Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
The Divine Justice in Respect to the Wise and FoolsE. Johnson Proverbs 16:16-26
Ideal EloquenceHomilistProverbs 16:23-24
We see the moral order of God revealed in the character and life of men in various ways. Their conduct has a good or evil effect on themselves, on their fellows, and is exposed to Divine judgment. Let us take these in their order.


1. Wisdom is enriching (ver. 16). To acquire it is better than ordinary wealth (Proverbs 3:14; Proverbs 8:10, 11, 19).

2. Rectitude is safety (ver. 17). It is a levelled and an even way, the way of the honest and good man; not, indeed, always to his own feeling, but in the highest view, "He that treads it, trusting surely to the right, shall find before his journey closes he is close upon the shining table lands to which our God himself is Sun and Noon." The only true way of self-preservation is the way of right.

3. The truth of contrast (ver. 18). Pride foretells ruin; the haughty spirit, overthrow and destruction (Proverbs 15:25, 33). The thunderbolts strike the lofty summits, and leave unharmed the kneeling vale; shiver the oak, and pass harmless over the drooping flower. We are ever safe upon our knees, or in the attitude of prayer. A second contrast appears in ver. 19. The holy life with scant fare better than a proud fortune erected on unjust gains,

"He that is down need fear no fall; He that is low, no pride."

4. The effect of religious principle (ver. 20). We need constantly to carry all conduct into this highest light, or trace it to this deepest root. Piety here includes two things:

(1) obedience to positive command;

(2) living trust in the personal God.

Happiness and salvation are the fruit. "I have had many things in my hands, and have lost them all. Whatever I have been able to place in God's hands, I still possess" (Luther).


1. The good man is pleasing to others (vers. 21, 24). There is a grace on his lips, a charm in his conversation, in a "speech alway with grace, seasoned with salt." How gladly men listened to our great Exemplar, both in public and in private! Thus, too, the good man sweetens instruction, and furthers its willing reception in the mind of his listeners.

2. He earns a good reputation for sense, discretion, prudence (vers. 21, 22). And this not only adds to his own happiness (for we cannot be happy without the good will of our fellows), but it gives weight to his teaching (ver. 23). The teacher can produce little effect whose words stand not out in relief from the background of character. The true emphasis is supplied by the life.

3. The contrast (ver. 22). The folly of fools is self-chastising. The fool makes himself disagreeable to others; even if he chances upon a sound word or right action, it is devoid of the value and weight which only character can give. He incurs prejudice and opposition on every hand, sows thorns in his own path, and invites his own destruction.

III. THE PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT IN ALL. Every one of these effects marks in its way the expression of the Divine will, the laws of a Divine order. But, above all, the end determines the value of choice and the quality of life. The great distinction between the seeming and the real is the distinction between facts as they appear in the light of our passions, our wishes, our lusts, our various illusions and self-deceptions, and facts as they are in the clear daylight of eternal truth and a judgment which cannot err (ver. 25). To guard against the fatal illusions that beset us, we should ask:

1. Is this course of conduct according to the definite rules of conduct as they are laid down in God's Word?

2. Is it according to the best examples of piety? Above all, is it Christ-like, God-like? - J.

The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
These two verses lead us to infer several things concerning true eloquence.

I. IT IS THE UTTERANCE OF THE TRUE HEART. "The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth."

1. It is when the genuinely patriotic heart "teacheth the mouth" of the statesman that his speeches are really eloquent, and that his voice bends the senate to his will.

2. It is when the genuinely justice-loving heart "teacheth the mouth" of the counsel that his address is really eloquent, and that he carries the jury with him, and makes the cause of his client triumphant.

3. It is when the genuinely Christ-loving heart "teaches the mouth" of the preacher that his sermons become eloquent, and mighty through God.

II. IT IS THE MEANS OF USEFUL INSTRUCTION. "It addeth learning to his lips." True eloquence does more than awaken mere emotion in the hearer. It instructs. Its spirit is in such vital alliance with eternal reality that its very sounds echo such truths as start the highest trains of thought. Who is the best religious teacher? Not the mere theologian, however vast his learning, Scriptural his theory, or perfect his language; but the Christ-loving man, however untutored his intellect and ungrammatical his speech. He dispenses the best "learning," learning which teaches men rightly to live and triumphantly to die.

III. IT IS A SOURCE OF SOUL-REFRESHMENT. Honey was prized by those of old times, not only as a luxury to the palate, but also on account of its medicinal and salutary properties. To this there is an allusion here. The words express the twofold idea of pleasantness and of benefit. Many things have the one quality which have not the other. Many a poison is like honey, sweet to the taste, but instead of being "health to the bones," is laden with death. Words of true eloquence, indeed, fall as drops of honey on the soul, not only delicious to the taste but a tonic to the heart.


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