Proverbs 29:7
The righteous consider the cause of the poor, but the wicked have no regard for such concerns.
Sermons
Private Morality and the Public WealE. Johnson Proverbs 29:1-7


I. TRUTHS OF PERSONAL CONDUCT.

1. The obstinate offender and his doom. (Ver. 1.) The repeated complaint against Israel was that they were a "stiff-necked people." Self-willed, haughty, persistent, defying rebuke and chastisement, is the habit described. It invites judgment. "When lesser warnings will not serve, God looks into his quiver for deadly arrows." They who will not bend before the gentle persuasions of God's Holy Spirit must feel the rod. Men may make themselves outlaws from the kingdom of God.

2. Wisdom and virtue inseparable in conduct. (Ver. 3.) So much so that the same word may occasionally do duty for either notion. Thus the French mean by one who is "sage" one who is chaste and virtuous. The effects are alike. Joy is given to parents by the sage conduct of children; and vice is seen to be folly by the waste and want it brings in its train (comp. Proverbs 6:26; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 28:7).

3. The dishonesty of flattery. (Ver. 5.) It may be designed to deceive, and is then coloured with the darkest hue of treachery. Or it may be undesigned in its effects. But in either case, the web of flattering lies becomes a snare in which the neighbour stumbles to his fall (comp. Proverbs 26:24, 25, 28). The kiss of the flatterer is more deadly than the hate of a foe. "When we are most praised for our discernment, we are apt to act most foolishly; for praise tends to cloud the understanding and pervert the judgment."

4. Delusive and genuine joy. (Ver. 6.) The serpent is concealed amidst the roses of illicit pleasures; a canker is at the core of the forbidden fruit. A "shadow darkens the ruby of the cup, and dims the splendour of the scene." But ever there is a song in the ways of God. See the example of Patti and Silas even in prison (Acts 16:25). "Always there are evil days in the world; always good days in the Lord" (Augustine, on Psalm 33).

II. THE INFLUENCE OF PERSONAL GOODNESS ON SOCIAL AND PUBLIC WEAL.

1. The general happiness is dependent on the conduct of individuals. (Ver. 2; comp. Proverbs 28:12, 28.) For society is a collection of individuals. "It is no peculiar conceit, but a matter of sound consequence, that all duties are by so much the better performed, by how much the men are more religious from whose abilities the same proceed. For if the course of political affairs cannot in any good sort go forward without fit instruments, and that which fitteth them be their virtues, let polity acknowledge itself indebted to religion, godliness being the chiefest, top, and well-spring of all true virtue, even as God is of all good things." "Religion, unfeignedly lived, perfecteth man's abilities unto all kinds of virtuous services in the commonwealth" (Hooker, 'Eccl. Pol.,' 5:1).

2. The effect of just administration and of bribery. (Ver. 4.) The best laws are of no avail if badly administered. God's throne is founded on justice (Psalm 89:14). And this only can be the foundation of national stable polity and of the common weal "We will sell justice to none," says the Magna Charta. The theocracy was overthrown in the time of Samuel by the corruption of his sons. The just administration of David "bore up the pillars" of the land (2 Samuel 8:15). The greed of Jehoiakim again shook the kingdom to its foundations (Jeremiah 22:18-19). Righteousness alone exalteth a nation.

3. Justice to the poor. (Ver. 7.) The good man enters into the feelings of others, and makes the lot of the oppressed, in sympathy and imagination, his own. The evil and hard-hearted man, looking at life only from the outside, treats the poor as dumb driven cattle, and easily becomes the tyrant and the oppressor. Peculiarly, sympathy, consideration, compassion for the lowly and the poor, have been infused into the conscience of the world, and made "current coin" by the example and spirit of the Redeemer. - J.







A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.
I. WHAT FLATTERY IS. The nature and property of it is to put on all forms and shapes, according to the exigence of the occasion. He that would paint flattery must draw a picture of all colours, and frame a universal face, indifferent to any particular aspect whatever. It shows itself —

1. In concealing or dissembling of the defects and vices of any person. It will pretend not to see faults, and if it does, it will be sure not to reprove them. All people are not called to reprove others.(1) Who are they that are concerned to speak in this case? Such as are entrusted with the government of others. Those who are entrusted with the guidance and direction of others. Those that profess friendship.(2) In what spirit are these reprehensions to be managed? Let the reproof, if possible, be given in secret. Let it be managed with due respect to and distinction of the condition of the person that is to be reproved. Let him that reproves a vice do it with words of meekness and consideration; without superciliousness or spiritual arrogance. A reproof should not be continued or repeated after amendment of that which occasioned the reproof.

2. In praising or defending the defects or vices of any person. If to persuade men out of the acknowledgment of the evil and unlawfulness of their actions be flattery, then none are so deeply chargeable with flattery as these two sorts of men — such as, upon principles of enthusiasm, assure persons of eminence and high place that those transgressions of the Divine law are allowable in them that are absolutely prohibited and condemned in others, and the Roman casuists, who have made it their greatest study to put a new face upon sin. This kind of flattery is of very easy effect, by reason of the nature of man, and the nature of vice itself. From these two considerations we may easily gather how open the hearts of most men lie, to drink in the fawning suggestions of any sycophant that shall endeavour to relieve their disturbed consciences by gilding their villainies with the name of virtues.

3. In imitating any one's defects or vices. Actions are much more considerable than words or discourses. To any generous and free spirit it is really a very nauseous and fulsome thing to see some prostitute their tongues and their judgments, by saying as others say, commending what they commend, and framing themselves to any absurd gesture or motion that they observe in them. Every kind of imitation speaks the person that imitates him inferior to whom he imitates, as the copy is to the original.

