Proverbs 29:15

I. THERE MUST BE THE FORCE OF EXAMPLE. (Ver. 12.) Especially in regard to truthfulness. Nothing is more easily caught than an example of untruthfulness, evasion, hypocrisy. Servants' manners reflect their masters' characters. The more conspicuous the station, the further the influence of the example extends.

II. THERE MUST BE RESPECT TO THE RULER AND JUDGE OF ALL. (Ver. 13.) He is no Respecter of persons; but he is the Protector of all, and the Judge between man and man. The distinctions of ruler and subject, of rank and rank, of class and class, are temporary; the common relation of all to God is spiritual and eternal.

III. THERE MUST BE REGARD TO THE LOWLY. (Ver. 14.) Must not the test of every government be at last this - What did it accomplish for the poor, for the burdened, for the slave and the oppressed? "Glorious" wars and additions of territory can never compensate for injustice at home; the renown of arms for a people's misery. The throne that is not propped by bayonets, but built upon a people's gratitude and loyalty, may defy the storms of revolution.


1. There is the same need of firmness and discipline. Absolute liberty is licence. All our freedom is bounded by necessity. The good of the whole demands fixed law; and this must be observed in the household as in the body politic. A weakness in the administration of acknowledged law is fatal to the purity of the home, to the welfare of nations. Evil doers must be kept down; if their character cannot be changed, their power to work mischief must be taken from them by the unflinching administration of law. And lastly, firmness, so far from alienating, really wins the good will, the respect, and obedience of subjects in the petty commonwealth of home and in the larger sphere of the state. - J.

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
I. LOOK AT THE CHILD LEFT TO HIMSELF. That is, without reproof, and that grave advice which gives wisdom. The original term is applied to the unbridled impetuosity of an animal. The child, if not held in by the bit and bridle of a religious education — if left to the impetuosity of his own passions — will be ruined. Appeal to the nature of things. What is there left to itself that comes to any good? What is land without inclosure and cultivation? Appeal to experience as to the effect of a neglected education. Who are the pests of society? Appeal to Scripture.

II. THE EFFECT OF THIS NEGLECT. Look at the parent. "Bringeth his mother to shame." This is only one result. Other things follow. Ruin to the child's principles. All the consequences of his conduct to a neighbourhood. Tendencies to sap the foundations of morality and justice between man and man. In all this there seems to be a remarkable feature of the retributive justice of God in His moral government. The education of children in the fear of God is one of the first and self-evident duties, the foundation of all moral good. But it is implied that a child carefully trained for God and religion shall not bring his mother to shame.


1. Enforce this duty on our own hearts.

2. See it in reference to the children of the poor.

3. The need of guarding children against the evil influence of the press. Show what religion you possess by your endeavours to educate your children religiously.

(Daniel Wilson, M.A.)

I. THE AFFECTING OBJECT: "A child left to himself." Allusion is probably intended to the natural impetuosity of a horse.

1. A child left without religious instruction. Parents are enjoined to "train up a child in the way he should go": not the way he would go. Education must have its foundation in Scripture. The spirit of the age requires that parental instructions should be of a decidedly Scriptural character. The work of instilling Divine truth must be commenced early. Train them to early habits of industry, to diligent reading of the Scriptures, and to constant prayer.

2. A child left without fervent prayer. Do you know the way to a throne of grace, and can you forget the child of your affections? If you do not pray for him it is not likely that you will pray with him.

3. A child left without a good example. Children understand actions better than words. The parent who, by his ungodly example, betrays the confidence of his child by leading him in the way of sin when he should guide him in the paths of piety and peace is guilty of a species of cruelty difficult to be described.

4. A child left to himself is one without salutary restraint. Instruction should be enforced by authority. If you lose your influence, the child will assume it and rule you, when you should govern him. In compelling obedience the happy medium should be observed between too much harshness on the one hand and too great laxity on the other. Eli does not appear to have failed either in instruction or example, but he is censured for withholding restraint. Let there be energy of character, efficient discipline, the tenderness of love blended with firmness of decision, and there will seldom be a necessity for adopting any painful or severe measures.

II. THE PARENT'S DISGRACE. The duties and responsibilities of parents are mutual. It must, however, be admitted that a mother's influence is more powerful, her appeals more touching, her access to the heart more easy. But how many parents have passed days of sorrow and nights of sleeplessness in consequence of the misconduct of their offspring! Much of your future happiness is in the hands of your children. Look at the nature of things. A field without cultivation would speedily be overgrown by noxious weeds. Appeal to experience. Who are the Sabbath-breakers, the drunkards, the lawless and disobedient, the scoffers at Divine things? Are they not the persons who, in their childhood and youth, were left to themselves? Examine facts. David was brought to shame by Absalom and Adonijah. Hophni and Phineas brought Eli to shame.

1. A word of expostulation. You are leaving your children to themselves because you have never felt the value of your own soul. Think of your own comfort. Think of your country's welfare. Think of the approbation of heaven.

2. A word of exhortation. Your danger is great. Repent and believe the gospel.

3. A word of encouragement. The Christian parent has much to animate him in the conscientious discharge of his duty. All the promises of God, the experience of the past, and the hope of the future encourage his affectionate endeavours to train up his children in the fear of the Lord. He must not; however, expect harvest in spring.

(James Cottle, B.A.)

