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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Proverbs 26

 

 

Verse 1

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

A GIFT WRONGLY BESTOWED

I. To honour some men is both seemly and right. The snow and the rain come from heaven by Divine command, and are indispensable to the beauty and fruitfulness of the earth. So to accord honour where it is due is a Divine command (Rom ), and is indispensable to our social well-being.

II. But honour accorded to a fool (i.e., a bad man) is incongruous and hurtful. Snow in summer is an exception to the rules of nature. It would indeed be a surprise to our reapers when they were about to gather in the grain, to find the fields white with snow, and such an event would be most mischievous in its effects. And in Oriental countries rain in summer would be equally surprising, and probably as hurtful, since the rain in those lands generally descends in torrents and not in gentle showers as with us. So, although God has commanded us to "honour all men" (1Pe ), the wicked man, by his wickedness, puts himself outside this rule, and to place him in a position of honour, or to give him reverence, is entirely out of place, and an act which can only produce evil consequences.

1. It does harm to the man who gives it. The heavy rain or snow falling upon the ripened cornfield, takes away all its beauty and lessens its worth—it may make it utterly valueless. And so it degrades a soul to bow down where it ought to stand erect and firm, and a man who will from cowardice or any other cause cringe before a moral fool is a man who is of no use in the world from a moral point of view. (See on this subject, on Pro of the preceding chapter, page 711).

2. It injures the man who receives it. It makes him feel as if there was no difference between vice and virtue, when he finds himself receiving that which ought to be given to a good man only, and so he is confirmed in his wickedness. This will be the case especially if the person who does him honour is a better man than himself, if it is such a case as is described in the verse referred to above.

3. It has a bad influence upon men around them. It is an encouragement to bad men to continue in their evil courses when they see wickedness enthroned in high places, and worthless men receiving honour instead of the scorn which they deserve. Such an elevation makes all bad men more shameless and daring, and it also discourages and depresses better men. Although the truly good man's actions spring from a deeper source, and have their origin in a higher motive than the praise or blame of their fellow-men, yet there are many who are not firmly rooted in the practice of virtue, who are much influenced by the moral atmosphere in which they live. If they see their fellow-men doing as God does, and being a respecter of persons in regard to character, and to character only, their better nature will be strengthened, and their efforts to be upright and godly will be encouraged, but if they see "the wicked walk on every side," and "the vilest men exalted" (Psa ), they may give up the struggle after a higher and better life in despair. And thus the effect upon the moral tone of the community will be as blighting and destructive as floods upon the growing corn, or as snow upon the ripening fruits. It is, therefore, the solemn duty of every man in this respect to "discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth Him not." (Mal 3:18).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Honour is unfit for a fool, in two respects especially; the one, for that punishment is properly due unto him; the other, for that he abuseth his authority, be it civil or ecclesiastical, unto the hurt of those that are subject unto him.—Muffett.


Verse 2

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . The first clause of the verse should be, As the sparrow flitting, as the swallow flying, etc. Causeless, i.e., "undeserved"—i.e., Such a curse is but transient—it alights for the moment, but, like a bird, does not stay long. Miller and others, however, understand the comparison to carry an entirely opposite meaning. (See Suggestive Comments on the verse.)

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

THE CAUSELESS CURSE

A reference to the Critical Notes and the Suggestive Comments will show that different meanings are attached to this proverb.

I. Men often utter causeless curses. In whatever country of the world we travel, and among whatever society, we are liable to hear men pouring forth maledictions against their fellow-creatures. There are places and circles where such imprecations are never uttered, because a better spirit rules those who belong to them, but these are, alas! exceptions to a rule. Curses without cause are uttered by masters against servants, and by parents against children, and by men in every condition and relation in life—curses prompted by passion and falling from the lips of men who answer to the description of the Psalmist—whose "inward part is very wickedness," and, as a consequence, whose "throat is an open sepulchre" spreading unhealthy and loathsome influences around. (Psa .)

