EXPOSITION

 

                                         OF THE

 

             BOOK OF PROVERBS.

 

 

 

 

                                                BY THE LATE

 

            REV. GEORGE LAWSON, D. D.

               PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY TO THE ASSOCIATE SYNOD,

                                                     SELKIRK.

 

 

                                               IN TWO VOLUMES.

                                                          VOL. 2.

 

 

 

 

 

                       EDINBURGH:

 

                                                     PRINTED FOR

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

                     W. OLIPIIANT, AND F. PILLANS, EDINBURGH; M. OGLE,

                            GLASGOW; OGLE, DUNCAN & CO. AND

                                                J. NISBET, LONDON.

                                                                1821.


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 457

 

 

                   Proverbs 19

 

            Ver. 1. Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity,

than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

            So depraved are the understandings of men, that the

rich are generally honoured for their wealth, although

their conversation shews them to be destitute of any

valuable quality; whilst the poor are despised, though

they are adorned with the beauties of religion. To

give an outward respect to the rich, according to the

innocent fashions of the place where we live, is not a

sin; for if providence make a distinction, we may do

it likewise, between the rich and the poor; but it is a

sign of great corruption in our minds, to value the rich

as if they were worthier men, and more deserving of

our esteem and affection than the poor, when grace

hath made a plain difference in favour of the poor, of a

kind infinitely more important than the outward gifts

of providence ever made. The bad effects of this un-

just preference are severely censured by James, in the

first half of the second chapter of his epistle.

            We ought undoubtedly to follow God, in the judg-


458                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

ment which he gives of things and persons, as far as

that judgment is revealed; and we find that he sets no

value upon riches. He bestows them oftentimes on

those whom he abhors, and denies them to his favour-

ites. But the upright, however poor, are his delight.

He glories in Job as a perfect and upright man, and

he still bestows higher commendations on him, af-

ter he was stripped of all his substance, because he had

given additional proof of his stedfast integrity *.

            When Christ was on earth, he was a poor man that

walked in his integrity, and surely the lovers of Christ

will never value a man the less, because he is as Christ

also was in the world. In short, the upright man, how-

ever poor and mean, is not only a man of better dispo-

sitions and behaviour than the rich sinner, but he is

also incomparably happier and richer, and shall be rich

as long as God himself is rich.

            Be satisfied and thankful, ye that are taught by the

Spirit of God, to walk in your integrity. You are rich

in faith, and heirs of the kingdom; and in this world

you have and shall have every thing that infinite wis-

dom and love sees fit for you †.

            Here the poor may see a certain method of being

rich, or of obtaining what is far better than riches.

Labour not to be rich in gold and silver, but seek after

that which Christ calls the true riches, and which he

will dispense unto those that seek them in his appoint-

ed way‡.

            Let not the rich man glory in his wealth: if he is

perverse in his lips, he is poor and miserable, and blind,

and naked; and the esteem of men will not counter-

balance the abhorrence of God ||. Go to Christ under

deep impressions of your poverty, and buy of him

gold tried in the fire, and you shall be truly rich.

 

*Job 1,2         † l Cor 3:21,22          ‡ John 6:27, Matt. 6:33

|| Ps. 10:4


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 459

 

            Ver. 2. Also that the soul be without knowledge, it is

not good; and he that hasteth with his feet, sinneth.

            The want of that knowledge which we need for our

direction through life, is very pernicious; for we are

in a dangerous world, full of pits and snares; and the

man that has not eyes in his head, must fall, sooner or

later, into destruction. When the blind are led by the

blind, they cannot well avoid falling into the ditch.

But blind sinners are led by a quick-sighted and crafty

devil, who will certainly land them in perdition *.

            Although we have knowledge in our heads, it will

not profit us, unless we have it also in our hearts.

Knowledge, when it is not loved and reduced into prac-

tice, will serve only to bear testimony for God against

the abuser of light, and to heighten his condemnation.

A man of much knowledge, and a bad practice, carries

about him, like Uriah, that which will prove his own

death.

            To want knowledge, is not good: to have know-

ledge, and not to use it as the directory of our life, can-

not be one jot better; and he that hasteth with his feet,

and takes no heed to his way, sinneth.

            It is no sin, but a duty, to run in the way of God's

commandments; and it was an evidence of David's

wisdom, that he made haste, and delayed not to run out

of the paths of sin, when he considered whither they

would lead him; but to run on, without consideration,

whithersoever our fancy or our passions lead us, expo-

ses us to much sin and danger; and therefore we are

commanded to walk circumspectly, keeping our eye

upon the ground we tread, that it may not be slippery,

and observing the rule of duty, that we may not trans-

gress it. Even in those businesses that are lawful, we

will be drawn into sin, without circumspection; for the

devil has snares spread for us everywhere in this evil

 

*Eph. 2:3


460                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

world, and he that makes haste to be rich, shall not be

innocent.

            Although we ought to run in the ways of the Lord,

and not faint, yet rashness in our religious course will be

attended with much sin. We must carry the lamp of

truth with us, otherwise, by running in the dark, we

will certainly stumble*.

            As rashness and inconsideration are sinful, so they

are the causes of a great deal of the sin that is in the

world. Men would not choose, or at least they would

not so resolutely keep the ways of iniquity, were it not

that they want knowledge and thought, as Isaiah clear-

ly shews in the case of idolaters †.

            Ver. 3. The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and

his heart fretteth against the Lord.

            Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempt-

ed by God:  God tempts no man, but every man is

tempted when he is seduced into evil by the blindness

of his own mind, and the perverseness of his own heart.

The world and the devil may indeed persuade us to

sin, but none of them can force us. When a man sins,

he does more mischief to himself than all the legions of

hell can do to him; and therefore, whenever our way

is perverted, we must chiefly blame ourselves. It would

be blasphemy to charge the most holy God with our

sins, and it is folly to transfer the fault unto our sedu-

cers; for if our enemy should persuade us to stab our-

selves to the heart, it is our own madness to comply.

            When our way is perverted, we soon feel the miser-

able consequences of our folly; for wretchedness, in

one form or other, follows sin, as the shadow follows

the body:  but we are so loath to blame ourselves for the

consequences of our own folly, that our hearts will ra-

ther fret against the Lord, as if he were the cause of

our ruin. Adam laid the blame of his fall upon the

woman, whom God gave to be with him, indirectly

 

*Chap. 4:12   † Isa. 44:19,20


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 461

 

transferring his own folly to his Maker; and it is na-

tural and common for men to follow the example of

their common parent. This corrupt disposition is not

entirely rooted out of the saints themselves. It was

David's fault that he did not cause the ark to be car-

ried in the proper manner from the house of Obed-

edom; and yet when God made a breach upon the peo-

ple on that account, David was displeased.

            Men are oftener guilty of this sin than they imagine.

Our hearts fret against the Lord, by fretting at the mi-

nisters and instruments of his providence; and there-

fore, when the people murmured against Moses in the

wilderness, he tells them that their murmuring was not

against him and his brother Aaron, but against the

Lord. David would not fret against Shimei, because

he looked upon him as an instrument employed by God

for his correction.

            Instead of fretting, it is our duty to accept of the

punishment of our iniquity, and to bless God that mat-

ters are not so bad with us as we deserve; for where-

fore should a living man complain, when the damned

have no just reason to do it?  If our troubles come up-

on us without any particular reason from our own con-

duct, yet reflections upon God would be very unjust.

Job's troubles were extremely grievous, and they came

upon him without cause in himself, as God testifies,

Job ii. yet he was made humbly to acknowledge his

great folly in reflecting upon God for his distresses, be-

fore his captivity was turned back.

            Ver. 4. Wealth maketh many friends, but the poor is

separated from his neighbour.

            God commands us to love our neighbours as our-

selves, whether rich or poor, and to shew a peculiar

tenderness to the poor on account of their destitute cir-

cumstances; but such is the depraved disposition of


462                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

men, that the rich have many friends, but the poor man

is not known by him that lives at the next door.

            The rich have many temptations to high-mindedness,

and this is one of them: that they meet with a great

deal of respect, and every person professes friendship

to them, and they naturally think that they are pos-

sessed of many good qualities, which draw to them the

esteem of mankind; but they ought to consider, that

money answers all things, and is one of the chief attrac-

tives of esteem in the world. Let them throw away

their money, and those that once made their court to

them will leave them, as quickly as the eagles leave a

field of battle when the carcases are all devoured. Job

was the most respected man in the east, when he was

the richest; but when he was spoiled of his wealth,

he that had been as the tabret of the people, became

their byeword. Jerusalem, in her prosperity, was the

princess among the provinces, but in the day of her

calamity all her friends dealt treacherously with her,

and became her enemies. A very ordinary virtue in an

ordinary man, is a shining virtue in a man of fortune;

but if he should become poor, all the lustre of his great

qualities is entirely gone.

            When the poor man is separated from his neighbour,

let him remember and imitate the apostle of the Gen-

tiles, who was often reduced to poverty and hunger.

Paul laid very little stress on good report or had report,

for he knew that none of these things, nor any thing

else, could separate him from the love of Christ *.

            Ver. 5. A false witness shall not be unpunished, and

he that speaketh lies shall not escape.

            A false witness does one of the greatest injuries to

his neighbour, and one of the greatest possible disho-

nours to God. He breaks at once the two great com-

mandments, of loving God, and loving his brother, and

 

*See chap. 14:20


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 463

 

therefore deserves severe punishment*. But if he

escape punishment from the magistrate, he shall be

punished by God with the loss of credit, and other mi-

series, in this life, or at least, with an eternal punish-

ment hereafter; for those that bear false witness against

their neighbours are an abomination to the Lord, and

how is it possible for them to escape†?

            Liars are here classed with them that bear false wit-

ness, for they are so much alike, that the ninth com-

mandment, which directly forbids the bearing of false

witness, does also, by good interpretation, forbid what-

soever is prejudicial to truth; and those that can allow

themselves to tell lies in common conversation, will, in

all probability, bear false witness, and confirm it by an

appeal to heaven, when they have a sufficient tempta-

tion. Some liars may expect to be safe, because their

lies are not of a mischievous kind, but when they do

evil that good may come, they expose themselves to

just condemnation. All liars, says our great judge,

shall have their part in the infernal lake‡.

            Ver. 6. Many will entreat the favour of the prince,

and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

            It is, no doubt, a right thing to honour princes, and to

seek their favour when we need it, if God is not neg-

lected, from whom every man's judgment comes. The

Lord is the king of kings, and it is a plain evidence that

we forget God, when we are less anxious about his fa-

vour, than men are about the favour of our fellow

worms.

            Princes need not pride themselves in the homage

that is paid to them, for their favour is sought by men,

not so much out of regard to their persons, as from a

regard to their power. Kindness and liberality have

a greater influence for gaining the hearts of men, than

dignity of station. There are many that seek the ruler's

 

*Deut. 19:16-21       †Chap. 6:10   ‡Rev. 21:8


464                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

favour, but every man loves him that is generous. When

power and generosity meet in the same person, he be-

comes an object of universal esteem, like Marcus Anto-

ninus, who was lamented by every man when he was

dead, as if the glory of the Roman empire had died

with him.

            How inexcusable are we, if we do not love God with

all our hearts. His gifts to us are past number, and

all the gifts of men to us are the fruits of his bounty,

conveyed by the ministry of those whose hearts are dis-

posed by his providence to kindness.  "I have seen

thy face," said Jacob to Esau, "as the face of God."

His brother's favour he knew to be a fruit of the mercy

of him with whom he spoke and prevailed at Bethel.

            In our love to the rich and liberal, we exceed the

bounds of duty, if we reserve not a proper share of out

regard for the poor, who cannot give us any thing, but

have a title to receive from us. But the greatest part

of men are of a different mind from Christ Jesus, and

think it more blessed to receive than to give.

            Ver. 7. All the brethren of the poor do hate him, how

much more do his friends go far from him? he pur-

sueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him.

            The brethren of the poor hate him:  This is very

hard:  He might have expected that though all men

had forsaken him, yet his brethren would have shewed

compassion in the time of distress. A brother is born

for adversity, and he aught chiefly at such a season to

shew that he is a brother, and if he does not, he great-

ly aggravates the distress of such a near friend by his

unkindness*, and gives a fair pretence to those that

are not connected with the poor by such endearing ties,

to forsake them. We make ourselves guilty of other

men's sins, when we tempt them to sin by our exam-

ple, especially when our obligations to the opposite

duty are much stronger.

 

*Job 6:15


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 465

 

            This sin is very general, and almost universal among

men, although nature, as well as scripture, testifies against

it. The best of men have often complained in the time

of their afflictions, that they were forsaken and abhorred

by those whom they most loved, and those from whom

they had reason to expect the greatest kindness*.

            But how do they discover their hatred? by behaving

like aliens, and turning a deaf ear to their entreaties.

This is a sufficient evidence of hatred in the wise man's

view, and therefore we may justly conclude, that there

is more of this abominable sin in the world than those

that are chargeable with it will be willing to acknow-

ledge. The want of love is hatred, though in a lesser

degree than malice or spite, and therefore the apostle

John distinguishes the righteous from the wicked, by

this mark of loving or hating their brethren†. By

extending this observation into its native consequen-

ces, we might convict all wicked men of enmity against

God himself‡ for they do not love him, but despise

his laws, and have a reigning aversion to every mean of

fellowship with him.

            When poor men are real Christians, it is a double ini-

quity to despise them for their poverty, for they have

a double claim to our regard, and their Redeemer is a

severe avenger of their wrongs ||.

            To disregard the importunity of the poor when we

are able to help them, is a sign of a very hard heart, and

provokes God to disregard the prayers of such unmer-

ciful creatures, in the day of their own distress, and to

punish them without mercy §.

            When the poor are overlooked, let them remember

his text to their comfort. When God testifies against

this conduct of their friends, it is a clear evidence that

his ways are not as men's ways, nor his thoughts as

 

*Job 19, Ps. 31 & 88            † 1 John 2:10 etc.     ‡ Rom. 8:7

|| Job 19:28,29                       § James 2:13, Ezek. 16:50


466                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

their thoughts. When Job's friends scorned him, his

eyes poured out tears unto God. Christ was left in his

distress by all his disciples, but he was not alone, for

the Father was with him. But it is an encouragement

to our faith, that he had, in the days of his flesh, so large

experience of the sorrows of poverty, for in that he him-

self hath suffered, being tempted, he is able also to suc-

cour them that are tempted *.

            Ver. 8. He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul:

he that keepeth understanding shall find good.

            Spiritual wisdom is not natural to men, and the best

scholars, and greatest philosophers, live and die fools,

unless they get into their possession that wisdom which

cometh from above, and is taught in the holy Scrip-

tures.

            The way of getting this wisdom is to be sensible of

our need of it, to trust in him to whom all the treasures

of wisdom and knowledge belong, for the communica-

tion of it, and to be diligent in the use of the means

which he hath appointed, and will bless, for conveying

it to us.

            We must not only get, but keep this precious trea-

sure, retaining it in our hearts, shewing it forth in all

our behaviour, and refusing to part with it on any ac-

count†.

            Many think that those men who are so careful to seek

and retain wisdom, are great losers, buying it at too high

a price, and refusing to part with it at the risk of every

thing that is valuable in the eyes of men. But the Spi-

rit of God assures us in this place, that they are great

gainers, and never can be losers. They may hate their

wealth and ease, their friends and life, for the sake of

wisdom, but when they do so, they are lovers of their

souls, and millions of lives are not to be put in compe-

tition with an immortal soul. They may meet with

loss and disgrace, with persecution and death, but still

 

*Heb. 2:18     † Chap. 23:23


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 467

 

they find good, for they not only find those eternal ad-

vantages which infinitely outweigh every temporal

loss *, but even these losses themselves are good to

them that find wisdom, which, like the pretended phi-

losopher's stone, turns every thing into gold. That

is truly good to us, which does us good, and that does

us good which makes us good, or brings us nearer to

the possession of the chief good. The keeper of wis-

dom does not always find that which appears good to a

carnal eye, but he always finds that which appears good

in the eyes of God, and consequently in his own eyes.

Paul found much good in the things that appear the

most frightful objects in nature to the greatest part of

men.

            Ver. 9. A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he

that speaketh lies shall perish.

            These sins are very pernicious, and yet Solomon knew

and found them so common, that he publishes a double

warning against them, almost in the same breath, verse

5.

            Ver. 10. Delight is not seemly for a fool, much less

for servants to have rule over princes.

            Wisdom turns every thing to a man's advantage and

honour, but folly turns gain into loss, and makes a man

ridiculous and contemptible, when he is surrounded

with every thing that might make him happy, and pro-

cure him respect. Delight is a thing that all men wish

to enjoy, but when a fool is furnished with every mean

of pleasure, his folly is heightened into madness, and

he is found to be seventimes more a fool than he ap-

peared to be when he was in other circumstances. A

whip is proper for an ass, and a rod for the fool's back,

but delight and the means of procuring it are the same

thing to a fool, as a golden bridle to that lazy animal †.

 

*Rom. 8:13                † Chap. 14:24


468                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

            It is still more unseemly for servants to have rule over

princes, for although servants have as good blood in

their veins as princes, and are born with the same ra-

tional powers, yet their education and habits of life,

make them quite unfit for the arts of government. And

pride, that universal vice, has never a greater opportu-

nity of gaining full dominion in a man, than when he

is unexpectedly raised from the lowest to the highest

stations. But this proverb, like many others, is true

only in general, and not in every particular instance;

for Joseph was very justly raised, from slavery and im-

prisonment, to reign over princes, and Solomon himself

assures us, that a wise and poor child is worthy of much

more respect than an old and foolish king.

            Besides the instruction contained in this sentence, to

those that have the disposal of high offices in their

hands, it teaches us all to value wisdom above pleasure,

and all the means of pleasure. Wisdom can make a  

man happy without them, and wisdom alone can make

them means of happiness to us, and enable us to use

them without abusing them into means of our own dis-

honour.

            It teaches us also to be pleased with our own condi-

tion. How ridiculous would an illiterate rustic appear,

were he to be placed in a pulpit, or a man of low birth

if he were seated on a throne! It is God's office to

choose our stations, and ours to discharge with cheerful-

ness the duties of them.

            When God raised Joseph, and Saul, and David, to

power, and when he called fishermen to be apostles,

this proverb could not be applied to them, because God

gave them a spirit suited to their offices, and in like

manner, when he raises the meanest of the sons of men

to spiritual honours, he bestows upon them a suitable

disposition of soul. Those that are made kings and

priests unto God and the father of Christ, have the spi-


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 469

 

rit of sons, working in them those heavenly tempers

which become those who are exalted so highly by the

grace of God.

            Ver. 11. The discretion of a man deferreth his anger,

and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

            Are you affronted by any person? Now is the time

for knowing whether you are a wise man or a fool. If

you are a fool, you will follow that maxim of fools, that

a man behaves honourably when he will not suffer any

man to give him the least shadow of affront, without

forcing him to repent it, if possible, or at least shewing

that it is rather the want of power than will, that hin-

ders him from taking revenge. If you are wise, then

you will not suffer passion to domineer in your breasts,

but when you find it raising insurrections, will force it

to yield to the dominion of reason and religion; and be-

fore you display it in your words and behaviour, you

will consider calmly whether you have reason to be

angry, or so much reason as passion would make you

believe; and if you have reason, yet another question

still remains, Dost thou well to be angry? or dost

thou well to be angry to such a degree?

            A wise man will not only defer his anger, but pass

over offences. Joab could suppress his anger at Abner

for killing Asahel, but he was not a wise man, for his

resentment broke forth at a fit opportunity, and insti-

gated him to shed the blood of war in the time of peace.

David was a man of a very different spirit. He not

only restrained Abishai from killing Shimei, when he

was fleeing from Jerusalem, but he pardoned that of-

fender when he was returning in triumph to his palace.

It was not revenge, but the love of peace, and a desire

of the public welfare, that made David charge Solo-

mon, on his death-bed, to keep his eye on that danger-

ous traitor.

            It is our duty and wisdom to pass by, not only slight


470                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

offences, but injuries of a deeper dye, such as may be

called transgressions; for we need sometimes the for-

giveness of such from men, and every day we are

obliged to supplicate the forgiveness of transgressions

from God, and we are bound to forgive men, even as

God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us.

            It is the discretion of a man to be slow to anger and

ready to forgive; for as it is not the water that surrounds

a ship, but the water which soaks into it, that sinks it,

so it is not the injury done by another man that endan-

gers us so much as the impression it makes upon our-

selves. Our fretful and revengeful thoughts are the

torment of our hearts, and deprive us of the govern-

ment of our own souls, and it is a piece of folly, when

our neighbour does us an injury, to do a much greater

to ourselves, when we mean to be revenged on him.

            It is a greater glory for a man to govern himself, than

to take strong cities, and rule over mighty nations. It

is the wisdom and honour of sinning creatures, to be-

have to offenders as men that need pardon for them-

selves. It is the glory of Christians to learn meekness

and lowliness from Christ. It is the glory of pardoned

sinners to shew forth the virtues of him that called them,

to which they owe so much, not only in their praises

but in all their conversation.

            Ver. 12. The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion,

but his favour is as dew upon the grass.

            We must be loyal to the king for wrath, if we will

not be loyal for conscience sake; for here the Bible re-

quires it, and represents the great danger of disobe-

dience, to affright those that will not be governed by a

sense of duty. As the lion among the beasts of the

forest, so is a king among men, and as the roaring

of the lion is terrible to the beasts, so is the displea-

sure of the king to those that offend him. But his


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 471

 

favour is pleasant and refreshing like the dew upon

the grass.

            We must not wantonly provoke the displeasure, and

forfeit the favour, of one that can do us so much good or

evil; yet if conscience interfere with the king's com-

mands, we must obey God rather than man, for what

is the roaring of a lion, or the rage of a tyrant, to the

torments of a mind enraged with a sense of guilt; or

what is the dew on the grass, or the smiles of a mo-

narch, to that peace of God which passeth all under-

standing, and made the martyrs happier in their dun-

geons, and at stakes, than their tyrants were upon their

thrones *.

            Ver. 13. A foolish son is the calamity of his father,

and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.

            When children behave ill, they are a great cross to

their parents, but a peevish and contentious wife is a

much greater cross, for children may be turned out of

doors when they cannot be reclaimed, but death only, in

ordinary cases, can separate those that are joined in

marriage. As the rain that drops through an old house

rots the timber, and will, in time, wear away the very

stones, so the everlasting reflections and complaints of

a peevish woman prey upon the vitals of a man, and

consume his heart with unceasing anguish.

            Women were made to assist and comfort their hus-

bands, and therefore they ought to behave with a meek

and quiet spirit, for it will never be of advantage to a

woman to cross the end of her creation. Those who

make such a near friend unhappy, must bring a double

share of unhappiness on themselves.

            But husbands must not impute peevishness to their

wives, without good ground. We are all the sons of

Adam, and all women are the daughters of Eve, and it

would be very unjust to call a woman contentious, for

 

*Daniel 3


472                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

every instance of bad humour to which vexations may

provoke her.

            If a man has a froward wife, let him consider his own

behaviour. Few women have so little of the heart of

a woman, or a human creature, as to make those men

unhappy that treat them with discretion and tenderness,

or if women really deserve this character, gentle admo-

nitions, and kind usage are the best means of reclaim-

ing them.

            If a wife has so much of the spirit of a tiger, as still

to vex a good husband, his duty is to acknowledge God

in this providence, and to consider it as a just correc-

tion, or a necessary trial. This will dispose him to per-

form his duty to a wife that does not perform her duty

to him, and to become better by her means, if he can-

not make her better by all his endeavours and prayers.

When men that have good wives consider this text,

and the too frequent illustrations of it which the obser-

vation of the world gives us, it will teach them what

reason they have of thankfulness to God, for appointing

them a happier lot. It is not chance, nor our own dis-

cretion, but the providence of God that gives any of us

a prudent wife.

            Ver. 14. Houses and riches are the inheritance of fa-

thers, and a prudent wife is from the Lord.

            Houses and lands are given us by God, but he gives

them to us by means of our parents or progenitors, whose

industry acquired them. The providence of God shines

more remarkably in bestowing good wives on men, for

they cannot come by inheritance; and no man can guess

beforehand what wife shall fall to any man's lot.

            Prudence in a wife, includes not only skill in the ma-

nagement of domestic affairs, but likewise that good

sense that makes her an agreeable partner, and directs

her to that kind of behaviour which makes her husband

happy in this connexion. To these qualities, if piety


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 473

 

be added, it renders her a far greater blessing than any

possessions that parents can transmit.

            We are to thank God for every outward enjoyment,

but chiefly for those in which his favourable providence

appears most plainly. Houses and lands may tend, in a

great degree, to render life comfortable, but a virtuous

woman is an uncommon blessing, for her price is far

above rubies.

            He that findeth a wife has reason to thank God*.

He that findeth a good wife has many reasons to be

thankful. It was God that gave her prudence,

that brought him into acquaintance with her, that dis-

posed him to choose her for a wife, and determined her

mind to comply with his desires.

            When we receive a rich present from a friend, grati-

tude obliges us to use it according to his wishes. If a

wife is a rich present from God, her husband is bound

to shew her all that respect and kindness which God re-

quires. Whatever character a wife deserves, God com-

mands her husband to love her, but when a wife is pru-

dent, the husband would be inexcusable that did not

love her with the tenderest affection.

            If a man desires to have a wife, he must acknow-

ledge God by earnest supplications; for he alone knows

the hearts of men and women, and exercises a sove-

reign influence over their affections; but let him not

presume to affront God by pretending to seek a wife

from him, without seeking prudence in her, preferably

to houses or land; for God declares, that a prudent

wife is a far richer gift than those things which are so

much valued by the generality of men. When chil-

dren wish to enter into marriage, they cannot expect

the countenance of their parents, if they make a choice

directly opposite to the judgment of their parents; and

how can we expect that our heavenly Father should

 

*Chap. 18:22


474                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

give us his countenance in pursuits opposite to his de-  

dared will?

            Ver. 15. Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep, and an

idle soul shall suffer hunger.

            A man would make himself universally despised, if

he kept his bed all the time that other people are at

work; and yet a slothful man might as well be in his

bed, for whilst he is awake, he is sleeping, and when

he is at work, he is idle. Slothfulness is to the body

like rust to iron; it is a consumption to all the powers

of the mind, and by its stealing influence and stupify-

ing nature, it casts a man into a sleep, not of an ordi-

nary kind, but a deep sleep like that of death. When

a man does nothing as it ought to be done, he is like

one buried alive, and may be numbered with the inha-

bitants of the land of silence and rest.

            Would you avoid hunger and poverty, things so much

dreaded by mankind? Then avoid idleness, which

brings these miseries upon men, and deprives them of

that pity which waits upon virtue in distress. Idle-

ness brings hunger, and along with it temptations to

fraud and theft, by which means it has led many to a

gibbet.

            Ver. 16. He that keepeth the commandment, keepeth

his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways, shall die.

            As the word of God is called the Scripture, (or the

writing,) as if there were no other writings in the world,

because there are none that can bear a comparison with

it, so the precepts of the Bible may be called the com-

mandment, because, although there are men that have

a right to command, yet the precepts of God lay an

obligation upon us, of force infinitely superior to any

thing else in the world. The authority of parents and

kings is derived from God, and we are bound to obey

them, because God requires it, and when their com-


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 475

 

mandments interfere with the will of God, we are bound

to obey God, and not man.

            The commandment of God is to be observed and

obeyed by us in all things, and through the whole

course of our lives. We must keep it, not only as the

apple of our eye, but as our life and soul.

            He that keeps the commandment keeps his own soul

from those sins that would bring death and ruin upon

him, and from the temptations of the adversary, that

watches our halting, and seizes every opportunity he

can find to do us a mischief. But how can a man keep

his own soul? Is not the Lord our keeper? Certain-

ly; but in converting and keeping men, he deals with

them as rational creatures. We greatly abuse the doc-

trine of free grace, if we imagine that it supersedes the

necessity and advantage of obedience. Although the

glory of salvation belongs entirely to Jesus, yet

he condescends to give to faithful ministers the ho-

nour of being workers under him*.  And although

the glory of the strength of Christians stands in him,

yet when he communicates the influences of his grace,

he makes themselves instrumental, under his agency,

in their own preservation from the snares of the des-

troyer. He that is born of God keepeth himself, and

the wicked one toucheth him not.

            Care and thought are absolutely necessary in those

that resolve to keep the commandment; for he that

despiseth his ways, shall die. The saint must not only

endeavour to understand and remember the rule of the

law, but likewise to observe his own way, that he may

direct his steps, and form his course of behaviour in an

agreeableness to it. The travellers that have their

faces towards the better country, must have their eyes

in their head, for there is no going to heaven by guess,

and those that live at random must die. This truth is

clearly taught by the apostle Paul in language suffi-

 

*1 Tim. 4:16


476                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

cient to alarm the stoutest sinner, if any thing could

alarm him. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die,"

&c.*

            Ver. 17. He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto

the Lord, and that which he hath given, will he repay him

again.

            Without the pity of the heart, the bounty of the hand

is unacceptable to the Searcher of hearts; and profess

sions of pity are mere hypocrisy, without the fruit of

bounty, if it is in the power of our hands to shew it†,

            How great is the mercy of the Lord to the poor!

He hath appointed them to be the receivers of a part

of his revenue, and what is given to them he accounts

to be lent to himself. This mercy is not confined to

the poor of his own people; although he interests

those especially in our bounty‡ yet he would not

have us to restrict the fruits of our compassion to them.

Our Lord dispensed his cures to the ungrateful, al-

though he knew what was in man, and God causes his

sun to rise, and his rain to descend, upon the evil and

the good, and requires us to give a portion to seven,

and also to eight, dispersing the fruits of our liberality,

as the husbandman scatters his grain, although he does

not certainly know whether shall prosper, either this

or that ||.

            “He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord.”

This is an argument for charity of wonderful force.

No Pagan moralist could ever produce a motive for

any social duty, equal to this. It is sufficient to open

the closest fist, and to enlarge the most selfish heart.

Does God shew so much regard to the poor, and shall

we be indifferent to their happiness? Can we lose any

thing by lending it to the Lord? Men refuse to give

when they do not expect to receive, and they expect

 

*Rom. 8:13    †John 3:17     ‡ Gal. 6:10     || Eccl. 11:4.6


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 477

 

no return from the poor. If the rich were desirous to

borrow from us, we would think our money safe in

their hands, and esteem their bonds as good as money

in our purses. But all the earth belongs unto the

Lord, and shall we not trust our money in his hands,

by giving to the poor? Here is his bond, and it must

be a good one, if the Scripture is the word of God.

The richest man in the world may, for ought we know,

be poor to-morrow, or he may prove unfaithful to his

word. But the Lord is the everlasting possessor of

heaven and earth, and he cannot lie, nor deceive any

one that trusts in him. Had we lived in the days of

Christ's humiliation, when he had the goodness to live

on the contributions of pious women, it is natural for

us to think that we would cheerfully have given to him

all our living, and thought ourselves greatly indebted

to him for accepting it. We have not now Jesus with

us, but the poor we have always with us; and when

we have them to receive the fruits of our bounty, it is

the same thing as if we had Christ himself.

