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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Proverbs 10



Verse 3



Proverbs 10:3. The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish.

GOD, who is the author and giver of all good, dispenses his blessings no less to the evil and unjust, than to the good and just. But he promises to those who seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, that all other things shall be added unto them. To this effect he speaks also in the passage before us. But though this be the primary import of the text, we must not exclude its relation also to the concerns of the soul.

To elucidate this blessed promise, we shall shew,

I. What reasons the righteous have to apprehend that their souls may famish—

A sense of weakness and of guilt may greatly discourage them: for,

1. They cannot secure provisions for themselves—

[The word of God, and Christ in the word, is the proper food of the soul: and, if a person can read, he need not be wholly destitute. But it is by the public ministration of the word that God principally confirms the souls of his people. Now in many places where Christ should be preached, his name is scarcely heard; and, instead of children’s bread, little is dispensed besides the husks of heathen morality. Even where some attention is paid to Christian doctrines, there is often much chaff mixed with the wheat; and “the trumpet that is blown, gives but an uncertain sound.” Those therefore who by reason of distance, or infirmity, or other insurmountable obstacles, cannot have access to the purer fountains of truth, have great reason to fear that their souls will famish.]

2. They cannot, of themselves, feed upon the provisions set before them—

[Where all the treasures of the Gospel are fully opened, it is God alone that can enrich any soul by means of them: even “Paul may plant, or Apollos may water, but it is God alone that can give the increase.” The very same word is often made a peculiar blessing to one, that was altogether useless to another. God reserves the times and the seasons in his own hands; and “gives to every one severally as he will.” When therefore the righteous hear of the effects wrought on others, and feel conscious that they themselves reaped no benefit from the word, they are ready to fear that their souls will famish even in the midst of plenty.]

3. They well know that they deserve to be utterly abandoned by their God—

[It is not only for their sins in general, that the righteous find occasion to humble themselves before God, but more particularly for their misimprovement of divine ordinances. Perhaps there is not any other more fruitful source of self-condemnation to the godly than this. When therefore they see how many opportunities of improvement they have lost, and how much guilt they have contracted by their deadness and formality in the worship of God, they are sensible that God may justly “remove their candlestick,” and leave them to experience “a famine of the word.”]

But lest a dread of famishing should oppress the minds of the righteous, we shall proceed to shew,

II. What grounds they have to hope, that God will never suffer such a melancholy event to happen—

However great the grounds of fear may be which the righteous feel within themselves, they have abundant reason to “encourage themselves in the Lord their God.”

1. He has bountifully provided even for the ungodly—

[The Gospel is “a feast of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined;” and God has “sent out into all the highways and hedges to invite the poor, the halt, the lame, and the blind,” and has commissioned his servants to compel men, by dint of importunity, to accept his invitation. Now has he shewn such concern for the wicked, and will he disregard the righteous? Will he not rather “cause the manna to fall around their tents,” and “the water to follow them” through all this dreary wilderness? Yes; he would rather send a raven to feed them, or sustain them by a continued miracle [Note: 1 Kings 17:6; 1 Kings 17:14.], than ever suffer their souls to famish.]

2. He is peculiarly interested in the welfare of the righteous—

[The righteous are God’s “peculiar treasure above all people;” they are even “his sons and daughters.” If they were left to perish, Jesus would lose the purchase of his blood, and the very members of his body. And can we imagine that God will be so unmindful of them as utterly to forsake them? Did he not on many occasions vouchsafe mercy to his chosen people for his own name sake, when their backslidings had rendered them fit objects of his everlasting displeasure? Thus then will he still be actuated by a regard for his own honour, and “not forsake his people, because it hath pleased him to make them his people [Note: 1 Samuel 12:22.].”]

3. He has pledged his word that they shall never want any thing that is good—

[“Exceeding numerous, great, and precious are the promises which God has given to his people.” He “will supply all their wants, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus: he will give them grace and glory; and will withhold no good thing:” their souls “shall be even as a well watered garden:” “bread shall be given them; and their water shall be sure.” And will he violate his word? he may leave his people in straits, as he did the Israelites of old: but it shall be only for the more signal manifestation of his love and mercy towards them. Let them only trust in him, and he “will never leave them, never, never forsake them [Note: Hebrews 13:5. See the Greek.].”]

