The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
The Book of the Proverbs of Solomon is a collection, under the guidance of inspiration, of the short sayings of wise and pious men which up to that time had been more or less current, with many of course of his own intermixed. When we have them before us, we seem to have an insight into the minds of the very wisest of men, we almost commune with them, and know the point of view in which they regarded human life and all its affairs.
I. We see the estimate they formed of human nature, its weakness and corruption. How full the Book of Proverbs is of the folly of mankind!
II. Again, what a vast collection of sayings we have in this book relating to human life, to human duty: the fear of God, charity to man, modesty, humility, forbearance, industry, self-denial! Here we see that another plain use and design of the whole book is to give us a quantity of short and summary expressions of deep truths of practice, such as we can carry about with us and call to mind when we want them. This book will imprint upon our minds the great truths of God's providence and the profundity of God's judgment. The Proverbs show Divine justice already partially commenced and exhibited in this life; and the Gospel carries out this view, and completes it in the world of futurity.
J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 96.
References: Proverbs 1:1.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, 1st series, p. 9; J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, No. 89; R. Wardlaw, Lectures on the Book of Proverbs, vol. i., p. 1.
Proverbs 1:1-4It might seem at first as if no precepts of this kind, drawn from the experience of a social state most unlike our own, could be of much service to us. But much that is true of man at any time is true at all times. The counsels of the teacher look forwards rather than backwards. With but little change of outward circumstance, they are true even now. Their inner, substantial truth can never become obsolete.
I. (1) The first great danger against which the young man is warned on his entrance upon life is that of wild, lawless robbery. Still the tempter leads men captive at once by their covetousness and their weakness. (2) And so also of that which we have come to speak of as pre-eminently the sin of great cities, the evil which spreads over and corrupts every form of civilised society. Vivid as the picture was of what was seen in Jerusalem "in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night," it might almost seem to have been photographed from the streets of London. (3) Indolence, self-sufficiency, cowardice—where can we find these portrayed in more vivid colours than here?
II. Having seen that the perils of life were the same, you will be able to recognise also the identity of the excellence presented to the youth of Israel and the youth of Christendom for their admiration. That ideal is at once noble and attainable. It meets men in their homes and in their work, in the marketplace and in the council-chamber, and bids them be wise, and righteous, and blessed there.
III. Through all excellences in man or woman there runs that which is the source and condition of them all, even the fear of the Lord.
IV. Such a life, having this root, bearing such fruits, is noble and honourable at all times. The wisdom of the Old Testament presented it as the true pattern for men to aim at. The wisdom of the New Testament does not reject it. But we should stop short of the whole counsel of God if we were to stop here. Wisdom manifested in the flesh, the Son of God, who was also the Son of man, has in word and act, by precept and example, disclosed a height and a depth beyond even this excellence.
E. H. Plumptre, Theology and Life, p. 184.
Reference: Proverbs 1:2-9.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on the Book of Proverbs, vol. i., p. 10.
Proverbs 1:6A great deal of the world's wisdom is contained in proverbs. But it must be allowed that some of the world's proverbs are faulty and imperfect, and therefore unsafe rules for a Christian to follow. The proverbs of Solomon are all good and holy in their tendency. How could they be otherwise, proceeding as they do from the good and Holy Spirit of God?
I. The book commences with the "fear of the Lord" as the root of the whole matter. Everything else without this is of no avail. If we have not learned to acknowledge God, to set Him before us, to be in His fear, we know nothing yet as we ought to know it. (1) The fear of God will urge us to a profitable study of the Holy Scriptures. (2) The fear of God will especially influence us in our devotions. (3) The fear of God will bring us to the business of the day in the right frame of mind to carry it on. (4) The fear of God will enable us to bear the trials and disappointments of life. (5) In the last trial of all, in the hour of death, we shall assuredly reap the fruit of having lived in the fear of the Lord, for then we shall have nothing else to fear.
