A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
By George Lawson, 1821
"A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke." The reason why so many will not regard instruction, and listen to rebuke with meekness, is, that they think it a disparagement to their good sense. But in what does man's wisdom lie? Not in being infallible, or in needing no reproof — but in being sensible that he is liable to error and sin, and in a humble disposition to reverence instruction, even when administered in the form of reproof, and enforced by needful correction.
He is an unkind father who never checks the froward inclinations and behavior of his children. And he is a proud and haughty scorner, who receives the rebukes of a father, or of any other wise person, with contempt and aversion. Eli's sons disregarded the mild admonitions of their father. Their father was punished in them for his excessive lenity — and they were destroyed for their stubborn contempt of advice.
If a wise son will regard the instructions and reproofs of a father, how much more should we be in subjection to the Father of spirits! How fatal is the stubbornness of those who disregard God's Word!
Verse 2."From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence." Trees are often planted by one man and dressed by another, while the fruit of them is eaten by a third. But the tongue of the righteous is a tree of life, that yields its most precious fruits to themselves. They enjoy the comfort and honor, and gracious acceptance of their own holy and useful discourse; and these fruits are produced, not once a year — but every day. But the tongue of transgressors is like a poisonous tree, that bears fruit often hurtful to others — but deadly to themselves!
Verse 3."He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." We must not only avoid speaking evil — but prudently beware of speaking good when it would be unseasonable. A certain philosopher being silent in company, and asked the reason of it, answered, "I have often repented of speaking — but never of keeping silence."
Destruction from God, and sometimes from men — is the punishment of an ungoverned tongue, which in this respect resembles an untamable monster which often destroys its owner. Nabal had almost ruined his whole family by his intemperate railing at David. The harm was indeed prevented by the prudent tongue of Abigail — and yet the remorse of his own mind was one means of bringing him to his latter end.
Why does the wise man insist so much on this subject? Because the tongue is a most unruly member — and yet it is absolutely necessary to bridle it.
Who is the man that desires ruin and misery? Let him give a loose rein to his tongue.
Who is the man that desires peace and happiness? Let him say nothing that he will repent of having said, ten or a hundred years hence.
Verse 4."The sluggard craves and gets nothing." Laziness has a double tendency to make men miserable — for it affords to the mind abundant opportunity to form boundless desires — and at the same time it refuses the means of gratifying them. When men indulge an idle disposition, the desires of the mind are not idle — but enlarge themselves as Hell, and grow into exorbitant wishes, which even the most successful industry could not satisfy.
"But the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied." He enjoys inward happiness, for his wishes are confined within the bounds of reason, and the success of his labors is sufficient to satisfy them.
Spiritual sloth is in like manner attended with spiritual poverty. There is no man that would not choose to be eternally happy — but the slothful man will not strive to enter in at the strait gate, or to walk in the narrow way. He has one mighty objection against Heaven, that he cannot make sure of it in a morning dream.
But the soul of the diligent Christian prospers, for he adds one grace to another, and is neither barren nor unfruitful. His corruptions are subdued, his graces are lively, his comforts pleasant, his usefulness great — and he has an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom!
Verse 5."The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked bring shame and disgrace." It is not said that a righteous man never lies. David lied more than once — and yet he could say with truth, that he abhorred lying. Though he lied to Abimelech the priest, and to the king of the Philistines — yet his fixed hatred of sin was an evidence of piety, to which those can lay no claim who never spoke a lie in their lives, if their abstinence from this sin was caused by some other motive than hatred.
A righteous man hates lying in all its forms, because it is contrary to the nature of God, and an abomination to him. God hates all liars — and therefore a godly man will not befriend such as tell lies. And if temptation has hurried him into this sin, he loathes himself, endeavors to repair every injury that his lie has occasioned, and prays to God to remove the wicked way of lies far from him.
Those who hate lying are valuable members of society, and are blessed with that good name which is better than precious ointment.
