Proverbs 27
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics


1. On the ground of our limited knowledge. The homely proverb says, "Do not count your chickens before they are hatched." The future exists for us only in imagination. "Who knows," asks Horace, "whether the gods above will add tomorrow's time to the sum of today?" ('Od.,' 4:7. 17); and Seneca, "None hath gods so favourable as that he may promise himself tomorrow's good."

2. On the ground of the Divine reserve of the secrets of destiny. To boast is to lift ourselves in effect out of that finite sphere of thought and feeling in which we have been placed by the Divine ordination. So says Horace again (and a distinctly Christian turn may be given to his exhortation), "Shun to inquire into the future and the morrow; and whatever day fortune shall afford thee, count it as gain" ('Od.,' 1:9, 13). Common sense and religious humility unite to teach us to "live for the day."

II. SELF-PRAISE CENSURED. (Ver. 2.) "Let another praise thee, and not thine own mouth." "Self-praise stinks," and "Not as thy mother says, but as the neighbours say," are Arabic proverbs. Every individual has a certain value; the sense of this is the foundation of all self-respect and virtue. But to show an over-consciousness of this worth by self-praise is a social offence, because it is an exaction of that which ought to be a free tribute, and betrays a desire of self-exaltation above others not easily forgiven.

III. THE PASSION OF THE FOOL INTOLERABLE. (Ver. 3.) Whether it be envy, furious resentment of rebuke, or jealousy, it is a burden intolerable to the person himself and to those with whom he has to do. The pious may readily sin in their anger, how much more the ungodly!

"Ira furor brevis est; animum rege; qui, nisi paret, Imperat; hunc froenis, hunc tu compesce catena.' (Horace, 'Ep.,' 1:2, 62). It is like a weight of stone or sand, being without cause, measure, or end (Poole).

IV. THE TERRIBLE FORCE OF JEALOUSY AND ENVY. (Ver. 4.) It exceeds all ordinary outbursts of wrath in violence and destructiveness. Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of revenge and murder, the beginner of sedition, and the perpetual tormentor of nature (Socrates). It never loves to honour another but when it may be an honour to itself. "From envy... good Lord, deliver us!"

V. FALSE LOVE AND FAITHFUL FRIENDSHIP CONTRASTED. (Vers. 5, 6.) False love refuses to tell a friend of his faults, from some egotistic and unworthy motive. "If you know that I have done anything foolishly or wickedly, and do not blame me for it, you yourself ought to be reproved" (Plaut.,'Trinum.,' 1:2, 57). "It is no good office," says Jeremy Taylor, "to make my friend more vicious or more a fool; I will restrain his folly, but not nurse it." "I think that man is my friend through whose advice I am enabled to wipe off the blemishes of my soul before the appearance of the awful Judge" (Gregory I). Christians should "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). If the erring one does not learn it from the lips of love, he will have to learn it from a harsher source and in ruder tones (comp. Job 5:17, 18; Psalm 141:5; Revelation 3:19; Proverbs 28:23). There cannot be a more worthy improvement of friendship than in a fervent opposition to the sins of those we love (Bishop Hall). - J.

It is well to glance at -


1. There need be no bound at all to our hope and aspiration in respect of the future. We are warranted in looking forward to an endless life beyond, to an actual and absolute eternity of blessedness and glory. Whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ has everlasting life.

2. We can and we should prepare for a very long time to come. The legislator should devise his measures, the religious leader or organizer should lay his plans, the architect should make his designs, and the builder provide his materials with a view to the next century as well as to the next decade.

3. We should have regard to the coming years as well as to the passing days; teaching our pupils so that they will not only pass the approaching examination, but be ready for the battle of life; offering and enforcing truths and principles which will not only tide men over tomorrow, but carry them victoriously through all the vicissitudes of their course, and solace and strengthen them in their declining days. But the lesson of the text is -

II. OUR LITTLENESS IN REGARD TO THE FUTURE. We do not know what a day may bring forth.

1. How our purposes may be deranged, and all that we are proposing to do may have to be abandoned in favour of some more imperative duty (see James 4:13-15).