4. An overvaluing those virtues and perfections that are really laudable in any person. This is more modest and tolerable, there being some groundwork of desert.

II. THE GROUNDS AND OCCASIONS OF FLATTERY.

1. Greatness of place and condition. Men consider the great danger of speaking freely to great persons what they are not willing to hear. It may enrage, and make them mortal enemies.

2. An angry, passionate disposition This also frights and deters men from doing the orifice of friends, in a faithful reprehension.

3. A proud and vainglorious disposition. To tell a proud person of his faults is to tell infallibility that it is in an error, and to spy out something amiss in perfection.

III. THE ENDS AND DESIGNS OF IT ON HIS PART THAT FLATTERS. Every flatterer is actuated and influenced by these two grand purposes — to serve himself, and to undermine him whom he flatters, and thereby to effect his ruin. For he deceives him, and grossly abuses and perverts his judgment, which should be the guide and director of all his actions. He that is thoroughly deceived is in the very next disposition to be ruined; for cast but a mist before a man's eyes, and whither may you not lead him? And he undermines, and perhaps in the issue ruins, him whom he flatters, by bringing him to shame and a general contempt. Moreover, by his flattery and its consequences, he renders his recovery and amendment impossible. Every fault in a man shuts the door upon virtue, but flattery is the thing that seals it.

(R. South.)

In this verse Solomon does not refer solely to the intention of the flatterer; he refers also to the tendency of the flattery. The latter may be far from harmless, even although to a greater degree the former may. Injury may be done, and many a time is done, when no harm is meant to the party, and when there is no interest of our own to serve. And there is no little guilt on the part of those who, seeing vanity to be a man's failing, set themselves on purpose to feed it, pouring into the ear, merely in the way of an amusing experiment, every description of fulsome adulation, trying how much and in what variety it will be taken in.

(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

The weakness of the human heart exposeth it to innumerable dangers. Constant attention is necessary to preserve it secure, because it is often assailed on the most unsuspected side. The conceit and vanity, which all men have in some degree, renders truth itself often dangerous. It is the prerogative of God alone to receive praise without danger. He hears, and is pleased to hear, the endless hymns of His angels. He hears the voice of praise ascending from all nature: the infinite variety of beings celebrating Him as the great, the just, the merciful God. He receives those truths without prejudice to His holiness; because, being in Himself essentially holy and true, these attributes can never jar, nor harm each other. It is far otherwise with us: unstable ourselves as water, our very virtues partake of this instability; whence ariseth the necessity of our suspecting everything that flatters us, because there is nothing in general more seductive and deceitful; and of all delusions, there is none more shameful and pernicious than that which, by the suggestions of self-love, makes us take falsehood for truth, and think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. People tell us what we ought to be rather than what we are, and we, by a pitiable blindness of running into the snare that is spread for us, believe ourselves to be indeed what adulation represents us. In this manner it often happens that a man who is naturally modest, and who would be humble if he knew himself, intoxicated with this vain incense, thinks himself possessed of merits which he never possessed; thanks God for graces which God never gave him; acknowledgeth the reception of talents which he never received; ascribes to himself successes which he never had; and enjoys himself secretly, while he is openly despised. Some learned men have very plausibly ascribed the origin of those idolatrous superstitions that prevailed so long in the world to that inclination which men have of believing what is advantageous, however incredible it may really be. Certain men were told that they were gods; and, by often hearing this told them, they became accustomed to be honoured and treated as gods. Those who first held that language to them knew very well that it was false; yet, from a spirit of flattery, they performed every action that they would otherwise have done from a spirit of sincerity had they been convinced that what they spoke was true. We dare not say that this error is entirely destroyed even by Christianity: vestiges of it remain everywhere, and a species of idolatry is established by the custom of the world. We tell the rich and the great no more that they are gods, but we tell them that they are not as other men are; that they want those weaknesses which others have, and possess those qualities which others want: we separate them so from the rest of mankind that, forgetting what they are, they think themselves gods; not considering that their admirers are interested persons, determined to please them, or rather determined to deceive them. Nor may we confine ourselves to the great and powerful ones of the world to justify this observation: the idolatry I speak of reigns equally in the lower conditions, and produceth there proportionable effects. Thus a woman is idolised by interested and designing men, till she knows herself no more; and, though marked with a thousand faults and imperfections, yet thinks of correcting none of them; believing herself a subject every way accomplished, the joy and admiration of the whole world, because such phrases are constantly employed for her seduction and ruin. The contradiction is, that in the midst of all this, those men, so vain and so passionate for glory, never cease to protest that the thing they abhor most is to be deceived; in the meantime they wish to be praised, flattered, and admired, as if flattery and delusion could possibly be separated. What resolution, then, can we take to avoid these errors? We must resolve to distrust even truth, when it seems to flatter us; because there is no appearance of truth which approacheth so near to falsehood, and consequently, there is none so much exposed to the dangers of falsehood. Jesus Christ Himself, who, according to the Scripture, was the firm and immovable Rock, to whom the praises of the universe were due, as the tribute of His supreme grandeur and adorable perfections, yet while on earth would not suffer those truths which made for His honour and glory. He wrought wonders; He cured the blind and the deaf; He raised the dead; yet when the people began to celebrate His name for this, and to cry that He was the prophet of God, He enjoined them silence, and seemed upon the whole extremely impatient of applause.

(A. Macdonald.)

I. VARIOUSLY WROUGHT. Woven of many threads, and of various hues. Some are coarse as a rope, others as fine as a gossamer web; all are suited to the character of the prey to be caught.

II. WIDELY SPREAD.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

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