A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
By George Lawson, 1821
Proverbs 20:1."Wine is a mocker and strong drink is a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise."
Wine and strong drink are creatures of God, which are very useful to men when they are seasonably and moderately used — but by abusing them, we sin against the goodness and law of God, and against our own souls and bodies.
Wine deceives and mocks those who use it to excess, and punishes those who abuse it as an instrument of dishonor to him who gave it to men to cheer their hearts. It promises refreshment — but it steals away men's senses, until it makes them the objects of scorn to the sober. It made the venerable patriarch Noah a laughing-stock to his own son. It deprives men of their reason, and gives the government of the mind to the passions; and then those who were men of good behavior in their sober moments — become insolent and brawling. When the king of Israel was made drunk with bottles of wine, he forgot his dignity, and stretched out his hand with scorners.
Wine has been the beginning of many quarrels which have ended in wounds and blood. For it rouses the passions, it turns suspicions into certainties in the eye of the drunkard, and thus inflames resentments into irreconcilable animosities. It gives full range to all the hidden vices of the soul, and produces new vices of a dangerous kind. It destroys the power of reason, and infuses into the soul all the fury of a wild beast!
He who allows himself to be led astray by it is not wise, for he wastes his memory and his mind, as well as his money. He wounds his conscience, he enslaves himself to a tyrant, and enters upon a course which, when it becomes habitual, will render him useless and miserable upon earth, and exclude him from the kingdom of Heaven! When wine and strong drink are greedily swallowed down — they swallow the drunkard, and turn him into an raging beast.
Wine had the honor of being used in the service of God under the law, and is still used in it under the gospel — so why should we use it in the service of Satan? It is not allowed by God but with moderation, to the greatest men on the greatest occasions. Neither birth days of kings, nor happy meetings of friends, nor the transacting of the most important businesses, will justify men in excess of wine.
We should remember, that the day of Christ is approaching, and take care that our hearts be not overcharged with excess and drunkenness. We must remember from whom we receive the refreshments of life, and endeavor to glorify him in the use of them. We are called to the hope of drinking of the rivers of God's pleasures — and shall we fill ourselves with wine, wherein there is excess?
Proverbs 20:2."A king's wrath is like the roar of a lion; he who angers him forfeits his life."
Solomon had probably seen too much evidence of a seditious disposition in that people over which he reigned, and therefore warns them again and again of the sin and danger of provoking kings to anger. Men have such a degree of self-will and pride, that they can scarcely be prevailed upon to submit to the necessary restraints of their liberty. Liberty is a valuable thing — but licentiousness is the ruin of nations.
If the fear occasioned by the displeasure of a king is so intolerable — then what must it be to encounter the wrath of him whose voice is not only like the roaring of a lion — but like the sound of many thunders. His voice shakes the Heaven and the earth, and neither men nor devils shall be able to endure the terrors of it. To sin against Christ is to sin not only against our lives — but against our immortal souls!
Proverbs 20:3." It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel."
It is an honor for a man to avoid strife, and to overlook those things that might stir up anger. But when a man is engaged in contention — is it an honor for him to give it up? Will not the world say that we have a bad cause, or weak arguments, or a cowardly spirit, if we have not the last word? It does not matter what the world says — if the Spirit of God says other things. It is here declared to be honorable for a man to give up a debate for the sake of peace and quietness. By so doing, we testify our humility and meekness, our obedience to God, and our aversion to sin.
Christ did not strive, nor cry out, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street — and surely it is a man's honor to imitate, as far as our weakness will allow, the meekness and gentleness of Christ. It was wise in Paul to make an acknowledgment of his error in speaking disrespectfully of the high priest, although that partial judge well deserved the sharpest reproof for his partiality and tyranny. It would have been wise in Job's friends to have yielded to the force of his convincing arguments, rather than, by endeavoring to maintain their errors, to expose themselves to the displeasure of God, and to the just mortification of being obliged to have recourse to the intercessions of that godly man whom they had so deeply injured.
But every fool is quick to quarrel. For a fool is so self-conceited, that he can bear no contradiction. He is so insolent, that he will have a hand in every other man's business. He is so proud, that he cannot bear to be found in the wrong. He is so stubborn, that he will have the last word, although his lips should prove his destruction.
Amaziah was fairly warned of the danger of meddling with the king of Israel — but he would not hear reason, nor cease from strife, until he was brought with his kingdom to the verge of ruin.
Zedekiah entered into contention with the good prophet Micaiah, and had the insolence to strike that faithful servant of the Lord — but was soon after compelled to flee to an inner chamber to hide himself.
This is one difference between wise men and fools. The former are for peace — the latter are ordinarily keen for battle. This may be illustrated from the difference between the behavior of Nabal and David; Nabal had a very bad tongue, for as Nabal was his name, so folly was with him. He gave a very provoking answer to a very civil message from David, and thereby exposed himself and his family to ruin. David had human nature, and his passions were too fierce — but it was his honor that he was easily pacified, and although he did not leave off contention, as he should have done — yet he left it off before it came to a fatal extremity.
Proverbs 20:4."The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold, therefore he shall beg in harvest, and have nothing."
It is one plain evidence of sloth for a man to be dexterous in finding excuses to shift of necessary work. If a small inconvenience is allowed as an excuse for idleness — then excuses will never be lacking. The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; and he will not sow because the ground is not in good order; and he will not weed his field because of the heat of summer; and he will not reap in harvest because he cannot endure to bend his back, and is afraid of an headache.
But is there any other useful business that can suit him, since farming is so disagreeable? No, one business would oblige him to a sedentary life; another is attended with too much fatigue; a third is too lowly for a gentleman; a fourth requires a man to rise early in the morning. He will sleep or lean on his elbow — or he will divert himself with any kind of sport — or he will talk until you are tired with him — or he will play at cards, for although he abhors business, he loves busy idleness. He will either do nothing — or what is worse than nothing.
But he who will not work, must beg — and this is surely a base employment for a man who is able to work — but although he can conquer shame sufficiently to betake himself to it, his misery is, that nobody will give him anything, for why should drones eat the labor of the bees? Even in harvest, when plenty smiles all around, and when the hearts of men are enlarged with joy, and bestow liberal quantities of food upon their beasts — the wretched sluggard finds that every man's affections are shut against him. The industrious and disabled poor are then blessed, for the law of God requires the gleanings and leavings of the fields to be allowed them — but the same law requires that he who will not work, should not eat.
