Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Proverbs 10:1. We enter upon a mosaic-work of proverbs, which perhaps hardly admit of any one principle of arrangement except that of moral comparison and contrast. This governs the whole. Life is viewed as containing endless oppositions, to which light and darkness correspond in the world of sensuous perception
I. THE FAMILY LIFE ELICITS CHARACTER. It is a little world, and from the first provides a sphere of probation and of judgment which is the miniature of the great world.
II. THE TRAINING OF THE PARENTS IS REFLECTED IN THE CHILDREN'S CONDUCT. And the conduct of the children is reflected in the parents' joy or grief. Hence the duty of wise training on the one side, loving obedience on the other; that the happy effects may be secured, the unhappy averted, in each case.
III. TO LIVE TO MAKE ONE'S PARENTS (AND OTHERS) HAPPY IS ONE OF THE BEST OF MOTIVES. To see our actions mirrored in their mirth and others' joy, what pleasure can be purer, what ambition nobler? - J.
I. THAT THE FOUNDATION DUTY AND INTEREST, with us all, is to be in a right relation, personally, with God. Until we are right with God we must be wrong altogether. Then we must contend -
II. THAT THE QUESTION OF NEXT VITAL CONSIDERATION is the character of our children, it is conceivable that God might have placed the human world on an entirely different basis than that of the family. But he has rested it on the human home. This is that decision of our Creater which makes the greatest difference to us and to our life. How much it is to those who are parents that they are such! How would their life have been another and a smaller thing without that pure and sacred bond! What deep chasms of experience has it opened! what fountains of feeling has it unsealed! what secrets of life has it unlocked! What heights of joy, what depths of sorrow, has it made possible to the heart!
III. THAT THERE IS A SONSHIP WHICH GLADDENS, as there is one that grieves, the parental heart. Who is the wise son (of the text)? Not necessarily the learned, or the clever, or the prosperous son. A child may be any or all of these, and yet may be a grief and not a joy, a shame and not an honour, to his parents. It is he who has learnt wisdom of God, who has sat diligently and effectually at the feet of that great Teacher who came to be the Wisdom of God. It is he
(1) who has found his home and his heritage in a Divine Father;
(2) Who has secured an unfailing Friend in a Divine Redeemer;
(3) who has stored his mind with eternal truth and filled his soul with everlasting principles;
(4) who is building up his Character by the teaching, and regulating his life by the will, of Jesus Christ, This is the son of whom the father will never be ashamed, who will not use the language which it would pain him to hear, nor choose the friends he would be unwilling to acknowledge, nor be guilty of the conduct it would wound him to witness. This is the son on whose character and on whose life, in all its phases and developments, he looks with profoundest gratitude and unspeakable delight.
IV. THAT THE CHARACTER OF OUR CHILDREN depends mainly on ourselves. They will:
1. Believe what we teach them.
2. Follow the example we set them.
3. Catch the spirit we manifest in their presence. - C.
I. ILL-GOTTEN WEALTH AND RECTITUDE. (Ver. 2.) The former cannot avert sudden death or shame (vers. 25, 27); the latter is vital, and stands the man in good stead in every hour of human trial, and of Divine judgment.
II. HONEST POVERTY AND PROFLIGATE GREED. (Ver. 3.) The former does not hunger, is contented with little, has true satisfaction. The latter is never satisfied, expands with every indulgence, is like the "dire dropsy." It is an unappeasable thirst. God repudiates it by fixing it in perpetual impotency, while the temperate and chastened doilies are rewarded by fulfilment.
III. THE LAX AND THE INDUSTRIOUS HAND. (Ver. 4; comp. Proverbs 12:24.) The one leading to poverty, the other to fiches. Languor and energy have their physical conditions; but how much lies in the will? We live in a day when it is the fashion to talk of "determinism," and to extend the doctrine of "causes over which we have no control" beyond all reasonable limits. We need to fall back on the healthy common sense of mankind, and on the doctrine of these proverbs. There is a moral question involved. Laziness is immoral, and receives the condemnation of immorality; industry is a virtue, and brings its own reward in every sphere. The opposition is amplified in ver. 5; active forethought being contrasted with supine indifference. The hard field labour referred to belongs particularly to young men; and to young men idleness is peculiarly corrupting.
