A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
By George Lawson, 1821
Proverbs 19:1."Better is a poor man who walks in integrity, than he who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool."
So depraved are the understandings of men, that the rich are generally honored for their wealth — although their conduct shows them to be destitute of any noble virtue. While the poor are despised — though they are adorned with the beauties of religion.
To give an outward respect to the rich, according to the innocent fashions of the place where we live, is not a sin; for if providence makes a distinction, we may do it likewise, between the rich and the poor. But it is a sign of great corruption in our minds, to value the rich as if they were worthier men, and more deserving of our esteem and affection than the poor — when grace has made a plain difference in favor of the poor, of a kind infinitely more important than the outward gifts of providence ever made.
The bad effects of this unjust preference are censured by the apostle James, in the second chapter of his epistle. We ought undoubtedly to follow God, in the judgment which he gives of things and people, as far as that judgment is revealed — and we find that he sets no value upon riches. He oftentimes bestows riches on those whom he abhors — and denies them to his favorites. But the upright, however poor, are his delight.
God esteems Job as a perfect and upright man, and he still bestows higher commendations on him, after he was stripped of all his substance, because he had given additional proof of his steadfast integrity.
When Christ was on earth, he was a poor man who walked in his integrity. Surely the lovers of Christ will never value a man the less, because he is as Christ also was in the world.
In short, the upright man, however poor and lowly, is not only a man of better dispositions and behavior than the rich worldling — but he is also incomparably happier and richer, and shall be rich as long as God himself is rich!
Be satisfied and thankful, you who are taught by the Spirit of God, to walk in integrity. You are rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom — and in this world you have and shall have everything that infinite wisdom and divine love sees fit for you!
Here the poor may see a certain method of being rich, or of obtaining what is far better than riches. Do not labor to be rich in gold and silver — but seek after that which Christ calls the true riches, and which he will dispense unto those who seek them in his appointed way.
Let not the rich man glory in his wealth — if he is perverse in his lips, he is poor and miserable, and blind, and naked; and the esteem of men will not counterbalance the abhorrence of God. Go to Christ under deep impressions of your poverty, and buy from him gold tried in the fire, and you shall be truly rich!
Proverbs 19:2."It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way."
To lack that knowledge which we need for our direction through life, is very pernicious. For we are in a dangerous world, full of pits and snares; and the man who has not eyes in his head, must fall, sooner or later, into destruction!
When the blind are led by the blind, they cannot well avoid falling into the ditch. But blind sinners are led by a quick-sighted and crafty devil, who will certainly land them in eternal perdition.
Although we have knowledge in our heads, it will not profit us, unless we have it also in our hearts. Knowledge, when it is not loved and reduced into practice — will only serve to bear testimony for God against the abuser of light, and to heighten his condemnation. A man of much knowledge, and a bad practice, carries about him, like Uriah, that which will prove his own death. To lack knowledge, is not good. To have knowledge, and not to use it as the directory of our life, cannot be one jot better! He who hastens with his feet, and takes no heed to his way, sins!
It is no sin — but a duty, to run in the way of God's commandments. It was an evidence of David's wisdom, that he made haste, and delayed not to run out of the paths of sin, when he considered where they would lead him. To run on, without consideration, wherever our imagination or our passions lead us, exposes us to much sin and danger. Therefore we are commanded to walk circumspectly, keeping our eye upon the ground we tread, that we may not slip; and observing the rule of duty, that we may not transgress it.
Even in those businesses that are lawful, we will be drawn into sin, without circumspection. For the devil has snares spread for us everywhere in this evil world, and he who makes haste to be rich, shall not be innocent.
Although we ought to run in the ways of the Lord, and not faint — yet rashness in our religious course will be attended with much sin. We must carry the lamp of truth with us, otherwise, by running in the dark, we will certainly stumble.
As rashness and inconsideration are sinful — so they are also the causes of a great deal of the sin that is in the world. Men would not choose, or at least they would not so resolutely keep the ways of iniquity — were it not that they lack knowledge and thought, as Isaiah clearly shows in the case of idolaters.
Proverbs 19:3."A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD."
Let no man say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God." God tempts no man — but every man is tempted when he is seduced into evil by the blindness of his own mind, and the perverseness of his own heart. The world and the devil may indeed persuade us to sin — but none of them can force us. When a man sins, he does more harm to himself than all the legions of Hell can do to him. Therefore, whenever our way is sinful, we must chiefly blame ourselves. It would be blasphemy to charge the most holy God with our sins — and it is folly to transfer the fault unto our seducers. For if our enemy should persuade us to stab ourselves to the heart, it is our own madness to comply.
When our way is sinful, we soon feel the miserable consequences of our folly. For wretchedness, in one form or other, follows sin, as the shadow follows the body. But we are so reluctant to blame ourselves for the consequences of our own folly, that our hearts will rather fret against the Lord, as if he were the cause of our ruin! Adam laid the blame of his sin upon the woman, whom God gave to be with him, indirectly transferring his own folly to his Maker — and it is natural and common for men to follow the example of their common parent.
This corrupt disposition is not entirely rooted out of the saints themselves. It was David's fault that he did not cause the ark to be carried in the proper manner from the house of Obed Edom. Yet when God made a breach upon the people on that account, David was displeased. Men are oftener guilty of this sin than they imagine. Our hearts fret against the Lord, by fretting at the instruments of his providence. Therefore, when the people murmured against Moses in the wilderness, he tells those who their murmuring was not against him and his brother Aaron — but against the Lord!
David would not fret against Shimei, because he looked upon him as an instrument employed by God for his correction.
Instead of fretting, it is our duty to accept of the punishment of our iniquity, and to bless God that matters are not as bad with us as we deserve. For why should a living man complain, when the damned have no just reason to do it? If our troubles come upon us without any particular reason from our own conduct — yet bad reflections upon God would be very unjust. Job's troubles were extremely grievous, and they came upon him without cause in himself, as God testifies in chapter 2. Yet he was made humbly to acknowledge his great folly in reflecting upon God for his distresses, before his captivity was turned back.
Proverbs 19:4."Wealth brings many friends, but a poor man's friend deserts him."
God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, whether rich or poor, and to show a peculiar tenderness to the poor on account of their destitute circumstances. But such is the depraved disposition of men, that the rich have many friends — but the poor man is not known by him who lives at the next door. The rich have many temptations to high-mindedness, and this is one of them — that they meet with a great deal of respect, and every person professes friendship to them, and they naturally think that they are possessed of many good qualities, which draw to them the esteem of mankind. But they ought to consider that money is the answer for all things, and is one of the chief attractives of esteem in the world. Let them throw away their money, and those who once made their court to them will leave them, as quickly as the eagles leave a field of battle when the carcasses are all devoured.
