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                             Expository and Homiletical

                              Commentary on Proverbs









                 David Thomas, D.D.







                               London: R.D. Dickinson, 1873

                                 The Homilist Library, vol. 5



Proverbs 1:1  Solomon's Life, Its Spiritual Significance                          9

Proverbs 1:1-6          A Great Teacher and a Genuine Student                  12

Proverbs 1:7-9          Piety                                                                           15

Proverbs 1:10-16      The Young Man                                                         18

Proverbs 1:17-19      Moral Traps                                                               20

Proverbs 1:20-23      The Voice of Wisdom to the World                        22

Proverbs 1:24-33      God and the Sinner in Time and Eternity                25

Proverbs 2:1-5          Spiritual Excellence                                     27

Proverbs 2:6-9          Good Men and Their God                                        30

Proverbs 2:10-22      Wickedness and Wisdom: the Bane and

            the Antidote                                                                           32

Proverbs 3:1,2           The Philosophy of Health and

Happiness                                                                                                       35

Proverbs 3:3,4           Mercy and Truth                                                        37

Proverbs 3:5-7          God-trusting and Self-trusting                                 40

Proverbs 3:9,10         The Highest Giving, the Condition of

            the Highest Getting                                                                           43

Proverbs 3:11,12      Affliction                                                                   44

Proverbs 3:13-18      The Blessedness of Wisdom                                   46

Proverbs 3:19,20      Wisdom, the Source and Sovereign of

            Worlds                                                                                              48

Proverbs 3:21-26      Fidelity to Principle                                                 49

Proverbs 3:27-29      Beneficence                                                              51

Proverbs 3:30,31      Strife and Oppression                                              53

Proverbs 3:32-35      Moral Contrasts                                                        54

Proverbs 4:1-4          A Religious Home                                                    56

Proverbs 4:5-9          The Summum Bonum                                                58

Proverbs 4:10-17      The Moral Paths of Men                                          61

Proverbs 4:18            The March of the Good                                           63

Proverbs 4:19            The Darkness of Sin                                                 65

Proverbs 4:20-23      Self-improvement and Self-control                        67

Proverbs 4:24-27      Laws of Life                                                             69

Proverbs 5:1-20        The Strange Woman and the True Wife                  71

Proverbs 5:21-23 Man as Known of God and Punished by

            Sin                                                                                                       73

Proverbs 6:1-5          Social Suretyships                                                     75



Proverbs 6:6-8          Little Preachers and Great Sermons                       78

Proverbs 6:9-15        The Lazy Man and the Wicked Man                         81

Proverbs 6:16-19      Seven Abominations                                                 84

Proverbs 6:20-351    Counsels to Young Men in Relation to

            7:1-17            Bad Women                                                              88

Proverbs 8:1-14        The Voice of Divine Wisdom                                 90

Proverbs 8:15-21      The Authority of Divine Wisdom                            92

Proverbs 8:23-31      The Autobiography of Wisdom                               95

Proverbs 8:32-36      The Claims of Divine Wisdom                               97

Proverbs 9:1-6          The Educational Temple: or

            Christianity, a School                                                                      99

Proverbs 9:7-9          Reproof                                                                      102

Proverbs 9:10-12      Character                                                                    104

Proverbs 9:13-18      The Ministry of Temptation                                     105

Proverbs 10:1            The Influence of the Child's Character

            Upon the Parent's Heart                                                                    107

Proverbs 10:2,3         Cash and Character                                                    109

Proverbs 10:4,5         Idleness and Industry                                                 111

Proverbs 10:6,7         Opposite Characters and Destinies                         113

Proverbs 10:8-10      Man in a Threefold Aspect                                      114

Proverbs 10:11          Speech                                                                       117

Proverbs 10:12          The Great Mischief-maker and the

            Great Peace-maker                                                                           118

Proverbs 10:13-18    Contrasts                                                                    120

Proverbs 10:19          The Sin of Loquaciousness                                     123

Proverbs 10:20,         The Speech of the Righteous and the

            21, 31, 32       Wicked Compared                                                    125

Proverbs 10:22-28 Moral Phases of Life                                                 127

Proverbs 10:29          Might and Misery                                                     131

Proverbs 11:2            The Advent and Evil of Pride                                    132

Proverbs 11:7            The Terrible in Human History                               134

Proberbs 11:8            Trouble in its Relation to the Righteous

            and the Wicked                                                                                  135

Proverbs 11:9            Hypocrisy and Knowledge                                      137

Proverbs 11:10,11 The Public Conscience in Relation to

            Moral Character                                                                                139

Proverbs 11:12,13 Types of Character in Social Life                              140

Proverbs 11:14          Wisdom, the Want of States                                    142

Proverbs 11:17          The Generous and Ungenerous                                145

Proverbs 11:18-20 The Evil and the Good                                                 146

Proverbs 11:22          Adornment                                                                 148

Proverbs 11:24,25 The Generous and the Avaricious                               150

Proverbs 11:27,28 Seeking and Trusting                                                   152

Proverbs 11:29          Family Life                                                                154



Proverbs 11:30,31 The Life of the Good                                                  156

Proverbs 12:1-3        The Righteous and the Wicked                                157

Proverbs 12:4            The Queen of the Household                                   159

Proverbs 12:5-8        The Righteous and the Wicked                                160

Proverbs 12:9            Domestic Modesty and Display                               161

Proverbs 12:10          The Treatment of Animals                                       163

Proverbs 12:11          Manly Industry and Parasitical

            Indolence                                                                                           164

Proverbs 12:12,13 The Crafty and the Honest                                           166

Proverbs 12:14          Retributions of the Lip and Life                              167

Proverbs 12:15          The Opinionated and the Docile                             169

Proverbs 12:16-23 Speech                                                                         170

Proverbs 12:24          Diligence and Dignity. Slothfulness and

            Servility                                                                                             173

Proverbs 12:25          The Saddening and the Succoring                            174

Proverbs 12:26,28 The True Pathway of Souls                                          176

Proverbs 12:27          Labor as Enhancing the Relative Value

            of a Man's Possessions                                                                     177

Proverbs 13:1            The Teachable and the Unteachable

            Son                                                                                                     179

Proverbs 13:2,3         Man Speaking                                                           181

Proverbs 13:4            Soul Craving                                                             182

Proverbs 13:5,6         Moral Truthfulness                                                   183

Proverbs 13:7,8         Poverty and Wealth                                                  184

Proverbs 13:9            The Light of Souls                                                     187

Proverbs 13:10          Pride                                                                           188

Proverbs 13:11          Worldly Wealth                                                         190

Proverbs 13:12          Hope Deferred                                                          191

Proverbs 13:13          The Word                                                                   193

Proverbs 13:14          The Law of the Good                                                194

Proverbs 13:15a        A Sound Intellect                                                      195

Proverbs 13:15b        The Way of Transgressors                                       197

Proverbs 13:16          The Wise and the Foolish                                        198

Proverbs 13:17          Human Missions and Their Discharge                    200

Proverbs 13:18          The Incorrigible and the Docile                               201

Proverbs 13:19          Soul Pleasure and Soul Pain                                     203

Proverbs 13:20          The Grand Fellowship and Assimilation

            in Life's Path                                                                                     205

Proverbs 13:21          Nemesis: Destiny Following Character                  207

Proverbs 13:22,23    Material Wealth                                                       208

Proverbs 13:24          Parental Discipline                                                  210

Proverbs 13:25          The Satisfaction of the Body Determined

            by the Condition of the Soul                                                           212

Proverbs 14:1            Housewifery                                                             214



Proverbs 14:2            Human Conduct                                                         215

Proverbs 14:3            Speech, a Rod                                                            216

Proverbs 14:4            The Clean Crib, or Indolence                                   218

Proverbs 14:5,6         Veracity and Wisdom                                               219

Proverbs 14:7-9        The Society to be Shunned                                      221

Proverbs 14:10          The Heart's Hidden Depth                                        223

Proverbs 14:11          The Soul's Home                                                       225

Proverbs 14:12          The Seeming Right Often Ruinous              227

Proverbs 14:13          Sinful Mirth                                                               229

Proverbs 14:14          The Misery of the Apostate, and the

            Happiness of the Good                                                                     231

Proverbs 14:15-18    The Credulous and the Cautious                              232

Proverbs 14:19          The Majesty of Goodness                                        234

Proverbs 14:20-22    A Group of Social Principles                                   236

Proverbs 14:23,24    Labor, Talk, Wealth                                                  238

Proverbs 14:25          The True Witness                                                     240

Proverbs 14:26,27    Godliness, Safety and Life                                      241

Proverbs 14:28          The Population of an Empire                                   243

Proverbs 14:29          Temper                                                                       244

Proverbs 14:30          Heart and Health                                                        246

Proverbs 14:31          Godliness and Humanity                                          248

Proverbs 14:32          Death Depending on Character                                250

Proverbs 14:33          Reticence and Loquacity                                          252

Proverbs 14:34, 35   The Political and Social Importance of

            Morality                                                                                             254

Proverbs 15:1,2         Words                                                                         256

Proverbs 15:3            God's Inspection of the World                                258

Proverbs 15:4,7         Speech                                                                       260

Proverbs 15:5,6         Diverse Families                                                      262

Proverbs 15:8-11      The Man-ward Feeling and the Infinite

            Intelligence of God                                                                           264

Proverbs 15:12          The Scorner                                                              266

Proverbs 15:13-15    Human Hearts                                                            268

Proverbs 15:16,17    The Dinner of Herbs and the Stalled Ox                 270

Proverbs 15:18          Social Discord                                                          273

Proverbs 15:19          Indolence and Righteousness                                   274

Proverbs 15:21, 22   Contrasts                                                                    276

Proverbs 15:23          Useful Speech                                                           277

Proverbs 15:24          The Way of the Wise                                                279

Proverbs 15:25,26 The Procedure and Propensity of God                       281

Proverbs 15:27          The Evils of Covetousness and the

            Blessedness of Generosity                                                             282

Proverbs 15:28, 29   The Righteous and the Wicked                                284

Proverbs 15:30          The Highest Knowledge                                          286



Proverbs 15:31, 32   Reproof                                                                     288

Proverbs 15:33          Godly Fear and Genuine Humility               290

Proverbs 16:1            Man Proposes, God Disposes                                  292

Proverbs 16:2            The Self-complacency of Sinners and

            the Omniscience of God                                                                  294

Proverbs 16:3            The Establishment of Thoughts                                296

Proverbs 16:4            Universal Existence                                                 298

Proverbs 16:5,6         Evil                                                                             300

Proverbs 16:7            Pleasing God                                                             302

Proverbs 16:8            The Good Man and His Worldly

            Circumstances                                                                                  303

Proverbs 16:9            The Plan of Man, and the Plan of God

            in Human Life                                                                                    305

Proverbs 16:10-15    Model Monarchs                                                      308

Proverbs 16:16          Moral and Material Wealth                         312

Proverbs 16:17          The Way of the Upright                                            314

Proverbs 16:18, 19   Pride and Humility                                                   316

Proverbs 16:20, 21   The Conditions of a Happy Life                              318

Proverbs 16:22          The Two Interpreters                                    320

Proverbs 16:23, 24   Ideal Eloquence                                                         322

Proverbs 16:26          Labor                                                                         324

Proverbs 16:27-30    Mischievous Men                                                      326

Proverbs 16:31          The Glory of the Aged Piety                                    328

Proverbs 16:32          The Conqueror of Self, the Greatest

            Conqueror                                                                                          331

Proverbs 16:33          Life, a Lottery and a Plan                                        333

Proverbs 17:1,2         Family Scenes                                                          335

Proverbs 17:3            Divine Discipline                                                      337

Proverbs 17:4            Conversational Likings of Bad Men                        339

Proverbs 17:5            The Unfortunate Poor                                               341

Proverbs 17:6            Posterity and Its Ancestors                                     343

Proverbs 17:7            Speech Incongruous and False                                 345

Proverbs 17:8            The Power of Patronage                                          347

Proverbs 17:9            The Right Concealment and the Wrong

            Revealment of Offences                                                                   349

Proverbs 17:10          Moral and Corporeal Chastisement                         351

Proverbs 17:11-13    The Genius and Punishment of Evil                         353

Proverbs 17:14          Strife                                                                         355

Proverbs 17:15          Perverse Treatment of the Characters

            of Men                                                                                                357

Proverbs 17:16          Capacity Without Will                                             359

Proverbs 17:17;         Degrees and Duties of True Friendship                  361


Proverbs 17:21,25 The Fool: Negatively and Positively              365



Proverbs 17:22          Bodily Health Dependent on Mental

            Moods                                                                                                369

Proverbs 17:23          Bribery                                                                       371

Proverbs 17:24          A Double Picture                                                      373

Proverbs 17:26          Persecution and Treason                                          375

Proverbs 17:27, 28   Frugality in Speech                                                   377

Proverbs 18:1,2         A Student's Spirit                                                       379

Proverbs 18:3            Wickedness Contemptible and

Contemptuous                                                                                              382

Proverbs 18:4            The Words of Inspired Wisdom                              383

Proverbs 18:5            Three Bad Things                                                      386

Proverbs 18:6-8        The Speech of a Splenetic Fool                              388

Proverbs 18:9            Miserable Twinship                                                   390

Proverbs 18:10-12    The Soul's Tower                                                       392

Proverbs 18:13          Impetuous Flippancy                                     394

Proverbs 18:14          The Unbearable Wound                                            396

Proverbs 18:15, 16   The Attainment of Knowledge and the

            Power of Kindness                                                                            398

Proverbs 18:17-19    Social Disputes                                                        401

Proverbs 18:20, 21   The Influence of the Tongue                                    404

Proverbs 18:22          A Happy Marriage                                                    405

Proverbs 18:23;

            Poverty, Riches and Social Selfishness                                          408

Proverbs 19:4, 6, 7

Proverbs 19:1            The Better Man                                                          410

Proverbs 19:2,3         The Soul Without Knowledge                                  412

Proverbs 19:5,9         Falsehood                                                                   414

Proverbs 19:11,         Anger Controlled and Uncontrolled                        416


Proverbs 19:13, 14   A Cursed Home and a Blessed Home                     418

Proverbs 19:8,16      Goodness and Happiness                                         420

Proverbs 19:17          The Deserving Poor                                                 422

Proverbs 19:18, 20   Parental Discipline and Filial

            Improvement                                                                         424

Proverbs 19:21          The Mind of Man and the Mind of God                   426

Proverbs 19:22          Kindness                                                                   429

Proverbs 19:23          The Fruits of Personal Religion                             431

Proverbs 19:24          Laziness                                                                     432

Proverbs 19:25          Man Chastising the Wrong                                       433

Proverbs 19:26-27    Filial Depravity and Parental Warning                    436

Proverbs 19:28, 29   The Character and Doom of the Wicked                 438

Proverbs 20:1            An Intemperate Use of Strong Drink                       439

Proverbs 20:2            The Terrific in Human Government                        440

Proverbs 20:3            Unlawful Strife                                                         441

Proverbs 20:4            Indolence                                                                   443



Proverbs 22:1            Reputation and Riches                                             528

Proverbs 22:2, 3        Contrasts in Conditions and Characters                  531

Proverbs 22:4, 5        Life, Prosperous and Perilous                                 533

Proverbs 22:6            Child-training                                                           536

Proverbs 22:7            The Social Rule of Wealth                                       539

Proverbs 22:8            Human Life                                                               541

Proverbs 22:9            Genuine Philanthropy                                               543

Proverbs 22:10          The Scorner                                                              545

Proverbs 22:11,12    The Good Man                                                           547

Proverbs 22:13          The Excuses of Laziness                                          549

Proverbs 22:14          The Influence of a Depraved Woman                      551

Proverbs 22:15          A Terrible Evil and a Severe Cure                553

Proverbs 22:16          The Evils of Avarice                                     555

Proverbs 22:17-21    Spiritual Verities                                                       557

Proverbs 22:22, 23   The Oppression of the Poor                                     561

Proverbs 22:24-28    Interdicted Conduct                                                 563

Proverbs 23:1-3        The Epicure; or Gastric Temptation                        566

Proverbs 23:4, 5        Riches Not to be Labored for as an End                 568

Proverbs 23:6-8        A Spurious Hospitality                                             570

Proverbs 23:9            The Incorrigible Sinner                                             573

Proverbs 23:10, 11   Social Injustice                                                         574

Proverbs 23:12          Spiritual Knowledge                                                 576

Proverbs 23:13, 14   Parental Discipline                                                  578

Proverbs 23:15-23    An Appeal of Parental Piety                                     580

Proverbs 23:26          Man's Heart                                                                582

Proverbs 23:29-35    The Drunkard's Effigy Hung Up as a

            Beacon                                                                                               584

Proverbs 24:1, 2        The Villany and Absurdity of Sin                             589

Proverbs 24:3-7        Enlightened Piety                                                      591

Proverbs 24:8,9         Aspects of Depravity                                               594

Proverbs 24:10          The Day of Adversity                                               596

Proverbs 24:11, 12   The Neglect of Social Benevolence                        597

Proverbs 24:13, 14   Spiritual Science                                                      599

Proverbs 24:15, 16   The Hostility of the Wicked Towards

            the Good                                                                                            602

Proverbs 24:17, 18   Revenge                                                                      604

Proverbs 24:19, 20   An Example of the Folly of Envy                             606

Proverbs 24:21, 22   Human Government                                     608

Proverbs 24:23-26    Social Conduct                                                          610

Proverbs 24:27          Human Labor                                                612

Proverbs 24:28, 29   Types of Corrupt Testimony                                    615

Proverbs 24:30-34    Idleness                                                                     617

Proverbs 25:1            Solomon's Three Thousand Proverbs                      619

Proverbs 25:2-5        Kinghood                                                                   622



Proverbs 25:6,7         A Corrupt Ambition                                                 625

Proverbs 25:8-10      The Worst and Best Way of Treating

            Social Dissensions                                                                            628

Proverbs 25:11          The Excellency of Fitly-spoken Words                  630

Proverbs 25:12          The Beauty of a Reprovable Disposition                633

Proverbs 25:13          The Value of a Good Messenger to His

            Employers                                                                                         635

Proverbs 25:14          Swaggering Generosity                                             637

Proverbs 25:15, 1     The Manifestation and Mightiness of

            21, 22                         Moral Power                                                             638

Proverbs 25:16          The World's Honey                                                   641

Proverbs 25:17-20    Bad Neighbors                                                           643

Proverbs 25:23          Righteous Anger                                                        647

Proverbs 25:25          Good News from a Far Country                              651

Proverbs 25:26          Religious Apostasy                                                   653

Proverbs 25:27          Natural Desires Running too Far                             655

Proverbs 25:28          The Lack of Self-mastery                                        657

Proverbs 26:1,8         Honor Paid to Bad Men is Unseemly

            and Pernicious                                                                                  658

Proverbs 26:2            Human Anathemas                                                     661

Proverbs 26:3-11      Aspects of a Fool                                                      664

Proverbs 26:12, 16   Vanity, One of the Greatest

            Obstructions to Soul-Improvement                                                 668

Proverbs 26:17-22    Mischievous Citizens                                               670

Proverbs 26:23-28    Clandestine Hatred                                                    672

Proverbs 27:1            Man and Tomorrow, a Fact and a

            Failing                                                                                                675

Proverbs 27:2            Self-praise                                                                677

Proverbs 27:3-6        Social Wrath and Social Friendliness                     679

Proverbs 27:7            An Appetite for Good Things Essential

            for Their Enjoyment                                                                         682

Proverbs 27:8            The Evil of a Roaming Disposition                         684

Proverbs 27:9-11      A Genuine Friendship and a Happy

            Fathership                                                                                         688

Proverbs 27:12, 14   Imprudence and Flattery                                          691

Proverbs 27:17          The Soul, Its Bluntness and Its

            Whetstone                                                                                         693

Proverbs 27:18          Man Honored in Service                                          696

Proverbs 27:19          The Uniformity and Reciprocity of

            Souls                                                                                                   698

Proverbs 27:20          The Insatiability of Man's Inquiring

            Faculty                                                                                                700

Proverbs 27:21          Popularity, the Most Trying Test of

            Character                                                                                           702



Proverbs 27:22          The Moral Obstinacy of Sin                        704

Proverbs 27:23-27    A Picture of Life, Rural and General                      707

Proverbs 28:1            Conscience                                                                709

Proverbs 28:2-5        A Threefold Glimpse of Life                                  711

Proverbs 28:7-9        Life in the Home, the Market and the

            Sanctuary                                                                                            715

Proverbs 28:10          Opposite Characters and Opposite

            Destinies                                                                                            717

Proverbs 28:11          Vanity in the Rich and Penetration in

            the Poor                                                                                            720

Proverbs 28:12,         Secular Prosperity                                                    722

            28; 29:2

Proverbs 28:13          Man's Treatment of His Own Sins                           725

Proverbs 28:14          Reverence and Recklessness                                   727

Proverbs 28:15-17    Types of Kings                                                          729

Proverbs 28:20-23    Avarice                                                                       731

Proverbs 28:24          Robbery of Parents                                                   734

Proverbs 28:25, 26   Self-sufficiency and Godly Confidence                 736

Proverbs 29:1            Restorative Discipline                                              739

Proverbs 29:3,           Parental Life                                                             741


Proverbs 29:4,           Human Rulership                                                      745

            12, 14

Proverbs 29:5            Flattery, a Net                                                            748

Proverbs 29:6            The Snare and the Song                                             750

Proverbs 29:7            The Treatment of the Poor, a Test of

            Character                                                                                           752

Proverbs 29:8, 9,

                                    The Genius of Evil                                                    755

            10, 11, 20, 22, 23

Proverbs 29:16          The Fall of Evil                                                         758

Proverbs 29:18          Divine Revelation                                                     761

Proverbs 29:19, 21   Types of Servants                                                     763

Proverbs 29:24          Commercial Partnerships                                         765

Proverbs 29:25-27    Social Life                                                                768

Proverbs 30:1-9        Agur, as a Philosopher, a Bibleist and a

                                    Suppliant                                                                   771

Proverbs 30:10          The False Accuser                                                     775

Proverbs 30:11-14    Many Races in One                                                  778

Proverbs 30:24-28 Practical Lessons from Insect Life                           782

Proverbs 31:1-9        The Counsels of a Noble Mother to Her

            Son                                                                                                     784

Proverbs 31:10-31    A Noble Woman's Picture of True

            Womanhood                                                                                     788

Index                                                                                                               799




              Homiletical Commentary

                  on Book of Proverbs


                                    Proverbs 1:1


               Solomon's Life, Its Spiritual Significance


“The Proverbs of Solomon the son of David, King of Israel.”


MAN'S life is a book, by which the Great Father

educates the human race. By man He teaches man.

As in the smallest dew-drop glistening on the blade we may

see the measureless ocean, in man He the Eternal is mani-

fest. Some men give a fairer and fuller revelation of Him

than others; they have a higher type of being, and a nobler

character. Jesus of Nazareth was “God manifest in the flesh.”

Solomon, although a depraved man, revealed not a little

of the Divine. A really great man he was not, for no man

can be really great who is not good—and he was not that.

True, he had an intellect of the highest order, an intellect

whose thoughts are the seeds of libraries; an experience,

too, that measured life in its varied phases. The Eternal

teaches the ages through him. What are the lessons his life

teaches? In it we read


HUMAN SOUL.—In early life we are told that Solomon

“loved the Lord and walked in all the statutes of David

his father.” He appreciated wisdom as the chief good;


10        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I


he reared the magnificent temple at Jerusalem, and con-

secrated it by his devotions. He spake “three thousand

proverbs,” containing the germs of universal truth and

virtue. All this shews that in his great heart there were

the seeds of many virtues and the spirit of noble deeds.

But sad to say, vice as well as virtue had a place and a

power within him. He displayed revenge; encouraged, at

times, idolatry; and revelled in a voluptuousness and a

carnality unsurpassed. Good and evil are, in different

measures, found in the best of men on earth. In the spirits

of heaven there is good, and good only; in hell, evil, and

evil alone; in those of earth, they co-exist in different

degrees. “The web,” says Shakspeare, “of our life is of

mingled yarn, good and bad together.” The recognition

of this fact is important in estimating the characters of

our fellow men. A man is not to be pronounced utterly

bad because he has fallen into wrong, nor completely good

because he has performed some virtuous deed. In his life

we read.


HUMAN NATURE.— There was much in this man's soul to

raise him, and keep him high up in the realm of virtue.

His father, although not a good man, on his death-bed

addressed him thus, “I go the way of all the earth, be

thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man, and keep

the charge of the Lord, thy God, to walk in His ways

and keep His statutes.” The sacred impressions he

received in childhood, and the noble truths which, his

proverbs show, dwelt in his mind,—all indicate that there

was a strong force within him, to make and keep him right.

Albeit, there was at the same time in his heart a principle

stronger than all, stronger than early impressions, and

his own clear convictions of right ; a principle that

often overcame all the good, and dragged him down into

the abysses of depravity. “Let him that thinketh he

standeth, take heed lest he fall.” In his life we read


GOOD TO SATISFY THE MIND.—What has the earth to

give that this man possessed not in rich abundance?



Chap. I]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       11


Wealth? His riches were enormous: “the kings of

Tarshish and the isles, the kings of Sheba” offered to

him their gifts. Power? He sat on a throne of ivory

and gold; he was the idol of his age; princes came

from afar to witness his glory and to render him homage.

Beauty? Whatever was lovely in nature and exquisite in

art were at his command. “Vineyards, orchards, gardens,

fruitful trees, artistic streams, men singers and women

singers, and musical instruments of all sorts.” Knowledge?

“God gave him wisdom and understanding; largeness of

heart even as the sand which is on the sea-shore.” He was

a sage, a poet, and a naturalist. “He spake three thou-

sand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five.”

With all this was he happy? He pronounces all “Vanity

and vexation of spirit.” “Great riches have sold more

men than ever they have bought out,” says Lord Bacon.

The fact is, the world has nothing wherewith to satisfy that

soul within us, which will outlive the stars and yet be

young, comprehend the universe and yet be empty without

a God. In his life we read


OTHER PRODUCTIONS OF MAN.—Solomon was an active

man; few men worked harder than he, few accomplished

more material work: but what are all his buildings, his

fleets, his ornaments, his gardens, his artistic devices,

compared to his proverbs? His thoughts have lived, and

worked, and spread for three thousand years. They are

working now, and will continue to work as generations

come and go, and as kingdoms rise and break like bubbles

on the stream. What Lord Bacon says of fame is true

of all earthly things, “It is like a river that beareth up

things light, and drowneth things weighty and solid.”

True thoughts live and give life. They are the seeds of

coming literatures, philosophies, characters, institutions.

         Such are the lessons which Solomon's history. teaches.

The real life of every man is in his love. “Show

me,” says Fichte, “what thou truly lovest, show me

what thou seekest and strivest for with thy whole

heart, when thou hopest to attain to true enjoyment, and thou

hast hereby shown me thy life. What thou lovest us that thou

livest. This very love is thy life: the root, the seat, the central

point of thy being.”

12        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I



                                Proverbs 1:1-6


                   A Great Teacher and a Genuine Student


         “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know

wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive

the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment and equity; To give subtilty

to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will

hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto

wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of

the wise, and their dark sayings.”


THESE six verses give us two subjects for study.

          A GREAT TEACHER.—Solomon the son of David, king

of Israel, was not only a passive but an active teacher—a

voluntary as well as an involuntary one. All men teach

by their lives whether they will or not; they are “living

epistles known and read of all men.” We all become objects

of human observations, subjects of human thought and

enquiry, though we ourselves may be utterly unconscious

of the fact. Solomon taught by his life, but he also

taught by conscious determination. These verses bring

under our notice the form and design of his lessons.

What is the form? He spoke in “Proverbs.” A proverb

is the wisdom of ages crystallized into a sentence: a gold

coin in the currency of thought. Earl Russell defines a

proverb as “the wisdom of many and the wit of one.”

The proverbs of Solomon being inspired, are the rays of

eternal ideas mirrored in the diamonds of human genius.

“Jewels five words long,

That on the stretch'd forefinger of all time

Sparkle for ever.”—Tennyson

No style of instruction is more ancient than the proverbial.

and thou hast hereby shown me thy life.







Chap. I]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       13


The most ancient nations have their aphorisms, and not a

few of them sparkle with a “beam divine.” We have

become so wordy, our books so numerous, and our intellects

so speculative, that we have ceased to make proverbs.

What should be wrapped in one round sentence we spread

out into volumes in these days. Instead of “apples of gold

in pictures of silver” we have grains of gold in heavy

waggons, and these often painted in gaudy hues. What

is the design? Soul-culture. “To know wisdom and

instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.” There

is much for man to know. Much in outward nature—the

essence, laws, uses, of the material system to which he

belongs. Much in his own nature, his mental, physical,

and moral constitution; much in the relations which he

sustains to the universe and his Maker, and much in the

obligations springing there from. Man instinctively craves

for knowledge, and greatly does he need it. He needs

intellectual enlightenment and discipline: the soul with-

out knowledge is not good. These proverbs were in-

tended to enlighten the human reason, to conduct the

human intellect through phenomena into the universe of

reality, and make it acquainted with “the reason of things.”