IV. ASSOCIATIONS OF BLESSING AND THOSE OF VIOLENCE. (Ver. 6.) However the verse may be rendered and interpreted, this is the opposition. Blessing leads the mind through such a series of associated ideas as peace, tranquillity, order, security; violence through a contrasted series - trouble, disquiet, disorder, and all that implies a curse.
V. BRIGHT AND DARK RECOLLECTIONS. (Ver. 7.) The good man lives in thankful memories; the bad man's name is like an ill odour, according to the literal meaning of the Hebrew word. When the saying is quoted, The ill men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones," we should recall by whom this was said, or feigned to be said, and for what purpose. In the memory of Caesar's ambition Antony is afraid the Romans will forget his services. Momentarily good may be forgotten, but ultlmately must come to recognition and honour. The course of time illustrates the worth of the good, and enhances the odium of evil memories. - J.
I. RECTITUDE. (Vers. 2, 3.) Righteousness before God is essential to all prosperity:
1. Because, if we deliberately choose the path of iniquity, we shall have to work against the arm of Omnipotence. "He casteth away the substance of the wicked" (ver. 3).
2. Because, on the contrary, if we walk in moral and spiritual integrity, we may count on the direction and even the interposition of the Divine hand. "The Lord will not suffer," etc. (ver. 3).
3. Because righteousness means virtue and prudence; it means those qualities which work for health and for security, which "relieve from death" (ver. 2).
4. Because the gains of ungodliness are never satisfactory; "they profit nothing."
(1) They are unattended by the joy of gratitude, and they are (often) accompanied by the miseries of self-reproach;
(2) they are spoilt by the condemnation of the good and the holy;
(3) they are apt to be dispersed far more freely than they are acquired;
(4) they cannot and they do not satisfy the soul, though they may continue to fill the treasury, - they leave the heart empty, aching and hungering for a good which is beyond, for a blessing which is from above.
II. DILIGENCE. (Ver. 4.)
1. The inattentive and sluggish worker is constantly descending; he is on an incline, and is going downwards. All things connected with his vocation, or with his own mind, or with his moral and spiritual condition, are gradually but seriously suffering; decline, decay, disease, have set in and will spread from day to day, from year to year.
2. The earnest and energetic worker is continually ascending; he is moving upwards; his hand is "making rich" - it may be in material wealth, or (what is better) in useful and elevating knowledge, or (what is best) in the acquisitions of spiritual culture, in the virtues and graces of Christian character.
III. WAKEFULNESS. (Ver. 5.) This is a very important qualification; we must be ready to avail ourselves of the hour of opportunity. To gather when the corn is ripe is necessary if the toil of the husbandman is to bear its fruit; to let the crop alone when it is ready for the sickle is to waste the labour of many weeks. Readiness to reap is of as much consequence as willingness to work. The wakeful eye must be on every field of human activity, or energy and patience will be thrown away. We must covet and must cultivate mental alertness, spiritual promptitude, readiness to strike when the hour has come, or we shall miss much of "the fruit of our labour." It is the general who knows when to give the word to "charge" that wins the battle.
IV. PEACEABLENESS. (Ver. 6.) The consequences of violence shut the mouth of the wicked. He that "seeks peace and ensues it will see good days (1 Peter 3:10, 11). - C.
"Which is but akin to pain And resembles sorrow only As the mist resembles the rain;" a feeling of tender regret not unmingled with sacred joy and reverent gratitude, This fact is - I. A STRENGTH TO THE JUST MAN WHILE HE LIVES. "What has posterity done for us?" asks the cynic. "The idea of posterity has done great things for us," replies the moralist. That idea and the hope to which it gives birth have done much to fortify virtue, to establish character, to enlarge and ennoble the good man's life. That thought has been fruitful of earnest work, and has helped men to gird themselves for heroic suffering. Good men have been better, noble lives have been nobler, because we care to be tenderly remembered and kindly spoken of when we are no longer among the living. II. A COMFORT TO THOSE WHO MOURN HIM. 1. It is true that the more admirable and loving a man is, the greater is our loss when he is taken from us. 2. But it is also true that they are blessed who lose the worthiest and the best. 3. For the sorrow we feel at such loss is a very sacred thing; it comes from God himself; it can be borne with simple and pure resignation; it is unembittered with the most painful regrets; it works for the renewal and purification of our spirit and character. 4. And it is attended with a very precious mitigation; we have a pure and holy joy in the recollection of what the departed one was, what he did, how he laboured and triumphed, how many hearts he comforted, how many lives he brightened, what he was to ourselves. And these remembrances bring sunshine over the shadowed fields; they sweeten the bitter cup; they give "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." III. AN INSPIRATION TO ALL WHO KNEW HIM. For the completion of a true and godly life is an inspiration. 1. It is another proof that goodness can triumph over every obstacle and persevere to the end. 2. It is an unspoken, but not inaudible summons, saying, "Follow me." 3. It is a thing of beauty as well as worth; and it attracts all who have an eye to see as well as a heart to feel. (1) Resolve that, whatever else you leave (or fail to leave) behind, you will bequeath the memory of a just man; that is the best legacy to leave. (2) Be drawn, as by a Powerful fascination, toward the character and the destiny of the good and wise who have gone before you. - C.