2. How our prospects may be affected; we may possibly rise from indigence to affluence, but we are much more likely to be suddenly and seriously reduced. Financial calamities are many, but "windfalls" are few.

3. How our circle of friendship may be narrowed, or how soon we may be called on to leave home and kindred.

4. How our hope of health or life may be extinguished. "Between the morning and the evening" (see Job 4:19-21, Revised Version) we may discover that we are afflicted with a disease which will complete its work in a few months at most, or we may be stricken down with a blow which will bring us face to face with death and eternity. With this uncertainty there are three lessons we should learn.

(1) All unqualified and unreserved declarations are unbecoming. If there be no verbal qualification, there should be a mental reservation, a feeling below the surface that all our plans and movements are subject to the will of God.

(2) We should do today's work before its hours are over. Since we may not be able to do a stroke tomorrow, let us see that every day's work is well and thoroughly done. We are not responsible for the future, but we are for the present. And not only is it of no use for us to be anxious to do much in the coming years, but it is foolish and unfaithful of us to be concerned about it. Our Master sets us our work, and he gives us our time. All that we should be solicitous about is the diligent and devoted discharge of our duty in his appointed time and way. If he takes the weapon out of our hand here, it will be because he has a better one to give us in a brighter and broader sphere.

(3) We ought to be prepared for any and every event. We should have within us principles that will sustain or preserve us in any trouble or in any elevation that may be awaiting us. We should have our house in such order that, if death should come suddenly to our door, those whom we leave behind us will suffer the least possible affliction, and we ourselves shall Bass to the great inheritance beyond. - C.

How far we should go in praising others, and in what spirit we should accept their praise, is a matter of no small importance in the conduct of life.

I. THE DUTY OF PRAISING OTHERS. "Let another man praise thee" can hardly be said to be imperative so far as he is concerned. But it suggests the propriety of another man speaking in words of commendation. And the duty of praising those who have done well is a much-forgotten and neglected virtue. I. It is the correlative of blame, and if we blame freely (as we do), why should we not freely praise the scholar, the servant, the son or daughter, the workman, etc.?

2. With many hearts, perhaps with moat, a little praise would prove a far more powerful incentive than a large quantity of blame.

3. To praise for doing well is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and of his apostles; it is to act as the most gracious and the most useful men and women have always acted.

4. It is to do to others as we would they should do to us. We thirst for a measure of approval when we have done our best, and what we crave from others we should give to others.

II. THE WISDOM OF ABSTAINING FROM SELF-PRAISE. The injunction of Solomon appeals to our common sense. Yet is it by no means unrequired. Many men are guilty of the unseemliness and the folly of praising themselves - their ingenuity, their shrewdness, their persuasiveness, their generosity, etc. Probably if they knew how very little they commend themselves by so doing, how very soon they weary their audience, how often their language becomes positively nauseous, they would abstain. Self-vindication under a false charge is a duty and even a virtue; a very minute modicum of self-commendation may be occasionally allowable; anything beyond this is, at least, a mistake.

III. THE NECESSITY OF TESTING PRAISE. "The ordinary interpretation makes the praise try the man, but the words... in the original make the man try the praise (Wardlaw). What the fining pot is to silver, that a man should be to his praise - he should carefully and thoroughly test it. For praise is often offered some part of which should be rejected as dross. The simple minded and the unscrupulous will praise us beyond the bounds of our desert, and to drink too much of this intoxicating cup is dangerous and demoralizing to us.