We shall conclude with a word—

1. Of reproof—

[It is certain that many do not “make their profiting to appear” as they ought. To such therefore we must say, “Wherefore art thou, being a king’s son, lean from day to day [Note: 2 Samuel 13:4.]?” Why art thou crying continually, “Woe is me! my leanness! my leanness [Note: Isaiah 24:16.]!” when thou shouldest be “growing up as the calves of the stall [Note: Malachi 4:2.]?” Some part of the blame perhaps may attach to him who dispenses the ordinances among you, as wanting more life and spirituality in his ministrations; yet even this would be no excuse to you, since if your hearts were more spiritual, God would render your mean fare as nutritious as the richest dainties [Note: Daniel 1:12-15.]. If God should even “give you your desire, yet would he also send leanness into your souls [Note: Psalms 106:15.],” while you continued to lothe the heavenly manna. Learn then to come with more eager appetite — — — Be more careful to digest the word afterward by meditation and prayer — — — And look, not so much to the manner in which the word is preached, as to Christ in the word; since he is that bread of life which alone can nourish your souls; and which, if eaten by faith, will surely nourish them unto life eternal [Note: John 6:51.] — — —]

2. Of consolation—

[Some may put away from them this promise, under the idea that they are not of the character to whom it belongs. Now, though we would by no means encourage any to apply the promises to themselves in a presumptuous manner, and thereby to deceive their own souls with ungrounded expectations, yet we would not that any should refuse the consolation that properly belongs to them. Suppose then that any cannot absolutely number themselves among the righteous, yet, “if they hunger and thirst after righteousness, they are blessed, and shall be filled [Note: Matthew 5:6.].” This is the word of God to their souls; and we would have them expect assuredly its accomplishment in due season — — — Let them “desire the sincere milk of the word, and they shall grow thereby [Note: 1 Peter 2:2.]” — — —]

Verse 4



Proverbs 10:4. He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.

IT is certainly true, that men’s circumstances in life depend on their own exertions, so far at least, as to justify the declaration in the text. Sometimes indeed God is pleased to raise men to opulence by labours not their own; and sometimes to withhold success from the industrious. But though this inequality is sometimes found in the dispensations of his Providence, we never see it in the dispensations of his grace. After the first communications of grace to the soul, men’s progress or decay will always be proportioned to their own care and vigilance: the propositions in the text may be advanced without any exception;—

I. Remissness will impoverish the soul—

Many there are who “deal with a slack hand”—

[This may be said of men when they improve not the means of spiritual advancement. God has appointed reading [Note: Colossians 3:16.], and meditation [Note: Psalms 1:2.], and prayer [Note: 1 These. 5:17.], and self-examination [Note: Psalms 4:4; Psalms 77:6 and 2 Corinthians 13:5.], as means of furthering the welfare of the soul — — — But, if we be remiss in these, we resemble a man who neglects to cultivate his fields: nor can it be expected that we should ever prosper in our spiritual concerns.

It may also be said of them when they shun not the occasions of spiritual decay. God has mercifully guarded us against the cares [Note: Matthew 13:22; Matthew 6:21.], the pleasures [Note: 1 Timothy 5:6 and 2 Timothy 3:4.], the company of the world [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.]; and against the indulgence of any secret sin [Note: Proverbs 4:23. Hebrews 3:12. See the examples of Job, Job 31:1. David, Psalms 141:3; Psalms 139:23-24.] — — — And it is of the utmost importance that we attend to these salutary cautions. But if we are unmindful of them, we certainly shew a very culpable remissness, and give advantage to our enemies to prevail against us.]

Under such circumstances they will infallibly “become poor”—

[They will lose their joy and confidence. Persons living in habitual watchfulness are often full of the most lively joy [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.], and can look up to God as their Father [Note: Romans 8:15.], to Christ as their Saviour [Note: Galatians 2:20.], and to heaven as their home [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1.]. But these divine impressions are tender plants, which, if not duly watered, will soon wither and decay [Note: Galatians 4:15.] — — —]

2. They will also lose their health and strength

[There is a health of the soul, as well as of the body: and as the one cannot be maintained in strength but by proper food and exercise, so neither can the other. The graces of the soul, if not duly cultivated, will soon languish. The faith will become weak, the hope faint, the love cold — — — and whatever good “things remain in us, they will be ready to die.” So poor will every one become, who dealeth with a slack hand.]

While the soul is exposed to such evils from remissness, we are assured, on the contrary, that—

II. Diligence will enrich it—

Christian diligence comprehends far more than a mere attention to outward forms, however regular—

[It imports a seasonable attention to all duties. There are some duties which, in comparison of others, are easy: but Christian diligence makes no distinction on this account; nor does it make the observance of some an excuse for neglecting others; but endeavours to do every work, whether public or private, civil or religious, in its season [Note: Psalms 1:3.].