I. A STRENGTH TO THE JUST MAN WHILE HE LIVES. "What has posterity done for us?" asks the cynic. "The idea of posterity has done great things for us," replies the moralist. That idea and the hope to which it gives birth have done much to fortify virtue, to establish character, to enlarge and ennoble the good man's life. That thought has been fruitful of earnest work, and has helped men to gird themselves for heroic suffering. Good men have been better, noble lives have been nobler, because we care to be tenderly remembered and kindly spoken of when we are no longer among the living.
II. A COMFORT TO THOSE WHO MOURN HIM.
1. It is true that the more admirable and loving a man is, the greater is our loss when he is taken from us.
2. But it is also true that they are blessed who lose the worthiest and the best.
3. For the sorrow we feel at such loss is a very sacred thing; it comes from God himself; it can be borne with simple and pure resignation; it is unembittered with the most painful regrets; it works for the renewal and purification of our spirit and character.
4. And it is attended with a very precious mitigation; we have a pure and holy joy in the recollection of what the departed one was, what he did, how he laboured and triumphed, how many hearts he comforted, how many lives he brightened, what he was to ourselves. And these remembrances bring sunshine over the shadowed fields; they sweeten the bitter cup; they give "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
III. AN INSPIRATION TO ALL WHO KNEW HIM. For the completion of a true and godly life is an inspiration.
1. It is another proof that goodness can triumph over every obstacle and persevere to the end.
2. It is an unspoken, but not inaudible summons, saying, "Follow me."
3. It is a thing of beauty as well as worth; and it attracts all who have an eye to see as well as a heart to feel.
(1) Resolve that, whatever else you leave (or fail to leave) behind, you will bequeath the memory of a just man; that is the best legacy to leave.
(2) Be drawn, as by a Powerful fascination, toward the character and the destiny of the good and wise who have gone before you. - C.
I. THE WISE MAN IS MORE READY TO RECEIVE THAN TO GIVE COUNSEL; THE FOOL, THE OPPOSITE.
II. THE WISE MAN KNOWS THE VALUE OF RESERVE; THE FOOL WILL "STILL BE TALKING."
III. THE WISE MAN IS THRIFTY, ECONOMICAL OF WORDS, A CAPITALIST OF THOUGHT; THE FOOL, A SPENDTHRIFT OF WORDS, A BANKRUPT OF THOUGHT.
IV. THE WISE MAN RISES IN REPUTATION, IN POSITION; THE FOOL COMES SOONER OR LATER TO A "FALL."
V. GUILELESSNESS IS SAFE, WHILE CRAFT AND CROOKED POLICY ARE CERTAIN, SOONER OR LATER, OF EXPOSURE. (Ver. 9.) In that widest sense in which alone the saying is noble and true, "Honesty is the best policy." Cunning overreaches itself and gets into trouble; and the mere talker never ends well. Speech should only be prophetic of deed; otherwise, Many will say to me in that day, etc. - J.
1. We may give deep and pure gratification (ver. 32; and see Ecclesiastes 12:10). We may speak (or read) words which shall be
(1) charming, soothing, comforting, encouraging, even inspiring, in the ear of man; and also
(2) pleasing and satisfying to our Divine Master.
2. We may follow in the footsteps of the Divine. For "the mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom" (ver. 31). We may utter in the ears, and may thus convey to the minds and hearts of men, the truths which are nothing less than the wisdom of God. Thus we may be speaking to others the very thoughts and making known the will of God. We ourselves may be, on our scale and in our sphere, like the Lord whom we serve and follow, "the Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24, 80).