Job was the most respected man in the east, when he was the richest — but when he was spoiled of his wealth, he who had been venerated by the people, became their byword.
Jerusalem, in her prosperity, was the princess among the provinces — but in the day of her calamity, all her friends dealt treacherously with her, and became her enemies.
A very ordinary virtue in an ordinary man, is a shining virtue in a man of fortune. But if he should become poor, all the luster of his virtues is entirely gone! When the poor man is separated from his neighbor, let him remember and imitate the apostle of the Gentiles, who was often reduced to poverty and hunger. Paul laid very little stress on good report or had report, for he knew that none of these things, nor anything else, could separate him from the love of Christ!
Proverbs 19:5."A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free."
A false witness does one of the greatest injuries to his neighbor, and one of the greatest possible dishonors to God. He breaks at once the two great commandments, of loving God, and loving his brother — and therefore deserves more severe punishment. But if he escapes punishment from the magistrate, he shall be punished by God with the loss of credit, and other miseries, in this life — or at the least, with an eternal punishment hereafter. For those who bear false witness against their neighbors are an abomination to the Lord, and how is it possible for them to escape?
Liars are here classed with those who bear false witness, for they are so much alike, that the ninth commandment, which directly forbids the bearing of false witness, does also, by good interpretation, forbid whatever is harmful to truth. Those who can allow themselves to tell lies in common conversation, will, in all probability, bear false witness, and confirm it by an appeal to Heaven, when they have a sufficient temptation.
Some liars may expect to be safe, because their lies are not of a mischievous kind — but when they do evil that good may come, they expose themselves to just condemnation. "All liars," says our great judge, "shall have their part in the infernal lake!"
Proverbs 19:6."Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of a man who gives gifts."
It is, no doubt, a right thing to honor princes, and to seek their favor when we need it — if God is not neglected, from whom every man's judgment comes. The Lord is the king of kings, and it is a plain evidence that we forget God, when we are less anxious about his favor, than men are about the favor of our fellow worms.
Princes need not pride themselves in the homage that is paid to them, for their favor is sought by men, not so much out of regard to their persons, as from a regard to their power.
Kindness and liberality have a greater influence for gaining the hearts of men, than dignity of station. There are many who seek the ruler's favor — but every man loves him who is generous. When power and generosity meet in the same person — he becomes an object of universal esteem, like Marcus Antoninus, who was lamented by every man when he was dead, as if the glory of the Roman empire had died with him.
How inexcusable are we, if we do not love God with all our hearts. His gifts to us are past number, and all the gifts of men to us are the fruits of his bounty, conveyed by the ministry of those whose hearts are disposed by his providence to kindness.
"I have seen your face," said Jacob to Esau, "as the face of God." His brother's favor he knew to be a fruit of the mercy of him with whom he spoke and prevailed at Bethel.
In our love to the rich and liberal, we exceed the bounds of duty, if we reserve not a proper share of out regard for the poor, who cannot give us anything — but have a title to receive from us. But the greatest part of men are of a different mind from Christ Jesus, and think it more blessed to receive than to give.
Proverbs 19:7."A poor man is hated by all his relatives — how much more do his friends avoid him! Though he pursues them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found."
The brethren of the poor shun him — this is very hard. He might have expected that though all men had forsaken him — yet his brethren would have shown him compassion in the time of distress. A brother is born for adversity, and he ought chiefly at such a season to show that he is a brother — and if he does not, he greatly aggravates the distress of such a near friend by his unkindness, and gives a fair pretense to those who are not connected with the poor by such endearing ties, to forsake them altogether. We make ourselves guilty of other men's sins, when we tempt them to sin by our example, especially when our obligations to the opposite duty are much stronger.
This sin is very general, and almost universal among men — although nature, as well as Scripture, testifies against it. The best of men have often complained in the time of their afflictions, that they were forsaken and abhorred by those whom they most loved, and those from whom they had reason to expect the greatest kindness.
But how do they reveal their hatred? By behaving like strangers, and turning a deaf ear to their entreaties for help. This is a sufficient evidence of hatred in the wise man's view, and therefore we may justly conclude, that there is more of this abominable sin in the world than those who are chargeable with it will be willing to acknowledge.
The lack of love is hatred, though in a lesser degree than malice or spite — and therefore the apostle John distinguishes the righteous from the wicked, by this mark of loving or hating their brethren. By extending this observation into its native consequences, we might convict all wicked men of enmity against God himself, for they do not love him — but despise his laws, and have a reigning aversion to every means of fellowship with him.
When poor men are real Christians, it is a double iniquity to despise them for their poverty, for they have a double claim to our regard, and their Redeemer is a severe avenger of their wrongs. To disregard the importunity of the poor when we are able to help them, is a sign of a very hard heart, and provokes God to disregard the prayers of such unmerciful creatures in the day of their own distress, and to punish them without mercy!
When the poor are overlooked, let them remember this text to their comfort. When God testifies against this conduct of their friends, it is a clear evidence that his ways are not as men's ways, nor his thoughts as their thoughts. When Job's friends scorned him, his eyes poured out tears unto God. Christ was left in his distress by all his disciples — but he was not alone, for the Father was with him. It is an encouragement to our faith, that he had, in the days of his flesh, so large experience of the sorrows of poverty, for in that he himself has suffered, being tempted — he is able also to support those who are tempted.
Proverbs 19:8."He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers."
Spiritual wisdom is not natural to men, and the best scholars, and greatest philosophers, live and die fools, unless they get into their possession that wisdom which comes from above, and is taught in the holy Scriptures. The way of getting this wisdom is to be sensible of our need of it, to trust in him to whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge belong for the communication of it, and to be diligent in the use of the means which he has appointed, and will bless, for conveying it to us.
We must not only get — but keep this precious treasure, retaining it in our hearts, showing it forth in all our behavior, and refusing to part with it on any account. Many think that those men who are so careful to seek and retain wisdom, are great losers — buying it at too high a price, and refusing to part with it at the risk of everything that is valuable in the eyes of men. But the Spirit of God assures us in this place, that they are great gainers, and never can be losers. They may despise their wealth and ease, their friends and life, for the sake of wisdom — but when they do so, they are lovers of their souls, for the wealth of the whole world is not to be put in competition with an immortal soul. They may meet with loss and disgrace, with persecution and death — but still they will prosper, for they not only find those eternal advantages which infinitely outweigh every temporal loss — but even these losses themselves are good to those who find wisdom, which, like the pretended philosopher's stone, turns everything into gold.