II. Such a curse is harmless to its victims. A curse which is undeserved has no sting; it is as powerless to injure as the bird that flits over the traveller's head and soon disappears. Even if the creature attempted to harm the man it is too weak, but not weaker than the curse without cause. It may cast a passing shadow in its passage, but there is no substance in it—it consists of words without weight, and wishes that have no power to fulfil themselves.

III. But such a curse will fall upon him who uttered it. We know that every bird who casts a shadow over our path will presently settle down again—it will find its nest whence it started, and there take up its abode. And so every curse uttered without a cause will return upon the head of him who uttered it—upon him will come the same, or worse, ills than those he has called down upon another. "Cursing men," says Trapp, "are cursed men."

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

(This comment, it will be seen, rests on another interpretation of the verse.) The type is graceful. The "bird" is so little, and his flight and roaming about so graceful, that we never think of him as having an aim. And yet, the wildest sport upon the wing is continually directed, and obeys the mind of the humblest voyager in the heavens." "Curses;" of all other things not aimless. "He doth not afflict willingly" (Lam ). And so whether large or trivial; the one great curse, or its numerous army of descendants; none are without a purpose. In each gentle pulse upon the wind the twittering "swallow" has no more clear a meaning than these flying griefs, as they float fitfully toward them who are to bear them. This Hebrew has two meanings.… We have selected "to no purpose" here, because the preposition is ל, and not בּ. Had we selected "for no cause," there would have emerged a beautiful sense. The meaning then, as birds do not make their appearance in the spring as apparitions, starting up ghost-like in the fields as they seem to, but have come long journeys, many of them in the night, and have reached us by honest flying, so the curse does not come without a cause. The meanings, as will be seen, are very different. One is, that the curse has a cause on our part; the other, that it has a reason on the part of our Creator. Now, both are true. Both are very expressive. Both have a fitness in the passage.… "To no purpose" yields the wider truth, and, moreover, is the bolder mystery. The curse had a subsistence earlier than we, and a "cause" later than it had a reason. It was pre-determined from the very beginning. And, therefore, ours is the bolder grasping of the cavil, and replies to the sinner more deeply.—Miller.

Powerless was Moab's curse, though attempted to be strengthened with the divination of the wicked prophet. Goliath's curse against David was scattered to the winds. What was David the worse for Shimei's curse; or Jeremiah for the curse of his persecutors? Under this harmless shower of stones we turn from men to God, and are at peace. "Let them curse; but bless thou; when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice." (Psa .)—Bridges.


Verses 3-11

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . To our English ideas, the whip and bridle are assigned respectively to the wrong animals, but it must be remembered that the Eastern ass is often quite as spirited an animal as the horse.

Pro . Drinketh damage, or "injury." As in Job 21:20, the verb "drinketh" seems to express suffering in a large measure.

Pro . Are not equal. The Hebrew word, so rendered, is a very obscure one, and is rendered by Delitzsch, Gesenius, and others, "hang down." Zöckler and Stuart give the sentence the imperative form, and read, "Take away the legs from the lame, and the proverb in the fool's mouth." Parable. This is the common word for proverb—the word that gives the title to the book. On its real meaning, see the Introduction.

Pro . Sling. Gesenius, Zckler, and many other commentators, adopt the reading in the margin of the English version, and translate this word, which is very obscure, "a heap of stones." Stuart, Ewald, Delitzsch, and others, retain the word "sling," which is the reading of the Septuagint. Stuart thus explains the verse, "It would be absurd to bind a stone in a sling, and then expect it to do execution. Equally so is it to bestow honour on a fool, and expect any good consequences from it." If the first rendering is adopted, the word stone must be understood to refer to a precious stone.

Pro . A thorn. This is generally understood to mean a thorny stick or staff, which is a mischievous weapon in the hands of a drunkard.

