreknown by him. Before the world began,

he thought upon men with compassion, and rejoiced

in the purposes of his love concerning them. Then,

(says he,) was I by him,

            Ver. 31. Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth;

and my delights were with the sons of men.

            It was infinite goodness to rejoice in the prospect of

those holy angels, whose dwelling was assigned them

in heaven, beside the throne of God. But he delighted

in the prospect of that grace and salvation that was de-

signed for lost men, through the sufferings to be en-

dured in that human nature which was pre-ordained

for him.

            Did our Lord Jesus think upon us with compassion

and love, before the foundation of the world? Let

our thoughts be often employed in contemplating that

amazing goodness, and in tracing up redemption and

the blessings of salvation, to the fountain whence they

proceed. Shall we, from day to day, put off the

thoughts of Christ, and defer that regard and obedi-

ence which is so entirely his due, when he thought on

us with pity, before we or the world in which we dwell

had a being?

            Ver. 32. Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye chil-

dren: for blessed are they that keep my ways.

            We must not give unto him the hearing of the

ear only, but the hearing of faith and obedience also.

The blessing is upon those that are not forgetful hear-

ers, but observers of his word. We are under infinite

obligations, from the greatness and the eternal grace

of Christ, to hearken unto him; and our duty and in-

terest are here the same. Our observation of his ways

is not the foundation or cause of our blessedness, for


CHAP. VIII.]              BOOK OF PROVERBS                    159

 

that was designed for us before we could do good or

evil, and our holy dispositions are not the cause, but

the effect of the purpose of grace in Christ Jesus*;

yet because they are the effect, they are also a proof

of our happy interest in it.

            Are they blessed that keep the way of wisdom ?

Then,

            Ver. 33. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it

not.

            If we hear instruction with faith and reverence, we

shall be wise. If we refuse it, we are fools, and must

continue to be so. Christ is the only author of wis-

dom, and it is by the hearing of faith that he conveys

it. The word is the good seed, and if it be not sown,

how can we expect a harvest? But it is not enough

that the seed is sown. Should it be presently picked

up, or should no fruit be brought forth to perfection,

the sowing of it will be of no avail. We are required,

not only to hear instruction, but to hold it fast in our

hearts and practice; and the man that does so, is truly

wise, and receives blessing from God.

            Ver. 34. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching

daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.

            Those who desire favours from the great, attend

their levees day by day, and think themselves happy

if they can at length obtain a favourable answer to

their suit. With how much greater reason do we

wait at the posts of Wisdom's doors, in expectation of

blessings the most necessary and important!

            Happy were Solomon's servants, in the opinion of

the queen of Sheba, because they enjoyed the privi-

lege of daily hearing that celebrated prince. We are

happy, if we knew our own happiness, who are admit-

ted to hear the instructions of Him who is Wisdom it-

 

            * 2 Tim. i. 9.  Eph. i. 4.         Matt. xiii. 1-20.  James i. 23. &c.


160                 EXPOSITIONS OF THE                   [CHAP. VIII.

 

self, His palace is erected amongst us, and it is a

greater happiness to stand at the door of it, than to

dwell in the tents of wickedness. David desired one

thing,  and what was it? Not that he might enjoy a

long and undisturbed possession of his throne, but

that he might dwell in the house of the Lord all the

days of his life, and enjoy the blessed views and dis-

coveries afforded in the sanctuary.

            If we have long attended the instructions of Christ,

and found little advantage from them, we must not

say with the unbelieving prince, Why should I wait

for the Lord any longer? The God of mercy waits to

be gracious to us, and we ought to wait for him, at-

tending those ordinances where he is pleased to dis-

play his glory and love, with unwearied diligence,

earnest desire, and lively hope. The man that waited

thirty-eight years at the pool of Siloam, was well re-

warded at last, when he received vigour to his body.

But they enjoy greater happiness, who wait for God

in his appointed way. Christ is found of those that

seek him, for to whom did he ever say, Seek ye me in

vain? And blessed are they that find him,

            Ver. 35. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall

obtain favour of the Lord.