That is truly good to us, which does us good — and that does us good which makes us good, or brings us nearer to the possession of the chief good. The keeper of wisdom does not always find that which appears good to a carnal eye — but he always finds that which appears good in the eyes of God, and consequently in his own eyes. Paul found much good in the things that appear to be the most frightful objects in nature, to the greatest part of men.
Proverbs 19:9."A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will perish."
These sins are very pernicious — and yet Solomon knew and found them so common, that he publishes a double warning against them, almost in the same breath, verse 5.
Proverbs 19:10."Delight is not fitting for a fool, how much less for servants to have rule over princes."
Wisdom turns everything to a man's advantage and honor — but folly turns gain into loss, and makes a man ridiculous and contemptible, when he is surrounded with everything that might make him happy, and procure him respect.
Happiness is a thing that all men wish to enjoy — but when a fool is furnished with every mean of pleasure, his folly is heightened into madness, and he is found to be seven times more a fool than he appeared to be when he was in other circumstances.
A whip is proper for an donkey, and a rod for the fool's back — but delight and the means of procuring it are the same thing to a fool, as a golden bridle to that lazy animal.
It is still more unfitting for servants to have rule over princes, for although servants have as good blood in their veins as princes, and are born with the same rational powers — yet their education and habits of life make them quite unfit for the arts of government. And pride, that universal vice, has never a greater opportunity of gaining full dominion in a man, than when he is unexpectedly raised from the lowest to the highest stations.
But this proverb, like many others, is true only in general, and not in every particular instance. For Joseph was very justly raised, from slavery and imprisonment, to reign over princes. Solomon himself assures us, that a wise and poor youth, is worthy of much more respect than an old and foolish king.
Besides the instruction contained in this sentence, to those who have the disposal of high offices in their hands — it teaches us all to value wisdom above pleasure, and all the means of pleasure. Wisdom can make a man happy without pleasures, and wisdom alone can make pleasures the means of happiness to us, and enable us to use them without abusing them into means of our own dishonor.
Wisdom also teaches us also to be pleased with our own condition. How ridiculous would an illiterate rustic appear, were he to be placed in a pulpit — or a man of low birth if he were seated on a throne! It is God's office to choose our stations, and ours to discharge the duties of them with cheerfulness. When God raised Joseph, and Saul, and David, to power, and when he called fishermen to be apostles — this proverb could not be applied to them, because God gave them a spirit suited to their offices. In like manner, when he raises the lowest of men to spiritual honors, he bestows upon them a suitable disposition of mind and soul. Those who are made kings and priests unto God, have the spirit of sons, working in them those heavenly tempers which befit those who are exalted so highly by the grace of God.
Proverbs 19:11."A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."
Have you been offended by any person? Now is the time for knowing whether you are a wise man, or a fool. If you are a fool, you will follow that maxim of fools, that a man behaves honorably when he will not allow any man to give him the least shadow of affront, without forcing him to repent of it, if possible; or at least showing that it is rather the lack of power than will, which hinders him from taking revenge.
If you are wise, then you will not allow anger to domineer in your heart — but when you find it raising insurrections, you will force it to yield to the dominion of reason and piety. Before you display anger in your words and behavior, you will consider calmly whether you have reason to be angry, or so much reason as passion would make you believe. And if you have reason — yet another question still remains: Do you well to be angry? Do you well to be angry to such a degree?
A wise man will not only defer his anger — but pass over offences.
Joab could suppress his anger at Abner for killing Asahel — but he was not a wise man, for his resentment broke forth at a fit opportunity, and instigated him to shed the blood of war in the time of peace.
David was a man of a very different spirit. He not only restrained Abishai from killing Shimei, when he was fleeing from Jerusalem — but he pardoned that offender when he was returning in triumph to his palace. It was not revenge — but the love of peace, and a desire of the public welfare, which made David charge Solomon, on his death-bed, to keep his eye on that dangerous traitor.
It is our duty and wisdom to pass by, not only slight offences — but injuries of a deeper dye, such as may be called transgressions. For we need sometimes the forgiveness of such from men, and every day we are obliged to supplicate the forgiveness of transgressions from God. We are bound to forgive men, even as God, for Christ's sake — has forgiven us.
It is the wisdom of a man to be slow to anger and ready to forgive. For as it is not the water that surrounds a ship — but the water which soaks into it, that sinks it — so it is not the injury done by another man who endangers us, so much as the impression it makes upon ourselves. Our fretful and revengeful thoughts are the torment of our hearts, and deprive us of the government of our own souls! It is a piece of folly, when our neighbor does us an injury, to do a much greater to ourselves, when we mean to be revenged on him. It is a greater glory for a man to govern himself, than to take strong cities, and rule over mighty nations.
It is the wisdom and honor of sinning creatures, to behave to offenders as men who need pardon for themselves. It is the glory of Christians to learn meekness and lowliness from Christ. It is the glory of pardoned sinners, to show forth the virtues of him who called them — to whom they owe so much, not only in their praises but in all their holy conduct.
Proverbs 19:12."A king's rage is like the roar of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass."
We must be loyal to the king because of his power, if we will not are loyal for conscience sake. For here the Bible requires it, and represents the great danger of disobedience, to affright those who will not be governed by a sense of duty. As the lion among the beasts of the forest — so is a king among men; and as the roaring of the lion is terrible to the beasts — so is the displeasure of the king to those who offend him. But his favor is pleasant and refreshing like the dew upon the grass.
We must not wantonly provoke the displeasure, and forfeit the favor, of one who can do us so much good or evil. Yet if conscience interferes with the king's commands, we must obey God rather than man, for what is the roaring of a lion, or the rage of a tyrant — compared to the torments of a mind enraged with a sense of guilt. Or what is the dew on the grass, or the smiles of a monarch — compared to that peace of God which surpasses all understanding, and made the martyrs happier in their dungeons, and at stakes, than their tyrants were upon their thrones.
Proverbs 19:13."A foolish son is his father's ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping."
When children behave badly, they are a great cross to their parents. But a peevish and contentious wife is a much greater cross, for children may be turned out of doors when they cannot be reclaimed — but death only, in ordinary cases, can separate those who are joined in marriage.
As the rain that drops through an old house rots the timber, and will, in time, wear away the very stones, so the everlasting reflections and complaints of a peevish woman prey upon the vitals of a man, and consume his heart with unceasing anguish. Women were made to assist and comfort their husbands, and therefore they ought to behave with a meek and quiet spirit, for it will never be of advantage to a woman to cross the end of her creation. Those who make such a near friend unhappy, must bring a double share of unhappiness on themselves.