Spiritual sloth is revealed by this mark, and attended with the like misery. The careless Christian will not attend the house of God, by reason of the cold of winter, or the heat of summer. He will not keep up the worship of God in his family, because he is encumbered with worldly business; or if shame and love of character obliges him to perform those services which the eyes of men behold — then there is so much attention of spirit necessary for the duties of the closet, that he cannot find in his heart to perform them at all, or to perform them to any good purpose. What will become of such sluggards at the end of the world? Our Lord tells us, they will beg and have nothing!
Proverbs 20:5."The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out."
The heart of man is a great deep — and there are thoughts and devices in it as much past numbering, as the creeping things and fish in the sea. God alone searches the heart, and tries the thoughts of men. By one glance of his eye, he pierces into the bottom of our souls, and knows our thoughts infinitely better than we ourselves.
But although a man cannot go to the bottom of a deep well, he may draw out some of its water for use by means of a bucket. And although a man cannot penetrate into the bottom of another man's heart, he may find out some of his thoughts and plans, his purposes and designs, or form such conjectures about them as are necessary to regulate his own motions.
A man of understanding, without the gift of prophecy may know many things that are useful to be known about the counsels of those who are most desirous to conceal them. David revealed, and represented before his God the secret projects of his enemies against him, when both the inward thought and the heart of every one of them was deep. And Job saw clearly what his friends aimed at by all their flaming discourses about the misery of the wicked, before they named himself as the object of that vengeance which they described.
A man of sagacity has a knowledge of human nature, which assists him in finding out the plans and designs of particular men. He can avail himself of their gestures, their general course of behavior, their behavior in particular instances; and on sudden emergencies, their silence, their words, even when they are disguising their thoughts; their connections and company, their interests and humors, to form our judgment of their thoughts and designs. And by this means, he is often enabled to guard himself and his good name from the snares of the wicked. Wisdom is profitable, you see, not only for the life to come — but likewise for the present life — but hypocrisy and deceit profits little. It is often detected by men — it is always known to God; and the day is coming in which he will make manifest the secrets of all hearts.
Proverbs 20:6."Many a man will proclaim his own goodness — but a faithful man who can find?"
It is very natural for men to have a high opinion of themselves. Many men who have a better opinion of their own worth, than any other man has — but a man of consideration will discern the folly of self conceit, and will be cautious of publishing his own imagined virtues to the world. There are few who have the good sense to consider these facts, and therefore it is very common in conversation to hear men proclaiming their own praises either directly, or by plain insinuations.
If they are ashamed to talk of their own generosity and charity in an avowed manner, they catch at the good opinion, and applause of other men, by a variety of methods, sometimes commending virtue and goodness with a design of showing their own love to it — at other times running down their neighbors, for the lack of these virtues, imagining that the depression of other men will be their own exaltation.
Sometimes they insist upon particular instances of goodness, which they think, from some known pieces of their behavior, will be a means of leading people to think of themselves. And on other occasions, they will take occasion, from what others in the company are saying, to hale into the conversation some of their own good deeds, as if they had been led to mention them without any previous design.
But a man is not a proper witness in his own cause, for he is ready to form, from the influence of self love, too good an opinion of himself. If the love of our wives or children covers their faults, and magnifies their virtues — then self love must have a still greater influence in bribing our judgments, so that an honest man's testimony of his own goodness can scarcely be taken. But among boasters, you will scarcely find a man so honest as not to exceed, in his own praise, the bounds of what he himself knows to be fact.
The Scripture declares, that a truly faithful and godly man is rarely to be found — and yet if men's own word could be taken, there is scarcely a bad man to be found. We have therefore great need to be cautious in forming our judgment of ourselves, lest we deceive our own souls, and pass a sentence upon ourselves, opposite to that which our great judge will pass upon us at the last day. Nor must we be rash in trusting men, and choosing friends. He is one among a thousand, who possesses such kindness and integrity, as will entitle him to the character of a faithful friend.
We learn, in the last place, from this proverb, to let strangers praise us, rather than our own lips, except when evident necessity obliges us. For self praise will make a hundred people to conceive a bad opinion of us, sooner than one wise man to entertain a good opinion of us.
Proverbs 20:7."The just man walks in integrity; his children are blessed after him."
The just man lives by faith in the Son of God, for, like his father Abraham, he believes in the Redeemer, and his faith is counted to him for righteousness. But although he is pronounced by God a righteous person, for the sake of a righteousness not wrought by himself — yet he is not the less earnest in endeavoring to be holy in all manner of living, for he knows that those men deceive themselves who turn the grace of God into a license for sin — and that he who does righteousness is righteous, even as God is righteous.
The just man is a man of integrity, for he follows after perfection, although he knows that he cannot reach it. He does not think that a good and kind behavior towards men, will compensate for the neglect of his duty to God, any more than a social behavior will atone for disloyalty to his prince — and therefore he makes it his daily practice to walk in all good conscience before God, and to testify the utmost gratitude to him who loved us and died for us.
At the same time, he feels the force of that saying of Scripture, which is sufficient to strike an alarm into the most hardened consciences of those who neglect morality while they profess religion, "If a man says I love God, and hates his brother — he is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
The integrity of the just man, is not like the pretended integrity of the moralist, for it includes piety, justice, sobriety, and a conscientious regard to every precept of God, without excluding those who appear to vain men to be of small importance, or those who most directly oppose the prevailing disposition of the mind. The just man walks in his integrity, for his righteousness is not like the morning cloud — but like the light of the sun, which shines more and more unto the perfect day. God tries him — the devil and the world, and the flesh, solicit him to sin — but he will not turn aside into the ways of iniquity. Or if he should, he will not continue to walk in them — but returns with bitter regret to that good and straight way, which leads unto life, and continues in that path until the end of his life, for his heart is set upon it, and upon that heavenly city to which it leads.
As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, it is plain from Scripture that they never really knew the way of life.
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord. He is blessed in the day of prosperity — and in the day of adversity. He is blessed in life — and in death. He is blessed after death, for he rests in his bed, and enters into peace. His soul is blessed in Heaven, and he leaves blessings to his children upon earth.
