Poverty and shame come to him who ignores discipline, but whoever heeds correction will be honored.
I. THE BLESSINGS OF OBEDIENCE.
1. Honour. (Ver. 18.) "'Tis a good brooch to wear in a man's hat at all times," says one of our old poets. Love is common to all the creatures, as life and death; honour belongs to men alone; and dishonour must be worse than death. The praise of others is the refiection of virtue, and a good name like flagrant ointment.
2. Satisfied desire. (Ver. 19.) And what is sweeter than the attainment of worthy "ends and expectations"? And if we will but have faith, this satisfaction may be ours, by setting our hearts on internal blessings, the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
3. Improving companionship. (Ver. 20.) Friendship with the wise makes daylight in the understanding out of darkness and confusion of thoughts. Our wits and understanding clarify and break up in communicating and discoursing with one another. "We toss our thoughts more easily, marshal them more soberly; see how they look when turned into words; we wax wiser than ourselves, and that more by an hour's discourse than by a day's meditation" (Lord Bacon).
4. Unfailing compensations. All things are double, one against another. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, on the one side; measure for measure, love for love, on the other. "Give, and it shall be given you;" "He that watereth shall be watered himself." "What will you have?" saith God; "pray for it, and take it." "if you serve an ungrateful master, serve him the more. Put God in your debt. Every stroke shall be repaid. The longer the payment is withholden, the better for you; for compound interest on. compound interest is the rate and usage of this exchequer."
5. Hereditary good. (Ver. 22.) We desire to prolong our blessings, in the view of fancy, beyond our lives; and the desire to leave behind a fortune, or a name and fame, is one of the most common and natural. The thought that all the good our life has produced wilt be still a germinant power with our descendants after we are gone, is one of the noblest and most inspiring.
6. Fruitful poverty. (Ver. 23.) The image is that of the poor man's field, which becomes rich in produce through the investment of his toil in it. The improvement of the ground is the most natural way of obtaining riches; it is our great mother's blessing, the earth. The blessing of God visibly rests upon the behest labour of the poor.
7. Wise training of the young. (Ver. 24.) The rod may stand as a figure for all correction, firm yet kindly discipline, and instruction. The wise father will seek to anticipate moral evil by subduing early the passionate temper. He will incessantly follow up his child with prayer, with discipline, with exhortations, that he may not later rue the absence of seasonable warnings.
8. Temperate enjoyment and sufficient supplies. (Ver. 25.) The mind governed by religion and wisdom learns to reduce its wants to a small compass; and this is a great secret of content and of true riches. He who wants only what is necessary for the life and free action of the soul may rely with confidence on the infinite bounty of Providence.
II. THE COUNTERPART.
1. Poverty and shame. (Ver. 18.) The one an outward misery, patent to all; the other not so patent, but more acute; for contempt, as the Indian proverb says, pierces through the shell of the tortoise. So long ago as old Homer, we find the sentiment, "Shame greatly hurts or greatly helps mankind" ('Iliad,' 24:45; Hesiod, 'Op.,' 316). "Take one of the greatest and most approved courage, who makes nothing to look death and danger in the face,...in a base and a shameful action, and the eye of the discoverer, like that of the basilisk, shall strike him dead. So inexpressibly great sometimes are the killing horrors of this passion" (South, vol. 2. ser. 7.). The Bible designates this as a peculiar fruit of sin.
2. The unquenchable fire of lust. (Ver. 19.) To this the correct rendering of the second member of the verse appears to point (James 1:14, 15). 'Tis hard to give up the bosom sin, which still in better moments is hated - a loathsome tyranny, yet one which cannot be cast off.
3. Depraving companionship. (Ver. 20.) Wicked companions invite to hell. "There are like to be short graces when the devil plays the host."
4. Haunting troublers. (Ver. 21.) Much romance has been woven about "haunted houses;" but what haunted house so gruesome as the bad man's heart? His sin draws God's wrath and punishments after it, even as the shadows follow his feet.
5. Forfeited wealth. (Ver. 22.) Riches that come from the devil go back to him. Fraud, oppression, and unjust dealing are not really retentive; or wealth obtained by flattering, complying with others' humours, and servility does not prosper. The Proverbs see the outrush of life with great clearness; they do not always explain the inner connection of cause and effect, which should be clear to us.
6. Self-destruction. (Ver. 23.) Many a man is "carried away by his unrighteousness." "In contrast with the contented, humble condition of the good man, the selfish and profligate 'lovers of themselves without a rival,' are often unfortunate; and whereas they have all their time sacrificed to themselves, they become in the end themselves sacrifices to the inconstancy of fortune, whose wings they thought by their self-wisdom to have pinioned" (Lord Bacon).
7. Weak indulgence to children. (Ver. 24.) A most injurious error. It tends to weaken the young minds and foster all the violent passions; just as the opposite extreme tends to debase and incite to deceit. E. Irving, in one of his works, hints that a great proportion of the inmates of lunatic asylums have been only and spoilt children.
8. Want. (Ver. 25.) "Great wants," it has been said, "proceed from great wealth; but they are undutiful children, for they sink wealth down to poverty." - J.
But he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.
(T. G. Cuyler.)
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