But the design of the proverbs is more than mental culture,

it is moral. It is instruction in “judgment and equity.”

They contain rules of life, nay, principles of action. They

teach duty not only in every department of life and social

grade, but in every separate movement of the individual

man. “If the world”, says a modern writer, “were governed

by this single book, it would be a new earth wherein

dwelleth righteousness.” The suggestive character of

these proverbs is admirably adapted to the great work of

spiritual culture; it is not systematic but sententious. It

agrees with Locke's idea of education. “The business of

education,” says this great philosopher, “is not to perfect

a learner in all or any of the sciences, but to give his mind

that freedom, that disposition, and those habits that may

enable him to obtain any part of knowledge he shall apply

himself to or stand in need of, in the future course of his

life.” In these verses we have.




14        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I


       A GENUINE STUDENT.—Who is the true learner? He

is described as a “wise man.” A wise man is he who

chooses the highest end and the best means to attain it.

There are many very intelligent men who are unwise.

Some set before them a low and unworthy end, some a

good end but employ ill-adapted means. A genuine

student, however ignorant, is a man who aims at wisdom,

and gives his mind to those things that make for it. He

is a man who pursues resolutely, and in a right way, the

highest end of his being. He is described as an attentive

man. “A wise man will hear.” The mental ears of some

are so heavy that they hear not the voice of wisdom, and

the ears of others are so full of the rush and din of worldly

concerns, that even truth in thunder rolls over their heads

unheard. A genuine student “opens his ear,” bows his

head, and listens attentively and earnestly, anxious to

catch every word. He is described also as an improving

man. It is said of him that he “will increase learning”

and “attain unto wise counsels.” By listening he gains;

the words he catches he forms into sentences, and the

sentences extend into chapters. The more the genuine

student knows the more he feels his ignorance, and the

more he craves for light. Our knowledge is “but to

know how little can be known.” He is described as an

interpreting man. He “understands a proverb and the

interpretation : the words of the wise and their dark

sayings.”  “Dark sayings,” says Wardlaw, “mean pro-

perly enigmas or riddles. These were used of old as one

of the methods of conveying instruction. It was conceived

that by giving exercise to the understanding in finding

out the solution of the enigma, it was calculated to deepen

on the mind the impression of the lesson which was wrapt

up in it. This was not done for mere amusement, but for

imparting serious instruction; although to the young there

might, in some instances, be the blending of an intellectual

entertainment, with the conveyance of useful information

of salutary counsel.” These enigmatical maxims of wis-

dom were sometimes rendered the more attractive by

being thrown into the form of verse, and even being set


Chap. I]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       15


to music. A poetic taste and a musical ear were thus made

subservient to the communication and impression of truth.

The great thoughts of great men are luminous in them-

selves, but dark to the thoughtless because their eyes are

closed. Let us remember the words of John Milton, that

“the end of learning is to know God, and out of that

knowledge to love Him, and to imitate Him, as we may

the nearest, by possessing our souls of true virtue.”




                     Proverbs 1:7-9




    “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise

wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and for-

sake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto

thy head, and chains about thy neck.”


FROM this short passage the following great truths may

    be learned.

        Piety IS REVERENCE FOR GOD.—“The fear of the

Lord.” What fear? Not slavish fear, or foreboding

apprehension. There is no virtue in this;—it means a

loving reverence, which implies a recognition of the

divinely good and great. For who can reverence the

mean, the unkind, or the unvirtuous? An impression of

greatness and goodness lies at the foundation of holy

veneration, and into it there enter the sentiments of

gratitude, love, and worship. Piety is love, venerating

the majestic and adoring the good. It has nothing in

it of the fear that hath torment. On the contrary, it is

full of that love that “casteth out fear” and fills the

soul with the ecstasies of hope.

        Piety Is THE GERM OF INTELLIGENCE. It is the

“beginning of knowledge.” What knowledge? Not merely

intellectual. Many an impious man knows the circle of the



16        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I


sciences. The devil is intelligent. But though he

grasp the universe with his intellect, penetrate its essence,

and interpret its laws, he is ignorant. Spiritual knowledge

—the knowledge of self, the universe, Christ, and God,—is

the true knowledge. This grows out of piety — grows

out of reverent love. “The secret of the Lord is with

them that fear Him.” He knows nothing rightly who

knows not God experimentally. “In the rules of earthly

wisdom,” says Lord Bacon, “it is not possible for nature

to attain any mediocrity of perfection, before she be humbled

by knowing herself and her own ignorance.” God is love,

and he that loveth not, knoweth not God. Know-

ledge of Him is the root of that great tree of science,

under whose branches all holy spirits live, and on whose

immortal fruit they feast and flourish.

       Piety IS DESPISED BY FOLLY.—“Fools despise wis-

dom and instruction.” Who are the fools in Solomon's

sense? Not the brainless madmen or the illiterate dolts.

But the morally perverse, the men whose sympathies

are all earthly, carnal, devilish, the men who practically

ignore the greatest facts in the universe, trifle with

the serious, and barter away the joys of eternity for the

puerilities of time. All unregenerate men are such fools,

and they despise wisdom and instruction. They look

on the pious not only with the eye of indifference, but

with the eye of scorn. They do this because they are

fools, and they are fools for doing it. To despise piety

is to despise that moral salt which prevents society from

sinking into putrefaction, those sunbeams that lighten

their path, warm their atmosphere, and fill their world

with life and beauty. “It is,” says Archer Butler,

“among the most potent of the energies of sin, that it

leads astray by blinding, and blinds by leading astray;

that the soul of man, like the strong champion of Israel,

must have its ‘eyes put out,’ when it would be bound

with fetters of brass, and condemned to grind in the

prison house.’” *

         Piety INVOLVES FILIAL OBEDIENCE.—“My son,


*Judges xvi. 21.



Chap. I]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       17


hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law

of thy mother.” Family life is a divine institution; obe-

dience to its laws is a part of piety. “Filial love,” says

Dr. Arnot, “stands near and leans on godliness. It is next

to reverence for God. That first and highest command-

ment is like the earth's allegiance to the sun by general

law; and filial obedience is like day and night, summer

and winter, budding spring and ripening harvest, on the

earth's surface. There could be none of these sweet

changes and beneficent operations of nature on our

globe if it were broken away from the sun. So when a

people burst the first and greatest bond—when a people

cast off the fear of God, the family relations, with all

their beauty and benefit, disappear. We may read this

lesson in the fortune of France. When the nation threw

off the first commandment, the second went after it.

When they repudiated the fear of God, they could not

retain conjugal fidelity and filial love. Hence the wreck

and ruin of all the relations between man and man. As

well might they try to make a new world as to manage

this one wanting the first and second, the primary and

subordinate moral laws of its nature.”

       This filial obedience is a moral adornment. “They

shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head and chains

about thy neck.” “You may read at times,” says one,

“on festive days, in the high places of the earth, of the

elegance and splendour of royal and courtly attire, and

your imagination may be dazzled by the profusion of

diamonds, and pearls, and brilliants, and tasteful deco-

rations and gaudy finery; indicating the anxiety felt

and the pains expended to adorn this painted piece of

living clay.'" What is the worth of all this decoration?

Virtue is the only true ornament of a, moral intelligence,—

a jewel this, which set in the centre of the immortal spirit,

will flash on through every turn of life,


“When gems, and ornaments, and crowns,

Shall moulder into dust”"





18        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I



                               Proverbs 1:10-16


                          The Young Man


     “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with

us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:

Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down

into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with

spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not

thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run

to evil, and make haste to shed blood.”



This is implied in the passage, and this is a fact. Sinners

encompass us, as servants, masters, clients, customers,

and sometimes as parents, brothers, sisters. We must go

out of the world to go from them. The text teaches us the

following things concerning sin:—It is cruel. They “lay

wait for blood.” They say let us “swallow them up alive

as the grave.” Sin extinguishes social love and kindles

malignity instead. It carries with it the venom of the

devil. It teaches that sin is cunning. They are said

to “lay wait,” to “lurk privily.” Sinners are essentially

hypocrites. They dare not show their true characters to

their fellow men. Were they to do so, instead of enjoying

social fellowship and patronage, they would be shunned as

monsters. Hence they always work under mask and love

the dark. They put on the robes of virtue. They kiss

and stab at the same time. It teaches that sin is greedy.

“We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our

houses with spoil.” Avarice is the spring that sets and

keeps them in motion. “Precious substance” is what

they are after. For this they have an insatiable craving.


“0 cursed hunger of pernicious gold!

What bands of faith can impious lucre hold!”


This is the world into which the young are born, brought

up and educated. What a morally perilous position!

How great the caution required!



Chap. I]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       19



“My son, if sinners entice thee.” This they are sure to do.

Sin always begets an instinct to propagate itself. No

sooner did angels fall, than they became tempters. Eve

sins, and entices her husband. Sin is a whirlpool, sucking

all into itself. Sinners draw the young into evil, not by

violence or hard words, but by simulated love and quiet

persuasion. They say, “Come with us.” Come with us;

we have your interest at heart. We wish you happiness.

Come, share our pleasures, our transports, and our gains.

Cast in thy lot among us, let us all have one purse."

This is the danger. It is fabled of the Syrens, that from

the watch tower of their lovely island, they charmed the

passing ships to their shore by their music. But the

sailors when they landed on their sunny beach, transported

by a melody adapted to each heart, were destroyed by

their enchanters, and their bones left unburied in the

sand. Thus sinners act upon the young. It is by the

music of fascinating manners, kind words, and fair promises,

that they charm the young away from the straight

voyage of life to their shores, in order to effect their



ANCE.-“Consent thou not.” Learn to say “No”—No,

with the emphasis of thy whole soul. Thou canst resist.

Heaven has endowed thee with power to resist all outward

appeals. Thou oughtest to resist. To consent is to insult

thy Maker and contract guilt. Thou must resist. Thy

well-being, now and evermore, depends upon resisting.

“Refrain thy foot from their path.” Do not parly

with them. Do not take the first downward step, for

the hill is steep, and every step adds a strong momen-

tum. One sin leads to another, and thus on. Why

resist? “Their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed

blood.” The path may be smooth and flowery, but it is

evil and ruinous.

      “The devil,” says an old writer, “doth not know the

hearts of men, but he may feel their pulse, know their temper,

and so accordingly can apply himself. As the husband-




20       Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I


man knows what seed is proper to sow in such soil, so

Satan finding out the temper, knows what temptation is

proper to sow in such a heart. That way the tide of a

man's constitution runs, that way the wind of temptation

blows. Satan tempts the ambitious man with a crown,

the sanguine man with beauty, the covetous man with a

wedge of gold. He provides savoury meat, such as the

sinner loves."



                                 Proverbs 1:17-19


                               Moral Traps


“Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. And they lay

wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. So are the ways

of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners



     SIN LAYS TRAPS FOR SOULS.—“The net is spread.”

Sin has woven a net and laid it along the path of

life. This net is wrought of diverse materials, such as

sensuality, avarice, ambition. How cleverly the skilful

fowler constructs and lays his net. It is placed where the

innocent bird is likely to come in the garden or the granary,

for the grain or the grub, and where when it comes it will

be enthralled even in its first step. It is thus with the

moral fowler,—the great tempter of souls and all whom he

employs. Enticements are traps. There is the trap of

self-indulgence, and carnal gratification. There is the trap

of worldly amusements laid in theatres, taverns, and the

orgies of revelry and debauch. There is the trap of avarice

laid in scenes of unrighteous traffic and reckless specula-

tion. There is the trap of ambition spread out and con-

cealed in all the paths to social influence and political



Chap. I]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       21


power. Traps abound. They are adjusted for men of

every mental type, of every period in life, in every social

grade. They are laid for children in the play-ground, for

merchants in the exchange, for statesmen in the senate, for

all classes—from the pauper to the prince. All ages—

from the child to the octogenarian.

     THESE TRAPS MUST BE EXPOSED.—“In vain the net

is spread in the sight of any bird.” The fowler conceals his

net. If he laid it in the sight of the bird, instinct would

strike the warning and his object would be missed. Sin

works insidiously. It takes advantage of men's circum-

stances, ignorance, and inexperience. It steals into the

soul through a word in song, or a note in music, through a

glance of the eye, or a touch of the hand. It does not enter

the soul by violently destroying its fortress, but by crawling

over the walls, and creeping into its recesses. The work

of the true philanthropist is to expose the traps and to

thunder warning in the ears of the birds as they come

swooping down. Young men, remember that sin is insidious,

and lays its traps stealthily, in scenes where beauty

smiles and syrens chant.


“Our dangers and delights are near allies;

From the same stem the rose and prickle rise.”



“They lay wait for their own blood, they lurk privily for

their own lives.” “They lay wait.” Who? Not the bird;

but the fowler, not the intended victim but the foul deceiver.

Whilst the tempters “lurked” privily “for the blood” of

others, they “lay wait” for their own blood. Retribution

overtakes them. If they escape violence themselves, the

Nemesis pursues them. Thus it was with Ahab and his

guilty partner, they plotted the destruction of others, but

they worked out their own ruin; thus it was with Haman, who

sought to murder Mordecai, but hung himself, and thus with

Judas too. Sinners the world over, in all their plans

and purposes, are “digging a pit for themselves.” “So with

the ways of every one who is greedy of gain”—it is the

inexorable law of retribution.


22        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I


Their schemes may seem to prosper here, but justice

tracks their steps and their ruin is inevitable.


“There is no strange handwriting on the wall,

Thro' all the midnight hum no threatening call,

Nor on the marble floor the stealthy fall

Of fatal footsteps. All is safe. Thou fool,

The avenging deities are shod with wool!”

                                                             W. ALLEN BUTLER




                                     Proverbs 1:20-23


                      The Voice of Wisdom to the World


     “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets; She crieth

in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she

uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?

and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you

at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known

my words unto you.”


DIVINE wisdom was an abstraction in the days of Solomon.

It is an incarnation in our times. In his days it was per-

sonified in language. In ours it is personified in flesh.

It is the same thing however clad; the infinite intelligence

of love and truth. It is the “mind of God.” This wisdom

is here represented as speaking to the world.

     The voice of wisdom to the world is EARNEST.—“Wis-

dom crieth.” The communications of heaven to humanity

are not the utterances of mere intellect. They are the

expressions of the heart. The Bible is an earnest book,

Christ is an earnest messenger. The eternal Father is in

earnest with His human children. “As I live saith the

Lord God I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood

and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me

and drink.” God's communications to men show the earnest-

ness of His heart. Look at their nature. How fervid



Chap. I]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       23


forceful, vehement. Mark their variety. They come in

poetry, prose, prophecy, precept, promise, threat, expostu-

lation, admonition. Note their continuance. They do not

cease, they keep on from age to age. Wisdom is ever

crying through nature, through the Bible, through the

history of past ages, through conscience, and through

reason. Earnestness is all heartedness. God's heart is in

His communications to men.

       The voice of wisdom to the world is PUBLIC.—“She

uttereth her voice in the streets; she crieth in the chief

places of concourse, in the openings of the gates.” “The

accumulation,” says Kitto, “of phrases implying pub-

licity—the streets, the chief place of concourse, the open-

ings of the gates, the city—probably refer to the custom

in the East, particularly among the Arabians, for people to

hold discussions and conversations on religion and morals

in the open air, and especially in the more public parts of

the town, to which the inhabitants resort for the sake of

society. It is not unusual indeed for a man respected for

his eloquence, learning, or reputed sanctity, to collect in

such places a. congregation which listens with attention

and interest to the address he delivers. Thus such wisdom

as they possess may be said to “cry in the streets;” and

as the people read very little, if at all, a very large part of

the information and mental cultivation which they possess

is derived from the discussions, conversations, recitations,

and lectures on various subjects, which they hear in the

streets and public places.” Where is the voice of heavenly

wisdom not heard? The whole earth is vocal with it. It

echoes in every man's soul. “There is no speech nor

language where her voice is not heard.” There are three

classes here specified to whom it addresses itself. The

simple.” “Ye simple ones”—those most unsophisticated

and free from the taint of sin, the millions of the rising

race as well as those in more advanced life who have re-

tained in some measure the innocency of childhood.

Scorners” —men who are so hardened in sin that they resist

impressions and sneer at sacred persons and things. To

impious scoffers and profane jesters, who are numerous in



24        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I


all ages and are morally the most degraded of men, this

Wisdom speaks. “Fools”—men who hate knowledge. The

simple are weak, the scorner disdainful, the fool malignant

—he hates knowledge. How great the mercy of God in

condescending to speak to such.

       But the earnest and public address of wisdom to

these classes is pre-eminently practical. It is in the

language of expostulation. “How long ye simple ones?”

How long? Do you know how brief your life is and

how urgent the work of spiritual reformation? How long

ye simple ones will ye love simplicity? And the scorners

delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?” It is

the language of invitation. “Turn you at my reproof.”

Turn away from worldliness and wickedness and come

to holiness and truth. Turn, you can do it, you must

do it, you are bound to do it. “Let the wicked forsake his

ways and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him

return unto the Lord, and. He will have mercy upon him,

and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” It is the

language of encouragement. “I will pour out my Spirit

upon you.” “I will make known my words unto you.”

“I offer,” says Bishop Hall, “to you both my word out-

wardly to your ears, and a plentiful measure of my Spirit

to make that word effectual to you.”

       Such is the voice of Wisdom. “He that hath ears to

hear let him hear.” Hear that your souls may live—hear

at once. Delay is sinful and perilous. Remember the

words of John Foster—“How dangerous to defer those

momentous reformations which conscience is solemnly

preaching to the heart! If they are neglected, the diffi-

culty and indisposition are increasing every month. The

mind is receding degree after degree, from the warm and

the hopeful zone; till at last it will enter the Arctic circle,

and become fixed in relentless and eternal ice.”



Chap. I]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       25




                           Proverbs 1:24-33


           God and the Sinner in Time and Eternity


      “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and

no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of

my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear

cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a

whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call

upon me, but will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find

me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:

They would One of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall

they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with the fruit of their own

devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity

of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely,

and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”



              GOD AND THE SINNER IN TIME.—Two things are obser-

vable here, First, God's conduct to sinners in time. What

does he do? He “calls” them—calls them by teachings of

nature, the admonitions of reason and the appeals of His

word—calls them away from sin to holiness, from misery

to joy, from Satan to Himself. He stretches out His hand.

“I have stretched out my hand.” What for? To rescue

from danger, to bestow benedictions, to command attention,

to welcome a return. He counsels them. “Ye have set at

nought my counsels." Counsels that would shed light

upon duty and destiny, solve moral problems, and make the

path of human life straight and sunny for ever. He reproves

them. “And would none of my reproof.” His reproofs, whilst

they are honest, are also loving and tender. This is the

attitude of the Eternal towards every human sinner here. He

is calling,, outstretching His hand, addressing counsels, and

administering reproofs. But, mark on the other hand,

Secondly, the conduct of sinners towards God in time. How do

sinners treat the Almighty here? They refuse His call. “I

have called and ye refused.” They disregard His attitude. “I

have stretched out my hand and no man regarded.” They

condemn is counsel and reproof. “Ye have set at nought


26        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. I


all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.” What a

spectacle to angels is this! God's treatment of the sinner

and the sinner's treatment of Him. Wonder, oh heaven!

and be astonished, oh earth!

       GOD AND THE SINNER IN ETERNITY.—Here observe,

First, His conduct towards the sinner in eternity. When

sinners pass impenitently into the realms of retribution,

how does the Eternal treat them there? He laughs at them. “I

will laugh at your calamity.” Strong metaphor conveying a

most terrific idea! What a laugh is this! It is the laugh

of mockery and contempt. “I will mock when your fear

cometh.” A father laughing at his child in trial and

anguish! For the suffering child to see his parent looking

on without a tear of compassion or a sigh of sympathy, with

a heartless indifference, would give poignancy to his

pains, but to see him smile and to hear him laugh in his

writhing agonies, how unspeakably distressing! To be

laughed at by God! Can you have a more terrible picture

of misery? A thousand times sooner let the Eternal flash His

lightnings, hurl His thunders, and rain His fires on me, than

laugh at my calamities. He disregards their prayers. Fear

is on them as a .desolation! Destruction has come down upon

them as a whirlwind. Distress and anguish has seized them,

and they pray, and God says, “I will not answer.” He

looks on and laughs. What a contrast between His

conduct in time, and His conduct in eternity! Observe,

Secondly, the impenitent sinner's conduct towards God

in eternity . He whom sinners ignored and disregarded

in time, is earnestly prayed to now. “They shall seek

me early but shall not find me.” They would not

listen to my warnings and invitations, and I will not

listen to their prayers. They seek God but cannot find

Him. Why has all this misery come upon them? Here is

the explanation:— “They hated knowledge and did not

choose the fear of the Lord. They would none of my counsel;

they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the

fruit of their own way and be filled with their own devices.”

They said to the Almighty when here, “Depart from us.”

He says to them there, “Depart from me.” Here is


Chap. II.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       27


retribution. All their misery is but the eating of the fruit

of their own ways. They reap what they had sown. As

fruit answers to seed, as echoes to sound, their calamities in

eternity answer to their conduct in time. “Be not deceived,

God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth that shall

he also reap.”

       Notwithstanding all this, mercy still speaks in the close

of the passage. “Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell

safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” Practical

attention to God's word will secure safety now and for ever.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous

flee thereto and are safe.” “Seek the Lord while he may

be found; and call upon him while he is near.”




                                      Proverbs 2:1-5


                            Spiritual Excellence


      "My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with

thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to

understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and iffiest up thy voice for

understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid

treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the know-

ledge of God.”


WE have here

       Spiritual excellence DESCRIBED.—It is described as

“the fear of the Lord," and as “the knowledge of God.”

The twofold description conveys the idea that godli-

ness has to do both with the intellect and the heart.

It is knowledge and fear. It is such a knowledge of God

as generates the true emotion towards Him. In true

spiritual excellence there is a blending of reverent love

and theologic light. Such a blending that both become

one, the love is light and the light is love. In this, our

perfection and well being consist. This is not the means to




28        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. II.


heaven, it is heaven—heaven in all times, circumstances,

and worlds. Its influence is beautifully and truthfully

described by Sir Humphrey Davy. “Religion, whether

natural or revealed, has always the same beneficial in-

fluence on the mind. In youth, in health, and prosperity

it awakens feelings of gratitude, and sublime love, and

purifies at the same time that which it exalts; but it is in

misfortune, in sickness, in age, that its effects are more

truly and beneficially felt: when submission in faith and

humble trust in the Divine Will, when duties become plea-

sures, undecaying sources of consolation; then it creates

powers which were believed to be extinct, and gives a

freshness to the mind which was supposed to have passed

away for ever, but which is now renovated as an immortal

hope. Its influence outlives all earthly enjoyments, and

becomes stronger as the organs decay, and the frame dis-

solves; it appears as that evening star of light in the horizon

of life, which we are sure is to become, in another season,

a morning star, and it throws its radiance through the

gloom and shadow of death.”

     Here we have

         Spiritual excellence ATTAINED.—How is this in-

valuable state of being to be reached? The text in-

dicates the method. By the reception of Divine truth.

“If thou wilt receive my words.” The receptive faculty

must be employed. God's truth must be taken into the

soul. It is the glory of our nature that we can take into

us ideas from the Eternal Intellect, and this we must do if

we would reach the grand ideal of being. His thoughts alone

can break the darkness of our spirits and warm them into

heavenly life. By the retention of Divine truth. “Hide my

commandments.” What we receive from the Divine Mind

we must hold fast. We must keep the seed in the soil,

nurse and watch it, that it may germinate and grow. There

is a danger of losing it. The winds of temptation and the

fowls of evil will tear away the grains unless we watch. By

the search after Divine truth. “Apply thine heart to

understanding.” “Incline thine ear unto wisdom.” The

ear must be turned away from the sounds of earthly



Chap. II.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       29


pleasure, the din of worldliness, and the voices of human

speculation, and must listen attentively to communications

from the spiritual and eternal.

       The search must be earnest. “If thou cravest after

knowledge, and liftest up thy voice after understanding.”

Truth never comes where it is not wanted, where its neces-

sity is not felt. It only gives its bread to the hungry, and

its waters to those who feel the burning thirst. As hungry

children cry out for food, souls must cry to the Eternal

Father for light. The search must be persevering. “If

thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid

treasures.” How indefatigable are men in their search for

silver and gold. They excavate the mountains, they plough

the seas, they go from market to market and from shore to

shore, in earnest quest for gold. But spiritual excellence is

infinitely more precious than all worldly treasures. “It

cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious

onyx or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot

equal it, and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of

fine gold. No mention shall be made of corals, or of pearls:

for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of

Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with

pure gold.” By so much as spiritual excellence is more

valuable than all worldly treasures, should be our ardent,

unwearied diligence in quest of it. “The following relic,”

says Mr. Bridges, “of our renowned Elizabeth will be

read both with interest and profit. It was written on a

blank leaf of a black letter edition of St. Paul's Epistles,

which she used during her lonely imprisonment at Wood-

stock. The volume itself, curiously embroidered by her

own hand, is preserved in the Bodleian:- ‘August. I walk

many times into the pleasant fields of the Holy Scriptures,

where I pluck up the goodlisome herbs of sentences by

pruning, eat them by reading, chew them by musing, and

lay them up at length in the high seat of memorie, that in

gathering them together, and so having tasted their sweet-

ness, I may the less perceive the bitterness of this miserable



30        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. II.




                                         Proverbs 2:6-9



Good Men and Their God


      “For the LORD giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and

understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler

to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth

the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment,

and equity; yea, every good path.”


THESE words bring under our attention the greatest

beings on earth, good men ; and the greatest being in the

universe, the Great God. Notice:-

         THE CHARACTER OF GOOD MEN.-The description

given of them here is full, varied, and very significant.

They are spoken of as the “righteous.” The whole duty

of man may be included in this word, or in its equiva-

lent, a shorter word still—just. The moral code of the

universe may be reduced to two words, “Be just.” Be just

to yourself, respect your own nature, train your own

faculties, guard your own rights, realize your own ideals.

This is virtue! Be just to others: “Whatsoever ye would

that men should do unto you do ye even so to them.”

This is morality. Be just to God: The Best Being

love the most, the Truest Being trust the most, the

Greatest Being reverence, adore and serve the most.

This is religion! Virtue, morality, and religion constitute a

righteous man. They are spoken of as “walking uprightly.”

Goodness in all moral creatures is not stationary, but pro-

gressive. It is an everlasting walk into new fields of beauty,

new scenes of enjoyment, new spheres of service. “The

path of the just is a shining light which shineth more and

more unto the perfect day.” They are spoken of as “saints.”

They are consecrated to God's service, set apart to His use,

they are the living and imperishable temples of the Holy

Ghost. Such is the sketch given here of good men, and stand

they not in sublime contrast with the canting hypocrites,



Chap. II.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       31


worldly grubs, fawning sycophants, wretched snobs, which

abound in modern society and from which all honest hearts

recoil? “The greatest man,” says Seneca, “is he who chooses

right with the most invincible resolution, who resists the

sorest temptation from within and without, who bears the

heaviest burdens cheerfully, who is calmest in storms, and

most fearless under menaces and frowns, whose reliance on

truth, on -Virtue, and on God is most unfaltering.” Kind

Heaven, multiply the number of these good men!


         THE GOD OF GOOD MEN.—He is here set forth in

His relation to creation generally. “For the Lord giveth

wisdom, out of His mouth cometh knowledge and under-

standing.” He is the great original, central, exhautless

Fountain of intelligence. He is “the Father of lights;”

the light of instinct, the light of reason, the light of genius,

the light of conscience, all stream from Him as from the

sun. Wherever there is a ray of truth, a beam of intelli-

gence, a gleam of virtue, there is God, and in them He

should be recognized and worshipped.

         “God,” says old Ouarles, “is a light that is never darkened,

an unwearied life that cannot die, a fountain always flowing,

a garden of life, a seminary of wisdom, a radical beginning

of all goodness.”


“Give me unveil'd the source of good to see!

Give me Thy light, and fix mine eyes on Thee!”—Boethius


    He is here set forth in His relation to the good in particular.

He makes special provisions for them. He provides for

their instruction. “He layeth up sound Wisdom.” We

need not ask the question, Where are “the treasures of

sound wisdom” laid up for us? The Son of Man, the

Redeemer of the world is the “Wisdom of God.” He

protects them from their enemies. “He is a buckler to

them that walk uprightly.” Our path is fraught with

danger and beset with temptations, foes lurk about us on

all hands, and we need a defence. He is our “buckler.”

Significant expression this; it does not say that he holds

the buckler, or has a buckler for us, but He is the buckler.


32        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. II.


He Himself is the shield, and our enemies must strike

through Him to injure us. He superintends their career.

“He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the

way of His saints.” He vouchsafes their ultimate per-

fection. “Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and

judgment, and equity, yea every good path.”

      Such is the God of the good! May this God be our God!

May He be our guide even unto death!