IV. THE PRACTICAL PROOF OF PRAISE. The duties and the difficulties that are before us will be the best possible proof of the sincerity and of the truthfulness of the praise we receive. We shall either be approved as the wise men we are said to be, or we shall be convicted of being less worthy than we are represented to be. Therefore let us be

(1) judicious as well as generous in our praise of others, remembering that they will be thus tested; and let us

(2) be contented with a modest measure of honour, realizing that we have to live up to the esteem in which we are held. But we may learn a valuable lesson from the common (if not the correct) interpretation, and consider -

V. THE TEST WHICH PRAISE AFFORDS. We stand blame better than praise; though it is right to recollect that we cannot stand more than a certain measure of blame, and few people are more objectionable or more mischievous than the scold. But much praise is a great peril. It elates and exalts; it puffs up." It too often undermines that humility of spirit and dependence on God which are the very root of a strong and beautiful Christian character.

1. Discourage all excess in this direction; it is dangerous.

2. Care more for the approval of an instructed and well-trained conscience.

3. Care most for the commendation of Christ. - C.

(And see homily on "Friendship," Proverbs 13:20.) We have suggested in the nineteenth verse two conditions of friendship:

(1) likeness of character; and

(2) reciprocity in action.

There can be no true friendship where one heart does not answer to another as the face reflected from a mirror answers to that which is before it. Men must be like minded in their principles and sympathies; and they must be sensitive enough to feel with one another and to give back the thoughts which are expressed by one or the other, if their intimacy is to be worthy of the sacred name of friendship. There are four services which this most precious gift of God secures for us.

I. CORRECTION. (Vers. 5, 6.) "Open rebuke is better than hidden love" - better than the love which hides from a friend its disappointment or its dissatisfaction with him. The wounds of friendship are faithful. Many are they whose character is seriously defective, and whose usefulness suffers considerable abatement from want of discipline; they are not told of their faults, they are allowed to go on deepening their roots and multiplying their fruits, because no wise and faithful friend is near to say, "Pluck out and prune." What no authority may dare to speak, love can say without fear and with excellent result.

II. REFRESHMENT. (Ver. 9.) We who are weary travellers along the path of life often need that which refreshes our spirit and turns languor into energy, gloom into gladness of heart. For that we look to friendship; it is as "ointment and perfume" to the senses. We may be jaded and worn, but the look, the grasp, the words, of our friend reanimate and renew us.

III. CONSOLATIONS. (Ver. 10.) We may do well to avoid the house of our kindred in the day of our calamity, especially if we have passed it by in the time of our prosperity; if our "brother" has been kept or has kept himself at a distance. But the "neighbour that is near," the friend that has been "sticking closer than a brother" will not shut the door of his heart against us. He is the "brother who is born for adversity;" he will claim the right of friendship to open his heart, to pour forth his sympathy, to offer his succour, to befriend us in every way in which affection can solace and strength can sustain us.

IV. INCITEMENT. (Ver. 17.) It is the opportunity and the high privilege of friendship to urge to honourable achievement, to rekindle the lamp of holy aspiration when the light burns low; to sustain Christian devotedness when it is putting forth its strength, by every possible encouragement; to hold up the hands of that consecrated activity which is fearlessly speaking the truth and diligently building up the kingdom of Jesus Christ. - C.

I. THE CONTENTED MIND. (Ver. 7.) "Enough is as good as a feast;" "Hunger is the best sauce." To know when we are well off is the cure for the canker of envy and discontent. Deprivation for a time teaches us the need of common blessings. The good of affliction is that it brings us nearer to God; and of poverty of spirit, that it is never without food.

II. THE EVIL OF RESTLESSNESS. (Ver. 8.) "The rolling stone gathers no moss." Rarely does the wanderer better his condition. Unstable as water, he doth not excel. Those who seek satisfaction for the soul out of God are like those who wander into far country, like the prodigal. "O my wandering ways! Woe to the soul which presumed, if it departed from thee, that it should find anything better! I turned on every side, and all things were hard, and thou alone wast my Rest. Thou hast made us for thyself, O God, and our heart is restless till it finds rest in thee." - J.