            God will be sure to repay what is given, to the poor

at his command, with great increase. The greatest

usurer on earth cannot make so much of his money, as

the man that gives to the poor.  "Thou shalt be re-

compensed," says Christ, "at the resurrection of the

just." Is that a long time to wait for it? Then you

are assured, by the same faithful witness, that you shall

have an hundred fold, even in this life, for every thing

you part with on his account, Luke xiv. Matt. xix.

Men that may be safely trusted with our money, are

not always ready with their payments. A poor man

cannot have his money from them when he needs it,

but God repays what is given to the poor at the best

time; and if he does not return it in money, he pays

it in what is incomparably better*.

 

*Ps. 40:1, 2


478                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

            Ver. 18. Chasten thy son whilst there is hope, and let

not thy soul spare for his crying.

            If you mean to do good to your children by correc-

tion, begin in due time. For if he be left to grow up

under the government of self-will, it is to be feared that

he will become like a horse or mule that were never

taught to obey the rider; and when these animals come

to a full age, without being forced to obey the rein,

you may sooner break their necks than break them to

obedience.

            But your heart melts, and your bowels yearn to hear

the cries of your poor child, and you cannot give him

another harsh word. Let him alone then, and leave

him to the government of his own passions, unless you

think that it would be still more grievous to have your

grey hairs brought with sorrow to the grave, and to

hear him curse you at the left hand of your Judge, for

suffering him to destroy himself, than to hear his groans

for a few moments.

            After all, parents ought neither to inflict unneces-

sary chastisement on their children, nor suffer their

angry passions to mingle themselves with the duty here

recommended. Those parents that make an angry use

of the rod, need a rod to their own backs. ("Chasten

thy son, so shall he be hopeful; but be not raised in

thy wrath to insult him.")

            An offending child must not be spared for his cry-

ing, and far less must he be spared for his anger. If

his wrath procures his deliverance, he will soon learn

the way of escaping all chastisement; and if thou de-

liverest him once, thou must deliver him again and

again, till he is past all hope of amendment. This

seems to be at least a part of the meaning of the next

verse.

            Ver. 19. A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment;

for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.

            When Peter asked our Lord how often he should


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 479

 

forgive his offending brother, he received a very sur-

prizing answer: Not until seven times, but until se-

venty times seven. But will not this give great en-

couragement to men to offend their brethren, and to

give every indulgence to their angry passions? No,

for it does not imply that an outrageous person shall

escape from punishment. It was once said to a man

that was killing his adversary, let him alone, and he

will die of his own accord. So may it be said to a man

that thirsts for revenge upon his passionate antagonist,

let him alone, and he will take revenge upon himself.

Although you spare him at this time, he will soon expose

himself again to punishment, and it cannot be supposed

that he will always escape. You ought rather to pity him,

than rage like him, for he is his own irreconcileable

enemy, and will be sure to plunge himself into mis-

chief.

            Anger is said to be a short madness, but the passion-

ate man is always mad till he gains the victory over

the tyrants that domineer in his soul. He has sober

fits, but he so frequently relapses, that you cannot say

he ever possesses the use of reason. Any man that

wishes evil to him may deprive him of the use of his

understanding, by a single word, or even by a look.

Are your souls subject to those storms of passion?

Turn your anger upon itself. You are displeased with

other men, because you take them for enemies; but

your worst enemies are the passions of your own heart.

Do you not hate that monster, Vitellius, who said that

the carcase of a slain enemy was a pleasant sight, but

the carcase of a slain citizen more pleasant? Why then

don't you hate the violent tyrants of your own breast,

that would wreak their fury upon the names and bo-

dies of your neighbours, but discover it most of all in

tearing your own souls? You are every day torturing

yourselves, and exposing yourselves to a severe retalia-


480                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

tion from those whom you insult, and to a more severe

vengeance still, from your Judge, who will call you to

account for every angry thought and every passionate

word.

            Ver. 20. Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that

thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.

            A friend that can give us good counsel is a precious

treasure, and nothing but folly and self-conceit can

keep us from valuing his good advice as more than

fine gold.

            If the counsels of our friends deserve respect, the

counsels of the word of God are infinitely more useful.

The testimonies of the Lord were David's counsellors

in all his difficulties, and they made him wiser than the

ancients.

            Every name of our Redeemer is dear to the true

Christian, and one of them is Wonderful Counsellor.

He gives us counsel by his word and Spirit. Our

ears and souls are his, and shall we not employ them

in hearing and treasuring up his counsels, that we may

direct all our actions by their light?

            Instruction is very much needed by us, for we are

naturally ignorant and foolish. When God gives us

instruction, either by his word and ordinances, or by

the rebukes of his providence, we must receive it with

submission and meekness. Instruction, either by words

or blows, would be welcome to us, if we had a due

sense of our own stupidity, and of the value of our souls.

But what will we gain by hearing counsel, and re-

ceiving instruction?  It will make us wise;  "for the

entrance of God's word giveth light, it giveth under-

standing unto the simple."  The rod and reproof give

wisdom, and wisdom is far more precious than gold

and rubies. Without counsel and instruction, we must

be fools for ever, and if we refuse wisdom, when it is

presented to us in those means of God's appointment,


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 481

 

our folly is desperate and stubborn, and admits of no

excuse.

            But we have used these means, you will say, and

have acquired but very little wisdom from them. But

a little wisdom is a very great attainment, and if you

think that you have got none at all, yet you must still

continue to use the means, and so you shall be wise

at your latter end. A man will spend several years in

learning a business that will enable him to live comfort-

ably through the remainder of life, and we have no rea-

son to grudge a whole lifetime employed in receiving

instruction, if it make us wise at our latter end.

            At our latter end it will be seen whether we have

been fools or wise men. If our days are spent in the

pursuit of perishing things, to the neglect of our eternal

interests, we shall be forced to leave these vanities to

which we sacrificed our souls, and at our end we

shall be fools. When the men that choose the world

for their portion come to the close of life, and their

former conduct presents itself to their eyes, how will

they curse and tear themselves in their rage, at their

own blindness and madness!  Even whilst they are

eager in the pursuit of vanity, and flattering themselves

with the delusive hopes of many days of pleasure before

them, they cannot forbear from wishing, like the co-

vetous soothsayer, that they may die the death of the

righteous, and that their last end may be like his.

            But mark the follower of wisdom, and behold him

that hearkens to the counsels of the Almighty. His

latter end is peace and happiness. Those who hated

his holiness, and despised his condition, are now obliged

to acknowledge that his life was spent in wisdom, and

that his last hour is blessed.

            Do you think that you have already gained enough

 

*Jer. 17


482                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

of wisdom?  You are quite mistaken. You are yet a

child, and speak as a child, that thinks himself a scholar

if he can repeat the letters of the alphabet. A Chris-

tian must live and die learning*.

            Ver. 21. There are many devices in a man's heart;

nevertheless, the counsel of the Lord that shall stand.

            Men's hearts are perpetually filled with projects, and

they seldom consider whether these projects are agree-

able to the mind of God or not. But the counsel of the

Lord revealed in his word, shall stand good after all the

plans they can form. It is the way of happiness to hear

his counsel and receive his instruction; for the world

passeth away, and the lusts thereof, but he that loth

the will of God abideth for ever, and must prosper

whilst he acts by the direction of these unerring coun-

sellors, the testimonies of the Lord†.

            But the counsel of God is generally used in Scrip-

ture to signify the purpose of God concerning the

events that shall come to pass; and this counsel com-

prehends every thing that has come or shall come to pass

in the world, either by the immediate agency of God, or

by means of any creature; for the worst of men, and devils

themselves, are employed by the providence of God in

executing his decrees. Men and devils act in an agree-

ableness to their own wills as far as their power reaches,

but they are still under the absolute dominion of the

Lord; and whether they are able or not able to execute

their own devices, they are executing his decrees. How

strange is the wisdom of divine Providence!  Millions

of creatures know nothing of the true God, millions of

them are his constant enemies, and are incessantly em-

ployed in devising and executing those purposes which

have for their objects the gratification of selfish and cor-

rupt affections, that are filled with enmity against God,

 

*Phil. 3:14     † Verse 20. Ps. 1:4


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 483

 

and yet they all concur in fulfilling his secret will. His

counsels leave them to their own free will; and their

free will, however corrupt, is managed by his holy pro-

vidence to serve his own glorious designs, and where

it would lead men beyond the line of his decrees, he

powerfully and invisibly controuls it.

            It is vain for men to form any purpose, and to think

of carrying it into execution, without acknowledging

the providence of God. The Apostle James warns us

in strong language against this piece of practical

atheism*.

            When we meet with hardships from the cruelty of

men, let us consider this truth, and behave meekly and

humbly. They do nothing without the observation and

permission of God. Christ submitted quietly to those

sufferings which he underwent from the hands of bar-

barous men, because it was necessary that the Scrip-

tures should be fulfilled, and the determinations of

God's hand and counsel performed. What David did

pleased all the people, and shall not we be pleased with

what the King of Heaven does?

            Let the people of God rejoice. The counsels of God

concerning them are glorious in wisdom and grace, and

though hand join in hand, they shall not be unaccom-

plished. The counsels of their enemies are dangerous,

but no weapon formed against Zion shall prosper. All

the counsels of the wicked shall be executed or frus-

trated according to the good pleasure of God, whose

eyes run to and fro through the whole earth, to shew

himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is

perfect towards him †.

            Let sinners tremble, for their counsels and works are

in the hand of God. He may suffer them to prosper

for a time in mischief, and to bring some of their wick-

 

*James 4:13-17        † Mic. 4:10-13


484                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

ed devices to pass, but their mischiefs shall rebound

upon themselves, and their nets shall entangle their own

feet. God may use them for a time to accomplish his

gracious though awful designs upon his people, but he

will in a short time call them to account, and punish

them for all the evils they have done, and for the

greater evils they have imagined *.

            Ver. 22. The desire of a man is his kindness, and a

poor man is better than a liar.

            A man's benevolence is not in proportion to the good

deeds he performs, but to the real desires he has to do

good, if it were in his power.

            A man may perform many acts of kindness, and yet

not perform all that he ought. When a rich man be-

stows a few of his superfluities, they may amount to a

considerable sum, and yet in the balance of the sanc-

tuary they will not equal in weight the little pittance

that a poor man gives, when he stretches himself to the

utmost of his ability, or even beyond it †. A rich man

may even give more than a man could reasonably desire

him to give, for the purposes of charity or public ser-

vice, and yet be entirely destitute of charity and public

spirit, seeking only the praise of men, whilst he pro-

fesses, like the old Pharisees, much better things.

            On the other side, a man may give only two mites,

or nothing at all, and yet possess a generous soul, like

that of Job, who never ate his morsel without sharing

it with the poor. As God only knows the heart, the

day of judgment will be the grand discoverer of the

real characters of men. In the meantime, we must not

love those only who bestow much kindness on us, nor

confine our esteem to those who signalise themselves

by their extensive liberalities; for the virtues, as well

as the vices of men, are often concealed under rags, and

 

*Ps. 21:11, Isa. 10:12          † 2 Cor. 6:3


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 485

 

pinched by poverty, so that they cannot display their

blossoms, or produce their proper fruits.

            The poor man that cannot give, and is obliged to re-

ceive, is a much better man than the liar who professes

kindness, and yet does nothing to verify his professions

by works. Good words are good things in their proper

place, and do well become the mouth of the Christian,

but good words instead of good deeds are mere hypo-

crisy; of so gross a kind, that even men often discern it,

and despise the pitiful wretch who endeavours to shel-

ter the baseness and selfishness of his spirit under empty

professions. Do you say to your poor brother, be thou

warmed and clothed, whilst thou givest him nothing to

shelter him from the pinching cold, or to fill his crav-

ing appetite, although thou art well able to do it? Thou

jolliest hypocrisy and lies to the want of charity, and a

poor man that lives upon the bounty of the parish is a

more respectable man than thou.

            Let us learn to value men by their hearts, as far as

they lie open to the judgment of candour and charity,

rather than their professions and appearances, which are

so frequently delusive. Thus shall we be enabled to

choose our friends, and to put a proper value on their

kindness; and by this means we shall be preserved

from that injustice so frequently condemned by the wise

man, of despising the poor, and paying an undue re-

spect to the rich.

            This proverb also teaches us to examine our own

hearts, that we may know how far we are under the in-

fluence of a kind and charitable spirit. God will not

accept of all the substance of our houses, instead of the

charity of the heart. At the same time, desires are not

real, nor are they genuine marks of goodness, if they

are not followed by suitable performances, when the

providence of God puts it in our power*.

 

*Philemon 6


486                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

            Ver. 23. The fear of the Lord tendeth to life, and he

that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited

with evil.

            Religion is the soul of happiness, it makes the pre-

sent life long and happy, as far as a long and happy

life is really for our advantage, and it is the beginning

of eternal life in the soul. He that is governed by the

fear of the Lord enjoys heart-felt satisfaction, and the

joys that spring from it are not like the short-lived joys

of the world, that die away into sadness and misery;

they last through life, they are vigorous in old age,

when the pleasures of sense have lost their relish, and

they triumph over death and all its terrors. Christians

are indeed exposed to heaviness through manifold temp-

tations, but the fear of the Lord, and the faith of Christ,  

has often produced joy unspeakable and full of glory

in such seasons; and the disquiets which the people of

God often feel, are owing for the most part, to the im-

perfections of their religious dispositions, and are bless-

ed by God as means of improving their grace, and in-

troducing sweeter joys into their souls. Christians have

unfailing grounds of satisfaction, for they have health

in their souls, they know that all their affairs are ma-

naged by a wise and gracious Providence, and they

have the sure promises of the life to come.  If God

himself can give satisfaction to the souls which he has

made, they have it, or shall have it in due time, for he

manages all things for their good, and his eternal ex-

cellencies are their portion.

            The saint of God is entirely delivered from the mi-

series of fallen state, as far as it can consist with

the plan of his recovery which divine wisdom has eon-

trived.  The calamities which he suffers are unstinged

to him through the Redeemer's cross, which, like the

tree that Moses cast into the waters of Marah, makes

bitter things sweet. He is not visited with any unne-


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 487

 

cessary evil, and those evils that visit him are made

good on the whole by the tendency which they have

to do him good, and make him good. Reproaches and

tribulations, sicknesses and deaths, are the common lot

of men, and they are very evil things to those who are

strangers to God, but they are good to them that love

God, for they are appointed and useful means to make

them partakers of God's holiness, and prepare them

for that blessed world where sins and sorrows are no

more*.

            Ver. 24. A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom,

and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again .

            Solomon was a mortal enemy to sloth, as every wise

man will be. He has often told us of the mischievous

effects of this vice, and here he holds up the sluggard

as an object of contempt and laughter, to make him

ashamed, if possible, of his laziness, and to awaken us

to diligence in the duties of our calling and religion.

            It is a mark, of a sluggard to make a great business

of a little affair, and to make much ado about nothing

at all. It is a business to the sluggard to take his

hand out of his bosom, and it is a grievous affair for

him to put it to his mouth to feed himself. Were it

not for shame, he would desire to be fed like an infant,

and he will at length be tempted to grudge that men.

cannot live like trees, on which their proper nourish-

ment falls down from the clouds.

            A man that employs his hands with diligence, is

able not only to support himself and his family, but to

give something likewise to him that needs‡; and he

finds less trouble in his work, and enjoys more content-

ment than a sluggard would do, if you should bring

every thing to him that is needful for his support, with-

 

*Chap. 4:26, 27, 3:7, 8, John 8:52

† The word bosom ought to have been dish.           ‡ Eph. 4:28


488                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

out any labour of his own hands, because the things

that no man can do for him are oppressions to his slug-

gish soul. It is a greater burden to a sleepy man to

strip himself and go to bed, than for another man to

perform some laborious service.

            Awake, thou sluggard, out of thy deep sleep, unless

thou desirest to be miserable through life; for life itself

is an intolerable slavery when every piece of work is a

burden.

            Beware of spiritual sloth, which makes every duty

of religion a toil. God loves a cheerful servant, that

rejoices and works righteousness, but he will accept of

no drowsy and spiritless services, which are a dishonour

to him and to his ways. To the slothful Christian it

seems a burden to pray, and to believe in Christ, al-

though by these duties we only ask, and receive, and

eat our spiritual food. The lively Christian admires

the grace of God, which hath made these holy exercises

our duty; but the sluggard grudges that he cannot

have heaven in a morning dream.

            Ver. 25. Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware;

and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will un-

derstand knowledge.

            The wise man has already told us that it is needless

to reprove a scorner, because his pride will make re-

proofs useless to him. What, then, is to be done with

him? Shall he be suffered to proceed in his wicked

courses, and to corrupt others by his example?  No;

he ought to be smitten, at least when he lays himself

open to the vengeance of the laws; and although there

is little hope of reclaiming one that is so much harden-

ed in wickedness, yet his punishment will be useful to

other men, who will hear, find fear, and do no more so

wickedly. The simple and thoughtless will be made

to see how dangerous it is to follow the example of

one that has suffered unto imprisonment, or whipping,


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 489

 

or death, for his vices, and those who would not be

restrained from evil by the fear of God, and the

thoughts of an eternal world, will be checked by the

fear of men, and the terror of present punishment. It

is a necessary thing in a land to punish gross offences;

for without the execution of justice on the wicked,

iniquity would overflow all its banks, and men would

not live with safety among their fellow-creatures. We

have, therefore, reason to bless God for the institution

of magistracy and should concur in our stations to

assist in the execution of the just laws against vice.

            But a wise man needs not be smitten for his faults,

which are generally of a much less atrocious nature

than those of the scorner. He is not, however, to be

connived at, or left to his own wisdom, to inform him

of his miscarriages. Men are commonly too dim-sight-

ed to discern their own miscarriages in a proper light,

and reproofs are means appointed and blessed by God

for bringing wise men themselves to the exercise of a

lively sorrow and repentance.

            Are you afraid to reprove a wise man, lest he should

take it amiss? You need not fear this, if he is really

a wise man. He will love thee for reproving him, and

will understand knowledge. A fool is displeased when

he is supposed capable of falling into a fault; but a

wise man is meek and lowly, sensible of his imperfec-

tion and frailty, and when he goes out of the road of

duty, is glad and thankful to be set right.

            This proverb teaches us, how vain it is for men,

through the pride of character, to cavil at admonitions,

and endeavour to justify themselves in opposition to

plain fact. Instead of serving our character by this

behaviour, we greatly hurt it. When we receive re-

proof with gratitude, we shew ourselves wise men.

 

*Rom. 13


490                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

When we are displeased with it, we shew that we are

fools, or at least that our wisdom is mingled with much

folly. To affect the character of perfect men, is a plain

evidence that we know not ourselves, and do not re-

member the present state of human nature.

            Ver. 26. He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away

his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth re-

proach.

            Some children are so graceless, as to think it no sin

to steal from their parents, and to take at their own

hands that portion of the goods which they think be-

longs to them. Others abuse the fondness of their pa-

rents, and ungratefully make use of it as a mean of

robbing them by their own consent. Both these kinds

of wicked children may be said to waste their parents.

There is another kind of children who have some re-

verence for their father, because their interest depends

on his will; but they have so little regard for their

mothers, that they chase them away from their houses,

by rendering their life uncomfortable, or by wasting

that portion of goods which pertains to them. Esau,

profane as he was, had some regard for his father, and

sought his blessing with many tears; but he valued

not his mother, and resolved to kill her dearest son, as

soon as her husband's head was laid in the dust. On

the other side, dutiful children will at all times endea-

vour to make their mothers happy, especially when

they are reduced to the affliction of a widowed condition.

            Those sons that behave so undutifully to their pa-

rents bring a reproach on themselves, which spreads to

the whole family. They are monsters of mankind, who

are entirely destitute of natural affection, and feel no

gratitude for the highest obligations which one human

person can receive from another. They barbarously

disappoint and counteract the most reasonable hopes

that can be formed by men, and prove the torment and


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 491

 

disgrace of those who had the best reason to expect

comfort at their hand. They violate the strongest

obligations to duty, and make themselves unworthy of

the least confidence from men. They greatly provoke

the author of their being, by their base conduct to-

wards the instruments of it. God hath placed in his

law the duties we owe to our parents next to those we

owe to himself, and will severely avenge the neglect of

them. How, then, can they escape punishment, who

do not only neglect, but scandalously counteract these

duties! If the injuries done to strangers, or inferiors,

expose men to the displeasure of the Most High, what

punishments hang over those that wound, in the ten-

derest part, the persons to whom under God they

owe themselves?

            Is God so careful to enforce the rights of parents

upon their children, how careful should parents be to

inculcate on their children their duty to God, the sense

of which, in the minds of their children, is their own

best security for that regard which is due to themselves.

            If God be the father of the human race, and of

Christians in particular, what fear is due to him? What

monsters of undutifulness are they that provoke him to

anger continually?

            Ver. 27. Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that

causeth to err from the words of knowledge.

            There are many deceivers in the world, who make it

their business to clothe error with the appearance of

truth, and to weaken the motives to holiness which are

set before us in the word of God. And the exhorta-

tion in this verse speaks to us as children, warning us

to beware of their artifices and insinuations.

            Error may be rendered very plausible, for the Devil

himself came to men with Scripture in his mouth*; and

 

*Matt. 4


492                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

no wonder if his ministers can presume to plead both

Scripture and reason in behalf of their pernicious doc-

trines: but a quagmire is not the less dangerous, be-

cause it is covered with beautiful verdure, and has the

appearance of solid ground; nor is poison the less per-

nicious, because it is covered with honey. Error is

error after all that can be said for it, and all the shapes

which it can be made to assume.

            It is, no doubt, our duty to prove all things, and to

take nothing upon the mere testimony of men that

concerns our precious souls, and it is the property of

a sincere soul, like Nathaniel's, to be open to convic-  

tion, where there is danger of a mistake. But this does

not imply that we are to be ever learning, without

coming to the knowledge and assurance of the truth.

The truth may be known, because it is plainly reveal-

ed in the Bible; and when we have found that which

is good, we ought to hold it fast, that no man take our

crown—to contend earnestly for it against all opposi-

tion, and to shut our ears against those instructions

that would shake our regard to those things which are

most surely believed amongst us.

            It is dangerous for men to lend a ready ear to those

that would exalt the dignity of human nature, to the

dishonour of the righteousness and grace of Christ, or

loosen the obligations of men to obey every law of God,

because the corruption of our natures gives countenance

to every thing that favours pride or carelessness; so

that, when we think we are well fortified against the

delusions of seducing spirits and false teachers, and

rashly venture to hear what they can say for them-

selves, we are in great danger of being perverted, and

filling from our fancied stedfastness.

            The apostle John tells us, that it is a great and dan-

gerous sin, when a man comes to teach false doctrine,

to receive him into our houses, or to bid him God


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 493

 

speed; and Christ tells us, that his true sheep hear and

know his voice, and follow him, but will not follow a

stranger.

            Perhaps you have already given too much ear to the

teachers of corrupt doctrine. The exhortation is chief-

ly addressed to you, by him that knows your danger.

Cease to hear such instruction. The time past is suf-

ficient to have listened to it. Examine carefully how

far your judgment or practice have been perverted, by

comparing them with the Scriptures. Adjust your

profession and practice to that unerring standard. En-

deavour to know the present truth, and to be establish-

ed in it. Learn by the word of God, and prayer, to

distinguish between truth and error. Hear those teach-

ers that are of God, and preach sound doctrine; and

beware of itching ears, which would tempt you to

drink poison into your ears and hearts, instead of the

sincere milk of the word*.

            Ver. 28. An ungodly witness scorneth judgment, and

the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity.

            This is not the first nor second time that Solomon

has informed us about the wickedness of false witnes-

ses. It would be a great injustice to admit the tes-

timony of a profligate wretch, against the life or for-

tune of his neighbour; for he neither regards man, nor

fears God. He scorneth judgment, and has no rever-

ence for the most sacred and venerable objects. He

bids defiance to eternal justice, and swallows down the

most enormous iniquities as if they were sweet wine;

for his conscience is become hardened in iniquity, till a

trifle will be a sufficient temptation to him to swear

against innocent blood.

            It is greatly the interest of a nation to take order that

a sense of religion be preserved amongst the members

 

*1 John 4:1-6, Matt. 7:15, 2 John 9


494                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XIX.

 

of it. When men generally lose their reverence for

an oath, the bonds of society are broken, honesty be-

comes a prey, and ruin advances with hasty steps.

            Let all men beware of those sins that are counted

little, for they are like little thieves that get in at the

window, and then open the door for bigger villains to

get in. When men learn to lie without scruple, be-

cause they hurt none but themselves, they will next

learn to bear false witness, when they are tempted by

love or fear, and from thence they will proceed to great-

er degrees of wickedness, till at length they will scarce

put the devil to the trouble of tempting them to any

sin, but drink iniquity like water. Every sin tends to

harden the conscience, and a conscience long hardened

in sin, will in time be seared as with a hot iron.

            However stupid the consciences of ungodly men are,

and whatever flatteries they use for deceiving them-  

selves, their iniquity will in the end be found hateful.

            Ver. 29. Judgments are prepared for scorners, and

stripes for the back of fools.

            Scorners, in the pride of their hearts, think them-

selves secure from the vengeance of the law, and are

sometimes so profane as to laugh at the threatenings of

the Almighty. But the day is coming when their

laughter shall be turned into heaviness. The God

whom they despise, is the judge of all the earth, and it

is his glory to exercise his high office in righteousness.

He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but

if they will not turn and live, they must die, and their

blood shall be on their own head, and the Lord shall be

known by the judgment which he executeth. The

judgments that shall be inflicted on scorners, are already

prepared, and determined for them. It is the triumph

of lively Christians that they can look back to the days

of eternity, and rejoice in the contemplation of a king-  

dom prepared for them before the foundation of the


CHAP. XIX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 495

 

world. But sinners have great reason to tremble with

astonishment, when they reflect upon the immutable de-

crees of God, for an everlasting hell was designed in

them for every unrepenting transgressor *. As kings

have their officers of justice, and instruments of ven-

geance ready to terrify profligate subjects into obedi-

ence to the laws, so the Everlasting King has every

instrument of vengeance reserved among his treasures,

to terrify men from sin, or to destroy them if they go

on in their trespasses. Their punishment shall be dis-

graceful to the last degree, for stripes are prepared for

the backs of fools. They shall suffer ignominious

wounds as the basest of criminals, and their reproach

shall never be wiped away.

            Because sinners feel not the strokes of judgment, they

foolishly think that they shall for ever escape. But did

the old world of the ungodly escape, although they

were spared an hundred and twenty years? Christ

himself, the beloved Son of God, when he was bearing

iniquity not his own, was not spared. Justice and

judgment took hold of our blessed Surety, and he gave

his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that

plucked off the hair. If God spared not his own Son,

will he spare stubborn transgressors?

            Perhaps you imagine, sinners, that vengeance will

be long delayed, and that your sufferings are reserved

to another world. Perhaps it may, and for ought you

know, it may not be so. But, allowing that you should

enjoy all the prosperity that your hearts can wish till

you die, are you sure that you shall live another year,

or another day? Your life depends absolutely on him

whom you treat as an enemy; and when his much

abused patience is at an end, where, O where are you!

 

*Matt. 25:41


496                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

 

                     Proverbs 20

 

            Ver. 1. Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and

whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.

            WINE and strong drink are creatures of God, which

are very useful to men when they are seasonably and

moderately used, but by abusing them we sin against

the goodness and law of God, and against our own souls

and bodies.

            Wine deceives and mocks those that use it to excess,

and punishes those that abuse it as an instrument of

dishonour to him that gave it to men to cheer their

hearts. It promises refreshment, but it steals away

men's senses, till it makes them the objects of scorn to

the sober. It made the venerable patriarch Noah a

laughing-stock to his own son. It deprives men of

their reason, and gives the government of the mind to

the passions; and then those that were men of good

behaviour in their sober moments, become insolent and

outrageous. When the king of Israel was made drunk

with bottles of wine, he forgot his dignity, and stretch-

ed out his hand with scorners *.

            Wine has been the beginning of many quarrels that

have ended in wounds and blood; for it rouses the

passions, it turns suspicions into certainties in the eye

of the drunkard, and thus inflames resentments into ir-

reconcileable animosities. It gives full range to all the

hidden vices of the soul, and produces new vices of a

dangerous kind. It destroys the power of reason, and

infuses into the soul all the fury of a wild beast.

 

*Hos. 7:5


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 497

 

            He that suffers himself to be deceived by it is not

wise, for he wastes his memory and understanding, as

well as his money; he wounds his conscience, he en-

slaves himself to a tyrant, and enters upon a course

which, when it becomes habitual, will render him use-

less and miserable upon earth, and exclude him from

the kingdom of heaven. When wine and strong drink

are greedily swallowed down, they swallow the drunk-

ard, and turn him into an unclean beast *.

            Wine had the honour of being used in the service of

God under the law, and is still used in it under the

gospel, and why should we use it in the service of Sa-

tan? It is not allowed by God but with moderation,

to the greatest men on the greatest occasions. Neither

birth days of kings, nor happy meetings of friends, nor

the transacting of the most important businesses, will

justify men in excess of wine †.

            We should remember, that the day of Christ is ap-

proaching, and take care that our hearts be not over-

charged with surfeiting and drunkenness; we must

remember from whom we receive the refreshments of

life, and endeavour to glorify him in the use of them.

We are called to the hope of drinking of the rivers of

God's pleasures, and shall we fill ourselves with wine,

wherein there is excess ‡?

            Ver. 2. The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion;

whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own

soul.

            Solomon had probably seen too much evidence of a

seditious disposition in that people over which he reign-

ed, and therefore warns them again and again of the

sin and danger of provoking kings to anger. Men

have such a degree of self-will and pride, that they can

scarcely be prevailed upon to submit to the necessary

 

*Isaiah 28:7, 8           † Hos. 7:5      ‡ 1 Cor. 10:31, Eph. 5:8, Ps. 36:8


498                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

restraints of their liberty. Liberty is a valuable thing,

but licentiousness is the ruin of nations.

            If the fear occasioned by the displeasure of a king is

so intolerable, what must it be to encounter the wrath

of Him whose voice is not only like the roaring of a

lion, but like the sound of many thunders. His voice

shakes the heaven and the earth, and neither men nor

devils shall be able to endure the terrors of it. To in

against Christ is to sin not only against our lives, but

against our immortal souls*.

            Ver. 3. It is an honour for a man to cease from strife,

but every fool will be meddling.

            It is an honour for a man to leave off strife before it

be meddled with, and to overlook these things that

might stir up anger†. But when a man is engaged in

contention, is it an honour for him to give it up? Will

not the world say that we have a bad cause, cr weak

arguments, or a mean spirit, if we have not the last

word?

            No matter what the world says, if the Spirit of God

says other things. It is here declared to be honour-

able for a man to give up a debate for the sake of peace

and quietness. By so doing we testify our humility

and meekness, our obedience to God, and our aversion

to sin. Christ did not strive, nor cry, nor cause his

voice to be heard in the street, and surely it is a man's

honour to imitate, as far as our weakness will allow,

the meekness and gentleness of Christ. It was wise in

Paul to make an acknowledgment of his error in speak.

ing disrespectfully of the high priest, although that par-

tial judge well deserved the sharpest reproof for his

partiality and tyranny; and it would have been wise

in Job's friends to have yielded to the force of his con-

vincing arguments, rather than, by endeavouring to

 

*Rev. 1:10-20           † Chap. 17:14, 19:11


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 499

 

maintain their errors, to expose themselves to the dis-

pleasure of God, and to the just mortification of being

obliged to have recourse to the intercessions of that

good man whom they had so deeply injured.