“Thou Uncreate, Unseen, and Undefined

Source of all life, and Fountain of the mind,

Pervading Spirit! whom no eye can trace:

Felt through all time, and working in all space,

Imagination cannot paint that spot,

Around, above, beneath, where Thou art not!"

                                        R. MONTGOMERY




                                      Proverbs 2:10-22


                       Wickedness and Wisdom;


                       the Bane and the Antidote


      “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto

thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To

deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward

things; Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness,

Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; Whose

ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths: To deliver thee from the

strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words: Which

forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God. For

her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto

her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life. That thou mayest

walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous. For the

upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked

thall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.”


Two things of a very opposite character are brought before

us in these verses—wickedness and wisdom, and these two


Chap. II.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       33


things are at work in all literatures, institutions, enter-

prises, souls, the world over.

        WICKEDNESS.—We have here a terrible description of

wicked persons. Observe their character. Their speech is

corrupt. “The man that speaketh froward things.” Justin

said, “By examining the tongue of a patient, physicians

find out the diseases of the body and philosophers those of

the mind.” The wicked use their tongues to express the

erroneous, the blasphemous, and perverse. They set their

“mouth against the Heavens,” and sometimes we hear them

say to all moral constraints, “Let us break their bands

asunder and cast away their cords from us." Their habit

is corrupt. “They leave the paths of righteousness to walk

in the ways of darkness.” Wicked men “love darkness

rather than light, because their deeds are evil." Their path

is not only dark but crooked. “Whose ways are crooked.”

The way of goodness is straight, even, and uniform; but

that of sin is labyrinthian and rough, as well as dark.

Their heart is corrupt. They “rejoice to do evil and delight

in the frowardness of the wicked.” They not only speak

the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, pursue the wrong

course, but they rejoice in the wrong. Their pleasure is in

sin, in debauchery, intemperance, carousings. They revel

in wickedness. Their influence is corrupt. This is illustrated

in the description of the “strange woman” here introduced,

who “flattereth with her lips, forsaketh the guide of her

youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.” A des-

cription this of the prostitute, not only most touching

and humiliating, but true to modern fact. A more horrid

sight this side of Hell cannot be seen than a fallen woman,

a woman giving her nature up to carnality and wrong.

She is ruined and she ruins. Solomon lifts up his warning

against such a character, and well he might, for he was led

away from God and truth by her seductive wiles. Observe

their peril. “Her house inclineth unto death, and her paths

unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither

take they hold of the paths of life.” The spell of lust

palsies the grasp of her victims. Ah! how many a poor,

infatuated, deluded youth has been led on step by step the



34        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. II.


downward road to the chambers of death; led by soft and

silken bonds, amidst syren music to adamantine chains

and penal fire! Everything dies under the influence of

wickedness,—self-respect, spiritual sensibility, mental

freedom, the freshness, the vigour, and the beauty of life.

Observe their doom. “The wicked shall be cut off from the

earth and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.” They

are rooted out from the esteem of the good, from the sphere

of improvement, from the realm of mercy, and the domain

of hope.

        Eschew sin, my friend! The soul with sin in it is within

the central attractions of Hell, and all its motions accelerate

its movements thither. If it is in thee, crush it at once; it

is easier to crush a spark than a conflagration, to break the

egg of the cockatrice than to kill the serpent.

       WISDOM.—This is represented here both as the pre-

ventative and the antidote to wickedness. Wickedness is

terribly powerful, but wisdom is mightier. Its mightiness,

however, in man depends upon its right reception. “When

wisdom entereth into the heart.” Wisdom outside of us is

a grand thing for thought and speculation, but it must come

into us to be of any real and permanent service. It will not

do to flow from the tongue or float in the brain, or to come

to us as a strange visitant, to be tolerated or entertained for

a short time; but as a friend, of all friends the dearest to

the heart. It must come in as a “thing that is pleasant

to thy soul.” Then it does three things in relation

to wickedness. It guards the innocent. “Discretion shall

preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee.” The way to

keep out evil is to fill the soul with goodness. If Divine

wisdom takes full possession of thy heart, when evil comes,

it will “find nothing” in thee. It delivers the fallen. “De-

liver thee from the way of evil men,” from the “strange

woman.” If thou hast fallen into evil, if thou art within

its sphere of magic infatuation, let wisdom enter thy heart

and thou shalt be delivered. It shall break the spell of the

enchanter, it shall unlock the door of thy caged soul, and let

thee out into the air of sunny truth. Heavenly wisdom in

the soul is the only soul-redemptive force. It guides the


Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       35


redeemed. “That thou mayest walk in the ways of good

men and keep the paths of the righteous.” It guides our

feet in the way of peace. It is a lamp to our path. Like the

star to the mariner, if this wisdom shine within us it will

guide us safely over the voyage of life. How shall we get

into the heart this wisdom, that guards the innocent, deli-

vers the fallen, and guides the redeemed? “If any man

lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men

liberally and upbraideth not”


                           “Who are the wise?

They who have govern'd with a self-control,

Each wild and baneful passion of the soul-

Curb'd the strong impulse of all fierce desires,

But kept alive affection's purer fires.

They who have pass'd the labyrinth of life,

Without one hour of weakness or of strife:

Prepared each change of fortune to endure,

Humble though rich, and dignified though poor.

Skill'd in the latent movements of the heart-

Learn'd in the lore which nature can impart;

Teaching that sweet philosophy aloud,

Which sees the silver lining' of the cloud;

Looking for good in all beneath the skies:

These are the truly wise.”—PRINCE.




                              Proverbs 3:1-2


   The Philosophy of Health and Happiness


    "My son, forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my commandments.

For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee."


DIVINE revelation is a law. It is not a mere creed, but a

code. It is not given for mere study, speculation, and

belief, but for obedience. It has all the attributes of a law,

—publicity, authority, practicability. The text teaches two

great truths.



36       Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.



PHYSICAL HEALTH.—Mark at the outset what the obedience

is. It is the obedience of the heart. “Let thine heart keep

my commandments.” The Bible legislates for mind, for

thoughts, affections, impulses, and aims. Its command-

ment is so broad that it takes the whole soul in, penetrates

to its deepest and most hidden springs of action. Obedience

is not a thing of tongue, or hand, or foot, it is a thing of

the heart. Perfect external conformity to the mere letter of

the law, were it possible, would be rebellion if the heart

was not in it. We are taught here that this spiritual

obedience is a condition of physical health. It secures

“length of days and long life.” The connection between

obedience and physical health is clear from the three fol-

lowing facts:—(I) That physical health requires obedience

to the divine laws of our being. (2) That obedience to these

divine laws involves a study of them. (3) That the heartiest

sympathy with the Divine author is essential to their suc-

cessful study. These propositions are so evident that they

require neither illustrations nor proof. Add to this the fact

that sobriety, temperance, chastity, industry, contentment,

regularity, amiability, control of the temper, and the

passions, which are involved in true obedience, are all

conducive to corporeal health and vigour. Some people

seem to regard ill-health as a mark of gentility. They are

afraid to acknowledge themselves as vigorous and robust,

lest they should be considered vulgar. They consider it

more respectable to acknowledge feebleness than strength.

Others seem to regard ill-health as a virtue—something to

be pleased with and commended for. But in truth ill-health

often means coarseness and crime. It grows out of the

infraction of divine laws. Health of the body depends upon

health of soul, and health of soul depends upon obe-

dience to the moral laws of God. Bodily vigour depends

upon moral virtue. “Godliness is profitable unto all things,

having the promise of the life that now is and of that

which is to come.” There is a care for health which des-

troys it. “People,” says Sterne, “who are always taking

care of their health are like misers who are hoarding a

Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       37


treasure which they have never spirit enough to enjoy.”

But there is a care that promotes it—it is a care for moral

purity and a divine elevation of soul in thought and aim.


SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS.—“And peace shall be added to

thee.” Peace requires two things. (1) The inward

harmony of our powers. The soul is often like a battle-

field, on which there is a violent conflict of forces. The

suggestions of reason and the dictates of conscience battle

against the armies of carnal lusts and selfish impulses.

It is like a sea, into whose depths there rush contending

currents, heaving it to its centre. (2) The sense of divine

favour. The feeling that the Lord is against us gives the.

throbs of perpetual restlessness to our souls. Now spiritual

obedience puts an end to this state of things, crushes in-

ward enemies, hushes inward storms, and gives a blessed

consciousness of divine approval.


“Peace is the end of all things—tearless peace;

Who by the immovable basis of God's throne

Takes her perpetual stand; and, of herself

Prophetic, lengthens age by age her sceptre;

The world shall yet be subjugate to love,

The final form religion must assume,

Led like a lion, rid with wreathed reins,

In some enchanted island, by a child.”—FESTUS




                                  Proverbs 3:3-4


                                Mercy and Truth


     “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write

them upon the tables of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good under-

standing in the sight of God and man.”


Two of the greatest moral realities of the universe are

mentioned in these verses. They are the greatest themes


38        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.


in all true books, the chief elements in all great lives, the

noblest attributes of the Godhead, the primal substances of

the Gospel. “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” These

two direct man's nature as a being possessing intellect and

heart, each of which has its respective cravings and claims.

We must have “truth” in us;—all our faculties must truth-

fully move in harmony with eternal realities. We must

have “mercy” in us. All our powers must move by it as their

impulse and sovereign. Man's duty in relation to “mercy

and truth” is here set forth by two strong metaphors, the

metaphors of binding and writing.

      Man has to BIND “mercy” and “truth” to him.—“Bind

them continually upon thy heart and tie them upon thy

neck.” The allusion here is probably to the phylacteries

with which the Jews were commanded by Moses to bind

the law around their foreheads. But here the command is

to bind mercy and truth, not upon the hand or the head,

but upon the heart; and they were to be kept there, not for

a time, but “continually;” to be taken off neither day or

night. They are to be carried with us as mementoes of our

obligations to heaven, and as safeguards to protect us from

the wrong and the ruinous. They are so vital to us that

we must not part with them. Take mercy and truth from

the soul and you take the verdure from the fields, and leave

them in barrenness ; you take the light from the heavens and

leave them in sackcloth. Part with everything; property,

friends, reputation, life itself, sooner than part with them.

Without them the soul is lost—lost to virtue, nobility, use-

fulness and heaven.

         Man has to WRITE “mercy  and truth” within him.—

There are two Bibles—one consists of truth written on

paper, the other of truth written on the soul. Whilst both

are valuable, the latter is for many reasons the most pre-

cious. (1) Because it is the most real. In the paper Bible

we have only “mercy and truth” in symbol, but in the loving

heart they themselves are there. The figures on your bank

book, representing the amount which stands to your credit

at the bank, are not real money but the sign; your property

is not in your book, but in the bank; so “mercy and truth”




Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       39


are not in the letter-press, but they are in the heart. (2)

Because it is the most legible. The paper Bible con-

tains many things hard to be understood. The most

enlightened interpreter fails to reach its meaning, but

what is written on the heart, is written in the language

that universal man can read, the savage as well as the

sage, the child as well as the octogenarian. (3) Because it

is the most capacious. The heart is a volume whose pages

defy finite arithmetic, whose folios none but God can

number. How voluminous the contents of every heart

now! But what through the ages! Every impression we

receive is a fresh sentence. (4) Because it is the most

endurable. Paper, parchment, marble, or even brass, on

which men have written, time has destroyed; but the heart

is immortal, and the sentences written on it eternity cannot


      Man has to ENJOY “mercy and truth” within him.—

If mercy and truth are in the soul, not as mere ideas or

as temporary impulses, but as living, regnant, and abiding

forces, God's favour will be enjoyed, success will attend our

ways, and we shall advance in holy freedom and force.

Christ (who brought “grace and truth” into the world), as

he grew increased in favour both with God and man, and

it will be the same with all those who embody those

transcendent elements in their lives.

     Conclusion.—The whole implies that “mercy and truth”

are outside of men in their unregenerate state. They are

in the heart of God, they are in the universe, they are in

the Bible as symbols, but they are not inherent in human

nature. Men must have them. Embrace them, brother;

bind them indissolubly upon thy moral being, and write

them indelibly on thy heart!

40        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.




                                      Proverbs 3:5-7


                           God-trusting and Self-trusting


     “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own

understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”


     GOD-TRUSTING.—“Trust in the Lord.” Man is a

trusting creature: he is always leaning on some object.

So deep is his consciousness of dependence, that he dares

not stand alone. This trusting instinct, like all the other

instincts of his nature, has been sadly perverted by a wrong

direction. Everywhere man is leaning on the unworthy, the

unreliable, and the unenduring; hence his constant disap-

pointments and confusion. Observe here the object of true

trustfulness. “The Lord,”-the Ali-merciful, the All-wise,

and All-powerful;—the Unchanging amidst all changes,

the All-loving amidst all malignities, the All-enduring

amidst all dissolutions, the One and only One; not it

nor them, but HIM. Observe the manner of true trust-

fulness. It must be entire; “With all thy heart.” It must

be an unquestioned, undivided confidence. He is to be

trusted lovingly: not as a matter of expedience or dry duty,

but as a matter of supreme affection. It must be always.

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him.” Man's ways are

many. All men have different ways. These are determined

by organization, idiosyncracies, and other constitutional

adventitious circumstances. There is the way of the sen-

sualist, the sceptic, the savage, the sage, the worldling, the

saint. Each man has often different ways: he does not

continue through life in the same path, he changes it

through the force of age, conviction, and experience.

But in whatever way he walks, at any time he should

trustfully acknowledge Him; acknowledge not merely

his existence, personality, power, but His absolute authority

over him; His claim to be his grand subject of thought,

Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       41


object of affection, supreme aim of life. Observe the advan-

tage of true trustfulness. What is it? Guidance in the

right—“He will direct thy paths.” He guides those who

will trust in Him. His guidance secures safety amidst

all perils, and happiness amidst all sorrows. He

will make the path clear and secure, as we walk on and

upward, for ever. Another advantage is departure from

evil. “Fear the Lord and depart from evil.” Fear is in-

cluded in God-trusting, and where this is there is a

departure from evil. The soul in which there is this

blessed trust breaks away from all evil, and struggles its

way into holiness and love. There is yet another advan-

tage specified,—strength in all. “It shall be health to thy

navel and marrow to thy bones.” True trustfulness excludes

all those anxious cares, and crushes all those appetites and

passions of the soul, which are ever the seeds of physical

discomfort and disease. It gives that evenness of temper,

that regularity to the impulses, that tranquil cheerfulness

to the heart, which are pre-eminently conducive to corpo-

real health and force. It is a libel on religion to represent

it as in any way inimical to true physical vigour and

animal enjoyment. Trust in God is as cheering as the light

of heaven, and as healthful as the mountain breeze.


“Thy God hath said 'tis good for thee

To walk by faith and not by sight.

    Take it on trust a little while,

Soon shalt thou read the mystery right,

    In the bright sunshine of His smile.”—KEBLE


SELF-TRUSTING.—“Lean not on thine own under-

standing.” There is a right self-reliance. In relation to

our fellow men we are bound to trust our own energies,

convictions, and conscience. We have no right to trust to

other men's powers and efforts to help us either physically

or mentally. Heaven has endowed us all with faculties by

which to help ourselves, if they are rightly worked. The

man who is not self-reliant in this sense sinks his manhood

in the parasite. But that self-trusting, to which Solomon

refers, implies an exaggerated conceit of our own powers.

Hence he says, “be not wise in your own eyes.” Don't



42        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.


put too high an estimate on your own understanding.

Thank God for your intellect. Respect it, train it, feed it

with the choicest fruits on the tree of science, but don't lean

on it as an infallible guide. At its best here, its eyes are

very dim, its ears heavy, and its limbs feeble. The sages

of all times, who have trusted to it, have gone down in

darkness, bequeathing to us such literary productions as

show how far they wandered from the light. The light of

our own reason is far too feeble to guide us safely through

the moral labyrinths of life. “Be not wise, therefore, in

thine own eyes.” Self-conceit is at once offensive and per-

nicious; it involves self-ignorance. No man, who knows

himself, can be vain. The hierarchs of heaven veil their

faces. What is the knowledge of the most enlightened

compared with what is to be known? What is a spark to

the central fires of the universe? What compared with

what he ought to have known? How much more the wisest

on the earth might have known if they had properly employed

their powers? A man “wise in his own eyes,” is self-

benighted. He is like a pauper maniac, who fancies himself

a king. “Many,” says Seneca, “might have attained

wisdom, had they not thought they had really attained it.”

Self-conceit not only involves self-ignorance, but obstructs

mental improvement. “Seest thou a man wise in his own

conceit, there is more hope of a fool than of him.” True

knowledge requires effort. It neither springs up involun-

tarily, nor comes to us independently of our own endeavours,

or even by efforts, feeble, irresolute, and desultory. It

requires an invincibility of purpose, a concentration of

faculties. Who will put forth such efforts to gain it, but

those who have the profoundest sense of its necessity?

There must be a craving, amounting almost to an agony, in

order to overcome the inertia and grapple with the diffi-

culty. A man who is “wise in his own eyes,” feels no

such necessity as this: he is self-sufficient, and imagines

that he knows everything. Self-conceit destroys social

influence. A vain man disgusts rather than pleases, repels

rather than draws, he is generally despised, seldom

respected. Intelligence, generosity, truthfulness, humility,



Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       43


these are the elements that win social esteem, and gain

social command. But these are seeds that can never grow

in a self-trusting, self-conceited man.


"They whose wit

Values itself so highly, that to that

All matters else seem weak, can hardly love,

Or take a shape or feeling of affection,

Being so self-endear'd."—SHAKESPEARE




                                Proverbs 3:9-10


                          The Highest Giving,


                 the Condition of the Highest Getting


     “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine

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

with new wine.”


                       THE HIGHEST GIVING.

“HONOUR the Lord with thy substance.” The two great

functions of men are to gather and to give, to appropriate

and to distribute. These two functions bring all his powers

into play and fully develope his nature. But man is to

gather in order to give, to get in order to impart. “It is

more blessed to give than to receive.” What is the highest

giving? (1) Giving to the Best Being. Who is He? “The

Lord.” The distinguishing glory of a moral intelligence

is the power of giving to God, and his highest honour is to

have his gift accepted of Him. (2) Giving the best things to

the Best Being. “Thy substance.” “The firstfruits of all

thine increase.” “God will not have the dregs that are

squeezed out by pressure poured into His treasury. He

depends, not like earthly rulers, on the magnitude of His

tributes. He loveth a cheerful giver. He can do with-

out our wealth, but He does not bless without our willing

service.” Giving to God does not merely mean giving

contributions to His cause, but the giving of our all,

ourselves. The surrender of self is essential to give


44        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.


virtue and acceptance to all other contributions. Until

we give ourselves, all other oblations however costly, are

impious pretences and solemn mockeries. Self-sacrifice

alone can give worth and acceptability to all other presen-



                       THE HIGHEST GETTING


    By giving thus you get back,—What? The choicest and

fullest divine blessings. “So shall thy barns be filled with

plenty.” This is a figurative expression for the highest

good in the highest degree; and good of all kinds—

temporal, intellectual, social, spiritual. Surrendering to God

is godliness, and godliness is the condition of all true gain.

He who yields his all to the Eternal, attends to the condition

of all true prosperity—industry, temperance, economy, fore-

sight. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His right-

eousness, and all other things shall be added unto you.”

He who yields his all to God, insures the special favour of

Heaven. The Divine blessing rests upon the labour of the

truly good. “God is not unrighteous to forget your work

and labour of love which ye have showed towards His

name.” Seneca has well said, “He that does good to

another man, does also good to himself; not only in the

consequence but in the very act of doing it; for the con-

science of well doing is an ample reward.” “Good,”

says Milton, “the more communicated, more abundant



                                  Proverbs 3:11-12




     “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his

correction: For whom the LORD loveth, he correcteth; even as a father the son

in whom he delighteth.”


    “AFFLICTIONS” are to be accepted as MEANS OF SPIRITUAL

DISCIPLINE.—“The chastening of the Lord.”—“His cor-


Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       45


rection.” Human sufferings in this world must be regarded,

not as casualties, or events that come on us by capricious

chance or iron necessity. They are from “the Lord.” The

Lord is in all. “The Lord gave,” not chance nor necessity,

the Lord “hath taken away.” Nor as mere penalties. It may

be true that sin is the source of all suffering. But suffering

here, in the cases of individuals, is not according to the mea-

sure, or kind of sin. It is reformative, not destructive. “The

chastening of the Lord.” Affliction does the good man service

in many ways. It detaches him from the race and makes

him feel his own solemn loneliness. It impresses him

with the worthlessness of materialism, and with the awful

solemnity of the spiritual world. It brings the idea

of death, retribution, eternity, powerfully near to the


       Afflictions are to be accepted as TOKENS OF PARENTAL

LOVE.—“Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth.” The anguish

is not caused by the lash of a tyrant, or the infliction of an

inexorable judge, but by the love of a father. (I) The character

of God as a benevolent Being attests this. It is a monstrous

profanity to believe that He, the infinitely loving One, can

have any pleasure in our suffering. He is Love. (2) The ex-

perience of the good attests this. What said David? “Before

I was afflicted. I went astray.”* Paul: “I take pleasure in

infirmities.” And this is the testimony of the good in all

ages. (3) The word of God attests this. “Happy is the man

whom God correcteth.” “As many as I love I rebuke.”

“And He shall sit as a refiner.” Affliction is like the

winter frost, it kills the pernicious insects which the sun of

health has engendered. It acts like the stormy wind upon

the tree, it strengthens the fibres and deepens the roots of

our virtue. It is like the thunderstorm in nature, it purifies

the unhealthy atmosphere that has gathered around the

heart. It is the bitter potion which the skilful physician

administers to his patient. “As threshing separates the

corn from the chaff,” says Burton, “so does affliction purify

virtue.” “Virtue,” says Lord Bacon, “is like precious

* Psalm cxix. 67. II. Cor. xii. 8 to 10.  Job. v. 17.

Rev. iii. 19.    Mal. iii. 3.



46        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.


odours, most fragrant when they are incensed and crushed;

for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth

best discover virtue.”




                         Proverbs 3:13-18


                 The Blessedness of Wisdom


     “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth under-

standing. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver,

and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all

the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is

in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways

of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that

lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”


THESE words catalogue the blessings that accrue to a godly

life. This godliness or wisdom

         ENDOWS WITH THE BEST WEALTH.—It is here repre-

sented as better than “silver,” “fine gold,” “precious

rubies,” and all things that can be desired. What are

the greatest temporal possessions in comparison with

moral goodness! Can the former be really enjoyed without

the latter Can a corrupt soul be happy with the world?

The former have a very transitory existence compared

with the latter. The material is transitory in itself, and

is ever rapidly passing from the grasp of its possessor.

But “he that doeth the word of God abideth for ever.”

The former are not essential to blessedness; the latter is.

A godly soul can be happy in a pauper's home. The Lord

is its portion. “What things were gain to me,” says Paul,

“those I counted loss.” The former are really a curse with-

out the latter. The more a man has of the world, if he has

not virtue in his heart, the more he has to blacken his

future and damn his soul. This Wisdom

        ENSURES PERMANENT GOOD.—“Length of days is

in her right hand." By length of days here Solomon

does not mean mere longevity on earth, although wisdom



Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       47


conduces to this, but evidently permanent distinctions. The

moral riches and honour connected with wisdom are unlike

the earthly, they are enduring, and also permanent enjoy-

ments. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her

paths are peace.” Her ways are the ways of chastity,

justice, truthfulness, holy affections, benevolent activities,

and communings with the Great God, and from these, plea-

sures must inevitably spring. Religion is happiness. It has

a “rest for the soul.” It has a “fulness of joy.” It has

sublime delights even in temporal affliction. This Wisdom


is a tree of life, to them that lay hold upon her, and

happy is every one that retaineth her.” Adam by

sin forfeited the privileges of the “Tree of Life.” Would

he ever have suffered or died had he continued in

connection with its living virtues? Nay, would he not

have grown in power and honour for ever? True godli-

ness is a tree of life, a tree of life in the soul. Like

the Apocalyptic tree, it is in the midst of the street

of the New Jerusalem, on either side of the river, yielding

twelve manner of fruits, and the leaves of it are for healing

the nations. This tree of life was Central. “In the

midst.” Godliness is in the centre of man's nature. This

Tree of life was Well-rooted. “It was either side of the river.”

A religious soul is a soul rooted by the stream of Divine love

and truth. This tree of life was Fruitful. “Twelve manner of

fruits.” It affords every variety of pleasure, meets every taste

and want. This tree of life was Restorative. “Leaves of the

tree for the healing of the nations.” Godliness restores

waning faculties, renews decaying powers. Here then is the

true riches, the true honour, and the true peace of men.


“0 rich in gold! Beggars in heart and soul!

Poor as the empty void! Why, I, even I,

Sitting in this bare chamber with my thoughts,

Are richer than ye are, despite your bales,

Your streets of warehouses, your mighty mills,

Each looming like a world, faint heard in space,

Your ships unwilling fires, that day and night

Writhe in your service seven years, then die

Without one taste of peace.”—ALEXANDER SMITH



48        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.




                              Proverbs 3:19-20


      Wisdom, the Source and Sovereign of Worlds


    “The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he

established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the

clouds drop down the dew.”


THESE words give us two ideas concerning the universe.


by wisdom hath founded the earth.” This stands opposed

to two absurd cosmological theories. It stands opposed to

the eternity of the universe. The universe is not eternal

either in its elements or its combinations. There was a

period, far back in the abysses of eternity, when there was

nothing, when the absolute One lived alone. It stands

opposed to the contingent origin of the universe. It sprang

from no fortuitous concourse of atoms. “By Wisdom hath

He founded the earth; by understanding hath he established

the heavens.” He has hollowed out the oceans, and

arranged the systems of clouds. The scientific student of

nature sees design and exquisite adaptations in every part

of nature. “By His knowledge the depths are broken up,

and the clouds drop down the dew.” “We are raised by

science,” says Lord Brougham,  “to an understanding of

the infinite wisdom and goodness, which the Creator has

displayed in all His works. Not a step can we take in any

direction without perceiving the most extraordinary traces

of design, and the skill everywhere conspicuous is calcu-

lated in so vast a proportion of instances to promote the

happiness of living creatures, and especially of ourselves,

that we feel no hesitation in concluding, that if we knew

the whole scheme of Providence, every part would appear

in harmony with a plan of absolute benevolence. Inde-

pendently, however, of this most consoling inference, the

delight is inexpressible, of being able to follow the mar-

vellous works of the Great Author of nature, and to trace

the unbounded power and exquisite skill, which are



Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       49


exhibited by the most minute as well as the mightiest

parts of His system.”


BEING. “The Lord.” It is not arranged on a plan which

is the outcome of many intelligences. One intellect drafted

the whole. Every part of the stupendous engine, even to

the smallest pin, was sketched by Him Who has no coun-

sellor, and Whom none can instruct. The unity of the

universe shows this. There is the unity of style, operation

and purpose. The Word of God declares this. “In the

beginning God created.” “Thou, Lord, in the beginning

hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are

the works of Thine hands.” The Bible cosmogony alone

agrees with the deductions of true science, the intuitions of

the soul, and the claims of religion. He is the


                                  “Mighty cause

Of causes mighty! Cause uncaused!

Sole root of nature!” —DR. YOUNG.



                            Proverbs 3:21-26


                        Fidelity to Priniciple


    “My son, let not them depart from thine eyes; keep sound wisdom and

discretion: So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt

thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest

down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be

sweet. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked,

when it cometh. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot

from being taken.”


FIDELITY to principle is the idea involved in these

words. “My son, let not them depart from aline eyes."

What?—The principles of truth. The advantages con-

nected with fidelity to principle are here sketched, and

they are—

LIFE.—“Life unto thy soul." The principles of



50        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.


heavenly wisdom originate spiritual life. They are soul-

quickening. The words of wisdom are “spirit and life.” They

are to the soul what the sunbeam and the dew are to the

fields. Where they are not, there is darkness and dearth.

They nurture spiritual life. They are the bread and

water of life. The soul apart from them is dead, dead

to all high interests, spiritual services, and enjoyments.

Another advantage connected with fidelity to principle is—

      ORNAMENT.—“Grace to thy neck.” These principles

clothe the life with the beauty of holiness. They give a

refinement, and a gracefulness to character. This “Grace”

or ornament is valuable for many reasons. It is becoming to

all. Some ornaments are only becoming to certain classes or

certain positions. It is within the reach of every man. There

are ornaments that can only be obtained by a few: jewels

and diamonds are beyond the reach of the poor. It is

admired by the highest intelligences, by great men, angels,

God Himself. There are ornaments that are prized by

some but despised by others. It is imperishable in its

nature. All other beauties decay, all other brilliancies grow

dim, wisdom " is a crown that fadeth not away.” There

is also connected with fidelity to principle—

       SAFETY.—“Shalt walk in thy way safely, thy foot

shall not stumble.” The twenty-sixth verse assigns the

reason for the safety. God is the guide and the guardian

of the faithful. Elsewhere we are told that “The steps of

a good man are ordered by the Lord.” “He that dwelleth

in the secret place of the most High, shall abide under

the shadow of the Almighty.” “The Eternal God is thy

refuge.” What a blessing to be safe on a path of tremen-

dous precipices, and beset with foes, on a sea rolling

tumultuously over quicksands and rocks! There is yet

another blessing associated with fidelity to principle-

  COURAGE.—“Thou shalt not be afraid.” It is one

thing to be safe and another thing to feel secure. A feeling

of safety may well make us courageous. A man whose

soul is in vital alliance with the principles of everlasting

truth need not " be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the desola-

tion of the wicked when it cometh.” “None of these things



Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       51


move me,” said Paul. Hold fast then the principles of

sound wisdom, let them not depart from thee, let them be

thy pillar to guide thee in the desert, thy pole-star on the

sea. It is, to use the language of Carlyle, “an everlasting

lode-star, that beams the brighter in the heavens, the

darker here on earth grows the night around.”