If the children of Jehu, who never took heed to walk in the law of the Lord, were blessed with outward prosperity, to the fourth generation — then how much more may the truly godly expect a blessing to their children? It is said of the wicked man, that God lays up iniquity for his children. And will the God who delights in mercy, exercise less kindness to his own people, than severity to the wicked? Far from it. While the rich man rejoices that he has much treasure laid up in his house, to be enjoyed by his family after him — the godly man has much more reason to believe that God has a treasure of blessings laid up for his children.
Are you children of the godly? Know the God of your fathers, and plead this promise at his throne of mercy.
Proverbs 20:8."When a king sits on his throne to judge, he winnows out all evil with his eyes."
Kings have majesty in their countenances, and when they preserve their dignity of character, their eyes are dreadful to the breakers of the law. This awe of royalty is impressed by God upon the minds of men, for the peace and benefit of human society. Kings are obliged to use that authority with which the Most High God has dignified them as his ministers — for the encouragement of virtue, and the suppression of vice.
How tremendous is that Eternal King, whose eyes are like a flame of fire! How shall the wicked be able to stand before him, at whose presence the Heaven and the earth flee away, and no place is found for them! How can men presume that the Judge of all the earth will allow sin to go unpunished — when he will not permit his viceregents on earth, to leave open wickedness to go unpunished.
Earthly kings can punish only the outward enormities of men's lives. The universal Judge brings every work into judgment, with every secret thing. Earthly kings reach only the body — but the King of Heaven can destroy both soul and body in Hell fire! "I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" Luke 12:5
Proverbs 20:9."Who can say: I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?"
"Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?"
It we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, for we were conceived and shaped in iniquity, and unless our hearts are made pure, we must remain forever abominable in the sight of the most holy God. The depravity of the human race is not here expressly asserted — but it is taken for granted, as an incontestable truth.
The call of God to sinners is, "Wash and be clean. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, purify your hearts." But neither our righteousness nor our strength lies in ourselves. Except Christ washes us, we have no part in him, and remain under the reigning power of sin.
But even those who are washed by his blood and Spirit, cannot say that they have made their hearts so clean, that they are entirely pure from their sin. They are daily employed in cleansing themselves from all pollutions — and yet the leprosy of sin will cleave to their earthly tabernacles, until they are pulled down by death.
If sin dwells in the best of us — then our dependence must be on the grace of the Redeemer, by whose blood our sins are expiated, and by whose powerful agency we crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Purity of heart ought to be our constant study — for so far as our hearts are cleansed, we are pure from our sin. Under all the imperfections of our holiness, we have reason to join thanksgiving with our sorrows, for although no man on earth can lay claim to perfect purity — yet every believer in Jesus has abundant encouragement to hope that he shall be presented in due time, without spot or blemish, before the throne of God!
Proverbs 20:10."Differing weights and differing measures — the LORD detests them both."
Once has God spoken, yes twice have we heard this, that unjust weights are detested by God. It is plain that unjust measures come under the same condemnation. But here they are expressly mentioned, so that no man can pretend to observe the letter of the law, while he transgresses the spirit of it. If a man keeps one measure or weight for selling, and another for buying; or if he keeps one for selling to people that have too much skill to be cheated, and another for selling to the ignorant and unwary — then he exposes himself to the hot anger and severe vengeance of God, who hates all unrighteousness, especially that which lies in perverting the means of justice.
If the perversion of the instruments of just trade is detestable to God — then how much does he abhor the perversion of law and justice, and every kind of partiality in those whom he entrusts with the administration of government, in church or state. Injustice in merchants is very bad — but unrighteousness in those who rule by the authority of Christ, is a great deal more dishonorable to God, and offensive to the righteous eyes.
Proverbs 20:11."Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right."
"Except you be converted," says our Lord, "and become as little children, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Sincerity is one of those qualities wherein we ought to resemble children, for they cannot disguise their inclinations — but a little attention to their childish talk and behavior will enable a person to reveal their present dispositions, and to form a probable conjecture concerning their future behavior.
One thing appears in the behavior of children with too much evidence — that they are the descendants of Adam. The selfishness, vanity, and revengeful spirit, that appears in all of them, are lineaments of the image of the first transgressor.
But there is a very great difference among them in their temper, which may be justly considered as an indication of a greater difference in the manner of their conduct, when they arrive at manly years. Some are kind and obliging, and easily managed. Others are intractable, sullen, and spiteful. It is the duty of parents to improve and nourish the good dispositions which their children reveal, and to check every appearance of vice — before it is matured by time into settled habits. Parents generally consider the mental status and inclinations of their children, to direct them in the choice of a profession — but they ought to be no less careful to consider their turn of mind in their earliest years, to direct themselves in their religious education. Herein several parents reveal their partial fondness for their children, regarding with applause every appearance of goodness as a happy presage — but considering every instance of perverse behavior as an instance of childish ignorance, which time will reform of course. But Solomon tells us that their bad, as well as their good behavior, when they shall become men — may be conjectured from their childish doings.
Children of a pleasant disposition may disappoint the expectations that have been formed of them — but in that case parents may generally blame themselves for neglecting to avail themselves of their good dispositions, to graft on them religious instructions, or for permitting them to fall into the dangerous society of those who not only live in sin, but, like Jeroboam, make Israel to sin.
When bad dispositions appear in children, it is necessary for parents to early use those means which God has appointed for reclaiming them. The rod and reproof give wisdom — and when these, and the like means, are neglected, or not accompanied with fervent prayer — then parents have great reason to reflect on themselves with shame, if their children prove thorns in their eyes, when their vices have attained the vigor of riper years, and confirmed habit.
There is an old proverb that says, a young saint often makes an old devil — but Solomon was not the author of it.
Proverbs 20:12."Ears that hear and eyes that see — the LORD has made them both."
And did he not make every other part of our bodies, as well as the eye and the ear? No doubt — but we ought not to rest in general truths, when we contemplate the wonderful works of God. It is highly proper for us, to survey with attention, the particulars of what the Lord has done for us — and we shall find abundant materials for gratitude and praise in every member of our body, in every faculty of our soul, and in every event of our life!
It is said that the famous physician Galen learned the absurdity of atheism from the consideration of the human eye. The structure of it clearly displays the amazing wisdom of God, and his goodness shines with no less brightness in the pleasures and advantages derived from the ministry of this admirable organ.