But wicked men are loathsome to God, and come to shame. Whatever respectable qualities they may possess — they are destitute of a principle of truth and honesty. That falsehood which they sometimes use to serve a selfish purpose, is the same thing in their characters as a dead fly in a box of precious ointment, which causes it to send forth a stench. God and men agree in almost nothing but this, that a liar is detestable to both, and therefore he must sooner or later come to disgrace.
Verse 6."Righteousness guards the man of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner." No wonder that this truth is so often repeated. The righteous themselves retain not so lively an impression of it as they ought. In this case, Abraham should not have dissembled about his wife — nor should have Jacob lied in order to obtain the blessing.
Let us never, to avoid danger, shun the path of duty, or allow ourselves to be allured into that of sin, as though it were the way of rest and safety. What God has joined together — let no man put asunder. what God has put asunder — let no man attempt to join.
Verse 7."One man pretends to be rich — yet has nothing. Another pretends to be poor — yet has great wealth." Some who have nothing affect a splendid way of living, in order that others may believe them to be very rich. This is to love a lie, and to impose upon society, by exacting that respect which is commonly given to the rich, without any just pretensions to it. Such people naturally run themselves into debts which they cannot pay, and thus ruin themselves and defraud their neighbors. They walk contrary to God's providence, and reveal a worldly, proud, and unsatisfied disposition.
They have spiritual riches, sufficient to satisfy the most enlarged desires — freely offered to them in the gospel. If they desire to be rich, why do they not seek after these true riches, which would fill all their treasures, and make silver and gold to appear as mere dross?
There are others who are rich, and conceal their riches under an appearance of poverty. These are ungrateful to divine providence, which has bestowed on them this talent, not to be hidden in a napkin — but to be laid out in serving God, in the exercises of liberality. They defraud themselves, and the poor, and God also — while they sacrilegiously retain in their chests, what should be employed in his service.
Divine providence makes us either rich or poor, and it is our duty cheerfully to acquiesce in its disposal, and to suit our appearance and way of life to our circumstances, which are appointed for us by infinite wisdom.
If we are poor — let us remember Him who became poor for our sakes, and had nowhere to lay his head, while employed in procuring for us the true riches.
If we are rich — let us be rich in good works, and remember that we are stewards, and must give an account.
These opposite faults, which are in this proverb censured by the wise man, originate in the same cause — an excessive esteem of worldly riches. It is this which makes poor men pretend to have them — and rich men conceal them for the purpose of preserving them more safely.
All men are sensible of the conveniences that attend riches — and the inconveniences that attend poverty. But we should also remember that there are inconveniences that cleave to riches; and that poverty, as the wise man teaches, possesses advantages peculiar to itself.
Verse 8."A man's riches may ransom his life." Our Lord tells us that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. This saying, if we firmly believed it — would have a mighty influence in checking our immoderate desires after riches.
Do we really desire to walk in that way which leads to life? Do we really desire to walk where there are fewest dangers, than to travel in places infected with robbers and murderers?
But even in regard to the present life, there are great inconveniences that frequently attend riches. Rich men are the people whose houses are broken into by thieves, who are attacked by highwaymen, and whose lives are sometimes brought into danger by false accusations. They are often meeting with losses of their property, and sometimes they would be glad to lose it, if it might ransom their lives, like the ten men who willingly parted with their treasures to Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, that he might spare their lives.
"But a poor man hears no threat." Money is sometimes a defense — but the lack of it is a shadow under which poor men live unnoticed by the plunderers. A poor man can travel pleasantly in a road beset by robbers — when he who carries a full purse trembles in every joint.
In public calamities, the poor are often allowed to escape without a blow or a threatening — when the riches of others cannot ransom them. When Jerusalem was destroyed by the Chaldeans, the poor were put into more comfortable circumstances than they had before experienced since the days of the good Josiah.
Whatever are the disadvantages of our condition, let us bear them like Christians, still thankfully observing its advantages. Neither riches nor poverty have the power of rendering us either happy or miserable. We are taught that the righteous are truly happy — while misery is the sure portion of the wicked.