But husbands must not impute peevishness to their wives, without good ground. We are all the sons of Adam, and all women are the daughters of Eve, and it would be very unjust to call a woman contentious, for every instance of contention to which vexations may provoke her. If a man has a froward wife, let him consider his own behavior. Few women have so little of the heart of a woman, or a human creature, as to make those men unhappy who treat them with discretion and tenderness. Or if women really deserve this character, gentle admonitions, and kind usage are the best means of reclaiming them.
If a wife has so much of the spirit of a tiger, as still to vex a good husband, his duty is to acknowledge God in this providence, and to consider it as a just correction, or a necessary trial. This will dispose him to perform his duty to a wife who does not perform her duty to him, and to become better himself by her means — if he cannot make her better by all his endeavors and prayers.
When men who have good wives consider this text, and the too frequent illustrations of it which the observation of the world gives us — it will teach them what reason they have of thankfulness to God, for appointing them a happier lot. It is not chance, nor our own discretion — but the providence of God that gives any of us a prudent wife!
Proverbs 19:14."Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD."
Houses and lands are given us by God — but he gives them to us by means of our parents, whose industry acquired them. The providence of God shines more remarkably in bestowing good wives on men, for they cannot come by inheritance — and no man can guess beforehand what wife shall fall to any man's lot.
Prudence in a wife, includes not only skill in the management of domestic affairs — but likewise that good sense that makes her an agreeable partner, and directs her to that kind of behavior which makes her husband happy in this connection. To these qualities, if piety is added, it renders her a far greater blessing than any possessions that parents can transmit.
We are to thank God for every outward enjoyment — but chiefly for those in which his favorable providence appears most plainly. Houses and lands may tend, in a great degree, to render life comfortable — but a virtuous woman is an uncommon blessing, for her price is far above rubies! He who finds a wife has reason to thank God. He who finds a good wife has many reasons to be thankful. It was God who gave her prudence. It was God who brought him into acquaintance with her. It was God who disposed him to choose her for a wife, and determined her mind to comply with his desires. When we receive a rich present from a friend, gratitude obliges us to use it according to his wishes.
If a wife is a rich present from God — then her husband is bound to show her all that respect and kindness which God requires.
Whatever treatment a wife deserves, God commands her husband to love her — but when a wife is prudent, the husband would be inexcusable who did not love her with the tenderest affection.
If a man desires to have a wife, he must acknowledge God by earnest supplications. For he alone knows the hearts of men and women, and exercises a sovereign influence over their affections. But let him not presume to affront God by pretending to seek a wife from him, without seeking prudence in her — preferably to houses or land. For God declares, that a prudent wife is a far richer gift than those things which are so much valued by the generality of men.
When children wish to enter into marriage, they cannot expect the favor of their parents, if they make a choice directly opposite to the judgment of their parents. Just so, how can we expect that our heavenly Father should give us his favor, in pursuits opposite to his declared will?
Proverbs 19:15."Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle soul shall suffer hunger." A man would make himself universally despised, if he kept his bed all the time that other people are at work. Yet a slothful man might as well lay in his bed all day, for while he is awake, he is sleeping, and when he is at work, he is idle. Slothfulness is to the body like rust to iron — it is a consumption to all the powers of the mind, and by its stealing influence and stupefying nature, it casts a man into a sleep, not of an ordinary kind — but a deep sleep like that of death.
When a man does nothing as it ought to be done, he is like one buried alive, and may as well be numbered with the inhabitants of the land of silence and rest.
Would you avoid hunger and poverty, things so much dreaded by mankind? Then avoid idleness, which brings these miseries upon men, and deprives them of that pity which waits upon virtue in distress. Idleness brings hunger, and along with it temptations to fraud and theft, by which means it has led many to a gibbet.
Proverbs 19:16."He who keeps the commandment, keeps his own soul — but he who despises his ways, shall die."
As the Word of God is called the Scripture, (or the writing,) as if there were no other writings in the world, because there are none which can bear a comparison with it — so the precepts of the Bible may be called the commandment, because, although there are men who have a right to command — yet the precepts of God lay an obligation upon us, of force infinitely superior to anything else in the world.
The authority of parents and kings is derived from God, and we are bound to obey them, because God requires it, and when their commandments interfere with the will of God, we are bound to obey God, and not man. The commandment of God is to be observed and obeyed by us in all things, and through the whole course of our lives. We must keep it, not only as the apple of our eye — but as our life and soul. He who keeps the commandment keeps his own soul from those sins that would bring death and ruin upon him, and from the temptations of the adversary who watches our halting, and seizes every opportunity he can find to do us harm.
But how can a man keep his own soul? Is not the Lord our keeper? Certainly — but in converting and keeping men, he deals with them as rational creatures. We greatly abuse the doctrine of free grace, if we imagine that it supersedes the necessity and advantage of obedience. Although the glory of salvation belongs entirely to Jesus — yet he condescends to give to faithful ministers the honor of being workers under him. And although the glory of the strength of Christians stands in him — yet when he communicates the influences of his grace, he makes themselves instrumental, under his agency, in their own preservation from the snares of the destroyer. He who is born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one touches him not.
Care and thought are absolutely necessary in those who resolve to keep the commandment. The saint must not only endeavor to understand and remember the rule of the law — but likewise to observe his own way, that he may direct his steps, and form his course of behavior in an agreeableness to it. The travelers who have their faces towards the better country, must have their eyes in their head, for there is no going to Heaven by chance, and those who live at random must die. This truth is clearly taught by the apostle Paul in language sufficient to alarm the stoutest sinner, if anything could alarm him. "If you live after the flesh, you shall surely die!"
Proverbs 19:17."He who gives to the poor, lends to the LORD — and he will reward him for what he has done."
Without the pity of the heart, the bounty of the hand is unacceptable to the Searcher of hearts. Professions of pity are mere hypocrisy, without the fruit of bounty — if it is in the power of our hands to show it.
How great is the mercy of the Lord to the poor! He has appointed them to be the receivers of a part of his revenue, and what is given to them, he accounts to be lent to himself. This mercy is not confined to the poor of his own people; although he interests those especially in our bounty — yet he would not have us to restrict the fruits of our compassion to believers alone. Our Lord dispensed his cures to the ungrateful, although he knew what was in man. God causes his sun to rise, and his rain to descend, upon the evil and the good. He requires us to give a portion to seven, and also to eight, dispersing the fruits of our liberality, as the gardener scatters his grain, although he does not certainly know whether it shall prosper.