We have here -

I. A FAMILIAR FACT OF OUR PHYSICAL NATURE. Those who are well fed become very choice and dainty, while those who "lack bread" are thankful for the coarsest food. There are thousands of the sons and daughters of luxury whose appetite can hardly be tempted; for them cookery has to be developed into one of the fine arts, and nothing is palatable to their exquisite taste but delicacies. Living within five minutes' walk of their residence, and sometimes smelling the odours that come from their kitchens, are poor, pinched, struggling men and women, who will devour with great delight the first soiled crust that is offered them. There are thousands in our great cities that weigh long and seriously the question what nice beverage they shall drink at their table; and there are to be found those who would gladly quench their thirst in the first foul water they can find. Indulgence makes all things tasteless, while want makes all things sweet to us.


1. Superabundance tends to selfishness and ingratitude. We are apt to imagine that we have a prescriptive right to that which is continued to us for any time; and as soon as it is withdrawn we murmur and rebel. There are no more thankless, no more querulous hearts to be found anywhere than in the homes of the affluent, than among those who can command all that their hearts desire. They find no pleasure in what they have, and they give God no thanks for it.

2. On the other hand, scarcity is very frequently associated with contentment and piety. When our resources are not so large and full that we do not stop to ask ourselves whence they come, when some solicitude or even anxiety leads us to look prayerfully to the great "Giver of all," then we recognize the truth that everything we are and everything we have, the cup itself and all that it holds, all our powers and all our possessions, are of God, and our hearts fill with gratitude to our heavenly Father. And thus it is not exceptionally but representatively and commonly true that -

"Some murmur when their sky is clear
And wholly bright to view,
If one small speck of dark appear
In their great heaven of blue.

And some with thankful love are filled.
If but one streak of light,
One ray of God's good mercy, gild
The darkness of their night.

"In palaces are hearts that ask,
In discontent and pride,
Why life is such a dreary task,
And all good things denied.

And hearts, in poorest huts, admire
How love has, in their aid -
Love that not ever seems to tire -
Such rich provision made."



1. The peril of abundance. We are tempted to become indifferent to that which we can employ and enjoy at any time, and consequently to neglect it.

2. The compensation of scarcity. That which is often out of reach, of which we can only occasionally avail ourselves, we appreciate at its true worth. Hence, while persecuted Christians have been willing to walk many miles to take part in the worship of God, or to give large sums of money for a few pages if Scripture, those who live in the full light of privlege are negligent of the sanctuary and the Word of God. This will apply to prayer, to praise, to Christian work, to Christian fellowship. - C.

I. ITS SWEETNESS. (Ver. 9.) It is compared to fragrant unguent and incense (Psalm 104:15; Psalm 133:2). It is more delightful to listen to the counsel of a dear friend than sternly to rely on self. It is in human nature to love to see itself reflected in other objects; and the thoughts we approve, the opinions we form, we recognize gladly on another's lips. Talking with a friend is better than thinking aloud.

II. TIME-HONOURED FRIENDSHIP SHOULD ABOVE ALL BE HELD DEAR. (Ver. 10.) The presumption is that your own and your father's friend is one tried and approved, and may be depended upon.

"The friends thou hast and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel."

III. FRIENDSHIP IS FOUNDED UPON SPIRITUAL SYMPATHY. And this ranks before the ties of blood. The thought meets us in the proverbs of the ancient world in general. In the touching story of the friendship of Orestes and Pylades, e.g., it has its application. "This is what people say, 'Acquire friends, not relations alone;' since a man, when he is united by disposition, though not of kin, is better than a host of blood relations for another man to possess as his friend" (cf. Euripides 'Or.,' 804). And Hesiod says, "If aid is wanted, neighbours come ungirt, but relations stay to trek up their robes." Divine friendship is the highest illustration of this love.. Christ is above all the "Friend that sticketh closer than a brother." - J.