It includes also a conscientious improvement of all talents. Various are the talents committed unto men. Time, money, influence, together with every mental endowment, are among those which a Christian will feel himself more especially bound to improve. He considers them as given to him for the purpose of honouring God with them, and of rendering them subservient to the good of men. He therefore will not wrap any one of them in a napkin, but will so trade with them as to deliver them up with interest whenever he may be called to give up his account [Note: Matthew 25:15-18.].]

Such diligence will infallibly enrich the soul—

[The exertion of our powers does not command success; but God invariably puts honour upon it, and makes it both the occasion and the means of communicating his blessings. Our diligence in cultivating the land cannot ensure the crop: yet it is by that, for the most part, that God replenishes our barns, and supplies our returning wants. Thus the diligent hand makes us rich in grace, in peace, in holiness, and in glory.

“To him that hath (that hath improved his talent) shall be given; and he shall have abundance.” Every grace is improved by exercise [Note: Matthew 25:29.]—from that improvement arises a “peace which passeth all understanding [Note: Isaiah 32:17.]”—the whole man is thus progressively renewed after the divine image [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.]—and an increased weight of glory is treasured up for the soul, when it shall receive its full reward [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17. 2 John, ver. 8.]]


1. What a pitiable state are they in who never labour at all for the salvation of their souls!

[If remissness only will prove fatal, and that to persons who were once diligent, surely they must be poor indeed who have never entered on their work at all! Let the gay and thoughtless well consider this: for every man shall receive according to his own labour. Nor shall it be sufficient to say at the last day, “I did no harm:” the question will be, “What improvement didst thou make of thy talent?” And if we have buried it in the earth, we shall be condemned as wicked and slothful servants.]

2. What reason have all for humiliation and contrition!

[If we consider the greatness of our work, and how little any of us have done in it, we shall find reason to blush and be confounded before God. Yes; while the world condemn us as “righteous overmuch,” we should be condemning, and even lothing ourselves for doing so little. What might we not have attained, if we had laboured from the beginning with the same anxiety and diligence as others manifest in their temporal concerns? How low are the attainments of the best of us, not only in comparison of what they might have been, but of what we once expected they would be! Let us then trace our poverty to its proper cause, our own remissness: and “whatever our hand findeth to do, let us henceforth do it with all our might.”]

Verse 22



Proverbs 10:22. The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich; and he addeth no sorrow with it.

AMIDST the lessons of practical wisdom which we are taught in the Book of Proverbs, we find a continual reference to God as the source and the end of all. If we attempt to spiritualize the different moral apophthegms, we in fact pervert them, and apply them to a use for which they were never intended: if, on the other hand, we regard them solely in a moral view, without any relation to God, we fall exceedingly short of their true import. In explaining them, therefore, a proper medium must be observed; that we neither strain their meaning, on the one hand; nor enervate it, on the other.

To unfold to you the passage before us, I will shew,

I. In what respects “the blessing of God” may be said to “make us rich”—

This effect may well be ascribed to “the blessing of God,”

1. Because it is in reality the only source of all wealth—

[Men are apt to ascribe their success in life to their own industry, and to the wisdom which they have exercised in the management of their affairs. But this is to rob God altogether of the glory due to him. The people of Israel were guarded against it by God, who particularly cautioned them not, when they should be established in Canaan, to arrogate any thing to themselves; or to “say in their heart, My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth:” for that “it was God alone who had given them power to get wealth [Note: Deuteronomy 8:17-18.].” Who sees not how often men fail even in their best-concerted efforts? Success depends, in fact, on so many contingencies, which it is altogether beyond the power of man to control, that the wisest and most industrious of men must of necessity rely on God alone; even as the husbandman, who, though he can plough and sow his land, can command neither the clouds to water it, nor the sun to fructify it with his invigorating rays. No man therefore, however successful, should “sacrifice to his own net, or offer incense to his own drag [Note: Habakkuk 1:16.];” but all must give glory to God alone, “who maketh poor, or maketh rich; and bringeth low, or lifteth up; who raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit a throne of glory [Note: 1 Samuel 2:7-8.].”]