            He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not

the Son of God hath not life. The first man, Adam,

was made a living soul, but by sin he died, and we all

sinned and died in him, and must have continued for

ever in a state of death, had not another Adam appeared

who was made a quickening Spirit; and whosoever

believeth in him shall not die, but have everlasting

life. Even in this land of darkness and death, believ-

ers enjoy a true and happy lift, for they are delivered

from condemnation, and entitled to the heavenly life.

They are made free from that principle of corruption,

which is called the law of sin and death, and made


CHAP. VIII]               BOOK OF PROVERBS                   161

 

alive unto God and holiness. They enjoy that which is

better than life,—the loving-kindness of the Lord; for

through Jesus, the Father looks upon them with a

pleasant countenance. The smiles of God make

heaven, and they that obtain favour of the Lord have

a heaven upon earth.

            But miserable are the despisers of the wisdom and

grace of Christ.

            Ver. 36. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his

own soul: all they that hate me love death.

            They that despise Christ's, gospel, or reject his sal-

vation, are sinners against him who is the Supreme

Wisdom, and the fountain of happiness to men. They

are haters of Him who is love itself. Such ungrateful

rebels are as great enemies to themselves as to Christ.

They murder their immortal souls; they love those

sins which are death and damnation in disguise.

Sinners against Christ shall receive a reward of ven-

geance suited to the blackness of their guilt, and shall,

through eternity, have no room to complain of their

Judge. Death and life were set before them, and they

chose death, and shall for ever eat of the fruit of their

own choice. Consider these things, O unbelievers!

If ye will not now consider them, in the latter days ye

shall perfectly consider them.


162                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. IX.

 

 

 

                            CHAPTER IX.

 

 

The happiness of the followers of Christ is not en-

tirely reserved to another world. Even in this life

they are admitted to a feast of fat things.

            Ver. 1. Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn

out her seven pillars.

            The church of Christ is a house, wherein he dwells

and takes pleasure*. It must be a glorious edifice, for

wisdom is the builder of it. It is a strong and dura-

ble building, for it has many pillars, hewed out, not by,

the wisest of kings, but by the wisdom of God. Here

there is abundance of soul-nourishing provision; for,

            Ver. 2. She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled

her wine; she hath also furnished her table.

            We shall surely be satisfied with the fatness of

God's house, with that flesh which is given for the life

of the world, and with that spiced wine which is the

blood of the New Testament. Does Christ give us

his own flesh and blood, to nourish and refresh our

souls? what grace, what comfort, what privilege, will

he withhold? He is most willing to communicate this

provision to us.

            Ver. 3. She hath sent forth her maidens; she crieth

upon the highest places of the city.

            The servants of Christ are called maidens, because

Christ himself is spoken of under the character of Wis-

dom, which in the Hebrew language is of the feminine

 

            * Psa.  cxxxii. 13.                  Matt. xvi. 18.

 


CHAP. IX]                  BOOK OF PROVERBS                    163

 

gender. The followers of the Lamb are called virgins,

to denote their purity*. Ministers also must be pure

in their doctrine and behaviour. The voice of these

maidens, is the voice of that wisdom which sends them.

It is she that gives the invitation by their mouth; and

she does it in the most public and audible manner,

crying with a voice like that of a herald from the highest

places of the city. But who are invited to this feast?

            Ver. 4, 5. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither;

as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,

Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I

have mingled.

            The simple and unwise are welcomed to this feast.

They are called not only by the servants, but by the

master of the feast, to partake of these precious pro-

visions. The poor, the maimed, the lame, and the

blind,--they that have no money, and they that have

spent all their substance for things that do not profit,

are graciously invited to come, and eat and drink abun-

dantly, by receiving Christ and his salvation, as they

are freely offered in the gospel.

            But we cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and

the table of devils. When we come to Jesus by faith,

and partake of his precious blessings, we must forsake

the society and the course of the foolish.

            Ver. 6. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the

way of understanding.

            The companions of fools shall remain for ever in the

congregation of the dead. But in the way of understand-

ing there is life, and no death. Do we abhor death,

and love life? Then, if we believe the words of Christ;

we will forsake the foolish, and go in the path of un-

derstanding‡.

 

            * Rev. xiv.      Luke xiv.  Isa. lv. 1-4.

                        ‡ Prov. xiii. 14.  John vii. 51.


164                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. IX.