                           Proverbs 3:27-29




        “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power

of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and

to-morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee. Devise not evil against thy

neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.”


THESE verses teach:


“Them to whom it is due.” To whom do we owe kindness?

To all who need it. We are commanded " to do good unto

all men.” What you have is given in trust. It is not yours,

you are but the trustees. The Benevolent God gave it to

you to use benevolently. It sprang from love, and should

be used by love. It is given for distribution. God gives

light to the sun that it may throw light on all the depend-

ing planets, water to the clouds that they may pour it on

the barren hills, and property to man that he may use

it for the good of his race. “Men,” said Cicero,

“resemble the gods in nothing so much as in doing good to

their fellow creatures.” These verses teach:


PACITY.—“When it is in the power of thy hand to do it.”

Our power is the measure of our obligation. No man has

a right to keep back that which he can spare when his

neighbour needs it. This, in the estimation of heaven, is


52        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.


dishonesty. Property is given, not to hoard, but to circu-

late for the common good. The withholder is a moral

felon. Again, the verses teach:


IN ITS SERVICES.-“Say not to thy neighbour, go and come

again, and to-morrow I will give.” The apostle James en-

joins the same duty.  “If a brother or sister be naked and

destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them,

depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled: notwithstanding

ye give them not those things which are needful to the

body: what doth it profit?" Why be prompt? Because

the postponement of any duly is a sin in itself. It is a tacit

rebellion against heaven. Because the neglect of a benevolent

impulse is injurious to self. A genuine impulse of gene-

rosity is the stirring of what is Divine within us:—the

uplifting force of the soul. Our well-being depends upon

strengthening it by exercise. Woe to the soul that crushes

it! It is a germ of Paradise. Because the claimant may

seriously suffer by a delay of your help. The delay may

facilitate the evil, and hasten his ruin. Furthermore, these

verses teach:


NESS OF HEART.-“Devise not evil against thy neighbour.”

True “charity thinketh no evil.” A selfish heart is an evil

deviser. This is seen in the tricks of trade, as well as the

stratagems of war. “Benevolence,” says Kant, the great

German philosopher, “is a duty. He who frequently prac-

tises it, and sees his benevolent intentions realized, at

length comes really to love him to whom he has done good.

When, therefore, it is said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour

as thyself,’ it is not meant thou shalt love him first, and do

good to him in consequence of that love, but thou shalt do

good to thy neighbour, and thus, thy beneficence will

engender in thee that love of mankind which is the fulness

and consummation of the inclination to do good.”


Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       53




                       Proverbs 3:30-31


                  Strife and Oppression


      “Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm. Envy

thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.”


THIS proverb directs our attention to two great evils:

         STRIFE.—Look at strife in two aspects.

     As a principle inherent in the soul. There is a battling

instinct in every human mind. Man is made to antagonize.

This principle is in itself neither a virtue nor a vice. But

it is a great blessing, since we have so much to oppose us

here. It is intended to put us into antagonism not to

existence, but to the evils of life, such as disease, poverty,

injustice; not to God, but to His enemies, and the

enemies of the order and happiness of the universe.

      Look at strife again,—As a principle liable to perversion.

The prohibition of the proverb implies that men are prone

to strive against those who have done them “no harm.”

The striving with men without a cause is that terrible per-

version of this principle, and this is the root of all domestic

broils, social convulsions, ecclesiastical contentions, and

national wars. How contrary this strife is to all the teach-

ings of Holy Writ. “How all the minor cruelties of man

are summed in war, conclusive of all crimes.”—Festus.

The other evil which the Proverb directs our attention

to is:

      OPPRESSION.—“The oppressor” is one who imposes

unjust burdens; who crushes others to raise himself. He is

always unjust, generally heartless, often cruel. He is, alas!

no rarity. He is a common character; he belongs to all

spheres of life, secular and sacred. There is the political

oppressor, who crushes nations by unjust imposts. There is

the social oppressor in the master and the mistress who crush

their servants by overwork. There is the ecclesiastical op-


54        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. III.


pressor, who seeks a lordship over consciences. The pro-

verb virtually says two things about the oppressor. His

character is not to be envied. “Envy not the oppressor.”

Why? Because envy in itself is an evil. Emulation is one

thing, envy another. The former is not necessarily selfish,

malign, or soul-torturing; the latter is, and therefore essen-

tially bad. It is greedy, heartless, and heart-distressing.

Because there is nothing in the oppressor to be desired. There

are some objects of envy that have in them something good.

Not so the oppressor; he is bad from branch to root. His

conduct is not to be followed. “Choose none of his ways.” His

ways are all bad. He has many ways, private and public,

domestic, political, and religious, but they are all crooked by

injustice, all noxious with the sin of selfishness, and tending

to damnation. Stand aloof! “Fret not thyself because of

evil-doers; neither be thou envious against the workers of

iniquity.” A modern poet has struck off the hideous

character of oppressors in a few words-

                               “The good old rule

      Sufficeth them, the simple plan,

That they should take who have the power,

      And they should keep who can.”—WORDSWORTH.




                    Proverbs 3:32-35  


                     Moral Contrasts


     “For the froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the

righteous. The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth

the habitation of the just. Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace

unto the lowly. The wise shall inherit glory; but shame shall be the promotion

of fools.”


THESE verses give us a twofold contrast


ward” and the “righteous,”—the “wicked” and the

“just,”—the “scorner” and the “lowly,”—the “wise”



Chap. III.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       55


and the “foolish.” The “forward” is the perverse, refrac-

tory, rebellious; the “righteous” is the upright, obedient,

and loyal. The differences between the good and bad are

at least threefold. A difference in the grand purpose of being.

The purpose of a wicked man is personal pleasure, worldly

gain; that of the good is usefulness and Divine approval.

A difference in the grand impulse of being. The governing

Motive of the wicked man is selfishness; self is the centre

and circumference of all his activities. That of the

righteous is love. He lives not to himself. “The love of

Grist constraineth him.” A Christ-like benevolence is

the spring and sovereign of all his activities. Here is also:


is here set forth very saliently and strongly. The one is

repugnant to the Eternal, the other is in His confidence. The

“forward” is an “abomination,”—an object of loathsome-

ness. To the Infinitely Holy One sin is an “abominable

thing;” it is repugnant to His whole nature. But on the

other hand the righteous is in His confidence. “His secret

is with the righteous.” This is ever so. They “dwell in

the secret place of the Most High.” “Shall I hide from

Abram the thing that I do?” “The secret of the Lord is

with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His

covenant.” “All things that I have heard of my Father I

have made known unto you.” The one is under the curse of

the Lord, the other under His blessing. “The curse of the

Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesseth the

habitation of the just.” The house of Belshazzar is an

illustration of the one, Daniel v. 6; that of Obededom of

the other. (2 Sam. vi.  II; I Kings, xxi.) The one is repulsed

with scorn, the other is visited with grace. “Surely he

scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.”

He disdains the one with abhorrence, He looks on the

other with the smiles of grace. The one is raised to glory,

other is degraded to shame. “The wise shall inherit

glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”

“Glory,” a word embracing the eternal heaven, which the

righteous shall not only enter into, but inherit; but “shame,”

and everlasting contempt, is the doom of the wicked,



56        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IV.


“Shame their promotion!” What an expression! Their

fame will be infamous, their grandeur a disgrace, their

pageantry a contempt. “Many that sleep in the dust shall

awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting

contempt.” The great question of questions for every man

is, What is his moral character? The contrast between the

true and the false, the right and the wrong, is so striking,

that there is not any difficulty in determining to which we

belong. As is our character so are we before God and His

universe, and so will our destiny be in the great here-

after; Paradise grows out of it, and from it hell flames and





                         Proverbs 4:1-4


                     A Religious Home


     “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know under-

standing. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my

father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me

also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments,

and live.”


THE words present three things concerning a religious


        THE LOVE OF A RELIGIOUS HOME.—“I was my father's

son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.”

In a religious home there are two kinds of love for

the offspring. The natural love. There is an instinctive

affection which mankind, like all animals, have for their

young—a mere gregarious affection. Though there is no

virtue in this, it is a great boon. It is a stream from the

heart of the Great Father of the universe, mirroring Him-

self, and making glad His progeny. The spiritual love.

An affection this, which has respect to the spiritual being,

relations and interests of the children. The former kind


Chap. IV.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       57


of love is in most homes: this is confined to the religious,

and the religious only. Spiritually we can only love the

morally good. A mutual recognition of excellence is the

sacred bond of an imperishable friendship.


me also, and said unto me, let thine heart retain my words.”

David taught his son Solomon. “And thou, Solomon, my

son, know thou the God of thy father and serve him with a

perfect heart.” The words imply: That the parent's teaching

was worth retaining. “Let thine heart retain my words.” It

is a great thing to give words worth retaining. There are

words, alas! that enter the minds of children that should

be expelled the moment of their entrance. They are germs

of moral hemlock. That the parent's teaching was practical.

“Keep my commandments.” The highest authority on

earth is the authority of a godly parent. His words are

laws, and these laws are to be obeyed. It is only as moral

teaching is reduced to practice that it promotes the high

interest of true manhood. It is only as ideas are embodied

in acts that they enrich the moral blood and strengthen the

fibre and the limb. That the parent's teaching was quicken-

ing “And live.” True religious teaching is quickening to

all the powers of the soul—intellectual and moral. There is

la teaching that is deadening; there are “Finishing Schools,”

schools that quench the natural thirst for knowledge, emas-

culate the faculties, and inflate the soul with the noxious

gas of vanity. True teaching quickens. “My words” they

are “spirit, and they are life.”


who gives this counsel as a father, was the child of a re-

ligious home, thus described: “Hear, ye children, the

instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For

I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight

of my mother.” Here is a religious home reproduced.

The child becomes a father, the subject becomes a sovereign,

and the influence is thus repeated and transmitted. “Train

up a child in the way he should go” when he is young,

“and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The


58        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IV.


home is the most potent institution in the world. Parental

roofs are more influential institutions than cathedrals. “The

old arm-chair,” where parents sat, is mightier to me than

any pulpits ever have been or ever will be. There are two

reasons for this. The susceptibility of childhood. Ideas fall

on us in the first stages of moral consciousness, with an

inspiration, a glow, and a charm, which are wanting in all

after periods. The force of parental affection. The power

of a parent over the character of his child in the first stages

is almost absolute, approaching that of the potter over

the clay. Parents are instrumental authors, not only of the

physical organization of their children, but also of their

spiritual character.


“The fond attachment to the well-known place,

Whence first we started into life's long race,

Retains its hold with such unfailing sway,

We feel it e'en in age, and at our latest day.”—COWPER.


Religious homes are the great want of the race. What

boots the multiplication of churches and chapels, unless

you multiply these?




                       Proverbs 4:5-9


                  The Summum Bonum


     “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the

words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and

she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom;

and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote

thee; she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall

give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to



     WE agree with a modern author in regarding the “chief

Good” as that which unites the following qualities :—“It

must be intellectual, or adapted to the higher and nobler


Chap. IV.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       59


part of our nature; attainable by all, of whatever sex, age,

or mental conformation; unimpaired by distribution; in-

dependent of the circumstances of time or place; incap-

able of participation to excess; composed essentially of

the same elements as the good to be enjoyed in a future

state.” All these qualities are found in that which is called

“wisdom” in this passage.



    It is called “Wisdom.” This wisdom is the “principal

thing.” In what does it consist? In the possession of the

highest knowledge. What is the highest knowledge? The

knowledge of the highest natures, the highest relationship,

the highest duties, the highest interests, the highest Being—

GOD. Much of what is called science is but the knowledge of

small things—dust and grain. In the application of the

highest knowledge. The highest knowledge may be pos-

sessed—fallen angels, perhaps, have it—and yet have no

wisdom. They are fools. Wisdom consists in turning the

whole to a right practical account. A life-conformity to

spiritual truths, to eternal realities; not temporary pheno-

mena, is true wisdom. He who makes the word of eternal

truth flesh, is the wise man and he has reached the chief



    Man is here exhorted to search after it. How is it to be

sought? It does not grow up in us instinctively; nor does

it come by miracle. It must be sought. But how? Atten-

tively. “Neither decline from the words of my mouth.”

No prejudice must seal the soul. The ear must be ever

open to the voices of wisdom, whencesoever they come.

Constantly. “Forsake her not.” Never turn aside from

her, or thou wilt lose her charm. Peter's momentary dis-

tance from incarnate Wisdom led to his fall. Forsake her

not; let there be no fickleness, but constancy. Lovingly.

“Love her.” Thou wilt never take a step after her if thou

hast no love : thou wilt shun her if thou hast hate. Love

is the essential inspiration in every successful search.

Supremely. “Exalt her.” She must be felt to be the chief



60        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IV.


good, the “one thing needful.” He who seeks her as a sub-

ordinate good will never find her. She is the queen in the

realms of pursuits, and will be found by none who do not

recognise her royalty and seek her out as such.



      When possessed, she will be three things to thee. A

guardian. “She shall keep thee.” Keep thee from the

carnal, the selfish, and the depraved. Wisdom is the soul's

true Palladium. A patron. “She shall promote thee.”

She will raise thee in the estimation of thine own con-

science—in the judgment of the universe, and in the eye of

God. A rewarder. “She shall give to thy head an orna-

ment of grace; a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.”

The crown she gives is made not of fading laurels, or of

any mouldering gem or metal—a tawdry adornment for a

head of clay. But a crown coruscating with the moral

perfections of God Himself. “When the chief Shepherd

shall appear ye shall receive a crown of glory, that fadeth

not away.”

      Brothers, here is the summum bonum—look at it, until it

spreads out such a thing of glory in your horizon, as to

throw everything else into insignificance and shade. “It

is a view of delight,” said Lucretius, as quoted by Lord

Bacon, “to stand or walk upon the shoreside and to see the

ships tossed with tempest upon the sea; or, to be in a

fortified tower, and to see two battles join upon a plain;

but it is pleasure incomparable for the mind of the man to

be settled, landed, and fortified in the certainty of truth, and

from thence to descry and behold the errors, perturbations,

labours, and wanderings up and down of other men.”


Chap. IV.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       61



                   Proverbs 4:10-17


              The Moral Paths of Men


     “Hear, 0 my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be

any. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.

When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest thou

halt not stumble. Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her, for

he is thy life. Enter not into the path of the wicked and go not into the way

if evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they

leep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless

hey cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the

ne of violence.”


MORALLY, then, there are two paths of life—paths which

he Heavenly Teacher represents as the broad and the

arrow way. These two are indicated in the text.


       THE PATH OF WISDOM.—It is here taught that this

path of wisdom is known only by teaching. The teaching is

by precept. “I have taught thee." Men do not get

spiritual wisdom either by the intuitions or deductions of

their own nature. It comes to them in its first lessons

by teaching. By example. “I have led thee in right

paths.” This implies that he was in the path himself. He

who tries to teach religion by precept, without example, is

like the man who would walk on one leg without crutches.

However strong the limb may be, he could not make much

progress. Precept and example are the two legs of a true

teacher. The majority of teachers, alas! are moral


   This path of wisdom is fraught with true blessings. There

is longevity. “The years of thy life shall be many.” Godli-

ness conduces to physical health, and thus to long life.

But true longevity does not consist in the number of years,

but in the number of great thoughts, lofty purposes, and

noble deeds. Many men of twenty have lived a longer

life than those of seventy. There is freedom. “Thy steps

shall not be straitened.” On the great highway of life


62       Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IV.


the only free traveller is he who is spiritually wise. Others

are so burdened and fettered that there is no spring of liberty

in their steps. There is safety. “When thou runnest thou

shalt not stumble.” Speed is often attended with danger,

but the celerity of a good man is free from peril. “He will

give His angels charge concerning thee. They shall bear

thee in their hand, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”

“The lion and the young lion shalt thou trample under


    This path of wisdom requires the most vigorous steadfastness.

“Take fast hold of instruction, let her not go, keep her, for

she is thy life.” Hold the lessons of wisdom with a firm and

unrelexable tenacity; grasp them as the drowning man the

rope that is thrown out for his rescue. There is a danger of

losing this path, many have done so. “He exhorted them

all that, with purpose of heart, they would cleave unto the

Lord.” “Firmness,” says Burns, “both in sufferance and

exertion, is a character which I would wish to possess. I

have always despised the whining yelp of complaint, and

the cowardly, feeble resolve.”

      THE PATH OF WICKEDNESS.  “Enter not into the

path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.”

Wickedness has a path. It is a very broad and crooked path.

Solomon saw it in his day, and here raises an earnest warn-

ing against it. He urges its avoidance. He intimates


    The avoidance of this path is a matter of great urgency. It

is crowded with “evil men” bent on mischief. They live

for mischief. “Their sleep is taken away unless they cause

some to fall.” They have an infernal pleasure in doing

wrong. They live by mischief. “They eat the bread of

wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.” What they

have got to support them, they have got by dishonesty and

violence. Wicked men live by falsehood, fraud, and op-

pression. He intimates that—

    The avoidance of the path requires strenuous effort. “Avoid

it; pass not by it; turn from it and pass away.” It is a very

contiguous path. It is so near that every man is on the

margin of it, and may step into it unawares. It intersects



Chap. IV.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       63


every walk of life. It crosses all our lines of activity. It

is a very attractive path. The crowds are there, and there

is great attraction in a crowd. The stream of sensual

enjoyment rolls by it, and the flowers of worldly beauty

bloom on either side. It is overhung with clusters of earthly

gratifications. The Syrens chant their enticing strains at

every opening. It is a very perilous path. Good reason,

therefore, had Solomon for the strong language of our text

—“Avoid it, pass not by it.” The prowling beasts of Hell

lurk along the line and a fathomless abyss of ruin is at its

end. Avoid this path. “Blessed is the man that walketh

not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of

sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” The moral

of the whole is expressed in the words of Christ— “Strive

to enter in at the strait gate, for broad is the path that

leadeth to destruction and many there be that go in

thereat.” There is a tremendous whirlpool in the path of

sin; he that comes within the circle of its eddying waters

is likely to be sucked down into the central gulf of irre-

mediable ruin.




                      Proverbs 4:18


                The March of the Good


        “The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more

unto the perfect day.”


      The march of the good is A BRIGHT march.

It is “as the shining light.” Light is the emblem of

intelligence, purity, and blessedness. The march of the good

is like the march of the sun—glorious. How glorious is the

sun as it rises in the morning, tinging the distant hills with

beauty, at noon flooding the earth with splendour, in

evening fringing the clouds with rich purple, crimson, and


64        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IV.


gold. Commanding.—The sun is the ruler of the day; at

his appearance the world awakes from its slumbers, the

winds and waves obey him, as he moves all nature moves.

Useful.—The sun enlightens the system and maintains

harmony throughout every part. He renews the earth,

quickens the seeds into life, covers the landscape with

beauty, ripens the harvest for man and beast. Independent.

—Troops of black clouds may roll over the earth, but they

touch not the sun, furious storms may shake the globe, but

the sun is beyond their reach. He is always behind the

darkest clouds, and looks calmly down upon the ocean in

fury and the earth in a tempest. Certain. —The sun is never

out of time, he is ever in his place at the-right hour. In all

this he is the emblem of the good man—glorious, com-

manding, useful, independent, and certain.

         The march of the good is A PROGRESSIVE march

   “Shineth more and more.” It has a dawn and a meridian.

Godliness is progressive. We are “to follow on to know

the Lord.” We are “to go from strength to strength.”

We are to see “greater things than these.” We are to be

“changed into the same image from glory to glory.” We

are “to press toward the mark, for the prize of the high

calling of God in Jesus Christ.” The capacity of the soul

for indefinite development, its eternal craving for something

better, the increase both of its desire and power for further

advancement as it progresses, as well as the assurances of

God's Word, demonstrate that we are made for progress.

“More and more.” This is the soul's watchword—Excelsior!

is its cry.

            The march of the good is A GLORIOUS march

     “Unto the perfect day.” Perfect day. What a day is

that! They shall shine as the sun in the Kingdom of God.

Perfect day—not one cloud of error in the sky; not one

ungenial blast in the atmosphere. Perfect—knowledge

free from error; love free from impurity; purpose free from

selfishness; experience free from pain. The good man's

progress excels even the glory of the sun. The sun does

not increase in size or splendour; he is not greater in bulk


Chap. IV.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       65


or brighter in lustre now than when he shone on Adam;

but growth, everlasting growth, is our destiny. Onward

through circling ages without end, is the career which kind

Heaven has decreed for sainted souls. They feel


Their orbit immensity,

Their work, to make it radiant,

With the reflected beams of God.




                        Proverbs 4:19


                   The Darkness of Sin


    “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they



SIN is a dark path.

      THE PROOF.—It yields no true happiness. There is a

ark, chilling shadow resting upon the heart of the traveller.

If there be any light in the sky, it is the light of a

meteor flashing for a moment, and leaving the darkness more

intense. Ignorance, pollution, and sorrow mantle it in

gloom. It leads to an end the reverse of expectation. “They

know not at what they stumble.” Difficulties meet them

they never anticipated. They always expect something

brighter further on, instead of which the scene grows darker

and darker, until “outer darkness” is reached. Many

bright orbs has the Great Father of spirits set in the

firmament of the human soul—such as innocence, faith,

trust, hope, love. These in young life shine with more or

less brightness for a time; but as men sin they become

dimmer and darker. One by one they are quenched, until,

when all are lost, the soul's firmament becomes as black as


      THE CAUSE.—Why is this road so dark? Darkness

rises from one of three causes. Either the want of light;


66        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IV.


or the want of the organ of sight; or the want of the right

employment of the organ. In either of these cases, a man

is in the dark. But which is the cause of the darkness of the

sinner's path? Not the want of light. There is the light

of nature, of reason, and the Bible. Not the want of the

organ of vision. There is intellect and conscience. But

the want of the right use of the faculty. He shuts his eyes.

Like the man in noontide splendour, with strong eyes,

who wraps himself in gloom, by closing his eyelids: so the

sinner makes dark his own path. He loves darkness.

     THE CONSEQUENCE.- “They know not at what they

stumble." They do stumble. This is a fact implied. “They

grope for the wall like the blind.” “If a man walk in the

night, he stumbleth.” Heaven has put obstructions in the

sinner's path. Conscience, the examples of holy men, Christ,

and the Spirit. These are put to obstruct his progress, to

prevent him hurrying on to ruin. He stumbles over them

and goes down. These obstructions become great inconveniences.

The greatest blessings are stumbling blocks to them. The

very things which should make their path delightful, prove

their constant inconvenience, and ultimate ruin. Even Christ

is a “stumbling block” and a “rock of offence” to them.

They crush themselves into ruin, by stumbling against Him

Who came to make their path the path of life. “All sin

and wickedness in man's spirit,” says an old author, “hath

the central force and energy of hell in it, and is perpetually

pressing down towards it as towards its own place. Christ's

burden, which is nothing else but true godliness, is a winged

thing and travels, bears itself upwards upon its own wings,

soaring aloft towards God; so the devilish nature is

always within the central attractions of hell, and its own

weight instigates and accelerates its motion thither.”



Chap. IV.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       67




                            Proverbs 4:20-23


               Self-improvement and Self-control


      “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings, Let them

not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they

are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.”


      SELF-IMPROVEMENT.—“The words of wisdom” are the

vehicles of those Divine principles, the reception and

embodiment of which by man are essential to his well-

being. notice two things—

      The method of gaining them. There must be the attentive

ear. “Incline thine ear unto my sayings.” What worth

are the voices of Divine wisdom if we are inattentive; if

the ear is given to other sounds? On a deaf man, or the

man whose ear is taken up with something else, the

grandest oratorio makes no impression and has no charm.

There must be the steadfast look. “Let them not depart

from thine eyes.” Let the eye of the soul be fixed stead-

fastly upon them. The principles of wisdom must always

loom as the grand realities on the horizon of the soul.

There must be the enshrining heart.  “Keep them in the

midst of thine heart.” It is not enough to have them as

sounds in the memory, or as propositions floating in the

intellect, or even as passing impressions on the surface of

the heart: they must be taken down into the depths of our

moral nature. They are germs that will only grow in the

deepest soil. Put them there and they will break out into

a Paradise. Observe:

       The blessedness of having them. “They are life to those

that find them.” They are the soul-quickening elements.

“The incorruptible seed which liveth and abideth for

ever.” They are “health to all their flesh.” Life without

health is scarcely worth having. These principles not

only give life to the soul, but supply the nutriment, and

stimulate the activities that ensure health—health of all


68        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IV.


kinds: intellectual, moral, and physical. Indeed, the

health of each part is essential to the health of the whole

man. Disease in the body reaches the mind, and the

diseases of the mind affect the body.

       SELF-CONTROL.- “Keep thy heart with all dili-

gence, for out of it are the issues of life.” Man somehow

or other has lost self-control. He is the creature, the

instrument, the victim of capricious thoughts, lawless

impulses, and passing events. He has no royalty, though

millions call him king, who is not the monarch of him-

self. The text directs us to this, and we. notice (1) The

nature of true self-control. “Keep thy heart.” In the

corporeal economy the heart is the fountain of life, it pours

the blood through all the parts of the body, the most dis-

tant and the most minute. What the physical heart is to

the body, the moral heart, that is the supreme affection, is

to the whole spiritual nature. It is the source of its life,

the root, fountain, spring of its being. What is it to

keep the heart? To hold it to the right object of supreme

love. Unless the chief love be centred in the chief good

there is no regal settledness of soul. To hold it to the

right purposes of life. What are the grand aims of life? In

one word, a devout appropriation of the blessings of being,

and a right distribution of the same. Man is made to get

and to give, and to get in order to give; and to do both

evermore in the spirit of true worship.

       (2) The method of true self-control. “With all diligence.”

Or, as it might be expressed, “Keep it with all keepings.”

“Keep it from getting evil, as a garden is kept; keep it

from doing evil, as the sea is kept from reclaimed Nether-

lands.” There must be the greatest assiduity. Because

there is a great danger of its being turned away. There

are so many attractive forces, so many seductive influences.

Because the turning it away would be a sad catastrophe. If

the heart as a fountain is not kept pure, all the streams of

life will be poisoned; if the heart as a garden is not kept

cultivated, the whole sphere of life will be overrun with

thorns, weeds, and vermin.

     (3) The argument for true self-control. “Out of it are the



Chap. IV.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       69


issues of life.” Everything depends upon the state of his

heart. “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” We are,

in the kale of being, and in the eye of God, according to

the state of the heart. “Out of the heart,” said Christ,

“proceed evil thoughts, murders, and adulteries.” How

needful for us to pray, “Create within us clean hearts, 0

God, and: renew within us a right spirit.” “He,” says

Milton, “who reigns within himself, and rules passions,

desires, and fears, is more than a king.”



                         Proverbs 4:24-27


                           Laws of Life

“Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Pon-

der the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the

right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”


HERE are laws for the government of self. Here is a law

for the tongue, a law for the eye, a law for the mind, a law

for the life.

        Here is a demand for PURE LANGUAGE.—“Put away

from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from

thee.” Speech is one of the grand peculiarities that dis-

tinguish man. It is a priceless gift. It is the vehicle

through Which one man can pour his soul into the heart of

not only one but many. The organ by which he can

influence the ages. How sadly perverted it has become!

Language too often is the channel of damnable errors,

blasphernous impieties, and moral filth. “Our speech

should be seasoned with salt that it might administer grace

unto the bearers.” A pure heart is essential to pure speech.

Speech is but one of the streams that well out from the

fountains of the soul. Would that this stream were always

clear, reflecting evermore the rays of love, holiness, and



70        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IV.


Here is a demand for a STRAIGHTFORWARD PURPOSE.

—“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look

straight before thee.” Have no side glances, no by-ends;

but have a grand purpose on which the eye of the soul

shall be always fixed. Straightforwardness stands opposed

to all sly cunning, all vacillation, all ambiguity: all double

meanings and aims. Have a purpose in life, clear, well-

defined and righteous, and keep it ever before you as the

“mark of the prize.” Do not look back or turn aside: let

the eyes of your soul be ever on it. When the eye is single

the whole body is full of light. Straightforwardness is one

of the brightest jewels in the crown of virtue, whilst slyness

and duplicity are the brands of infamy. He who pursues

a good object openly, faithfully, and constantly, will every

day command increasing respect from his fellow-men, and

find the divine forces within him beating stronger and more


        Here is a demand for HABITUAL THOUGHTFULNESS.