2. Because it is itself the greatest of all wealth—

[What can be compared with the blessing of God upon the soul? If we succeed in life, it is that which constitutes our chief joy; or, if we fail in our earthly pursuits, it is that which will compensate for the loss of all. The poorest man in the universe is rich, if he have the presence of God with his soul: and the richest man in the universe is poor, miserably poor, if he be destitute of that great blessing. Behold Paul and Silas in prison, their feet fast in the stocks, and their backs torn with scourges; and yet singing praises to God at midnight! Were they poor? They were rich, truly rich; as were the Hebrew youths, when, in the fiery furnace, the Lord Jesus Christ came and walked with them [Note: Daniel 3:25.]. To the eye of faith Lazarus was rich, though he subsisted only on the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. And had he been offered an exchange of condition with his opulent benefactor, he would have disdained the offer, and called himself incomparably the richer man. So, in having God for our portion, we are truly rich. St. Paul, under such circumstances, accounted himself the richest man in the universe: and so he was; for, “though he had nothing, yet he possessed all things [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:10.].” And in like manner of us also, even though we are at this moment destitute of bread for the morrow, it may with truth be said, that “all things are ours, if we are Christ’s [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:22-23.].” Thus, if we can say, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup [Note: Psalms 16:5.],” we may account ourselves richer than those who have crowns and kingdoms at their command.]

But we are especially informed by Solomon what is,

II. The peculiar happiness of the person so enriched—

With all other riches there is a mixture of sorrow to embitter them—

[As for riches obtained by iniquity, the curse of God is upon them [Note: Jeremiah 17:11. Habakkuk 2:6-11.]. But where there has been nothing of rapacity or dishonesty in acquiring them, yet, if the blessing of God be not upon the soul, there is much care in the preserving of them, much grief if they be lost, and little but disappointment and dissatisfaction in the use of them. In truth, they are entitled to no better name than “vanity and vexation of spirit [Note: Ecclesiastes 2:26.].” Let the whole state of mankind be candidly surveyed, and it will be acknowledged that the most wealthy are far from being the happiest of men: for, partly from the tempers generated in their own bosoms, and partly from the collision into which they are continually brought with persons envious, or proud, or dishonest, or in some way disobliging, it may well be doubted whether the pain occasioned by their wealth do not far exceed any pleasure which they derive from it. It was a wise petition which was offered by Agur, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; but feed me with food convenient for me [Note: Proverbs 30:8.].”

But there is another view, in which riches are far from affording any solid satisfaction; and that is, on account of the responsibility attached to them. They are talents to be improved for God: and, whether wasted in extravagance, or hid in a napkin, they will bring down nothing but a curse in the day of judgment. “Go to now, ye rich men,” says St. James, “weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.” To those who have amassed wealth, he says, “Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire: ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” To those, on the other hand, who have wasted their money on personal gratifications, he says, “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter [Note: James 5:1-5.].”]

But where God gives his blessing with wealth, “he addeth no sorrow with it.”

[There is then no conscious guilt in the acquisition of it; no anxiety in the preservation: no disappointment in the use; no grief in the loss; no dread of the responsibility attached to it. On the contrary, “God has given to his people all things richly to enjoy [Note: 1 Timothy 6:17.]:” and they have a rich enjoyment of every thing, because they enjoy God in it. They receive it all as his gift: they taste his love in it. They consider it, also, as a means of honouring God, and of doing good to man. A benevolent steward, who should be sent by his master to dispense his bounties to a famished multitude, would feel great delight in all the comfort which he was thus empowered to bestow; he would view his master as the author of the benefits, and himself only as the instrument; but his pleasure would still be exquisite, yea, and the more exquisite because his master was honoured in all the good that was done. Such a steward the true Christian feels himself to be: and his final account, also, he contemplates with joy; assured that his stewardship shall be both approved and rewarded in that day.]

From this subject I would take occasion to suggest two important lessons—


1. In what spirit to address yourselves to every duty in life—

[Be not contented to perform a duty; but look for the blessing of God upon every thing you do. Without his blessing you will have but little comfort in your own souls. I will not hesitate to say, that in every line whatever, from the highest to the lowest, the man who acts to God and for God will be the happiest man. Others, it is true, may exceed him in wealth; but he will have no reason to envy them; for they have sorrows which will not come near him [Note: Psalms 91:7.]; and he will have “a joy with which the stranger intermeddleth not [Note: Proverbs 14:10.].”]

2. What to look for as your chief portion—

[Earthly things are not to be neglected. Your worldly calling, whatever it may be, should be diligently followed. But the blessing of God should be the one object to which all others should be subordinated. Nothing, either on earth or in heaven, should, in your estimation, bear any comparison with that [Note: Psalms 73:25.]. If the question be put, “Who will shew us any good?” your unvaried answer should be, “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us [Note: Psalms 4:6.].” Then will you have “durable riches [Note: Proverbs 8:18.].” And whilst those who seek any other portion will, “in the midst of their sufficiency, be in straits [Note: Job 20:22.],” you, in whatever straits you are, will have a sufficiency for your support and comfort both in time and in eternity.]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 10:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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