II. Another proverb addresses itself especially to the young: "My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother." The dutiful son, the loving daughter, are characters that find favour in the sight of God and man. If the young would have the Lord's favour, they must seek it in the paths of duty and obedience; and there, by God's grace, they shall find it.
III. "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not." In other words, avoid bad company. Take care that your pleasures are innocent pleasures; take care that they are such as do not leave a sting behind.
J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 414.
Reference: Proverbs 1:6.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 15.
Proverbs 1:7I understand by the fear of the Lord an abiding and reverent sense of the presence of God and of accountableness to Him. And in order for this to exist, God must not be the creature of each man's imagination, a fiction adapted to each man's prejudices and caprice, but that real, personal Being which we have every reason to believe God to have revealed Himself to be, such in character, as to love, holiness, and justice, as He has declared Himself in His word.
I. The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge, because knowledge, being the apprehension of facts and application of them to life, cannot properly begin, or be placed on a right foundation, without first apprehending and applying a fact which includes and which modifies all other facts whatever.
II. Knowledge is the food of the soul. The knowledge which is to train the soul must begin, continue, and end in the apprehension of God—of God as first, and of all other things as He has made them to be to us exponents of, and testimonies to, Himself.
III. A third and no less powerful reason is this: knowledge, understood as the mere accumulation of facts, is inoperative upon life. If knowledge is to be of any real use to help and renovate man, the affections must be wrought upon at the very outset of teaching. There is but one personal Agent whose influence and presence can abide through life, can alike excite hope, and fear, and love in the infant, in the child, in the youth, in the man, in the aged, and on the bed of death; and that One is God Himself. Unless He be known first and known throughout, knowledge will abide alone in the head, and will not find a way to the heart: man will know, but will not grow by it; will know, but will not act upon it; will know for narrow, and low, and selfish purposes, but never for blessing to himself or to others, never for the great ends of his being and never for glory to his God. The fear of the Lord is not a barren fact, like the shape of the earth or the course of the seasons; it is a living, springing, transmuting affection, capable of enduing even ordinary facts with power to cheer and to bless, and to bear fruit in men's hearts and lives.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vii., p. 1.
Reference: Proverbs 1:7.— W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 19.
Proverbs 1:7-9Solomon grounds the fear of God, the basis of the whole religious life, upon the duty of obedience to parents.
I. It is not mere children to whom he is speaking; he is addressing young persons who have come to that period of life at which they can go wrong if they will, when the actual restraint of parents is past.
II. It is the mark of a young person being very much fallen from the safe narrow path, when he allows himself to be tempted, whether in company or in his own heart, to be ashamed or think lightly of the law of his father and his mother. If the lessons of childhood which we learn from our mothers be really and truly the most valuable that we ever do learn, is not Solomon right in speaking of him as in the true road to wisdom who reverences the law of his mother, and wears it with pride as a precious chain about his neck, and in declaring, on the other hand, the folly and wickedness of him who despises his mother's lessons?
III. That habit of mind which is indicated by the figure of the text is the habit of mind which leads to all high and noble feelings. Give me a man who has shown himself in all respects a good and dutiful son, and I have very little fear that he will be a good member of society, a loyal subject of the Queen, a man of open and honourable heart, a good husband, and a good father. This will be the case because excellence in all these conditions of life requires the same simplicity of heart, the same unselfishness, the same practical wisdom, and the same obedience to the behests of gratitude and of conscience which the keeping of the Fifth Commandment requires.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2nd series, p. 262.
References: Proverbs 1:8.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 25. Proverbs 1:9.—Ibid., p. 30.
Proverbs 1:10There are two chief sources of temptation which Solomon indicates in these chapters, and which, when we have stripped off the figure or the accidental circumstances of age and time, are not less applicable to our days than to his.
I. The first is sensuality, figured and summed up in that repeated picture of the "strange woman which flattereth with her tongue, which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God."
II. The other is that of evil companionship.
You may see in chap. ii. the two distinguished very clearly and put as the two things from which wisdom, discretion, understanding, should preserve you.