—“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be

established.” Man was made not only to think but to be

thoughtful. Thoughtfulness should be the habitude of his

nature. He should walk the path of life thoughtfully, not

by impulse. His steps should have nothing of the caprice

of mere instinct. Man is a vessel on a wondrous voyage.

Whilst emotion is his propelling force, thought is the helms-

man that must hold the rudder. He should walk life's

path thoughtfully, not by prejudice. He should not be

guided by traditional dogmas or unholy preconceptions.

Thought must be his pillar in the wilderness. He should

go on thoughtfully, not by custom. He should not move

mechanically, but as a free intelligence; move not from the

forces without but within, not from others but from himself.

     Here is a demand for UNSWERVING RECTITUDE.-

“Turn not to the right hand nor to the left. Remove thy

foot from evil.” Duty is a straight path. The way of sin

is serpentine in its shape as well as in its spirit. Virtue is

a straight line running right up to God. Any turn there-

fore would be wrong, and riskful. Take care; there are by-

paths tempting in every direction. “Turn not to the right


Chap. V.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       71


hand nor to the left.” Take no step without thought, and

let your thought be on the will of the Great “Taskmaster.”

      How comprehensive the legislation of heaven! It seeks

to control the tongue, the eye, the thought, the foot, the

entire man. Its laws reach the motions of every organ,

every faculty, and every impulse. He who obeys those

laws of life, lives and he only lives. Socrates has well said

that " the end of life is to be like unto God: and the soul

following God will be like unto him: he being the begin-

ning, middle, and end of all things.”




                          Proverbs 5:1-20


      The Strange Woman and the True Wife

“My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:

That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge. For

the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother

than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her

feet go downs to death; her steps take hold on hell. Lest thou shouldest ponder

the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them. Hear

me now therefore, 0 ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth.

Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: Lest

thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: Lest strangers

be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; And

thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How

have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed

the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!

was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly. Drink

waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let

thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them

be only thine own, and not strangers with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and

rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant

roe; let here, breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with

her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and

embrace the bosom of a stranger”


HERE is a graphic description of an unchaste woman. A

description given by a man of genius, culture, and who, to

his disgrace, knew the subject from a sad experience.

“King Solomon loved many strange women.” And he



72        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. V.


has left us these words: “I find more bitter than death the

woman whose heart is snares and nets.” The unchaste

woman he calls “strange,” and truly strange it is that one

whom heaven has endowed with such refined sensibilities

and lofty powers should prostitute her noble nature to the

reign of sensualism.


Woman” is a woman whom in these times we should call

a prostitute. The warning is given by a description of her

conduct. Her speech is fascinating—“her lips drop as an

honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil.” Honied

words have a charm for inexperienced souls. Her manners

are accommodating, “her ways are moveable.” Proteus-

like, she puts on many shapes. She adapts herself to the

occasion. The warning is given by a description of her

end. It is “bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged

sword,” “Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold

on hell.” Strong figures of misery are these; but not too

strong. The horrid memories, the self-remorse, the ruined

health and reputation, the blasted hopes—what misery are

these! The warning is given by a description of her victims.

They “mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are

consumed.” Those whom she enthrals are robbed of their

honour, their wealth, and become the victims of terrible



“Drink water out of thine own cistern, and running waters

out of thine own well.” The reference in these verses is

evidently to marriage, which is “honourable in all.” Choose

one chaste pure-minded woman as thy companion through

life: be true to her, find thy happiness in her society, and

in hers alone. “Drink waters out of thine own cistern.”

“Rejoice with the wife of thy youth.” Cherish her with

gentleness and purity, as “the loving hind and pleasant

roe.” “Whatsoever interrupts the strictest harmony in this

delicate relationship, opens the door to imminent tempta-

tion. Tender, well-regulated domestic affection is the best

defence against the vagrant desires of unlawful passions.”

“Marriage,” says Jeremy Taylor, “has in it less of beauty,


Chap. V.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       73


but more of safety than the single life: it hath not more

ease, but less danger: it is more merry and more sad: it is

fuller of sorrows and fuller of joys: it lies under more

burdens, but is supported by all the strengths of love and

charity : and those burdens are delightful. Marriage is

the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills

cities and churches, and heaven itself. Celibacy, like the

fly in the heart of an apple, dwells in perpetual sweetness,

but sits alone and is confined and dies in singularity : but

marriage, like the useful bee, builds a house, and gathers

sweetness from every flower, and labours and unites into

societies and republics, and sends out colonies, and feeds

the world with delicacies, and obeys their kings and keeps

order, and exercises many virtues, and promotes the

interest of mankind, and is that state of good to which God

hath designed the present constitution of the world.”



                           Proverbs 5:21-23


     Man as Known of God and Punished by Sin


     “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth

all his goitigs. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be

holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the

greatness of his folly he shall go astray.”


        MAX AS KNOWN OF GOD.—God knows man thoroughly;

—knows what he has been, what he is, and what he will be

in the great hereafter. This fact, for an incontrovertible

fact it is, should be practically realised; and, if practically

realised, it will have a fourfold effect upon the soul. It will

stimulate to great spiritual activity. When the eye of an

intelligence falls right on us, the glance stirs the soul.

What soul could sleep, if it felt the eye of God ever resting

on it? It will restrain from the commission of sin. Did we feel

His eye ever on us, should we ever yield to temptation?

“Thou, God seest me,” is a powerful preventive. It will

excite the desire for pardon. God has seen all the errors and



74        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. V.


sins of the past, and they are great in number and

enormity. Since He sees them, they must either be

punished or absolved. It will brace the soul in the per-

formance of duty. Moses endured as “seeing Him who is

invisible.” He knows our trials and our difficulties.

Therefore let us be magnanimous under trial and brave in



                     “What can 'scape the eye

Of God, all-seeing, or deceive His heart,



     MAN AS PUNISHED BY SIN.—“His own iniquities shall

take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the

cords of his sin.”

     As virtue is its own reward, sin is its own punishment.

The words suggest that sin does three things in punishing

the sinner. It will seize him as its victim: “Iniquities will

take the wicked himself.” How? It will arrest him in his

career. In the midst of his revelries, as in the case of Bel-

shazzar and Herod, it will bring him to a stop. It will detach

him from his comrades. It will bring him home to himself, and

overwhelm him with the sense of his own responsibilities

and guilt. Sin must seize the sinner sooner or later, grasp

him with the hand of iron. It will bind him as its prisoner.

“He shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” What are

the cords? There are the “cords” of causation. Man's ex-

perience to-day grows out of the experience of yesterday,

and becomes the source of his experience, to-morrow; and

thus for ever he is linked indissolubly to the past. Thus,

Job said, “Thou makest me to possess the sins of my

youth.” Out of past sins spring a weakened intellect, a

shattered constitution, an accusing conscience. There are

the “cords” of habit. Every sin contributes to the weaving

of the cord that shall one day bind the soul as fast as hell.

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his

spots?” What are the chains of darkness that enthral

damned spirits, but habits of sin? There are the “cords” of

despair. When despair, black and portentous, settles

around the heart, all power of free action is gone, and the

man is a slave. It will exclude him from knowledge. “He

Chap. VI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       75


shall die without instruction.” Sin closes the eyes and

seals the ears of souls, and thus shuts out the light and the

voice of truth. Men under the influence of sin love dark-

ness rather than light. It banishes him as an exile. “In

the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.” He shall

wander away like a prodigal, and never find his home

again. Sin banishes the soul from virtue, heaven, God;

and reduces it to a homeless, friendless orphan in the

universe. “The seeds of our own punishment,” says Hesiod,

“are sown at the same time we commit sin.” Sins tend to

hell. “Little sins,” says Hopkins, “are the natural stream

of a man's life, that do of themselves tend hellwards, and

are of themselves enough to carry the soul down silently

and calmly to destruction; but when greater and grosser

sins join with them, they make a violent tide that hurries

the soul away with a more swift and rampant motion down

to hell, than little sins would or could do of themselves.”




                    Proverbs 6:1-5


                  Social Suretyships


   “My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand

with a stranger, thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with

the words of thy mouth. Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art

come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.

Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a

roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.”


THE instructions of the Bible are profitable for the life that

now is, as well as for the life that is to come. Its principles

of domestic, social, and political economy, are far more

wise, as well as righteous, than can be found in human

book or college. The “Book of Proverbs “ is a far better

guide for a young man in business than Adam Smith or the

Times newspaper. Solomon here speaks of suretiships as

an evil.


76        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VI.


     As AN EVIL TO BE DEPLORED.—“My son, if thou be

surety.” As if he said, it is a sad thing if thou hast.

Although suretiship is not always an evil, there are

always two things necessary to render it justifiable. The

case should be deserving. The person whose responsibility

you take upon yourself should be one in every way de-

serving your confidence and help. You should be fully

competent to discharge the obligation. You should feel that

the claims of your family and others upon you would fully

justify you to give up the amount to which you are pledged,

if required. Where these two things are not, all suretiships

are wrong. The most deserving men will seldom ask for

suretiships, and the most competent men will seldom

undertake the responsibility. Therefore it is often an evil.

It constantly presses the surety with anxiety, if he is an

honest man, and often brings ruin on himself and on his

family, when the person for whom he stands fails in his

duty. Solomon represents suretiship


“striking the hand” and uttering “the words.” One

word, the word “yes,” will do it, written or uttered in the

presence of a witness. This little word has ensnared and

ruined many an honest man. Plausibility will soon extract

it from a pliant and generous nature. How easy it

is for a man to ruin himself in every way, secularly as

well as spiritually; one wrong step often takes into a path

that is downward and dark, and gives an impetus never to

be overcome. Solomon represents suretiship


this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come

into the hand of thy friend.” Do it promptly. The bond

may take force to-morrow. Try by every honest means to

get the bond back at once. “Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor

slumber to thine eyelids” till it be done. Do it beseechingly.

“Humble thyself.” It is no use to carry a high hand; thou

art in his power. Bow before him and entreat him to give

it up. Do it effectively. "Deliver thyself as a roe from the

hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the

fowler." Thou art encaged in iron law, break loose

Chap. VI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       77


honourably somehow and be free. An evil in social trans-

actions kindred to this, is what is known in the business

world as accommodation. I mean speculation without capital,

extensive risks on a baseless credit. This system is false,

treacherous, hollow, ruinous. The remarks of Helps on

men of business are worthy of note here:—“Rare almost

as great poets—rarer, perhaps, than veritable saints and

martyrs, are consummate men of business. A man to be

excellent in this way must not only be variously gifted, but

his gifts should be nicely proportioned to one another. He

must have in a high degree that virtue which men

have always found the least pleasant of virtues —pru-

dence. His prudence, however, will not be merely of a

cautious and quiescent order, but that which being ever

actively engaged, is more fitly called discretion than pru-

ence. Such a man must have an almost ignominious love

of details, blended with a high power of imagination,

enabling him to look along extended lines of possible

action and put these details in their right places. He

requires a great knowledge of character, with that exquisite

tact which, feels unerringly the right moment when to act.

A discreet rapidity must pervade all the movements of his

thought and action. He must be singularly free from

vanity, and is generally found to be an enthusiast who has

the art to Conceal his enthusiasm.”


78        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VI.


                             Proverbs 6:6-8


         Little Preachers and Great Sermons


    “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which

having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and

gathereth her food in the harvest.”


THE Eternal Father has favoured His human offspring

with a two-fold revelation of Himself—the Bible and

Nature. Looking at men in their relation to this two-fold

revelation, they divide themselves into three distinct

classes:—Those who study neither; those who study one and

disparage the other; and those who reverentially study the teach-

ings of both. The allusion in the text, and which is only

one of many, plainly shows us that the Bible encourages

the study of nature.

     The Bible refers us to nature in order to attest its first prin-

ciples. That God is all wise, all-powerful, all-good; that man

has a soul and is under moral obligation, are things which

the Bible assumes, takes for granted, does not attempt to

prove. The man who wants proof it refers to nature's


    The Bible refers us to nature for illustrations of its great

truths. The sower, the harvest field, trees, rivers, vine-

yards and vales, meads and mountains, skies and seas, it

employs as emblems,

    The Bible refers us to nature in order to reprove the sins it

denounces. To reprove us for our ingratitude, it refers us

to the ox and the ass. “The ox knoweth its owner and

the ass its master's crib.” To reprove us for our want

of confidence in the paternal providence of God, it points

us to the lilies of the field and the fowls of the air; and to



Chap. VI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       79


reprove, us for our spiritual indolence, it directs us to the

ants. " Go to the ant, thou sluggard.”

      Now, the sluggard to whom I am going to address myself

is the spiritual sluggard. Not the man who is neglecting

his worldly business—the secularly indolent man—but the

man who is neglecting the culture of his own spiritual nature

and the salvation of his own soul. These little ants will

teach yOu four great truths. They teach you:


JUST REASON FOR YOUR INDOLENCE.—These little creatures

are small, they are feeble—you could crush a thousand

beneath your foot; yet see how they work. Naturalists have

shown their ingenuity as architects, their industry as miners

and builders; they have divided them into mason-ants, and

carpenter-ants, and mining-ants, and carving-ants, and

have shown that whilst their ingenuity in these departments

of action is remarkable, their industry would put the most

indefatigable of human labourers to the blush. If this tiny

insect can do so much, do not you, with your bony limbs,

strong sinews, robust frame, the engine of a deathless

intellect, memory, imagination, conscience, soul, plead your

feebleness as an excuse for your indolence. Remember

three things—that all power, however feeble, is given for work;

that you are not required to do more than you have power to ac-

complish, and that all power increases by use. The man who

attempts to do something gets power by the attempt.

There was once a man with an arm withered—a mere dried

stick: bat Christ commanded him to stretch it forth ; he

might have said, “I cannot;” but he resolved to do it, and

with the resolution came the power. This is a symbol of

the universal truth, that you can get power by effort. The

man who has one talent can make five by it, and the man

of five Can make ten. Power increases by use. The

naturally strong men, who say they cannot work, live

and die pigmies. The naturally weak men, who say try,

often attain Herculean force. They teach you:


FOR YOUR INDOLENCE.—Go to the ant-world, penetrate its

little mines, its chambers, store-houses, garrets, workshops


80        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VI.


—for it has all these—and you will see millions of inhabi-

tants, but not one idler: all are in action. One does not

depend upon the other, and expect another to do his work.

The teeming population is busy. This is a lesson to the

indolent soul. The Christian world is busy, and there are

thousands working: some preaching, some praying, some

teaching, some writing; but not one can do thy work. Can

any one believe for thee? repent for thee? think for thee?

love for thee? worship for thee? Can any one die for thee

or be damned for thee? Like the ant-hill, the Christian

world is a scene of action, but not one of the million actors

can do thy work. They teach you-


YOUR INDOLENCE.—“Go to the ant”-hill, see them work:

each is thrown upon his own resources and powers. “They

have no guide, overseer, or ruler.” Each works according

to his own little nature. Self-reliantly each labours on,

not waiting for the instruction or guidance of another. Do

you say, I have no minister, no books, no Christian friend,

and therefore cannot work? You cannot say this; but if

you could, that would be no excuse; you have an intellect

that can think, you have a heart that can love, you have a

conscience that can guide. You have suggestive nature,

you have this wonderful Bible, you have God! You are

without excuse. Do not wait and ask for overseers or

guides, or rulers, or priests, or bishops; if they come, and

can help you, be thankful. Trust your own instincts, like

the ant; act out your own powers, use the light you have,

and look to God for help. While you are looking for

greater advantages, your time is passing. Your season for

making provision for the future is shortening. Cold, black,

bleak winter is approaching. They teach you—


FOR YOUR INDOLENCE.—Go to the ant-hill and see these

tiny creatures laying up for the future. The ant “provi-

deth for meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in

the harvest.” There is a Divine providence over these

little insects. There is no creature, however small, that

comes not within the pale of God's providing agency. But

Chap. VI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       81


He provides for His creatures by the use of their own

powers. He does not do for any creature what He has given

that creature power to do for himself. He carries provisions

to plants, and flowers, and trees, because they cannot go

in search of their food. But the creatures to whom He has

given locomotive power, must seek their food. Let me here

remind you, that like these little creatures, you have a future;

that like these little creatures you have to prepare for the

future, and then, that like these little creatures you have a

specific time to make preparation. Do not talk of Providence,

as an excuse for your indolence. Say not, God is good,

and He will provide. He has provided for you richly, but

He only grants the provision on condition of the right

employment of your powers. There is an inheritance for

the good, but only on the condition of their working.

There is a heaven of knowledge, but only for the student;

there is a harvest of blessedness, but only to the diligent

husbandman; there are scenes of triumph, but only to the

victorious warrior. In conclusion, let me remind you that

your harvest-time of your life will soon be over. The sun

is fading now; the ripened ungathered fruits are falling to

the ground; autumn is gradually tinging the scene; nature

looks more sterile and sombre every day; the air is getting

chilly; the winter is coming,—freezing, furious, black

winter is coming. " How long wilt thou sleep, 0 slug-




                          Proverbs 6:9-15


          The Lazy Man and the Wicked Man


      "How long wilt thou sleep, 0 sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy

sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth. He winketh

with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers: frowardness


82        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VI.


is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord. Therefore

shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.”


    THE LAZY MAN.—In the three preceding verses, Solo-

mon directs attention to the ant. Job, as well as Solomon,

directs men to the beast of the field for wisdom  “Ask

now the beasts and they shall teach thee.” So does

Christ—“Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

Lazy people abound. There is scarcely a greater evil in

society than laziness. What is laziness? Not inactivity;

for a man may be incapable of action. But it is inactivity

arising from an indisposition to work. Plenty of power,

but lacking desire. A lazy man is a drag upon the wheel

of social progress. He consumes the products of other

men's labours, and produces nothing himself. His life is

one great theft. The text presents two things concerning

this laziness. It is procrastinating. “Yet a little sleep, a

little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” Man,

from the constitution of his nature, has not the power to

abandon altogether the idea of labour. Conscience presses

him to labour, and work at every turn urges its claims.

The lazy man is too cowardly to say I will never work, I

will sleep for ever, and he procrastinates He promises to

labour. By this, he does two things, he quiets his conscience;

and cheats society. Thus, the song of his life is—“To-morrow,

and to-morrow, and to-morrow.”


“Shun delays, they breed remorse,

   Take thy time while time is lent thee;

Creeping snails have weakest force,

   Fly their fault lest thou repent thee;

Good is best when sooner wrought,

   Ling'ring labours come to nought.”—SOUTHWELL


    The text shows that indolence is also ruinous. “So shall

thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as

an armed man.” Laziness brings ruin. Intellectual laziness

brings intellectual ruin ; commercial, brings commercial

ruin; spiritual, spiritual ruin. This is a law. Solomon


Chap. VI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       83


suggests that the ruin comes—first, gradually, “as one that

travelleth.” It does not gallop; it does not rush on you at

once. Like all other natural laws, it proceeds gradually.

Secondly, Irresistibly, “As an armed man.” Ruin comes

travelling slowly on. The lazy man does not see his grim

visage for days, perhaps years. At last, however, he shows

himself, and stands by his side gaunt, ghastly, and fully

armed. He clutches him, and all is over. “Idleness,”

says Hunter, “travels very slowly, and poverty soon over-

takes her.” “It you ask me which is the real hereditary

sin of human nature, do you imagine I shall answer pride

or luxury, or ambition, or egotism? No; I shall say

indolence. Who conquers, indolence will conquer all the

rest. Indeed, all good principles must stagnate without

mental activity.”

      THE WICKED MAN.-“A naughty person, a wicked

man, walketh with a froward mouth.” Idleness is generally

connected with wickedness as parent and child. One

author says that a state of idleness is a state of damnable

sin. Another, that it is the most “corrupting fly that can

blow on the human mind.” Men learn to do ill by doing

that which is next to it—nothing. Here is the portrait of

the wicked man. He is perverse in speech. “Walketh with

a froward mouth.” In his speech he has no regard for

truth or propriety. False, irreverent, impure, and auda-

cious. He is artful in conduct. “Winketh with his eyes,

speaketh with his feet, teacheth with his fingers.” He

expresses his base spirit in crafty, clandestine, and cunning

methods. He is anything but straightforward and trans-

parent. He is mischievous in purpose. “He deviseth

mischief continually; he soweth discord.” Malevolence is

his inspiration. He rejoiceth in evil. Here is the doom

of the wicked man. “Therefore shall his calamity come

suddenly.” His doom is certain—“shall.” The moral

laws of the universe and the word of God guarantee his

punishment. His doom is sudden. “Suddenly shall he be

broken.” The suddenness does not arise from the want of

warning, but the neglect of it. “Because sentence against

an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart


84        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VI.


of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Come

it must, and when it comes, it will astound the victim with

surprise. His doom is irremediable. “Without remedy.”

When it is fixed, there is no revocation, no alteration.

“As the tree falleth, so it must lie.”

     Beware of indolence; it is a sin in itself; for we are

made for action: without it our nature can neither be unfolded

nor satisfied, and God and His universe require our service.

It is a sin the most prolific: it hatches every form of

wickedness. Society swarms with its damning progeny.

Bishop Hall has well said that “idleness is the devil's

cushion, on which he taketh free ease, and is fitly disposed

for all evil motions. The standing water stinketh: the

current keeps clear and cleanly.”




                    Proverbs 6:16-19


                Seven Abominations


    “These six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto

him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An

heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”


HERE is a catalogue of evils specially odious to the Holy

One, as well as injurious to His creation. Here is—

    HAUGHTY BEARING.—“A proud look.” Pride is fre-

quently represented in the Bible as an offence to the Holy

God. “He resisteth the proud.” “Him that hath a high

look and a proud heart will not I suffer.” “Thou wilt

bring down the high looks.” Haughtiness is an abomi-

nation, because it implies self-ignorance, unkindness, and

irreverence. How true is the language of old Quarles con-

cerning pride. “As thou desirest the love of God and

man, beware of pride. It is a tumour in the mind that



Chap. VI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       85


breaks and poisons all thy actions: it is a worm in thy

treasure, which eats and ruins thy estate; it loves no man

—is beloved of no man ; it disparages virtue in another by

detraction; it disrewards goodness in itself by vain-glory:

the friend of the flatterer, the mother of envy, the nurse of

fury, the sin of devils, and the devil of mankind: it

hates superiors, it scorns inferiors, it owns no equals;—in

short, till thou hate it, God hates thee.” Here is—

   VERBAL FALSEHOOD.-“A lying tongue.” This is

a sore evil; David prays against it. “Deliver my soul, 0

Lord, from lying lips.” Falsehood always implies a corrupt

heart. A pure one supplies no motive for it. Vanity,

avarice, ambition, cowardice, are the parents and patrons

of all lies. Falsehood always has a bad social tendency. It

disappoints expectations, shakes confidence, loosens the

very foundations of social order. “Whatsoever,” says

Steele, “convenience may be thought to be in falsehood

and dissimulation, it is soon over; but the inconvenience of

it is perpetual, because it brings a man under an everlasting

jealousy and suspicion, so that he is not believed when he

speaks truth, nor trusted when perhaps he means honestly.

When a man hath once forfeited the reputation of his

integrity he is set fast, and nothing will then serve his

turn, neither truth nor falsehood." Here is—

     HEARTLESS CRUELTY.-“Hands that shed innocent

blood." Cruelty implies an utter lack of sympathy with

God's creatures. This makes way for the malign that revels

in torture. And it implies also an utter lack of sympathy

with God's mind. “God is love.” He desires the happiness

of His creatures. He made them for enjoyment. He who

inflicts pain is out of sympathy both with the universe and

with his Maker. Cruelty even to dumb animals, which

abounds, is an atrocious sin, and must be ineffably offensive

to the All-loving Creator. “Wherever it is found, it is a

certain mark of ignorance and meanness: an intrinsic mark,

which all the external advantages of wealth, splendour, and

nobility cannot obliterate. It will consist neither with

true learning nor true civility, and religion disclaims and

detests it, as an insult upon the majesty and goodness of


86        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VI.


God, Who having made the instincts of brute beasts to the

improvement of the mind, as well as to the convenience of

the body, hath furnished with a motive to mercy and com-

passion toward them very strong and powerful, but too

refined to have any influence on the illiterate or irreligious.”

Here is-

     VICIOUS SCHEMING. “A heart that deviseth wicked

imaginations.”—The Divine eye penetrates the heart. He

sees all that passes there, not only the deep plots of evil,

the elaborate schemes of thought, and the deliberate pur-

poses, but ideas and emotions in the most incipient and

fugitive forms. He judges the man as He sees him there.

Adulteries, robberies, idolatries, murders, He sees perpe-

trated in the deep and silent districts of the soul. There

are some hearts so bad that they are ever inventing evil

things. It was said of the antediluvian man that every

imagination and thought of his heart was only evil con-

tinually. How sad that the heart, which should ever be

the nursery of the genial, the generous, and the gracious,

should be devising “wicked imaginations!” What a reve-

lation there will be on the last day, when the hidden things

of the heart shall be exposed. Here is—

     MISCHIEVOUS EAGERNESS.-“Feet that be swift in

running to mischief.” They not only do mischief; but they

do it eagerly, with ready vigilance; they have a greed for

it. They seize every opportunity. Their pleasure is in

mischief. Evil is earnest; its great leader is never at rest,

he moves to and fro on the earth; like a roaring lion, he

goes about “seeking whom he may devour;” and just in

proportion to the power that evil has over a man is his

eagerness. What is more swift than revenge, jealousy, or

any of the malign passions? These don't walk, they run,

they fly on the wings of lightning. “Their feet are swift

to shed blood.” Here is-

    SOCIAL SLANDER.-“A false witness that speaketh

lies.” The slanderer is amongst the greatest of social

curses. He robs his fellow-creature of his highest treasure

—his own reputation and the loving confidence of his friends.

“The slanderer does harm to three persons at once: to



Chap. VI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       87


him of whom he says the ill, to him to whom he says it,

and most of all to himself in saying it.” It is an accursed

thing this slander. It works oftentimes by other means

than words: by a look or a shrug of the shoulders it levels

its poisoned arrows; it has broken many a virtuous heart

and stained many a virtuous reputation. It has nodded

away many a good name, and winked into existence a host

of suspicions, that have gathered round and crushed the

most chaste and virtuous of our kind. It often works in the

dark, and generally under the mask of truthfulness and



"He that shall rail against his absent friends,

Or hears them scandalized, and not defends,

Sports with their fame, and speaks whate'er he can,

And only to be thought a witty man,

Tells tales, and brings his friends in disesteem:

That man's a knave—be sure beware of him.”—HORACE

Here is—

    DISTURBING STRIFE.— “And he that soweth discord

among brethren.” He who by tale-bearing, ill-natured

stories, and wicked inventions, produces the disruptions of

friendship, is abhorrent to God, Who desires His creatures

to live in love and unity. “Ye lovers of strife,” says

Bishop Jewel, “by whose name shall I call you? I would

I might call you brethren: but alas, this heart of yours is

not brotherly. I would I might call you Christians: but

alas, you are no Christians. I know not by what name I

shall call you: for if you were brethren, you would love as

brethren; if you were Christians, you would agree as

Christians.” This subject serves to show three things.

(I) The moral hideousness of the world. These “seven” evils

everywhere abound. They are rife and rampant the

world over. (2) The immaculate purity of God. He hates

those things; they are all abominations to Him; eternally

repugnant to His Holy nature. (3) The true mission of the

godly. What is that? To endeavour to rid the world of

the evils offensive to Heaven.



88        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VII.




                     Proverbs 6:20-7:17


                  Counsels to Young Men

                  in Relation to Bad Women


     “My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy

mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

When thou goest, it shall lead thee ; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and

when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp;

and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life; To keep

thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.”


   "My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep

my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them

upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom,

Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may

keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her



THESE are some of the counsels which Solomon addresses

to the young man, to guide him in his conduct towards the

bad woman whom he so graphically describes in the last

part of the 6th and the whole of the 7th chapter. He

seems to have had no name strong enough to express his

disgust of her, no names bad enough by which to designate

her. He calls her a “strange woman,” an “evil woman,” a

“harlot,” &c., &c. Avoiding all the particular references,

we come to the safe-guards of young men. We put these

two passages together, because, in spirit, and almost

in language, they are identical. They lead us to consider

the proper treatment and blessed use of sacred counsels.

The proper TREATMENT of these protective counsels.—

     They are to be applied. The application of the sacred

counsels should be close. “Bind them continually upon

thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.” “Bind them

upon thy fingers; write them upon the table of thine

heart.” This strong figurative language means that they

should be brought home to the inner being and experience.

They are not merely to be in the brain, or on the lip, but

bound up with the very vitalities of existence. They



Chap. VII.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       89


should become strong and ever operative instincts in our

moral life. The application should be constant. “Bind

them continually.” They are not for mere occasional use.