 

            But may we not associate with the foolish, in order

to reclaim them. There are two sorts of foolish per-

sons. Some have naturally a pliable and modest dis-

position; though destitute of the grace of God, or

though conversant in the ways of sin, they are not yet

hardened in sin by long practice. There may be some

hope of making good impressions on the minds of such

persons as these. But there are others who are stub-

born and determined sinners. To them, in ordinary

cases, there is no hope of doing any good.

            Ver. 7, 8. He that reproved a scorner getteth to him-

self shame; and he that rebuked a wicked man getteth

himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee—

            If we reprove the profligate sinners that mock at

every thing sacred, we are not likely to benefit them,

but to procure hurt to ourselves.

            Such men, when we have irritated them by our

admonitions, will pry into our characters with all the

keenness of malice and revenge. Few characters can

stand the scrutiny of a malicious eye; so that instead of

serving them, we shall be in danger of losing much of

our usefulness to others, by making them our enemies*.

Yet reproofs are like pearls when they are adminis-

tered with the meekness of wisdom, and met with an

obedient ear.

            Ver. 8, 9.—Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser;

teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

            There is scarcely a man so wise and holy as not to

need instruction and reproof. The difference between

wise men and fools lies not in this, that the former are

above reproofs, but that they know their need of them,

and are disposed to receive them with meekness, and

to improve by them, and to love and thank their re-

 

            * Matt. vii. 6.             Psal. cxli. 5.


CHAP. IX.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS                    165

 

provers*. The wise and the just man are the same in

the view of this wisest of men, for this is a fundamen-

tal maxim in his writings-

            Ver. 10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wis-

dom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

            Solomon knew how to appreciate that wisdom which

directs men in the prudent management of their own

concerns, and in the wise administration of public

affairs; but he rightly judged that religion is the true

wisdom, and that, compared with it, all other kinds are

vanity and folly. He examined with the eye of the

prince of philosophers the objects of nature; but the

knowledge of the most holy God, one in essence, but

subsisting in three persons, was in his estimation true

understanding. This kind of knowledge excels the

other as much as the light of the sun the glimmer of

a glow-worm. He that knows God in truth, is pos-

sessed of a never-ending life.

            Ver. 11. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and

the years of thy life shall be increased.

            It is not for God's benefit, but for ours, that he invites

us to receive wisdom‡.

            Ver. 12. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself;

but it thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.

            God can receive no additions of blessedness by our

wisdom, though he delights in it. He cannot lose his

glory by our contempt of his gospel and laws ||. The

ministers of wisdom will rejoice in our compliance with

their calls, but the profit or the loss of our behaviour

under a dispensation of the gospel, must be felt by our-

selves§. Life and death are set before us. May God

grant us a disposition to chase life.

 

            * Psal. cxli. 5.            John xvii. 3.  Phil. iii. 8.

‡ Prov. iii. 2.  Job xxxv. 6.                || Ezek. xxxiii. 11.  Rom. ix. 22.

                                    § Isa. xlix. 4.


166                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. IX

 

            Another offer is made us of entertainment, but alas

of how different a kind! It is made by the harlot,

against whom we need to be often warned.

            Ver. 13. A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple,

and knoweth nothing.

            She is foolish, ignorant, and stupid to the last de-

gree, for she buys a moment of empty delight at the

expense of everlasting burnings. She is impudent and

clamorous. The damned in hell are afraid that their

companions should come to their place of torments.

But this shameless creature earnestly calls others to

share with her in those pleasures which are followed

by everlasting sorrows.

            Ver. 14, 15. For she sitteth at the door of her house,

on a seat in the high place of the city, to call passengers

who go right on their ways.

            They are evil times, when tempters to sin are per-

mitted to hunt so avowedly for prey. Let well-mean-

ing persons, in such a time, watch and pray against

temptation. These are the persons whom the foolish

woman solicits, and too often with success.

            Ver. 16, 17. Whom is simple, let him turn in hither:

and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to

him, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret

is pleasant.

            They are surely stupid, who believe that there is

any pleasure in those things that are forbidden by God,

and afraid to appear in open day. Yet such is the

corruption of the hearts of men, that they relish doc-

trines so contrary to reason, as well as to Scripture.