"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not." The particular sins to which Solomon imagines the young man as being enticed are not at the moment sins of sensuality, but sins of violence. He is invited to join, to throw in his lot with, a band of brigands or highwaymen. The words describe the temptation to sin offered by companionship—sin of lawlessness, sin of daring, sin of cruelty, and sin of injustice. There is the natural temptation to go with a multitude, to feel that we are in the stream. There are the subtle temptations, which make use in part of our better nature, to adventure, to braving risk, to standing by companions. It may be a little matter at first, a youthful freak, but it will be defended presently by falsehood; and will they have the courage to draw back then? "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools shall be destroyed."
E. C. Wickham, Wellington College Sermons, p. 216.
I. Look, first, at the case supposed. (1) It is a common case. Sinners do entice. It is the nature of sin to make men tempters one of another. Men do not like to sin alone. Sinfulness begets a spirit of mischief; and if a man injures himself, he desires to see somebody else injured. (2) It is a serious case. Generally speaking, the tempters are stronger than the tempted. Temptation, when it is presented, is presented to a nature more or less susceptible. To be enticed is to be in danger of yielding to the inducement and of falling into sin. This is a serious case, but (3) it is by no means a hopeless one. "Consent thou not."
II. Notice the advice given. (1) Without consent the temptation cannot take effect, and without consent the temptation can do no real harm. (2) "Consent thou not," for if you do consent, "be sure your sin will find you out."
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 2nd series, No. 17.
This verse, in brief compass and transparent terms, reveals the foe and the fight. It is a Father's voice. It speaketh unto us as unto children. With a kindness and wisdom altogether paternal, it warns the youth of the danger that assails him, and suggests the method of defence.
I. The danger is, "if sinners entice thee." There are enticers and enticements, the fowler and his snare. (1) The enticers of youth may be divided into two great classes: the internal and the external. The sinners that entice from within are the man's own thoughts and desires; the sinners that entice from without are fellow-men who, having gone astray themselves, are busy leading others after them. (2) Among the enticements we may name: (a) the theatre; (b) the customs of society encouraging the use of intoxicating drinks.
II. The defence prescribed is, "Consent thou not." It is a blunt, peremptory command. Your method of defence must be different from the adversary's mode of attack. His strength lies in making gradual approaches, yours in a resistance sudden, resolute, total. The means of resisting (we do not speak here of the first and best means: the word of God and prayer) are: (1) refinement of manners; (2) profitable study; (3) benevolent effort; (4) improving company.
W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 34.
References: Proverbs 1:10.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 151, and vol. iii., p. 337; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 96. Proverbs 1:10-19.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 23; T. G. Horton, Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 141. Proverbs 1:17.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 62. Proverbs 1:19.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 57.
Proverbs 1:20-22The wisdom of God is a manifold wisdom. While it centres bodily in Christ, and thence issues as from its source, it is reflected and re-echoed from every object and every event. Every law of nature and every event in history has a tongue by which wisdom proclaims God's holiness and rebukes man's sin. Three classes of persons seem to be singled out here, and to each is administered an appropriate reproof:—
I. The simple, who love simplicity. Probably we should not be far from the truth if we should accept this term in the Proverbs as intended to indicate that class of sinners whose leading characteristic is the absence of good rather than positive activity in evil.
II. The scorners, who love scorning. This class meet the threatening realities of eternity not by an easy indifference, but by a hardy resistance. They have a bold word ever ready to ward solemn thoughts away: a sneer at the silliness of a saint, an oath to manifest courage, or a witty allusion to Scripture which will make the circle ring again with laughter. Scorners love scorning. The habit grows by indulgence. It becomes a second nature.
III. The fools, who hate knowledge. Fools are those who have reached the very highest degrees of evil. Here it is intimated that they hate knowledge; and knowledge has its beginning in the fear of God. "How long shall fools hate knowledge?" Unless they learn to love it soon, they will hate it for ever.
