Proverbs 3:16

I. WISDOM COMPARABLE WITH THE MOST PRECIOUS THINGS. Silver, gold, precious stones, everything eagerly coveted and warmly prized by the senses and the fancy, may illustrate the worth of the pious intelligence. Every object in the world of sense has its analogy in the world of spirit. The worth of the ruby is due to the aesthetic light in the mind of the observer. But wisdom is the light in the mind itself.

II. WISDOM INCOMPARABLE WITH ALL PRECIOUS THINGS. For by analogy only can we put wisdom and precious minerals side by side, on the principle that mind is reflected in matter. But on the opposite principle, that mind is diverse from matter, rests the incomparableness of wisdom. Mere matter can breed nothing; spiritual force only is generative. When we talk of "money breeding money," we use a figure of speech. It is the mind which is the active power.

III. WISDOM MAY BE VIEWED AS THE BEST LIFE INVESTMENT. All the objects which stimulate human activity to their pursuit are derivable from this capital. Life in health and ample and various enjoyment, riches and honour, pleasure and inward peace; blessings that neither money nor jewels can purchase, are the fruit, direct or indirect, of the cultivation of the spiritual field of enterprise, the whole-hearted venture on this Divine speculation, so to say. For religion's a speculation; faith is a speculation in the sense that everything cannot be made certain; some elements in the calculation must ever remain undefined. (For further, see the early part of the chapter; and on ver. 17, South's 'Sermons,' vol. 1, ser. 1) The summary expression, "a tree of life," seems to symbolize all that is beautiful, all that is desirable, all that gives joy and intensity to living (comp. Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4). - J.

Length of days is in her right hand.
So far from being true that good men, women, and children die sooner than others, the reverse is actually the case. As wickedness acts as a shortener of life, so does a regard for God's wholesome laws help to lengthen it. It is an unnatural thing for one to desire to die before he has finished his work on earth. It cannot be wrong in us to love life, when God promises it to His children as a special blessing. It is easy to discover why religion is conducive to length of days. Obedient children will be most likely to avoid the vices and crimes which shorten life. The love of life is not peculiar to man as a fallen being. Why do we desire that "length of days" should be our portion?

I. BECAUSE LIFE IS PLEASANT, AND THE WORLD, IN SPITE OF SEASONS OF CLOUDS AND STORMS, IS A BEAUTIFUL ONE. Illustrate by the summer landscape. We love life for its many comforts and enjoyments. Who can estimate the pleasures of the family circle, the genial intercourse of friends, the cultivation of refinement and taste, the peculiar satisfaction which attends literary labours, the accumulation of property as a provision against the season of old age, and that we bear our part in works of beneficence and charity?


III. BECAUSE THROUGH LENGTH OF DAYS ON EARTH, WE MAY BE THE BETTER PREPARED TO MEET GOD. Eternity alone is the real life-time of the soul. A life without a purpose is utterly unworthy of him on whom God has bestowed mental gifts and the gift of immortality.

(John N. Norton.)

There is a great difference between the Old Testament and the New, with respect to the motives by which religious virtue is severally enforced in them. In the old covenant there was an established connection between obedience and outward prosperity. The New Testament differeth from this very widely, both in its general declarations and the instances of fact which its history containeth. Our Lord assured His disciples that they must expect tribulation. Length of days, riches, and honours, instead of being promised as the rewards of Christianity, in some cases, must be renounced by all the servants and disciples of Jesus Christ. It may be that we are reminded of two expressions which seem to promise material prosperity (Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8). But in the first our Lord's design is to show the folly of an inordinate carefulness, not about abundance of worldly things, outward splendour, and great wealth, but the necessaries of life, what we shall eat and drink, and wherewithal we shall be clothed. The promise therefore must be understood to extend no farther than to answer the intention of superseding our thoughtfulness about these needful things. As to the other text, it seemeth to mean that in the practice of true religion we may hope that, ordinarily, God's gracious care will be employed for our support and preservation. If we observe the ordinary methods of Divine providence, and the general course and state of things, with their connection and dependence in this world, we shall find that, for the most part, the practice of the Christian virtues hath a tendency even to our outward advantage, and to promote our present interest, rather than the contrary. The observation holdeth more universally with respect to communities, some of which have risen from very small beginnings to great and powerful nations, by industry, frugality, the exact distribution of justice, fidelity, and other virtues; on the other hand, the history of all ages showeth that the most opulent and flourishing kingdoms have been precipitated into ruin by avarice, oppression, luxury, and injustice.