            But every fool will be meddling; for a fool is so self.-

conceited, that he can bear no contradiction; so imper-

tinent, that he will have a hand in every other man's

business; so proud, that he cannot bear to be found in

the wrong; and so stubborn, that he will have the last

word, although his lips should prove his destruction.

Amaziah was fairly warned of the danger of meddling

with the king of Israel, but he would not hear reason,

nor cease from strife, till he was brought with his king-

dom to the verge of ruin. Zedekiah, the son of Che-

naanah, entered into contention with the good prophet

Micaiah, and had the insolence to strike that faithful

servant of the Lord, but was soon after compelled to

flee to an inner chamber to hide himself.

            This is one difference between wise men and fools:

The former are for peace, the latter are ordinarily keen

for battle *. This may be illustrated from the differ-,

ence between the behaviour of Nabal and David; Nabal

had a very bad tongue, for as Nabal was his name, so

folly was with him. He gave a very provoking answer

to a very civil message from. David, and thereby expos-

ed himself and his family to ruin; David had human

nature, and his passions were too fierce, but it was his

honour that he was easily pacified, and although he did

not leave off contention, as he should have done, before

it was meddled with, yet he left it off before it came to

a fatal extremity.

            Ver. 4. The sluggard will rot plow by reason of the

cold, therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.

            It is one plain evidence of sloth for a man to be dex-

 

*Ps. 120:7


500                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

trous in finding excuses to shift of necessary work. If

a small inconveniency be allowed as an apology for idle-

ness, excuses will never be wanting.

            The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold,

and he will not sow because the ground is not in good

order, and he will not weed his field because of the

heat of summer, and he will not reap in harvest because

he cannot endure to bend his back, and is afraid of an

headache. But is there any other useful business that

can suit him, since husbandry is so disagreeable?  No,

one business would oblige him to a sedentary life, an-

other is attended with too much fatigue, a third is too

mean for a gentleman, a fourth requires a man to rise

early in the morning. He will sleep or lean on his

elbow, or he will divert himself with any kind of sport,

or he will talk till you are tired with him, or he will

play at cards, for although he abhors business, he loves

busy idleness. He will either do nothing, or what

is worse than nothing.

            But he that will not work must beg, and this is sure-

ly a mean employment for a man that is able to work;

but although he can conquer shame sufficiently to be.

take himself to it, his misery is, that nobody will give

him any thing, for why should drones eat the labour

of the bees? Even in harvest, when plenty smiles all

around, and when the hearts of men are enlarged with

joy, and bestow liberal quantities of food upon their

beasts, the wretched sluggard finds that every man's

bowels are shut against him. The industrious and

disabled poor have then a good time, for the law of

God requires the gleanings and leavings of the fields

to be allowed them; but the same law requires that

he who will not work should not eat.

            Spiritual sloth is discovered by this mark, and at-

tended with the like misery. The careless Christian

will not attend the house of God, by reason of the cold

of winter, or the heat of summer; he will not keep up

 


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 501

 

the worship of God in his family because he is encum-

bered with worldly business; or if shame and love of

character oblige him to perform those services which

the eyes of men behold, there is so much attention of

spirit necessary for the duties of the closet, that he can-

not find in his heart to perform them at all, or to per-

form them to any good purpose. What will become of

such sluggards at the end of the world? Our Lord tells

us, they will beg and have nothing*.

            Ver. 5. Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,

but a man of understanding will draw it out.

            The heart of man is a great deep, and there are

thoughts and devices in it as much past numbering as

the creeping things and fishes in the sea. God alone

searches the heart, and tries the reins of the children of

men. By one glance of his eye he pierces into the bot-

tom of our souls, and knows our thoughts infinitely

better than we ourselves.

            But although a man cannot go to the bottom of a

deep well, he may draw out some of its water for use

by means of a bucket, and although a man cannot pe-

netrate into the bottom of another man's heart, he may

find out some of his thoughts and contrivances, his

purposes and designs, or form such conjectures about

them as are necessary to regulate his own motions. A

man of understanding, without the gift of prophecy may

know many things that are useful to be known about

the counsels of those that are most desirous to conceal

them. David discovered, and represented before his

God the secret projects of his enemies against him,

when both the inward thought and the heart of every

one of them was deep; and Job saw clearly what his

friends aimed at by all their flaming discourses about

the misery of the wicked, before they named himself

as the object of that vengeance which they described.

 

*Matt. 25:1-11          †Job 21:27,28


502                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

            A man of sagacity has a knowledge of human nature,

which assists him in finding out the contrivances and

designs of particular men. He can avail himself of

their gestures, their general course of behaviour, their

behaviour in particular instances, and on sudden emer-

gencies, their silence, their words, even when they are

disguising their thoughts, their connections and corn.

pany, their interests and humours, to form our judgment

of their thoughts and designs, and by this means he is

often enabled to guard himself and his good name from

the snares of the wicked. Wisdom is profitable, you

see, not only for the life to come, but likewise for the

present life; but hypocrisy and dissimulation profiteth

little. It is often detected by men, it is always known

to God; and the day is coming in which he will make

manifest the secrets of all hearts.

            Ver. 6. Most men will proclaim every one his own

goodness, but a faithful man who can find.

            It is very natural for men to have an high opinion

of themselves, and there are few men who have not a

better opinion of their own worth than any other man

has, but a man of consideration will discern the folly of

self conceit, and will be cautious of publishing his own

imagined virtues to the world.

            There are few who have the good sense to consider

these facts, and therefore it is very common in conver-

sation to hear men proclaiming their own praises either

directly, or by plain insinuations., If they are asham-

ed to talk of their own generosity and charity in an

avowed manner, they catch at the good opinion, and

applause of other men, by a variety of methods, some-

times commending virtue and goodness with a design

of shewing their own love to it, at other times running

down their neighbours, for the want of these virtues,

imagining that the depression of other men will be

their own exaltation. Sometimes they insist upon par-

ticular instances of goodness, which they think, from

 


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 503

 

some known pieces of their behaviour, will be a mean of

leading persons to think of themselves, and on other

occasions, they will take occasion, from what others in

the company are saying, to hale into the conversation

some of their own good deeds, as if they had been led

to mention them without any previous design.

But a faithful man can rarely be found. A man is

not a proper witness in his own cause, for he is ready

to form, from the influence of self love, too good an opi-

nion of himself. If the love of our wives or children

covers their faults, and magnifies their virtues, self love

must have a still greater influence in bribing our judg-

ments, so that an honest man's testimony of his own

goodness can scarcely be taken. But among boasters,

you will scarcely find a man so honest as not to exceed,

in his own praise, the bounds of what he himself knows

to be fact.

The Scripture declares, that a truly good man is rarely

to be found, and yet if men's own word could be taken,

there is scarcely a bad man to be found. We have

therefore great need to be cautious in forming our judg-

ment of ourselves, lest we deceive our own souls, and

pass a sentence upon ourselves, opposite to that which

our great judge will pass upon us at the last day.

Nor must we be rash in trusting men, and choosing

friends. He is one among a thousand, who possesses

such kindness and integrity, as will entitle him to the

character of a faithful friend.

We learn, in the last place, from this proverb, to let

strangers praise us, rather than our own lips, except

when evident necessity obliges us ; for self praise will

make an hundred to conceive a bad opinion, sooner

than one wise man to entertain a good opinion of us.

Ver. 7. The just man walketh in his integrity, his

children are blessed after him.

The just man lives by the faith of the Son of God,


504                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

for, like his father Abraham, he believes in the Redeem-

er, and his faith is counted to him for righteousness;

but although he is pronounced by God a righteous

person, for the sake of a righteousness not wrought by

himself, yet he is not the less earnest in endeavouring

to be holy in all manner of conversation, for he knows

that those men deceive themselves who turn the grace

of God into lasciviousness, and that he who doth right-

teousness is righteous, even as God is righteous.

            The just man is a man of integrity, for he follows

after perfection, although he knows that he cannot

reach it and live, He does not think that a good and

kind behaviour towards men, will compensate for the

neglect of his duty to God, any more than a social be-

haviour will atone for disloyalty to his prince, and

therefore he makes it his daily practice to walk in all

good conscience before God, and to testify the utmost

gratitude to him that loved us and died for us. At the

same time, he feels the force of that saying of Scripture,

which is sufficient to strike an alarm into the most hard-

ened consciences of those that neglect morality whilst

they profess religion, “If a man say I love God, and

hateth his brother, he is a liar *. The integrity of the

just man, is not like the pretended integrity of the mo-

ralist, for it includes piety, justice, sobriety, and a

conscientious regard, to every precept of God, without

excluding those that appear to vain men to be of small

importance, or those that most directly oppose the pre-

vailing disposition of the mind.

            The just man walketh in his integrity, for his right-

eousness is not like the morning cloud, but like the

light of the sun, which shineth more and more unto

the perfect day. God tries him, the devil and the world,

and the flesh, solicit him to sin, but he will not turn

 

*1 John 4:20


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 505

 

aside into the ways of iniquity, or if he should, he

will not continue to walk in them, but returns with

bitter regret to that good and straight way, which

leadeth unto life, and continues in that path till the end

of his life, for his heart is set upon it, and upon that

heavenly city to which it leads. As for such as turn

aside unto their crooked ways, it is plain from Scripture

that they never really knew the way of life*.

Blessed is the man that fears the Lord. He is bles-

sed in the day of prosperity, and in the day of adversity;

he is blessed in life and death; he is blessed after

death, for he rests in his bed, and enters into peace.

His soul is blessed in heaven, and he leaves blessings

to his children upon earth. If the children of Jehu,

who never took heed to walk in the law of the Lord,

were blessed with outward prosperity, to the fourth

generation, how much more may the truly godly ex-

pect a blessing to their seed? It is said of the wicked

man, that God layeth up iniquity for his children, he

rewardeth him, and he shall know it; and will the God

who delights in mercy, exercise less kindness to his

own people, than severity to the wicked? Far from it†.

Whilst the rich man rejoices that he has much trea-

sure laid up in his house, to be enjoyed by his family

after him, the godly man has much more reason to be-

lieve that God has a treasure of blessings laid up for

his children.

Are you children of the godly? know ye the God

of your fathers, and plead this promise at his throne of

mercy.‡

Ver. 8. A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment

scattereth away all evil with his eyes.

Kings have majesty in their countenances, and when

 

*1 John 2:19  †Exod. 20:5,6            ‡1 Chron. 28:9, 2 Chron. 6:42

 


506                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

they preserve their dignity of character, their eyes are

terrible to the breakers of the law. This awe of roy-

alty is impressed by God upon the minds of men, for

the peace and benefit of human society, and kings are

obliged to use that authority with which the Most High

has dignified them as his ministers, for the encourage-

ment of virtue and the suppression of vice. Kings in our

days don't sit on the throne of judgment in their own

persons, but by delegates, but both they and those who

are employed by them as judges, are bound to observe

this rule. Kings are accountable for the choice they

make of persons to be employed under them for the

administration of justice, and those that serve them

must account also to the King of all the earth.

            How tremendous is that Eternal King, whose eyes

are like a flame of fire, and how shall sinners be able to

stand before him, at whose presence the heaven and the

earth flee away, and no place is found for them! How

can men presume that the Judge of all the earth will

suffer sin to go unpunished, when he will not permit

his vicegerents on earth, to leave open wickedness to

go unpunished. But earthly kings can punish only

the outward enormities of men's lives. The universal

Judge brings every work into judgment, with every se-

cret thing. Earthly kings reach only the body, but

the King of heaven can destroy both soul and body in

hell fire.

            Ver. 9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I

am pure from my sin?

            It we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,

for we were conceived and shapen in iniquity, and un-

less our hearts are made clean, we must remain for ever

abominable in the sight of the most holy God. The

depravity of the human race is not here expressly as-

serted, but it is taken for granted, as an incontest-

able truth.


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 507

 

The call of God to sinners is, Wash ye, make you

clean: Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, purify your

hearts, ye double minded. But neither our righteous-

ness nor our strength lies in ourselves. Except Christ

wash us, we have no part in him, and remain under

the reigning power of sin. But even those that are

washed by his blood and spirit, cannot say that they

have made their hearts so clean, that they are entirely

pure from their sin. They are daily employed in cleans-

ing themselves from all pollutions, and yet the leprosy

of sin will cleave to their earthly tabernacles, till they

are pulled down by death.

If sin dwells in the best of us, our dependence must

be on the grace of the Redeemer, by whose blood our

sins are expiated, and by whose powerful agency we

crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Purity

of heart ought to be our constant study, for so far as our

hearts are cleansed, we are pure from our sin; and un-

der all the imperfections of our holiness, we have rea-

son to join thanksgiving with our sorrows, for although

no man on earth can lay claim to perfect purity, yet

every believer in Jesus has abundant encouragement

to hope that he shall be presented in due time, without

spot or blemish, before the throne of God.

Ver. 10. Divers weights and divers measures, both of

them are alike abomination to the Lord.

Once hath God spoken, yea twice have we heard this,

that unjust weights are detested by God*; and it is

plain that unfair measures come under the same con-

demnation. But here they are expressly mentioned, so

that no man can pretend to observe the letter of the

law, whilst he transgresses the spirit of it. If a man

keeps one measure or weight for selling, and another

for buying, or if he keeps one for selling to people

 

*Chap. 11:1, 16:11


508                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

that have too much skill to be cheated, and another for

selling to the ignorant and unwary, he exposes himself

to the hot anger and severe vengeance of God, who

hates all unrighteousness, especially that which lies in

perverting the means of justice *.

            If the perversion of the instruments of just trade is

detestable to God, how much does he abhor the per-

version of law and justice, and every kind of partiality

in those whom he entrusts with the adminstration of

government, in church or state. Injustice in merchants

is very bad, but unrighteousness in those that bear the

sword for God, or rule in the name of Christ, is a great

deal more dishonourable to God, and offensive to the

eyes of his glory.

            Ver. 11. Even a child is known by his doings, whether

his work be pure and whether it be right.

            Except ye be converted, says our Lord, and become

as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of

God. Sincerity is one of those qualities wherein we

ought to resemble children, for they cannot disguise

their inclinations, but a little attention to their childish

talk and behaviour will enable a person to discover

their present dispositions, and to form a probable con-

jecture concerning their future behaviour.

One thing appears in the behaviour of children with

too much evidence, that they are the descendants of

Adam. The selfishness, vanity, and revengeful spi-

rit, that appears in all of them, are lineaments of the

image of the first transgressor. But there is a very great

difference among them in their temper, which may be

justly considered as an indication of a greater differ-

ence in the manner of their conduct, when they arrive

at manly years. Some are kind and obliging, and easily

managed, others are intractable, sullen, and spiteful;

 

*Micah 6


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 509

 

and it is the duty of parents to improve and cherish

the good dispositions which they discover, and to

check every appearance of vice, before it is matured

by time into settled habits. Parents generally consider

the genius and inclinations of their children, to direct

them in the choice of a profession, but they ought to

be no less careful to consider their turn of mind in

their earliest years, to direct themselves in their religi-

ous education. Herein several parents discover their

partial fondness for their children, regarding with ap-

plause every appearance of goodness as a happy pre-

sage, but considering every instance of perverse beha-

viour as an instance of childish ignorance, which time

will reform of course; but Solomon tells us, that their

bad, as well as their good behaviour, when they shall

become men, may be conjectured from their childish

doings.

Children of a pleasant disposition may disappoint

the expectations that have been formed of them, but in

that case parents may generally thank themselves for

neglecting to avail themselves of their good dispositions,

to graft on them religious instructions, or for permit-

ting them to fall into the dangerous society of those

that not only live in sin, but, like Jeroboam, make Is-

rael to sin.

When bad dispositions appear in children, it is ne-

cessary for parents to use betimes those means which

God has appointed for reclaiming them. The rod and

reproof give wisdom; and when these, and the like

means, are neglected, or not accompanied with fervent

prayer, parents have great reason to reflect on them-

selves with shame, if their children prove thorns in their

eyes, when their vices have attained the vigour of riper

years, and confirmed custom.

There is an old proverb that says, a young saint

makes an old devil, but Solomon was not the author

of it.


510                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

            Ver. 12. The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the

Lord hath made even both of them.

            And did he not make every other part of our bodies,

as well as the eye and the ear ? No doubt, but we ought

not to rest in general truths, when we contemplate the

wonderful works of God. It is highly proper for us,

to survey with attention the particulars of what the

Lord hath done for us, and we shall find abundant ma-

terials for gratitude and praise, in every member of our

body, in every faculty of our soul, and in every event

of our life,

            It is said that the famous physician Galen learned

the absurdity of atheism from the consideration of the

human eye. The structure of it clearly displays the

amazing wisdom of God, and his goodness shines with

no less brightness in the pleasures and advantages de-

rived from the ministry of this admirable organ. The

ear is that sense by which we enjoy the pleasures of so-

ciety and friendship, by which we learn the most inte-

resting and entertaining truths, and by which we re-

ceive the instructions of life.

            It is by the kind agency of our Maker that our eyes

see, and our ears hear, for in him we live and move.

When he pleases to withhold his influence, we see, and

do not perceive, like Hagar at Beer-lahai-roi. We hear

a voice, and know not what it says, like the companions

of Saul in his journey to Damascus.

            To use these instruments of sense as inlets to temp-

tation and sin, is as unnatural as for infants to rend

that breast which gives them suck. How shocking is

it to deserve the reproof that the prophet gave to Bel-

shazzar!  "The God in whose hand thy breath is, and

all thy ways, hast thou not glorified." We are God's

creatures. Our senses are his; our souls are his; all

our enjoyments are from his bounty, and our activity

depends upon his all-governing providence. Whether,


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 511

 

therefore, we see, or hear, or think on those objects

which we are acquainted with, by means of our bodily

senses, or the exercise of our rational powers, let us

mind above every thing, the glory of God.

Ver. 13. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty,

open Mine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.

Sleep, must, be taken, but not loved. Sleep, as well

as food, is necessary for refreshing our frail bodies, but

neither food nor sleep must be used for their own sakes,

nor must we be intemperate in either of them. Sleep

taken in a moderate degree, is the nurse of nature, it re-

cruits our animal powers, and prepares us for the la-

bours of life; but excess of sleep enervates the body,

and stupifies our souls, and is loved only by sluggards.

We have received time and talents from God, to be

used according to his direction, and to waste the one,

and bury the other, is a very great sin; and yet by

immoderate sleep, we do both in some degree, for all

the time that we sleep beyond what is needful for us,

our talents are unemployed, and the time of our life is

running on in vain, Long life is universally desired,

and death set at as great a distance as possible, but the

lover of sleep voluntarily gives up a considerable part of

his life, and during all the time that he wastes in needless

sleep, he might as well be in the state of death, for any

thing he does, or enjoys. I remember Dr. Doddridge gives

this reason for his being able to write so many books,

notwithstanding all the weighty employments that were

constantly lying on him, that he found a great differ-

ence between rising at five, and rising at eight in the

morning, the one making several years more in the

course of a life than the other.

Poverty and hunger, in the course of things, accord-

ing to the righteous appointment of providence, are the

ordinary consequences of too much sleep; plenty and sa-

tisfaction, the consequences of early rising. Open thine


512                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

eyes, rise and go to work, for he that gets out of bed,

and sits idle at the fire-side, is still sleeping, even when

he is awake. But he that rises to his employment, shall

have bread for himself and his family. It is not said, he

shall have every thing that an unbridled appetite might

crave, but he shall have, by the blessing of God, bread

to eat, and raiment to put on. These things would

have satisfied Jacob, although he was brought up in a

very rich family, and these things will generally satis-

fy a man diligent in his business, for his work makes

both sleep and food pleasant to him.

If persons that love their work, should prove unsuc-

cessful in business, or be disabled from working, they

will meet with pity and relief; whilst starving sluggards,

are hated and despised.

Ver. 14. It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer,

but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.

Solomon was a teacher to men of all ranks, for he

was acquainted with the life and manners of men in

every profession, and writes instructive proverbs for

merchants as well as kings. There is one piece of

fraud censured in this verse, which is very common

with the lower sort of dealers, and is scarcely reckoned

a piece of unrighteousness. It is the art of buyers to

get a good bargain, by depreciating the commodity

which they mean to purchase. The inspired moralist,

that he might come home to men's bosoms, gives us

their very words, "it is naught, it'is naught." What is

the ill of saying this? Why, if it be not true, it must

certainly be a lie, and no lie is of the truth, nor any ly-

ing habit consistent with the character of an honest

man. Men may, if they please, form to themselves rules

of morality from the general practice of the world, but

these are not the rules by which they must be judged

at the last day. If we were heathens, we could not be ex-

cused in using little tricks that come not within the corn-


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 513

 

pass of the criminal law, but we are Christians, and our

bibles testify against them, and threaten punishment

to those that go beyond and defraud their brother. In-

deed, very little is to be made by such poor artifices

but guilt, for they are so common that almost every

man sees through them.

            The people that use these pitiful tricks in making a

bargain, don't think there is much evil in them, for

they boast of their art and good fortune. But men's

shutting their eyes will not alter the nature of things.

Ephraim became a merchant, the balances of deceit

were in his hand, he loved to oppress, and yet he would

not have it said, that any iniquity was to be found in

him that were sin; there was either no sin in his con-

duct, or if there was any, it was very venial*. Men

bless and applaud themselves in their dexterity to im-

pose upon their neighbours, but what says the spirit

of God about them?  "Woe to them that call evil good,

and good evil." Whilst they boast of the goodness of

the commodities which they formerly called naught,

they denounce this woe against themselves.

            The spirit of this proverb includes in it, a condem-

nation of the like methods that sellers use to get bad

commodities disposed of. When a man commends his

wares above their value, or gives a false account of the

price which they cost him, or of the price that he was

offered for them, or when he uses deceitful means to

conceal their bad properties, he is dealing unrighteous-

ly, and seeking the gain of extortion, by which he is

not so likely to fill his purse as to wound his character,

and bring the curse of God upon his substance.

            Ver. 15. There is gold, and a multitude of rubies, but

the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.

It is a great deal easier to spread riches than wisdom

 

*Hos. 12

 


 514                 EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

through a nation. In the days of the wisest of kings,

silver was plenteous as the stones, but wisdom was still

a rare commodity*. Yet Solomon never ceased to in-

culcate the superior value of wisdom, but such is the

depravity of man's understanding, that the gifts of for-

tune are generally preferred to those of the mind, and

you will find many that learn the art of being rich, for

one that acquires the lips of knowledge.

The wisest and richest of kings, inspired by the Au-

thor of wisdom and riches, frequently reminds us, that

the lips directed by true knowledge, are a more pre-

cious jewel than any that can be found in the mines of

the east; and a deep impression of this truth would be

of very great advantage to our souls. When a man va-

lues gold and rubies above wisdom, he lies exposed to

a thousand temptations of a very dangerous kind, for

he is like a blind man that knows not whither he goes,

and will leap into a pit, if he imagines that money is at

the bottom of it, because he sees not how deep it is,

and how impossible it will be to get out. But he that

prefers the lips of knowledge to riches, has his eyes in

his head, and steadily observes the ways of religion and

happiness.

Did we really believe this truth we would not grudge

time, and expense, and labour, in obtaining wisdom for

our own benefit and the use of others, and would ac-

count a wise and faithful friend, one of the most pre-

cious treasures. The word of God would be valued as

it deserves, and the world would lose its tempting in-

fluence.

Ver. 16. Take his garment that is surety for a stran-

ger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.

We lately heard that the love of sleep will soon re-

duce a man to poverty and hunger. It is not, however,

 

*Eccl. 7:28


 

CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 515

 

the speediest method of becoming poor, for nothing will

so soon ruin a man's estate and credit, as rash surety-

sbip. If you see a man that engages in cautionry for

one that is a stranger to him, and especially for a strange

woman, trust him not if he should swear, and offer you

the surest bonds for payment; he will in a very short

time become a bankrupt, and therefore lend him no-

thing, and if you sell him any thing without ready mo-

ney, be sure to have a sufficient pledge. You may even

take his garment without any breach of charity, for the

law about restoring the garment taken by way of pledge,

was made for the benefit of the poor and unfortunate, and

not for those that are running to ruin by their own wil-

ful folly. If a man, by an excess of generosity, hurts

himself by engaging in suretyship for his friends, he

plays the fool, and yet he may be pitied; but how can

that man expect pity, who squanders away his substance

for the sake of people with whom he has no connexion,

or of bad women, with whom it is infamous to have any

dealings?

            Ver. 17. Bread of deceit is sweet to a man, but af-

terwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.

            There is some kind of pleasure in sin, by which the

devil draws men into his snares, and keeps them entang-

led. There are indeed some sins in which we cannot

discover any pleasure, but those who practise them

appear to love the devil's service so well, that they will

do his work without any wages; such are profane swear-

ers, and the agents for infidelity; but sinners in general

must have some present enjoyment from their sins, to

compensate for the guilt and danger of them.

            A man would not do a piece of injustice without the

prospect of some gain and satisfaction from it, and

when he has gained what he expected, he feels some

pleasure from it, and applauds himself for his wit and


516             EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

success; for his present advantage drowns for a time the

thoughts of what shall come to pass hereafter.

But men should always remember, that the time now

present, was some years ago far distant, and yet is now

come, and our feelings of pain and anguish are as live-

ly as ever, and the time to come will one day be pre-

sent, and bring its sensations of happiness and misery

along with it. He is rather a brute than a rational

creature, who would rather be happy for a day, and mi-

serable for the rest of his life, than deny himself the

present pleasures which are sure to bring lasting misery

in their train. Such are the gains of dishonesty; they

are like pleasant bread in the mouth of the covetous

man, but his teeth are afterwards tormented with gra-

vel, and his belly is racked with pains more grievous

than those of the fiercest diseases that ever preyed on

the human constitution. Providence usually crosses and

disappoints unrighteous men, and makes them to vomit

up the riches which they have swallowed down, and

they produce a worm in the conscience, that gnaws

the soul with teeth more poisonous than those of the

viper.

Zophar uses every terrible image to illustrate the

miseries of the unjust man, and yet all are insufficient

to describe the terrors of that vengeance, which the

wrath of God inflicts on those who have the presump-

tion to think, that any advantage can be gained by sin-

ning against God, and wronging their fellow creatures.

Ver. 18. Every purpose is established by counsel, and

with good advice make war.

Wisdom lies, in the first place, in forming right pur-

poses, and secondly, in devising, and executing proper

plans for bringing these good purposes to pass. However

good our designs are, yet rashness and inconsideration

will be sure to render them abortive; and, besides our

own wisdom, it is necessary for us, in all matters of im-


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 517

 

portance, to take the advice of the wise and upright.

If we have such a high opinion of our own wisdom,

that we think we have no need of counsel from other

men, we prove ourselves fools of the worst kind, for

there is more hope of any other kind of fools, than of

those that are wise in their own conceit. Do we re-

strain wisdom to ourselves? are we wiser than Solo-

mon, who had too much sense to think himself above

the need of a privy council of the wisest men in the

nation*?

            Above all things, war is to be made with good ad-

vice, for the want of which, many nations have been

brought to desolation. It is one of the greatest judg-

ments to a land, when the wise counsellors of it are re-

moved, or infatuated, or when the sovereigns of it are

so unwise as not to make use of their counsels. Re-

hoboam, foolish as he was, had the sense to make use

of his father's instruction in this point, although he had

neglected it a little before, in another affair of no less

consequence. By his neglect of it, he lost ten tribes,

but his observing it afterwards, was the mean of pre-

serving his authority in the other two.

            We have need of good advice in our spiritual warfare,

for our enemies are incomparably superior to us in

strength and skill. We may receive great benefit from

the counsels of some of our fellow soldiers, but the word

and Spirit of God are infinitely the best counsellors in this,

and in every other point. They only shall overcome, who

are strong in the Lord, and use those divine weapons

that God has prepared for our defence, and cry for God's

help against the enemy. These are the counsels given

us by the Spirit of God, and as our success entirely de-

pends upon his help, we must comply with his instruc-

tions.

 

*1 Kings 12


518                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

Ver. 19. He that goeth about as a tale-bearer revealeth

secrets, therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with

his lips.

Flatterers are generally tale-bearers. They sooth and

caress a man to fish his secrets out of him, and they tell

the secrets which they have got by these base means,

to the next companion they meet, and perhaps make

very considerable additions to them, for they take the

liberty to add conjectures of their own to what they

have heard. By spreading their stories, they sow the

seeds of contention among neighbours, and their words

are as wounds which go down into the innermost parts

of the belly.

Beware, then, of those flatterers, that cajole you with

good words, and fair speeches. Self love makes us flat-

terers of ourselves, and disposes us to be well pleased

with those that comply with all our humours, assent to

all our opinions, and approve of all our actions. But

those who speak us fair are not our friends, but for the

most part the most dangerous enemies we have. If

we give them our company, we are very likely to hear

stories about ourselves that will vex us; if we tell them

any of our secrets, we may be sure of having them

divulged, and represented to our disadvantage. When

they tell us stories about other people, we may judge

how they will behave to us, for when they were in the

company of these persons, they flattered them as much

as they now flatter us, and by their pretences of friend-

ship, they made a shift to pick up these tales with

which we are now entertained.

It is an excess of self love, that makes the company

of a flatterer tolerable. It is the want of loveto our neigh-

bours that makes us bear with tale bearers, but if we

will not discountenance them for the sake of our neigh-

bours, let us do it for our own, for they will mete out


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 519

 

the same measure to us, that they have already meted

out to other men *.

            Ver. 20. Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his

lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.

            For a man not to honour his father and his mother, is

a violation of one of the ten commandments in the letter

of it. A curse was pronounced from mount Ebal upon

him that setteth light by his father or his mother The

miserable condition of the Africans, and the negroes

in America, is a monument to this day of God's judge

ments upon a man, who lived 4000 years ago, for

discovering his father's shame. But is it possible

that any man can rise to such a pitch of impiety, as to

curse his father or his mother? It seems it is. But wo

to them who are chargeable with it. Had they lived

under the Mosaic law, they must have died without

mercy†. But if they live in our times, their sin is not

the less, and although they should escape punishment

from men, they shall not escape the vengeance of the

Father and King of the universe.

            When those crimes that deserve death are unpunish.

ed by men, the perpetrators of them are not always so

safe as they expect; God often permits them to fall in-

to other crimes, that bring them to the gallows, as we

may learn from the confessions and last speeches of

many malefactors who have lamented their disobedience

to their parents, as the first step to their ruin, or ac-

knowledged other crimes worthy of death, besides these

for which they suffer. But if those who treat the in-

struments of their being with insult and outrage, should

escape every visible testimony of vengeance in this life,

their lamp shall be extinguished in the blackness of

darkness. The punishment prepared for all impeni-

tent sinners, is described in Scripture by this gloomy

 

*Prov. 13:11              †Lev. 20:9


520                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

image; but surely there are regions of thicker darkness

than the rest in hell itself, for those who are guilty of

crimes that would shock the ordinary run of sinners.