"He who gives to the poor, lends to the Lord." This is an argument of wonderful force for charity. No Pagan moralist could ever produce a motive for any social duty, equal to this. It is sufficient to open the closest fist, and to enlarge the most selfish heart. Does God show so much regard to the poor — and shall we be indifferent to their happiness? Can we lose anything by lending it to the Lord? Men refuse to give when they do not expect to receive — and they expect no return from the poor. If the rich were desirous to borrow from us, we would think our money safe in their hands, and esteem their bonds as good as money in our purses. But all the earth belongs unto the Lord, and shall we not trust our money in his hands, by giving to the poor? Here is his bond, and it must be a good one, if the Scripture is the Word of God.
The richest man in the world may, for anything we know, be poor tomorrow, or he may prove unfaithful to his word. But the Lord is the everlasting possessor of Heaven and earth, and he cannot lie, nor deceive anyone who trusts in him.
Had we lived in the days of Christ's humiliation, when he lived on the contributions of pious women, it is natural for us to think that we would have cheerfully given to him all our living, and thought ourselves greatly indebted to him for accepting it. We no longer have Jesus with us — but the poor we always have with us; and when we have them to receive the fruits of our bounty — it is the same thing as if we had Christ himself. God will be sure to repay what is given to the poor at his command, with great increase.
The greatest usurer on earth cannot make so much of his money, as the man who gives to the poor. "You shall be recompensed," says Christ, "at the resurrection of the just!" Is that a long time to wait for it? Then you are assured, by the same faithful witness, that you shall have an hundred-fold, even in this life, for everything you part with on his account! Luke 14, Matthew 19.
Men who may be safely trusted with our money, are not always ready with their payments. A poor man cannot have his money from them when he needs it — but God repays what is given to the poor at the best time; and if he does not return it in money, he pays it in what is incomparably better.
Proverbs 19:18."Discipline your son while there is hope, and let not your soul spare for his crying."
If you mean to do good to your children by discipline, begin early! For if he is left to grow up under the government of self-will, it is to be feared that he will become like a horse or mule which were never taught to obey the rider. When these animals come to a full age, without being forced to obey the rein — you may sooner break their necks, than break them to obedience!
But you say that your heart melts, and you cannot bear to hear the cries of your poor child under discipline, and you cannot give him another harsh word. You then let your child alone, and leave him to the government of his own sinful passions.
But remember that it will be still more grievous to have your gray hair brought down with sorrow to the grave, and to hear him curse you at the left hand of your Judge, for allowing him to destroy himself — than to hear his groans for a few moments!
Parents ought neither to inflict unnecessary chastisement on their children, nor allow their angry passions to mingle themselves with the duty here recommended. Those parents who make an angry use of the rod — need a rod given to their own backs!
An offending child must not be spared for his crying — and far less must he be spared for his anger. If his anger procures his deliverance — he will soon learn the way of escaping all chastisement. If you deliver him once from discipline, you must deliver him again and again, until he is past all hope of amendment. This seems to be at least a part of the meaning of the next verse.
Proverbs 19:19."A man of great anger shall suffer punishment. For if you deliver him — yet you must do it again."
When Peter asked our Lord how often he should forgive his offending brother, he received a very surprising answer: "Not seven times — but until seventy times seven." But will not this give great encouragement to men to offend their brethren, and to give every indulgence to their angry passions? No, for it does not imply that an angry person shall escape from punishment.
It was once said to a man who was killing his adversary, "let him alone, and he will die of his own accord." So may it be said to a man who thirsts for revenge upon his passionate antagonist, "let him alone, and he will take revenge upon himself." Although you spare him at this time, he will soon expose himself again to punishment, and it cannot be supposed that he will always escape.
You ought rather to pity him, than rage like him — for he is his own irreconcilable enemy, and will be sure to plunge himself into harm.
Anger is said to be a temporary madness — but the passionate man is always mad until he gains the victory over the tyrants who domineer in his soul. He has sober fits — but he so frequently relapses, that you cannot say he ever possesses the use of reason. Any man who wishes evil to him, may deprive him of the use of his understanding, by a single word, or even by a look.
Are your souls subject to those storms of angry passion? Turn your anger upon itself. You are displeased with other men, because you take them for enemies — but your worst enemies are the passions of your own heart!
Do you not hate that monster, Vitellius, who said that the carcass of a slain enemy was a pleasant sight? Why then don't you hate the violent tyrants of your own breast, that would wreak their fury upon the names and bodies of your neighbors — but reveal it most of all in tearing your own souls? You are every day torturing yourselves, and exposing yourselves to a severe retaliation from those whom you insult, and to a more severe vengeance still, from your Judge, who will call you to account for every angry thought and every passionate word!
Proverbs 19:20."Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise."
A friend who can give us good counsel is a precious treasure, and nothing but folly and self-conceit can keep us from valuing his good advice as more than fine gold. If the counsels of our friends deserve respect — then the counsels of the Word of God are infinitely more useful. The testimonies of the Lord were David's counselors in all his difficulties, and they made him wiser than the ancients.
Every name of our Redeemer is dear to the true Christian, and one of them is Wonderful Counselor. He gives us counsel by his word and Spirit. Our ears and souls are his, and shall we not employ them in hearing and treasuring up his counsels, that we may direct all our actions by their light?
Instruction is very much needed by us, for we are naturally ignorant and foolish. When God gives us instruction, either by his word and ordinances, or by the rebukes of his providence — we must receive it with submission and meekness. Instruction, either by words or blows, would be welcome to us, if we had a due sense of our own stupidity, and of the value of our souls.
But what will we gain by hearing counsel, and receiving instruction? It will make us wise; "for the entrance of God's Word gives light, it gives understanding unto the simple." The rod and reproof give wisdom, and wisdom is far more precious than gold and rubies.
Without counsel and instruction, we must be fools forever. If we refuse wisdom, when it is presented to us in those means of God's appointment — then our folly is desperate and stubborn, and admits of no excuse. But we have used these means, you will say, and have acquired but very little wisdom from them. But a little wisdom is a very great attainment, and if you think that you have got none at all — yet you must still continue to use the means, and so you shall be wise at your latter end.
