I. THE WORTH OF INTELLIGENCE.
1. It is self-conservative (ver. 8). We all love our own soul or life in any healthy state of body and mind. We all want to live as long as possible. It is natural to desire to live again beyond the grave. Then let us understand that there is no way to these ends except that of intelligence, in the highest and in every sense.
2. It is the source of happiness. (Ver. 8.) The truth is very general and abstract, like the truth of the whole of these proverbs. It does not amount to this - that good sense will in every case procure happiness, but that there is no true happiness without it.
II. SOME MAXIMS OF INTELLIGENCE.
1. The sorrow that falsehood brings. (Ver. 9.) It is certain. Many a lie is not immediately found out in the ordinary sense of these words; but it is always found in the man's mind. It vitiates the intelligence, undermines the moral strength. The rest must follow in its time - somewhere, somehow.
2. Vanity stands in its own light. (Ver. 10.) Those who have given way to over weening self-esteem and arrogance of temper - like Rehoboam, or like Alexander the Great, or Napoleon - become only the more conceited and presumptuous in success. The opposite of vanity is not grovelling self-disparagement, but the sense which teaches us to know our place.
3. The prudence of toleration and of conciliation. (Vers. 11, 12.) Socrates was a noble example of these virtues in the heathen world. We who have "learned Christ" should not at least fall behind him. To bear our wrongs with patience is the lower degree of this virtue. Positively to "overcome evil with good" stands higher. Highest of all is the Divine art to turn persecutors into friends (1 Peter 2:19; Matthew 5:44, sqq.).
4. The arcana of domestic life. (Vers. 13, 14.)
(1) The foolish son. "Many are the miseries of a man's life, but none like that which cometh from him who should be the stay of his life." "Write this man childless" would have been a boon in comparison.
(2) The tiresome spouse. Wearing the heart that is firm as stone by her continual contentions.
(3) The kind and good wife. No gift so clearly shows the tender providence of God.
5. The inevitable fate of idleness. (Ver. 15.)
(1) It produces a lethargy in the soul. (Ch. 6:9, 10.) The faculties that are not used become benumbed and effete.
(2) Thus it leads to want. Although these are general maxims of a highly abstract character, still how true on the whole - if not without exception - they are to life! "He that will not work, neither let him eat."
6. The wisdom of attention to God's commands. (Ver. 16.)
(1) To every man his soul is dear; i.e. his life is sweet.
(2) The great secret, in the lower sense of self-preservation, in the higher of salvation, is obedience to law.
(3) Inattention is the chief source of calamity. In the lower relation it is so. The careless crossing of the road, the unsteady foot on the mountain-side seems to be punished instantly and terribly. And this is the type of the truth in higher aspects.
7. The reward of pity and benevolence. (Ver. 17.) Sir Thomas More used to say there was more rhetoric in this sentence than in a whole library. God looks upon the poor as his own, and satisfies the debts they cannot pay. In spending upon the poor the good man serves God in his designs with reference to men. - J.
He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul
(George Lawson, D. D.)
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