Ver. 21. An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the

beginning, but the end thereof shall not be blessed.

We have been often told, that no profit can be made

by the wages of unrighteousness; but experience seems

to contradict this truth, for we have seen or heard of

several that have amassed great treasures by fraud

and extortion.

This does not, however, militate against any thing

which the inspired moralist has said, for he never

meant to deny that treasures may be obtained by wick-

edness. They that will be rich may get riches by

cheating and lying, by fraud and oppression, by grind-

ing the faces of the poor, and by toiling their poor ser-

vants till they groan under their hard bondage. These

and a thousand other ways of getting, and saving un-

justly, may put money in their pockets, but the fact is

that it is of no use to them, when they have got it.

Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, for a very

plain reason, because they are not attended with the

blessing of God, and it is only this blessing that pre-

serves riches and makes them a comfort to men. It is

far better to have nothing, than to have the riches of

kingdoms without the blessing of God, for those that

want it, will find every thing they have a curse.

But you will say, how do they succeed in getting an

estate without the blessing of God? wait a little, and

it will be seen that there is no blessing in what they

have got. If they have been heaping up mountains of

gold, they will be found only mountains of snow,

which the curse of God will soon melt. He shall not

be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither

shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth;

what he gets unjustly shall not only be blasted, but it


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 521

 

shall blast every thing that he had got by fair means.

Ahab lost not only the garden of Naboth, but his life,

and kingdom, and family, by his wickedness.

            Beware of anxiety about wealth, for covetousness

disappoints itself. It leads men to poverty, by pushing

them on to unfair methods of gaining money. Stronger

arguments might be advanced, and will be found in

this book, against this sin, but this argument will have

a deeper impression upon the minds of some persons,

than any other. It is addressed to the only ear by

which the covetous man can hear, for he is deaf to

every thing but what concerns the mammon of un-

righteousness. If he believes any thing that God says,

he must see that he is taking a very foolish course,

when he endeavours to enrich himself by those very

means that are declared in Scripture to be the surest

methods of bringing poverty and ruin.

            Ver. 22. Say not thou, I will recompense evil, but wait

on the Lord, and he shall save thee.

            If private revenge were allowed, it would soon fill

the land with confusion and blood; for whilst men's

passions are kindled by the smart of a fresh injury,

they cloud the judgment, and hurry on those who are

under their power, to the most dangerous irregulari-

ties. By indulging them, we would be driven on to

make very disproportionable returns for the wrongs

done to us; we might wreck our vengeance on the

blameless, as David would have done, if Abigail had

not disarmed his fury; we might bring upon ourselves

the guilt of the bloodiest crimes, and make ourselves

miserable through all the remainder of our days. Most

wisely, therefore, and graciously we are forbidden to

avenge ourselves, or so much as to say that we will do

it. It is a bad thing to have any thought of revenge,

but if we say, or swear, that we will take satisfaction

at our own hand from him that has offended us, we are


522                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

entangled in a dangerous snare by the devil, who will

endeavour to persuade us that our honour is doubly

engaged by the provocation received, and by our

word to take revenge.

To say that we will recompense evil, is the same

thing with saying, that we will step into the throne of

God, and wrest his thunderbolts out of his hand, to

hurl them against all that we judge to be our enemies;

for vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will re-

pay it.

But our corrupt hearts are dexterous in mustering

up objections against our duty, and the inspired writ-

ers are equally dexterous in answering them. If I suf-

fer the wrongs done to my credit and estate to pass

unrevenged, says one, I expose myself to every shaft

of malice, and may expect still greater injuries than

those I have already received. There is no fear of

that, says Solomon, wait on the Lord, and he shall

save thee. Art thou defrauded in thy interests? Wait

on the Lord who gives and takes away at his pleasure,

and he will make up, if he sees it good for thee, all

thy loss. Amaziah, king of Judah, was none of the

best of men, arid yet at the persuasion of a prophet of

the Lord, he could part with an army that cost him an

hundred talents, because the Lord could easily give

him much more than that. Art thou wronged in thy

credit? Trust in the Lord, and he shall bring forth

thy righteousness to the light, as you find he did in

the cases of Job, and David, and Mephibosheth. What-

ever injury you have felt, or fear, commit thyself to

God with a calm and forgiving spirit, and he will either

prevent your fears, or make a rich amends for the ma-

lice of your enemies; only you must give him his own

time for doing it, for he that believeth does not make

haste, but waits God's leisure, as it well becomes us to

do when it is God whom we trust.


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 523

 

We must not wait on the Lord for destruction to our

enemies. David was blessed with divine inspiration,

and had directions for praying against some of his

spiteful enemies, but herein we are not to consider him

as a pattern for us. We have the noble example of our

Lord Jesus Christ, who rendered not railing for rail-

ing, but prayed for his persecutors, leaving us an ex-

ample that we should follow his steps. Wait on the

Lord, and whatever way he deals with thine enemies,

he shall save thee, and that is all thou canst reasonably

desire.

Will you will insist that it is better to secure your-

self against new injuries, by revenging the old? The

question is clearly this: Is your safety and protection

best lodged in God's hand or your own? By indul-

ging your revengeful spirit, you do yourself a greater

hurt than your greatest enemy can do you, for you

gratify his ill-nature, when you suffer it to make a deep

impression OM your spirit, without which it could do

you little or no hurt; but by committing your cause to

God, you turn his ill will to your great advantage,

making it an occasion for the exercise of the noblest

graces, which are attended with the sweetest fruits,

and with the rich blessing of God.

Ver. 23. Divers weights are an abomination to the

Lord, and a false balance is not good.

Injustice is a poisonous weed, that springs up very

plenteously in the heart of men, and it needs great

pains to pluck it up, and the inspired writer does not

grudge his pains for this purpose. When he might

have been dazzling us with new discoveries of surpris-

ing truths in every sentence, he repeats the same warn-

ings over and over, to reclaim men from every instance

of dishonesty. How inexcusable will the unjust trader

be, if he continues unreformed, after all that the Spirit


524                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

of God has inculcated so frequently for his conviction

and amendment*.

Ver. 21. Man's goings are of the Lord, how can a

man then understand his own way?

The steps of all men are ordered by the Lord. Bad

men are under the dominion of his providence, as well

as good men who rejoice in his sovereignty, and he has

a righteous hand in the most unrighteous actions of

men. They sit deliberating and contriving, but they

are under the eye of God, who laughs at their impious

imaginations, and without suspending the freedom of

their wills, determines them to concur in the execution

of his holy and immutable purposes. They know not,

when they are consulting, how they will determine;

and when they have determined, whether they shall be

steady in their purpose; and when they are fixed in

their minds, whether they shall be able to perform

what they intend; and if they perform it, whether it

shall answer their intention, or some purpose entirely

opposite to what they designed. But known unto God

are all the thoughts that come or shall come into the

minds of men, and how far their measures shall pros-

per, and what shall be the event and consequences of

them. All the affairs of particular persons, and all the

weighty businesses of states and kingdoms are in his

hand like the potter's clay, to be moulded into any

shape he pleases. And he will manage every thing

wisely for his own glory, justly towards men, and gra-

ciously towards his own people.

Go to now, ye that say we will do this or the other

thing, without any impression of God's sovereignty, or

dependence on his providence. It is presumption in you

to dream that your motions are under your own sove-

reign direction. Are you sure that you will be in the

 

*Verse 10


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 525

 

same mind an hour hence, that you are in at present?

Alexander the Great went to Jerusalem with an inten-

tion to wreak the fury of his revenge upon the people

of God, and when he arrived, he shewed them greater

favour than he ever did to another conquered nation.

But if your resolutions should continue the same, do

you live and move in yourselves, that you can be sure

of the continuance of your life, and ability for doing

what you propose? The kings and princes of the

world sought to destroy our holy religion in its infancy,

but the emperors who ruled the world were driven

from their thrones, or chased out of the world, and of

the kingdom of our Redeemer there shall be no end;

for he that sits in heaven, saw from his dwelling place

all their foolish contrivances, and baffled all their efforts,

and said, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill

of Zion." If you should be able to accomplish your de-

signs, are you sure that they will have the effects you

propose. The rulers of the Jews crucified Christ to

gratify their spite, and to secure their place and nation

from the Romans, but Christ conquered every enemy

by his cross, and the Almighty executed the most tre-

mendous vengeance by the hands of the Romans on the

murderers of his beloved Son.

A conviction of this truth would make us to acknow-

ledge the Lord in all our ways, and to endeavour to

walk before him unto all pleasing. It would raise us

above those strong temptations which have all their

force from the fear of men's displeasure, or the hope of

their favour. It would make the believer in Christ

cheerful under every cross, whilst he could say, my

heavenly Father rules all, and mine enemies can do

nothing without his providence. It would raise us

above all earthly confidences, being persuaded that the

kindest and most powerful friends can do nothing for

us, but as God pleases to incline and enable them. This


526                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

truth has also a mighty influence to destroy our con-

fidence in our own strength and wisdom. The children

of Israel made great promises to God at mount Sinai,

but they soon broke them, for the Lord had not given

them eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hearts to under-

stand. Peter was very sincere in promising to cleave

to Christ, although all men should forsake him, but by

his self-confidence, provoked God to withhold the suc-

cours of his grace, and was left to behave, not like a

rock, but like the slender twig which bends before the

gentlest blast.

Ver, 25. It is a snare to the man who devoureth that

which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry.

Stealing and robbery are crimes so detestable and

pernicious to men, that they are every where severely

punished. But God is greater than men, and to rob

God is a greater and more dangerous crime than those

by which our fellow men are wronged in their sub-

stance. But will a man rob God? Can any man be so

bold as to try it, or so mighty as to accomplish it?

Malachi complains that this crime was very common

in his time, and there are too many instances of it, even

in these latter days. He that gives to the poor lends un-

to the Lord, and that which is appropriated to the ser-

vice of the Gospel and the support of the ministry, be-

longs unto God, and should be given to his servants

as the receivers of his revenues, and therefore, when

the poor are cheated of their dues, or those that labour

in the gospel are deprived of their hire, or any thing

alienated that was justly devoted to the service of God,

a robbery is attempted, and, in some sense, executed,

upon God himself, who cannot be pleased with so base

and ungrateful conduct towards him, from whom we re-

ceive every thing that we possess.

 

*Deut. 29


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 527

 

The man who applies to his own use, and devours

that which is holy, is greatly mistaken if he thinks

himself a gainer. He is just in the same degree a

gainer by his dishonest conduct, as the silly bird, when

it snatches at the bait which the fowler has placed for

it to draw it into his snare. The people of Judah in

Haggai's time, were crossed and disappointed in all

the labours of their hands, because they bestowed their

money upon building houses to themselves, rather than

in building the temple of the Lord; and in Malachi's

time, the whole nation was cursed with a curse for rob-

bing God in tithes and in offerings.

It is no less a snare for a man, after vows, to make

inquiry, in order to evade the obligation of his solemn

engagements. Some men are much more forward in

making, than in paying vows. Their religion lies in

transient flows of affection, not in solid piety. When

their affections are roused by some remarkable provi-

dence, or allured by some pleasant; or roused by some

alarming sermon, they are ready with their promises-

to the Most High, like Israel in the wilderness, but when

their affections return to their usual temper, they env-

deavour to find out some shift, to free their consciences

from their obligations, which they voluntarily took up.

on themselves. Their conduct draws them into the

snares of the devil, who will suggest an hundred pre-

tences to excuse the breach of them. We must there-

fore be leisurely and considerate in making vows, and

speedy in performing them.

If we are Christians, we have engaged ourselves to

be the Lord's. Justice and truth and gratitude rev

quire us to pay our vows, and every transgression

against Christ, derives the great aggravation of treach-

cry from our sacred promises. If our promises to men

must be kept inviolate, bow much more our promise

to Goa. If it is sinful to make inquiry after vows.


528                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

who can express the guilt that arises out of downright

violations of them!

Ver. 26. A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bring-

eth the wheel over then.

Such a king was David* and his son Solomon, and

above all others the king that sits upon the throne of

David for ever, who breaks in pieces the wicked

like a potter's vessel.

The wicked in the nation are like the chaff among

the wheat, and in those ancient times, the husbandman

used to bring the wheel over the grain to separate from

it the chaff. In like manner, the king who does not

loll in his palace to indulge his pride and leisure, but

sits upon the throne of judgment, will treat the wick-

e-d of the nation, breaking and dispersing them, that

they may not prove a nuisance to society, an infectious

plague to the country, and provocations of the wrath

of God, against the whole nation.

Kings have but a limited power for this purpose, and

must confine their punishments within the bounds of

law. But the king of Zion, will thoroughly purge his

floor by the fan in his hand, and will scatter all the im-

penitent sinners in his dominions, like the chaff before

the wind.†

Ver. 27. The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord,

searching all the inward parts of the belly.

The Father of our spirits, has bestowed on us a glori-

ous distinction from the fowls of the air, and the beasts

of the field. Our bodies were framed by his powerful

agency, but our spirits were created by him within

us‡. In our animal bodies we have some resemblance

of the brutes, but our intellectual faculty raises us to

some degrees of likeness to the angels of God, for

 

*Ps. 101:1     †Matt. 3:11    ‡Zech. 12:1


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 529

 

they are candles lighted within us, by him that breathed

into man's nostrils the breath of life, and made him a

living soul.

By the light of reason, especially when it is bright-

ened by divine revelation, we are enabled to survey

many of the wonderful works of God, and to discern

the evidences of his eternal power and Godhead. By

this candle we can take a view of the wonderful struc-

ture of our own bodies, which are fearfully and won-

derfully made. But the most necessary kind of know-

ledge which it gives us, next to the knowledge of God,

is that of our own spirits. Deep as the hearts of men

are, yet this candle of the Lord searches all the in-

ward parts of the belly.

A king that was perfectly acquainted with the con-

stitution, laws, and history of every country but his

own, would be only an intelligent fool; and the man is

equally void of true judgment, who is thoroughly vers-

ed in every art and science, in all histories, and every

branch of commerce and law, and yet is unacquainted

with his own heart, where his main business lies. Hea-

thens themselves were so deeply impressed with the

importance of self knowledge, that it was a general opi-

nion among some wise nations that the celebrated max-

im "Know thyself" came down from heaven.

Reason rightly employed, will make us acquainted

with the excellent nature and uses of our faculties, with

our personal dispositions and talents, with our defects

and constitutional faults, with our prejudices, and the

temptations by which we are most ready to be over-

come, with our state and frame in relation to God. The

mention of these different branches of self knowledge,

is enough to show the value and necessity of it. We

are commanded to keep our own hearts with all dili-

gence, and how can we keep them without some know-

ledge of their most important concerns?


530                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

But we do not know ourselves unto perfection; and

therefore we ought to search deeper and deeper into our

own hearts, to keep an eye upon the movements of our

own minds, and the frame of our hearts under prospe-

rous and adverse providences, and under injuries from

men, or whilst we are employed in the performance of

our duty to God, that we may improve in self-acquaint-

ance. Above all, we ought to compare our hearts with

the word of God, and to pray earnestly that God may

discover us to ourselves, and preserve us from those

self flatteries by which multitudes are deceived into

eternal ruin. It is God alone that searches and knows

infallibly the heart of man, and without the help of his

Spirit, the candle within us will mislead us like wild

fire, till we fall into the ditch of perdition.

Ver. 28. Mercy and truth preserve the king, and his

throne is upholden by mercy.

A king must scatter and crush the wicked, but he

will prove a tyrant unless he temper his severity with

clemency and goodness. Severity to criminals is exer-

cised by a wise king, from a principle of mercy to the

community at large, and he will spare where he can

spare without betraying his trust. Such behaviour

secures the affections of his subjects; and is attended

with the blessing of providence, by which thrones are

established. But unmerciful severity has often over-

turned the mighty from their seat. The Emperor Au-

relian was called an excellent physician to the state, ex-

cept in taking too much blood. His rigour drew upon

him the hatred and fear of some of his own servants,

who deprived him of his life after he had performed

many signal services to the empire.

Truth must be joined with mercy in the administra-

tion of a good prince. Dissimulation may serve a sin-

gle turn, but faithfulness and uprightness, in conjunc-

tion with clemency, are the sure and lasting pillars of


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 531

 

the throne. If truth were banished from all the world

beside, said Lewis IX. of France, it should be found in

the breasts of kings.

How glorious is the Prince of the kings of the earth!

Mercy and truth go before his face, his throne is a

throne of grace, and faithfulness is the girdle of his

reins.

Ver. 29. The glory of young men is their strength, and

the beantyof old men is the grey head.

Equality of age and dispositions naturally produces

affection and friendship, but difference of age and ta-

lents tends too much to produce mutual alienation. To

remedy this, the wise man puts the old and the young

in mind that each of them have their different endow-

ments, which should endear them to one another.

Old men should not despise the young for their want

of experience and gravity, for God has honoured them

with vigour of body, which qualifies them for active

service to God and their generation. How could old

men defend their lives and properties, or how could

they subsist, if they were not assisted by the strength

of the young?

Far less should the young despise the old for their

infirmities, or for that fretfulness of temper which old

age too often produces. For God hath favoured them

with length of days, and crowned them with grey hairs,

the badge of their experience, and, it is to be hoped, of

their wisdom. If the hoary head is the beauty of old

men, it should draw respect from the young, who are

commanded by God to rise up before the hoary head,

and to honour the face of the old man.

It was a saying of Lewis XI. of France, when he was

old, that if he had possessed in his youth that wisdom

he had now acquired, or if he were still in possession

of the vigour of youth, he could conquer all the world.

It was better, it seems, for mankind that he did not pos-


532                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XX.

 

sess both these qualities at once. God is wise and good

in distributing his gifts amongst men of all ranks and

ages, that none, by having every good quality, might be-

come an idol to himself and others, and none, by want-

ing every thing valuable, might become an object of

contempt.

Let young men beware of debasing their glory, by

abusing their strength to the service of sin. Let old

men endeavour to make their grey hairs venerable by

wisdom and piety, by cheerfulness, and the command

of their temper. Finally, let old men remember that

they were once young, and young men remember that

they would be glad to be one day old.

Ver. 30. The blueness of a wound cleansetli away evil,

so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.

We are naturally very averse to chastisement and

pain, and Solomon often represents a due regard to

chastisement as a sign of wisdom, and here he tells us

the great advantage of it to overcome our aversion. Cor-

rection and affliction for the present, seem to be not joy-

ous, but grievous; but there is a far worse evil from

which they are a means of reclaiming us. Sin is infi-

nitely worse than affliction, and affliction is really turn-

ed into a blessing to those that rightly improve it, fir

those wounds that leave a blue mark behind them

cleanse away evil, and stripes are instrumental, not on-

ly in reforming the life but in cleansing the heart.

Parents ought not, therefore, to spare the rod through

foolish pity; at the same time they ought to join in-

struction and prayer with it, for still it must be remem-

bered that the blessing of God alone can make it useful

for cleansing the inward parts of the belly. Children

ought to welcome the rod of chastisement, as a neces-

sary means for their spiritual advantage.

The chastisements inflicted by magistrates upon ma-

lefactors that deserve not death, may have the same


CHAP. XX]          BOOK OF PROVERBS                 533

 

happy effect, a:ad therefore mercy ought to mingle itself

with the punishments inflicted upon them. According

to the law, when a man deserved stripes he was not to re-

ceive more than forty, and the reason given was, "lest thy

brother should seem vile unto thee." He was to be con-

sidered as a brother that might be reclaimed, and was

not to be treated contemptuously, lest, by despair of re-

covering his character, he should be hardened in sin.

The like tenderness is to be used in the administration

of church discipline, that offending brethren may be

gained.

Corrections from God are gracious and merciful, even

when they are most severe, for his design in them is to

make us partakers of his holiness, and to purge away

sin. They are a tried medicine which God has often

blessed for curing that vanity and earthliness of mind,

that lukewarmness in prayer, that pride and thought-

lessness about eternal things, which are so common and

dangerous distempers among men. Many that once

groaned and cried out bitterly because of their afflic-

tions, are now praising God for them among the choirs

of angels, and many have seen great cause to be thank-

ful on their account, before they left the valley of tears.

Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, said the much

afflicted king when he reviewed the providences of God

towards him*.

 

*Ps. 119:65, 71


534                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

 

Proverbs 21

 

Verse 1. The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord,

as the rivers of water : he turneth it whithersoever he will.

It is men's ordinary way to court the favour of

princes and great men, as if their happiness depended

on the smiles of kings, whilst they make little scruple

of forfeiting the favour of God, by bending their con-

sciences into a compliance with the humours of those

for whom they entertain such undue respect. The like

compliances are too often made, to avoid the displeasure

of those that have power to hurt or kill the body.

Solomon directs us not to forfeit the favour of princes,

or incur their displeasure, by any needless or wanton

instances of disrespect. At the same time, he instructs

us in the first, place, to seek the favour of God, which

is infinitely more necessary for us, than the friendship

of the greatest men, and to avoid every thing that may

displease him, if we should offend the mightiest tyrant

in the world; for the favour of God is all in all to us,

and his wrath is tremendous beyond all conception,

whilst kings are entirely dependent on the King of kings,

and have their hearts governed by him, in such a power-

ful, though invisible manner, that they must, whether

they design it or not, execute his unchangeable counsels,

The currents of water may be directed into any

channel that is cut out for them by the hands of men;

even the mighty river Euphrates had its course chang-

ed by Cyrus, at the siege of Babylon. The waters still

retained their nature and properties, and yet the power

of that great prince managed their natural tendency

to descend, in such a manner as to gain his purpose,

and to take that great city, whereof they were reckoned


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 535

 

the sure defence. The like influence has God upon the

hearts of kings. He destroys not their natural facul-

ties, nor takes from them the freedom of their wills;

and, what is still more wonderful, he leaves them for the

most part under the power of those natural corruptions

which dispose them to exalt themselves above God, and

to oppose his will. Yet still he makes them the instru-

ments of his pleasure, and the ministers of his provi-

dence. Nebuchadnezzar thought himself almost a god*,

and laid waste the Lord's land, and burnt his temple,

and yet God calls him his servant, and used him to ac-

complish his work upon his people, as really as that

noble king of Persia, whom he called his shepherd and

anointed, and employed in doing his pleasure upon Ba-

bylon, and delivering his captives.

Those that walk before God unto all pleasing, may

behold the stern countenances of tyrants without trem.

bling, for God can easily turn their hearts to favour

those whom they hated. The history of the three

heroes in Babylon is a noble encouragement to all that

are called to the like encounter for conscience sake.

The fury of the king was raised to madness, his coun-

tenance was like a flame, and his fiery furnace burnt

with a fierce rage; but all on a sudden the king com-

manded them out of the furnace, and he almost adored

those whom, a few moments before, he could have torn

like a wild beast with his own teeth.

It is certain that God has often suffered kings to

wade in the blood of his people. This is a strange pro-

vidence, but we can understand the consistency of it,

with the truth delivered in the text; Daniel and John

account for it to our satisfaction†.

If the heart of kings is in the hand of the Lord, why

does he suffer them to use their power so frequently in

 

*Isa. 14           †Dan. 11:33-35, Rev. 6:9-17


536                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

opposition to the interests of his kingdom? This is a

piece of the mystery of providence, which will be clear-

ed up in due time, but appears dark to us at present.

Meanwhile, we must believe that God is righteous and

holy in all that he does, and suffers men to do; he has

brought a rich revenue of praise to himself, out of the

dark administrations of providence in former ages, and

will in the end pour such light upon his ways, that he

shall appear in all things to be wonderful in counsel,

and excellent in working*.

Ver. 2. Every way of man is right in his own eyes,

but the Lord pondereth the hearts.

This is the same useful instruction which the wise

man already gave us†, and no admonition is more ne-

cessary to be inculcated than this: that men are too

often flatterers of themselves, and ought to remember

that they have a judge who will not be mocked nor im-

posed on, but searches the spirits, to give to every man

according to his ways, and the inward disposition of his

spirit. The inspired writers of both testaments insist

greatly on this point, and our Lord in his sermons fre-

quently warned men against the dangerous influence

of self-deceit.‡

Ver. 3. To do justice and judgment is more accept-

able to the Lord than sacrifice.

It was a very common fault among the people of the

Jews, to lay too great a stress upon the performance of

sacrifice, as if that could atone for their sins, and give

them a title to transgress the moral law; and the wise

man warns them against that piece of self deceit, in

this verse. Solomon was far from undervaluing sacri-

fice as an institution of God, and a means of faith. No

man ever offered a greater number of beasts to God, or

 

*Rom. 11:33, Rev. 10:7, 19:1,2      †Chap. 16:2   ‡Deut. 5:28,

Ps. 36:2, Isa. 1:11, Jer. 2:35, Matt. 3:9, Ga1,6:7, Matt. 7:22, 13:25


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 537

 

did so much to encourage men in the observation of the

ceremonial law, unless we may except the lawgiver

himself; and perhaps the glory of the temple which he

built, and the splendour of the temple service, might

dazzle the eyes of men in his days, and occasion them

to entertain too high an esteem of the ordinances that

belonged to it. If any man had reason to say, the tem-

ple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, Solomon had

much more, but he learned otherwise from the Spirit

who instructed him.

Sacrifices were appointed by God, they typified Christ,

they were acceptable to God, as expressions of faith and

obedience; but they were detestable to him when they

were valued on their own account, as if they had been

instituted for their own sake, or to give men opportu-

nity of pleasing God so much, as to procure an allowance

for the neglect of more important service. Sacrifices were

appointed for a single nation; judgment and justice

are required from every nation, and from every man

under heaven. Sacrifices were required by a positive

law, that depended on the pure will, not on the nature

of God, and the observation of them was dispensed with

on many occasions; but the love of justice is founded

in the nature of God, obliges all men at all times, and

can never be dispensed with. The law of sacrifices is

long ago abolished, but the law of righteousness is an

eternal statute. Sacrifices had no goodness in their

own nature; and when men rested on them, they were

abominable to God. Judgment and justice are a part of

the image of God in man, and have an everlasting ex-

cellency in their nature. Sacrifices typified Christ, and

were set aside in consequence of his great oblation; but

is the law of justice abolished by the faith of Christ?

nay, it is established, and shall continue when heaven

and earth are no more.

If we would shew ourselves to be Abraham's seed,


538                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

we must keep the way of the Lord, to do judgment

and justice. It is a gross hypocrisy, it is a grievous dis-

honour to Christianity, and a ruin to the souls of men,

to pretend religion, and observe the forms of divine

service, and yet live in the neglect of those duties which

we owe to our fellow men*.

Ver. 4. An high look, and a proud heart, and the

plowing of the wicked, is sin.

The state of wicked men is miserable beyond expres-

sion, for they are every day and every hour adding to

those treasures of guilt which are already more than suf-

ficient to sink them into the bottomless pit. They are

unclean before God in all the labours of their hand, and

those works which are accepted at the hands of others,

as instances of obedience to God, are reckoned to the

wicked in the number of their sins.

That an high look is abominable to God, is no sur-

prise to us, for it is abominable even to men, and must

be infinitely more abhorred by God. We do not won-

der to hear that the pride of the heart is hateful to him,

for he is the Searcher of hearts, and is jealous of his

own honour, and cannot bear that men should exalt

themselves into a rivalship with him; but how the plow-

ing of the wicked should be sin is not so plain, because

they are commanded to plow, and severely reproved

for the neglect of that work by which they ought to

support themselves and their families. If they are

plowing when they should be praying, or on Sabbath

days, every man will see that they are sinning; but how

can their ordinary plowing be sin, when we are told

that plowing is a duty?

Whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we are

required to do all to the glory of God. But the wick-

ed man neither eats nor drinks, nor plows, nor sows, to

 

*Isa. 1:11

 


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 539

 

the glory of God, and therefore he lives in a course of

sin, even when he is employed in those actions that are

most innocent or necessary. His soul is infected deep-

ly with the venom of sin, which spreads itself over all

his conversation; for to the unbelieving and impure

there is nothing clean. They are corrupt trees, and no

fruit that grows upon them can be good. Their hands

are defiled with sin, and their fingers with iniquity, and,

therefore, every thing they touch must be defiled by

their impurity*.

What then must the wicked do? Must they let alone

all work lest they should sin in doing it? By no means.

Idleness would bring upon them far more guilt than

the labour of their callings, for that is sinful in itself;

whereas plowing is sinful only by means of their own

impurity communicated to it. Their business is to

get free of that plague of sin that spreads infection to

every thing they meddle with. Let them have recourse,

like the leper, to Christ, that he may make them clean,

and then being pure, every thing will become pure to

them.

Some render these words thus: "The lamp or pros-

perity of the wicked is sin." Their prosperity is turned

into a snare, and an occasion of sin to them by their

wicked dispositions, which use it as an incentive to pride

and impiety. Because their candle shines with bright.

ness, they think it will never be put out, and think they

stand in no need of the Sun of Righteousness to

nate their souls. Wickedness is a most unhappy thing,

for it perverts the objects that are most desirable in

themselves to means of sin and ruin.

Ver. 5. The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plen-

teousness, but of every one that is hasty only to want.

Is not the hasty man a diligent man? He is often bu-

 

*Hag. 2:24, Tit. 1:15


540                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

sier than those who think before they act; and one

would think that he must carry the prize of industry.

Yet Solomon will not allow him a share of the praise

that he bestows upon the diligent, because his activity

is not under proper direction, and therefore cannot

serve any good purpose. True diligence lies between

laziness and too much speed, and is directed to its end

by prudence and consideration. We must remember

that we are rational creatures, and act as such both in

our religious and civil affairs, and not suffer ourselves

to be hurried hither and thither, by the impulse of hu-

mour and passion, or to be pushed on in any enterprise,

however commendable, without thinking of the means

proper for obtaining success.

Saul was in too great haste to make an end of the

Philistines, and, therefore, he laid the people that were

fighting with him under a curse, if they should eat any

meat till the sun went down, by which step the victory

was hindered from being complete. In common life,

we see multitudes of persons that make too much haste

to be rich, and so make themselves poor, by plunging

into a multiplicity of business, and bringing confusion

and embarrassment into their affairs. A man, by running

himself out of breath, weakens his strength, and is later

in arriving at the end of his journey, than another man,

who walks at leisure, and puts himself under no neces-

sity of stopping; and a man that minds his business, and

carries it on with a prudent activity, is in a fair way of

being rich, when another man, that drives on post haste

to get an estate, becomes a bankrupt.

Although lukewarmness in religion is a very detest-

able disposition, yet rashness is no less dangerous. No

business of life requires so much thought and prudence.

Many, under the impulse of a rash zeal, have run brisk-

ly, and soon stopped and turned aside; and young con-

verts, when their passions were more deeply tinctured


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 541

 

with religion than their judgments, have too often hurt

their own comfort, and the cause of religion itself, by

their indiscreet forwardness in displaying their attach-

ment to it. Christ would not have any person to em-

brace his cause without considering the cost of it*.

Ver. 6. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue, is

a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death.