W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 64.
References: Proverbs 1:20-23.—R. M. McCheyne, Additional Remains, p. 9. Proverbs 1:20-33.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 291; R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 38.
Proverbs 1:23I. Observe carefully what it is which God here requires from the scornful and the simple. He prescribes none of those lofty performances which in other parts of Scripture are distinctly affirmed to lie far beyond men's power; it only asks that they would "turn at God's reproof;" and it manifestly assumes that they might turn if they would. God's call upon you is nicely adapted to the energies you actually possess. It is not a call to change your heart, and root out from the soul the ingrained love of evil; but it is a call that you reform your practice, and purge your life of its grosser evils. This you can do. We infer from this passage that every man who has a wish to repent has an instant task in which he is bound to engage: the task of ceasing to do evil and striving to do well; and therefore we set him to the task.
II. Consider the promise which God makes in the text, which evidently applies to those only who "turn at His reproof." Who can turn at God's reproof without the help of God's Spirit? And yet, according to our text, our turning is the condition of our obtaining the Spirit, so that our gaining what we need seems to take for granted that we have it already. There is undoubtedly something here that looks like contradiction, and the whole business of practical religion is involved in the removal of the difficulty. The unconverted man will tell us that, since he has not the Spirit, it is useless for him to make any effort to pray, or even to attempt a reformation of his practice. In all such objections there is a strange forgetfulness that the men whom the Bible addresses are already under the dispensation of the Spirit, not in the state of unredeemed creatures, but members for the most part of the visible Church. We cannot treat any such as beings in whom there are no actings of the Spirit of God. You may make an excuse of your helplessness; you may make an excuse of God's election; you may plead that the act of prayer presupposes that for which you are to pray, and the act of labour that for which you are to toil: but there is sufficient reason why the promises of the text have not been made part of your experience if you have failed to do that which, through the strength already communicated, you might have done: failed to obey the oft-repeated exhortation of the Lord, "Turn you at My reproof."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1539.
Reference: Proverbs 1:23.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 72.
The words of the text are awful, but not hopeless; they pronounce God's judgment on the finally impenitent; the penitent they but awaken, that they may "hear the voice of the Son of God and live."
I. The sentence pronounced is final. God is indeed longsuffering; He warns, calls, recalls, manifoldly, in various places; publicly, aloud, so that they must hear: but if, hearing, they will not hearken, a time will come when not only will He not hear those who would not hear Him, but all these calls will but increase their anguish and misery. Such is the fullest and most terrible meaning of the words; and in this they relate to the time when God will no longer pity nor spare, but the ungodly, who would not turn at His rebuke, shall perish by it.
II. But because, in their fullest sense, these words relate to the day of days, the day of judgment, is there then no sense in which they are fulfilled in this life, or are the fears which they awaken in the sinner's heart misplaced fears? By no means. Fear they should awaken, only not despair. Besides the great images of the day of judgment, when fire, or floods, or hurricanes, or earthquakes, or volcanoes, or man at once swallow up a whole people or city in one wide desolation, and end their trial here by sudden destruction, there are in the lives or deaths of individuals other events which so far partake of the same character, that they are final. All suffering, mental or bodily, has a twofold character: it is at once punishment and chastisement; it at once expresses God's hatred for the sin and mercy to the sinner; it is at once the wrath and love of Almighty God. And of these judgments many are for this life without remedy. God warns that He may not strike; but when He does strike, a man's whole life is changed. Whether for correction or for punishment, the restoration of penitents or the ripening of saints, we do see varied forms of sudden affliction, agonising, irremediable, darkening life at once, making the sufferer, if in this life only we had hope in Christ, of all men most miserable.