The ear is that sense by which we enjoy the pleasures of society and friendship, by which we learn the most interesting and entertaining truths, and by which we receive the instructions of life.
It is by the kind agency of our Maker that our eyes see, and our ears hear — for in him we live and move and have our being. When he pleases to withhold his influence, we see, but do not perceive, like Hagar at Beer-lahai-roi. We hear a voice, and know not what it says, like the companions of Saul in his journey to Damascus.
To use these instruments of sense as inlets to temptation and sin — is as unnatural as for infants to rend that breast which gives them suck! How shocking is it to deserve the reproof that the prophet gave to Belshazzar, "The God in whose hand your breath is, and all your ways — you have not glorified."
We are God's creatures. Our senses are his; our souls are his; all our enjoyments are from his bounty, and our activity depends upon his all-governing providence. Whether, therefore, we see, or hear, or think on those objects which we are acquainted with, by means of our bodily senses, or the exercise of our rational powers — let us mind above everything, the glory of God.
Proverbs 20:13."Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare."
Sleep must be taken — but not loved. Sleep, as well as food, is necessary for refreshing our frail bodies — but neither food nor sleep must be used for their own sakes, nor must we be intemperate in either of them. Sleep taken in a moderate degree, is the nurse of nature, it recruits our physical and mental powers, and prepares us for the labors of life. But excess of sleep enervates the body, and stupefies our souls, and is loved only by sluggards.
We have received time and talents from God, to be used according to his direction — and to waste the one, and bury the other, is a very great sin. And yet by immoderate sleep, we do both in some degree, for all the time that we sleep beyond what is needful for us, our talents are unemployed, and our time is running out in vain.
Long life is universally desired, and death is set at as great a distance as possible — but the lover of sleep voluntarily gives up a considerable part of his life. And during all the time that he wastes in needless sleep, he might as well be in the state of death, for anything he does, or enjoys.
I remember Dr. Doddridge gives this reason for his being able to write so many books, notwithstanding all the weighty employments which were constantly lying on him — that he found a great difference between rising at five, and rising at eight in the morning — the one making several years more in the course of a life than the other.
Poverty and hunger, in the course of things, according to the righteous appointment of providence — are the ordinary consequences of too much sleep. Plenty and satisfaction, are the consequences of early rising.
Open your eyes, rise and go to work — for he who gets out of bed, and sits idle at the fire-side, is still sleeping, even when he is awake. But he who rises to his employment, shall have bread for himself and his family.
It is not said that he shall have everything that an unbridled appetite might crave — but he shall have, by the blessing of God, bread to eat, and clothing to put on. These things will generally satisfy a man diligent in his business, for his work makes both sleep and food pleasant to him. If people who love their work, should prove unsuccessful in business, or be disabled from working — they will meet with pity and relief; while starving sluggards are hated and despised.
Proverbs 20:14."It's no good, it's no good!" says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase."
Solomon was a teacher to men of all ranks, for he was acquainted with the life and manners of men in every profession, and writes instructive proverbs for merchants as well as kings. There is one piece of fraud censured in this verse, which is very common with the lower sort of dealers, and is scarcely reckoned a piece of unrighteousness. It is the art of buyers to get a good bargain, by depreciating the commodity which they mean to purchase.
The inspired moralist, that he might come home to men's bosoms, gives us their very words, "It's no good, it's no good!" What is the evil of saying this? Why, if it is not true — then it must certainly be a lie; and no lie is of the truth, nor is any lying habit consistent with the character of an honest man. Men may, if they please, form to themselves rules of morality from the general practice of the world — but these are not the rules by which they must be judged at the last day. If we were heathen, we could not be excused in using little deceitful tricks which do not come within the compass of the criminal law — but we are Christians, and our bibles testify against them, and threaten punishment to those who go beyond and defraud their brother. Indeed, very little is to be made by such poor artifices but guilt — for they are so common that almost every man sees through them. The people that use these pitiful tricks in making a bargain, don't think there is much evil in them, for they boast of their trickery and good fortune. But men's shutting their eyes will not alter the nature of things.
Men applaud themselves in their dexterity to impose small deceits upon their neighbors — but what does the Spirit of God say about them? "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil." While they boast of the goodness of the commodities which they formerly depreciated — they denounce this woe against themselves.
The spirit of this proverb includes in it, a condemnation of the like methods that sellers use to get bad commodities disposed of. When a man commends his wares above their value, or gives a false account of the price which they cost him, or of the price that he was offered for them, or when he uses deceitful means to conceal their bad properties — then he is dealing unrighteously, and seeking the gain by fraud — by which he is not so likely to fill his purse as to wound his character, and bring the curse of God upon his substance.
Proverbs 20:15."Gold there is, and rubies in abundance — but lips which speak knowledge are a rare jewel."
It is a great deal easier to spread riches, than wisdom, through a nation. In the days of the wisest of kings, silver was plenteous as the stones — but wisdom was still a rare commodity. Yet Solomon never ceased to inculcate the superior value of wisdom. But such is the depravity of man's understanding, that the gifts of fortune are generally preferred to those of the mind — and you will find many who learn the art of being rich, for one who acquires the lips of knowledge.
The wisest and richest of kings, inspired by the Author of wisdom and riches, frequently reminds us, that the lips directed by true knowledge, are a more precious jewel than any that can be found in the mines of the east! A deep impression of this truth, would be of very great advantage to our souls. When a man values gold and rubies above wisdom, he lies exposed to a thousand temptations of a very dangerous kind. For he is like a blind man who knows not where he goes, and will leap into a pit, if he imagines that money is at the bottom of it, because he sees not how deep it is, and how impossible it will be to get out. But he who prefers the lips of knowledge to riches, has his eyes in his head, and steadily observes the ways of religion and happiness.
Did we really believe this truth we would not grudge time, and expense, and labor, in obtaining wisdom for our own benefit and the use of others — and would account a wise and faithful friend, one of the most precious treasures. The Word of God would be valued as it deserves, and the world would lose its tempting influence.
Proverbs 20:16."Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if he does it for an immoral woman."