A lying tongue is an abomination to the Lord, and

yet some will venture upon his displeasure, if they can

make any profit by it; and it must be confessed that

some present gain may be made by lying†, but then it

answers no good purpose. Who would part with his sin-

cerity, and the pleasure of a good conscience, for a little

smoke, or for a handful of chaff and all the treasures

that can be made by a lying tongue, however great, are

no better. They are vanities and lies that deceive the

possessor, making him to believe that he is rich when

he is miserably poor. They are a vanity tossed to and

fro, like chaff or smoke in the wind, which will soon be

out of sight; for riches gotten by vanity are soon con-

sumed into nothing.‡

But this is not the worst of the matter; for the per-

sons that use such methods of obtaining riches seek

death. Although they abhor the thoughts of death,

yet in the judgment of God they love and seek it, for

they take a sure method of bringing eternal death upon

themselves, if riot a miserable death in this world. Whilst

others are walking towards the region of destruction,

they are running to it post haste. They make haste to

be rich, but greater haste to be damned, for neither their

dishonesty nor their lies, will suffer them to be admitted

into the kingdom of God.

Ver. 7. The robbery of the wicked shall destroy

them; because they refuse to do judgment.

 

*Luke 14:25-33        †Chap. 12:19    ‡Chap. 13:11


542                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

It is impossible that the unrighteous should escape

punishment, for they bring it upon themselves by the

work of their own hands. Although there should be

no magistrates to pass sentence upon them, or execu-

tioners to execute the sentence, yet their own robbery

should destroy them. Their sin is the seed of misery,

and it cannot fail of producing its proper fruit. They

have none but themselves to blame for the vengeance to

be poured out upon them. Their punishment cometh

forth from the Lord of hosts, but the cause is in them-

selves.

Is their sin then unpardonable?  No. The blood of

Jesus can cleanse from all sin. Zaccheus the publican

was probably an extortioner, but salvation came to his

house. His sin was pardoned, and he was made to ab-

hor it as much as ever he had loved it; and if he had

taken any thing from any man by iniquitous means, he

resolved to restore fourfold; but this was a rare miracle

of grace. When men have entered upon a course of

injustice, they are seldom brought to repentance, for

they are entangled in the snare of the devil, in such a

manner that they seldom get out. Repentance brings

with it restitution of what is gained by unrighteousness;

and when men restore, they are obliged to confess to

their shame, their former acts of unrighteousness, and

sometimes to impoverish themselves and their families.

These are terrible inconveniencies, to which men, in

general, will not submit; but the very thought of them

is often sufficient to stifle all motions of their spirits to-

wards any thing that is good. They will rather run

the risk of God's wrath, than think of exposing them-

selves to disgrace and poverty in this world. Thus

they go on in sin, and violently suppress the remon-

strances of conscience whilst they live; and when they

die, they envy those grosser offenders who were con-

demned to the gallows, because the shame and punish-


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 543

 

ment to which they were doomed, were effectual means

of removing those peculiar obstacles which hinder the

reformation of the unjust.

Beware of entering into this snare of the devil, if

your hands are yet untainted by the pollution of filthy

lucre, for there are mighty impediments to repentance

for this sin. If you are entangled in these snares, re-

member that shame and poverty at present, are but

painted misery in comparison of hell fire. Fly to the

blood of atonement, which purged away the sins of the

great transgressors at Corinth*. Repent, restore, shake

your hands free of unrighteous gains; for whilst you

hold them fast, you are exposed to the destruction

threatened in the word of God, because your hands re-

fuse to do judgment.

Ver. 8. The way of man is froward and strange : but

as for the pure his work is right.

The way of man is froward. Is the way of every

man froward? or is it consistent with the dignity of

human nature to contrast the way of man in general

with the right work of the pure? Are not men justly

distinguished into the froward and the pure; why then

does Solomon speak as if all men were froward? There

is certainly truth in the division of men into the pure

and impure; but this distinction is the work of grace

and not of nature, for men are all sprung from the first

transgressor, and have derived a corrupt disposition

from him, and till they are renewed by the grace of

God, their way is froward and strange. They are all

together become corrupt, and have done abominable

things, if we may believe the testimony of the omni-

scient God himself†.

In our state of innocency our way was straight and

even, whilst the glory of God was our great end, and

 

*1 Cor. 6:9,10           †Ps. 14, Rom. 3:10-18


544                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

the will of God the rule of our practice; but in our fallen

state we walk in a crooked and perverse way, following

the bent of our own evil inclinations, and seeking after

happiness in creatures, which are like broken cisterns

that can hold no water. Our course of life is directly the

reverse of what it ought to be, for instead of making

the will of our Creator the rule of our behaviour, we

make it our business to provoke him to anger continu-

ally, by trampling upon his authority and despising

his laws. Our way is a strange way, being a course

of estrangement from the God that made us for his

glory, and framed our natures to a capacity of enjoy-

ing him, and receiving happiness only in him. Till

we are restored to communion with God through the

mediation of Christ, we are aliens to the commonwealth

of Israel, and our conversation is a continued proof of

alienation from the life of God.

But as for the pure, he is raised above other men,

and his work is very different. He is purified by the

Spirit of Christ, and created in him unto good works.

His work is regulated by an unerring rule, and direct-

ed to the noblest end, for his constant endeavour is to

cleanse his way by taking heed thereto according to the

word of God, and to walk in the world as Christ walk-

ed; and he lives not to himself, but unto the Lord.

It is too natural for us to think that, if we are no

worse than the generality of our neighbours, we are

safe. But Solomon and Paul teach us, that, to walk as

men, is not to walk like saints*. Whilst we are fol-

lowing the course of this world, we are walking in the

broad road that leadeth to destruction, and not in the

narrow way that leadeth unto life†.

Let every man prove his own work; but it must not

be tried by the maxims or example of the world, but

 

*1 Cor. 3:3    †Eph. 2:1-3, Matt. 7:13,14


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 545

 

by the word of God, by which God will judge us at

the last day*.

Ver. 9. It is better to dwell in a corner of the house

top, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.

A man might dwell on a house top, if it were flat

like the houses of the ancient Israelites; but it would

be a very uncomfortable place of dwelling, because it

is exposed to rain and wind, to frost, and snow, and

lightning; but as the least of two evils is to be chosen,

a wise man would rather choose to dwell on a house

top, arid be confined to a single corner of it, than to

have his ears dunned, and his spirits crushed, with the

endless brawls of a peevish and fretfol wife. A man

on a house top would have at least some intervals of

comfortable weather, but a brawling woman will never

want something to make her uneasy to herself, and a

torment to those who have the misfortune to be con-

nected with her. She is perpetually vexing her chit.

dren and servants, but her husband is most to be piti-

ed, because she is of one flesh with him. She may be a

scourge in the side of others in the family, but she is

rottenness in her husband's bones. She is the greatest

plague to him to whom she is bound by every obliga-

tion to be the greatest pleasure. She is one flesh with

him, and yet she is a constant grief to his spirit. She

torments herself most of all, and, next to herself, all

others in proportion to the obligation she lies under to

behave in the very opposite manner.

God said, it is not good for man to be alone, and

therefore made woman to be an help meet for him, and

yet the contentious woman is such a perverse creature,

that she perverts the design of our Creator, and proves

a scourge instead of an help. She makes it better for

a man to be in the most solitary circumstances imagi-

nable than with her.

 

*Gal. 6:4, 2 Cor. 10:12


546                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

Those who choose a wife for the goodness of her por-

tion, rather than the sweetness of her temper, are not

Solomon's disciples. He declares that the married life

is better than the single*. But he likewise tells us in

this place, that it is much better to live alone in the

deepest poverty, than to enjoy affluence with a clamo-

rous and peevish woman.

Ver. 10. The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his

neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.

The difference between evil and good men does not

lie in complete freedom from what is evil on the side

of good men. Paul was one of the best men that ever

lived, and yet he confesses that he had not obtained

perfection in goodness, but found evil present with

him, when he was most inclined to do good. But

herein lies that goodness which the saints attain in this

life, that they love what is good with an ardent affect-

tion, and hate that which is evil with their whole soul,

although they cannot do all that good they wish to do,

and too often do that evil which they hate†. On the

contrary, bad men are not only doers of iniquity, but

their souls are fully inclined to it. With their souls

they desire evil; and although their consciences fre-

quently remonstrate against sin, and are a strong bridle

upon the lusts of most unregenerate persons, yet sin

dwells as a king in their inner man, and is not resisted

with hatred like a tyrant, but is suffered to possess the

throne of the heart.

This is a miserable disposition, for sin is the worst

of all evils. No man expressly and directly desires

misery, and yet all that love sin desire the worst of

misery in reality, for sin is the sickness, the death, the

ruin of the soul.

The desire of all unrenewed men is towards evil, and

 

*Chap. 18:22      †Rom. 7:15-21


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 547

 

not one of them would think himself happy if he were

not suffered to enjoy the pleasures of some sin: yet

their relishes for these cursed pleasures are very differ-

ent, and the desires of evil in some are stronger than

in others. There are many that have soine regard to

the voice of conscience, and the great principles of mo-

rality, and many others that push on in their pur-

suit of the pleasures that suit their vitiated taste, in

spite of their own consciences, and their neighbours

and friends find no favour in their eyes. Saul perse-

cuted David, although he had been the champion of

Israel, and was his son-in-law; for his corruptions had

gained the victory over his conscience and feelings, and

he pursued the gratification of his malice with unre-

lenting fury.

This is the tendency of sin; to sink a man deep in

the abominable gulf of self-love, and to harden his

spirit against those whom he ought to love most ten.

derly. Let us therefore choose our friends from the

number of those who love God; for their hearts are

enlarged with charity, and in their eyes their neigh.

bours find favour. Those are bad persons who are so

entirely swallowed up by a selfish spirit, that they will

scarcely perform an office of charity, or good neigh-

bourhood, without the expectation of a return. If we

are good men, let us spew it by doing good. Our

neighbours and friends have a special title to expect

good at our hands.

Ver. 11. When the scorner is punished, the simple is

made wise; and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth

knowledge.

It is a bad thing in a family, or church, or nation,

when scorners are not duly corrected or punished.

It was a sign that the inhabitants of Laish were a ready

prey for any invader, when there was no magistrate in

the land to put them to shame. Those that are too


548                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

unwise to see the evil of sin, have sense enough to see

the evil of shame and pain; and when they behold these

disagreeable consequences following sin, their disposi-

tions to wickedness receive a check, to their own great

advantage, as well as the good of the society to which

they belong. If the fear of censure or punishment does

not make men holy, it will make them sober; and this

is a good thing in itself, and puts men in a fair way to

become still better, by leading men to the means where-

by holiness is ordinarily produced.

The wise that do not expose themselves to punish-

ment, are not beyond the need of instruction, and

sometimes of admonition and rebuke. David was one

of the best of men, but he was not faultless in his be-

haviour, and we find what happy effect instruction and

rebuke had upon his soul. He improved in knowledge

and grace by the ministrations of the sanctuary, and

the rebukes of the prophets*. A rebuke entereth more

into a wise man, than an hundred stripes into a fool.

Even the simple man receives knowledge from the

instructions and rebukes that are given to the wise.

He is so foolish that an attempt to instruct himself

awakens his jealousy and anger. He thinks you know

him, or take him for a fool, when you begin to instruct

or admonish him; but when he sees that the wise are

instructed, and are thankful for it, he is forced to see

his own stupidity, and his conscience tells him, If the

men that are so much wiser and better than I can pre-

tend to be, are so thankful for instruction, surely I

have much greater need of it. The rebukes that are

administered to them ought to enter ten times deeper

into my heart, who deserve them so much better. The

simple begins to learn wisdom, when he applies to his

own case that which is said or done to other men.†

 

*Ps. 27:4, 2 Sam. 12:24       †Chap. 19:25, 1:5


CHAP. XXI.]            BOOK OF PROVERBS                 549

 

Ver. 12. The righteous man wisely considereth the

house of the wicked; but God overthroweth the wicked for

their wickedness.

We have a clear illustration of this truth in the con-

versations between Job and his three friends, all of

whom had considered the house of the wicked, and

God's providence in overthrowing it, but with very dif-

ferent degrees of wisdom.

Eliphaz had considered the sudden overthrow of the

wicked man, and the unhappy end of his prosperity,

and from thence inferred the justice of God, the danger

of sin, and the necessity of repentance to sinners. His

two friends joined with him in opinion; and we have no

reason to doubt that they had received great benefit

from the observations which they made upon the pro-

vidence of God, to the wicked in their own days, as

well as in ancient times; for they had taken advantage

of the wisdom of the ancients, and of the histories

which had been handed down to them, to increase their

own stock of knowledge*.

Job had considered the house of the wicked with

more wisdom, and learned much instruction from the

providence of God concerning it. He had observed so

many instances of the downfal of prosperous trangres-

sors, that he saw wickedness to be a very dangerous

thing, however prosperous it might be for a time, and

therefore he abhorred the counsel of the wicked†. At

the same time he observed, and understood from the

reports of travellers, that some wicked men lived and

died in affluence, and were buried with great pomp, and

had stately monuments erected for them; from thence

he justly inferred that the wicked were reserved to a fu-

ture day of wrath, and defended his own character against

 

*Job 5:3,4, 8:8, 20:4,5, 22:16         †Job 21:16,17


550                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

his friends, with solid arguments drawn from the une-

qual distributions of providence in this world*.

It is a great point of wisdom to learn instruction

from the calamities that befal the wicked, or have be.

fallen them in former times. By this means we may

render all the histories of past ages very beneficial to

ourselves. We find that the destruction of the old

world by the flood, and the burning of Sodom and Go-

morrah, were means of impressing the mind of Eliphaz

with an abhorrence of sin†, and the prophet Ezekiel

severely censures the Jews in his time, because they

had not taken warning by the fate of Sodom and

Israel.

It is not safe for us to pronounce men wicked merely

because they are overthrown; but when God makes his

judgments upon sinners manifest, it is our duty to ob-

serve it, and to glorify and fear God §. And although

we have no reason to think that those who meet with

signal calamities are worse than other men, unless we

have good evidence of it, yet their calamities are loud

warnings, and calls to repentance.||

Ver. 13. Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the

poor, he also shall cry himself, and shall no be heard.

There may be a very good excuse for not giving to

the poor; but insensibility to their extreme distress is

an unnatural and a crying iniquity. Our eyes and ears

are organs fitted by nature for working upon the heart,

and exciting bowels of compassion in us; and if we re-

gard not the cry of the poor with sympathy, we put a

force upon nature by stopping our ears. When Eliphaz

meant to convince Job that his trangression was infinite,

he charges this among other horrid crimes upon him,

 

*Job 21:27-34, 24    †Job 22:18     ‡Ezek. 16:56, 23:11

§Rev. 15:4, Ps. 64:10,11      ||Luke 13:1-5


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 551

 

that he had not given water to the weary to drink, and

had withholden bread from the hungry; but Job was

innocent, and could with a good conscience declare that

he never withheld the poor from their desire, nor caused

the eye of the widow to fail*.

Those that are hard-hearted to the distressed, should

remember that they cannot make a covenant with

death, nor hinder the scourge of distress from reaching

themselves. They also shall cry, for the days of dis-

tress will come upon them; and whilst they shew no

pity to the poor, they harden the spirits of men against

pity to themselves, and provoke God to leave them to

fall without succour.

If we should never fall into distress that needs relief

at the hand of our fellow creatures, it is certain that

we need help from God to our souls, and although we

feel not our need of his pity at present, the day is com-

ing when we shall feel it at our hearts, and cry out for

mercy. Our poor fellow creatures need a few pence

from us, but we need talents at the hand of God; and

when we disobey his voice, and refuse to shew mercy

unto men, we have just reason to fear that we shall

have judgthent without mercy to ourselves. God is a

most gracious God. He delights in the voice of prayer,

and continually answers those requests that believers

present unto him in the name of his Son; but he has

not bound himself to hear those cries which necessity

extorts from the wicked. This is a part of the extreme

misery of those who refuse to hear the cries of wisdom,

that they shall cry out in their time of calamity, and he

will not hear them, and the same punishment is here

threatened to those who will not hear the cries of the

poor.

What extreme wretchedness is this, to cry and not

 

*Job 22:7, 31:6


552                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

be heard by a most merciful God! How provoking is

the sin which is so severely threatened! When David's

enemies cried unto the Lord, and were not heard, it

was plain that they were doomed to irremediable mi-

sery. Job could not imprecate severer vengeance upon

himself, on supposition he was guilty of the crimes

charged upon him, than this, Let my cry have no place.

This is the height of the misery of the damned, that

their cries are not regarded with pity by God. This

truth need not however discourage us from presenting

the prayers of faith to the throne of grace; for the pray-

ers here spoken of, are only the cries of strong distress

extorted from men that have not the love of God, or

the love of Christ in them. It is rather an encourage-

ment to pray; for it shews us that the refusing of pray-

er is God's strange work, and a piece of his severity to

great sinners who are destitute of compassion to their

fellow men.

When we have reason to complain that we cry and

shout, but God shutteth out our prayer, let us consider

our ways ; perhaps we have shut our ears on some oc-

casions against the cries of the poor. This was one

reason why God accepted not the prayers and fasts of

those people whom Isaiah speaks of in the 50th chap-

ter of his book.

The poor may see in this threatening, great encour-

agement to themselves to apply to his throne of mercy.

He that condemns uncharitableness so much in others,

is full of love and pity, and listens with a gracious ear

to the sighs and groans of the poor and destitute*.

Ver. 14. A gift in secret pacifieth anger, and a reward

in the bosom strong wrath.

Anger is a very outrageous passion, and strong wrath

makes a man like a savage beast, which attacks in its

 

*Ps. 102:17


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 553

 

fury any creature that comes in its way. Yet such is

the power of money and presents, that the fiercest rage

is assuaged by them; and therefore when a good con-

science allows, it is often a piece of prudence to disarm

an enemy by gifts, rather than to fight with him. By

such means' did Jacob and Abigail secure themselves

from those enemies that threatened them with destruc-

tion. But to give, or to receive bribes, is a very sinful

thing, because it is a perversion of justice. For minis-

ters to receive gifts to soften their severity in censuring

offenders (if such unfaithful ministers can be found)

is one of the worst instances of corruption.

Although men are generally fond of receiving, yet

they are as generally unwilling to be reckoned fond

of gifts, and therefore those who have the art of giving

will do it in secret, and avoid every appearance of os-

tentation in themselves, and every thing that might

cause a blush in the receivers of their gifts.

If the love of gifts is so universal and so powerful in

the hearts of men, we ought to try our own hearts, how

far we are influenced by it, or whether we believe our

Saviour's words, that it is more blessed to give than to

receive. Take heed, says our Lord, and beware of co-

vetousness. We must keep a double guard against this

sin, because it is so natural to us, and yet so dangerous.

Those who receive gifts should take heed to themselves

lest they receive a bribe under the colour of a gratuity.

What is given in such a manner as to shun the light, de-

serves to be at least suspected*.

Have gifts such a powerful influence to disarm re-

sentment? Then let no man plead, in apology for the

fury of his passions, that he is not able to conquer

them. If money can conquer them, shall reason, and

the fear of God, and the command of Christ, be too

 

*Chap. 17:8, 18:16


554                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

weak to bridle them? Surely the commandments of

our God and Saviour have too little authority with us,

if they have less influence upon our spirits than gold

and jewels have upon the spirits of almost all men.

            Ver. 15. It is joy to the just to do judgment, but des-

traction shall be to the workers of iniquity.

            Men that are utterly unacquainted with the spirit of

religion, and view it only at a distance, form very false

notions to its prejudice, and are affrighted from it with

much the same reason that children are afraid to walk

in the dark. They fancy that religion is a dull and

melancholy thing, and that it affords and allows no

pleasure to saints, at least whilst their present life con-

tinues; but the wise man here tells us, that the very

doing of what is right is a part of its own reward,

bringing with it an heart-felt satisfaction. Love is the

soul of our obedience; and a well-regulated love is a

delightful passion, communicating pleasure to all the

toils and dangers that are endured for its sake. Jacob

endured the sultry heats, and chilling frosts, for seven

years, with great pleasure, for the love he had to Ra-

chel, and the holy love of Christians will dispose them

with greater joy to encounter the assaults of the temp.

ter, to mortify the deeds of the body, to strive against

sin, and to continue resolute in piety, notwithstanding

of all the discouragements which often attend it.

            The joy of the saints in doing judgment is not com-  

plete in this world, because the flesh which remains in

them lusts against the spirit; yet it vastly exceeds in pu-

rity and vigour the highest joys of sinners. The Chris-

tian is unspeakably more happy in resisting and van-

quishing the lusts of the flesh, than the worldly man

is in gratifying them.

            This sentence is a mark by which we ought to try

ourselves. Many do judgment without taking plea-  

sure in it; their consciences will not suffer them to do

 

 

 


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 555

 

otherwise, but their hearts are on the side of sin; or

they will do many good things with pleasure, because

their constitutional and beloved sins are not affected by

them; but there are other things at which, like King

Herod, they stop short, because they will rather risk

damnation than part unreservedly with the pleasures of

sin. But the just man takes pleasure in the way of

God's testimonies, without any exception to particular

steps of it, as far as it is known to him. He lifts up

his hands to the commandments of God which he loves,

and in his measure he resembles Christ, whose meat

and drink it was to do his Father's will: nor is his love

of the commandments confined to the first table of the

law: it is as much his joy to pay his debtor, as to re-

ceive payment of what is owing to himself, and to be

stow charity on the poor, as to receive a present from

some rich friend.

The wicked have an aversion to judgment. Perhaps

they are not immoral in their conduct, but it is no plea-

sure to them to render unto God his due; and they say

of his service, Oh! what a weariness is it! Their re-

ligion is but a dull lifeless form; but there is some ini-

quity which is relished as honey by them, and drunk

greedily as water. But that sin which is sweet in their

mouth is bitter in their belly, and shall be found more

deadly than poison; for destruction shall be to the

workers of iniquity*.

Ver. 16. The man that wandereth out of the way of

understanding, shall remain in the congregation of the

dedf .

The way of holiness is the way of understanding;

for a good understanding have all they that do God's

commandments, and all besides are fools. Whilst men

 

*Chap. 10:29

†Shall remain in the congregation of the giants (who perished by

the flood.)


556                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

wander in the forbidden paths of sin, they are dead

whilst they live, and are sinking themselves deeper and

deeper into the dungeon of misery.

But of all the wanderers in the ways of sin, those are

in the most dangerous condition who were once to ap-

pearance walking in the ways of understanding, and

have now turned aside into the ways of darkness. It

had been better for them never to have known the ways

of righteousness, for they bring great reproach upon

the ways of God, and behave as if they had found ini-

quity in the Holy One. They sin against convictions

and vows; they prejudice multitudes against the way

of truth; and bring the blood of many souls upon their

own heads. They harden their spirits against God,

and if their consciences are ever again awakened, they

are in danger of sinking into the hideous gulph of des-

pair. Although apostacy is not in itself an unpardon-

able sin, yet it is sometimes an introduction to it, and

never fails to render repentance extremely difficult, and

almost impracticable*.

These unhappy wanderers once ranked themselves,

and were ranked by their neighbours, among the living

in Jerusalem, but they were no better than stalking

ghosts ; they belong to the congregation of the dead,

and, without astonishing exertions of omnipotent grace,

must for ever remain amongst that wretched crew.

Those that walk in the light must die, but their death

is an entrance into a better life; for it cannot dissolve

their blessed connexion with the Lord of life: but those

that wander out of the way of understanding, are twice

dead, they are like trees plucked up by the roots; death

will be the king of terrors to them, because it opens

their passage into the lake of fire and brimstone, which

is the second death.

 

*Heb. 6:4-6


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 557

 

Consider, ye revolting sinners, the greatness of your

guilt and danger*; be thankful that your situation is

not yet altogether desperate. There is hope even for

you, in the all-sufficient Saviour, but fly to him without

delay, before the decree bring forth, before the fierce

anger of the Lord come upon you, till there be no

remedy†.

Ver. 17. He that loveth pleasure, shall be a poor man,

he that loveth wine and oil, shall not be rich.

Love not the world, nor the things of the world, for

if any man love the world, or the lusts of the flesh, or

other things in it, the love of the Father is not in him.

Must pleasure then be renounced, and every earthly

satisfaction given up? Who will enter into the ways of

wisdom, if she insists on this? Pleasure is not to be

absolutely renounced. The truly religious man finds

more pleasure, even in his earthly enjoyments, than

the happiest sensualist; but pleasure must not be loved

as our chief happiness. Our hearts, must be given to

God, and nothing earthly must be suffered to usurp

his throne in our souls.

It is no hardship imposed on us, to be forbidden the

love of pleasure, for the sensualist by his love to, the

delights of the flesh, undoes every thing that is dear to

him. He not only wounds his soul, but prejudices his

health, and wastes his estate: if he is rich, he makes

himself poor; if he is poor, he reduces himself to beg-

gary, and perhaps to a prison. Even in the land of

Canaan, where vines and olives abounded, poverty was

the ordinary consequence of dissipation and revelling:

and how can a man escape poverty, who lives in a

country, where the climate concurs with the scripture,

to forbid extravagance, and to threaten poverty as its

present recompense?

 

*Jer. 25          †Jer. 3:12,14


558                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

We see every day instances of the truth of this pro-

verb, in men who have reduced themselves to hunger

and want, by gratifying the love of pleasure. Gluttons,

and drunkards, and revellers, are fools for this world,

as well as the world to come; they exhaust, by their

intemperance, the very source of their pleasures, and

after contracting by habit an unconquerable desire after

wine, and other objects of a sensual taste, they are re-

duced to a want, not only of the luxuries, but even of

the necessaries of life.

Let us therefore, if we wish to be happy, follow the

Apostle's rule: The time is short; let those that rejoice,

be as if they rejoiced not, and they that use this world,

as not abusing it. Feasting is not unlawful, but when

men feast without fear, their jovialty leads them to re-

belling, which is expressly condemned in Scripture.

Let us make no provision for the lusts of the flesh, but

put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ver. 18. The wicked shall be a ransom for the right-

eous, and the transgressor for the upright.

"I gave Egypt for thy ransom," says God to his peo-

ple, " Ethiopia and Seba for thee." When Jerusalem ap-

peared to be on the point of ruin, God gave a diversion

to the Assyrian forces, by means of Tirhakah king of

Ethiopia. In like manner, Achan was a ransom for the

people of Israel in the days of Joshua, and the seven

men of Saul's sons in the days of David. In these, and

in many other instances, the righteous were delivered

out of trouble, and the wicked came in their stead.

When the wicked flourish, and the righteous meet

with humbling providences, we must not take offence

at the providence of God, or the way of holiness. The

proud are not happy, and those that tempt God are not

delivered: God tries the faith and patience of his peo-

 

*Chap. 11:8


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 559

 

ple, and will in due time make it to appear, that they

are gold and jewels in his eyes, and that he puts away

the wicked of the earth like dross.

God's people need not despair when they are in trou-

ble and see no likely way of getting out of it: God

can see methods of relief, when they cannot see them,

and he can perform wonders for their relief. Israel in

Egypt was brought very low, and their oppressors were

too mighty for them; it seemed impossible for them to

escape out of the land of bondage, or if they could get

out of it, to be safe from the pursuit of their enemies.

But their Redeemer was wise and mighty, and gave

Egypt for them. By the plagues of Egypt, their re-

lease was accomplished, and by the drowning of Pha-

raoh and his army, they were preserved from their

pursuers.

But God's people must walk uprightly, if they wish

to enjoy the benefit of this special favour. If they step

out of the path of integrity, God may spew that he

is no respecter of persons, to their cost. Jonah for his

flight from, the presence of the Lord, was made a ran-

som for the heathen sailors that were with him in the

ship. Those that shall not be condemned with the

world, may expect to be chastened, although others

should escape.

Ver. 19. It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than

with a contentious and angry woman.

Contention and anger commonly go together, and

they kindle a flame that can scarcely be extinguished.

The wise man has already told us, that it is better to

dwell in an ill-thatched house, or even on a corner of

the house top, without any covering from the storm,

than with a contentious woman ; but here he goes fare

Cher, and says that it is better to dwell in the wilder-

ness, than with a contentious and angry woman. The

wilderness would make a very bad habitation, because


560                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

there are the lions' dens, and the habitation of dragons,

so that a dweller in the desert would be not only desti-

tute of every conveniency, but exposed to constant pe-

rils of his life. Yet it would be a more desirable habi-

tation, than a wide house with the company of a wo-

man that was tormenting her husband with everlasting

brawls. The contentious woman is a greater monster

than the tiger of the desert, and her tongue is more

noisome than the tongue of the viper.

A contentious woman is not worse than a tyranniz-

ing husband. A man may more easily make his escape

from the presence of a scold, than a woman from the

face of a brutal tyrant; and the delicacy of her mind

makes her more susceptible of melancholy impressions

from bad usage, than persons of the other sex ordina-

rily are.

When a husband and wife find the marriage yoke

sweetened by love and peace, they should bless God for

the happiness they find in each other's society. Their

pleasures are the most delightful which this world can

afford, and they are indebted for them to that kind

providence which has made them one flesh and one

soul.

Ver. 20. There is a treasure to be desired, and oil in

the dwellings of the wise, but a foolish man spendeth it

up.

Works of charity are requisite, but don't imagine that

they will make you poor. Christ commands us not to

lay up treasures on earth, but to lay up treasures that

never decay, nor become a prey to thieves. But he

does not require us to give every thing away to the

poor; on the contrary, he insinuates that a prudent

householder has in his treasure things new and old. We

must give alms of all that we possess, but we are not

called to give all that we possess in alms; that would

be at once to drain up the fountain of beneficence, and


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 561

 

preclude ourselves from doing good, as we see occasion,

through the remaining part of our lives.

Solomon directs us to be liberal in charitable distri-

butions, and yet he tells us in this place, that the wise

have a desirable treasure, not only of the necessaries,

but likewise of the comforts and conveniencies of life.

Charity dispensed with wisdom, will not hurt but im-

prove a man's estate. Was there ever a more liberal

man than Job, and yet he was the richest of all the men

in the east. Abraham abounded in hospitality, and he

abounded no less in flocks and herds. It seems a riddle,

and yet it is a certain truth, that expenses and losses on

God's account are real gains.

Poverty is often the lot of the wise and religious, but

it is not the native consequence of piety. Industry,

and temperance, and frugality, are recommended by re-

ligion, and these are natural means of plenty. Above

all, godliness has the promise of the life that now is,

and therefore it must be a great error to imagine that

worldly prosperity is inconsistent with the grace of

God; for God delighteth in the prosperity of his ser-

vants; and if he does not smile upon their outward es-

tate, it is because his love is directed by infinite know-

ledge, which sees a different condition to be, for the

present, more conducive to their best interests.

But if the good man has not a treasure of the good

things of this world in his house, he possesses a large

treasure for himself and his family in the promises of

God*. A man is not poor, although he wants ready

money, if he has plenty of good bills. The Christian

may want every thing that glitters in the eye of flesh,

but he has rich treasures laid up in heaven, and the

written word of God is his security.