3. We may enrich the life of our fellow men. "The tongue of the just is as choice silver" (ver. 20). And surely fine thoughts, brilliant images, sound principles, sustaining truths, elevating conceptions of God, charitable ideas of men, - these are more enlarging and enriching than many pounds of silver or many piles of gold.
4. We may nourish the soul. "The lips of the righteous feed many" (ver. 21). Their words are spiritual bread which "strengtheneth man's heart," and makes him able to watch, to work, to battle, to endure. They are the wine which gives new life when he is ready to perish (Proverbs 31:6), which restores him in the languor of doubt and difficulty, and fills his soul with hopefulness and energy.
5. We may thus contribute to the true and real life of men. Our mouth will be "a fountain of life" (ver. 11, Revised Version). Whithersoever the river of Divine wisdom, of Christian truth, runneth, there will be that spiritual upspringing which is the true life of man.
II. THE MISCHIEF OF ITS ABUSE. The abuse of the power of speech, the talking which is idle and vain, is a great and sore evil.
1. It brings the speaker into contempt; he is thought and spoken of as "a prating fool" (vers. 8, 10), and he comes under the contempt of the wise.
2. It involves men in sin. "In the multitude of words," etc. (ver. 19). The man that is ever speaking with little forethought is sure to violate truth and righteousness before many hours have passed.
3. It works mischief of many kinds (vers. 14 and 18). It is sure to end in slander, in the robbery of reputation. The mouth of the foolish is "a present destruction" (Revised Version). The habit of bad speech, especially if it be that of falsehood, or lewdness, or profanity, is a "present destruction,"
(1) in that it constitutes a real calamity; for in the sight of God there can be few things worse than such a pitiful abuse of the powers he has entrusted to us. It is also a "present destruction,"
(2) in that it leads with a fatal swiftness to the deterioration and corruption of those in whose hearing it is uttered. - C.
I. SPEECH THAT QUICKENS AND SPEECH THAT KILLS. (Ver. 11.)
1. The speech of the wise and good is sound, "seasoned with salt;" that of the wicked is hollow or else poisonous.
2. The former edifies, builds up and strengthens the good principle in the minds of those who convene with him; the bluer destroys the good, and sows evil in its stead.
II. QUARRELSOMENESS AND AMIABILITY. (Ver. 12; see on Proverbs 6:14.) The former begets evil, increases that already existing, inflames wounds lets nothing pass that may serve as fuel to its fire. The latter puts an end to much evil, prevents the rise of more, soothes every wound, and mitigates every mischief. The former is ever dividing, the latter reconciling. They undo one another's work; but love in the end prevails (Proverbs 17:9; 1 Corinthians 13:4; James 5:20; 1 Peter 4:8).
III. THE GRACE OF WISDOM AND THE DISGRACE OF FOLLY. (Ver. 13.) The pure eloquence of the good man attracts admiration and wins confidence; while the fallacies of the pretender, the spurious rhetoric of the insincere certain to be exposed and castigated. The life of the, House of Commons, or of any great assembly, furnishes constant illustrations.
IV. PRUDENT RESERVE AND PERNICIOUS LOQUACITY. (Ver. 14.) There is a time end place for silence, the wise man knows - both for the recovery of his own thoughts, and for the opportunity of watching others. By a bold figure of speech, it may often be that silence is the greatest eloquence. In many instances we think we have produced no effect, have not committed ourselves to the expression of opinion; on the contrary, our reserve has spoken. In all this lies a science and art of living. The fool does not see this; he is too self-absorbed to see anything that passes in others' minds, or too unsympathetic to feel; and hence blurts out things that had better have been left unsaid, hurts sensibilities, blackens reputations, causes false positions for himself and others.
1. The heart must be watched. There is no other source of pleasing, gentle manners, nor of sound behaviour in society. Reserve and unreserve of the right kind are simply the government of the tongue by charity.
2. The tongue must be watched. And regulated by good models of Conversation. Never must it be forgotten how much we learn by imitation. - J.
I. IT CARRIES THE WEIGHT OF MANY SHORTCOMINGS.
1. On the one band, many proprieties will not atone for the absence of love. We are wholly unsatisfied if one who sustains to us a very near relationship (husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.) is scrupulously correct in behaviour if love be wanting from the heart. Nothing can compensate for that. The kindness that is not prompted by affection is of a very poor order, and it does not satisfy the soul.