They are not to be used merely for certain things, but

for all, and for ever. It will not do to lay them aside

at any moment; for wherever thou goest, at every cor-

ner of the street, seductive influences will meet thee.

The application should be loving. They must be regarded

“as the apple of the eye,” as the tenderest relation.

“Thou art my sister and kinswoman.” What we do not

love soon forsakes us. Love is the retaining faculty of the

soul. Prize these as you prize the pupil of your eye, as

you prize the dear sister whom love has entwined round

your heart. Young man, this is how these counsels must

be treated, if they are to be your safeguards. Treat them

thus, and you will become invulnerable.

     The BLESSED USE of these protective counsels.—

They guide. “When thou goest, they shall lead thee.”

They are a lamp to the feet, throwing its radiance before

thy steps. This lamp will always burn in advance of thee

They guard. “When thou sleepest, they will keep thee.”

They will keep thee from all temptations, shield thee from

the honeyed shafts of “the strange woman.” Sacred

counsels are the only effective police in the empire of evil.

They commune. “They will talk to thee.” They are full

of meaning; they are echoes of the Divine mind. They

will talk with thee about spiritual relations, about duty

and destiny. Blessed companions these! Their converse

enlightens, cheers, and ennobles. They animate. “Keep

my commandments, and live.” They are the life-giving

power to the soul. The description of the young man's

temptress and her beguiling and fascinating methods is so

life-like and minute that it needs neither explanation nor

comment. We shall pass the verses by, and leave them to

speak for themselves, as they do most truthfully, sadly,

and warningly. To the “youths” and the “young men

void of understanding” we earnestly commend the right

treatment of these Divine counsels. Listen not to the

voice of the temptress: turn a deaf ear to her, and



90        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VIII.


pass on. “Many strong men have been slain by her : her

house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of



                      Proverbs 8:1-14


             The Voice of Divine Wisdom


      “Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She

standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She

crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto

you, 0 men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. 0 ye simple, under-

stand wisdom: and ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Hear; for I will

speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. For

my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All

the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse

in them. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that

find knowledge. Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather

than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may

be desired are not to be compared to it. I wisdom dwell with prudence, and

find out knowledge of witty inventions. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil:

pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.”


DIVINE wisdom here personifies herself, and she has a right

to do so for two reasons. She is the highest attribute of

person. Wisdom is not the property of things, but of per-

sons, and the highest property of persons—the property of

the spiritual nature. Wisdom is not mere intelligence; it

is a compound of intelligence and goodness; it is the

“genius of goodness.” Wisdom rightly personifies her-

self, also, because she has received highest expression in the

Highest Person. She is seen everywhere in the material

universe, but her sublimest revelation is in the Person of

the Son of God. He is the Logos.

  These verses bring under our notice the voice of Divine



not Wisdom cry?” She is earnest. There is a vehemence




Chap. VIII.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       91


in her tone. Christ gave it a wondrous emphasis. “In

the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and

cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and

drink.” Observe: She cries in the most commanding scenes

of life. “In the top of high places.” Her voice was heard

on Sinai; on the Mount of Beatitudes, and on the brow

of Calvary. Observe: she cries in the ordinary thorough-

fares of life. “In the way of the places of the paths." In

the days of Christ the voice rung by the wayside, on the sea-

shore, in the street. So now. It may be heard at every

turn in life. Again: She cries in the most crowded districts

of life. “She crieth at the gates, at the coming in at the

doors.” In the great cities where men meet together to

transact their business. There she is, at the gates and at the

doors. As they go in and out of their banks and exchanges,

there she is. The voice of Divine wisdom is everywhere.

In every event of Providence, in every object of nature, in

every dictate of conscience, in every lesson of experience—

above all, in every word of Christ.


here utters a commendation of herself; she spreads out

her own merits as a reason why her voice should be heard.

Why listen? Because her communications are perfect. “I

speak of excellent things.” They are perfect in an intel-

lectual and a moral sense. The communications are true

to the eternal laws of reason and right. Her communica-

tions are intelligible;  “they are all plain to him that under-

standeth.” They are in their nature so congruous with

the human soul, and conveyed in such simple language,

“that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err

therein.” They are axiomatic to the unsophisticated heart.

Her communications are precious. “Receive my instruction

and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.”

He who experimentally possesses a Divine truth is in-

finitely richer than he who is the owner of kingdoms.

Her communications are exhaustless. “I wisdom dwell

with Prudence, and find out knowledge.” The idea is, I

have vast resources. In Christ, Who is The Wisdom of

God, " are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”



92        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VIII.


Her communications are rectifying. “The fear of the Lord

is to hate evil.” It religionizes and spiritualizes the soul.

Wherever the words of wisdom are really received, a revo-

lution is effected within. Her communications are original.

“Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am under-

standing.” What Divine wisdom gives is undeniably

unborrowed. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord,

or being His counsellor hath taught Him.” This wisdom

is ever in the world. Her voice is everywhere; it rings

through the ages. It is high above all the tumults of the

nations. The voices of generations are hushed in grave-

yards and in seas, but this voice sounds on; it cannot be



“The works of men inherit, as is just,

Their Author's frailty, and return to dust;

But Truth Divine for ever stands secure,

Its head is guarded as its base is sure.

Fix'd in the rolling flood of endless years,

The pillar of th' eternal plain appears,

The railing storm and dashing wave defies,

Built by that Architect who built the skies.”—COWPER.



                              Proverbs 8:15-21


                   The Authority of Divine Wisdom


   “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and

nobles, even all the judges of the earth. I love them that love me; and those

that seek me early shall find me. Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable

riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and

my revenue than choice silver. I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst

of the paths of judgment: That I may cause those that love me to inherit sub-

stance; and I will fill their treasures.”


WISDOM here speaks of herself as the Queen of the world,

possessing the tenderest interest in the good of mankind,

and having the choicest gifts to bestow. The words in-

dicate three things concerning Wisdom in the exercise

of her authority.




Chap. VIII.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       93


    Wisdom, in the exercise of her authority, DETERMINES

THE DESTINY OF RULERS.—“By me kings reign.” It

inspires all the good actions of kings. Every measure of

their government, every righteous enactment, and every

truly loyal act, derives the inspiration from the Wisdom

that presides over the universe. All good in earthly rulers

proceedeth from it, as sunbeams proceed from the sun.

Whatever is wholesome in their laws, Wisdom suggested

and inspired. It controls all the bad actions of kings.

Whilst it originates the good, it guides and directs the

evil. It changes the times and seasons, removeth and

setteth up kings. It turns the tyrannies and follies of

wicked monarchs to its own account, so directs them as to

work out its own grand purposes.


“There is a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough hew them as we may.”


     Wisdom is at the head of the universe, “the hearts of

kings are in her hands.”

     Wisdom, in the exercise of her authority, HAS A

SPECIAL REGARD FOR THE GOOD.—“I love them that love

me, and those that seek me early shall find me.” Divine

Wisdom has heart as well as intellect; it glows with sym-

pathies, as well as radiates with counsels. It has love in

it: love is its genius, its root, its essence. The highest

Wisdom is love. Love is the profoundest seer, the greatest

contriver, the most beautiful artist. The universe is the

offspring of love. We are taught here, that this Wisdom

loves its lovers. “I love them that love me.” Whoever

loves Divine Wisdom, loves it especially as seen in Christ:

these are loved of it. “He that hath My commandments

and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” This Wisdom,

built, furnished, and sustains the universe for her friends.

We are here taught, that this Wisdom is accessible to its

early seekers. “Those that seek Me early shall find Me.”

Early life is the time to seek wisdom. Our moral metal is

fluid in youth, and we can be run into any mould; in age

it becomes hard as the granite or the steel. It must be

sought to be obtained, and the sooner in life the better.


94        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VIII.


      Wisdom, in the exercise of her authority, HAS THE


honour are with Me. Yea, durable riches and righteous-

ness. My fruit is better than gold.” There is a com-

parison here between spiritual and material wealth, and

the former is declared the better, and so it is: the one

enriches the man himself, the other does not. It is all

external to him. Worldly riches are all outside our man-

hood. The one is substantial, the other is not. It is called

here, “substance.” Material wealth is a mere fugitive

form. The one is permanent, the other is not. Material

wealth passes away. Poetry depicts fortunes with

wings. Those wings are always ready to expand

and take flight. Let us seek this true and enduring

wealth. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which

is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not?

Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is

good.” “Lay not up for yourself treasures on earth, where

moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break

through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures

in heaven.” “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in

the fire, that thou mayest be rich, ; and white raiment,

that thou mayest be clothed.” Moral goodness is the true

wealth, vital, satisfying, enduring; that which so identifies

itself with the soul that it will be as imperishable as its

own immortality. “When King Demetrius had sacked and

razed the city of Megra to the very foundation, he

demanded of Stilpo, the philosopher, what losses he had

sustained. ‘None at all,’ said Stilpo, ‘for war can make

no spoil of virtue.' And 'tis said of Bias, that his motto

was omnia mea mecum porto, I carry all my goods with me,

viz., his goodness.”


Chap. VIII.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       95




                          Proverbs 8:23-31


                 The Autobiography of Wisdom


    “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the world was.

When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains

abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was

I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the

highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was

there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established

the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he

gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment:

when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one

brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons

of men.”


HERE we must speak of Wisdom as a person, and that

person is none other than He who is called the “Wisdom

of God.” These verses may be well regarded as His

autobiographic sketch. He alone can write His own his-

tory, for His existence and experience date back to periods

anterior to the creation. He speaks of Himself here in

four aspects:


possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His

works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the

beginning; or ever the earth was.” How old is the uni-

verse? No arithmetic can compute its ages. When was

the beginning? When did the first creature start into life?

The question baffles all our endeavours for solution. How-

ever distant that period might be, Christ was before it:

“Before His works of old” “When there were no depths

I was brought forth. When there were no fountains

abounding with water.” When there was no being but God,

Christ was. “In the beginning was the Word, and the

Word was God.” “He is the Alpha and the Omega, the

first and the last.” The builder is older than his building,

the artist than his productions, the author than his books.

Christ is older than the universe. He speaks of Himself



96        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VIII.



“When he prepared the heavens I was there. When he

set a compass upon the face of the deep,” &c., &c. The

universe had an origin. It is not eternal. There was a

point in the far distant past, when it was nowhere but in

the mind of God as an idea. There was a beginning. It

originated with one Being. It neither rose by chance, nor

by the agency of a plurality of creators. He “prepared

the heavens.” He “set a compass upon the face of the

deep.” “He established the clouds above. He strengthened

the fountains of the deep. He gave to the sea His decree.”

He, no one else, no one with Him. Christ witnessed the

process. “I was there,” I was the only spectator. I saw

the birth of chaos. And out of it I saw this beautiful world

with its circling heavens, floating clouds, and rolling oceans,

mountains and valleys, with all the countless tribes of life,

arise. He who witnessed the origin of the universe can

alone give its genesis, and He does it here. He speaks of

Himself here:


THE CREATOR.-“Then I was by Him, as one brought up

with Him. I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before

Him.” “The same was in the beginning with God.” In that

mysterious fellowship He was at once the object and sub-

ject of Infinite love. The Father loved Him. “I was daily

His delight." The Infinite heart rested in complacency on

Him. “He was in the bosom of the Father.” He loved the

Father, “rejoicing always before Him.” The Infinite

attachment was mutual. We cannot explain that affection,

for we understand not the relationship. We accept the

statement with wonder and with worship. He speaks of

Himself here:


INTEREST IN MAN.-“Rejoicing in the habitable parts of

his earth. My delights were with the sons of men.” To

Him the universe was as real before it took an actual form

as ever. He saw the human race on this globe with all its

generations, crimes, sorrows, sufferings, before it was

created. Men were as real to Him before the first man was



Chap. VIII.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       97


created, as they were when He mingled with them in the

streets of Jerusalem, or on the shores of Galilee. Redemp-

tion is no after-thought in the Divine procedure. The

world was built as its theatre, and Christ was fore-.

ordained before its foundation. Its redemption was con-

templated by Him in eternity, and was then a source of

joy. “My delights were with the sons of men.” He came

as no reluctant messenger. “The Word,” the Infinite

Reason, the Eternal Mind of the universe, “was made flesh,

and dwelt among us.”




                      Proverbs 8:32-36


           The Claims of Divine Wisdom


   “Now therefore hearken unto me, 0 ye children: for blessed are they that

keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the

man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my

doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me

love death.”


THE claims of Wisdom as here presented are-.

     VERY SIMPLE.—What are they? Diligently study its

counsels. “Hearken unto me.” “Hear instruction.” It

is expressed further as “watching daily at my gates;

waiting at the posts of my doors.” The idea is, render a

diligent attention to my counsels. Men are made for con-

templation, and this is necessary to bring out their faculties

into full play, and to give them health and vigour. The

words of Wisdom are the greatest subjects for human con-

templation: they explain the rationale of existence, reveal

the Infinite, and point out the path to a happy and ever

progressive destiny. The study of these words, therefore,

is not only proper, but urgent and necessary. Constantly

obey its precepts. “Blessed are they that keep thy ways.”

The teachings of Divine Wisdom are not merely specula-

tive, but regulative. They are maxims to rule the life.

Too often have they been made subjects for mere theory



98        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. VIII.


and debate, but they are in reality laws: they are not

so much for creeds as for codes. They come with authority

from the Great King, and they have a binding force. The

claims of wisdom as here presented are—

    VERY IMPORTANT.—Obedience to them is happiness.

“Blessed is the man that heareth me; watching daily at

my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” Human

happiness consists in a loyal obedience to the Divine

counsels. Happiness is not in thought but in deeds. It is

action that alone can ring the chimes of Heaven in the

heart. “Blessed are they that hear the word of God and

keep it.” To neglect them is ruin. “He that sinneth

against me wrongeth his own soul.” “All that hate me

love death.” Sin is a self-injury. This is a fact, and this

fact shows, First: That God's laws are essentially con-

nected with the constitution of man. It is the characteristic

of all His laws that they are written on the constitution

of the subject. The atom, the flower, the beast, the man,

the angel, all have their laws deep in their own nature.

All sin is unnatural, and an evasion of its penalties

is impossible. The sinner must flee from himself before

he can flee from the misery which his sin entails.

Secondly: That God's counsels are the expressions

of benevolence. We wrong our souls by not keeping

them. The voice of His prohibitions is, “do thyself no

harm,” and the voice of all His injunctions is, “rejoice

evermore.” All His laws are but His love speaking

to man in the imperative mood. Thirdly: That God's

counsels should be studiously obeyed. The sinner

“wrongeth his own soul.” Sin is folly, and the greatest

sinner, whatever his talents and attainments may be, is

the greatest fool. In every sin he quaffs that cup of poison,

which shall produce anguish but never kill. In sinning,              


“We rave, we wrestle with Great Nature's plan,

We thwart the Deity: and ’tis decreed,

Who thwart His will shall contradict their own.”


Chap. IX.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       99




                      Proverbs 9:1-6


               The Educational Temple:


                or Christianity, a School


    “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: She

hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her

table. She hath sent- forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of

the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth under-

standing, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which

I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of under-



THE highest end the Great Father of spirit can have in

His dealings with his intelligent and moral offspring is

their education, the full and perfect development of all their

powers in harmony with themselves and His everlasting

will. For this purpose He has provided man with two

schools—Nature and Christianity. The former is a mag-

nificent one. All the true sciences of the world are but a

few of its lessons which intelligent pupils have learnt

in the school of nature. The latter—Christianity-

is reared to meet man's spiritual condition as a fallen

creature. In nature God is revealed as the Creator, in

Christianity as the Redeemer. Christianity does not super-

sede nature; on the contrary, it trains man properly to

study and appreciate it. We regard the passage as a highly

poetic representation of the school which Wisdom has

reared for man in Christianity, and it leads us to notice—


out seven pillars” A “pillar” is the emblem of strength,

and “seven” of perfection. In what does the firmness of

the Christian school consist? In its truth. Its lessons are

true to human instincts, to human experience, to human

reason: true, also, to a man's deep-felt moral wants

as a sinner. The firmness of a school consists in the

truthfulness of its doctrines. Time, which will mar the

beauty of the architecture of a school, and crumble its

structure to dust, though built of marble or granite, can

never touch its truth with the breath of decay. The famed

100        Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs     [Chap. IX.


schools of Egypt and Greece are no more. They were

ornaments and attractions in their day. Upon them

Socrates and Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras shed the

lustre of their genius. Kings and heroes were their pupils.

But they are gone. They did not deal in lessons true to

man. Their metaphysical dreams and pompous hypo-

theses passed away as the intellect of the world advanced.

But the school which Wisdom “hath builded” by the hand

of the Galilean some eighteen centuries ago is as firm as



killed her beasts, she hath mingled her wine, she hath also

furnished her table.” The adaptation of the provision is

seen in their nature. The things specified here were the

staple commodities of life among the Easterns. The idea

suggested is, that Christian truths sustain a relation to

the soul analogous to the relations that the necessaries

of physical life do to the body. As the body could not

live without the right appropriation of food, no more

can the soul without the right appropriation of Christian

truth. Christ taught this frequently. He is the Bread of

Life, that came down from Heaven. The adapta-

tion of the provisions is seen in their variety. There

is a variety in the provisions mentioned here; “beasts,”

“wine,” “bread.” Physiologists say that man's body not

only requires food, but a variety of food—animal and

vegetable. Why else such a rich variety of these pro-

ductions in nature? and why else such an appetite for

variety? Be this as it may, the Christian school presents

this diversity. There is truth here suited to every faculty

and sentiment of our nature—intellectual truth, religious

truth, moral truth, redemptive truth—truth for the past,

truth for the future. The soul can no more be fed

upon one doctrine than the body upon one element.

Some regard a few dogmas only as food for the soul,

but when once pardoned by God's grace, and renewed by

His Spirit, it wants universal truth to feed on. His smallest

flower that grows in your garden cannot feed upon any

one element. Does it not require sun and air, soil



Chap. IX.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       101


and shower, and all the various gases of the world to

lend their aid. And can the soul feed upon a few dogmas?

No; nor need it: Christianity has provided a boundless



sent forth her maidens; she crieth upon the highest places

of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither." The

invitation is earnest: "She crieth."  It is not a cold, half-

hearted, formal invitation. The great Teacher, on the

great day of the feast, stood and cried. His messengers

are commanded to go into the highways and hedges, and

"compel."  "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." The

invitation is universal.  "Whoso." There is no re-

striction—the banquet is spread for all. There are

places and provision at the banquet for the sage as

well as the rustic—for the old and the young. Pro-

visions are suited to every class of mind. Truths here

are sublime enough for the greatest philosopher, and

simple enough for the untutored child. Plato had in-

scribed on the door of his school, " Let none but geome-

tricians enter here;" but on the portals of the Christian

school is written, "Whoso is simple let him turn in


            THE BLESSEDNESS OF ITS AIM.—What is the great

design of this school? It is to give life. "Forsake the foolish

and live." There are some schools that kill—kill the love

of enquiry—kill the moral sensibility. But this is a life-

giving school. Its lessons are most quickening. What su

adapted to revive the downcast energies of the soul as

the doctrines of Christianity? Its teachers are most quick-

ening. A dull teacher, without genius and inspiration,

will make his pupil dull, even though he deal in the most

inspiring truths. But prophets and apostles are full of

genius and life: They are full of the Great Spirit that

quickeneth all things.

            Let us learn from this the relation which we should

sustain to this Divine Temple of Education. We should

all be teachers. Few in the Temple are so ignorant as

not to be able to impart something of which others are

102             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. IX.]


ignorant. We should all be inviters—go into the street as

messengers of Wisdom, crying upon the highest place in

the city, "Whoso is simple let him come in hither."




Proverbs 9:7-9




"He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that

rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he

hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise

man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in



"HERE," says Lord Bacon, "caution is given how we

tender reprehension to arrogant and scornful natures,

whose manner is to esteem it for contumely, and accord-

ingly to return it." All men, even the wisest and the best,

at times may require reproof, but the administration of it

is generally very difficult. "The most difficult province in

friendship is letting a man see his faults and errors, which

should, if possible, be so contrived that he may perceive

our advice is given him, not so much to please ourselves as

for his own advantage. The reproaches, therefore, of a

friend should always be strictly just, and not too frequent."

     The verses lead us to consider reproof in two aspects.


a scorner getteth to himself shame, and he that rebuketh

a wicked man getteth himself a blot." The "scorner" is a

man distinguished by self-ignorance, audacity, callousness,

vanity, and irreverence. His grand aim is by little sallies

of wit and ridicule, to raise the laugh against his superiors.

He belongs to the lowest type of moral character, he occu-

pies the lowest grade of depravity, he lives next door to

hell. The "wicked man" is of the same class. Probably




Chap. IX.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       103


Solomon intends by both expressions to point to those who

are in the lowest grade of sin, hardened and incorrigible.

To reprove these is injurious. It does them no service,

whilst it brings pain to yourself. It will give you "shame

and a blot." The man who resents reproof is like the

fabled lady who, because the looking-glass reflected the

wrinkles of her face, dashed it to the ground. The

Heavenly Teacher has taught us the same lesson. "Give

not that which is holy unto dogs. There are men beyond

the reach of elevating influences, and it is worse than

waste of labour to endeavour improving them. It is said

of Pericles, that as he was sitting in a meeting before

others one day, a foul-mouthed fellow railled upon him all

the day long; at night, when it was dark and the Meeting

broke up the fellow followed him and railled at him, even

to his doors, and he took no notice of him; but when he

came home he said to him, "It is dark, I pray let my man

light you home." These wicked scorners are incorrigible,

the ministry of discipline has done with them and retribu-

tion has laid its hand on their heart. Their day of grace

is over, their day of judgment has commenced. The verses

lead us to consider reproof—

As USEFULLY ADMINISTERED.—"Rebuke a wise man

and he will love thee." By rebuking a wise man you en-

list his affection. "He will love thee." Every true man

will feel more grateful for honest reproofs than for un-

merited commendation. The false man loves flattery, the

true welcomes honest rebukes. "Let the righteous smite

me; it shall be a kindness." By instructing a wise man

you render him a benefit. "Give instruction to a wise man,

and he will yet be wiser." He will take the suggestion, he

will correct the error pointed out. Wise men are not so per-

fect as not at times to require correction, and we must not

connive at their faults because of their reputation for

wisdom. They are not beyond improvement. "None,"

says Matthew Henry, "must think themselves too wise to

learn, nor so good that they need not be better, and

therefore need not be taught. We must still press

forward and follow on to know till we come to the


104             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. IX.]


perfect man. 'Give to a wise man,' give him advice,

give him comfort, give him reproof, and he will yet be wiser;

give him occasion to show his wisdom and he will show it,

and the acts of wisdom will strengthen the habit." Some

one has said that "reproof is like fuller's earth, it not only

removes spots from our character, but rubs off when it is






Proverbs 9:10-12




"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of

the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years

of thy life shall be increased. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but

if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it."


NOTHING is so important to man as character. It is the

only thing that he can call his own: the only property that

will go with him into the other world, and the only thing

that will determine his condition through all ages of the

future. Here we have-


CHARACTER.—The foundation. What is it? "The fear of

the Lord." Not slavish dread, but loving reverence. "The

knowledge of the holy is understanding." Solomon links

the knowledge of the holy things, or, as some suppose,

holy ones, with the "fear of the Lord;" and, in truth, they

may be considered as identical, for an experimental know-

ledge of "the holy" is essentially related to the "fear of the

Lord," which is the beginning of wisdom and the germ of all

spiritual goodness. All true sagacity takes its rise here.

The two things may be expressed by intelligent piety, and this

is the foundation of a true character. The character that is

organised on this principle is good; all others are corrupt.

The blessedness. "For by me thy days shall be multiplied and

the years of thy life shall be increased." Piety, as we have


Chap. IX.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       105


stated more than once elsewhere, is conducive to long

life. What is it to live? Not merely to exist. A

man may exist here seventy years and not really live

a day. Life means a full and happy discharge of all

the functions of our being, a full development of all our

powers. To live is to realise the grand ideal of character

as embodied in the life of Jesus. "For me to live," says

Paul, "is Christ." Here we have—


WHETHER GOOD OR BAD.—"If thou be wise, thou shalt

be wise for thyself; but if thou scornest thou alone shalt

bear it." Character is a personal thing. It concerns the

man himself and him only. It is true that a good character

by influence may be of service to others, but it is of no

benefit whatever to the Almighty. "Can a man be profitable

unto God as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?"

It is also true that a bad character may by influence be in-

jurious to others. "Thy wickedness may hurt a man." But

it concerns the man himself infinitely more than any one

else. The good man is blessed in his own deed, and the evil

man is cursed in all his work. "Be not deceived; God is

not mocked: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also

reap." "Every man," says Sir J. Stevens, "has in himself

a continent of undiscovered character. Happy is he who.

acts the Columbus to his own soul."



Proverbs 9:13-18


 The Ministry of Temptation


"A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple and knoweth nothing. For

she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city, To

call passengers who go right on their ways: Whoso is simple, let him turn in

hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen

waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that

the dead are there: and that her guests are in the depths of hell."


THE "foolish woman" here stands opposed to wisdom in

the first verses of the chapter. The former is an emblem



106             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. IX.]


of the power of wickedness in the world, prosecuting its

work of temptation.

The other represents the power of goodness inviting the

world to holiness and peace. Every man moves between

these rival invitations in every step of life. The text

presents to us the ministry of temptation in three



woman " is here the emblem of wickedness in the world.

It is a sad thing to find woman a tempter, but from the first

great mother of us all down to the present day, she has

often been found sustaining this character. The devil has

made her one of his most efficient organs. The tempting

woman is here described:—She is ignorant.  "She is simple

and knoweth nothing." She is blind to spiritual realities

and claims. She may be clever, acquainted with the ways

of the world, and crafty; still the great spiritual world is con-

cealed from her. She is in the kingdom of darkness:—She

is clamorous, full of noise and exciting talk, bearing down

all objections to her entreaties:—She is audacious.  "She

sitteth at the door of her house on a seat in the high places

of the city." Modesty, which is the glory of her sex, has

left her. She is bold and brazen:—She is persuasive.

"Whosoever is simple let him turn in hither." "Stolen

waters are sweet." This is her argument. She admits

that her pleasures are wrong, and on that account the more

delectable. She is a portrait of all whom the devil

employs as his emissaries of evil. Mark her features,

and take warning. The ministry of temptation is here



does she especially direct her enticements? Not to the

mature saint, stalwart in virtue. She calls "passengers"

who go right on their ways. "Whoso is simple let him

turn in hither." All men are "passengers." All are going

"right on their ways." Step by step each moves on.

Moves on constantly by day and night, asleep or awake;

moves on irresistibly; no one can pause a moment on his

journey to eternity. Temptation is busy in the path of each.



Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       107


Appeals are made on all hands to the ruling passions of

our nature, avarice, ambition, and lusts. Beware! The

ministry of Temptation is here presented.


not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the

depths of hell." This ministry of temptation is very success-

ful, as conducted by depraved woman. This woman ob-

tained "guests." More, alas! accept the invitation of folly

than wisdom, wickedness than virtue. "Broad is the road

that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in

thereat." Her guests were ruined. "They were dead, and

they were in the depths of hell." Lust bringeth forth

sin; "sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." "To

be carnally minded is death." "The stolen waters," how-

ever sweet, are poisonous. Her guests were ruined, con-

trary to their intention. "He knoweth not." Every man

who accepted her invitation entered her chamber for plea-

sure; this was his purpose. But he met with ruin.

Brother, the devil has a ministry here as well as Christ.

Which ministry exerts the most influence on thee? Re-

member that-

"It is one thing to be tempted,

             Another thing to fall."—SHAKESPEARE





Proverbs 10:1


The Influence of the Child's Character

  Upon the Parent's Heart


"A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his



WHAT does Solomon mean by "a wise son ?" A son of

precocious intellect, who grows at once into a great scholar,

or one who proves himself to have such business aptitudes as

to rise to fortune and power at a bound? Many would call

such a son wise. He evidently means a godly son, for in a


108             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


previous verse he states, "the fear of the Lord is the

beginning of wisdom." Observe:

THE HOLY character of a child GLADDENS the

heart of the parent.—"A wise son maketh a glad

father." The father, however, must himself be a godly

man before a godly son could gladden his heart. A worldly

father is generally disposed to regard a religious son with

mortification and disappointment, and deem him weak-

minded and fanatic. But what on earth can be more

delightful to the heart of a pious father, than the conduct

of an intelligent, pure-minded, generous, brave, godly son?

It is the brightest earthly sunbeam that can fall upon his

soul. It delights him for at least two reasons. Because

he sees in such conduct the best results of his training. He

has the happy assurance that his arduous efforts and self-

sacrifices have not been fruitless, that he has not laboured

In vain. He looks at his son's life as a rich reward.