A man will spend several years in learning a business which will enable him to live comfortably through the remainder of life. Just so, we have no reason to grudge a whole lifetime employed in receiving instruction, if it makes us wise at our latter end. At our latter end it will be seen whether we have been fools or wise men. If our days are spent in the pursuit of perishing things, to the neglect of our eternal interests — then we shall be forced to leave these vanities to which we sacrificed our souls, and at our end we shall be fools. When the men who choose the world for their portion come to the close of life, and their former conduct presents itself to their eyes — how will they curse and tear themselves in their rage, at their own blindness and madness! Even while they are eager in the pursuit of vanity, and flattering themselves with the delusive hopes of many days of pleasure before them — they cannot forbear from wishing, like the covetous soothsayer, that they may die the death of the righteous, and that their last end may be like his.
But mark the follower of wisdom, and behold him who hearkens to the counsels of the Almighty. His latter end is peace and happiness. Those who hated his holiness, and despised his condition — are now obliged to acknowledge that his life was spent in wisdom, and that his last hour is blessed.
Do you think that you have already gained enough of wisdom? You are quite mistaken. He is yet a child, and speaks as a child, who thinks himself a scholar if he can repeat the letters of the alphabet. A Christian must live and die learning.
Proverbs 19:21."There are many plans in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord shall stand."
Men's hearts are perpetually filled with plans, and they seldom consider whether these plans are agreeable to the mind of God or not. But the counsel of the Lord revealed in his word, shall stand good after all the plans they can form. It is the way of happiness to hear his counsel and receive his instruction. For the world passes away, and the lusts thereof — but he who does the will of God abides forever, and must prosper while he acts by the direction of these unerring counselors, the testimonies of the Lord.
But the counsel of God is generally used in Scripture to signify the purpose of God concerning the events that shall come to pass. This counsel comprehends everything that has come or shall come to pass in the world, either by the immediate agency of God, or by means of any creature. For the worst of men, and devils themselves, are employed by the providence of God in executing his decrees. Men and devils act in an agreeableness to their own wills as far as their power reaches — but they are still under the absolute dominion of the Lord; and whether they are able or not able to execute their own devices, they are executing his decrees.
How inscrutable is the wisdom of divine Providence! Millions of creatures know nothing of the true God, millions of them are his constant enemies, and are incessantly employed in devising and executing those purposes which have for their objects, the gratification of selfish and corrupt affections; and are filled with enmity against God — and yet they all concur in fulfilling his secret will. His counsels leave them to their own will — and their will, however corrupt, is managed by his holy providence to serve his own glorious designs — and where it would lead men beyond the line of his decrees, he powerfully and invisibly controls it.
It is vain for men to form any purpose, and to think of carrying it into execution, without acknowledging the providence of God. The Apostle James warns us in strong language against this piece of practical atheism. When we meet with hardships from the cruelty of men, let us consider this truth, and behave meekly and humbly. They can do nothing without the observation and permission of God. Christ submitted quietly to those sufferings which he underwent from the hands of barbarous men, because it was necessary that the Scriptures should be fulfilled, and the determinations of God's hand and counsel performed. What David did, pleased all the people — and shall not we be pleased with what the King of Heaven does?
Let the people of God rejoice. The counsels of God concerning them are glorious in wisdom and grace, and though hand joins in hand, they shall not be unaccomplished. The counsels of their enemies are dangerous — but no weapon formed against Zion shall prosper. All the counsels of the wicked shall be executed or frustrated according to the good pleasure of God, whose eyes run to and fro through the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect towards him.
Let sinners tremble, for their counsels and works are in the hand of God. He may allow them to prosper for a time in evil, and to bring some of their wicked devices to pass — but their evils shall rebound upon themselves, and their nets shall entangle their own feet. God may use them for a time to accomplish his gracious though solemn designs upon his people — but he will in a short time call them to account, and punish them for all the evils they have done, and for the greater evils they have imagined.
Proverbs 19:22."The desire of a man is his kindness; and a poor man is better than a liar."
A man's benevolence is not in proportion to the good deeds he performs — but to the real desires he has to do good, if it were in his power. A man may perform many acts of kindness — and yet not perform all that he ought.
When a rich man bestows a few of his superfluities, they may amount to a considerable sum — and yet in the balance of the sanctuary they will not equal in weight the little pittance that a poor man gives, when he stretches himself to the utmost of his ability, or even beyond it. A rich man may even give more than a man could reasonably desire him to give, for the purposes of charity or public service — and yet be entirely destitute of charity and public spirit, seeking only the praise of men, while he professes, like the old Pharisees, much better things.
On the other side, a man may give only two mites, or nothing at all — and yet possess a generous soul, like that of Job, who never ate his morsel without sharing it with the poor.
As God alone knows the heart, the day of judgment will be the grand revealer of the real characters of men. In the meantime, we must not love those only who bestow much kindness on us, nor confine our esteem to those who signalize themselves by their extensive liberalities. For the virtues, as well as the vices of men, are often concealed under rags, and pinched by poverty, so that they cannot display their blossoms, or produce their proper fruits. The poor man who cannot give, and is obliged to receive, is a much better man than the liar who professes kindness — and yet does nothing to verify his professions by works. Good words are good things in their proper place, and do well befit the mouth of the Christian — but good words instead of good deeds are mere hypocrisy; of so gross a kind, that even men often discern it, and despise the pitiful wretch who endeavors to shelter the baseness and selfishness of his spirit, under empty professions.
Do you say to your poor brother, be warmed and clothed, while you give him nothing to shelter him from the pinching cold, or to fill his craving appetite, although you are well able to do it? You only join hypocrisy and lies to the lack of charity — and a poor man who lives upon the bounty of the parish is a more respectable man than you.
Let us learn to value men by their hearts, as far as they lie open to the judgment of candor and charity — rather than their professions and appearances, which are so frequently delusive.
Thus shall we be enabled to choose our friends, and to put a proper value on their kindness. By this means we shall be preserved from that injustice so frequently condemned by the wise man, of despising the poor, and paying an undue respect to the rich.
This proverb also teaches us to examine our own hearts, that we may know how far we are under the influence of a kind and charitable spirit. God will not accept of all the substance of our houses — instead of the charity of the heart. At the same time, desires are not real, nor are they genuine marks of godliness — if they are not followed by suitable performances, when the providence of God puts it in our power.
Proverbs 19:23."The fear of the Lord tends to life, and he who has it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil."
Religion is the soul of happiness. It makes the present life long and happy, as far as a long and happy life is really for our advantage — and it is the beginning of eternal life in the soul. He who is governed by the fear of the Lord enjoys heart-felt satisfaction; and the joys that spring from it are not like the short-lived joys of the world, which die away into sadness and misery; they last through life, they are vigorous in old age, when the pleasures of sense have lost their relish, and they triumph over death and all its terrors.