2. On the other hand, the presence of pure and strong affection makes many things tolerable which in themselves are hard to bear. Not that any one has a right to excuse himself for transgressions of law, of whatever kind they may be, on the ground of his tenderness of heart. It is a complete and dangerous misreading of our Lord's word (Luke 7:47) to suppose that he meant that sins are forgiven because of the presence of much love; it is the presence of much love that is the proof, not the ground, of forgiveness (see homily in loc.). But it is a patent and common fact of human life that we can not only bear with one another, but can love and honour one another when love dwells in the heart and shines in the countenance and breathes and burns in the words and actions, even though there may be much faultiness and many infirmities that have to be forgiven.
II. IT IS PREPARED WITH GENEROUS INTERPRETATIONS of much misbehaviour. Where a hard, cast-iron severity sees nothing but transgression, love sees much extenuation or even complete excuse; or it goes beyond that, and sees, or believes that it sees, a worthy and not an unworthy motive. It magnifies or invents a reason which puts conduct in another light, and makes it appear pardonable, if not creditable. It has quite a different account to give of the transaction; it is that which only generous love could see and could supply.
III. IT HAS A LARGE FORGIVENESS FOR EVEN GREAT OFFENCES. The Divine love "abundantly pardons." It blots out the worst misdeeds and pardons the negligence and impiety of whole periods of a sinful life. The human love that is likest to the Divine can overlook very dark misdoings, and take back to its embrace those who have gone away and astray into a very "far country" of sin.
IV. IT REDEEMS AND RESTORES. When law does not avail, love will succeed in winning the erring to wiser and better ways. It can lay its hand upon the sinner with a touch that will tell and will triumph. It has a power to break the obduracy of guilt for which violence is utterly inadequate. It alone can lead the rebellious spirit into the gate of penitence and faith, and make its future life a life of obedience and wisdom. Thus in the best way, winning the noblest of all victories, it "covers sin" by conquering it, by leading the heart to the love of righteousness and the practice of purity. Where the rough winds of penalty will fail, the soft, sweet sunshine of love will succeed most excellently. - C.
only of heavenly good. We must beware of a false materializing and of a false spiritualizing of religion.
I. THE POWER OF WEALTH AND THE WEAKNESS OF POVERTY. The former like a strong city or fortress; the latter like a ruinous dwelling, which threatens at any moment to tumble about the dweller's head. The teacher is thinking, as the following verse shows, on the one hand, of wealth wisely and honourably won, which becomes a means to other wise ends; on the other hand, of blameworthy poverty, which leads in time to further vice and misery. To desire competent means for the sake of worthy objects, and to fear poverty because of its temptations, is a right and true attitude of mind.
II. THE TENDENCY OF WEALTH DEPENDS ON THE MIND OF THE POSSESSOR. (Ver. 16.) The "tendency of riches" is in itself an incomplete thought. Silver and gold have no tendency, except by a figure of speech. In the heart of man the directing force is found. Used justly, riches are a good; they are simply, like bodily strength, knowledge, skill, a mass of available means. Used wickedly, so that they simply feed our senses and our pride, or become corrupters of others' integrity, they simply increase the possessor's power and range of mischief. When we poetically speak of accursed gold, or base dross, we should be aware that these are figures, and that the curse can never rest on anything in God's creation except the will which perverts what is a means to good into a means to evil.
III. THE CAUSES OF DIRECTION ADD MISDIRECTION IN LIFE. (Ver. 17.) Why do some men succeed, and others fail, in perpetual blundering and error? The particular cases may be complex; but as to the general rule there can be no question. In the one case there is admission of faults and attention to the correction of them. In the other, blindness to faults, inattention to warnings, obstinate persistence in error. Be not above taking a hint, especially from a foe. "Temper" is the bane of many. Any opportunity is sacrificed rather than the whim, the humour which seems to the man so thoroughly a part of himself that he cannot give it up. The habit of calm revision of one's progress and failures in the hour of prayer seems needful both to preserve from over self-confidence and from over-reliance on the advice of others.