Pro . This verse is very difficult and obscure, and has many and entirely different renderings. Luther, Elster, and others, translate the subject of the first clause, "A master, an able man, formeth all aright,—or all himself." Delitzsch, Umbreit, and Hitzig, read, "Much produceth all." The French version is in substance the same as our English marginal rendering. Perhaps the greater number of Hebrew critics favour the rendering of Zöckler, Ewald, Stier, etc., who read, "As an archer, who woundeth everything, so is he who hireth fools and vagrants" (or wayfarers). Stuart and Miller translate the first word, "arrow," and the former thus explains the proverb, "He who employs fools and vagrants to do his work, will injure himself."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro

A LOW LEVEL

I. A moral fool puts himself on a level with the brute by turning a deaf ear to the voices of reason and conscience. That which above all other characteristics distinguishes man from the lower animals is the possession of a moral sense and a reasoning faculty; these are the great lights which God has given him for his guidance, by the use of which he may ever be rising to a higher moral and intellectual level. But the moral fool does not listen to them, and even after he has tasted the bitterness of disregarding them, and even while he is suffering from the evil effects of his folly, he gives evidence of his moral stupidity by returning to it (Pro ). This is a plain proof that he is "as the horse or the mule, which have no understanding." (Psa 32:9).

II. Having chosen his position he must be treated accordingly. When men act like men—when their conduct is such as befits responsible and rational creatures—they are open to reason and persuasion, and their fellow-men are bound to use such means in their intercourse with them. They are bound to listen to what they have to say, and to reply to their questions and consider their objections. But to do this with such a person as is here called a fool would be to disobey our Saviour's injunction, and to "cast our pearls before swine." It would be letting ourselves down to his level and encouraging him in his self-conceit. This, we think, is the meaning of Pro . But, on the other hand, we are not always to be silent when the fool is talking. This also might lead him to think that his foolish arguments were unanswerable—that we thought him as wise as he thinks himself to be. He is to receive sometimes the stern rebuke that his folly deserves; the manifestation of our displeasure is to be in proportion to his manifestation of weakness and wickedness. This will also be "answering a fool according to his folly," as in Pro 26:5. But a fool must be checked by means that will perhaps make more impression upon him than mere words. The rod must be applied—coercion and punishment must come into use where reason and moral persuasion are useless. Having placed himself on a level with the brute, he must be ruled sometimes by brute force—by the whip of compulsion, and by the bridle of restraint. Men have the power of doing this to a certain extent, and it is their duty to use it. But whether they do or do not, God will certainly visit such an offender with the rod of punishment. Whether this is the truth contained in Pro 26:10 or not, revelation and experience affirm it, and we have met with it repeatedly in this book. It is a great offence against Him who called us into being, and who desires His creatures to be worthy of their Creator, when men thus in practice count themselves unworthy of their destiny. The Hebrew nation, in the bygone ages, was called by God to occupy a higher moral level than the surrounding nations, but by its own stubbornness and self-conceit it made the purpose of God of none effect, and was therefore necessarily made to feel the bitterness of being treated like a wild and refractory animal (Jer 31:18). And so is it with men in general. God would treat them as His sons, but their moral foolishness compels Him to make them feel the whip, the bridle, and the rod. One other thought is suggested in Pro 26:7-8—

III. That even the fool will sometimes adopt the speech of the wise. A parable, or wise saying, will sometimes be found on his lips, he will be sometimes heard to utter words of wisdom and give good advice. But precept is of little avail if not backed by a good example; the words and the deeds of such a man are as ill-matched as those of a cripple who has one sound and useful limb, but whose other is shrunken and useless. The gait of such a man is awkward and uncertain, the malformed and the healthy limb do not well balance his body. This is an apt illustration of the incongruity which often exists between the words and actions of a moral fool.

(For Homiletics on Pro ; Pro 26:8 considered separately see on Pro 26:1, page 714, and on chap. Pro 10:26, page 179.)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . The rod is needful for the fool's back. Are you the unhappy fathers of foolish children? you must make use of the rod and reproof to give them wisdom. Are you authorised to bear rule in the church? the rod of church discipline must be applied to offenders, that they may be reclaimed, and others warned. Are you magistrates; the rod which God has put into your hands may be a means of preserving young malefactors from the gibbet at a more advanced period of life. Are you wise? beware of turning aside unto folly, that you may never need the rod. Are you fools? learn wisdom, or do not blame those whom duty and charity will oblige to use the rod for your correction.—Lawson.