Verse 9."The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out." The righteous have the light of comfort within their souls, the light of God's countenance shining upon them, and sometimes the light of prosperity in their outward affairs. Their light waxes clearer and brighter, and fills them with increasing joy. Clouds may sometimes obscure their light — but it cannot he extinguished; for the Lord shall be their everlasting light, and therefore their sun shall never go down.
The wicked have something that may be veiled light — but it is not the light of the sun which shines more and more unto the perfect day — but the light of a lamp, which would soon expire if it were left to itself — but is more frequently extinguished before it has time to consume away.
In the eternal world, the righteous shall have no need of the sun or the moon, because the Lord God and the Lamb are their light. While the wicked shall not have the benefit of a candle to mitigate the horrors of their darkness, or a drop of water to cool their scorched tongue!
Verse 10."Pride only breeds quarrels." Contention is the fruit of anger and injuries, of drunkenness and covetousness — but it is more often the fruit of pride than of any of them. Quarrels seldom, if ever, happen without pride as one part of their cause — and they very often proceed from pride alone.
Pride and selfish ambition made the disciples to dispute among themselves who should be the greatest.
Pride raised the war in Jephtha's days, between the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, in which so much Israelitish blood was spilt, that might have been more usefully shed in taking vengeance upon Israel's enemies.
Pride darkens the mind to one's own faults and the virtues of other — and on the contrary, represents one's own virtues and the faults of others in a very false and aggravated light. It produces contempt of others, and provoking speeches and insolent behavior, and by these means is an endless spring of contentions and harms.
We can never live in peace unless we subdue our own pride, and keep ourselves as free as we can from all connection with proud men.
"But wisdom is found in those who take advice." The proud and contentious are neither well-advised nor wise, for they despise the advice of others, and are enemies to their own peace.
The humble will not easily allow themselves to be drawn into contention. If they are insolently treated by others, they consider whether and how far it is lawful and expedient for them to give place to anger. Injuries done to them are like sparks falling upon a rock; and they show themselves to be truly wise when they will abate of their pretensions in point of honor or interest, to preserve peace, and to keep themselves and others from sin and trouble.
How wise was Abraham in consenting that Lot should have his choice of the pasture, though, for a variety of reasons, Abraham might have claimed the right of choosing to himself! But Lot was soon obliged to flee the pleasant fields he had chosen, and Abraham had the promise of all the land.
Verse 11."Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow." The blessing of God is not in that money which is gotten by stealing and cheating, or by their polite substitutes, cards and dice, or by the exercise of professions harmful to the interests and morals of society. And where the blessing of God does not accompany riches, they will be consumed like snow before the sun. But he who gathers by useful labor shall increase in substance, and therefore we must not only be industrious — but show a regard for the public interest in that calling in which we labor. It is not enough to work — but we must work that which is good; so shall we have enough for ourselves, and something for others.
Verse 12."Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." If we would enjoy happiness, we must labor diligently to keep our passions and desires under restraint; for they produce, when not duly regulated, disappointment and misery. If we indulge ardent desires, and confident hopes of obtaining a thing — the hope produces a borrowed pleasure, for which, if our hopes are disappointed, we repay a high interest. When the object of hope is deferred, the heart languishes and pines. When hope is destroyed, the heart dies outright.
What stings did the hopes of Absalom and Adonijah leave in their minds, when they failed in their attempts to obtain the kingdom of their father!
It is cruel to disappoint the just hopes of others. If we make the eyes of the widow to fail, or keep the poor from their moderate desires — we break that commandment which forbids murder. We must not withhold the wages of the hireling, for this reason, among others — because his heart is set upon it, and be will be filled with uneasiness if he does not receive it. But when the desire comes, the heart is revived and gladdened as with the fruits of a tree of life.