We are naturally prone to things forbidden, and till

our souls are renewed by the grace of God, can taste

an unaccountable sweetness in that which is poison to

the soul. But when we are restored to a sound mind,

those delights only will be relished, which consist with


CHAP. IX.]                 BOOK OF PROVERBS                    167

 

a pure conscience, and the dignity of a rational and

immortal soul.

            It is through blindness and inconsideration that any

man is entangled in the snares of the foolish woman

            Ver. 18. But he knoweth not that the dead are there;

and that her guests are in the depths of hell.

            We are naturally starving creatures, and cannot

find happiness within ourselves. As every man must

have food to satisfy the natural cravings of hunger, so

every soul must have some gratification to its desires of

happiness. Wisdom and folly do each spread a feast

for men. The question is, Whose guests shall we be?

And did we possess any wisdom, or any true and well-

directed self-love, it might be easily decided. The en-

tertainments of wisdom, are soul-quickening provision.

They that hear her calls, shall eat that which is good,

and their souls shall live for ever. The guests of wisdom

are in the heights of heaven. They feast on the hid-

den manna, and on the fruits of the tree of life. The

provisions of the foolish woman are a deadly, though

perhaps a slow poison. Her guests have their portion

with the wicked giants, who brought on the world a

universal deluge, and with the inhabitants of Sodom

and Gomorrah, who are set forth for an example, suf-

fering the vengeance of eternal fire. Let us consider

where Joseph now is, and what blessings are come

upon the crown of the head of him, who so bravely

resisted temptations the most alluring, and the most

threatening. Let us, on the other hand, remember

Sodom and Gomorrah, and chuse our portion with the

one or the other. Be astonished, O heavens! that men

should be so cruel to their own souls, as to deliberate

a moment in so clear a case. To-day let us hear the

voice of wisdom.

 


168                 EXPOSITION OF THE                     [CHAP. X.

 

 

 

 

                                 CHAPTER X.

 

 

Salvation is by grace through faith; and this

faith works by love, producing universal obedience

to the law of our Creator and Redeemer. This

law is summarily comprehended in the ten command-

ments, and published with more particularity in this

divinely inspired body of Christian morality. Let us

study it with attention, and pray that the Spirit of

Jesus may enable us to understand and practise it.

            Ver. 1. The proverbs of Solomon.  A wise son maketh

a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his

mother.

            The first nine chapters are a prefatory address. Now

begin the proverbs, (or masterly sayings,) properly so

called. Weighty sayings deserve and gain regard.

But how shall we sufficiently esteem the proverbs left

us by Solomon, which is almost another name for wis-

dom itself! By this inspired philosopher, Divine Wis-

dom speaks to every generation.

            Were the first of these proverbs to have its due in-

fluence on mankind, the world would be greatly re-

formed and blessed by its efficacy. A great part of

our race are parents,—all mankind are, or have been

children; and by it both parents and children are di-

rected. Parents are instructed to use all possible means

to make their children wise. But how shall they effect

this? Is it not the prerogative of God to give wisdom?

No doubt. But he makes use of proper and appointed

means for this purpose. Would you then derive com-


CHAP. X.]                  BOOK OF PROVERBS                    169

 

fort from your children? Instruct, reprove, exhort

them, pray for them, recommend religion to them by

your example; for thus saith the Author of wisdom,

"Train up a child in the way wherein he should go,

and when he is old he will not depart from it." But if

in some rare instance he should, your souls will not on

that account be stung with self-accusations.

            Remember, ye that are children, how greatly you

are indebted to your parents, and how much their

comfort is bound up in you. Be wise, seek useful

knowledge, and search for it as for hid treasure. Walk

in the fear of the Lord. Let prudence and discretion,

(such as Solomon teaches,) appear in every part of

your conduct; so shall your father and mother greatly

rejoice, and bless the Lord on your account. But if

you are foolish and unruly, you grieve their spirits,

and wound the souls that love you with the dearest

affection. Consider that your mothers bore you with

sorrow. Why should your lives also be a continual

source of pain to their tender hearts! or why should

the anxieties of your fathers on your behalf, be re-

warded with the cutting view of your ungodly lives!

"A wise-son maketh a glad father, but a foolish man de-

spiseth his mother *." Though he should in no other

way express his contempt for her, his foolish behaviour

is a plain proof that he values not her happiness.

            Ver. 2. Treasures of wickedness profit nothing--