I. PRUDENT CONDUCT REFLECTS CREDIT UPON ONE'S PARENTS. (Ver. 11.) The graceless children of gracious parents are a special reproach, bringing dishonour even upon the Name of God (Genesis 34:30; 1 Samuel 2:17). The world will generally lay the blame at the parents' door. The Mosaic Law severely punished the sins of the priest's daughter for the disgrace brought upon the holy office (Leviticus 21:9).

II. THE NEED AND ADVANTAGE OF FORETHOUGHT. (Ver. 12.) Prudence has been described as "the virtue of the senses." It is the science of appearances. It is the outward action of the inward life. It is content to seek health of body by complying with physical conditions, and health of mind by complying with the laws of intellect. It is possible to give a base and cowardly interpretation of the duty of prudence; that "which makes the senses final is the divinity of sots and cowards, and is the subject of all comedy. The true prudence admits the knowledge of an outward and real world." Thus true prudence is only that which foresees, detects, and guards against the ills which menace the life of the soul; for there is no profit in the prudence which seeks the world and risks the soul. Those are "simple" who, often with the utmost regard for their material interests, go on heedless of the moral perils which their habits incur.

III. THE FOLLY OF THOUGHTLESS SURETYSHIP. (Ver. 13.) This, as we have seen, is often dwelt on in this book. It refers to a different condition of society from our own. We may generalize the warning. Prudence includes a proper self-regard, a virtuous egotism, so to speak. When good-natured people complain that they have been deceived, taken in, and turn sourly against human nature, do they not reproach themselves for having hacked this primary virtue of prudence? The highest virtues can grow only out of the root of independence (see Proverbs 20:16). - J.

The picture is that of one who indulges in the noisy ostentation of friendship, without having the reality of it at his heart.

I. EXCESS IN PRAISE OR BLAME IS TO BE GUARDED AGAINST. Luther shrewdly observes, "He who loudly scolds, praises; and he who excessively praises, scolds. They are not believed because they exaggerate." Too great praise is half blame. Language should be used with sobriety and temperance.

II. INSINCERITY IS SUBJECT TO A CURSE. It is odious to God and to man. One of the constant moral trials of life is in the observance of the golden mean of conduct in social relations - to be agreeable without flattery, and sincere without rudeness. Here, as ever, we must walk in the bright light of our Saviour's example, the All-loving, yet the All-faithtul. - J.

She is compared to the continual dropping of a shower; and the attempt to restrain her is like seeking to fetter the wind or to grasp at oil.

I. THE MONOTONY OF ILL TEMPER. It persists in one mood, and dyes all it touches with one colour, and that a dismal one.

II. THE CORRODING EFFECT UPON OTHERS' MINDS. Fine tempers cannot resist this perpetual wear and tear; the most buoyant spirits may be in time depressed by this dead weight.

III. THE INFLEXIBILITY OF ILL TEMPER. Alas! it is one of those things we are tempted to say cannot be mended. Nothing indeed but that Divine grace which can turn the winter of the soul into summer is able to remedy this ill. In reliance upon this, the exhortation may be given, "Purge out the old leaven!" - J.


1. The collision of mind with mind elicits truth, strikes out flashes of new perception. A man may grow wiser by an hour's discourse than by a day's meditation. "Speech is like embroidered cloth opened and put abroad," said the mistochs to the King of Persia. In the collision of minds the man brings his own thoughts to light, and whets his wits against a stone that cuts not (Bacon).

2. The reflection of mind in mind. (Ver. 19.) For we are all "like in difference," and never see so clearly what is in our own spirit as through the manifestation of another's. As we have not eyes in the back of our head, so is introspection difficult - perhaps, strictly speaking, impossible. Self knowledge is the reflection of the features of oilier minds in our own.


1. Diligent husbandry is rewarded. (Ver. 18.) Whether we cultivate the tree, the master, the friend, our own soul, this law must ever hold good. Everything in this world of God's goes by law, not by luck; and what we sow we reap. Trust men, and they will be true to you; treat them justly, and they will show themselves just, though they make an exception in your favour to all their rules of conduct.