We lately heard that the love of sleep will soon reduce a man to poverty and hunger. It is not, however, the speediest method of becoming poor, for nothing will so soon ruin a man's estate and credit, as rash suretyship. If you see a man who engages in putting up security for one who is a stranger to him, and especially for a immoral woman, trust him not if he should swear, and offer you the surest bonds for payment. He will in a very short time become a bankrupt, and therefore lend him nothing. And if you sell him anything without ready money, be sure to have a sufficient pledge. You may even take his garment without any breach of charity, for the law about restoring the garment taken by way of pledge, was made for the benefit of the poor and unfortunate, and not for those who are running to ruin by their own willful folly.
If a man, by an excess of generosity, hurts himself by engaging in suretyship for his friends, he plays the fool — and yet he may be pitied — but how can that man expect pity, who squanders away his substance for the sake of people with whom he has no connection, or of wicked women with whom it is infamous to have any dealings?
Proverbs 20:17."Food gained by fraud tastes sweet to a man, but he ends up with a mouth full of gravel."
There is some kind of pleasure in sin, by which the devil draws men into his snares, and keeps them entangled. There are indeed some sins in which we cannot discover any pleasure — but those who practice them appear to love the devil's service so well, that they will do his work without any wages — such are profane swearers, and the agents for infidelity. But sinners in general must have some present enjoyment from their sins, to compensate for the guilt and danger of them. A man would not do a piece of injustice without the prospect of some gain and satisfaction from it — and when he has gained what he expected, he feels some pleasure from it, and applauds himself for his wit and success. For his present advantage drowns for a time, the thoughts of what shall come to pass hereafter.
But men should always remember, that the time now present, was some years ago far distant — and yet is now come, and our feelings of pain and anguish are as lively as ever; and the time to come will one day be present, and bring its sensations of happiness and misery along with it.
He is rather a brute than a rational creature, who would rather be happy for a day, and miserable for the rest of his life — than deny himself the present pleasures which are sure to bring lasting misery in their train!
Such are the gains of dishonesty; they are like pleasant bread in the mouth of the covetous man — but his teeth are afterwards tormented with gravel, and his belly is racked with pains more grievous than those of the fiercest diseases that ever preyed on the human constitution. Providence usually crosses and disappoints unrighteous men, and makes them to vomit up the riches which they have swallowed down. Dishonest gains produce a worm in the conscience, which gnaws the soul with teeth more poisonous than those of the viper!
Zophar uses every terrible image to illustrate the miseries of the unjust man — and yet all are insufficient to describe the terrors of that vengeance, which the wrath of God inflicts on those who have the presumption to think, that any advantage can be gained by sinning against God, and wronging their fellow creatures.
Proverbs 20:18." Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance."
Wisdom lies, in the first place, in forming right purposes; and secondly, in devising, and executing proper plans for bringing these good purposes to pass. However good our designs are — yet rashness and inconsideration will be sure to render them abortive. And, besides our own wisdom, it is necessary for us, in all matters of importance, to take the advice of the wise and upright. If we have such a high opinion of our own wisdom, that we think we have no need of counsel from other men — then we prove ourselves fools of the worst kind, for there is more hope of any other kind of fools, than for those who are wise in their own conceit.
Do we limit wisdom to ourselves? Are we wiser than Solomon, who had too much sense to think himself above the need of a privy council of the wisest men in the nation?
Above all things, war is to be made with good advice, for the lack of which, many nations have been brought to desolation. It is one of the greatest judgments to a land, when it's wise counselors are removed, or when the sovereigns of it are so unwise as not to make use of their counsels.
Rehoboam, as foolish as he was, had the sense to make use of his father's instruction in this point, although he had neglected it a little before, in another affair of no less consequence. By his neglect of it, he lost ten tribes — but his observing it afterwards, was the means of preserving his authority in the other two.
We have need of good advice in our spiritual warfare, for our enemies are incomparably superior to us in strength and skill. We may receive great benefit from the counsels of some of our fellow soldiers — but the Word and Spirit of God are infinitely the best counselors in this, and in every other point. They alone shall overcome, who are strong in the Lord, and use those divine weapons that God has prepared for our defense, and cry for God's help against the enemy. These are the counsels given us by the Spirit of God, and as our success entirely depends upon his help, we must comply with his instructions.
Proverbs 20:19."A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who flatters with his lips!"
Flatterers are generally gossips. They sooth and caress a man to fish his secrets out of him, and they tell the secrets which they have got by these base means, to the next companion they meet, and perhaps make very considerable additions to them, for they take the liberty to add conjectures of their own to what they have heard. By spreading their stories, they sow the seeds of contention among neighbors, and their words are as dainties which go down into the innermost parts of the belly. Beware, then, of those flatterers, who cajole you with good words and fair speeches!
Self love makes us flatterers of ourselves, and disposes us to be well pleased with those who comply with all our humours, assent to all our opinions, and approve of all our actions.
But those who flatter us are not our friends — but for the most part the most dangerous enemies we have. If we give them our company — we are very likely to hear stories that will vex us. If we tell them any of our secrets — we may be sure of having them divulged, and represented to our disadvantage. When they tell us stories about other people, we may judge how they will behave to us — for when they were in the company of these people, they flattered them as much as they now flatter us — and by their pretenses of friendship, they made a shift to pick up these tales with which we are now entertained.
It is an excess of self love, which makes the company of a flatterer tolerable. It is the lack of love to our neighbors, that makes us bear with tale bearers. But if we will not discountenance them for the sake of our neighbors, let us do it for our own — for they will mete out the same measure to us, that they have already meted out to other men.
Proverbs 20:20."If a man curses his father or mother — his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness."
For a man not to honor his father and his mother, is a violation of one of the ten commandments in the letter of it. A curse was pronounced from mount Ebal upon him who sets light by his father or his mother.
The miserable condition of the Africans, and the negroes in America, is a monument to this day of God's judgements upon a man who lived 4000 years ago, for revealing his father's shame.
But is it possible that any man can rise to such a pitch of impiety, as to curse his father or his mother? It seems so. But woe to those who are chargeable with it. Had they lived under the Mosaic law, they would have died without mercy. But if they live in our times, their sin is not the less; and although they should escape punishment from men, they shall not escape the vengeance of the Father and King of the universe.