But this is not the case if the desire was irregular and unlawful. Amnon enjoyed no pleasure by the gratification of his desire after Tamar, which was followed by remorse and vexation. Desires of lawful things, when they are crowned by enjoyment, impart pleasure to the mind — but that pleasure is for the most part soon followed by weariness.
This proverb is verified chiefly in the righteous, whose desire is only good, and whose enjoyments far exceed their most optimistic hopes. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the fruits of the tree of life, which grows in the midst of the paradise of God; and they shall hunger and thirst no more, neither shall the sun light upon them, nor any heat.
Verse 13."He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded." In many things we all offend — but we are not all despisers of the Word of God. Godly men have reason to lament their manifold breaches of the commandment — and yet they have a sincere love and esteem for it, earnestly desiring that their ways might be directed to keep God's statutes.
It was an evidence that Esau despised his birthright, when he sold it for a morsel of food. And men reveal a contempt for the Word, when they disregard its precepts, to gain some advantage, and some indulgence for the flesh.
A tree may be sound at the heart — and yet have its branches broken by a strong blast — but a tree must be rotten, which is broken with a gale of wind.
In like manner, a strong temptation may prevail against a sound and lively Christian. But he is not sound in God's statutes, who falls before every temptation.
He who pours contempt upon a single word of God, however inconsiderable it may appear to him, shall be destroyed by the vengeance of God — for every jot and tittle of the law is enforced by the solemn authority of the Lawgiver. He that despises his authority despises not man but God, and shall have his place among those to whom it will be said, "Behold, you despisers, and wonder, and perish!"
On the contrary, he who reverences the authority of the Lord, and earnestly endeavors, by the grace of God, to govern his steps, not by the fashion of the world, or with a view to serve himself — but according to the will of God, shall be rewarded with the gracious acceptance of God, and shall experience all that favor which God through Christ gives to such as fear his name.
Verse 14."The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death." Fountains of living waters are highly esteemed in a desert land; and the holy instructions of a wise man are equally to be valued in this world, which is a wilderness full of pits and snares! These instructions are agreeable to the word of life, because they are fetched from it, and may therefore be called a fountain of life, whereby the soul is refreshed and quickened. There is living virtue in the word of truth, even when earthen pipes are the channel of its conveyance.
In this desert land through which we travel, there are innumerable snares spread for us by the great enemy of souls, who wishes to entrap us for our destruction, like a bird in the snare of the fowler. It is by the Word of God that we must keep ourselves from the snares of this destroyer. And the Word of God is seasonably applied to particular circumstances, by a wise teacher, by which we are enabled to perceive these snares, and animated to keep the straight way, and with resolution to guard against the temptations that beset us.
By the advice of the prudent wife of Nabal, David was preserved from bloodshed; and by the instructions of Nathan, he was delivered from a dangerous snare in which he was already entangled.
We should value the friendship and counsels of a wise man, as a happy means of promoting our spiritual life and comfort, and of preserving us from the snares of death. We should endeavor to have our minds furnished from the scripture, with that wisdom which will enable us to perform such important services to others. The tongue of a righteous man talks of judgment, because the law of his God is in his heart.
Verse 15."Good understanding gives favor." A good understanding lies not in dry apprehensions of spiritual things — but appears in that good way wherein it directs men to walk. For a good understanding have all they, and they only, who obey God's commandments. This good understanding gives favor in the sight of God and men. It is the grace of God that gives a good understanding to men, and grace is multiplied to them through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.
God has the hearts of all men in his hand, and shows his favor to men of good understanding, by disposing others to favor them, as far as it seems proper to his infinite wisdom. He turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate his people; but when the set time was come, he gave them favor in the sight of these enemies, so that they enriched them at their own expense. God made Joseph and Daniel to be favored in the season of their captivity. Let us keep ourselves in the love of God, and the respect of men will attend us, should it be necessary for us.