Because he sees in such conduct the best guarantee for his

son's happiness. He feels the goodness he discovers in

him, has the promise of the life that now is and of that which

is to come. Thus he is glad. Is not this a worthy end for

every son to aim at? He whose life gladdens not the heart

of a pious father is an offence to God, and will prove a

curse to himself and to society. Observe:

The UNHOLY character of a child SADDENS the heart

of the parent.—"A foolish son is the heaviness of his

mother." "Here is distinguished," says Lord Bacon, "that

fathers have most comfort of the good proof of their sons:

but the mothers have most discomfort of their ill proof;

because women have little discerning of virtue but of

fortune." It wounds her, because she discovers that all

her toils, labours, anxieties, have been fruitless, and that

one who is dear to her heart is moving towards infamy and

ruin; his conduct is a "heaviness " to her heart. It rests

as a leaden cloud upon her spirit. What a wretched life is

this! The life that bruises the bosom that nursed and

nurtured it, that tortures the heart whose love has made a

thousand sacrifices on its account ; it is a life that must be

execrated by universal conscience, and by Heaven. Of all



Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       109


men, no man is in a more hopeless condition than he who

has lost his love for his mother, and clouds her life with

sadness. All great men have always been distinguished

by love for their mother. How touching was Cowper's

address to his mother:


"My mother, when I heard that thou wast dead,

Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?

Hover'd thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son—

Wretch even then, life's journey just begun?

Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unseen, a kiss;

Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss.

I heard the bell toll'd on thy burial day,

I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,

And turning from my nursery window drew

A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu."






Proverbs 10:2-3


       Cash and Character


"Treasures of wickedness profit nothing; but righteousness delivereth from

death. The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he

casteth away the substance of the wicked."


HEAVEN'S estimate of human possessions differs widely

from those of conventional society. In the judgment of the

world money is of all things most to be prized, and moral

character a thing of inferior importance. The text expresses

an opposite estimate. Note:

The WORTHLESSNESS of a wicked man's WEALTH.—

It will "profit nothing." The wicked man gets treasures

here, and often, indeed, the more wicked he is the more he

succeeds. His avarice is stronger, and his conscience is

less scrupulous. The "fool" in the Gospel became rich. But

of what real profit is wealth to the wicked? True, it feeds

and clothes him well as an animal, and gives him gorgeous

surroundings. But what "profit" is all this to a man

whose character is bad? It "profits" him "nothing "


110             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


in the way of making him happy. It cannot harmonize

those elements of his nature which sin has brought into

conflict; it cannot remove the sense of fault from his con-

science; it cannot fill him with a bright hope for the future.

It "profits" him "nothing" in the way of obtaining the true

love of his contemporaries. Men bow in servility to the

wealthy, but there is no genuine reverence and love, where

there is not the recognition of goodness. It "profits" him

"nothing" in the dying hour or in the future world. It cannot

prepare him for death, or be of any service in the dread future.

He leaves it all behind. "Naked came ye into the world

and naked must ye return." Riches "profit nothing " in

the day of wrath. "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be

required of thee." In truth, instead of profit it is a loss, a

curse. Was it not so with Judas? When his conscience

was touched with a sense of guilt, "he brought again the

thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying,

I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood." The

fires of his guilt made the coins so red hot that he could

not hold them any longer in his hands. He himself

"casteth away his substance:" it is thrown away as rub-

bish. Note:


"But righteousness delivereth from death. The Lord will

not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish." They shall

be delivered from death. Not from physical dissolution,

for we must all die, there is no discharge in that warfare.

But from that which is the very essence in the evil of phy-

sical death, the sting of sin. And also from spiritual death,

which is separation from God, the root of life. "The soul of

the righteous shall never famish." On the contrary, it shall

increase in vigour for ever. There is no want to them that

fear him. "The young lions do lack and suffer hunger,

but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing."

"I have been young and now am old, yet have not I seen the

righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread." And Paul

says, "I have all, and abound; I am full." Let us accept

Heaven's estimate of human possessions, take rectitude of

character as infinitely more valuable than all the wealth of



Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       111


wicked men. The latter enables a man to enjoy, and inherit

the whole world; whether he has any legal hold upon it or

not. In a pauper's but he can say, all things are mine,

whether Paul or Cephas, life or death, things present or

things to come. I am Christ's and Christ is mine.


"Seas roll to waft me,

  Suns to light me rise;

  My footstool earth, my canopy the skies."





Proverbs 10:4-5


    Idleness and Industry


"He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the

diligent maketh rich. He that gathereth in summer is a wise son; but he that

sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame."


HERE we have industry contrasted with slothfulness and

sin. What is industry? "It does not consist," says one,

"merely in action, for that is incessant in all persons. Our

mind being like a ship in the sea, if not steered to some

good purpose by reason, gets tossed by the waves of fancy,

or driven by the winds of temptation some whither: but

the direction of our mind to some good end without roving,

or thinking in a straight and steady course, and drawing

after it our active powers in execution thereof, doth consti-

tute industry." There are three points of contrast—

The hand of the one is DILIGENT the other is SLACK.—

The hand of the industrious is active, prompt, skilful, and

persevering; and often very brown and bony through

labour. The hand of idleness is "slack," loose, unskilled,

and inapt. It hangs by the side as if it were made for

nothing but to be carried about. Activity braces the

muscles, and strings up the limbs for work. Indolence

slackens the limbs, aye, and slackens the whole frame.

Physical debility and half the disease of the body spring

from indolence.


112             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


The soul of the one SEIZES OPPORTUNITIES, the other

NEGLECTS them.—The one "gathereth in summer," the

other "sleepeth in harvest." The industrious man not only

watches for opportunities, but makes them. He does the

work of the season; leaves not for to-morrow what

should be done to-day. But he does "more." By skilful

diligence, he makes the tide of circumstances flow favourably

for him, and the winds breathe propitiously. He is the crea-

tor rather than the creature of circumstances, their master

rather than their serf. The other, on the contrary, lets the

opportunities pass; he "sleepeth in harvest." When he

should be busy reaping the ripened fields, binding up the

sheaves, and garnering the crops as provision for coming

months, he "sleepeth," and allows the precious grain to

fall into the earth and rot amongst the weeds. Instead of

seizing opportunities, still less creating them, he leaves

them to pass away unimproved. The tide which flowed up

strong enough to bear him to prosperity, he has allowed

to ebb away, and leave him a starving pauper on the


The destiny of the one is PROSPERITY; that of the

other RUIN.—Two things are said of the diligent. That his

hand "maketh rich." In another place it says, "maketh

fat," and in another place, "The hand of the diligent

shall bear rule," shall conduct authority. The man in

the gospel, who employed his talents, got the "well-

done " of his Master, and the rulership over many things.

But on the other hand, the destiny of the idle is poverty

and shame. "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack

hand," and he also "causeth shame." Laziness, as we

have elsewhere said, brings ruin. "Drowsiness," as Solo-

mon has it, "clothes a man in rags."



Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       113




Proverbs 10:6-7


  Opposite Characters and Destinies


"Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth

of the wicked. The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked

shall rot."


HERE we have two opposite characters—the wicked, and

the just. These terms we have frequently explained, and

they represent the two great moral classes of mankind—

the good and evil. From these opposite characters there

spring opposite destinies.

The good are blessed in their EXISTENCE, the wicked

are not.—"Blessings are upon the head of the just." He

is blest by true men, his character is admired, and his use-

fulness appreciated. Heaven smiles on him, what he has

he enjoys with a thankful heart, he is filled with the "peace

of God, which passeth all understanding." He is blessed in

himself, and he blesses all others. But what of the wicked?

"Violence covereth the mouth of the wicked." Of this clause

a different rendering has by some been proposed. That

of our received version, however, seems preferable, and we

accept it. It yields a natural contrast to the first. Some

conceive that there is an allusion to the practice of cover-

ing the face of the condemned. According to this view,

the import will be that the violence of the wicked will

bring him to condemnation. More probably, however,

"covering the mouth" means making ashamed, putting

to silence. His detected and exposed iniquity, rapa-

city, and selfishness, shall be like a muzzle upon his mouth,

shutting it in silent confusion. He is struck speechless.

He has nothing to say in the way of defending or ex-

tenuating his crimes.

The good are blessed in their MEMORY, the wicked

are not.—"The memory of the just is blessed, but the

name of the wicked shall rot." Most men desire post-

humous fame. The text implies this, otherwise why appeal


114             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


to it? No man wishes to be forgotten. All would have

their name survive their death. Nor do any desire to be

remembered with unkindness. All would have their names

mentioned with pleasure and gratitude. In one's more

thoughtful mood there is something overwhelmingly

crushing in the idea of being forgotten in the world in

which we have lived and toiled. The just alone can secure

posthumous fame. "The memory of the just is blessed,

but the name of the wicked shall rot." The human mind

is so constituted that it can only willingly remember the

pleasant. It turns away from the disagreeable. The

crimes and character of the wicked are themes for thought

distasteful to the soul, hence their very names are

allowed "to rot." They are putrid and noxious, and men

would bury them in the grave of forgetfulness. The

memory of the "just" shall be blessed with long continuance.

Their contemporaries will continue while they live to

speak of them with gratitude and esteem, raise monuments

to perpetuate their memory, and thus hand down their

names to the men of coming times. The memory of

the "just" shall be blessed with holy influence. The

remembrance of their virtues will be an ever multi-

plying seed. Though dead, like Abel, they will con-

tinue to speak.




Proverbs 10:8-10


Man in a Threefold Aspect


"The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall

fall. He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways

shall be known. He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating

fool shall fall."


Here is man in SAFETY.—The man who is secure is

described as doing two things—receiving law and practising

it. "The wise in heart will receive commandments."


Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       115


He adopts them intelligently, being convinced of their Divine

authority, and implicitly believing them to be holy, just, and

good. There are men ever ready to give commandments,

to modify commandments, to repeal commandments; but

the true man receives them loyally and lovingly as the

expressions of the Divine Will. He receives with "meek-

ness the engrafted word" of law. The secure man not

only receives law but practises it. He "walketh uprightly."

What he has received rules and regulates his life, he re-

duces the Divine precepts to practice. Such a man is safe.

"He that walketh uprightly walketh safely."

The path of duty is the path of safety. Why? Because omni-

potence guards the traveller. He who moves on the path of

duty, though surrounded by enemies, has the Almighty as

his Companion and Guard. "The Lord God is a sun and

shield." The good have always this assurance, and un-

dauntedly have they pursued their course, even unto death.

He is safe, however perilous the path may sometimes

appear. Moses, at the Red Sea, felt it perilous, but onwards

he went and was secure. Joshua, at the Jordan, felt it

perilous; he proceeded, and the waters made him a safe

passage. David confronted Goliath and was delivered out

of his hand. Daniel in the lion's den came forth unharmed.

The just are safe. "Their defence shall be in the munitions

of rocks." "Mark the perfect man and behold the upright,

for the end of that man is peace."

Here is a man in PERIL.—"A prating fool shall fall."

Literally a "lip fool." The self-conceited are generally

superficial, and the more superficial as a rule the more

talkative: the smaller and lighter the thoughts the bigger

and more plentiful the words. Light matter floats to the

surface and appears to all, the solid and precious lies at

the bottom; the foam is on the face of the waters, the pearl

is below. Sir Walter Raleigh has well said:—"Talking

much is a sign of vanity; for he that is lavish in words is

a niggard in deed." Such a man is in danger; his words

are so reckless and rash that he exposes himself to indi-

vidual resentment. They create stumbling blocks to his

feet, and he falls. He falls into contempt, confusion, and



116             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


suffering, through his vapouring, reckless, and blasphemous

talk. The "prating fool" is one of the most popular

characters in this age. He gains the platform in every pub-

lic agitation. Societies hire him to "stump" the country.

He lives to prate and prates to live. In the course of time

he falls. The public begin to read him, find him a sham,

and he falls. "A prating fool shall fall." As a rule the

more true in heart and affluent in thought a man is, the

more reticent and retired. Plato has well said, "As empty

vessels make the loudest sound, so they that have the least

wit are the greatest babblers."

Here is a man in MISCHIEF.—"He that winketh

with the eye causeth sorrow." Deceivers are winkers,

professing kindness to their neighbours, by a wink of the

eye they give a hint to their accomplices to cheat or rob.

Sly and artful men are referred to. A man who does

his work by looks or words, hints and inuendoes, rather

than by words like the "prating fool," such a man

"causeth sorrow." He destroys social confidence, he

slackens and snaps the bond of friendship, he sows the

seeds of jealousies, and evokes the querulous tones of dis-

sensions. The artful character is the most mischievous in

society. He works his diabolic designs by a "wink."

Blackens reputations, creates quarrels, breaks hearts by a

"wink." "In dealing with cunning persons," says Lord

Bacon, "we must ever consider their ends to interpret

their speeches; and it is good to say little to them, and

that which they least look for. In all negotiations of

difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once,

but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees."


Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       117



Proverbs 10:11




"The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life; but violence covereth the

mouth of the wicked."


SPEECH is one of the most distinguishing faculties of man

—a faculty this that gives immense influence either for

good or evil. "The chief purpose for which it is given,"

says Bishop Butler, "is plainly that we might communicate

our thoughts to each other in order to carry on the affairs

of the world for business, and for our improvement in

knowledge and learning." Solomon and the Bible say

much about this faculty. Here we have,

The speech of the GOOD.—"The mouth of a righteous

man is a well of life." The speech of a righteous man is

here compared to a "well of life." It is like a "well" in

many respects. It is natural. A well springs from the

heart of nature. It is sin that gives to speech its affecta-

tions and artificialities. A thoroughly good man speaks

out with a free and natural flow like the well, the thoughts

that are in his breast. Natural speech is always eloquent.

It is clean. The well, unlike the pool, is ever pure. It is

clear as crystal. You can see the pebbles at the bottom.

There is nothing impure in the speech of a truly "righteous

man." No corrupt communication proceedeth out of his

mouth. His speech is clean. Of all the dirty things in

this world, the most loathsome is dirty speech. A clean soul

is essential to clean speech. It is refreshing. What is

more refreshing to the thirsty traveller than a sip from the

well? What is more refreshing to a soul than good, pure,

vigorous, godly talk? It is life-giving. The well gives

life. It skirts all around it with verdure, and the streams

it sends forth touch into life the banks along their course.

The words of truth and holiness are the means by which

God gives life to the souls of men. Such is the speech of


118             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


the good; nothing so valuable on earth as this. "The

tongue of the just is as choice silver; and the lips of the

righteous feed many." Here is,

The speech of the WICKED.—"Violence covereth

the mouth of the wicked." "From the mouth of the

righteous," says Wardlaw, "there proceed the words

of comfort, truth, and joy; under the tongue of the

wicked there lie concealed cursing and bitterness, wrath

and clamour, and evil speaking. There is something

more fearful in the idea of the mouth covering violence

than in that of uttering it. If the mouth is kept close;

it is only covering, till a convenient season, the vio-

lence that is within—intimating that the wicked is well

aware when it is best for his nefarious purposes to keep

silence as well as when to speak out. Even when he com-

presses his lips, and says nothing, there is no good there."

His mouth is not a well, it is a stagnant pool, covered up

with noxious weeds, thorns, and thistles, and filled with

moral filth. What goes from it is poison.

Tupper's description of speech is worth quoting here:


"Speech is the golden harvest that followeth the flowering of thought,

Yet oftentimes runneth it to the husk and the gains be withered and scanty.

Speech is reason's brother, and a kingly prerogative of man

That likeneth him to his maker, who spake and it was done.

Spirit may mingle with spirit, but sense requireth a symbol,

And speech is the body of a thought, without which it were not seen."




Proverbs 10:12


The Great Mischief-maker

and the Great Peace-maker


"Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins."


A BETTER division for this proverb it is impossible to get

than the one put forth by an old expositor:—"The great

mischief-maker, and the great peace-maker."

Here we have the GREAT MISCHIEF-MAKER—"Hatred."


Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       119


"Hatred stirreth up literally as one lifteth up a spear that

had been at rest." Hatred disturbs the existing quiet by

railings: it stirs up dormant quarrels, oftentimes by mere

suspicions and trifles. "Strifes " of all kinds, domestic,

social, religious, and political, are great evils in them-

selves, and in their influence. The history of them is

the history of crime, lamentation and woe. All the strifes

have one great promoter—that is, "hatred" and malice.

This fiend is ever busy in this work. It is the great dis-

turber of the moral universe; it sets man against himself,

against his Maker, against society, and the universe.

Plutarch's remarks on hatred are worthy the Christian's

study and regard. "A man," says he, "should not allow

himself to hate even his enemies: because, if you indulge

this passion, on some occasion it will rise of itself on

others: if you hate your enemies, you will contract such a

vicious habit of mind, as by degrees will break out upon

those who are your friends, or those who are indifferent to


Here we have the GREAT PEACE-MAKER.—"Love

covereth all sins." "As hatred by quarrels exposes the

faults of others, so love 'covers' them: except in so far as

brotherly correction requires their exposure. The reference

is not to the covering of our sins before God, but the

covering of our fellow men's sins in respect of others.

Love condones, yea, takes no notice of a friend's errors.

The disagreements which 'hatred stirreth up,' love allays;

and the offences which are usually the causes of quarrel it

sees as though it saw them not, and excuses them. It

gives to men the forgiveness which it daily craves from

God. It condones past offences, covers present, and guards

against future ones. To abuse this precept into a warrant

for silencing all faithful reproofs of sin in others would be to

ascribe to charity the office of a procuress." Love is at

once a specific element and a specific agent. As an element,

its home is the heart of God—the God of peace. As an

agent, it is Christ—the Prince of peace. Love restores

order. It is in the moral system like the sap in the tree. It

strives to heal the broken branches. Love pardons offences.



120             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


Instead of parading and magnifying the fault that dis-

turbs, it seeks to blot it out. " It covereth a multitude of


"Love is the happy privilege of mind;

  Love is the reason of all living things.

  A Trinity there seems of principles,

  Which represent and rule created life,

  The love of self, our fellows, and our God."—FESTUS





Proverbs 10:13-18




"In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is

for the back of him that is void of understanding. Wise men lay up knowledge:

but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction. The rich man's wealth is his

strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty. The labour of the

righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin. He is in the way of life

that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth. He that hideth

hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool."


THERE is a three-fold contrast here in the character and

condition of men: an intellectual, social, and moral con-

trast. Here is

AN INTELLECTUAL contrast. Here is a man that

"hath understanding," and a man that is " void of under-

standing." The difference existing between men in rela-

tion to the amount of knowledge is of vast variety.

Between the most enlightened mind and the most ignorant,

there is almost as great a gulf as between the most

sagacious animal and the most uncultured savage. The

disparity arises from a difference in mental constitution.

Some have a far higher mental order of faculties than

others. And also from a difference in educational oppor-

tunities. Whilst some have had the advantages of the

great universities of Europe, and others of humbler schools

Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       121


down to the lowest "dame establishment," the great

majority of the human race have been left to the unaided

light of nature. Hence it is no wonder that, if there are

those who have understanding, there are those who are

"void" of it. Solomon states two things here concerning

the intelligent man. First: He communicates wisdom. "In

the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found."

When he speaks men are enlightened, their minds are set

to think, and their spirits are refreshed. Secondly: He

accumulates wisdom. "Wise men lay up knowledge." It

is a characteristic of knowledge in the mind, that with its

increase there is an increase both in the mind's desire for

larger intelligence, and in its capacity for it. The more a

man knows the more he craves for intelligence, and the more

ample his capacities for an augmented stock become. It

is anything but this with the ignorant man—the man

"void of understanding." Solomon says two things of

him, that there is a "rod for his back," and that his

"mouth is near destruction." He is the subject of coer-

cion; he has not intelligence enough to be swayed by

argument. His language is so mischievous, he babbles

and blabs so recklessly, meddles so much with other

men's concerns, that he brings ruin on himself; his mouth

is always "near destruction." Here is:

A SOCIAL contrast.—"The rich man's wealth is his

strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty."

The social differences amongst men are as great as their

mental. We have princes and paupers, millionaires and

mendicants. Solomon here indicates that the rich man's

confidence of protection is in his "strong city:" its bul-

warks of massive granite and gates of ponderous iron ;

vigilant police and invincible soldiers, he imagines will

keep him safe. He is mistaken! for if he be safely guarded

from human invaders, there are other enemies .that he

cannot shut out: Disease, bereavements, death, cares,

anxieties, sorrows; these can scale the highest fortresses

and assail him. Alas! the tendency of wealth is to dispose

its possessor to trust to safety where no safety is. On the

other hand, "the destruction of the poor is their poverty;"



122             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


what awakens their foreboding and alarm is their destitu-

tion. Poverty often drives men to desperation, suicide,

and murder. Here is:

A MORAL contrast.—"The labour of the righteous

tendeth to life, the fruit of the wicked to sin." It is said

of the righteous that his labour "tends to life." According

to the constitution of things, righteous labour tends to life,

bodily, mental, and spiritual; the life of self and the life

of others. It is said that he "keepeth instruction." He

keepeth it to increase it, to use it to guide and strengthen

him in the path of duty. Because he does this he is in the

way of life." In contrast with this, look at the descrip-

tion of the wicked. "The fruit of the wicked is sin." Sin

is here put in contrast with life, and it is the true antithe-

sis. Sin is death, the death of the true, the divine, and

the happy. The "fruit of the wicked" is his conduct, his

conduct is sin, and sin is death. It is also said of him,

that he "refuseth reproof," and that in this he "erreth."

The man who refuses righteous reproofs is like the be-

wildered traveller who, rejecting all directions, pursues his

course until he tumbles over the precipice and is dashed to

pieces. He is further represented as one that "hideth

hatred with lying lips," and uttereth slander. Wicked-

ness hides hatred by lies, and slays reputations by slanders.

It is often honey on the lips and venom in the heart. It is

always associated more or less with a villany that hides

itself under flattering words, and works out its ends by

treachery and. lies. "Of all the vices," says an able author,

"to which human nature is subject, treachery is the most

infamous and detestable, being compounded of fraud,

cowardice, and revenge. The greatest wrong will not

justify it, as it destroys those principles of mutual con-

fidence and security by which only society can subsist.

The Romans, a brave, generous people, disdained to

practise it towards their declared enemies: Christianity

teaches us to forgive injuries: but to resent them under

the disguise of friendship and benevolence, argues a

degeneracy at which common humanity and justice may




Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       123



      Proverbs 10:19


   The Sin of Loquaciousness


"In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his

lips is wise."


"THERE is very great necessity indeed of getting a little

more silent than we are. It seems to me that the finest

nations in the world—England and America—are going

away into wind and tongue; but it will appear sufficiently

tragically by-and-by, long after I am away of it (the world).

Silence is the eternal duty of a man. 'Watch the tongue,'

is a very old precept, and a most true one." So said Car-

lyle, in his characteristic and remarkably enlightened and

vigorous address at Edinburgh, in the beginning of April,

1870. The most thinking men of all ages have felt a

similar conviction of the enormous evil of garrulousness.

Solomon evidently did so. The sage of Chelsea is in this,

as he is in many other things, one with the old royal sage

of Jerusalem, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not



HIMSELF.—"A man whose tongue is always wagging," as

Carlyle has it, is doing a serious injury to his own intellec-

tual and spiritual nature. Great volubility is a substitute

for thought. The man who has the love and faculty of great

speaking is naturally prone to mistake words for thoughts.

Hence it turns out as a rule that the most fluent utterers are

the most shallow thinkers. Who has not heard long ser-

mons and speeches, delivered oftentimes in graceful diction

and impressive tones and attitudes, all but destitute of any

idea worth carrying away? Great volubility is a quietus to

thought. The man who has the power of talking without

thinking, will soon cease to think. The mechanism of

thought will not work amid the rattling of the jaw. Thus

the man who is always speaking injures himself. "The

prating fool shall fall," says Solomon. True: he does fall.



124             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


His mental faculties fall into disuse under the constant

pressure of verbosities.


men in the senate who in long debate spin out their yards

of talk, as well as the garrulous on platforms and in pulpits,

injure society in many ways. They waste the precious time

of the hearer. The hours the listener is bound to give to

those wordy discourses might be employed in other ways,

to high mental and spiritual advantage. The men who

occupy the time of assemblies with speech without thought

are the perpetrators of enormous theft. They steal away

men's precious time. They foster self-deception. The people

who listen to them often fancy that they have derived good

from their addresses, whereas, in most cases, they have not

derived one single idea of any practical worth in life.

They have been feeding, not on the bread of thought, but on

the gilded confectionery of words; aye, and often on nothing

but wind. Hence, as a fact patent to every thoughtful

observer in the religious world, the most ignorant as well

as often the largest congregations, are those who attend

the ministry of the garrulous preacher. They propagate

crude opinions instead of divine principles. As a rule, the

things their words convey are not truths which the speaker

has reached, as living convictions, by an earnest and in-

dependent search of divine revelation. They are opinions

that have come into him by education, and which he has

never digested, or the untested notions which start from his

brain in the excitement of the hour. Thus tares are sown

instead of wheat.

Beware, then, of garrulousness in yourself; and, for your

soul's sake, do not put yourself under its influence. "We

have two ears and but one tongue," says an old writer,

"that we may hear much and talk little." "Set a watch,

O God, before my mouth: keep the door of my lips."



Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       125



Proverbs 10:20-21; 31-32


     The Speech of the Righteous

                and the Wicked Compared


"The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little

worth. The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom."


"The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue

shall be cut out. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the

mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness."


HERE again Solomon is on the question of speech. He

attaches great importance to the power of the tongue to

work good or ill. As a philosopher, he knew that the cha-

racter of a man's language depended upon the character of

his heart, that the speech of a corrupt man would always

be vile and pernicious, and that of the upright pure and

sanitive. There is in these verses a comparison between

the speech of the two characters.

The speech of the good man is VALUABLE; that of the

other is WORTHLESS.—"The tongue of the just is as choice

silver." Just before Solomon had said, that the mouth of

the righteous is "as a well of life," indicating that his lan-

guage was natural, clean, and life-giving. Here it is spoken

of as "choice silver." It is intrinsically valuable, it con-

tains truths of priceless worth, truths that reflect the Creator,

and bless His creation. But the speech of the evil man is

worthless. "The heart of the wicked is little worth." Why

does Solomon bring the heart and the tongue into compari-

son, rather than the tongue of each? Probably to express

the idea that speech is always the outcome and exponent of

the heart. Truly the speech of a corrupt man is "little worth."

He may be a man of distinguished genius, of high mental

culture, a brilliant author, and a commanding orator. Still

all his sentences are of "little worth." They stream from

a corrupt heart, and have in them more or less of the vile

and pernicious.

The speech of the good man is NOURISHING, that of

the other is KILLING.—"The lips of the righteous feed many,

126             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


but fools die for want of wisdom." How one soul can

nourish and invigorate another by the language of truth

and love! Thus Christ strengthened His disciples, and the

Apostles the churches they planted. A few suitable words

falling from the lips of a noble man have often braced the heart

of the hearer with a martyr's heroism. But what of the

words of the wicked man? Are they nourishing? Here is

the contrast—"fools die for want of wisdom." Their words,

beautiful as they may sound, are not grain, but chaff; how-

ever delicious to the palate, they are not aliment, but

poison. The spiritual destroyer of humanity makes cor-

rupt words his wings to bear him through the world; his

poisoned javelins to strike death into the heart of his victims.

The speech of the good man is WISE, that of the

other is FOOLISH.—"The mouth of the just bringeth forth

wisdom; but the froward tongue shall be cut out." The

words of him whose intellect is under the teaching of God,

and whose heart is in vital sympathy with Him, are wise

words: they tend to explain the facts of life, throw true

light on the path of duty, and supply stimulants to pursue

it without deviation or pause. The policies propounded by

the wicked may seem wise at first, but time always exposes

their folly, and brings its disciples to confusion and shame.

"The froward tongue shall be cut out." "Cut out," as a

corrupt tree which brings forth evil fruit is hewn down and

cast into the fire. Take the books written by corrupt men

for sceptical and sensational objects. Many of them are

philosophic in structure, elaborate in argument, mighty in

rhetoric, decked with learning, and sparkling with genius.

What are they? They are the "froward tongue," the per-

verse uttering of perverse men, and they shall be "cut out."

The cutting process, thank God, is going on.

The speech of the good man is ACCEPTABLE, that of

the other is PERVERSE.—"The lips of the righteous know

what is acceptable; but the mouth of the wicked speaketh

frowardness." The words of truth are always acceptable to

God. "We are unto God a sweet smelling savour," said

the Apostle. And acceptable are they also to all thought-

ful and candid men. Though they clash with prejudice,



Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       127


and strike against strong inclinations, still, inasmuch as

they are true they "commend themselves to every man's

conscience." Not so the utterances of the wicked. There

is a "frowardness" that is distasteful to all consciences, and

repugnant to the heart of God and the good.

Jesus taught that the reformation of language must pro-

ceed from the reformation of the heart. "How can ye being

evil speak good things?" What are the elements of good

moral speech? Sincerity and Purity. By sincerity, I mean

the strict correspondence of the language with the senti-

ments of the heart; and by purity I mean, the strict corres-

pondence of those sentiments with the principles of ever-

lasting right. Sincerity without purity, were it possible,

would be of no moral worth. But sincerity of expression

without purity of sentiment seems to me all but socially

impossible. A corrupt man is both ashamed and afraid to

expose the real state of his heart to his fellow men. But let

the sentiments be pure, let the passion be chaste, let the

thoughts be generous, let the intentions be honourable, let

the principles be righteous, and then, instead of there being

any motive to insincerity of language, there will be all the

incentives to the utmost faithfulness of expression.