Christians are indeed exposed to heaviness through manifold temptations — but the fear of the Lord, and faith in Christ, has often produced joy unspeakable and full of glory in such seasons. The disquiets which the people of God often feel, are owing for the most part, to the imperfections of their religious dispositions, and are blessed by God as means of improving their grace, and introducing sweeter joys into their souls.
Christians have unfailing grounds of satisfaction, for they have health in their souls, they know that all their affairs are managed by a wise and gracious Providence, and they have the sure promises of the life to come. If God himself can give satisfaction to the souls which he has made — then they have it, or shall have it in due time — for he manages all things for their good, and his eternal excellencies are their portion.
The saint of God is entirely delivered from the miseries of fallen state, as far as it can consist with the plan of his recovery which divine wisdom has contrived. The calamities which he suffers are unstinged to him through the Redeemer's cross, which, like the tree that Moses cast into the waters of Marah, makes bitter things sweet. He is not visited with any unnecessary evil, and those evils that visit him are made good on the whole by the tendency which they have to do him good, and make him good. Reproaches and tribulations, sicknesses and deaths, are the common lot of men, and they are very evil things to those who are strangers to God — but they are good to those who love God, for they are appointed and useful means to make them partakers of God's holiness, and prepare them for that blessed world where sins and sorrows are no more.
Proverbs 19:24."The sluggard hides his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again."
Solomon was a mortal enemy to sloth, as every wise man will be. He has often told us of the mischievous effects of this vice, and here he holds up the sluggard as an object of contempt and laughter, to make him ashamed, if possible, of his laziness, and to awaken us to diligence in the duties of our calling and religion.
It is a mark of a sluggard to make a great business of a little affair, and to make much ado about nothing at all. It is a business to the sluggard to take his hand out of his bosom, and it is a grievous affair for him to put it to his mouth to feed himself. Were it not for shame, he would desire to be fed like an infant, and he will at length be tempted to grudge that men cannot live like trees, on which their proper nourishment falls down from the clouds.
A man who employs his hands with diligence, is able not only to support himself and his family — but to give something likewise to him who is in need. He finds less trouble in his work, and enjoys more contentment than a sluggard would do, if you should bring everything to him that is needful for his support, without any labor of his own hands — because the things that no man can do for him are oppressions to his sluggish soul. It is a greater burden to a sleepy man to strip himself and go to bed, than for another man to perform some laborious service.
Awake, you sluggard, out of your deep sleep, unless you desire to be miserable through life. For life itself is an intolerable slavery when every piece of work is a burden.
Beware of spiritual sloth, which makes every duty of religion a toil. God loves a cheerful servant who rejoices and works righteousness — but he will accept of no drowsy and spiritless services, which are a dishonor to him and to his ways. To the slothful Christian, it seems a burden to pray, and to read God's Word, although by these duties we only ask, and receive, and eat our spiritual food. The lively Christian admires the grace of God, which has made these holy exercises our duty — but the sluggard grudges that he cannot have Heaven in a morning dream.
Proverbs 19:25."Flog a mocker — and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge."
Solomon has already told us that it is needless to reprove a scorner, because his pride will make reproofs useless to him. What, then, is to be done with him? Shall he be allowed to proceed in his wicked courses, and to corrupt others by his example? No, he ought to be smitten — at least when he lays himself open to the vengeance of the laws. And although there is little hope of reclaiming one who is so much hardened in wickedness — yet his punishment will be useful to other men, who will hear, find fear, and no more do wickedly. The simple and thoughtless will be made to see how dangerous it is to follow the example of one who has suffered imprisonment, or whipping, or death, for his vices — and those who would not be restrained from evil by the fear of God, and the thoughts of an eternal world, will be checked by the fear of men, and the terror of present punishment.
It is a necessary thing in a land to punish criminal offences. For without the execution of justice on the wicked, iniquity would overflow all its banks, and men would not live with safety among their fellow-creatures. We have, therefore, reason to bless God for the institution of magistracy, and should concur in our stations to assist in the execution of the just laws against vice.
But a wise man needs not be smitten for his faults, which are generally of a much less atrocious nature than those of the scorner. He is not, however, to be connived at, or left to his own wisdom, to inform him of his miscarriages. Men are commonly too dim-sighted to discern their own miscarriages in a proper light — and reproofs are means appointed and blessed by God for bringing wise men themselves to the exercise of a lively sorrow and repentance.
Are you afraid to reprove a wise man, lest he should take it amiss? You need not fear this, if he is really a wise man. He will love you for reproving him, and will understand knowledge. A fool is displeased when he is supposed capable of falling into a fault — but a wise man is meek and lowly, sensible of his imperfection and frailty, and when he goes out of the road of duty, is glad and thankful to be set right.
This proverb teaches us, how vain it is for men, through the pride of character, to cavil at admonitions, and endeavor to justify themselves in opposition to plain fact. Instead of serving our character by this behavior, we greatly hurt it. When we receive reproof with gratitude, we show ourselves wise men.
When we are displeased with reproof, we show that we are fools, or at least that our wisdom is mingled with much folly. To affect the character of perfect men, is a plain evidence that we know not ourselves, and do not remember the present state of human nature.
Proverbs 19:26."He who robs his father and drives out his mother, is a son who brings shame and disgrace."
Some children are so wicked, as to think it no sin to steal from their parents, and to take at their own hands that portion of the goods which they think belongs to them. Others abuse the fondness of their parents, and ungratefully make use of it as a means of robbing them by their own consent. Both these kinds of wicked children may be said to rob their parents.
There is another kind of children who have some reverence for their father, because their self-interest depends on his will — but they have so little regard for their mothers, that they chase them away from their houses, by rendering their life uncomfortable, or by wasting that portion of goods which pertains to them.
Esau, as profane as he was, had some regard for his father, and sought his blessing with many tears — but he valued not his mother, and resolved to kill her dearest son, as soon as her husband's head was laid in the dust.
On the other side, dutiful children will at all times endeavor to make their mothers happy, especially when they are reduced to the affliction of a widowed condition.
Those sons that behave so undutifully to their parents bring a reproach on themselves, which spreads to the whole family. They are monsters of mankind, who are entirely destitute of natural affection, and feel no gratitude for the highest obligations which one human person can receive from another. They barbarously disappoint the most reasonable hopes that can be formed by men, and prove the torment and disgrace of those who had the best reason to expect comfort at their hand. They violate the strongest obligations to duty, and make themselves unworthy of the least confidence from men. They greatly provoke the author of their being, by their base conduct towards their parents.