"But the way of transgressors is hard." Their practice is not only offensive to God and grievous to men — but hurtful to themselves. There are many present harmful things which attend sin, so that unrepentant sinners have a Hell here as well as hereafter. They have restless minds, and unsatisfied cravings, and uneasy consciences, to torment them. They draw upon themselves the frowns of providence and the hatred of men, and through manifold tribulations they make their way to everlasting fire. Let sinners be persuaded to enter into the way of life. It is a narrow but a pleasant way, and rest is found in it for the soul.
Verse 16."Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly!" The wise man does not hide his talents in a napkin — but makes use of his knowledge to direct his choice and pursuits, and every part of his behavior in life. Knowledge buried in the head is like the miser's money, which he locks up in a chest, and which is of no use either to himself or others. But the knowledge that is joined with prudence, beautifies every discourse and every action.
Those, on the contrary, who live at random, are constantly rushing into dangers and harms, and are like an ignorant physician, who cannot distinguish between poisonous and medicinal herbs, and may therefore administer a poison instead of a cure.
Fools might be esteemed half wise, if they had sense enough to keep their folly to themselves; but they presume that they are wise, and talk of things of which they know as little as brute beasts, and meddle with things quite above their capacity! Thus they reveal their pride and ignorance, while they imagine that everyone must think them as wise as they think themselves.
Verse 17."A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing. People under authority, often think that they do no wrong while they execute the commands of their employer, however unlawful these commands are — but the doers of evil shall fall into harm, whoever they are that excite them to it.
Those servants of Nebuchadnezzar, who cast the three children into the fire by their master's command, were consumed to death, and none pities them. Unfaithful servants of princes, are to be reckoned among wicked messengers.
Such was Hazael, who indeed obtained his master's throne by his treachery; but his new dignity led him into crimes, which will cause his name to be abhorred forever. Such also was Haman, whose mischievous designs so signally recoiled upon himself.
Corrupt ministers are wicked messengers, who fall into the ditch, and draw others along with them, to add to their eternal disgrace and torment!
Even common servants who are unfaithful in a little, shall fall into harm, as Paul assures them: He who does wrong, shall be paid back for the wrong done.
But a faithful ambassador is an instrument of procuring advantage and comfort to his master and to himself. Such was Mordecai in the king's court; Paul in the gospel ministry; and Joseph in the house of Potiphar and Pharaoh. Let us undertake no business — but what may be warrantably executed; and having undertaken it, let us perform it faithfully as to the Lord.
Verse 18."He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored." A man who follows wicked courses, and will not be persuaded to abandon them, must be left to himself. Disgrace and ruin will soon make him feel that which he would not believe — and then every admonition formerly given him, will be like an envenomed dart in his soul, inflaming his conscience with tormenting remorse!
People think it incompatible with their honor, to receive reproof — but the dishonor lies in needing reproof, and not receiving it. He, on the contrary, who regards reproof, and profits by it, shall be honored as a man adorned with humility and meekness, and shall be turned from that course which disgraced him, into that way of life which is attended with true and solid honor.
Verse 19."A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil." The deceitful pleasures which fools think they enjoy, or the gratification of their desires — is a means of hardening them in their sinful courses. Their eyes are shut to the wretchedness of their state. Their minds are under an infatuation, from the influence of the pleasures of sin, and the god of this world. In consequence of this, their hearts cleave with obstinacy to those sins that effectually exclude true happiness. No satisfaction of sinful desires can give solid and durable happiness to a wicked man.
The pleasures of sense lie in imagination, rather than enjoyment — which rather extinguishes than bestows real pleasure, because it destroys the pleasing imaginations that were produced by hope. For this reason, a wicked man cannot possess real felicity, which cannot be separated from true holiness. His heart is filled with aversion to goodness, and he abhors the thought of forsaking his beloved lusts. His desires are so perverse, that the fulfillment of them cannot satisfy him — but must add to his misery. Sin poisons every enjoyment, and provokes divine justice to blast all his hopes, and what he desires shall utterly decay!
