BOOK OF PROVERBS.
BY THE LATE
REV. GEORGE LAWSON, D. D.
PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY TO THE ASSOCIATE SYNOD,
IN TWO VOLUMES.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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his conduct, has been in a great measure superseded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.
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
Let us hear, first, what Solomon has to say, for re-
commending this much neglected book to our at-
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
But is such the natural tendency of covetousness?—
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
‘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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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
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-
* 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
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
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-
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
We are next required to be liberal in the service of
* 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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
* 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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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.
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
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-
"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
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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-
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 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
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
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
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
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
Mat. v. 19. † Psal. xvi. 5. 1vi. 12, 13
96 EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. 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-
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
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
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-
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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-
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
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-
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
* 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
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-
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-
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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-
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
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
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
* 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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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-
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
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-
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-
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
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
Perfect purity is another excellency of our divine
Teacher, and his instructions have a sanctifying effect
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
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
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-
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
* 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
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
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
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-
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
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 ?
Ver. 33. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it
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.
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
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-
* 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
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
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
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.
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
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--