When those crimes that deserve death are unpunished by men, the perpetrators of them are not always so safe as they expect. God often permits them to fall into other crimes, that bring them to the gallows, as we may learn from the confessions and last speeches of many malefactors who have lamented their disobedience to their parents, as the first step to their ruin, or acknowledged other crimes worthy of death, besides these for which they suffer.
But if those who treat the instruments of their being with insult and outrage, should escape every visible testimony of vengeance in this life, their lamp shall be extinguished in the blackness of darkness. The punishment prepared for all impenitent sinners, is described in Scripture by this gloomy image — but surely there are regions of thicker darkness in Hell itself, for those who are guilty of crimes that would shock the ordinary run of sinners.
Proverbs 20:21."An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning, will not be blessed at the end."
We have been often told, that no profit can be made by the wages of unrighteousness — but experience seems to contradict this truth, for we have seen or heard of several that have amassed great treasures by fraud and extortion. This does not, however, militate against anything which the inspired moralist has said, for he never meant to deny that treasures may be obtained by wickedness. Those who will be rich may get riches by cheating and lying, by fraud and oppression, by grinding the faces of the poor, and by toiling their poor servants until they groan under their hard bondage. These and a thousand other ways of unjust getting, may put money in their pockets — but the fact is that it is of no use to them, when they have got it.
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, for a very plain reason, because they are not attended with the blessing of God, and it is only this blessing which preserves riches and makes them a comfort to men. It is far better to have nothing — than to have the riches of kingdoms without the blessing of God; for those who lack it, will find everything they have a curse.
But you will say: Then why do they succeed in getting an estate without the blessing of God? Wait a little, and it will be seen that there is no blessing in what they have got. If they have been heaping up mountains of gold, they will be found only mountains of snow, which the curse of God will soon melt! He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth. What he gets unjustly, shall not only be blasted — but it shall blast everything that he had got by fair means. Ahab lost not only the garden of Naboth — but his life, and kingdom, and family, by his wickedness.
Beware of love for wealth, for covetousness disappoints itself. It leads men to poverty, by pushing them on to unfair methods of gaining money. Stronger arguments might be advanced, and will be found in this book, against this sin — but this argument will have a deeper impression upon the minds of some people, than any other. It is addressed to the only ear by which the covetous man can hear, for he is deaf to everything but what concerns the mammon of unrighteousness. If he believes anything that God says, he must see that he is taking a very foolish course, when he endeavors to enrich himself by those very means that are declared in Scripture to be the surest methods of bringing poverty and ruin!
Proverbs 20:22."Do not say: 'I'll pay you back for this wrong!' Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you."
If private revenge were allowed, it would soon fill the land with confusion and blood! For while men's passions are kindled by the smart of a fresh injury, they cloud the judgment, and hurry on those who are under their power, to the most dangerous irregularities. By indulging them, we would be driven on to make very disproportional returns for the wrongs done to us. We might wreck our vengeance on the blameless, as David would have done, if Abigail had not disarmed his fury. We might bring upon ourselves the guilt of the bloodiest crimes, and make ourselves miserable through all the remainder of our days. Most wisely, therefore, and graciously we are forbidden to avenge ourselves, or so much as to say that we will do it.
It is a bad thing to have any thought of revenge — but if we say, or swear, that we will take revenge on him who has offended us — we are entangled in a dangerous snare by the devil, who will endeavor to persuade us that our honor is doubly enraged by the provocation received. To say that we will recompense evil, is the same thing with saying, that we will step into the throne of God, and wrest his thunderbolts out of his hand, to hurl them against all whom we judge to be our enemies. "For vengeance is Mine, says the Lord, and I will repay it!"
But our corrupt hearts are dexterous in mustering up objections against our duty, and the inspired writers are equally dexterous in answering them. "If I allow the wrongs done to my credit and estate to pass unrevenged," says one, "I expose myself to every shaft of malice, and may expect still greater injuries than those I have already received." There is no fear of that, says Solomon, wait on the Lord, and he shall save you. Are you defrauded in your interests? Wait on the Lord who gives and takes away at his pleasure, and he will make up, if he sees it good for you, all your loss.
Are you wronged in your credit? Trust in the Lord, and he shall bring forth your righteousness to the light, as you find he did in the cases of Job, and David, and Mephibosheth. Whatever injury you have felt, or fear — commit yourself to God with a calm and forgiving spirit, and he will either prevent your fears, or make a rich amends for the malice of your enemies. Only you must wait his own time for doing it, for he who believes does not make haste — but waits God's leisure, as it well becomes us to do when it is God whom we trust.
We must not wait on the Lord for destruction to our enemies. David was blessed with divine inspiration, and had directions for praying against some of his spiteful enemies — but herein we are not to consider him as a pattern for us. We have the noble example of our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not repay evil with evil — but prayed for his persecutors, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps. Wait on the Lord, and whatever way he deals with your enemies, he shall save you, and that is all you can reasonably desire.
Will you will insist that it is better to secure yourself against new injuries, by revenging the old? The question is clearly this: Is your safety and protection best lodged in God's hand — or your own? By indulging your revengeful spirit, you do yourself a greater hurt than your greatest enemy can do you — for you gratify his ill-nature, when you allow it to make a deep impression on your spirit, without which it could do you little or no hurt. But by committing your cause to God, you turn his ill will to your great advantage, making it an occasion for the exercise of the noblest graces, which are attended with the sweetest fruits, and with the rich blessing of God.
Proverbs 20:23."The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him."
Injustice is a poisonous weed which springs up very plenteously in the heart of men. It needs great pains to pluck it up, and the inspired writer does not grudge his pains for this purpose. When he might have been dazzling us with new discoveries of surprising truths in every sentence — he repeats the same warnings over and over, to reclaim men from every instance of dishonesty. How inexcusable will the unjust trader be, if he continues unreformed, after all that the Spirit of God has inculcated so frequently for his conviction and amendment.
Proverbs 20:24."A man's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?"
The steps of all men are ordered by the Lord. Wicked men are under the dominion of his providence — as well as godly men who rejoice in his sovereignty. God has a righteous hand in the most unrighteous actions of men. They sit deliberating and contriving — but they are under the eye of God, who laughs at their impious imaginations, and without suspending the freedom of their wills, determines them to concur in the execution of his holy and immutable purposes.