Verse 20."He who walks with wise men shall be wise." Wisdom is so valuable, that those who know the worth of it, will take advantage of every opportunity of improving in it. And the society of wise men is a valuable means for attaining this. He who converses with the wise, will learn wisdom from their words and example — which will have a powerful tendency to produce in him a resemblance to their goodness. For this reason we ought to make the wise our companions and friends. David would not have a wicked servant in his house; and though he had learned much wisdom from God's testimonies, he was yet sensible that, in order to preserve and increase his wisdom, it was necessary to avoid the fellowship of evil-doers, and to make those men his companions that feared the Lord. For the same reasons, we ought to attend the worshiping assemblies of God's people.
Thomas would have been sooner cured of his unbelief, and recovered from his despondency, had he been present with the rest of the apostles when our Lord first appeared to them. David thought with deeper concern upon his exclusion from the place where the multitude kept the holy days, than his banishment from the royal palace.
"But a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Bad company has a still stronger influence than that which is good, because the corruption of human nature readily complies with it. A healthy man cannot communicate health to the sick — but a person infected with the pestilence may communicate the contagion to a thousand.
Our Lord safely conversed with sinners, because he was free from all danger of being corrupted; and it may on some occasions be our duty also to mingle with the wicked, that we may use means for reclaiming them. But in ordinary cases, guilt or grief is all that a godly man gets by the company of sinners. Lot chose the neighborhood of Sodom for his dwelling, because it afforded pleasant pasture. He forgot that the Sodomites were perverse sinners — but he soon found that daily griefs were the best things he could expect from such wicked neighbors. The grace of God kept him unstained by their profligacy; but he was obliged to flee for his life, and to leave his pleasant possessions and his plenteous flocks behind him, that he might escape their punishment.
Just so, a church that is become obstinate and incurable in apostasy must be left, for this reason, that we may avoid her sins and plagues.
Verse 21."Misfortune pursues the sinner." Harm is allotted to such as obstinately persevere in sin. They perhaps do not feel their misery and danger — but enjoy the transient pleasures of sin and the world, and think themselves secure of a long continued term of prosperity. But Solomon here assures them, that misery is pursuing them, as the hound pursues his prey, and will not desist from the chase until it is destroyed!
Sinners may flee away as on eagles' wings — but vengeance follows them on the wings of the wind. They may look for safety and deliverance — but their eyes shall fail, and escape shall perish from them, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the spirit. If sinners desire to escape, let them flee to the Savior of sinners, and cut away their transgressions. Let them depart from evil, and do good, while their day of grace continues; for, if they resist the calls of wisdom, their desolation will come like a whirlwind.
"But prosperity is the reward of the righteous." Imperfect as their goodness is, not a single instance of it shall lose its reward. What can be less than giving a cup of water to a thirsty disciple of Christ? Yet even that shall be mentioned at the great day, to the praise of the followers of the Redeemer. God is so abundant in goodness, that he gave a reward to Nebuchadnezzar and to Jehu, for services done to him from a purely selfish principle. Much more will he reward those services that are done from love to his name. Even the children, and the more remote descendants of the godly, have often experienced the overflowing kindness of God to their pious progenitors; for,
Verse 22."A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous." A godly man is ever righteous and merciful. He is blessed, and his children and grand-children are blessed after him. He leaves to them the goodwill of men, and many precious promises. The influence of his example and instructions descends to his posterity, and they are enriched with substance for his sake.
David left an inheritance to his children for seventeen generations, and they were not dispossessed of it, until by intolerable provocations they had extorted punishment from God.
But is this always true? It is to be remembered that the proverbs are often to be understood of what generally happens — though not always. But when this sentence is not verified, we may conclude that godly men, by the defects of their goodness, have forfeited this blessing to their children, which was the case with Eli; or that divine wisdom sees some better method, in these instances, of testifying that kindness which God has for them.
It is better to be the son of a poor saint, than of a great king, for every believer will acknowledge, that a single promise in the Bible is far better than a large estate. Parents that are anxious about the state of their families after their own death, if they believe the scriptures, will be more desirous of leaving them an estate in promises, than in land and money.