But a foolish man spends and devours the substance

 

*Ps. 37


562                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

of his family. His wealth is consumed by idleness or

extravagance, or by the blasting curse of God; or if

he is still rich in possession, he does not hold it by a

sure tenure. Sin is often the destruction of men's es-

tates, as well as their souls, and brings present misery

as well as eternal ruin. But, however the wicked may

flourish, or the righteous decline in the world, (for this

world is not the place of full recompenses,) the righte-

ous man when he is poorest is immensely rich, and the

richest of sinners is miserably poor.

Ver. 21. He that followeth after righteousness and

mercy, findeth life, righteousness, and honour.

This world is not the place of perfection. The best

Christians must confess their daily failings, but their

desires of holiness are sincere, and accompanied with

vigorous endeavours. Slothful professors have some

cold desires after it, and sometimes their desires are ac-

companied with endeavours, but these are weak and

ineffectual, or however ardent they may appear to be,

yet they soon spend their force, and all their goodness

is like the morning cloud and the early dew. Chris-

tians that deserve the name, are, like Caleb and Joshua,

of another spirit, for their endeavour is to follow the

Lord fully. They are followers of the Lamb whither-

soever he goes, and whatever it may cost them.

The grace of the gospel teaches us, not only to live

godly, but to follow righteousness and mercy, and these

two virtues cannot be separated in practice. To be

righteous, is to render unto every man his due. Now

love is a debt we owe to every man, and mercy is due

to the unhappy. The great rule of righteousness is to

do to others, as we would wish to be dealt with, if we

were in their circumstances, and certainly we all wish

to enjoy kindness and pity from our neighbours, as cir-

cumstances require. The righteous, says David, shew-


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 563

 

eth mercy, and giveth*. And in another place he says

that the righteousness of the merciful man endureth

for ever.

It is in the strength of Christ that we must follow

after righteousness and mercy. As his righteousness

is the ground of our hopes, his grace is the fountain of

our supplies. He is the vine, and unless we are branch-

es ingrafted into this vine, our fruits will not be good.

Love and fidelity are mentioned among the fruits of his

Spirit†, and those that have not his Spirit are sensual

and selfish, and bring forth fruit only to themselves.

Men think they will be losers, by following righte-

ousness and mercy with too much eagerness, but the

Scripture assures us that they shall be great gainers.

They may suffer present loss, but their gains will be

infinitely greater. They shall find life, and life is the

foundation of every enjoyment. What is sweeter than

life? and yet the life of most men is but a vain

shadow and an empty dream; but that life which comes

from the special favour of God, and is secured by pro-

mise, must be a pleasant and happy life. Some have

lost their life for the sake of righteousness, but Christ

assures us that their loss was unspeakable gain. They

shall find righteousness; for as those that love cursing,

shall have cursing poured into them like water, and

like oil into their bones, so those that love righteous-

ness shall meet with righteous dealing from men‡,

and the righteous God will take care of their interests,

and fulfil his faithful promises to them. The justice

of God is engaged on their side, through the mediation

of Christ, arid he cannot be unrighteous, to forget their

works and labours of love §. They shall find honour,

for their upright and generous behaviour is very like-

ly to procure to them honour from men. If fools should

 

*Ps. 27:21     †Gal. 5:22      §Luke 6:38

|| Ps. 36:10, Heb. 6:10


564                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

despise them, they will be respected by the wise and

good. If all men should despise them and cast out

their names as evil, they are precious and honourable

in the eyes of the Lord. They shall at last be dignified

with a place at Christ's right hand, with approbation

from their judge, and with an eternal crown*.

Ver. 22. A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty,

and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.

Men are generally so deeply sunk in flesh, that they

value the endowments of the body, and the outward

bounties of providence, above the noble qualities of the

mind. This error is corrected by Solomon in this verse.

He tells us that in every point of view, the qualities of

the mind are preferable to those of the outward man.

Counsel is better than strength for war, for one wise

man will take a city defended by many strong men, al-

though they have the advantage of high walls, and

strong fortifications on their side. By the wisdom of

Cyrus in turning the current of the Euphrates, was

Babylon taken, notwithstanding of its stupendous

walls and numerous defenders. By the discipline of

the Romans were the brave and strong nations of

Gaul and Germany subdued, and in almost every bat-

tle, it has been found that wisdom is better than wea-

pons of war†.

If military wisdom is so much preferable to strength,

how excellent is that religious wisdom so much com-

mended in this book! This divine wisdom even in war

has a vast superiority over the wisdom of generals and

ministers of state, for it leads men to victory, because it

teaches them to trust in the Lord of hosts. By this wis-

dom Abraham conquered four kings when they were

flushed with victory. By this David, the stripling, over-

came lions, and bears, and giants. By this many of the

old believers waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight

 

*Job 36:7       †Eccles. 9:13-18


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 565

 

the armies of the aliens, for they knew their God, and

were strong, and did exploits. By this wisdom the

weakest believer is victorious through the blood of the

Lamb, and the word of his testimony, over the dragon

and his angels.

Ver. 23. Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue,

keepeth his soul from troubles.

A furious horse needs a double bridle to restrain its

fierceness, and it seems the tongue of man needs more

than a double bridle to keep it in from doing hurt.

The wise mart never ceases to admonish us about this

point, and in this place he mentions particularly two

of the instruments of speech, and puts a bridle on each

of them. As an high-spirited horse, if its fury is not

curbed with a strong hand, will hurry its rider along,

without regarding pits, or precipices, or deep waters,

and expose him to extreme jeopardy of his life, so an

unbridled tongue will make a man hateful to God and

men; plunge him into contentions and debates, and ex-

pose his estate, and life, and credit, to extreme danger.

Who is the man that wishes to enjoy a quiet and

peaceable life? Let him set a guard over his mouth, and

refrain his tongue from profaneness and corrupt com-

munication, from railing and reviling, and all evil speak-

ing, from foolish talking, and from inconvenient jest-

ing. Let prudence and the fear of God stand continu-

ally like centinels at the door of his lips. Let him

follow the instructions of David, and Solomon, and

James*. Let him pray to God to keep the door of his

mouth, and remember that an ungoverned tongue is

inconsistent with religion and happiness, and exposes

a man to the same danger as a ship when it wants

a pilot and an helm, and is ready to clash against every

rock that comes in its way†.

 

*Ps. 34:11,12            James 3          †Chap. 18, 20, 21


566                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

Ver. 24. Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who

dealeth in proud wrath.

The anger of a proud man is very fierce. When he

meets with the smallest shadow of an affront or provo-

cation, his passions are on fire, and his vengeance must

be satiated, be the consequence what it will. He would

have every man to do him homage, and when his opi-

nion is contradicted, or his humour not complied with,

he rageth like a tempest, which threatens to spread de-

solation and ruin. Such was the proud wrath of Ha-

man, which could not be glutted with the blood of

Mordecai alone, but thirsted after the blood of a whole

nation.

What does the proud worm design by all this fury?

It is his honour that set him in a flame. He thinks

highly of himself, and cannot bear the thought that

another man has not the same deference for him which

he has for himself. To repair the fancied attacks

upon his honour, he gives way to revenge, and seeks

the reputation of a man of honour and spirit, but

he disappoints his own views, and meets disgrace,

when he is hunting for praise. He shall be called a

proud man, and that is a character so base, that a proud

man cannot bear it, for pride seeks to hide itself under

any covert rather than be seen. He shall be called a

haughty scorner, for he puffeth at his enemies, and

pours contempt upon his reprovers. Now a haughty

scorner is a very hateful character, for the scorner is

an abomination among men.

Haman the Agagite, and Uzziah king of Judah,

have brought great dishonour upon their memories by

their proud wrath. Moses and Job, are men of glori-

ous memory, for their humility and meekness. The

godly man is not ambitious of praise, but he receives

honour from God. The proud man cannot live with-


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 567

 

out honour and applause, and his ambition and pride

load his name and memory with contempt.

Ver. 25. The desire of the slothful killeth him, for his

hands refuse to labour.

Ver. 26. He coveteth greedily all the day long, but tae

righteous giveth and spareth not.

Solomon has already said enough to banish sloth

out of the world, if those who are under the power of

this vice were not besotted with it; but here he tells us

a worse thing about it than in any of his former pro-

verbs, for he represents it as a degree of self-murder.

The slothful man brings diseases upon himself, by re-

ducing himself to want of the necessaries of life, and

the refreshments of sleep, for he will not labour for his

food, nor take that exercise which prepares the body

for quiet rest; but besides this, his very desires are

hurtful to his constitution, for his mind must be em-

ployed, when his hands are idle. His wants, and the time

that lies heavy upon him, are strong incitements to

those insatiable cravings of desire which rack the heart

and have a sickening influence upon the body. If the

desire accomplished is a tree of life, those desires that

cannot be accomplished, must have the quite opposite

effect. If hope deferred make the heart sick, how cruel-

ly must it be tortured by those insatiable desires that

are not sweetened by any mixture of hope.

What is the reason that the slothful man's desires

have such a pernicious influence upon him? His hands

refuse to labour. If you bid him go and work, he will per-

haps promise to do it, like that son who said to his father,

I go, sir, to work in the vineyard. He is sensible of the

necessity of it, he wishes earnestly to enjoy the fruits

of labour, he has even some faint wishes that his hands

would submit to the toil of labour; but the loss is, that

his hands will not comply, because they must be taken

out of his bosom if they work. If he could work with


568                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

his tongue or his feet, without his hands, he would be a

very industrious man; but he hates work because it

does not consist in talking or sauntering about*.

Slothfulness is very prejudicial to the soul, as well

as the body. As sleep is the nurse of our animal con-

stitution, so the deep sleep into which slothfulness casts

a man, is the nurse of the body of sin. The sluggard

coveteth, he coveteth greedily; greedy covetings are

his constant employment; although he will not work

for necessaries, he could not be happy without the lux-

uries of life. Those greedy workings of covetous de-

sire, are a strong temptation to him to pilfer and steal,

and sometimes they push him on to those crimes that

procure the gallows.

Wicked men disappoint themselves by their sins of

that wished enjoyment, which they seek and hope to

obtain by their iniquities. The sensualist deprives him-

self not only of pleasures, but of necessaries, by casting

away that money that should procure them†. The

vain and proud bring infamy upon their name, by the

very means they take to support their honour‡; and

slothful men, whilst they seek rest and ease, endure

much more fatigue than the diligent man, because they

make themselves a prey to the restless workings of their

own unbridled desires.

But the righteous giveth. He does not say the dili-

gent man giveth; for all bad and selfish men are not

slothful. Some men toil hard, not from any regard to

God's authority, but entirely for their own interest;

they do not glorify God in their labours, for they do

not work with their hands, that they may have to give to

him that needeth, a part of what they have earned. The

righteous man is of a nobler spirit, for he is ever merci-

ful, and his mercy is one motive to his industry. He

 

*Prov. 13:4    †Verse 17      ‡Verse 24


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 569

 

labours in his calling, and the blessing of God gives

him success, and he spews his thankfulness to God, by

giving with an unsparing hand. The slothful man co-

vets the fruit of other people's labours, but the good

man does not wish to eat that morsel alone, which is

procured by his own sweat and toil. God is well pleas-

ed with his bounties, for he is a cheerful and liberal

giver*.

Ver. 27. The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination:

how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind.

We have already heard that the sacrifice of the wick-

ed is an abomination to the Lord: we are here told,

that it is an abomination, although it is presented with

the very best dispositions that a wicked man is capable

of Some unregenerate men are anxious for eternal

life, because they cannot always live on earth; some of

them have a great deal of seriousness in their devotions,

and will even worship God in the exercise of tempers

of mind that have some resemblance of love to God,

and faith in Christ. Will not such service be accepted

of God ? By no means. Our great teacher tells us to

make first the tree good, and then the fruit; for a con-

rupt tree, at the best, produces corrupt fruit. It must,

therefore, be a very foolish thing, for men to dream of

preparing themselves for Christ by a course of serious

devotions, or of waiting till they are in a better dispo-

sition for believing in Christ, before they will ven-

ture to commit the salvation of their souls into his

hands. Without his grace, we can have no good dis-

positions, nor do any thing that. is acceptable to God,

for it is only in the beloved, that we are accepted†.

What then must bad men do? Must they be driven

to despair? or must they give up with duty? No‡. It

is certain that without faith it is impossible to please

God; but it is equally certain, that they are fully war-

 

*2 Cor. 9:7    †Eph 1:6, John 15:5              ‡Acts 8:22


570                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

ranted to believe in Jesus. Let them make a thankful

use of this privilege, and from henceforth do all that

they do, in word or in deed, in the name of the Lord

Jesus Christ.

If the sacrifice of the wicked at the very best is an

abomination, how abominable must it be at the very

worst? It is more than abominable, if he brings it with

a wicked intention. Balaam presented many rich sa-

crifices; but they were designed to bribe the Holy One

of Israel to be unfaithful to his people, and changeable

in his purpose. It is a detestable thing for men to

think they can prevail on God by the multitude of their

holy services, to dispense with sin, and suffer them to

escape unpunished, although they still live in the prac-

tice of injustice towards men, and in the neglect of se-

veral necessary duties which they owe to God*.

It is no less presumptuous for men to be diligent in

the practice of religion, to obtain the applause of men.

This was the vice which our Lord so frequently re-

proved in the Pharisees, and this fault is still too com-

mon among the professors of religion. It will be a

comfortable evidence that we are not under the reign-

ing power of it, if we are as conscientious in the secret

performances of religion, as in those that come under

the view of men.

Nothing can be more detestable, than to cover vice

with professions of religion. Some have the daring

presumption to walk on in the ways of sin, and to prac-

tise the forms of duty, that their character may be

shrouded under the mask of piety. These are follow.

ers of the Scribes and Pharisees, against whom our Lord

pronounced so many dreadful woes†. They walk in

the cursed way of Jezebel, who caused a feast to be pro-

claimed, that she might destroy an innocent man, and

 

*Isa. 1:11-16      †Matt. 23


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 571

 

yet keep up the forms of religion and law; and they are

likely to perish in the gain-saying of Korah*.

Ver. 28. A false witness shall perish: but the man

that heareth, speaketh constantly.

He is a false witness that speaks what he has not been

assured of, by the testimony of his ears or eyes, or some

other way that secures him from the danger of lying.

He may possibly speak what is true, without having

sufficient evidence of it; but it is evident, that he is a

man of a loose conscience, who speaks things with a

greater air of certainty than his ground of belief will

warrant. " We testify," says the faithful witness, "the

things that we have seen and heard," and his followers

must imitate his example.

The false witness was to be punished by the magis-

trate, according to the law of Moses; but if he should

escape the punishment which his crime deserves from

men, God says he shall perish, and his threatenings

are not wind and vanity†.

But he that hears the words spoken about which he

bears witness, and will say nothing without sufficient

grounds of assurance, betrays not himself by any self

inconsistency, nor exposes himself to punishment from

God or man. He shall live when liars perish, his cha-

racter shall continue good when liars loose all credit,

and whilst he lives, he shall have the honour of being

sustained as a good and credible witness; for lying lips

are but for a moment, but the lip of truth shall be esta-

blished for ever.

Wherefore, putting away lying, let us speak truth

every man to his neighbour, especially in witness-bear-

ing. If the commandment of God, and the mighty mo-

tives of his gospel, will not induce us to do so, let us

regard our own honour and interest, which suffer irre-

parable injury by every deviation from truth.

 

*1 Kings 21:9,10, Num. 16             †Chap. 19:5,9


572                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

Ver. 29. A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as

for the upright he directeth his way.

The wicked man walks in a crooked path, where

peace and happiness never were, nor shall be found.

God calls upon him to leave this cursed way, and to

turn into the straight way of life. He thunders in the

curses of his law, and orders his ministers to lift up

their voices like trumpets, to proclaim in his ears the

dangers of his course. He deals with him by his pro-

vidence, and makes him to feel some of the first fruits

of that vengeance which is the fruit of sin. He sets

before him the peace and pleasure to be found in the

way of holiness, that he may be encouraged to leave

the way of destruction; but the perverse sinner disre-

gards the voice and providence of the Lord. The ways

of sin are so pleasant to him, that he will venture

the consequences, rather than be turned out of them

for the present,

The wicked man has many devices to harden his

face in his sinful course. He walks in the same paths

as other men do, and many are much worse than him.

self. He has time enough before him, to repent and

serve God. He does many good things to overbalance

his evil deeds, or he will make amends for all at once,

by fleeing to the mercy of God at last. By such cor-

rupt reasonings as these, he hardens himself in iniqui.

ty, and sets God at defiance, setting at nought the ter-

rors of his wrath, and trampling upon the grace and

blood of the Redeemer, who came to turn ungodliness

from Jacob. By degrees he contracts so powerful habits

of sin, that his conversion is almost impossible; he casts

off shame and fear, and sins without restraint, till he

finds that there is justice and vengeance, as well as for-

bearance with God*.

 

*Ps. 68:21


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 573

 

But the upright man directeth and establisheth his                        

way. He may slip with his feet, but he recovers him-                   

self by the aids of divine grace. If he turns aside, as                     

a good man may do, he will not persist in sin, but, like                

Job, he confesses with self-abhorrence his vileness, and            

will proceed no farther in it*. He endeavours, in the                    

general course of his life, to keep at a distance from sin

and temptation, and to order his conversation with such  

prudence, that he may not by surprise be ensnared in-                 

to sin, nor meet with any occasion of stumbling. Thus                 

did David direct his way, when he had the word of                        

God in his heart to keep him from sin, and fortified                    

himself with firm resolutions, and fervent prayers, when            

he knew that he was to meet with snares in his path†.                  

Thus did Abraham direct his way, when he was com-                   

manded to sacrifice Isaac. He never told Sarah, nor                     

even his servants that attended him on his journey,                      

that he had received so strange a command from God,                

for he was fully resolved to obey the voice of the Lord,  

and wished to obviate every advice in opposition to his   

duty. Let us follow the example of these holy men,                     

making straight paths for our feet, that what is lame may            

not be turned out of the way; and to him that ordereth                 

his conversation aright, will God chew his salvation.                   

Ver. 30. There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor               

counsel against the Lord.                          

Wisdom excelleth folly, as much as light excelleth                     

darkness, and Solomon often directs us to manage all                 

our affairs 'with discretion and counsel, by means of                   

which purposes are established; but he warns us in this   

place, not to trust to our own wisdom or prudence, nor               

to dream that they can accomplish any thing without the

permission and pleasure of God. Wisdom and counsel                

can do much with the blessing of God, but all the wis-                

dom of men and angels could do nothing in opposition                           

 

*Job 40:4       †Ps. 119:11, 141:3,4                       


574                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

to his counsels, which are all executed by the arm of

omnipotence.

There is, no doubt, wisdom and strength in many of

the sons of men, but with God is wisdom and strength

in an infinitely superior degree*. One wise man ex-

cels another wise man so much that he can manage him

as if he were a child; but the only wise God turns the

wisdom of all the philosophers in the world into fool-

ishness, and the foolishness of God is infinitely wiser

than the best wisdom of creatures.

Herod formed a project deep as hell to destroy our

infant Saviour; but Jesus lives and reigns. Herod and

his family were soon extinct. The like success has at-

tended all the contrivances of men to destroy the church

of our Redeemer, and God bath glorified himself upon

the mightiest and wisest enemies of his people, by mak-

ing their infernal devices the means of ruining them-

selves, and of advancing the interests of Zion†. Let

Zion rejoice because of God's judgments, and let all the

daughters of Judah be glad, for the Lord of hosts bath

purposed good concerning her and who shall disannul

his purpose? The enemies of Zion may associate and

combine, and form their plans for her destruction, but

they shall not stand, for the Lord bath founded Zion,

and the poor of his people shall trust in her.‡

There are men who aspire to honour, and in their

pride would exalt themselves in opposition to the will

of God, who hath annexed honour to piety, and dis-

grace to pride and ambition§. But shall they succeed?

The Lord bath purposed to stain the pride of all glory,

and they shall be scattered in the imagination of their

hearts. There are some that try to carry on their plans

for enriching themselves and their families, in spite of

God. But poverty and ruin is the fruit of their pre-

 

*Job 12:12,13                       †Ps. 12:19, Mic. 4:11-13

‡ Is.8:9, 14:25,32                 § Prov. 18:12, 22:4


CHAP. XXI.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 575

 

sumption*. In short, all that seek for profit or plea-

sure, in transgressing the law of God shall find loss and

misery.

Trust in God at all times, acknowledge him in all

your ways, and be not afraid that any of his gracious

counsels shall be frustrated. But those that harden

themselves against God shall be ruined without reme-

dy†.

Ver. 31. The horse is prepared against the day of bat-

tle, but sgfety is of the Lord.

Solomon here teaches better than he practised, for we

need from God not only light to guide us in the way,

but grace to walk in it‡. He provided 40,000 horses

even though God had expressly forbidden the kings of

Israel to multiply horses, lest their hearts should be

drawn away from the hope of Israel. But this proverb

was abundantly verified by the consequences of the

change that Solomon introduced into the management

of public affairs, for from his days the people never

made such a figure in war, as they had done in former

days, when the judges of Israel went on foot against

those that fought from chariots of iron §.

Horses and warlike preparations of every kind are

nevertheless necessary to be used in war, when they

are not expressly forbidden by God. Yet if you trust

in horses, you will find that they are flesh and not spi-

rit, and that they cannot afford safety to those whose

hearts are turned from the Lord||. When the people

of Judah went down to Egypt for help, and trusted in

the Egyptian horses for safety against the king of As.

syria, the prophet Isaiah, with aloud voice, remonstrat-

ed against their conduct, and cried that their strength

was to sit still, and wrote it in a table, and noted it in

 

*Prov. 10:2,3             †Chap. 19:21             ‡Ezek. 36:27     §Judges 5

|| Ps. 33:17


576                  EXPOSITION OF THE                  [CHAP. XXI.

 

a book, that it might continue for ever and ever as a

testimony on record against those, that trust in chariots

and horses rather than the name of the Lord*.

Are we obliged to fight for our liberty and religion?

let us set up our banners in the name of the Lord, be-

lieve in him as the Lord of armies, that mustereth the

hosts of the battle, and decides the fate of war, and be-

ware of every thing that might provoke him to sell us

into the hands of our enemies†.

Prudence obliges a nation to avoid dangerous wars‡.

Religion teaches us, if possible, as far as lieth in us, to

live peaceably with all men. But necessity is sometimes

laid upon Christians to expose themselves to jeopardy

in the high places of the field, for their country and re-

ligion. In such cases the firm belief of this proverb

will encourage us to venture into the field against a su-

perior force, persuaded that every bullet has its direc-

tion from God, and that he is able to give us the vic-

tory, or to make defeats and deaths our advantage§.

Salvations of every kind belong to him. The means

of safety must not be neglected, but God alone must be

trusted, and when the means are attended with success,

the glory is to be ascribed to him. Joshua employed

the whole force of the armies of Israel against the na-

tions of Canaan, and he praised those tribes that gene.

rously and faithfully assisted their brethren to subdue

the country; but he was fully sensible that it was not

their sword and bow that had gotten the land, but God's

right arm and favour, and the light of his countenance||.

In our spiritual warfare, we must arm ourselves with

the whole armour of God, but our strength must be in

the Lord, and in the power of his might. If we must

trust him for safety in fighting with flesh and blood,

 

*Isa. 30:7,8    †Judges 5:8, Deut. 23:9, Ps. 20:5   ‡Luke 14

§Judges 5:9, Ps. 44   || Josh. 23:3


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 577

 

how can we wrestle successfully against the powers of

hell without his divine succour*?

 

 

Proverbs 22

 

 

Verse 1. A good name is rather to be chosen than great

riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

A great fame is none of the most desirable objects,

but a good character and the love of men are frequent-

ly represented by Solomon as valuable blessings.

Riches are greatly esteemed in the world, and, under

the management of wisdom, serve very valuable purpos-

es; but they don't contribute so much to the quiet and

happiness of life, as the esteem and love of our neigh-

bours, nor do they qualify us so much to honour God

and do good to men. Paul does not require it as a qua-

lification in church rulers to be rich, but he requires

that, along with knowledge and good behaviour, they

should have a good report among Christians, and even

heathens. He was sensible that the most useful instruc-

tions from a suspected person would have no better re-

lish than wholesome food presented in an unclean dish.

Our Lord requires all Christians to do those good works

that are esteemed by men, not indeed that they may

receive praise from men, but that God may be glori-

fied on their behalf. The like exhortations are fre-

quently given us by the apostles of Christ†.

But we must still remember that a good name and

the favour of men are not to be compared with the

pleasures of a good conscience, and the favour of

God; for if the friendship of men is so pleasant and

 

*Eph. 6:11-13,18      †Rom. 12:17, 2 Cor. 8:21, Phil. 3:8, 2 Peter 2


578               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

useful, God is greater than men, and his favour is in-

finitely more valuable. And we have no reason to

be vexed if we lose the esteem of men in our endeavours

to please God. The esteem and good will of men are

to be valued chiefly because they will enable us more

effectually to serve the interests of God's kingdom, and

to do good to the souls of men. When they are valued

for their own sakes, they become a snare to us, as they

were to some of the ancient Jews, who would not con-

fess Christ, because they loved the praise of men more

than the praise of God. When our names are cast out

as evil, for a good cause, we have reason to rejoice arid

triumph, because we are made partakers of the suffer-

ings of Christ, that when his glory shall be revealed

we may be glad also with exceeding joy.

If we seek chiefly to please men, we are not fhe ser-

vants of Christ, but if we are the servants of Christ, we

must endeavour for his sake, to please men, for their

good to edification, and for the honour of his gospel.

We must value our character above money, and avoid

every thing that is mean, although it might promote

our outward estate. We must not only attend to the

secret duties Of religion, but those also that recommend

it to the world, and take all care that our good be not

evil spoken of, and that religion meet with no reproach

by our misconduct. We should be thankful to God,

if we enjoy the benefit of a good name, and employ our

influence for the advancement of his glory, but we must

abhor the thoughts of making any sinful compliances

with the course of the world for the sake of our credit,

remembering that instructive saying of God, "Them

that honour me, I will honour, but they that despise

me shall be lightly esteemed."

Ver. 2. The rich and poor meet together, the Lord is

the maker of them all.

What is a king to a man? what is a crown and a


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 579

 

throne to a thinking substance, capable of enjoying

God? Majesty is a high sounding title, but the name

of a reasonable being would be accounted much more

noble, were not kings reasonable beings like other men.

The things wherein men of different circumstances a-

gree, are infinitely more important than those wherein

they differ; yet such is the vanity which generally at-

tends riches and power, that great men often treat per-

sons of mean station, as if they were some lower rank

of animals.

The poor and rich are made of the same blood, and the

same glorious power is displayed in the formation of

their bodies, and the creation of their souls. They breath

the same vital air, and enjoy the light of the same

sun. They owe their support equally to the earth, and

shall return to the same dust. Their souls are equally

precious, and shall dwell in the same eternal habitations,

unless there is a distinction between them of a very dif-

ferent kind, from that which makes the rich too often

td trample upon the poor, and the poor to return their

contempt with the no less criminal passion of envy.

They are alike lost in Adam, and have the same right

to salvation, through Christ revealed to them in the

gospel.

They meet together in the same family, and church,

and nation, and they are useful to each other, if they

comply with the designs of providence. The rich man's

wealth would be of little use to him without the

labour of the poor; and the rich man ought to return

protection and wages to the poor. Like members of

the same body, they ought neither to despise nor to

grudge at one another, but to contribute their joint en-

deavours to the good of the whole.

The Lord is their common creator and father, and

by his providence he hath made this man rich and the


580               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

other man poor, and can invert their conditions when

he pleases, as the experience of every day declares.

Why should the rich man despise his poor fellow

creature? Did not he that made you make him? Did

not one God fashion you both in the womb*? Did God

frame you of finer clay, or form you of better blood,

than that of Adam? or do your riches make you bet-

ter, or wiser, or even happier than the poor man? The

horse is not so much worse than brutish, as to reckon

itself a nobler animal than another of its own species,

because it has got a finer saddle on its back.

Let not the poor grudge at their poverty, and repine

at him that has given a larger portion of land and mo-

ney to their fellow men, for he is the Lord. He hath

given you more than you can claim by the rights of

justice, and if he has given more to some others than

to you, he has given them what was his own and not

yours, and has commanded them to be kind and useful

to such as .you, in the spending of it†.

Ver. 3. A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth

himself: but the simple pass on and are punished.

Common prudence will teach men to provide for

their security against plain and evident dangers. Drunk-

ards, and whoremongers, and rash sureties, are desti-

tute of common sense as well as religion, otherwise

they would not rush upon certain destruction for a mo-

mentary gratification.

This mark of prudence appears chiefly in those

who partake of the wisdom that is from above. As

Noah, when he foresaw the deluge, prepared an ark to

the saving of his house, so the prospect of the deluge

of wrath alarms them, and instigates their flight to that

blessed refuge which God hath provided for our souls.

When Moses foretold the tremendous storm that was

 

*Job 31:16     †Matt. 20:15


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 581

 

to destroy the fields and cattle of Egypt, it was seen

who of Pharaoh's servants were fools, and who were

wise. The foolish left their cattle in the fields to perish,

the wise amongst them put their cattle under a shelter.

Now God threatens punishment to sinners in his word,

but he is pleased in his great mercy to shew us where

we may find refuge. Christ is a hiding place from

the storm, and a covert from the tempest; and those

who are made truly wise, will give no rest to their eyes,

nor slumber to their eye-lids, till they are hidden un-

der the covert of his righteousness. Besides that terri-

ble wrath which shall seize upon all sinners at last, God

oftentimes gives commission to particular judgments,

to avenge his quarrel upon a land or church. Now

prudence will enable us in some measure, to discern the

signs of the times, and to judge of effects from their

causes. There are some men so stupid, that they will

not see God's hand when it is lifted up, but the wise

man, by the threatenings of the word and the appear-

ances of providence, can see God's hand when it is about

to be lifted up, and enters into those chambers of safe-

ty which are provided for his safety in the evil day.

It is only sensual and earthly wisdom that teaches

men to shelter themselves from danger, by venturing

on sin, or neglecting duty. This is just as wise, as it

would be for a man to run upon a drawn sword to avoid

the scratch of a pin*. But the simple walk in dark-

They see not the evil coming, or if they see it,

they are so senseless that they pass on in their dan-

gerous course, till they meet with deserved punishment,

and they are more stupid than many of the brutal cre-

ation, who foresee the storms and run to their shel-

ters†. Many of the feathered tribes, before the cold sets

in, fly away to warmer climates. How then do ye say,

 

*Dan. 3           †Job 36:33


582               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

we are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us, if you

are more senseless than the beasts of the earth, and less

wise than the fowls of heaven? Will you call yourselves

reasonable creatures, and Christians, when neither rea

son nor revelation can make you so prudent about your

best interests, as instinct alone renders animals that

cannot boast of these precious gifts*.

Ver. 4. By humility and the fear of the Lord, are rich-

es, and honour, and life.

Many great things are said of humility in Scripture,

and many precious promises are made to it. But the

humility meant, is not that false humility that is often

found among the proudest of men, nor that constitu-

tional modesty, or that condescension of temper and

behaviour, which is the mere effect of good sense, and

is a very amiable quality, but not a Christian grace.