God has placed in his law the duties we owe to our parents, next to those we owe to himself — and he will severely avenge the neglect of them. How, then, can they escape punishment, who do not only neglect — but scandalously subvert these duties! If the injuries done to strangers, or inferiors, expose men to the displeasure of the Most High God — then what punishments hang over those who wound, in the tenderest part, the parents to whom under God they owe their being?
Is God so careful to enforce the rights of parents upon their children — then how careful should parents be to inculcate on their children their duty to God, the sense of which, in the minds of their children, is their own best security for that regard which is due to themselves.
If God be the father of the human race, and of Christians in particular — then what fear is due to him? What monsters of undutifulness are those who provoke him to anger continually!
Proverbs 19:27."Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causes to err from the words of knowledge."
There are many deceivers in the world, who make it their business to clothe error with the appearance of truth, and to weaken the motives to holiness which are set before us in the Word of God. And the exhortation in this verse speaks to us as children, warning us to beware of their artifices and insinuations. Error may be rendered very plausible, for the Devil himself came to men with Scripture in his mouth; and no wonder if his ministers can presume to plead both Scripture and reason in behalf of their pernicious doctrines.
Yet a quagmire is not the less dangerous, because it is covered with beautiful verdure, and has the appearance of solid ground. Nor is poison the less pernicious, because it is covered with honey. Error is error after all that can be said for it — and all the shapes which it can be made to assume. It is, no doubt, our duty to prove all things, and to take nothing upon the mere testimony of men which concerns our precious souls. Yet it is the property of a sincere soul, like Nathaniel's, to be open to conviction, where there is danger of a mistake. But this does not imply that we are to be ever learning, without coming to the knowledge and assurance of the truth. The truth may be known, because it is plainly revealed in the Bible. And when we have found that which is good, we ought to hold it fast, that no man take our crown. We are to contend earnestly for it against all opposition, and to shut our ears against those instructions that would shake our regard to those things which are most surely believed among us.
It is dangerous for men to lend a ready ear to those who would exalt the dignity of human nature, to the dishonor of the righteousness and grace of Christ; or loosen the obligations of men to obey every law of God, because the corruption of our natures gives countenance to everything that favors pride or carelessness. When we think we are well fortified against the delusions of seducing spirits and false teachers, and rashly venture to hear what they can say for themselves — then we are in great danger of being perverted, and filling from our imagined steadfastness. The apostle John tells us, that it is a great and dangerous sin, when a man comes to teach false doctrine, to receive him into our houses, or to give him any kind of encouragement.
Christ tells us, that his true sheep hear and know his voice, and follow him — but will not follow a stranger. Perhaps you have already given too much ear to the teachers of corrupt doctrine. The exhortation is chiefly addressed to you, by him who knows your danger. Cease to hear such instruction. The time past is sufficient to have listened to it. Examine carefully how far your judgment or practice have been perverted, by comparing them with the Scriptures. Adjust your profession and practice to that unerring standard. Endeavor to know the present truth, and to be established in it. Learn by the Word of God, and prayer, to distinguish between truth and error. Hear those teachers that are of God, and preach sound doctrine. Beware of itching ears, which would tempt you to drink poison into your ears and hearts, instead of the sincere milk of the word.
Proverbs 19:28."A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil."
This is not the first nor second time that Solomon has informed us about the wickedness of false witnesses. It would be a great injustice to admit the testimony of a profligate wretch, against the life or fortune of his neighbor. For he neither regards man, nor fears God. He scorns justice, and has no reverence for the most sacred and venerable objects. He bids defiance to eternal justice, and swallows down the most enormous iniquities as if they were sweet wine. For his conscience has become hardened in iniquity, until a trifle will be a sufficient temptation to him to swear against innocent blood.
It is greatly the interest of a nation to take care that a sense of religion is preserved among its members. When men generally lose their reverence for an oath, the bonds of society are broken — then honesty becomes a prey, and ruin advances with hasty steps.
Let all men beware of those sins that are counted little, for they are like little thieves that get in at the window, and then open the door for bigger villains to get in!
When men learn to lie without scruple, because they hurt none but themselves — they will next learn to bear false witness, when they are tempted by gain or fear, and from thence they will proceed to greater degrees of wickedness — until at length they will scarcely put the devil to the trouble of tempting them to any sin — but will drink iniquity down like water.
Every sin tends to harden the conscience, and a conscience long hardened in sin, will in time be seared as with a hot iron. However stupid the consciences of ungodly men are, and whatever flatteries they use for deceiving themselves — their iniquity will in the end be found hateful to God.
Proverbs 19:29."Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools."
Scorners and mockers, in the pride of their hearts, think themselves secure from the vengeance of the law, and are sometimes so profane as to laugh at the threatenings of the Almighty. But the day is coming when their laughter shall be turned into heaviness. The God whom they despise, is the Judge of all the earth — and it is his glory to exercise his high office in righteousness. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked — but if they will not turn and live, they must die, and their blood shall be on their own head, and the Lord shall be known by the judgment which he executes. The judgments that shall be inflicted on scorners, are already prepared, and determined for them.
It is the triumph of lively Christians that they can look to the days of eternity, and rejoice in the contemplation of a kingdom prepared for them before the foundation of the world. But the wicked have great reason to tremble with astonishment, when they reflect upon the immutable decrees of God — for an everlasting Hell was designed in them for every unrepenting transgressor.
As kings have their officers of justice, and instruments of vengeance ready to terrify profligate subjects into obedience to the laws — so the Everlasting King has every instrument of vengeance reserved among his treasures, to terrify men from sin, or to destroy them if they go on in their trespasses. Their punishment shall be disgraceful to the last degree, for stripes are prepared for the backs of fools. They shall suffer ignominious wounds as the basest of criminals, and their reproach shall never be wiped away.
Because the wicked feel not the strokes of judgment, they foolishly think that they shall forever escape. But did the old world of the ungodly escape, although they were spared a hundred and twenty years? Christ himself, the beloved Son of God, when he was bearing iniquity of his people, was not spared. Justice and judgment took hold of our blessed Surety, and he gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to those who plucked off the hair. If God spared not his own Son — will he then spare stubborn transgressors?
Perhaps you imagine, sinners, that vengeance will be long delayed, and that your sufferings are reserved to the eternal world. Perhaps it may be so — and for anything you know, it may not be so. But, allowing that you should enjoy all the prosperity that your hearts can wish until you die — are you sure that you shall live another year, or another day? Your life depends absolutely on him whom you treat as an enemy; and when his much abused patience is at an end — then where, O where are you! "Then the King will turn to those on the left and say: Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons!"