Pro . Answer a fool, not with any dream that you thoroughly answer him, lest you be like him, and a fool yourself. And yet, by all means answer him. Answer wherever you can, lest he think you can't; exploding all baseless heresies and mistakes; lest, hardening himself where he might be convinced, and defrauding himself where there is everything to be said, he erect himself against facts where he has not been taught, and become wise in his own eyes.… Answer not a fool, because much mystery does not admit of answer, and you will be a fool yourself. But more. The natural man does not discern the things of the spirit of God. If you answer a natural man with the idea that mere answers can turn him, you must "be like him," as having no sense yourself of what is purely spiritual. Notice here a grand rebuke of reason in all attempts to convince the sinner. Nevertheless answer a fool, and bow to just as great a rebuke to reason. We use reason far too gingerly. Reason is a Divine creation. It is an instrument. There is a thought as though it were wicked to go too deep. On the contrary, we are to out-think the fool. If we leave science to work her way, she will grow wise in her own conceit. Answer her. Rationalistic infidelity is by no means an infidelity in reason. And the church should make that to be seen. Scripture has been belied in the direction of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2) Nothing is more irrational than rationalism. And one of the first answers to the fool which he shall receive in the judgment will be, that he had all the reason for believing Christ which he had for anything beside, and a host of greater ones peculiar to the gospel.—Miller.

These two sentences may seem at the first blush to be contrary … but this knot will be easily untied if it be observed that there are two sorts of answers, the one in folly, the other unto folly. A fool is not to be answered in his folly, or according unto his folly, that is to say, in such vanity as he useth, or after such a raging manner as he speaketh … A fool is to be answered unto his folly; that is, by reasons to be confuted, and by reproofs that are wise to be bridled.—Muffett.

Generally speaking, it would be better to follow Hezekiah's command concerning Rabshakeh's blasphemy—"Answer him not." Jeremiah thus turned away in silence from the folly of the false prophets. (Jer .) If however we are constrained to reply—Answer him not according to his folly; not in his own foolish manner; "not rendering railing for railing." (1Pe 3:9.) Moses offended here. He answered the rebels according to their folly—passion for passion, and thus he became like unto them. David's answer to Nabal was in the same humiliating spirit. The answerer in this case is like the fool. He appears at the time to be cast in the same mould.—Bridges.

Pro . Uniformity and ubiquity of obedience are sure signs of sincerity; but as an unequal pulse argues a distempered body, so doth uneven walking a diseased soul. A wise man's life is all of one colour, like itself, and godliness runs through it, as the woof runs through the warp. But if all the parts of the line of thy life be not straight before God, it is a crooked life. If thy tongue speak by the talent, but thine hands scarce work by the ounce, thou shalt pass for a Pharisee (Mat 23:3). They spake like angels, lived like devils; had heaven commonly at their tongue ends, but the earth continually at their finger ends.—Trapp.

Pro . When a drunkard carries and brandishes in his hand a sweet briar, he scratches more with it than he allows the roses to be smelled; so a fool with the Scriptures or a judicial maxim oft causes more harm than profit.—Luther.

Proverbs have sometimes been hurtful even in the mouths of wise men, through the imperfection of their wisdom. Job's friends dealt much in parables, which they had learned by tradition from their wise ancestors, but they misapplied them to the case of Job; and although they meant to plead the cause of God, yet they displeased Him so much by their uncharitable speeches against Job, which they drew by unjust inference from undoubted truths, that He told them they had not spoken the thing that was right concerning Him as His servant Job had done. If Job had not been a strong believer, their management of truth must have sunk him into despondency.—Lawson.

Pro . The emblem is a loathsome and sickening one. It is meant to be so. It would not have been appropriate, had it been anything else. There are two ideas conveyed by the comparison. The disposition or tendency, on the part of the fool or vicious man, to return to his folly; and the loathsomeness—the vileness—of the thing itself, when it does take place. There are persons of great pretensions to refinement, who affect great disgust at the comparison. They wonder how anybody of ordinary delicacy can utter it. They would think their lips polluted by the very words. It were well for such persons to remember, that there is no comparison so odious as the thing itself which is represented by it. It were well if such persons would transfer their disgust and loathing at the figure to that which the figure represents:—if they would cherish a proper loathing of sin. That is what God holds in abhorrence:—that is what should be abhorred by us. Persons may affect to sicken at the comparison here used, and yet be themselves exemplifying the very conduct it so aptly represents. Folly and sin are incomparably more polluting and debasing to the nature of man, than the vilest and most disgusting practices in the inferior animals."—Wardlaw.