If we have conscientiously performed any particular duty, no failure in the object to which it has been directed can inflict disgrace. We may do our part, and do it well, but we cannot command success by our best contrivances and our utmost diligence. It is not every child who is trained up in the way he should go that walks in that way. In such cases, deplorable as they are, no disgrace attaches to the parent, the instructor, the guardian. It is when the duty imposed by God and enforced by natural feelings has been neglected that the ignorant, the vicious, or the worldly character becomes the just reproach upon those to whom it is in that case justly to be ascribed. "A child left to himself." How many ideas of compassion are suggested by these words! A child, however carefully nourished and guarded, left to himself in regard to his soul, his intellect, his tempers, habits, and character, is no uncommon case. A child left to himself is a child untaught. For them to be grounded in the languages, informed in history, and embellished with every usual branch of knowledge and accomplishment is not enough. To know God alone is life eternal. Too often children are practically left to themselves to gather their notions of religion from the opinions around them and the current literature of the day. They ought to have been trained from childhood to know the Holy Scriptures; they should have been taught their ruined state, the love of God in the gift of His Son, and the love of Christ in giving Himself to the death upon the Cross. The child untaught is often undisciplined and unrestrained. The twig which might have been bent becomes firm as the gnarled oak. Habits of self-will, habits of self-gratification, habits of idleness perhaps, prepare for everything that is bad. When a child has been thus left to himself what can be expected but vice, want of honourable principle, a character passionate, headstrong, reckless? It cannot be a surprise that, in such a case, disgrace is thrown back upon the parents. The parent and the child are allied as long as recollection can associate them, and honour or dishonour they reflect, and cannot but reflect, upon each other. If parents neglect the soil and suffer it to be overrun with weeds what can they expect to be the harvest? The shame and discredit that come will be shared by both parents, but the feeling is fastened upon the heart of the mother in a manner and degree which are peculiarly severe. This is partly the case because so much depends on a mother's care, and partly because of the keener sensibilities of her sex. To the mother her domestic scene is the whole world. The shame which comes upon her as the punishment of neglected duty gathers intensity by its perpetual concentration of the reflection. Let me urge upon you as parents to encounter your arduous and responsible duty with the firm resolve that you will, heaven's grace assisting you, vigorously discharge it. They are beings to eternity, and for eternity it is your duty to prepare them.

(T. Kennion, M.A.)

"Left to himself" means "left alone, with nobody to mind him and take notice of what he does." This, however, does not seem to have been the meaning of the author of the proverb. Hebrew writers, in their poetry, would sometimes bring two thoughts together, meaning nearly the same, only expressed in different words. Sometimes they would bring two thoughts together, the meaning of which is exactly opposite. This is the thing we have in the text before us. The words "rod and reproof" are intended to be opposite to the words "a child left to himself." A mother may have her child almost always with her and yet be "leaving him to himself." A child is "left to himself" whenever he is allowed to do as he likes, whenever his character is not watched over, and his evil inclinations checked. It is the spoilt child who brings his mother to shame. The mother is specially mentioned because she has the first and the most direct and constant influence on the child. And when children are allowed to do as they like it is usually from a weak fondness and over-indulgence on the mother's part rather than on the father's. In all reproof of the faults of children the object aimed at is not merely to guide them aright at the present time, but also to make them able to guide themselves aright when they shall have become older, correct their own faults, and restrain their own inclination to what is evil. A self-willed child "brings his mother to shame," because the remarks of her acquaintance on his character and conduct never fail to reach her ears. In nine cases out of ten, shameful conduct on the part of a man signifies shameful carelessness on the part of that man's mother when he was a child and subject to her authority and influence. The children who are sure to honour their mother when they grow up are those who in childhood were kept in their proper place, whose waywardness and inclination to what is evil were kept in check with the greatest kindness indeed, but still with the greatest firmness. Children thus trained have something to be grateful for. One cannot but believe that the grace of God often reclaims in after-years, and restores to what they should have been, many of those whose character seemed deeply injured and likely to be ruined by the mistaken treatment of a parent in childhood. But must it not sometimes be the case that the grace of God does not reclaim them? For our wills are free. It should be borne in mind that a father and a mother constantly differ much from each other in character and in their ideas of their duty towards their children, and so the one may in part correct the mischievous influence of the other. And the evil influence of home is, happily, often corrected by the beneficial influence of school discipline.

(W. H. Nauben, M.A.)

1. Left to himself, he will not fully know right or wrong.

2. Left to himself, he will grow proud and self-confident.

3. Left to himself, he will take up with bad companions.

4. Left to himself, he will think more about his pleasures than his duties.

5. Left to himself, childish follies will develop into man's vices.

(Robert Tuck, B.A.)

Thelwall thought it very unfair to influence a child's mind by inculcating any opinions before it should have come to years of discretion and be able to choose for itself. I showed him my garden, and told him it was my botanical garden. "How so?" said he; "it is covered with weeds." "Oh," I replied, "that is only because it has not yet come to its age of discretion and choice. The weeds, you see, have taken the liberty to grow, and I thought it unfair in me to prejudice the soil towards roses and strawberries."

(Coleridge's Table Talk.)

It is a great mistake to suppose that what will make a child stare or tremble impresses more authority. The violent emphasis, the hard, stormy voice, the menacing air only weakens authority; it commands a good thing as if it were only a bad, and fit to be no way impressed, save by some stress of assumption. Let the command be always given quietly, as if it had some right in itself and could utter itself to the conscience by some emphasis of its own. Is it not well understood that a bawling and violent teamster has no real government of his team? Is it not practically seen that a skilful commander of one of those huge floating cities, moved by steam on our American waters, manages and works every motion by the waving of a hand, or by signs that pass in silence — issuing no order at all, save in the gentlest undertone of voice? So when there is, or is to be, a real order and law in the house, it will come of no hard and boisterous or fretful and termagent way of commandment. Gentleness will speak the word of firmness, and firmness will be clothed in the airs of true gentleness.

(H. Bushnell.)

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