IV. CONCEALED HATRED AND OPEN MALICE EQUALLY ODIOUS. (Ver. 18.) Resentment that one dares not, or thinks it polite not to, express makes the lips turn traitor; and the victim is both "contemned and flattered." God has placed a natural hatred of duplicity in our hearts. It was levelled as a reproach against Euripides that he had put into the mouth of one of his characters the sentiment, "My tongue did swear, my heart remain'd unsworn." Not so dangerous in many cases, but morally worse, is the deliberate slanderer, who goes about to despoil his neighbours of that which leaves them much poorer, makes him none the richer. He is a fool, because his arts recoil upon himself.
V. THE PERIL OF THE BABBLING TONGUE; THE PRUDENCE OF RESERVE. (Ver. 19.) The man may be confronted with his words. The "written letter remains," and "many witnesses" may serve equally well to convict of the authorship of a malicious speech. It is far more easy for men to forgive abusive things said to their faces than things reported to have been said behind their backs. And even injurious acts can be got over more readily than stinging words of sarcasm. Words have a more definite shape in thought than deeds; they reveal a certain view of you which has some truth in it. You cannot forget it, which means with most you cannot forgive it. A clean-cut sarcasm, a slander which has just that vraisemblance about it which gives currency to gossip, stamps a certain image of the victim in the public mind. The gentler motive to prudence is the hurt we may do others; the motive consistently here is the treatment we may experience ourselves. If a person, on grounds like these, were to take a pledge of total abstinence from "personal talk" of the critical kind, his prudence must be respected. An approach to this is found in well bred society. And how lamentable the condition of some so called religious circles, when there is so little culture that conversation gravitates as if by necessity to the discussion of the character and doings of popular preachers, etc.!
VI. THE TONGUE AND THE HEART ARE IN IMMEDIATE CONNECTION. (Ver. 20.) Just as Napoleon said his brain and hand were in immediate connection. The analogy will serve. The "silver tongue" (no accents are silvery but those of truth) bespeaks the fine disposition, the noble heart. And what can the produce of the "worthless" heart be but "rot" upon the tongue?
VII. GOOD BREEDS GOOD, WHILE EVIL CANNOT KEEP ITSELF ALIVE. (Ver. 21.) The lips of the just pasture many. Good words, good preachers, good books, - these are the food of the world, and there cannot be an oversupply. Bad books and teachers may be let alone. As Dr. Johnson said of a poem, it had not enough life in it to keep it sweet (or, "not enough vitality to preserve it from corruption"). - J.
tautologies, but such as exercise the penetration of the mind, while they seem now to say something fresh, yet say the same; now seem to say the same, and at bottom signify, or may signify, something different." The Proverbs are the constant illustration of the Law.
I. THE BLESSING OF JEHOVAH INDISPENSABLE; ALL TROUBLE VAIN WITHOUT IT. (Ver. 22.) We adopt the rendering, "Trouble is of no avail without it." His blessing is all in all. The thought thus yielded is a beautiful one, identical with that in Psalm 127. Jehovah gives bread to his beloved while they sleep and take no "anxious thought" about it. The thought was familiar to the ancient mind, and has been wrought up in parable and fable. The counterpart is that the blessing of God is not given to the idle; that "God loves to be helped;" that "Heaven helps those who help themselves." The opposite faults are indolence and over-anxiety.
II. THE TRUTH AND THE FALSE SOURCE OF CHEERFULNESS. (Ver. 23.) The fool makes mirth out of mischief. He takes delight in seeing the image of his restless and mischievous activity everywhere. The man of principle, on the contrary, draws his serene cheerfulness from faith in the Divine law of things - the sense that he is reconciled to it, and that good must ever flow from it.
III. THE FEARFUL AND THE HOPEFUL TEMPERS TRACED TO THEIR SIGNIFICANCE. (Ver. 24.) There is a timidity bred of an evil conscience - a buoyant expectation of the future bred of a good conscience. Both are creative in their effect on the imagination, and thus men dwell with shapes of gloom or radiant forms of fancy. Both are prophetic, and tend to realize themselves. This is a profound truth. For imagination in turn influences the will, and we reap the guilty fears or the pure hopes our habits Bowed.
IV. THE RESULTS OF TRIAL AND TROUBLE. (Ver. 25.) The storm sweeps by and overturns the hollow and untrue; while they who are based on the righteousness of God remain unmoved (comp. Matthew 7:24, seqq.). We do not know a man's principles nor whether he has any, until the time of suffering. Theory is one thing, fact another; it is not the statement of the engineer, but the trial of winter's floods that must prove the soundness of the bridge. We have to learn the truth of life in theory first; but we do not make it our own until it is put to the test of experience. Experience throws us back upon the truth of the theory, enriches our conception of it, and should enable us to teach it with the greater confidence to others. - J.