And is this the picture of man—"made a little lower than the angels" (Psa )—yea—"made in the likeness of God?" (Gen 1:26.) Who that saw Adam in his universal dominion, sitting as the monarch of creation; summoning all before him; giving to each his name, and receiving in turn his homage (Ib. Pro 2:20)—who would have conceived of his children sunk into such brutish degradation? The tempter's promise was—"Ye shall be as gods" (Ib. Pro 3:5). The result of this promise was—"Ye shall be as beasts." … Thus greedily did Pharaoh return from his momentary conviction; Ahab from his feigned repentance; Herod from his partial amendment; the drunkard from his brutish insensibility—all to take a more determinate course of sin; to take their final plunge into ruin.—Bridges.

According to the usual method of the Scriptures, a known thing is here employed to teach an unknown. The taste which inheres in nature is used as an instrument to implant the corresponding spiritual sensibility. The revulsion of the senses from a loathsome object is used as a lever power to press into the soul a dislike of sin.… The lines are strongly drawn, that the lesson may be clear and cutting. There must be a rude hearty blow, for there is a hard searing to be penetrated. Those who go back to suck at sins, which they once repudiated, may see in this terse proverb a picture of their pollution; only the Omniscient perfectly knows and loathes the vile original—Arnot.


Verses 12-16

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . In his bosom. Rather, In the dish, as in chap. Pro 19:24.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro

SELF-CONCEIT AND INDOLENCE

I. The ruinous effects of self-satisfaction.—In the preceding verses Solomon has drawn a picture of the moral fool—of the man who seems to have no moral sensibility, and who is a slave to evil habits and degrading vices. At first sight it would seem that no one could be in a more hopeless condition, but a little consideration will convince us that the wise man is right when he declares that it is easier to convince a fool of his folly, than a self-conceited man of his ignorance and weakness. For there are many men who know that they are not what they ought to be, although they have not the moral courage to quit their sinful courses; and sometimes the very depth of degradation in which such men find themselves, and the strong contrast which exists in their outward life between themselves and more respectable citizens, startle them into a vigorous and successful effort to break their chains. But a man who is wise in his own eyes is generally outwardly decorous in his behaviour—is what has been called a respectable sinner—and it is this very outward propriety which lulls his conscience to sleep. Like the Pharisee in the temple, he thanks God that he is not as other men (Luk ) who are outwardly immoral, and forgets that if he is not sensual he may be devilish (Jas 3:15), may be under the dominion of the sin that made the first and greatest sinner in the universe. It was men of this class, and not the openly profane and sensual, whom Christ declared to be in danger of committing the sin which should not be forgiven (Mat 12:31), and on another occasion he shows that their hopeless condition arose from the fact that they did not realise that they were in any spiritual need. "If ye were blind ye should have no sin, but now ye say, we see; therefore your sin remaineth" (Joh 9:41). This moral blindness is so hopeless because it is self-originated and self-sustained—because the subjects of it love darkness rather than light, and even call their darkness light, and their evil, good.

II. Self-conceit is both the child and the parent of indolence. If a man feels certain that he is far in advance of his competitors for any prize or position, his efforts to gain it will be very feeble and intermittent. And on the other hand, if he is indolent he will be content with very low intellectual and spiritual attainments, and inclined to place a very high estimate upon the very little mental or moral wealth that he possesses. Being unwilling to labour after more, he makes the most of what he has, and so his sloth keeps him ignorant, and his ignorance confirms him in his slothful habits.