They know not, when they are consulting — how they will determine; and when they have determined — whether they shall succeed in their purpose; and when they are fixed in their minds — whether they shall be able to perform what they intend; and if they perform it — whether it shall answer their intention, or some purpose entirely opposite to what they designed.
But known unto God are all the thoughts that come or shall come into the minds of men — and how far their plans shall prosper, and what shall be the outcome and consequences of them. All the affairs of particular people, and all the weighty businesses of states and kingdoms — are in God's hand like the potter's clay, to be molded into any shape he pleases. And he will manage everything wisely for his own glory, justly towards men, and graciously towards his own people.
Go now, you who say we will do this or the other thing — without any impression of God's sovereignty, or dependence on his providence. It is presumption in you to dream that your motions are under your own sovereign direction. Are you sure that you will be in the same mind an hour hence, that you are in at present?
Alexander the Great went to Jerusalem with an intention to wreak the fury of his revenge upon the Jews — and when he arrived, he showed them greater favor than he ever did to another conquered nation.
But if your resolutions should continue the same, do you live and move in yourselves, that you can be sure of the continuance of your life, and ability for doing what you propose?
The kings and princes of the world sought to destroy our holy religion in its infancy — but the emperors who ruled the world were driven from their thrones, or chased out of the world; and of the kingdom of our Redeemer there shall be no end. For he who sits in Heaven saw from his dwelling place all their foolish contrivances, and baffled all their efforts, and said, "Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion!"
If you should be able to accomplish your designs — are you sure that they will have the effects you propose. The rulers of the Jews crucified Christ to gratify their spite, and to secure their place and nation from the Romans — but Christ conquered every enemy by his cross, and the Almighty executed the most tremendous vengeance by the hands of the Romans on the murderers of his beloved Son.
A conviction of this truth would make us to acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, and to endeavor to walk before him unto all pleasing. It would raise us above those strong temptations which have all their force from the fear of men's displeasure, or the hope of their favor. It would make the believer in Christ cheerful under every cross, while he could say: "My heavenly Father rules all, and my enemies can do nothing without his providence."
It would raise us above all earthly confidences, being persuaded that the kindest and most powerful friends can do nothing for us — but as God pleases to incline and enable them.
This truth has also a mighty influence to destroy our confidence in our own strength and wisdom. The children of Israel made great promises to God at mount Sinai — but they soon broke them, for the Lord had not given them eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hearts to understand. Peter was very sincere in promising to cleave to Christ, although all men should forsake him — but by his self-confidence, provoked God to withhold the supports of his grace, and was left to behave, not like a rock — but like the slender twig which bends before the gentlest blast.
Proverbs 20:25."It is a snare to the man who devours that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry."
Stealing and robbery are crimes so detestable and pernicious to men, that they are everywhere severely punished. But God is greater than men, and to rob God is a greater and more dangerous crime than those by which our fellow men are wronged in their substance.
But will a man rob God? Can any man be so foolish as to try it, or so mighty as to accomplish it? Malachi complains that this crime was very common in his time, and there are too many instances of it, even in these latter days. He who gives to the poor, lends unto the Lord; and that which is appropriated to the service of the Gospel and the support of the ministry, belongs unto God, and should be given to his servants as the receivers of his revenues. Therefore, when the poor are cheated of their dues, or those who labor in the gospel are deprived of their hire, or anything alienated that was justly devoted to the service of God — a robbery is attempted, and, in some sense, executed, upon God himself, who cannot be pleased with so base and ungrateful conduct towards him, from whom we receive everything that we possess.
The man who applies to his own use, and devours that which is holy, is greatly mistaken if he thinks himself a gainer. He is just in the same degree a gainer by his dishonest conduct, as the silly bird, when it snatches at the bait which the fowler has placed for it to draw it into his snare!
The people of Judah in Haggai's time, were crossed and disappointed in all the labors of their hands, because they bestowed their money upon building houses for themselves, rather than in building the temple of the Lord. And in Malachi's time, the whole nation was cursed with a curse for robbing God in tithes and in offerings.
It is no less a snare for a man, after vows, to make inquiry, in order to evade the obligation of his solemn engagements. Some men are much more forward in making, than in paying vows. Their religion lies in transient flows of affection — not in solid piety. When their affections are roused by some remarkable providence, or allured by some pleasant blessing; or roused by some alarming sermon — then they are ready with their vows to the Most High God. But when their affections return to their usual temper, they endeavor to find out some shift, to free their consciences from their obligations, which they voluntarily took up on themselves. Their conduct draws them into the snares of the devil, who will suggest an hundred pretenses to excuse the breach of them.
We must therefore be cautious and considerate in making vows — and speedy in performing them. If we are Christians, we have engaged ourselves to be the Lord's. Justice and truth and gratitude require us to pay our vows, and every transgression derives the great aggravation of treachery from our sacred promises. If our promises to men must be kept inviolate — then how much more our promise to God! If it is sinful to make inquiry after vows — then who can express the guilt that arises out of downright violations of them!
Proverbs 20:26."A wise king winnows out the wicked; he drives the threshing wheel over them."
Such a king was David and his son Solomon — and above all others, is the king who sits upon the throne of David forever, who breaks in pieces the wicked like a potter's vessel.
The wicked in the nation are like the chaff among the wheat, and in those ancient times, the gardener used to bring the threshing wheel over the grain to separate from it the chaff.
In like manner, the king who does not loll in his palace to indulge his pride and leisure — but sits upon the throne of judgment, will treat the wicked of the nation, breaking and dispersing them, that they may not prove a nuisance to society, an infectious plague to the country, and provocations of the wrath of God against the whole nation. Kings have but a limited power for this purpose, and must confine their punishments within the bounds of law. But the king of Zion will thoroughly purge his floor by the fan in his hand, and will scatter all the impenitent sinners in his dominions, like the chaff before the wind!
Proverbs 20:27."The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being."
The Father of our spirits, has bestowed on us a glorious distinction from the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field. Our bodies were framed by his powerful agency — but our spirits were created by him within us. In our animal bodies we have some resemblance of the brutes — but our intellectual faculty raises us to some degrees of likeness to the angels of God, for they are candles lighted within us, by him who breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and made him a living soul.