2. The quenchless thirst of the spirit. (Ver. 20.) Who can set a limit to the human desire to know, to do, to be? The real does not satisfy us; we are ever in quest of the ideal or perfect. Evil excesses and extravagances of vicious passion are the reverse of this undying impulse of an infinite nature. God is our true Good; our insatiable curiosities are only to be satisfied by the knowledge of himself.

3. The criterion of character. (Ver. 21.) According to the scale of that which a man boasts of, is he judged. If he boasts of praise, worthy things, he is recognized as a virtuous and honest man; if he boasts of vain or evil things, he is abhorred. "Show me what a man likes, and I will show you what he is" (this according to what seems the true rendering of this proverb).

4. Folly in grain. (Ver. 22.) In the East the husk is beaten from the corn by braying in a mortar. But from the fool the husk of folly will not depart. It is possible to despise the lessons of affliction, to harden one's back against the rod. Mere punishment cannot of itself correct or convert the soul. The will, the conscious spiritual activity, must cooperate with God. A great man speaks of "that worst of afflictions - an affliction lost" - J.

This is a question which very intimately and importantly concerns us; for -

I. SERVICE CONSTITUTES THE GREATER PART OF HUMAN LIFE. We have to consider how large a proportion of our race is formally and regularly engaged in service as the occupation of their life. When we have counted domestic servants, agricultural labourers, and all orders of "workmen;" and when we have included all those who, in the press, or the pulpit, or the legislature, are the avowed and actual servants of the public, we have referred to a very large portion indeed of the whole population. So that "he that waiteth on his master," though he may (in the literal sense of the, phrase) he continued to a small section, yet actually stands for the majority of mankind. Indeed, we must be occupying a very strange position if we are not of those who are engaged in serving in some form or other.


1. God is requiring it of us. It is required by him that we who are stewards be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2; Colossians 3:22-25).

2. The best and noblest men, whose character and course we admire, were men "faithful in all their house" (see Hebrews 3:5).

3. We can only retain our self-respect by faithfulness. To do our work slowly or slovenly, in such wise that we should be ashamed to have it inspected by "the master" (whoever he may be), in such a manner that it will not stand the test of time, is to undermine all respect for ourselves, is to sink sadly and pitifully, if nut fatally, in our own esteem.

4. Faithfulness has a large and a sure reward. Careful culture of the fig tree is sure to be rewarded with the eating of its fruit in due time. Faithful service is sure to bring its due recompense.

(1) It brings honour. We respect the true and conscientious labourer in our own hearts, and we do not fail to honour him in the estimation of others. Loyal and valuable service commands no small esteem when it has had time to make an impression on the mind.

(2) It brings personal attachment and even affection. Often between those who serve and those who are served there arises a true and deep affection which is very honourable to both, very beautiful in its character, and lasting as long as life.

(3) Due material recompense. This may be delayed, but it comes in time.

(4) Enlargement of capacity. Perhaps the best reward of faithful service is found here - in the enlargement of the faculty of service. Do, and you will do better; serve today, and you will serve more skilfully and efficiently tomorrow; put out your one talent in the lowly sphere, and you will soon have two talents (of faculty and aptitude) to put out in a higher one.

"I will ask for no reward. Except to serve thee still" - and to serve thee better. But if it be said that, after all, human service is sometimes unappreciated and unacknowledged, that the labourer's hire is withheld and not paid, that the "master" does not render the honour that is due to him who has "waited on" him long and served him well - as it may sometimes be truly said - then let us retire to the truth that -

III. THERE IS ONE SERVICE IN WHICH THERE IS NO DISAPPOINTMENT. We are the servants of Christ. We delight to call him Master (John 13:13). We owe him everything, and we offer him the subjection of our will, the trust of our hearts, the service of our lives. He will not disappoint us. He will not forget our work of faith and our labour of love. The slightest service shall "in no wise lose its reward." He will generously regard what we do for his humble disciples as something rendered to himself. Here we shall possess his loving favour, and there his bountiful recompense. - C.