III. The indolent man has spasmodic and fruitless seasons of activity. He turns upon his bed of sloth as though he were going to rise, and he puts his hand in the dish (see Critical Notes) of human enterprise and activity as though he intended to take a prize, and to taste the sweets of honest and earnest toil. But his resolutions are broken almost before they are formed, and his moral courage is not strong enough to carry him through the first difficulty, or make him willing to undergo the least self-denial. And so he ever remains a stranger to the sweetness of repose honestly earned, and to the relish of good things gained by industry and perseverance. On this subject see also on chap. Pro , page 289, and on Pro 26:13. (See Homiletics on chap. Pro 22:13, page 647.)

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . The publicans and sinners went faster to heaven than the Pharisees; yea, there may be a greater nighness between the things when there is a greater distance between the working of them and the bringing them together. Thus, brother and sister are nigher in blood yet farther off marrying each other than two strangers; and thus two men upon the tops of two houses opposite to each other in one of your narrow streets—they are nearer each other in distance than those below are, yet in regard of coming each to other they may be said to be farther off, for the one must come down and then climb up again. Thus now a moral man, though he seems nearer to a state of grace, yet is really farther off; for he must be convinced of his false righteousness, and then climb up to the state of grace.—Goodwin.

Pro . There is no refuting a man who says nothing. Nonsense is unanswerable if there only be enough of it. Who would dispute against a pair of bagpipes, or against a company of boys that hoot at him? If you will make a match at barking or biting, a cur will be too hard for you. And if you will contend with multitudes of words, or by rage or confidence, a fool will be too hard for you.—Baxter.


Verses 17-22

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Meddleth, rather, "is excited."

Pro . Coals to burning coals—i.e., "black coals to burning," etc.

Pro . A repetition of chap. Pro 18:8. (See on that verse.)

MAIN HOMILETICS OF Pro

NEEDLESS INTERFERENCE

The wise man may here be regarded as passing from one extreme of character to the other—from the man who is too indolent to mind his own affairs, to one whose activity is so great that it leads him to unnecessary interference with his neighbour's business. Or he may intend to suggest that indolence and meddling are very closely allied—that he who is not usefully occupied in doing his own work will be very apt to interfere impertinently with the concerns of others.

I. Such a meddler brings trouble upon himself. It is a dangerous thing to take a strange dog by the ears, and he who does it will be very likely to suffer for it in his own person, for the creature will probably wound him. But he who meddles impertinently with those who are at strife has to deal, not with one angry brute, but with two angry men or women, and will very likely bring down the wrath of both upon his own head. For it is to be noted that the strife with which it is mischievous to intermeddle is that "which belongeth not to" a man—a quarrel in which an outsider has no right to take a part.

II. He may do harm to others. To take a dog by the ears is at least a foolish and useless act, and will certainly not increase the comfort or peace of anybody. But it may so enrage the beast as to make him a general disturber of the public peace and safety. And the same holds good in relation to meddlers; the mischief that they do may extend far beyond themselves, and their action may form a centre of a wide circle of mental disquietude and moral mischief.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

A wide difference is made between "suffering as a busy-body, and suffering as a Christian." It is alarming to those who have no adequate sense of the criminality to find the apostle classify the one with "murderers, and thieves, and evil-doers."—Bridges.

For Homiletics on Pro , see on chap. Pro 17:14, page 513, and on chap. Pro 18:6-8, page 539.


Verses 23-28

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Pro . Burning lips—i.e., "lips whence come ardent expressions of friendship." Silver dross. Impure silver not freed from the dross.

Pro . Layeth up, rather, "prepareth," or "meditateth."

Pro . Congregation—i.e., "before the people assembled for judgment." (Zöckler.)

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Pro

COUNTERFEIT FRIENDSHIP

I. Because there are true friends in the world false men sometimes put on the garb of friendship. Because there is an abundance of genuine coin in the country men take the trouble to make counterfeit imitations of it; the existence of the good money is the cause of the existence of the bad, and the great preponderance of the good over the bad is the reason why men sometimes get imposed upon and take the bad for the good. So there is much real and true friendship in human life, and there is therefore an opportunity given to wicked men to imitate its outward expression—there are many "burning words" uttered from the depths of a sincere heart, and therefore a wicked man will sometimes utter such words for the purposes of deception. The vessel of clay covered with silver may be taken for silver, because its shape and external appearance are close imitations of the genuine article, and the fair words of the false man may effectually deceive the listener, but it is because some things are what they seem, that other things are made to seem what they are not.