I. WISDOM'S GIFT IS LENGTH OF DAYS. Life importeth the capacity for enjoyments, and is the foundation of them all. Length of days has the preference of riches and honour, but not of an approving conscience. That a religious or virtuous course of life tendeth to prolong our days we may be convinced by experience. Temperance, meekness, and patience contribute to long life. Benevolence and the social virtues tend to secure life against that foreign violence to which the unjust, the cruel, and the inhumane are obnoxious.

II. WISDOM'S GIFT IS RICHES. There are abuses of wealth. But it may lawfully be sought after as the means of living easy, and enjoying the comforts of this world with moderation. Nature teacheth, and religion doth not forbid it, that we should endeavour to render our condition in this world tolerable. And wealth should also be valued as the means and ability of doing good in a religious and moral sense. Men ordinarily acquire riches by their parsimony, their industry and their credit, and to all these the moral virtues comprehended in wisdom are eminently serviceable. The natural effect of temperance, chastity, humility is to retrench a great many exorbitancies. And diligence is specially commended in religion. Mutual confidence is of great advantage for the getting of riches, and religious character is the sure ground of confidence.

III. WISDOM'S GIFT IS HONOUR — that esteem, with the outward tokens and expressions of it, which men have in the world. This is a certain effect of wisdom or religious virtue, because virtue itself maketh the very character which is honourable, or the subject of esteem. Men cannot help having in their heart a veneration for the man who, by the whole course of his behaviour, appears to be pious, sober, just, and charitable, let his condition be what it will.

(J. Abernethy, M. A.)

Well-being in externals, though not the most important part of our happiness, is yet always a part of it, and consequently a care for its conservation and advancement cannot be absolutely wrong.

1. See that all your efforts to promote your outward welfare are innocent. Employ none other than fair and honest means to that end.

2. Never let your efforts so engross and occupy your mind as to allow you neither inclination nor leisure, time nor ability, to care and labour for that which more proximately and directly promotes the perfection of your spirit.

3. Do not assume that your efforts for your outward welfare must necessarily succeed, or that they are absolutely lost if they fail of success.

4. Dignify your efforts by forming just conceptions of the ultimate end of all earthly goods and outward distinctions.

5. Enjoy the fruits of your labour, in proportion as you reap them, and postpone not the legitimate, discreet use and enjoyment of them, till you shall have acquired and accumulated such or such a store of them. Enjoy all the pleasures, the comforts, the conveniencies of life, with a cheerful temper and without anxious care for the future. Enjoy them as men, not as children; enjoy them as Christians.

(G. J. Zollikofer.)

Sir Henry Mitchell, a distinguished Methodist layman, made an interesting speech at Bradford, in which he referred to the late Sir Isaac Holden, who was a life-long Methodist. He died respected by every one who knew him, and more than a millionaire. Sir Henry went to see Sir Isaac a little while before his death, and said to him, "You owe most to your religion and to Methodism." To which Sir Isaac replied, "Everything." Sir Isaac added that his study of Methodist doctrine and experience had exercised a most wholesome discipline upon his mind, and had contributed very largely — perhaps more than any other influence that had been brought to bear upon his character — to his success in life.

"Honour" can only be attained by religion and virtue.


1. Used to denote worthy and creditable parentage.

2. Or it signifies titles of place and dignity. Veneration is due to some callings and relations of men, though the persons themselves should not be virtuous.

3. The term is sometimes used for the esteem and reputation which a man hath in the world, especially amongst virtuous persons. Such honour is "power," enabling a man to do things great and worthy; and it is "safety," as it gives a man an interest in the esteem and affection of others.


1. By testimony; from Scripture, from the concurrent opinion of wise men in all ages.

2. By reason. There may be a twofold cause of things — moral and natural. A moral cause is that which doth dispose a man to such a condition, upon the account of fitness or desert, and in this sense honour is the reward of virtue. The natural cause of a thing, by its own immediate efficacy, produces the effect; and in this sense likewise virtue is the cause of honour.

3. By experience; that practical knowing which every man may attain by his own observation. Two objections may be urged against what is thus proved —(1) Good men have met with dishonour, as Christ and His disciples did.(2) Vicious men have sometimes been had in honour. External honour may be due to them; internal honour is only given by those who do not know them.

(Bp. John Wilkins.)

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