I. THE OBJECTS AT WHICH WE AIM. Those without which we are apt to consider ourselves poor. They are these:
1. Material substance, or (as we commonly put it to ourselves) money.
2. Honour. A good measure of regard, duly and clearly paid by our fellows.
3. Power. The holding of a position in which we are able to decide and to direct.
4. Learning, or unusual sagacity; that intellectual superiority which enables us to lead or to command.
II. THE CONDITION UNDER WHICH THESE MAY BE REGARDED AS THE BLESSING OF GOD. This is when we can truly say that there is "no sorrow," i.e. no real cause for regret that we have come to possess and to enjoy them. But when is this?
1. When they have been acquired without any mason for self-reproach - justly, purely, honourably.
2. When we have not lost as much as we have gained by their acquisition. We may lose so much in time, or in health and energy, or in wise and elevating friendship, or in the opportunity for worship and service, that the balance in the sight of heavenly wisdom may be against us.
3. When they do not become a heavy burden which we can ill bear. This they often do become. Frequently wealth becomes more of a burden than a blessing to its possessor. He would be a much lighter-hearted and less care-encumbered man if he had not so much substance to dispose of and to preserve. And so of power and influence.
4. When they do not become a snare to us, leading us into pride, or into a selfish separateness and unneighbourliness, or into a guilty self-indulgence, or into "an unenlightened and unchristian disdain of the common people," or into an overweening and fatal miscalculation of our own power and importance, or into a deadening and suicidal worldliness. These great evils may not mean present "sorrow,' as we ordinarily understand that term. But they are such evils as our Divine Father sees with Divine regret; they are such as our heavenly Friend would fain deliver us from; and when riches of any kind end in them, they cannot be said to be the result of his blessing. Moreover, they all lead on and down, sooner or later, to grievous ends,; those who yield to them are on their way to "pierce themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:10). Hence -
III. THE PROFOUND WISDOM OF MODERATION in all human and earthly ambitions. Who shall say how much of riches he can stand? Who can tell where that point is to be found, on the other side of which is spiritual peril and ultimate "sorrow" of the worst kind? "Give me neither poverty nor riches" is the wish and the prayer of the wise and reverent. - C.
I. HE IRRITATES HIS EMPLOYERS. The images of the teeth set on edge, the blinded, smarting eyes, give the thought with great force and great naivete.
II. HE IS WORSE THAN USELESS. The Bible shows a great aversion from idleness, sluggishness (Proverbs 6:6, seqq.; Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 22:13).
1. Laziness is a vice and the parent of worse.
2. The swift discharge of duty is acceptable to God and man. - J.
Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 9:11; on ver. 28, see on ver. 24; Proverbs 11:7). That religion is a protector to the man of good conscience, while overthrow awaits the ungodly, again brings out an often expressed thought with emphasis (ver. 30; see on ver. 25; Proverbs 3:21). Vers, 31, 32 again contrast the speech of the good and the wicked; the former like a sappy and fruitful tree, the latter destined to oblivion; the former appealing to the sense of beauty and grace, the latter shocking by its deformity.
I. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN GOD. He does not and cannot change. He is invariable substance, unalterable will and law.
II. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN NATURE. The heavens above us, with all their worlds, the great mountains and features of the landscape, the daily sights of sunrise and evening, form and colour. Abraham and Solomon looked upon essentially the same world with ourselves.
III. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN HUMAN NATURE - its passions, strength, and weakness. The same types of character appear and reappear in every age in relatively new forms. And it is proverbial that history repeats itself.
IV. THE ESSENTIAL RELATIONS OF MAN TO GOD MUST BE THE SAME IN EVERY AGE. Hence the teacher's deliverances must constantly recur to the same great points.
V. THAT WHICH VARIES IS THE TRIVIAL OR TRANSIENT ELEMENT; THAT WHICH DOES NOT VARY IS THE SUBLIME AND THE ETERNAL.
VI. EVERY TRUE TEACHER MAY THUS VARY THE FORM OF HIS INSTRUCTION AS MUCH AS HE WILL. Let him see to it that he works in unison with God and nature, experience, the conscience, and leaves a few great impressions firmly fixed in the mind. "Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little." - J.