III. If God's fire do fall, then man's only wisdom is with what strength he has; darkened though his path be by the bewildering of past sin, to grope his way onward in the new path wherein God hath set him. The past is, in one sense, closed. It stands fixed as adamant, yet to him, as paradise to Adam, inaccessible. Yet, through God's overflowing mercy, there remains trial still. God answereth not in temporal mercies, that He may answer in eternal lovingkindness. He lets us eat of the fruit of our own way, that by its bitterness we may learn to leave our own way and choose His. There is trial yet; and where there is trial, there is God's strength ready to aid, and a Saviour looking on to uphold and to crown in heaven, where we see only that we deserved hell.
E. B. Pusey, Sermons from Advent to Whitsuntide, vol. i., p. 171.
Proverbs 1:24-28I. God in mercy visits a rebellious generation. He calls, stretches out His hands, gives counsel, and administers reproof.
II. A rebellious generation neglect or resist the gracious visitation of God.
III. They shall eat the fruit of their own ways, and be filled with their own devices. As certainly as a husbandman in harvest reaps only what he sowed in spring, shall they, who in life sow sin, reap wrath in judgment.
W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 78.
Proverbs 1:24-31I. The person represented as speaking these very solemn and terrible words is that same wisdom which is represented in the verses before the text as making most gracious offers to all who will hear her voice. We shall make a right use of the language if we conclude from it that the wisdom of God will not speak for ever in the way of warning and rebuke, but that a time will come to those who do not listen to her words, when her voice will bring no comfort to their hearts, and contrariwise will fill them with anguish.
II. To us Christians wisdom is presented in a very distinct and personal form, namely, as embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. As the excellence of the promises of wisdom could not be understood until interpreted by the coming of Christ, so the curses pronounced by wisdom had nothing of their full weight, until they fell upon those who have seen "Jesus Christ evidently set forth crucified amongst them," and who, nevertheless, have counted His blood as worthless, and so have done despite to the Spirit of Grace. The love of Christ only measures the wrath of God against those who neglect it: as the blood of Christ saved, so also the blood of Christ condemns.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 120.
Reference: Proverbs 1:27, Proverbs 1:28.—C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 341.
Proverbs 1:28Christ's Gospel gives out the forgiveness of sins; and as this is its very essence, so also in what we read connected with Christ's Gospel, the tone of encouragement, of mercy, of lovingkindness to sinners is ever predominant. But there is yet another language, which is to be found alike in the Old Testament and in the New, a language not indeed so common as the language of mercy, but yet repeated many times; a language which we also need as fully as it was ever needed, and of whose severity we can no more spare one tittle than we can spare anything of the comfort of the other. The language to which I allude is expressed amongst other passages by the words of the text.
I. We should, I suppose, allow that these words were at no time in any man's earthly life so true as they will be at the day of judgment. Carry this principle a little farther, and we come to our own case. The words of the text will be more true at the day of judgment than they ever are on earth, and yet on earth they are often true substantially and practically. And even so, they may be more true to each of us a few years hence than they are at this moment; and yet, in a certain degree, they may be true at this moment—true, not absolutely and entirely, but partially; so true as to give a most solemn earnest, if we are not warned in time, of their more entire truth hereafter—first in this earthly life, then, most perfectly of all, when we shall arise at the last day.
II. Unanswered prayers, broken resolutions, are they not actually a calling on God without His hearing us; a seeking Him without finding Him? We know what it is that hinders God from hearing us always: because we are not thoroughly one in His Son Christ Jesus. Of all of us, those who the least like to pray, who have prayed with the least benefit, have the most need to pray again. If they have sought God, without finding Him, let them take heed that this be not their case for ever.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 85.
Proverbs 1:33I. The fear of evil is the element of it, with which man has most directly to do.
II. It is precisely this fear of evil which, by God's help, we are to conquer; the evil itself is wholly beyond our power. "Man is born to trouble."
III. How is the power to be won? (1) By realising how purely independent of things is man's peace and happiness. (2) By taking a true measure of the range of our being and its resources. (3) By perfect filial trust in God.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 304.
Reference: Proverbs 1:33.— Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 188.
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.
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 forsake not the law of thy mother:
For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.
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.
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 thereof.
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.
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 I 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 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.
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.