  Proverbs 10:22-28


        Moral Phases of Life


"The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with

it. It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath

wisdom. The fear of the wicked it shall come upon him: but the desire of the

righteous shall be granted. As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked man no

more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation. As vinegar to the teeth,

and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him. The fear of

the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened. The

hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall



HUMAN life has its spiritual and moral as well as its

material and intellectual side. Actions are performed by


128             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


a man and events occur in his history which reveal his

moral nature and relations. There are five things in these

verses of great moral significance.

WEALTH MAKING HAPPY.—"The blessing of the

Lord it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with

it." Great temporal blessings are often, perhaps gene-

rally, the occasion of mental suffering. They awaken

in the mind harassing cares, painful anxieties, and

distressing suspicions. What distress wealth brought

upon Lot! and Ahab, though he wore a crown, was "sick

on his bed." Through discontent the young man in the

gospel was rich but not happy. But here we are reminded

that it need not be, that it never is so, if the blessing of the

Lord is connected with it. Wealth, when it is reached in

harmony with the will of God, and employed in the service

of benevolence and truth, has no sorrow, but tends to hap-

piness in many ways. It is held with a loose hand, and if

it departs there is no great regret; it is regarded as a trust,

to be used in the service of another rather than for our-

selves. A man who has got his wealth rightly, holds and

uses it rightly, will find that, instead of adding sorrow, it

conduces not a little to his happiness.

MISCHIEF DONE IN SPORT.—"It is as sport to a fool

to do mischief, but a man of understanding hath wisdom."

There is an innocent sport. Many natures, especially the

young, have in them much of the frolicsome and the

humorous. The sport of innocent childhood and youth,

and that of rich and generous-natured manhood, is not a

thing for censure. But the "sport" to which Solomon

here refers is "To do mischief." A "sport" which does

injury to the reputation, the property, the peace, the com-

forts of others. It is a sport that turns the serious into

ridicule, that makes merry in deeds of nefarious wicked-

ness. How much mischief is done in sport. There is a

malign as well as a generous sport! There is the hilari-

ousness of innocence and the hilariousness of crime. It is

only a fool that doth mischief by sport. A "man of

understanding hath wisdom,"—that is, he would not do it.

Mischief to him is too serious for sport. The exuberance



Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       129


of his spirits and humour could never tempt him to wound

the feelings or damage the interests of his fellow men. It is

the fool that makes a mock of sin, to the wise man sin is

too grave a matter to laugh at. Here is:

JUSTICE DONE TO ALL.—"The fear of the wicked

it shall come upon him; but the desire of the righteous

shall be granted." The anticipation of the righteous and

the forebodings of the wicked shall both one day be

realised. There is at times in every guilty conscience a

fearful looking for of judgment; that judgment will

surely come, it will be a terrible fact in his history.

There is on the other hand in every godly soul a desire

for a higher spiritual good, for sublimer attainments in ex-

cellence; that desire shall meet with its realization. "The

desire of the righteous shall be granted." What are fore-

bodings in the wicked and what are hopes to the good,

shall before long become great conscious facts. It shall come

to the wicked very suddenly. "As the whirlwind passeth so

is the wicked no more." Mighty, rushing, resistless, it

comes and bears them away. But it establishes the

righteous. "The righteous is ('is' is not in the original)

an everlasting foundation." Perhaps there may be a

reference to the violence of the wicked being directed

against him, and his remaining under the protection

of the Divine power, unmoved, unharmed. The whirl-

wind assails the mountain; sweeps and eddies along

with tempestuous and tearing fury; leaves here and there

traces of its raging course; but the mountain stands

unshaken on its deeplaid and unmovable basis. Such

shall be the amount of the wicked man's power, such the

harmlessness of its results, against those who are under the

protection of Jehovah. It shall spend itself, and pass

away: and the righteous shall not be moved. If God

be for them, who can be against them? Here is:


teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them

that sent him." Vinegar sets the teeth on edge, and smoke

gives pain to the eyes. Both irritate and annoy, so an

indolent messenger provokes his master. Who has not felt



130             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. X.]


this? You entrust a man on an important errand, you

despatch him, and you bid him hasten his steps

and return with speed, but he is an indolent man;

after he has left your sight he lags and crawls

slowly on, sometimes sitting down and sometimes

lounging at the side of the hedge: you get anxious, you

wonder what has become of him, you have misgivings as

to his safety, you fear that the mission with which you en-

trusted him has failed; every minute increases your anxiety

and heightens your irritation. Truly the lazy, yawning

loiterer is to you as "vinegar to the teeth," and as "smoke

to the eyes." Laziness is not only bad for the man him-

self, but is most vexatious to those who are unfortunate

enough to employ him in their service. Here is:


of the good is here represented, as in many other

places in this book, as prolonging life and yielding joy.

"The fear of the Lord prolongeth days. The hope of the

righteous shall be gladness." Here is the character of the

good lengthening the life and filling it with gladness. On

the contrary, the character of the wicked is represented as

abbreviating life and ending in ruin. "The years of the

wicked shall be shortened. The expectations of the wicked

shall perish."

How full is the Bible of human life, its follies and its

wisdoms, its vices and its virtues, its friendships and be-

reavements, its prosperities and adversities, its sorrows and

its joys. God has filled the Bible with humanity, in order

that it might interest men and improve them. The crimes

of ancient men are here used as beacons flashing their red

light, from the dangerous rocks and quicksands, and their

virtues as bright stars to guide us safely on our voyage.





Chap. X.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       131



     Proverbs 10:29


  Might and Misery


"The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be

to the workers of iniquity."



The way to STRENGTH.—The Lord has "a way" for man

to walk in. He has a way for Himself. He does not move

without foresight and plan. His course is mapped out.

He knew the end from the beginning. His way, though

righteous and benevolent, is nevertheless inscrutable to us.

His way is in the sea and his paths are in deep waters.

What seraph can trace His goings?


We cannot find thee out, Lord, for infinite thou art,

Thy wond'rous works and word reveal thee but in part;

The drops that swell the ocean, the sands that girt the shore,

To measure Thy duration, their numbers have no power.


He has a way for his creatures. He has mapped out a path

for all, according to their constitutions. He has given an

orbit to all the globes of matter, a sphere to all irrational

life; has described a course for angelic hierarchies, and

planned out a specific path for fallen men to tread in.

What is the way He has marked out for us? It is the way

of social justice and Divine worship. In other words, the way

that Christ pursued. Our course is to follow Him; the

great law binding on us is to be animated by His spirit,

controlled by His principles, and engrossed in His purposes.

The man who walks in this way gets strength. "The way

of the Lord is strength to the upright." It is the "upright"

who walks in this way. The man who has been made

erect in Christian principles and virtues shall get intel-

lectual strength:—in every step along this path he finds

truths to challenge and nurture thought, and mental

fruit clusters on all sides. Moral strength:—strength to

resist temptation, to bear trial, to discharge duty, to serve

man, to glorify God. "They that wait upon the Lord

shall renew their strength." The righteous shall hold on

132             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. XI.]


his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger

and stronger." Notice again:

The way to RUIN.—"But destruction shall be to the

workers of iniquity." Destruction of what? Conscience,

memory, moral obligations, existence? I trow not. But

the destruction of hopes, loves, friendships, and all that

make existence worth having. The way to this terrible

condition is iniquity. The word is negative—the want of

equity. Men will be damned not merely for doing wrong,

but for not doing the right. The want of air, bread, water,

will destroy the body; the want of righteousness will ruin

the soul. "He that believeth not shall be damned."*




   Proverbs 11:2


  The Advent and Evil of Pride


"When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom."



THE ADVENT OF PRIDE.—"When pride cometh."

What is pride? It is inordinate self-appreciation. It is

the putting of too high an estimate on self. This feeling

comes to a soul. It is not born in it. How does it come?

By associating only with inferiors. Constant intercourse

with those whose talents, beauty, accomplishments, wealth,

or position, are manifestly inferior to our own, is favourable

to its advent. By practically ignoring the true standards

of character. When we lose sight of the eternal law of

rectitude, and judge ourselves only by the imperfect stand-

ards around us, pride is likely to come.


"Pride (of all others the most dangerous fault)

Proceeds from want of sense, or want of thought.

The men who labour and digest things most,

Will be much apter to despond than boast."


By a practical disregard to the majesty of God. He who


      * Verses 30 to 32 have been noticed in a previous reading.


Chap. XI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       133


shuts Him out from his sphere of habitual thought and

experience will be accessible to pride. The conscious

presence of God humbles. "When I consider the heavens,

the work of Thy hands, the moon and stars that Thou hast

made. What is man that Thou art mindful of him?"


THE EVIL OF PRIDE.—What is the evil?  First: It

brings shame. "Then cometh shame." The man who

has formed such a false and exaggerated estimate of self

must be disappointed one day, and the disappointment

will fill him with "shame." The pride of Herod reduced

him to the worms. Man like water must find his level; he

must come to realities. How frequently and earnestly the

Heavenly Teacher inculcates humility. "When thou art

bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room." "Whosoever

exalteth himself shall be abased." It brings the shame of

folly. The soul blushes with a sense of its own foolish

estimate. And also the shame of guilt. Pride is a wrong

state of mind, and hence follows a blushing sense of guilt.

It was so in the case of our first parents; shame covered

them when they discovered the folly and guilt of their

pride. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty

spirit before a fall."


"Of all the causes which conspire to blind

Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,

What the weakest head with strongest bias rules,

Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools!

Whatever nature has in worth denied,

She gives in large recruits of needful pride;

For as in bodies, so in souls, we find

What wants in blood and spirits filled with wind:

Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,

And fills up all the mighty void of sense.

If once right reason drives that cloud away,

Truth breaks upon us with resistless day.

Trust not yourself; but your defects to know,

Make use of every friend and every foe."—POPE


Secondly: It excludes wisdom. Wisdom cannot dwell

with pride; indeed, pride will not allow it to enter. The

proud man is so self-sufficient, has such a high estimate of

his own knowledge, that he feels no need of further light.


134             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. XI.]


He is so satisfied with the rushlights that his pride has

kindled within him, that he draws the curtains and shuts

out the sunbeams. But if wisdom could enter, it could

not live there, the atmosphere of pride would smother it.

Truly pride is a bad thing. "Pride," said old Thomas

Adams, "thrust proud Nebuchadnezzar out of men's society,

proud Saul out of his kingdom, proud Adam out of para-

dise, proud Haman out of the court, proud Lucifer out of






   Proverbs 11:7


      The Terrible in Human History


"When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of

unjust men perisheth."


THERE are two terrible events here—


dieth." Death everywhere is a sad event—in the flower,

in the bird, in the beast, it is a saddening sight. Death in

the babe; death, even in a righteous man, is sad. But

death in connection with the wicked is of all sights the

saddest under these heavens. The wicked man dieth.

Then death does not wait for reformation in character.

Procrastination may adjourn duties, but not death. Death

will not wait an hour or a minute: when the appointed

hour has struck he is there. He has an appointed work to

do and a time for doing it, and nothing can delay his

course. "A wicked man dieth." Then the greatest enemies

of God and His universe are overcome. Wicked men rebel

against God, battle with everlasting right, but death is

stronger. Death comes and puts an end to all. His cold

touch freezes the heart, stills and silences them for ever.


    * The subjects contained in verses 3 to 6 have been discussed in previous



Chap. XI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       135


It is well for the world that death does come to the wicked.

Were they to remain for ever, or for any very lengthened

period, our planet would become a Pandemonium. Terrible

as death may be to them, their death is a blessing to

humanity. The other terrible event here is:


tion shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth."

What is dearer to the soul than hope? It is dearer than

life itself, for life is a curse without it. The soul lives in

its hope and by its hope. "The miserable hath no medi-

cine but only hope," says Shakespeare. But when the

wicked man dieth, he loseth this hope. Hope says adieu

to him, plumes her pinions, and departs for ever. The

hope of liberty, improvement, honour , happiness, gone, for ever

gone. Every "star of hope" quenched, and the sky of

the soul black as midnight. "He dieth, and carrieth

nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him." "He

shall go to the generations of his fathers, and shall never

see light." How strong the language of despair, as ex-

pressed by Milton:


"So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,

  Farewell remorse—all good to me is lost;

  Evil be thou my good."




Proverbs 11:8


    Trouble in Its Relation

to the Righteous and the Wicked


"The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked cometh in his



ALL men have their troubles. "Man is born to trouble, as

the sparks fly upwards." But while the good and the bad

have both trouble, their relation to it is strikingly different,

as indicated in this proverb.

The righteous are GOING OUT OF "TROUBLE."—"The


136             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. XI.]


righteous is delivered out of trouble." The righteous have

their troubles—troubles arising from physical infirmities,

mental difficulties, secular anxieties, moral imperfections,

social dishonesties, falsehoods, and bereavements. But

the glorious fact in their history is, they are being

"delivered out" of these troubles. They are emerging

out of darkness into light, out of discord into harmony.

Partially: They are being delivered out of trouble now.

There are many striking instances of deliverance on

record. Abraham, Noah, Moses, Mordecai, Daniel. Every

righteous man can refer to troubles from which he has

been delivered, enemies that he has overcome, difficulties

that he has surmounted, storms that he has left behind.

Completely. They will be delivered out of all trouble at death.

With the last breath all their sorrows depart as a vision of

the night. The whole of the mighty load is left on this

side of the Jordan. John, in vision, saw the righteous

who had "come out of great tribulation," clothed in white

robes, and exulting in bliss.

Take heart, ye righteous ones; yet a little while, and all

your storms will be hushed—all your clouds will melt into


The wicked are GOING INTO TROUBLE.—"And the

wicked cometh in his stead." They are in trouble now, but

they are going deeper into it every step they take. Their

heavens are growing darker, and the clouds more heavy:

they are forging thunder-bolts and nursing storms. The

trouble they are going into is unmitigated. They are

not mixed with blessings, which lighten their pressure

or relieve their gloom. The trouble they are going into is

unending. "The worm dieth not, and the fire is not


Brother, mark the difference between the righteous and

the wicked. See the former moving on, with his troubles

receding like a cloud behind him, with sunshine breaking

on his horizon: see the wicked advance under a sky

growing more and more dark and thunderous.


Chap. XI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       137



       Proverbs 11:9


    Hypocrisy and Knowledge


"An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbor: but through know-

ledge shall the just be delivered."


THE hypocrite is one who feigns to be what he is not—one

whose life is a lie. Selfish, he wears the costume of

benevolence: false, he speaks the language of sincerity

and truth. "A hypocrite," says Bowes, "is like the

painting at one time exhibited in London, of a friar habited

in his canonicals. View the painting at a distance, and

you would think the friar to be in a praying attitude. His

hands are clasped together and held horizontally to his

breast, his eyes meekly demised like those of the publican

in the gospel; and the good man seems to be quite

absorbed in humble adoration and devout recollection.

But take a nearer survey, and the deception vanishes.

The book which seemed to be before him is discovered to

be a punch-bowl, into which the wretch is all the while, in

reality, only squeezing a lemon." How lively a repre-

sentation of a hypocrite! Observe:

Hypocrisy is DESTRUCTIVE.—"A hypocrite with his

mouth destroyeth his neighbours." By his deception

he has often destroyed the reputation, the peace, and the soul

of his neighbour. Hypocrites are ravenous wolves in

sheep's clothing. Under the pretence of loyalty, Haman

would have destroyed a whole nation. Hypocrisy implies

the pernicious. A consciousness of wrongness within is

the cause of all hypocrisy. The corrupt heart dares not

show itself as it is. Hence it puts on the garb of good-

ness. It is theatrical: it appears to be what it really is

not. It is a difficult character to keep up. It is a battle

against nature and reality. "If the devil ever laughs,"

says Colton, "it must be at hypocrites. They are the

greatest dupes he has. They serve him better than any

others, and receive no wages; nay, what is still more



138             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. XI.]


extraordinary, they submit to greater mortifications to go

to hell than the sincerest Christian to go to heaven. Hypo-

crisy employs the pernicious. Misrepresentations and

errors, the curse of the world, are its instruments. A false

man is a "moral murderer; his mouth the lethal weapon,

and his neighbour the victim." He is an assassin, striking

down reputations. Observe:

Knowledge is RESTORATIVE.—"But through knowledge

shall the just be delivered." Knowledge is here put

in antithesis with hypocrisy, and they are essentially

opposites. Real knowledge enables its possessor to

defeat the crafty and malicious designs of the deceiver.

A spiritually enlightened man can penetrate the mask of

the hypocrite and defeat his pretensions. Divine know-

ledge is the restorative power of the world. "This is

life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus

Christ whom Thou hast sent." It scatters the clouds

of ignorance and error, and raises the soul to light,

freedom, purity, and blessedness. The knowledge, how-

ever, to deliver and redeem must be practical.


      "Only add

Deeds to thy knowledge answerable: add faith,

Add virtue, patience, temperance: add love,

By name to some call'd charity, the soul

Of all the rest. Then wilt thou not be loath.

To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess

A paradise within thee happier far."—MILTON




Chap. XI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       139




Proverbs 11:10-11


    The Public Conscience

      in Relation to Moral Character


"When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the

wicked perish, there is shouting. By the blessing of the upright the city is

exalted but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked."


DOWN deep beneath the errors, follies, vanities of the

community, there is a conscience. A something that

concerns itself not with the truth or falsehood of propositions,

or the expediency or inexpediency of actions, but with

immutable right; it points evermore to the just, as the

needle to the pole.

The words lead us to notice—

The public conscience in relation to the RIGHTEOUS.—

"When it goeth well with the righteous the city rejoiceth."

Public conscience is gratified by the prosperity of the

righteous. The moral heart of the city exults when it sees

a truly good man prosper, even though his doctrines may

clash with its prejudices, and his conduct with its selfish

interests and gratifications. So did the people of old in

relation to Mordecai and Hezekiah. Public conscience

acknowledges the usefulness of the righteous. "By the

blessings of the upright the city is exalted." All history

shows the truth of this. "Righteousness exalteth a nation."

All that is great and good in our England to-day must be

ascribed to righteous principles. These principles, scattered

broad-cast by our ancestors, have taken root, grown, and

worked off the superstition, the barbarism, and the

tyranny of former times. Who is the true patriot

and real benefactor? Not the man of brilliant genius,

oratoric power, or skilful finance, but the righteous man.


140             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. XI.]


Righteous men are the salt of society, preventing it from

putrefaction: the pillars of the State, preventing kingdoms

crumbling into confusion. Notice also:

Public conscience in relation to the WICKED.—

"When the wicked perish there is shouting." It rejoices

in their ruin. There is shouting when they fall. When

the oppressor and tyrant fall, the public shout. "So let all

Thine enemies perish, O Lord, but let them that love Thee be

as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." When the

Pharaohs, the Nebuchadnezzars, the Herods, the Alex-

anders, the Neros fall, the people may well rejoice. It

proclaims their mischief. "The city is overthrown by the

mouth of the wicked." The "mouth of the wicked," the

channel of impieties, falsehoods, impurities, and innumerable

pernicious errors—has caused in all ages, and is still

causing, the overthrow of States.

Pope has well described the kind of statesman that blesses



"Stateman, yet friend to truth! of soul sincere,

  In action faithful and in honour clear!

  Who broke no promise, served no faithless end,

  Who gain'd no title, and who lost no friend;

  Ennobled by himself, by all approved,

  Praised, wept, and honour'd by the race he loved."






Proverbs 11:12-13


Types of Character in Social Life


"He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of under-

standing holdeth his peace. A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a

faithful spirit concealeth the matter."


IN these verses there are four distinct types of character,

which Solomon observed in the social life of his age, and

they are to be found now in every social grade in every

country under heaven.


Chap. XI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       141


THE INSOLENT.—"He that is void of wisdom despiseth

his neighbour." There are men destitute of all true re-

spect for their fellows. Always uncivil and rude. They

are insolent in their speech and their bearing, ever

saucy, and abusive. Such were those in the multi-

tude that surrounded the cross, who "wagged" their heads

at Infinite dignity. The remarks of Fielding on this

class are to the point. "As it is the nature of a kite to

devour little birds, so it is the nature of some minds to

insult and tyrannise over little people. This being the

means which they use to recompense themselves for their

extreme servility and condescension to their superiors ; for

nothing can be more reasonable than that slaves and

flatterers should exact the same taxes on all below them,

which they themselves pay to all above them." "Such a

man," says Solomon, "is void of understanding." He does

not know himself, he does not know the respect due from

him even to the humblest of his fellow creatures. Here is

The RESPECTFUL.—"A man of understanding holdeth

his peace." He is neither precipitant in the judgment he

forms of men, nor hasty in his language. He listens, re-

flects, weighs, and then speaks with deference; he is the true

gentleman of society, cautious, prudent, polite. He does not

blab out secrets entrusted to his confidence, nor break forth

into language of indignation, even under strong provocation.

He is master of his own temper, and rules his own

tongue. He acts ever under the impression of what is due

from man to man. He is uncringing to his superiors, and

courteous to those below him. "As the sword of the best

tempered metal is most flexible, so the truly generous are

most pliant and courteous in their behaviour to their in-

feriors." Here is

The TATTLER.—"The talebearer revealeth secrets."

A talebearer is one who will take in your secrets, and

hastens to his neighbour to pour them into his greedy ears.

He has an itching to know your concerns, and no sooner

do you impart them, than he itches for their communication.

There is, perhaps, a strong propensity in all to reveal

secrets, and this in proportion to the strength of the man's



142             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. XI.]


vanity. When a man breaks a secret he gratifies his

vanity in two ways. By revealing knowledge which the

hearer has not, and by showing at the same time how much

he is trusted. A more odious and mischievous character

is scarcely to be found than a talebearer. Sheridan spoke in

his day of a set of "malicious, prating, prudent gossips, both

male and female, who murder characters to kill time ; and

will rob a young fellow of his good name before he has

years to know the value of it." He is not always malicious

in spirit, but he is always dangerous. He is always dis-

turbing friendships, starting suspicions, and creating

animosities. Here is

The TRUSTWORTHY.—"But he that is of a faithful

spirit concealeth the matter." This man is the antithesis

to the talebearer. He is a dependable friend; he will listen

to your secrets as things too sacred for speech. You can

trust him with your life, he will never betray you.

Of course such a man will not receive a secret in con-

fidence which endangers the interests, rights, and lives of

others; the man who would offer such a secret to him he

would repel with indignation or hand over to the police.

But secrets that involve no injustice or injury to others, he

will hold as sacred as his life.


"His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles;

 His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate:

 His tears pure messengers sent from his heart:

 His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth."






    Proverbs 11:14


Wisdom, the Want of States


"Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers

there is safety."


"IT is obvious enough," says an able expositor, " that there

is something here to be understood. The 'counsel' that

Chap. XI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       143


keeps the people from ruin must be wise and good: and

when given, it must be taken and followed. There may be

no lack of counsel, but it may be counsel that 'causeth to

err from the way of understanding,' and both ruler and

people would have been better without it. But the case

supposed, appears to be that of a self-willed, self-sufficient,

head-strong ruler, who glories in his power; who deter-

mines to wield the rod of that power in his own way, and

who plays the hasty, jealous, resolute, sensitive, and vin-

dictive tyrant; who disdains to call in counsel, or who does

it only for the pleasure of showing his superiority to it, by

setting it at nought. I conceive the phrase, 'where no

counsel is' to be intended to convey not a little of the

character of him, by whom it is declined or disregarded.

He is a character under whose rule 'the people fall.' We

have an example of such a character—foolish, high-minded,

insolent—in Solomon's own successor Rehoboam."

This verse implies three facts—


governments are not arbitrary institutions. They spring

from the instincts and necessities of society. A few men

in every age are made to rule. They are, as compared

with the multitude, royal in capacity, intelligence, aspira-

tion, power. The millions are made to obey. They are

uninventive, unaspiring, cringing, and servile. From such

a state of things government must flow. The tree of human

government is a Divine seed, which Heaven has implanted

in the social heart. The tree, it is true, is often hideous in

aspect and pernicious in fruit. This is the fault of the

air and the soil, not of the seed, its origin is Divine.

The verses, moreover, imply that:


GENCE.—Not force, not passion, not caprice, not

despotism, but "counsel." The common will must be

swayed by reason. Men are not to be governed as brutes,

by force or violence, but by enlightened legislation. Rulers

should be men not only of incorruptible justice, but of the

most enlarged information and practical philosophy. It is

a sad thing to send men to the senate house as England now


144             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. XI.]


sends them. In our ignorance we are making legislators

of joint-stock jobbers, reckless speculators, uncultured

manufacturers, broken down journalists and brainless Lords.

Bancroft has well described the true statesman. "He is

inviolably constant to his principle of virtue and religious

prudence. His ends are noble, and the means he uses

innocent. He hath a single eye on the public good: and

if the ship of the state miscarry, he had rather perish in the

wreck than preserve himself upon the plank of an inglorious

subterfuge. His worth hath led him to the helm. The

rudder he uses is an honest and vigorous wisdom, the

star he looks to for direction is in Heaven, and the port he

aims at is the joint welfare of prince and people."

Again the verses imply that:


CONSULTATION.—"In the multitude of counsellors there

is safety." The wisest men must meet, compare opinions,

weigh suggestions, and thus, by the honest process of

inquiry, travel to a wise conclusion, in which they all agree.

If in the multitude of counsels, the safety of a state consists,

our country ought to be secure. What with our free dis-

cussions in club, in senate, in hall, and in journalism, we

truly have a multitude of counsellors. What we want is

more intelligence, independency, and virtue in the people,

so that they may be able to understand what a statesman

should be, and may send no one to Parliament as their

representative, who has not the noblest attributes of man.


"A pillar of state: deep on his front engraven,

  Deliberation sat and public care,

  And princely counsel in his face shone

  Majestic."                                           MILTON






*** The subjects of the 14th and 15th verses have already been discussed, and

will be in future Readings.



Chap. XI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       145



     Proverbs 11:17


The Generous and Ungenerous


"The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel trou-

bleth his own flesh."


WE learn—

That a GENEROUS disposition is a BLESSING to its pos-

sessor.—"A merciful man doeth good to his own soul."

A merciful man doeth good to his intellectual faculties. It

is a psychological fact that the intellect can only see

clearly, move freely, and progress vigorously, as it is

surrounded by the atmosphere of disinterested affection.

Selfishness blinds, cripples, enervates the understanding.

It is only as the eye is single with disinterested love, that

the whole intellectual body can get full light. In truth the

mental faculties can only grow to strength and perfection

in the soil and sunshine of the benevolent affections. A

merciful man doeth good to his moral sentiments. Conscience

approves only of the actions that spring from love. And

our faith in the spiritual, the eternal, the Divine, can only

live and thrive under the influence of the generous. "The

good Samaritan," says Arnot, "who bathed the wounds

and provided for the wants of a plundered Jew, obtained a

greater profit on the transaction than the sufferer who was

saved by his benevolence."


"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,

  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

  Upon the place beneath; it is twice bless'd:

  It blesses him that gives and him that takes.

  'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

  The throned monarch better than his crown.

  His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

  The attribute to awe and majesty.

  Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings:

  But mercy is above this sceptred sway,

  It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

  It is an attribute of God Himself:

  And earthly power doth them show likest God's,

  When mercy season's justice. Therefore,

  Though justice be thy plea, consider this,—

146             Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs           Chap. XI.]


  That in the course of justice none of us

  Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

  And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

  The deeds of mercy."



We learn from this proverb also:

That an UNGENEROUS disposition is A CURSE to its

possessor.—"He that is cruel troubleth his own flesh."

Unmercifulness of temper breeds envy, jealousy, malice,

remorse, fear, suspicion, pride, and all the fiends that

torment the soul. The selfish man is his own curse, he

creates his own devil, and hell. God has so constituted the

world that the man who injures another injures himself the

more. The malign blow he deals out has a rebound more

heavy and crushing to himself.





   Proverbs 11:18-20


       The Evil and the Good


"The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness

shall be a sure reward. They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the

LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight."


SOLOMON'S classification of men was generally moral. He

looked at them through the glass of eternal law, and they

separated before his eye into two great divisions, the good

and the evil. These he characterises by very varied

epithets. To the former he applies such terms as "wise,"

"upright," "righteous," "just;" and to the latter, "fools,"

"wicked," "hypocrites," "froward," "unjust." To him all

men were either good or bad in a moral sense.

His words before us exhibit these two classes in four


As they appear in WORK.—They both work, and they

both reap the results of their work. "The wicked worketh

a deceitful work." The good "serveth righteousness."

The evil worketh "deceitfully." Evil deludes the indi-

Chap. XI.]         Homiletical Commentary on Proverbs       147


vidual himself. It makes his very life a fiction. He

walks in "a vain show:" he is filled with illusory

hopes. "Thou sayest that thou art rich and increased

in goods, needing nothing." Paul, speaking of evil,