Christian humility is that which has the promises be-

longing to it, and it is always joined with the fear of the

Lord. It arises from an apprehension of the glorious

excellencies of God; for when our eyes are open to his

terrible majesty, we cannot but perceive our own mean-

ness; when we behold his spotless purity, we must be

ashamed of our own loathsomeness; when we contem-

plate his awful authority, we feel our obligations to de.

ny our own perverse wills; when his sovereignty is felt,

we cannot but yield the management of all our concerns

into his hand; and when we have the knowledge of

his righteousness, we are obliged to renounce our own

works, and submit to the righteousness of God. Thus

Job and Isaiah were humbled. They saw God with

the seeing of the eye, and humbled themselves in the

dust before him.

Humility, arising from an impression of the glories

of God, is attended with other Christian graces, and an

 

*Jer. 8:7,8


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 583

 

holy conversation. The humble man will walk hum-

bly with his God, and bend all his endeavours to please

the Most High.

By this humility are riches, and honour, and lives,

(marg.) These things are greatly valued by the sons

of men, especially when they attend one another. Riches

are universally coveted, and yet many that possess

them are discontented, because they covet the addition

of titles and dignities to their wealth; and some that

have riches and honours in abundance are more unhap-

py than those who want them, because they must die,

and leave their beloved dignities and riches to others.

But here Solomon instructs us, in few words, in a short

and sure way of attaining those blessings, which men

so ardently covet, and in securing them against every

contingency, and even against death itself. But if we

follow his direction, we must renounce the wisdom of

the world, which teaches the opposite doctrine. It is

generally believed, that if men would obtain riches and

greatness, they must push themselves forward, and

make themselves men of importance, and that they must

not too scrupulously adhere to their duty, but in some

cases venture to displease God by venial sins, to secure

the favour of men. But we are here taught that hu-

mility and the fear of the Lord are the straight road to

every thing desirable; and if we believe that God is the

fountain of life, and every blessing, the doctrine of So-

lomon will be clear as the light. For to whom do kings

give their favours? to their friends or enemies; to those

whom they love, or to those whom they hate? We

know that the Lord delights in the humble, and takes

pleasure in them that fear him; and as he waters the

humble vallies with the fructifying showers, so he re-

freshes with his abundant blessing, those who are low

in their own eyes, and willing to render the glory of

all that they receive to the Giver. If the humble want


584               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

any thing that is good in this world, they shall possess

unfailing treasures and a crown of life in heaven*.

Ver. 5. Thorns and snares are in the way of the fro-

ward, he that doth keep his soul shall befar from them.

When the children of Israel spared the Canaanites,

in opposition to the commandment of God, they found

the consequences of their sin, though it might seem a

little one, very troublesome, for the remnant of the ac-

cursed nations were thorns in their eyes, and snares and

traps to them, and scourges in their sides. Such shall

sin be to every froward transgressor. It is generally

allowed that the end of transgressors is miserable, but

we are assured by Solomon that their way is hard, and

that it is all covered over with thorns and snares. The

tyranny of lusts, the cravings of inordinate desires, the

disappointment felt in the enjoyment of the pleasures of

sin, which never answer expectation, the stings of con-

science, the bitter fruits of many sins even in this world,

and the sore rebukes of providence, are thorns and bri-

ers which pierce the souls of transgressors every day.

And as Gideon taught the men of Succoth, with

thorns and briers, so men, if they were not become bru-

tish, would learn, from the pains that attend or follow

the pleasures of sin, that it is an evil and a bitter thing

to forsake the Lord†.

The wicked cannot get free of these miseries, for

snares are in their way, by which they are held fast, as

a bird in the snare of the fowler. They are compassed

by God with a net, and all their efforts will be insuffi-

cient to disentangle them‡.

There are snares also in their way, by which the

devil holds them fast in sin, so that they cannot get

free from his tyranny. They resolve to repent at last,

 

*Matt. 5:3      †Matt. 8:22, Luke 8:14        ‡Job 22:10


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 585

 

but they find that Satan keeps them fast in the cords

of their sins. They are like galley slaves chained to

their work, and nothing but almighty grace can work

out deliverance for them*. Such is the malignant na-

ture of sin, that it turns every thing into a snare, and

an occasion of sin. Adversity and prosperity, the

comforts of the table, the ordinances of God, and Christ

himself, are a snare to the froward†.

Who is the man that shall be preserved from these

snares and thorns? He that keepeth his soul by watch-

fulness against sin and temptation, by prayer, and, a-

bove all, by committing it to the care of him that is the

keeper of Israel. He shall be preserved from every

evil thing, he shall be far from those thorns and snares

which the froward man is continually meeting in his

path.

Are these things so? Did not Job keep his soul with

all diligence, and even the souls of his children, and

yet he met with snares, and nets, and darkness, in his

paths‡. This cannot be denied, but Job was only tri-

ed for a moment, to improve his graces, to raise his,

name, and to brighten his crown. The people of God

may expect manifold tribulations, but, amidst them all,

they have peace in Christ: And what are the tribula-

tions of the world to the peace that is in him! They

shall be preserved by the power of God, through faith

unto salvation, and whilst they sow in tears they can

rejoice in the hope of reaping in joy §.

Ver. 6. Train up a child in the way wherein he should

go, and (or also, or even) when he is old, he will not de-

part from it.

Take this child, said Pharaoh's daughter to Jochebed,

nurse him for me, and I will pay thee thy wages. Chil-

 

*2 Tim. 2:26  tProv. 1:32, Ps. 69:22, Isa. 8:14

‡Job 19:6,8, 22:10    §Rom. 8:28, 2 Cor. 5:17


586               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

dren are an heritage of the Lord, and he lays claim,

in a special manner, to the children of professing Chris-

tians, as his own*. And he commands them to be nurs-

ed and trained up for himself, and those that obey his or-

ders shall be richly recompensed, in the good behaviour

of their children, or at least, in the approbation of God,

and the satisfaction of their own minds.

Satan will soon address himself to your children, to be-

speak them for his service. Their reason will no sooner

begin to operate than he will take advantage of that fool-

ishness which is bound up in their hearts, to fix them in

his service. Endeavour therefore to be beforehand with

him. Instruct them in the knowledge of God, of their

own fallen condition, of the way that God hath provided

for their recovery, and the way of holiness wherein they

should walk. Convince them, by methods suited to

their tender years and weak minds, that religion is

pleasant, and necessary for them. Check the first ap-

pearances of vice, by such means as will not give them

a disgust at instruction. Accommodate yourselves in the

methods of your instructions to their capacities and

dispositions, that they may be drawn to religion with

the cords of love, and with the bands of a man. Pa-

rents do not give the same food to all children, but at-

tend to the difference in their constitutions and tastes,

in their care of their bodies? and why should they not

make the like difference in their management of their

minds? Let all your instructions be sweetened by good

nature, and enforced by good example, which has a

greater influence than precepts upon all men, and es-

pecially on children. Correction must likewise have its

place in training up your children; and God must be

earnestly implored to crown the whole with his blessing.

When children are thus trained up, they will be led

 

*Ezek. 16:20


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 587

 

into the paths of life and peace, and even when they

are old they will not turn aside out of them. Timothy

from a child was trained up in the knowledge of the

holy Scriptures, and the faith which dwelt in his grand-

mother and mother, dwelt in him also, for the scrip-

tures made him wise unto salvation. It is a great plea-

sure to parents to see their children walking in the

truth, and it is an unspeakable heightening of that plea-

sure, when their own instructions and admonitions

have been blessed by God, as means of conducting them

into that good path. Parents love their children, be-

cause they were the instruments of their existence, but

they will look upon the fruit of their bodies to be

doubly their children, when they are spiritual fathers

to them, as well as the fathers of their flesh. But how

painful must it be to the heart of a parent, to see the

misbehaviour of a child, whose Christian education was

neglected? Every wicked act in such a child, must be

a wound in the heart of his cruel father, who by his

cruel negligence, left his child to be a prey to the devil,

and, carried captive by that cruel tyrant, to be employ-

ed in his hellish drudgery. If the father lives to see

him die in such a situation, what an hell must it be to

his own soul. Even the agonies of a wounded consci-

ence are unequal to the torment of reflecting that, in

spite of all the obligations of nature, and interest, and

religion, a poor child was suffered to be carried away

by Satan to the lake of fire; where he is now justly

cursing the instrument who brought him into the world

in a sinful state, because he never used the proper

means for preventing that horrible misery, to which he is

now reduced.

Will children always walk in that way wherein they

are trained up? For the most part this will be the case,

God is a sovereign dispenser of grace, and he is not

under any obligation to bestow it upon the children of


588               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

his faithful people; but this proverb teaches us, that he

uses to bless the attempts of parents, to train up their

children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

If parents are disappointed in their expectations from

their children, they will be free at least of those terrible

remorses which sting the hearts of careless parents,

when their children prove wicked. They have the

pleasing consciousness of having done their duty. They

can pray, with humble boldness, that God may yet bless

his own appointment for their children's advantage; for

the seed of early instruction may be many years buried

under ground, and at last spring up. They may even

form some pleasing hopes, that although they have not

the pleasure of seeing their houses such with God as

they could wish, they may see at the great day, some at

the right hand of Christ, who gave them too much rea-

son to fear the contrary. The instructions of Heze-

kiah had no influence upon Manasseh, till he had been

long in his grave; and yet Hezekiah will be able, we

hope, to say at the last. Here am I, and the son whom

God hath given me.

Ver. 7. The rich ruleth over the poor, and the bor-

rower is servant to the lender.

When Job's three friends endeavoured to convince

him that he was a great sinner, and could make no im-

pression upon him, Eliphaz at last ventures roundly to

tell him, what his trangressions were; but as he had

only conjecture to go upon, he could only judge what

those sins were that he was most likely to fall into, and

fixes upon those that were most natural to a man in his

circumstances. Job was the greatest of all the men in

the east, and therefore Eliphaz tells him, that he had

taken a pledge from his brother for nought, and had

tyrannized over the poor; for he knew that the pride

of riches often displays itself in such conduct, and that


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 589

 

those whose circumstances enable them to lend to

others, are too often betrayed, by their circumstances,

into insolence and oppression. It is not for nothing

that Paul directs Timothy to charge those who are

rich in the world, not to trust in uncertain riches,

nor to be high-minded. Rich persons ought nar-

rowly to examine their own hearts and conduct, whe-

ther they are not puffed up with vanity, and dis-

posed to behave imperiously towards their inferiors,

especially those who are obliged to have some de-

pendence upon them, and whose circumstances oblige

them to be in their debt. Let them remember that

they have received their riches from God, by whose

providence things are so managed, that this man is poor

and the other man rich; this man must borrow, and

another man is able to lend. Let them attend to

their own poverty and absolute dependance in respect

of God, before whom the rich and the poor are equal,

and by whose justice, those who take their brethren

by the throat, because they owe them a few pence,

will have the many talents exacted, in which they stand

indebted to God.

This proverb is a warning to men to be industrious

and frugal, that they may not lose their liberty. Men

who labour diligently in their callings, need not cringe

to the rich, nor live in any man's debt. Some persons

care not how much they borrow, never remembering

that the day of payment is coming, and that a man has

as many masters as he has creditors. Paul did not

choose to be burdensome to any man, nor to be meanly

dependant upon the generosity even of those who were

best affected to him, but he laboured, working with his

hands, and helped by his labours to supply the wants

of his friends.


590               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

Ver. 8. He that somelh iniquity, shall reap vanity,

and the rod of his anger shall fail.

The husbandman does not expect to reap wheat if

he has sown tares, and yet men are often so foolish as

to expect, that, after sowing to the flesh, they shall reap

the same thing with those that sow to the spirit; and,

therefore, Paul warns men not to suffer themselves to be

deceived in this momentous point*. Solomon gives a

like warning in this place, and so does Hosea†.

He that lives in the practice of any sin, is sowing ini-

quity; for the thoughts of the mind, the words of the

mouth, and the labours of the hand, are seed which

shall spring up and produce a corresponding harvest.

Men expect pleasure and profit from sin, but it will

yield them nothing but disappointment and mischief.

The wages of sin is death, and the truth of God stands

engaged for the payment.

This harvest of disappointment and misery is some-

times begun in this world, as Eliphaz assures us from

his own observation ‡. But the first fruits of it only

are reaped at present: the full harvest is at the end of

the world §; and then sinners will be horribly amazed

at the immense crop of misery, produced from that seed

which they thought had been for ever buried. In vain

do sinners think that their works are forgotten, because

they are not presently recompensed; the husbandman

would be thought a fool, who mourned as if he had

lost his seed, because he cannot reap in the beginning

of summer, when all the world knows that there must

be a long interval between seed time and harvest. Sin-

ners shall reap in due time, if they give not over their

sowing.

Wicked men will not think of these things in time,

 

*Gal. 6:7        †Hosea 10:13               ‡Job 4:8      §Matt. 13


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 591

 

but indulge their pride and folly, and many of them

beat their fellow men with the rod of their anger, abus-

ing their prosperity for the support of their insolence;

but their rod shall not always abide in its strength, God

will wrest it out of their hands, and break it in pieces,

and punish them with the more dreadful rod of his own

wrath. Eliphaz was an eye witness of this truth also,

and describes it with great force of language. The

roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and

the teeth of the young lions are broken: the old lion

perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lion's whelps

are scattered abroad*.

Ver. 9. He that hash a bountiful eye shall be blessed,

for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

"Mine eye affecteth mine heart," says the mourning

and merciful prophet, " because of all the daughters of

my people." There is a correspondence between the heart

and the eye in the merciful man; for the sight of mi-

sery produces compassion in his soul, and the tender-

ness of his heart beams forth in his eyes. The man

whose eyes are the index of a bountiful heart, is a bless-

ed man, for he enjoys the sweetest of earthly pleasures,

that of kindness and beneficence, and pleasant reflec-

tions on his own conduct. He shall be blessed by all

the wise and good, the blessings of widows and orphans

shall come upon his head, the loins of the poor bless

him, and he shall receive abundant blessings from God,

who will not leave him unpitied in the day of his dis-

tress, but make all his bed in his sickness. He shall

enjoy blessings in his body, and blessings in his out-

ward estate, and blessings in his inner man; he shall be

blessed in his person, and blessed in his family; he shall

be blessed upon the earth, and blessed in the day of

 

*Job 4:10,11, Ps. 37, Isa. 9:4


592               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

judgment, for his bountiful works performed from a

principle of faith and charity, will be produced as the

evidences of his interest in the Redeemer*.

He shall surely be blessed, for he giveth of his bread

to the poor, and thereby makes it to appear that his

tears of sympathy are the expressions of genuine chari-

ty. He is not one of those hypocrites that say to their

neighbours, "go away, be ye warmed and filled," whilst

they give them nothing of what is necessary for the

body. He gives, and he does it with an air of kind-

ness which cheers the heart of him whom he relieves.

He gives not of the bread of other people, but his own,

for he would abhor the thoughts of robbery, for acts of

charity. He does not give all his bread, for he does

not think it his duty to rob himself and his family, that

he may give to others; but he gives liberally out of

what he possesses, and that which is left to himself is

sanctified to him.

Some that have a bountiful eye have no bread to give,

but they will give what will turn to as good an account

to the donor, and sometimes will be as pleasing to the

receiver; tears and attention, and offices of tenderness

and prayers to Him that is able to help.

Those that are unfeeling in their dispositions, and

cannot open their hands but to receive, are already curs-

ed with an hard and contracted heart. They are more

savage than the wandering Arabs of the land of Tema t.

They have not the faith of Christ, nor does the love of

God dwell in them, and their ears shall hear, at the great

day, those dreadful words, "Depart from me, ye curse

ed, into everlasting fire ‡."

 

*Ps. 41:1-3, Isa. 58:7-11, 2 Tim. 1:17,18, Heb. 6:9,10

†Isa. 21:14     ‡John 3:17,18, Matt. 25:41


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 593

 

Ver. 10. Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go

out, yea strife and reproach shall cease.

Hagar, for her insolent behaviour, was obliged to flee

from the house of Abraham. She humbled herself,

and was again permitted for a time to dwell with that

happy family, but her son Ishmael, by his contemptu-

ous behaviour, procured his own expulsion, and that

of his mother, at the appointment of God himself. It

would be happy for all families, and churches, and so-

cieties of every kind, if scorners could be cast out of

them, for they are the authors of strife and reproach,

of debates, and revilings, and railings, whereby the

sweets of society are poisoned, and turned into gall.

But if this cannot be well accomplished, we ought at

least to avoid all friendship and fellowship with them,

and to exclude them from every voluntary society,

formed for mutual improvement or entertainment.

Peace is essential to the comfort of men, but peace can-

not be maintained whilst scorners are allowed to sow

the seeds of variance by their rude reflections and un-

mannerly reproaches. Their behaviour is such, that

they will inflame the passions of the best natured men

that do not keep out of their way; and when they have

once kindled the fire, none can tell when it will be

quenched. We are commanded, as far as lies in us, to live

peaceably with all men, and therefore it is necessary to

set a mark on those who cause divisions and offences,

and to avoid them. But will contention cease, if these

firebrands of society are cast out? Yes, unless we have

too much of their disposition in our own breasts. We

must expel from thence the principles of scorning,

those proud and fiery passions from whence all divi-

sions arise.

How long, O ye scorners, will you delight in your

scorning? Don't you observe what brands of infamy

are set on your name; what a plague you are to all


594               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

around you, so that the wise exclude you from their

company, because your dispositions are so wicked and

perverse that there is no bearing with you? Why do

you indulge that arrogance which makes you the ser-

pents of human society? Go and learn of Him that is

lowly and meek, and you shall find rest to your own

souls, and become the delight of those amongst whom

you were an abomination*.

Ver. 11. He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace

of his lips, the king shall be his friend.

No saint can say that he is perfectly pure from his

sin ; but every saint may safely say, that he is a lover

of purity, and a hater of hypocrisy. The pharisees

loved the reputation of purity, and they were very pure

in their own eyes. They thought themselves as clean

as those pots and vessels which they purified with such

exactness, whilst they were in reality like cups and

platters, whose outside was clean, but the inward part

filled with every impurity. But real saints are more

anxious to approve themselves unto God, than to en-

joy reputation from men, and their outward holiness

proceeds from a love of purity in the heart †.

The pureness of heart, here meant, consists chiefly

in sincerity and uprightness, and stands opposed to all

dissimulation. The love of it is necessary to grace in

the lips, which must be directed by an honest heart,

and admit no pollution of flattery and doubleness,

which so much stains the communication of a great part

of mankind ‡.

The lips may assume an appearance of purity and

sincerity when there is none in the heart, but this

empty appearance cannot be long supported. A very

small degree of sagacity will enable a man soon to dis-

cover it, and the discovery is attended with abhorrence.

 

*Prov. 24:9    †Rom.2:28-30           ‡Ps. 12


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 595

 

Grace in the lips is necessary to recommend pureness

of heart. We ought always to speak the words of

truth, but we ought to speak it in the most pleasing

manner possible, that we may not render it unaccepta-

ble by our manner of representing it. Daniel shewed

his integrity and politeness at once, by the manner of

his address to Nebuchadnezzar, when he was called to

give him very disagreeable information.

Every man ought to be a friend to the man of inte-

grity, and the king himself, if he is not an absolute

fool, will be a friend to him that joins purity of heart

with gracefulness of tongue. Daniel, the captive, on

this account, found favour with two haughty kings of

Babylon. It is the general opinion, that flattery is ne-

cessary in our conversation with great men, if we wish

to recommend ourselves to their favour; but the surest

way of gaining and securing the favour of any man, is

to seek above all things the favour of Him that has the

hearts of all men in his hands, The favour gained by

flattery and complaisance, soon decays. The favour,

lost by truth, is in time recovered. Falsehood may sup-

port itself for a year or two, but truth stands on an im-

moveable foundation, for it is supported by the God of

truth, as we are told in the next verse.

Ver. 12. The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge,

but lie overthrowelh the words of the transgressor.

When knowledge in the mind is attended by pure-

ness in the heart and grace in the lips, they form an

amiable and worthy character, which draws to it the

eyes and hearts of wise men: but that is not the prin-

cipal recommendation of it, for the eyes of the Lord

himself preserve knowledge, and watch for good over

the man whose lips and conversation are regulated by

it. The king should be his friend, but there are Ahabs

among kings who have not so much sense as poor Bel-

shazzar, but love only those that speak pleasing things


596               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

to them, whether true or false: but the King of kings

will surely be his friend; his eyes are upon him for

good, and every loss that he sustains for his adherence

to truth shall be gain. But the words of the transgres-

sor are overthrown by Him. He disappoints their hy-

pocrisy, and brings evil upon them, instead of those

advantages which they expected from their cunning and

insincerity.

It is mostly safe to follow the counsels of a wise

man, for they are likely to be attended with happy

success, and if it is in his power he will contribute for

his own honour to the success of them; but it is always

safe to follow the counsels of God, who can insure and

command success, and will not suffer any man to lose

in the end, by obedience to his will. God did not in-

deed interpose in the same visible manner, for the sup-

port of John Baptist, as he had formerly done for the

preservation of Shadrach and his companions. But John

the Baptist had done his work, and was fit for a better

world, and this world was not worthy of him; we can-

not suppose him a loser, because his integrity procur-

ed him tlie crown of martyrdom, and he now praises

God as cheerfully for the administrations of providence

towards him on earth, as the three children who es-

caped the violence of fire, or he that came unhurt out

of the lion's den.

Ver. 13. The sluggard saith, there is a lion without, I

shall be slain in the streets.

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold,

and he will not move out of his house lest a lion should

meet him, and kill him in the streets. This is a very

odd excuse for his laziness. Lions are seldom found

in the fields in the day time, and it is a very extraor-

dinary thing, if they be found in the streets. Does the

sluggard himself believe there is any truth in it? If he

does, why does he sleep in his house, since it is possi-


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 597

 

ble that it may be set on fire by some accident in the

night? Why does he ever take a meal, for some have

been choked by the bread which they put into their

mouths?

When we are employed in the duties of our calling,

we need not vex ourselves with the apprehension of

lions. " I will give mine angels charge over thee," says

God, " and they shall keep thee in all thy ways." Thou

shalt tread upon the lion and adder, the young lion and

the dragon shalt thou trample under thy feet. But let

the sluggard remember that there is,a lion in that bed

where he dozes away his time, and in that chamber

where he sits folding his arms together. The devil

goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may

devour, and he rejoices greatly when he lights upon a

sluggard, for he looks upon him to be a sure prey.

Poverty, like an armed man, is fast marching up to the

sluggard, and will soon prevail against him, like a king

prepared to the battle.

We are safe from the lions in the way of duty, and

never safe when weavoid it. Lions, when they met David

feeding his sheep, were torn in pieces by him like kids.

A lion unexpectedly came upon that young man of the

sons of prophets, who declined his duty when he was

commanded to smite his neighbour, and rent him in

pieces.

Ver. 11. The mouth of strange women is a deep pit:

he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein.

If you will believe the fond admirer of the strange

woman, her cheeks and lips are like the roses and

lilies, her eyes are like stars, and her mouth drops

honey. But if you will believe Solomon, speaking

from the mouth of God, her mouth, and every thing

about her that charms the hearts of men, is like a deep

ditch, made for catching the unwary passenger, and

all her flatteries and blandishments are so many traps


598               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

and snares, set by the devil to catch men, that he may

take them captive and keep them fast till their doom be-

comes irreversible as his own. Solomon had discour-

sed at great length on this point, in the beginning of

the book, but young men need to be frequently put in

mind of it.

They are unhappy that fall into this ditch, for it is

a proof of the Lord's heavy displeasure, when men are

suffered to fall into it, and therefore, in order to be pre-

served from this danger, it is necessary for us, not only

to observe the precepts of God, levelled against the

sin of uncleanness, but to observe the whole system of

divine precepts, because God may suffer us to fall into

this sin, to punish us for others. The heathens were

given up to it, as Paul tells us, for their idolatry. They

had dishonoured God by their vain imaginations and

their abominable worship, and God in justice suffered

them to dishonour their own bodies, and to make

themselves brutes, as they had represented God him-

self by the images of brutes.

Have we been left to fall into this sin? Our situa-

tion is very dangerous, for nothing less than divine

power can raise us out of this ditch; and how can we

expect miracles of divine power to be exerted in our

behalf, when we have drawn upon ourselves the sore

displeasure of the Lord? But our situation is not al-

together desperate, for miracles of mercy have often

been performed by the Lord. Let us acknowledge his

justice, and humble ourselves under the tokens of his

displeasure, and look to him with earnest expectation

and ardent cries, till he raise us up out of the deep pit,

and set our feet upon a rock.

Ver. 15. Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child,

but the rod of correction shall drive it farfrom him.

Men generally use children like play-things, and di-

vert themselves with their childish tricks and follies;


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS                 599

 

but there is another kind of foolishness in children,

that is too serious and mournful to be the subject of

sport. Sin is the very essence of folly, and sin dwells

in young and old, and none of the children of Adam,

except him that was, in a peculiar sense, the seed of

the woman, could ever deny with truth, that he was

shapen in iniquity and born in sin.

This foolishness dwells in the hearts of children, and

makes their way froward and strange*, for the under-

standing is darkened, the will perverted, the affections

sensualized, and the disposition rendered averse by it

to every thing good, and turned to evil. It is bound

in the heart by cords that no man can loose, and

twines to it like ivy to the walls of a house. It is not

more natural for a man to breathe, than for a child of

Adam to violate the law of the Lord, and to covet for-

bidden fruit.

When parents rejoice with a fond heart over the

fruit of their bodies, they should remember that they

were the instruments of conveying a corrupt nature to

their children, and be deeply concerned to have this

mortal disease effectually cured. But how can this be

effected? Who can bring a clean thing out of an un-

clean; or who can say that he has made either his own

heart or any other persons clean? God only can loose

the bonds of sin, and drive foolishness away from the

heart, and therefore his grace must be sought for this

end. But whilst his favour is earnestly supplicated,

the methods appointed by his wisdom are to be used

with a dependence on his blessing. Parents ought to

join correction to instruction, and to use it as an ap-

pointment of God, on which his blessing may be ex-

pected. The rod of correction shall drive this foolish-

 

*Chap. 21:8


600               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

ness far from the child, and he is a cruel parent that

loves the ease of his son more than his soul, and would

rather see him grow up in folly, than endure those

painful feelings which compassionate parents suffer,

when they are scourging the son whom they love.

Ver. 16. He that oppresselh the poor to increase his

riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to

want.

Sin pays its servants very bad wages, for it gives

them the very reverse of what it promised. Whilst

the sin of oppression or injustice promises mountains

of gold, it brings them poverty and ruin. "Shalt thou

reign because thou closest thyself in cedar?" said the

prophet to Jehoiakim. It could not be, for he used his

neighbour's service without wages, and gave him nought

for his work. There is a flying roll of curses which

enters into the house of the thief and the oppressor,

which consumes it with the timber and stones of it.

Injuries dope to the poor are sorely resented by the

God of mercy, who is the poor man's friend, and will

break in pieces his oppressor. The threatenings of

God against the robbers of the poor are sometimes

laughed at by the rich and great, but they will find

them in due time to be awful realities*.

But if the oppression of the poor is an impoverishing

sin, will not liberality make a man rich? True libe-

rality, exercised to proper objects, will. But not that

which is exercised to the rich. Some give to the rich

for the same reason as they oppress the poor. They

propose to gain the favour of the great, and to receive

tenfold for every present they make, and so they ex-

pect to be soon rich. But he that giveth to the rich

with these views shall surely come to want. If he

would give to the poor he might have an hundred-fold,

 

*Isa. 5:8,9, James 3:4

 

 


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              601

 

but he has only God's word for that, and rather chooses

to trust the generosity of rich men; but when they see

the trick, they are on their guard, and will pay with

scorn the man that designed to impose on them with

deceitful professions of regard.

            It is plain from reason, as well as Scripture, that it

is not always a sin to give to the rich, but it is very

often a sin; and that, not only when men are in dan-

ger of hurting their families, or wronging their credi-

tors by it, but likewise when they give those superflui-

ties to the rich, which are due to the poor. We are

not proprietors but stewards of the gifts of providence,

and must distribute that which he has entrusted to our

care according to his will. And it is his pleasure that

we should make to ourselves friends, by the mammon

of unrighteousness, not of the rich but the poor*.

            Ver. 17. Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of

the wise, an apply thine heart unto my sayings.

It signifies nothing to speak to a man that is sleep-

ing or matte five, and yet we are often inattentive when

we hear the word of God, especially the precepts of it,

which we are too ready to look upon as an heavy bur-

den, and a grievous yoke. Solomon was well acquaint-

ed with the heart of man, and knowing how many

would read or hear his excellent precepts without be-

stowing proper attention on them, he rouses us by fre-

quent calls for our most earnest heed to the things that

are spoken.

We must bow down our ears to hear him with atten-

tion, reverence, and humility. The words of the wise

deserve this regard from us, for they are means of com-

municating their wisdom to us. And if the words of

wise men merit so much respect, we can never attend

too earnestly to the words of the only wise God. He

made our ease and shall he not be heard by us?

Our hearts must be applied, as well as our ears, to

 

*Luke 16:9


602               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

the knowledge contained in this book. We should la-

bour to understand it with our minds, to fix it in our

judgments, to impress it on our consciences, to have

it treasured up in our memories that it may be con-

stantly ready for our use. God requires us to give him

our hearts, and if we only lend an ear to him, we ren-

der him only a little bodily service. The word of God is

very pleasant, and the sweetness of it is relished when

it enters into the heart.

Ver. 18. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them

within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.

Honey from the comb is sweet to the taste, but all

the words of God are sweet to the soul.  Wine gives

a pleasant refreshment to the faint and thirsty, but the

truths of Scripture are sweeter than wine, for they

give refreshment to the inner man. Shall we value

those things that are delightful to the organs of taste,

and yet despise those pleasures that fill the soul with

heart-felt satisfaction?  Shall every joy be pursued with

eagerness, and that only contemned which arises from

the word of God?  Do you say, you never received any

pleasure from the word of God, and that an entertain-

ing history gives you more entertainment than any

thing that Solomon has said?  The reason is too obvi-

ous. Solomon tells you that the words of instruction

are pleasant to a man when they are kept within him.

It was a severe reflection, which Christ made upon the

Jews, my word bath no place in you. The same may

be made, with too much reason, upon those that taste

not the sacred joys of the Bible.

As the word of God is pleasant to the relish of a

saint, so its dwelling in the heart is attended with hap-

py consequences, for it shall be fitted in the lips. The

knowledge of truth will supply the lips with wisdom,

and enable them to talk with discretion and judgment.

A talent of speaking with propriety, and wisdom on

any subject, is a great ornament to him that has it, and

 
CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              603

 

enables him to be useful to others; but it must be

founded on knowledge, for how can any man commu-

nicate that knowledge which he does not possess.  But

clear and distinct apprehensions of things, will always

enable a man to speak of them with ease and plainness,

to others.

The application of the heart to the words that have

been spoken to us, will also tend to encourage our con-

fidence in God.

Ver. 19. That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made

made known to thee this day, even to thee.

Ver. 20.  Have not I written to thee excellent things, in

counsels and knowledge.