But many do not believe this truth. They fill their brains with projects, and their souls are vexed with anxious cares about obtaining earthly portions to leave to their children. In these labors they may be successful — but in the mean time the thoughts of eternity are banished from their own minds. And when they are inheriting the fruits of their earthly-mindedness, what pleasure can it give them, to think that their children are rioting in the enjoyment of wealth, and probably laying up to themselves treasures of divine vengeance!
But their success in worldly pursuits is very doubtful. Their posterity may fail, or be reduced to poverty; for the wealth of the sinner is laid up, not for his posterity — but for the just. Riches are still changing masters, according to the direction of God, who made the wealth of the Egyptians and Canaanites to come into the possession of the Israelites, and who still distributes the gifts of his bounty to those who are godly in his sight.
Verse 23."A poor man's field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away." Better is the industrious poor man, than the rich man who lacks discretion and integrity. For though a man be poor — yet when he improves his little stock by honest labor, he shall not lack; nor in the greater part of cases shall he need to beg, or to be put into the poor-roll. There is plenty of food for himself and his family; and having food and clothing, he should be therewith content.
But some are ruined by lack of integrity. They endeavor to increase their wealth by those dishonest and unhallowed means that bring the curse of God into their substance, and it melts like the Israelitish manna before the rising sun. Others are brought to poverty by indiscretion. Frugality and economy must be joined with industry. Our Lord could feed men by miracle — and yet he would not allow the fragments to be lost. The seven years of extraordinary plenty, could not have preserved Egypt from ruin, had not Joseph laid up the grain against the years of scarcity.
Verse 24."Those who spare the rod hate their children — but those who love them are diligent to discipline them." Parents feel those lashes with which they are obliged sometimes to chastise their children. But parents love their children with no true affection, if they are not willing to endure the smart of them for the good of their children. There is not a groan of the believer — but is felt at the heart of Christ — but Christ does not for that reason spare his correcting rod: "Those who I love, (says he) I rebuke and chasten."
The foolish fondness of too indulgent parents is accounted by them as parental love — but the Spirit of God calls it hatred. That affection which is harmful to the spiritual interests of its objects, is love in the language of men — but hatred in the language of the Holy Spirit.
A parent would be accounted a hater of his young child, were he to allow him to play with a knife until he gave himself a mortal stab. And that parent deserves the same character, who by fond indulgence allows his son to bring himself to a gibbet, or to expose himself to the damnation of Hell.
But he who loves his son, chastens him as soon as he begins to reveal that folly which is bound up in his heart. He will not, indeed, chastise him with blows — when words are sufficient to answer the end. But he will administer the rod — when words have small influence. He will imitate the skillful physician, who prescribes medicines, neither too weak — lest the disease should remain uncured; nor too strong — lest the body should prove two weak to bear them.
A young bullock may be tamed — but if you allow it to grow old in idleness, you will sooner break its neck, than break it to the yoke!
Just so, the early days of childhood are a proper season for correction, because vice has not then obtained deep and firm root in the heart.
Verse 25."The righteous eat to their hearts' content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry." God's blessing gives to a righteous man food and contentment — but the wicked man lacks one or both of them. The family of Jacob were well fed, when the Egyptians were almost starved. Elijah had food to his satisfaction, when Ahab and his courtiers were obliged, with anxious hearts, to traverse the country for a supply of pasture to their cattle.
The righteous man must sometimes live on coarse fare, when the wicked riot in plenty. But Daniel was happier with his vegetables, than the others in the luxuries of the royal table. The family of Christ, too, enjoyed more pleasure in their barley-loaves and fish, than the rulers who despised them in their sumptuous entertainments.
If a righteous man has little, that little is better than the riches of many wicked. The wicked is often reduced to poverty by his own vices, and the judgment of God upon him. But if he has much, he still lacks the blessing of God, which alone can sweeten it, and therefore in the midst of sufficiency, he is in straits.