II. The words of true friendship are used to reveal, and those of the false friend are employed only for concealment. There were many silver vessels in Solomon's palace, and their bright splendour was a true revelation of their intrinsic worth and genuineness; the shining surface reflecting the light was an indication of the preciousness of the entire article. But when a clay vessel is covered with silver, the external coating is used only to cover what is beneath, and perhaps to deceive those who look on it. So when the friendship is real the ardent expressions of affection which are uttered are only a revelation of the emotions which are experienced, but when it is only a counterfeit the words are like the silver which hides instead of revealing what is beneath it. Solomon's father thus records his experience of the language of a counterfeit friend: "His words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords" (Psa ).

III. Because counterfeit friendship is opposed to human happiness it shall be publicly arrested and condemned. Every counterfeit has arrayed against it the force of human interest. It is to the interest of the general community that the forger should be brought to justice, and that the coiner of bad money should be severely punished. It is only by rigidly enforcing the law against such criminals that they are kept in check, and the safety of the public made tolerably secure. When such offenders are discovered their wickedness is condemned by the united voice of the commercial world. But the man who betrays another by false words is quite as great an enemy to his brother man, and ought to be as severely dealt with and as publicly and universally condemned. But it can hardly be affirmed that such is the case. If every such betrayer were dealt with by human laws we should need a large increase of judges and gaolers and prison-cells, and should find within the walls of the latter many men who are now living in mansions. And if they were only punished by being shut out from the favourable notice of their fellow-men, many would be missed from their present positions in commercial and fashionable circles. Although they are shunned, and their wickedness is abhorred by all lovers of truth and honesty, they are far from meeting at the hands of man with the contempt and condemnation which they deserve. But the forces arrayed against such men are nevertheless in operation, and though they often work secretly and slowly they are most certain to find their object, and to make him conscious of their existence. There are other agencies at work in the universe beside human agencies, and a Divine lawgiver as well as human lawgivers. And although the latter may fail to discover those who break their laws, no offender against the law of God will be able to escape public arrest and condemnation, if not before a human congregation, before a higher and more august assembly.

IV. A special form of punishment which will be the special portion of such offenders. The great principle proclaimed by Christ, "With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again" (Mat ), is here uttered by Solomon. Every deceiver will be deceived, and one false man will become the prey of another false man. This is a law which is always and now in operation, although the punishment may not always be discernible to onlookers. But it is a work which the Almighty Judge has taken into His own hands, and many a one who is now suffering from a pitfall laid by another, knows very well in his secret soul that he is only passing through the same experience which he once prepared for another—that if what he took for a silver vessel is only clay, he has himself palmed off the counterfeit article for a genuine one.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . It is not easy for us to forgive the injuries we receive; but it is far more difficult to forgive the injuries we do.—Lawson.

1. There is the inward self-reproach, arising from the workings of conscience, from which arises a secret irritability and fretfulness and unhappiness; and this produces dislike of the innocent occasion of it, instead of terminating (as it always ought to do) on self. This of course is only more injustice. True; but it is in human nature to hate with a bitter hatred the object of our own crime; as if it were a fault in that object to exist, and so to be the object on which our sin terminates.

2. The evil passions, like the good, are strengthened and increased by their exercise. If the utterance of the feelings of love serves further to inflame love, the utterance, in like manner, of the feelings of hatred tend to inflame hatred. The passion gives birth to the word and the action; and, reciprocally, the word and the action strengthen the passion.

3. The fretful uneasiness produced by the unceasing apprehension of detection and exposure, already alluded to, and of the weight of his vengeance who is the object of the lying tongue's assaults, gives rise also to the same feeling of rankling dislike to him who is the source of it. Thus the slanderer, instead of feeling pity for the man whom his slander wounds, hates him still the more. This appears to have had a very striking exemplification in the case of our blessed Lord and His Jewish unbelieving adversaries. They "hated Him without a cause."—Wardlaw.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-26.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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