The chief design of this book, is to instruct us in

every duty that we owe to God and man; and confi-

dence in God is a fundamental duty, without which we 

can perform nothing aright.  Solomon calls sinners,

in the beginning of the book, to return unto God, de-

pending on his mercy, according to his promise.  He di-

rects us about believing in Christ, and in God his father

who set him up in everlasting*.  He expressly en-

joins us to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and to

renounce all self-confidence†.  And the whole strain of

his proverbs, wherein he constantly insists on the ad-

vantages of righteousness, and the misery that follows

vice, encouraging us to commit our souls in well-doing

unto God.  Confidence in God, is our shield against

temptations, and the means of deriving from God

through Christ all the supplies of grace needful for our as-

sistance and support in the ways of holiness; and every

thing said in this book, when it is duly considered, will

contribute to strengthen our trust, as well as to direct

our practice.

That our trust in God may be encouraged, and our

steps directed, we must read and hear this book with

 

*Chap. 8         †Chap. 3


 

604               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

application to ourselves." I have made known to thee,

even to thee," says the inspired penman.  It is God

that speaks, and he speaks to each of us in particular, and

we ought to receive what is said into our hearts, believ-

ing that the word of exhortation speaketh to us in par-

titular, as really as if it had been written for our own

use, without a view to any other person in the world-

Till we hear the word as the word of God, and as his

word addressed unto us, we hear it not with due regard.

God hath not only spoken, but likewise written un-

to us by Solomon."  Receive I pray thee," said Eliphaz to

Job,"  the law at his mouth, and lay up his word in thine

heart." Job did so, for he esteemed the words of God's

mouth more than his necessary food.  Did the holy

men pay such reverence to the word of God, when

there was no scripture, and shall we shew less regard

to it, when God has been graciously pleased to write

unto us the great things of his law and covenant.

The things that are written are not only words of truth,

but excellent and princely things, worthy to be written

by the wisest of men, by inspiration of the spirit of wis-

dom. God refers it to our own judgments, whether

they are not excellent. If we discern not their excel-

lency we are blind and stupid. They have an excellency

that far surpasses the most valued objects upon earth.

Their value lies not in a glittering appearance, like gold,

and silver, and diamonds, nor in affording entertain-

ment to a curious mind, like a well written history,

but in affording counsel, to make us prudent in all

manner of behaviour, and in giving us knowledge, to

enrich the mind with the most precious truths. To be

wise, to understand our way to heaven, to know God

and his Son Jesus Christ, and the acceptable and per-

fect will of God, are excellent attainments; and the things

written in this book are of excellent use to assist us in

acquiring them.

To have the judgment settled about the great things


 

CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              605

 

that are intimately connected with our best interests,

is another benefit to be derived from a due attention to

this book.

            Ver. 21. That I might make thee know the certainty

of the words of truth ; that thou mightest answer the

words of truth to them that send unto thee.

            If a man has a cause depending before a court of

law, wherein his all is concerned, he will certainly be

anxious to know what lawyers he may most safely

trust, and what are the surest means of obtaining an

happy event to the suit. Religion is our all, and it is

a criminal sluggishness and stupidity in men, to be

careless whether they are rightly instructed in it or not.

Our teachers have instructed us in the principles which

they themselves believe, and ministers teach us, every

Sabbath, those doctrines which are professed in the

church to which they belong. We believe that their

instructions are sound and good, but on what ground

do we believe this? We do not believe in the infallibi-

lity of any particular church, and we must have better

warrant for a right faith, than the testimony of men.

This and other books in Scripture, were written to

establish us in the truth, by shewing us whether that

is the true doctrine of God wherein we stand. We

have not a sure hold of the truths of God, unless

we are sure that they are the truths of God, and we

can be assured of this only by the Scripture. A scrip.

tural knowledge, will preserve us from being like chil-

dren tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, of

which we are in constant danger whilst we are unac-

quainted with the Scripture, although we had the know-

ledge of every truth in our religion, by instruction

from men.

            But there is still another great advantage arising

from a serious regard to this book. By establishing

our minds in the truth, it will enable us to satisfy


606               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

others that send to us for information about the princi-

ples of truth and duty.  Men were not born for them-

selves only, we are members one of another, and ought

to consult the good of the body, and of other members

of it besides ourselves.  As men, when they perform

the duties of their callings, are useful members of civil

society, so if we live as becometh saints, and seek after

the knowledge of the truth, we will be useful members

of the church of Christ, ready to give an answer to

every one that asketh us a reason of our faith and

hope, to instruct the ignorant, to satisfy the doubts

of the scrupulous, and to fix those that waver.

Such are the pleasures and advantages to be found

in the book of God, and in the Book of Proverbs in

particular.  He has gained every point, says an hea-

then poet, who has mingled the pleasant and the use-

ful together.  These attractives of the soul are no-

where joined together with such exquisite skill as in the

word of God; and if we read it with a superficial eye,

and hear it with an inattentive mind, we despise not

men but God.  We despise him, when he is employing

all the methods of divine condescension and wisdom

to recommend his truths to our hearts.  O let it not be

said, that we give a patient hearing to all that speak to

us, except only to him, to whom we are indebted for

the faculty of hearing and understanding any thing,

He that bath an ear, let him hear the great things

which the Spirit of God speaks unto men.

Solomon now proceeds in his directions about the

conduct of our life. His following proverbs, are gene-

rally expressed at greater length than the foregoing

ones, for under the direction of infinite wisdom, he so-

licits our attention, by every method of address.

Ver. 22. Rob not the poor because he is poor, neither

oppress the afflicted in the gate.

The gate was in ancient times, amongst the eastern


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              607

 

nations, the place of judgment, and therefore this in-

struction is be understood to respect judges.  They

are forbid to take advantage of the friendless and

indigent circumstances of the poor and afflicted, to op-

press them by perverting justice in favour to the rich.

The Scripture forbids us to countenance a poor man in

his cause, but it is far worse, and more ordinary, and

therefore more frequently forbidden, to oppress a poor

man in judgement.

This is a crying sin, which contains, together with

injustice, the most unmerciful cruelty, and is a plain

evidence of inhuman and cowardly disposition.  This

was one of the sins for which Eliphaz guessed that

Job's calamities had come upon him; but that good

man was a very opposite spirit.  He did justice to

all men, but to the poor he was merciful as well as

just."  If I have lifted up mine hand against the father-

less," says he "when I saw mine help in the gate, then

let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine

arm be broken from the bone."

Not to relieve the poor and afflicted, when we can do

it without injury to ourselves, is hard: to oppress them,

and add to their affliction, is brutal and monstrous. It

is to act not like men, but like the monsters of the de-

sert, which prey upon the weaker animals.  For ma-

gistrates to be guilty of this crime, is a perversion of an

institution of God into an engine of abominable wick-

edness.

If poor men had rich friends to plead their cause, or

avenge their injuries, men would not rob them because

they are poor. Well, they have a friend that will plead

their cause and break in pieces their oppressors. If a

great man should take the part of a poor man, he would

reckon himself safe, but God is infinitely greater than

any man, and here it is declared that he will be the

advocate and avenger of the poor and oppressed.


608               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

Ver. 23. For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil

the soul of those that spoiled them.

He pleads their cause with admirable eloquence in

his word."  What mean ye, that ye beat my people to

pieces, and grind the faces of the poor?" saith the Lord

God of Hosts.  Who can answer such pleadings as

these?  However, they are but words, and bad men

look upon words to be but wind.  But God will plead

the cause of the poor, by furious rebukes of providence

also.  He will render unto their oppressors severe ven-

geance for their wickedness. Have they rifled the

poor of their little all?  God will rifle the oppressor, not

only of his substance, but of his life and soul.  The

robber of the poor is a poor unhappy creature.  It is

terrible to have the justice of God engaged against a

man, but this is the unhappy case of the spoiler.  He

may obtain a temporary success in his extortions, but

when he makes an end of spoiling, he must be spoiled.

He has the mercy of God against him, as well as his

justice.  Mercy is that pleasant attribute of the divine

nature, on which all the hopes of sinners must rest; but

the mercy of God is engaged on the side of the poor and

afflicted, against their persecutors. Mercy and justice

meet together in this text, and make it both a promise

and a threatening. What a terrible case is it, to have

grace itself turned into a terror, and to be under the

wrath of God because he is merciful.  Yet such is the ac-

tual condition of those, whose conduct is a contradiction

at once to the rules of justice and mercy.  It shall come

to pass, says God, that when the oppressed cries unto

me, I will hear, for I am gracious.

Let the mercy implied in this declaration, encourage

the poor and afflicted to make God their refuge.  Your

tyrants may look upon these words as empty threaten-

 

*Exod. 22:27


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              609

 

ngs, which shall never have effect, but it would be a

very ungrateful return in you for so much goodness, to

consider them in the same light.  The words of God

whereby he encourages the needy, are pure words,

they are like silver seven times purified*.  Have you

such a glorious advocate?  commit your cause to him,

with meekness, in imitation of our great example.  Make

no unconscientious compliances to avoid oppression,

and take no unjustifiable steps to preserve yourselves,

but trust to your great advocate, who stands at the

right hand of the poor to deliver him†.

Ver. 24. Make no friendship with an angry man, and

with a furious man thou shalt not go.

Friendship is the balm of life, when it is entered in-

to with discretion, but it is a plague and a snare, when

it is injudiciously contracted.  Our divine teacher wish-

es us to be happy both in this world and the next, and

extends his instructions to every thing that is connect-

ed with our happiness.  He forbids us to enter into

friendship with any bad man, and here he cautions us

particularly against the friendship of the passionate.

We must of so much as keep company with angry

men, nor take a walk with them, if we can possibly

avoid it.  But what will be the great evil of making

friendship with a man of this temper?

Ver. 25. Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to

thy soul (or life.)

Is there any danger of learning that man's ways

who make himself so very disagreeable?  No doubt

there is, if he love him.  We are either like our friends,

or will so be like them.  Conversation has a mighty

influence upon our manners, and evil communication

corrupts good manners: When we see bad things prac-

tised by those we love, the horror of them abates, and

we are insensibly drawn to the practice of them.

 

*Ps. 12           † 109:31


610               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

But if we make passionate men our friends and com-

panions, we are in great danger of becoming like to

them, on another account.  Although we should be

good-natured, yet their unreasonable behaviour will be

apt, on many occasions, to set our temper on fire, and

from occasional bursts of passion, we may be led by

degrees to contract obstinate habits of falling into a

passion, on every trifling occasion; for custom is pro-

duced by frequent acts, and in time becomes a second

nature.

Thus we are in danger of being ensnared into sins of

fatal consequence to our souls, for although anger is

not always a sin, yet to be under the government of

imperious passions, is very sinful and very dangerous.

Our lives may be exposed to danger if we walk

with furious men.  When Cain walked with Abel in

the field, his furious passions subdued his reason and

his natural affection, and he slew his brother.  There

have been many Cains in the world, who have wound-

ed or slain their friends by the impulse of fury.  But

if we should escape this danger, yet by contracting an

habit of being angry, our tongues may in time become

rebels to reason, and bring down mischief on our heads.

Consider this proverb, ye that give a loose to your

passions. Perhaps you suppose that you have good

qualities to atone for this bad one.  But you are quite

mistaken.  The meaning of this instruction is plainly

this, that no good qualities should induce us to enter

into friendship with an angry man.  It is taken for

granted, that a passionate man may have some qualities

that would engage esteem, if they were separated from

this wretched temper, for otherwise no person would

be in danger of contracting an intimacy with a furious

man.  But it is plainly asserted, that these qualities in

conjunction with such a temper, forfeit their claim on

 

*Matt. 5:23


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              611

 

our friendship. Don't you see, then, that your miser-

able temper casts a shade over every thing that might

otherwise adorn you, and that you are fit only for a de-

sert, where you can disquiet none but yourselves. God

himself is so much displeased with you, that he will

suffer none that will take his advice to be intimate

with you, or so much as to keep your company. Fly

then to his mercy for pardon, and implore the exertions

of his power, to subdue your ungovernable passions.

Let your souls be impressed with the example of our

meek Redeemer, and watch over your spirits, that you

may not again disturb the peace of society, and deserve

to be sent forth to dwell among the beasts of the desert.

            Ver. 26. Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or

of them that are sureties for debts.

            Solomon has already said much against rash surety-

ship*; but bad examples have a greater influence

upon many people, than good precepts, and because

many others make little scruple of putting their name to

a bond for another man, we are in danger of being se-

duced into the same dangerous practice; but before we

follow any man's example in any thing, we should ob-

serve what the event of it is likely to be. If other men

do bad things, and smart for it, it will be no motive to

a wise man to run into the same error. Let us at least

consider one thing, in this case:  Suppose the principal

debtor should prove unable to pay the creditor, will

we be cheerfully willing to take his place, or are we sure

that we will be able, it called upon, to pay his debt?

We are rich at present, but we know not whether we

will be rich or poor at the day of payment. And,

            Ver. 27. If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he

take away thy bed from under thee?

            You may say, it will never come to this The law of

Christ will not suffer the creditor, to exercise such ri-

 

*Chap. 6, 11:15


612               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

gour, if I should be unable to pay. How do you know

that?  Are you sure that the creditor, and his heirs, and

executors, will not depart, in any instance of conduct

from the law of Christ, when their interest pushes

them, and the laws of the land will bear them out.

Religion, you see, allows and requires us to pay a

proper attention to our own interest and comfort. It

requires no instances of self-denial, but such as are more

for our own interest than self-gratification in those in-

stances would be. It does not forbid us to love our-

selves, when it requires us to love our neighbours as

ourselves.  Indeed, we cannot hurt ourselves, for the

most part, without hurting some other men also. What

can we do for the poor, for our families, for our friends,

if our bed is taken away from beneath us?

A philosopher, when he saw a generous young man

spending his substance too liberally upon one that pre-

tended great poverty, told him, that "perhaps the man

he was serving was an honest man, but he was certain

that he himself was honest; and therefore," added he,

"you are doing an unjust thing, for you are ruining an

honest man, for one that is, for aught you know, a

rogue."

Ver. 28. Remove not the ancient land mark which thy

fathers have set.

Naboth would not sell the inheritance which his fa-

ther had left him, when he was offered a very good

price; but there are some who have so little respect for

their fathers that they will remove, if possible, the land

mark which their fathers have set, and so little regard

for justice, at the same time, that they intend to give

no price at all for what they add to their estate by

such unjustifiable means.

It may be alleged by the covetous, that our fathers

were under a mistake about the just bounds of their in-

heritance.  Could that be proved to the satisfaction of


CHAP. XXII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              613

 

the other party concerned, or to the conviction of the

judge, it would be a good plea.  But this can seldom

be done.  In ancient usage and prescription be not al-

lowed as a good claim to property, nations might soon

be convulse and broken in pieces.

Land masks are means of preserving peace, as well

as maintaining justice, and therefore the removing of

them is a breach both of peace and honesty.  It is so

great a sin that a solemn curse was pronounced against

it from Mont Ebal*.

It is above three thousand years since this curse was

pronounced and we learn from it that land marks were

a very ancient mean of distinguishing property; that it

is the will of God that men should know what is their

own, and that every unrighteous invasion of another

man's property, is an abomination to him.

Ver. 29.  Seest thou a man diligent in his business?

He shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before

mean men.

To be a busy body in other men's matters is a scan-

dal, but it is a pleasant sight to behold a man diligent

in his own business†.

Some persons look upon the slothful, not to receive

instruction, as Solomon did from the sight of his work,

but to take encouragement to themselves, in following

his example or in being only a little better than he is.

They would not choose to be the greatest sluggards in

the world, but if they can name a man more slothful

than themselves, they think that no man is entitled to

censure them.  Solomon directs us, on the contrary, to

look upon he industrious man, that we may be excited

by the advantages which he gains by his labour, to go

and do likewise.

Such a man shall stand before kings. This does not

 

*Deut. 27:17                         † Peter 3:15


614               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXII.

 

imply, that every man who deserves this character can

expect the honour of being appointed to the high offi-

ces of state, but it points out to us that great activity

is necessary in the servants of kings, and that great ac-

tivity in private stations is the way of obtaining ho-

nour and advancement. If other kings were as wise

as Solomon, this proverb would be oftener verified in

the letter of it, for he advanced Jeroboam to the charge

of the house of Joseph, because he saw that he was an

active man. That Pharaoh, who reigned in the days

of Joseph, would have none to rule over his cattle that

was not a man of activity.

            If the diligent man does not obtain the honour of

standing before kings, his industry, with God's bless-

ing, will, for the most part, preserve him from the dis-

grace of standing before mean men.

            Some women, by their industry, joined with other

virtues, have obtained the honour of an alliance with

the noblest families, of which Rebecca and Ruth are fa-

mous instances.

            If we are diligent in our spiritual business, the ad-

vantage will be vastly greater*. Let us watch, then,

and pray always, that we may be accounted worthy to

escape those miseries which shall come upon the wick-

ed, and to stand before the Son of Man†.

 

*Luke 12:35-38        †Luke 21:36


CHAP. XXIII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              615

 

 

                     Proverbs 23

 

Verse 1. When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider

diligently what is before thee.

            WE must add to our faith virtue, and to virtue

knowledge, and to knowledge temperance. Temper-

ance is to be preserved at all times, and to be guarded

in a special manner when we are called to eat with a

ruler; for then is the trial of this virtue, and in a time

of trial we are in great danger of falling, unless we

consider the temptation, and watch against it.

            We ought, therefore, to consider diligently the plen-

ty, the variety, the delicacy of the dishes that are serv-

ed at the great man's table, the danger of being drawn

to intemperance, and the abominableness and danger

of that vice.

            Ver. 2. And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man

given to appetite.

            A man given to appetite is in great danger of run-

ning to excess on such an occasion ; for his fleshly lust

within, and the well-spread table before him, combine

to betray him; and men's consciences are too often so

lax, as to think that the laws of temperance are to be

dispensed with, when there is a fair opportunity, and a

strong temptation to break them.

            A man of a sensual and gluttonous disposition ought

to mortify his appetite. Gluttony is a great sin, as

well as drunkenness.  "Take heed," says our Lord, "lest

your hearts be overcharged with gluttony and drunk..

enness, and the cares of this life." If the disciples of

Christ were under obligation to guard against this sin,


616               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXIII.

 

although they sat almost always at mean men's tables,

what need have those to take heed, who are admitted

to entertainments where every thing concurs to solicit

their appetite, and to throw them off their guard.

"But it will be very painful," says the glutton, "to de-

ny my craving appetite, when it is so strongly solicited.

It will be as uneasy to abstain, as to have a knife stuck

in my throat." Be it so, better to have a knife in your

throat than to have your soul betrayed by it to sensu-

al indulgence. Is not affliction rather to be chosen

than sin?  Is it not better to pluck out a right eye,

or to cut off a right hand, than to be betrayed by them

to pleasant sins?

This verse is rendered by some interpreters, "Thou

halt put a knife to thy throat, if thou art a man given

to appetite."  Sensual gratifications are prejudicial to

the body, as well as the soul, and are the frequent cau-

ses of sickness, and weakness, and death. It has been

often said, that the throat has killed more people than

the sword.

Ver. 3. Be not desirous of his dainties, for they are

deceitful meat.

His dainties have a good appearance to the eye, and

they are delicious to the taste, and powerfully tempt

an ungoverned appetite; but remember that the for-

bidden fruit did the same, and yet the eating of it

"brought death into the world, and all our woe." When

you see a number of dishes of very different kinds,

think with yourself, "Here are fevers, and agues, and

gouts, in disguise. Here are snares and traps spread

along the table to catch my soul, and draw me into sin.

Sense gives a good report of this plenty, but reason

and religion tell me to take heed, for it is deceitful

meat."

His meat is deceitful in another view. The ruler

himself has no generous or friendly intention in treat-


CHAP. XXIII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              617

 

ing you.  He makes great professions of kindness and

regard, and the civilities of a ruler open the heart, and

put a man off his guard.  His real design very proba-

bly is, to pump out some secret from you, or to gain

you by his flattering caresses to some mean or sinful

compliance with his pleasure.  Such are the ends de-

signed, and too often effected, by means of those feasts

that are given at the elections of members of parliament,

and on some other public occasions of the like nature.

It is often difficult, if we attend them, to return as in-

dependent Britons, and as temperate Christians as we

went.

­Ver. 4. Labour not to be rich; cease from thine own

wisdom.

To be rich has been the lot of many saints; and when

God bestows riches upon us, we are not required to

throw them into the sea, as a certain old philosopher

did; but when God denies us riches, we must not

reckon ourselves unhappy on that account. Solomon

often speaks of riches as a reward that wisdom fre-

quently bestows on those who love her, but here he

cautions us against supposing that wisdom encourages

the love of riches—that universal passion which has

been so mischievous to the human race, since the be-

ginning of the world.

In our fallen condition, we must labour and sweat

for our subsistence; but that kind of labour is useful

to the body, and not prejudicial to the mind.  The la-

bour after riches here forbidden, is exceedingly hurtful

to both.  It arises from an immoderate esteem of pre-

sent things, and an aspiring mind.  It is joined with

a distrust of God's providence, and an hurry and dis-

traction of men's thoughts, which renders them unfit

for the service of God.  It destroys all relish for the

comforts of life, that might be enjoyed at present, and

is a continual incentive to unmerciful and unjust be-


618               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXIII.

 

haviour.  It is a pity that we do not more attentively

consider the alarming things that are said by our Lord,

and the apostle Paul, on this subject 4'.

But you will say, money is a necessary and an ex-

cellent thing.  It keeps a man from want and depen-

dence; it raises him to dignity and consequence; it

furnishes every thing that is desirable in life, But

cease from thine own wisdom, which is not the wisdom

from above, but that earthly, sensual, and devilish wis-

dom so greatly condemned in the Scripture.  Money,

under the direction of wisdom, will indeed serve all

these purposes, and some others too, of far greater va-

lue.  But the love of money is not merely a bad thing,

but the root of all evil, and a confidence in money is a

very foolish thing.

­Ver. 5. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not

for riches certainly make themselves wings, and fly away

as an eagle towards heaven.

Wilt thou let thine eyes fly upon money with eager

joy?  Thou, shalt soon see them fly away never to re-

turn.

To look at other men's money with covetous desires,

and an admiration of the happiness of the possessor,

to look upon our own money with rapturous delight,

because our hand has gotten much, is to make to our-

selves gods of gold, as the ancient Israelites did, and to

give them the worship of the soul, and therefore covet-

ousness is called idolatry; and to rejoice in money more

than in God, is to say to the gold, Thou art our hope,

and to the fine gold, Thou art our confidence.

It is foolish, as well as sinful, to set our eyes and our

hearts on riches. Will a man set his eyes upon a mere

nothing?  But what does Solomon mean by calling

them so?  Does not their splendour shew that they are

 

*Luke 12:15, 16:11-13, 1 Tim. 6:10


 

CHAP. XXIII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              619

 

true substance? It must be confessed that they are

very glittering nothings, but so are bubbles upon the

water, when they shine with the rays of the sun, which

make them to glare for a moment, but don't hinder

them from vanishing the next. Our Lord tells us that

they are not the true riches, and that a man's life does

not consist in the abundance of them. The wise preach-

er has written a book to prove, that they are the very

vanity of vanities. Philosophers in every age have

declaimed in proof of this point, and all men are sensible

of its truth at the season when the eyes of men are

forced open to the sight of truth.

            But in this passage Solomon means the uncertainty

of riches. They are not, for they fly away out of sight

never to return. They are mine to-day, they were

another man's yesterday, they will be yours to-morrow,

and whither they shall have flown in a few weeks, we

cannot tell.

            But how do they get away? They make to them.

selves wings. Whilst you sit brooding upon them, they

are fledging ; and although you should try, by bills and

bonds, and bars, and bolts, to clip their wings, you will

not be able to hinder their elopement; and when you

think to recover them, you are often making wings to

what is left you. The eagle is the swiftest of birds,

and with the swiftness of an eagle they mount up to-

wards heaven, and receive their commission to whom

they should next go. Doth the eagle fly by thy com.

mand, or canst thou bring him back, like the hawk, to

thy lure? As little can you recover those riches of

which Divine Providence has bereaved you.

            Those who place their happiness on worldly wealth,

build their foundation on a flood poured out, as some

render Job xxii. 16. Their joy is short, and dashed

with a large infusion of fear and vexation. Their dis-

appointment is certain ; their end is dreadful: for those


620          EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXIII.

 

who mind earthly things above heavenly things, are

enemies of the cross of Christ, and their end is destruc-

tion; but true Christians seek for the true riches, their

conversation is in heaven, and their treasure is in a

place where there is no moth nor rust, nor any of those

feathers which compose the eagle wings of riches, with

which they flee away*.

Ver. 6. Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil

eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats.

The Scripture directs us about the choice of occa-

sional companions, as well as friends. There are some

persons whom we must not receive into our houses,

and there are some to whose houses we are forbidden

to repair, or to sit at their tables. We are not, on every

occasion, forbidden to eat with a ruler, although his

dainties are generally deceitful meat; nor are we abso-

lutely forbidden to feast with heathens and bad men †.

But we are forbidden to eat at the table of him that has

an evil eye, although it should be covered with dainty

meat, and his words full of kindness.

A selfish and churlish disposition discovers itself in

the eye, so that the miser declares his character against

his will. Perhaps, through shame, he endeavours to

hide his churlish disposition under the mask of a plen-

tiful entertainment; but his malignity peeps through

his eyes, which betray him in spite of all that he can

say or do; for nature abhors dissimulation, and often

detects it.

But why must we not eat his bread, nor partake of

his dainties?  Because it is not the quality of the food,

that you are to consider, but the disposition of the

company, and especially of the entertainer.

Ver. 7. For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat

and drink, saith he to thee, but his heart is not with thee.

It is not a man's words and professions that must

 

*Phil. 3:18     †1 Cor. 10


CHAP. XXIII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              621

 

determine his character, and direct our correspondence

with him, but the disposition of his heart, which is of-

ten discovered by the general course of a man's behavi-

our, to be very different from what he would have men

to believe it is.  A man that rolls in his mind impious

thoughts of God, is a wicked man, however good his

words may be, and a man that indulges a selfish dispo-

sition is unfit to be a companion or a friend, although

he invites you to his table, and never ceases, when you

are there, to tell you how welcome you are, and how

earnestly he wishes you to eat and drink.

You see how vain it is for men, to pretend that kind-

ness which they do not feel.  They are discovered

more easily than they imagine, and the professions they

make are means of rendering their dissimulation more

evident; for true kindness delights not in many words.

Let men then either be what they profess, loving not

in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth, or

else let them lay aside the profession of what they are

not, for it is idle to add the guilt and shame of hypoc-

crisy, to that of a sordid and selfish disposition.

But when that which is set on his table is full of fat-

ness, may we not make a very delicious meal, and pay

him for it, to his satisfaction, by agreeable conversa-

tion? No.

Ver 8. The morsel which thou host eaten, shall thou

vomit yep, and lose thy sweet words.

Men often think it a noble piece of diversion, to

spunge upon a miser, and to take advantage of an in-

vitation extorted from him by shame, to prey upon

every thing that is in his house; but Solomon teaches

us that this diversion will end in vexation.  Thou

mayest eat the morsel with pleasure, but thou shalt re-

pent of eating it, as much as if thou hadst vomited it

up.  All thy agreeable or useful conversation is lost

upon him, and he is so far from thinking it a proper


622               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXIII.

 

recompense for the expense he has bestowed upon

thee, that he will endeavour to extort some thing in

return, which it may be very inconvenient to grant,

and yet when thou refusest, he will brand thee with

the character of the ungrateful guest.

When we are called by God to a feast of fat things,

and hear his blessed voice calling us to eat that which

is good, and let our souls delight themselves in fatness,

we may safely venture, at the gracious invitation, to

make use of Christ, and the blessings of his salvation,

as our own; to suspect the sincerity of the gospel call,

is to suspect the God who is abundant in goodness and

truth of an evil eye.

Ver. 9. Speak not in the ears of a fool, for he will

despise the wisdom of thy words.

A fool cannot utter wisdom, but there might be good

hopes entertained of him, if he could hear it; but there

are many fools, who are equally unfit to speak and to

hear.  Concerning such, this direction is given, and

not concerning fools of every kind, for there are some

that want wisdom, and have some conviction of the

want of it, and these are on the road that leads to wis-

dom, the first step of which is to become a fool in one's

own eyes.

The fools to whom we are forbidden to speak the

words of wisdom, are those that will despise the

wisdom of our words, and even these are sometimes to

be dealt with by those that have a call, by their office

or church connexion, to do so, even after they have re-

fused admonition; for the souls of men are precious,

and if there is some hope, though faint, of doing them

good, we must not decline the disagreeable task of re-

provers*.

Our Lord orders the gospel to be preached to every

 

*Matt. 18:15-17, Titus 3:10


 

CHAP. XXIII.]        BOOK OF PROVERBS              623

 

one that will hear it, not excepting scorners*.  But he

will not have his gospel forced on those that obsti-

nately reject it†.  He himself left the Gadarenes, when

they preferred their swine to him, and the Nazarenes,

when they wanted to destroy him.

Although the worst of sinners are to be invited to

repentance, in the public assembly, yet there are some

to whom our Lord tells us, it is needless and unsafe

to administer personal reproofs.  These are the dogs

and swine that would trample our pearls under their

feet, and turn again and rend us.  How pitiable is the

case of such persons, when our Lord himself directs us

to give them up to themselves.

Those that are reproved by ministers, and Christian

friends, nasty learn from this verse, that they have no

reason to take it amiss, or to think that they are treat-

ed with contempt.  They are considered as offenders,

but at the same time as offending brethren, who are

not incurably perverse.  They would be treated in a

very different way, and might reckon themselves with

more justice to be considered in the light of scorners,

and dogs, and swine, if there were no means used to

recover the to repentance.

Ver. 10.   Remove not the old land mark, and enter not

into the feels of the fatherless.

May we then remove other people's land marks, and

enter into their fields?  By no means, but there is less

danger of fiat.  Wicked men are afraid to do any injury

to those who have it in their power to retaliate, or

powerful fends to espouse their quarrel.  Pure reli-

gion and defiled before God and the Father, is this,

to visit the fatherless, and the widows in their afflic-

tion, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

And yet there are none so ready to be trampled upon,

 

*Prov. 1:22 †Matt. 10:14


624               EXPOSITION OF THE            [CHAP. XXIII.

 

in this evil world, as the fatherless and widows. But

let the poor and fatherless commit themselves to God,

and the widows trust in him, and he will make their

adversaries to know, that the mightiest on earth are

not more dangerous to be meddled with, than them-

selves.

Ver. 11.   For their Redeemer is mighty, he shall plead

their cause with thee.

He that meddles with the widow and fatherless,

needs better armour than he that touches the sons of Be-

lial, who must be fenced with iron and brass.  God him-

self bath undertaken their defence, and dare we provoke

the Lord to jealousy, are we stronger than he?  He gra-

ciously calls himself their kinsman or Redeemer.  They

have lost the best of earthly friends.  But there is one

in heaven who calls them to trust in him, as their hus-

band and father, their Redeemer and advocate.  He hath

promised to supply their wants, and protect them from

every enemy.  Their enemies set themselves in oppo.

sition to God, and endeavou