By the light of reason, especially when it is brightened by divine revelation, we are enabled to survey many of the wonderful works of God, and to discern the evidences of his eternal power and Godhead. By this candle, we can take a view of the wonderful structure of our own bodies, which are fearfully and wonderfully made.
But the most necessary kind of knowledge which it gives us, next to the knowledge of God, is that of our own spirits. As deep as the hearts of men are — yet this lamp of the Lord searches all his inmost being.
A king who was perfectly acquainted with the constitution, laws, and history of every country but his own — would be only an intelligent fool. Just so, the man is equally void of true judgment, who is thoroughly versed in every art and science, in all histories, and every branch of commerce and law — and yet is unacquainted with his own heart, where his main business lies.
Heathen themselves were so deeply impressed with the importance of self knowledge, that it was a general opinion among some wise nations that the celebrated maxim "Know yourself!" came down from Heaven.
Reason rightly employed, will make us acquainted with the excellent nature and uses of our faculties, with our personal dispositions and talents, with our defects and constitutional faults, with our prejudices, and the temptations by which we are most ready to be overcome, with our state and frame in relation to God. The mention of these different branches of self knowledge, is enough to show the value and necessity of it. We are commanded to keep our own hearts with all diligence — and how can we keep them without some knowledge of their most important concerns?
But we cannot know ourselves unto perfection; and therefore we ought to search deeper and deeper into our own hearts, to keep an eye upon the movements of our own minds, and the frame of our hearts under prosperous and adverse providences, and under injuries from men, or while we are employed in the performance of our duty to God — that we may improve in self-acquaintance.
Above all, we ought to compare our hearts with the Word of God, and to pray earnestly that God may reveal us to ourselves, and preserve us from those self flatteries by which multitudes are deceived into eternal ruin!
It is God alone who searches and knows infallibly the heart of man, and without the help of his Spirit, the candle within us will mislead us like wild fire, until we fall into the ditch of perdition.
Proverbs 20:28."Mercy and truth preserve the king, and his throne is upheld by mercy."
A king must scatter and crush the wicked — but he will prove a tyrant unless he tempers his severity with mercy and goodness. Severity to criminals is exercised by a wise king, from a principle of mercy to the community at large — and he will spare where he can spare without betraying his trust. Such behavior secures the affections of his subjects; and is attended with the blessing of providence, by which thrones are established.
But unmerciful severity has often overturned the mighty from their seat. The Emperor Aurelian was called an excellent physician to the state, except in taking too much blood. His rigor drew upon him the hatred and fear of some of his own servants, who deprived him of his life after he had performed many signal services to the empire.
Truth must be joined with mercy in the administration of a good prince. Faithfulness and uprightness, in conjunction with mercy, are the sure and lasting pillars of the throne. If truth and mercy were banished from all the world beside — it should be found in the hearts of kings.
How glorious is the Prince of the kings of the earth! Mercy and truth go before his face, his throne is a throne of grace and faithfulness.
Proverbs 20:29."The glory of young men is their strength — and gray hair is the splendor of the old."
Equality of age and dispositions naturally produces affection and friendship — but difference of age and talents tends too much to produce mutual alienation. To remedy this, the wise man puts the old and the young in mind that each of them have their different endowments, which should endear them to one another.
Old men should not despise the young for their lack of experience and gravity, for God has honored them with vigor of body, which qualifies them for active service to God and their generation. How could old men defend their lives and properties, or how could they exist, if they were not assisted by the strength of the young?
Far less should the young despise the old for their infirmities, or for that fretfulness of temper which old age too often produces. For God has favored them with length of days, and crowned them with gray hair, the badge of their experience, and, it is to be hoped, of their wisdom. If the hoary head is the splendor of old men, it should draw respect from the young, who are commanded by God to rise up before the hoary head, and to honor the face of the old man.
It was a saying of Lewis IX of France, when he was old, that if he had possessed in his youth that wisdom he had now acquired, or if he were still in possession of the vigor of youth — he could conquer all the world. It was better, it seems, for mankind that he did not possess both these qualities at once!
God is wise and good in distributing his gifts among men of all ranks and ages, that none, by having every good quality — might become an idol to himself and others; and none, by lacking everything valuable — might become an object of contempt.
Let young men beware of debasing their glory, by abusing their strength to the service of sin.
Let old men endeavor to make their gray hair venerable by wisdom and piety, by cheerfulness, and the command of their temper.
Finally, let old men remember that they were once young — and young men remember that they will soon be old.
Proverbs 20:30."Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being."
The blueness of a wound cleanses away evil, so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.
We are naturally very averse to chastisement and pain, and Solomon often represents a due regard to chastisement as a sign of wisdom — and here he tells us the great advantage of chastisement to overcome our aversion. Correction and affliction for the present, seem to be not joyous — but grievous. There is a far worse evil from which they are a means of reclaiming us. Sin is infinitely worse than affliction, and affliction is really turned into a blessing to those who rightly improve it, for those wounds cleanse away evil, and stripes are instrumental, not only in reforming the life but in cleansing the heart.
Parents ought not, therefore, to spare the rod through foolish pity. At the same time they ought to join instruction and prayer with chastisement — for still it must be remembered that the blessing of God alone can make it useful for cleansing the inmost being.
Children ought to welcome the rod of chastisement, as a necessary means for their spiritual advantage.
The chastisements inflicted by magistrates upon malefactors who do not deserve death, may have the same happy effect — and therefore mercy ought to mingle itself with the punishments inflicted upon them. According to the law, when a man deserved stripes, he was not to receive more than forty, and the reason given was, "lest your brother should seem vile unto you." He was to be considered as a brother that might be reclaimed, and was not to be treated contemptuously, lest, by despair of recovering his character, he should be hardened in sin.
The like tenderness is to be used in the administration of church discipline, that offending brethren may be gained.
Corrections from God are gracious and merciful, even when they are most severe — for his design in them is to make us partakers of his holiness, and to purge away sin. They are a tried medicine which God has often blessed for curing that vanity, that earthliness of mind, that lukewarmness in prayer, that pride and thoughtlessness about eternal things — which are so common and dangerous distempers among men.
Many who once groaned and cried out bitterly because of their afflictions, are now praising God for them among the choirs of angels! And many have seen great cause to be thankful on their account, before they left the valley of tears.
"You have dealt well with your servant," said the much afflicted king when he reviewed the providences of God towards him.