I. ECONOMY AND FORESIGHT. (Vers. 23-25.) He looks after the outgoings of his farm, well aware that there is in all things constant waste, that even the royal crown is a perishable thing. All knowledge is useful, and prudence applies through the whole scale of our being. Let the man, "if he have hands, handle; if eyes, measure and discriminate; let him accept and hive every fact of chemistry, natural history, and economy; the more he has, the less he is willing to spare any one. Time is always bringing the occasions that disclose their value. Some wisdom comes out of every natural and innocent action." To preserve and hold together are as necessary as to gain in every kind of riches.

II. THE FRUITS OF INDUSTRY. (Vers. 26, 27.) Joyous is the sight when man's toil united with the forces of nature, has been blessed with the abundant harvests and the rich flocks. Let a man keep the laws of God, and his way will be strewn with satisfactions. To find out the secret of "working together with God" in all the departments of our life is one of the deepest secrets of satisfaction and blessedness. - J.

Proverbs 27:23-27 (and ver. Proverbs 27:8)
It is likely enough that Solomon, oppressed with the burdens and vexations, with the difficulties and dangers, of the throne, looked longingly toward those pastoral scenes which he here describes. But, keen and shrewd man that he was, he must have known that contentment does not always find a home in the homestead, and that there may be as much disquietude of heart in the fields of the beautiful country as there is in the streets of the crowded city. We look for something more than an ordinary "pastoral" in these verses. We recognize in them a royal commendation of diligence.

I. THERE IS NEED OF DILIGENCE IN EVERY SPHERE. "Be diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds." Pastoral prosperity demands the care and the labour of the shepherd or the herdsman, as well as do the transactions of princes and the affairs of state. It will be a poor season and a bad harvest if the farmer is dreaming all day long. It is true that kids and calves and lambs grow up "of themselves," and that "the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself" (Mark 4:28); but it is also true that without watchful care on the shepherd's part the flock will be sickly and small, and that without toil and skill on the part of the farmer the hay crop and the wheat crop will be quite disappointing. And so in everything. Whatever the sphere may be, diligence is the invariable condition of success. The man who will not take pains, who does not work and strive, who does not throw his strength and energy into his occupation, will soon find how great is his mistake.

II. DILIGENCE MUST BE CONCENTRATED IF IT IS TO BE REMUNERATIVE. (Ver. 8.) A man that is everywhere but at home, who is interested in everybody's business but his own, who can tell his neighbours how to improve their estate while his own is neglected, who has a hand in a hundred activities, may be exceedingly busy and (in his way) diligent; but he is not a "man of business," and he does not show the diligence which yields a good result. Let a man know "his place" and keep it; and, while selfishness and narrowness of spirit are bad and blameful enough, it is needful for him to give his strength to his own sphere, his forces to his own fields.


1. It will procure domestic comfort (vers. 25-27).

2. It will lead to honour and reputation (Proverbs 22:29).

3. It will invest with power (Proverbs 12:24),

4. It will enrich with various kinds of human wealth (Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 21:5).

Patient industry is the source of all the good which beautifies and brightens, which adorns and enlarges, human life.

IV. THERE IS A SERIOUS UNCERTAINTY AGAINST WHICH TO PROVIDE. (Ver. 24.) You may be the son of a king, but the crown sometimes changes hands; dynasties are not immortal. You may have a large treasure at command, but the thief; who wears many guises and comes to us in many forms, may steal it away. Better depend on self-reliance than on such props as these; have the diligent hand at your side, and you will be able to defy the chances and the losses that come in the hour and in the way when we look not for them.

V. THERE IS ONE SPHERE IN WHICH DILIGENCE IS OF INESTIMABLE VALUE - THE KEEPING OF OUR OWN HEART. With the most devout and the most sedulous care should we "keep" our spiritual nature, for from it flow the streams of life or death (see homily on Proverbs 4:23). - C.

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