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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Proverbs 26

 

 

Verse 12

DISCOURSE: 810

THE DANGER OF CONCEIT

Proverbs 26:12. Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool, than of him.

THE Scripture seeks not to please the fastidious ear of man, but calls both persons and things by their appropriate names. Sin is declared to be the extremest folly; and those who commit it, are proclaimed fools. In the eleven verses preceding our text, the folly of fools is mentioned no less than ten times: and from this humiliating picture our text derives a force and emphasis which no single expression could give. The import of the text, as connected with the context, is this: The condition of a fool is, as you have seen, awful in the extreme: but “seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.” This is a solemn delaration, and worthy of the deepest attention. Let us consider it,

I. As a general truth—

Here we may distinctly notice,

1. The character described—

[There is in man a strange conceit, and a proneness to take very undue credit to himself for his abilities and attainments. Some are so confident in their own wisdom, that they seem to think they cannot err; and they would have it supposed that they possess, almost by intuition, what others have attained only by laborious investigation. Persons of this description will not condescend to examine their sentiments by any test; nor will they listen to any statements that are opposed to them. Confidence is to them in the place of proof; and any attempt to controvert their opinions excites only their indignation or contempt.]

2. His hopeless condition—

[Truly pitiable is the condition of “a fool.” He is ignorant of all that constitutes true wisdom: he is also, in a great measure, incapable of receiving instruction; and the instruction he does receive, he is incapable of turning to a good account, or of making a suitable improvement of it. Of such a one there certainly is but little hope: yet is the conceited person in a more hopeless state than he. If in respect of capacity he have the advantage, he labours under a tenfold disadvantage, by reason of his precipitancy, his confidence, his pertinacity. The endeavours used to convince him of his errors do but rivet him the more firmly in them; and opposition to him serves but to increase his obstinacy. Thus, whilst the conceit of his mind indisposes him for the proper exercise of his judgment in relation to truth, it unfits him for the reception of any benefit from the wisdom of others: so that to bring him to sound wisdom and discretion is indeed a hopeless task. If he will not deliberate and weigh matters for himself, or listen to instruction and advice from others; and if the means used to rectify his views do but confirm him the more in his delusions, there is indeed no hope of him: and “you may even bray him in a mortar, and he will remain the same; his conceit and folly will not depart from him [Note: Proverbs 27:22.].”]

The declaration in our text will be found still more weighty, if considered,

II. With a more especial reference to religion—

A man that carries his conceit into religion is indeed in a most deplorable state—

[Truth, in general, is too pure and refined to obtain ready admittance into such a mind as his; but religious truth is altogether folly in his eyes. “The natural man,” even though not blinded by that measure of conceit of which we have been speaking, “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.].” But where, in addition to the natural blindness of the human mind, there is a large measure of overweening conceit, the state of that man is bad indeed; because every truth of the Gospel not only offends him, but offends him in proportion to its sublimity and importance. The total corruption of our nature, the necessity of a new birth by the operation of the Spirit of God, justification by faith in the Lord Jesus, and an entire dedication of the soul to God, all appear to him extravagant and absurd: he sees no occasion for such humiliating and self-denying doctrines; nor will he believe them, whatever testimony be adduced from the Holy Scriptures in support of them. In vain are God’s express declarations brought before him: he believes his own conceits in preference to them: and every person that would persuade him to examine with candour, he regards as a weak visionary, and a deluded fanatic. Such a person, therefore, is never likely to come to the knowledge of the truth.

But, besides the obstacles which he meets with from the sublimity of the truths, and the blindness of his own mind, he has another source of blindness peculiar to himself: for God is particularly offended by such conduct, in reference to his revealed will; and he will “give such an one up to his own delusions, to believe a lie [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12.],” and to harden himself in his impenitence and unbelief: and if once a man have provoked God so to withdraw his Holy Spirit from him, and to surrender him up to the power of sin and Satan, he will never be undeceived, till he shall open his eyes in the eternal world.]

The fool then, I say, is in a more hopeful state than he—

[The fool, notwithstanding his ignorance, may learn: and if he will only submit himself to divine teaching, he shall learn; nor shall his weakness be any bar to his instruction: for God has said, that “What he has hid from the wise and prudent, he has, of his own good pleasure, revealed unto babes [Note: Matthew 11:25-26.]:” and so plain shall his ways be made to them, that “a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein [Note: Isaiah 35:8.].” Of him, then, we may have a hope, because he will use the appointed means of instruction, and will embrace truth as far as he discerns it; whilst the conceited man will not condescend to be “taught of God,” and therefore must continue ignorant even to the end, and “perish at last for lack of knowledge.”]

On this subject I would found a general exhortation—

[Conceit, when strongly manifested in relation to earthly things, generally excites pity and contempt; but when exercised in reference to spiritual things, is deemed oracular and wise. But I entreat all to be on their guard against it. It is most dangerous, and fatal to the soul. Humility is at the very root of divine knowledge; nor can any saving acquaintance with the Gospel spring up without it. This, then, I say to all:

Be sensible, that, instead of being “rich and increased with goods, and in need of nothing,” as too many suppose themselves to be, you are in yourselves wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked [Note: Revelation 3:17.]” — — —

Bear in mind, that the Scriptures alone are the fountain and standard of truth. Every thing must be brought “to the Law and to the testimony:” and “whoever speaks not according to the written word, he has no light in him [Note: Isaiah 8:20.]”— — —

Remember, too, that it is by divine teaching only that we can understand the Scriptures. If the eyes of our understanding be not enlightened by the Spirit of God, notwithstanding the light that shines around us, we shall go on still in darkness, even as Paul did, in his unconverted state; and as the twelve Apostles did, in the midst of all their Master’s instructions, till after the resurrection of their Lord [Note: Ephesians 1:18. Luke 24:45.] — — —

And forget not, that this instruction must be sought by earnest prayer. God alone can give it; and it is only in answer to prayer that he will impart it to us [Note: Proverbs 2:1-6.] — — —

Moreover, after you have been guided into truth, you must still be on your guard against the same propensity which acts so powerfully in the unconverted mind. Many, after all their partial illumination, are drawn aside after “philosophy and vain deceit [Note: Colossians 2:8.].” If you would be preserved in the right way, you must not only “be converted, and become as little children,” but retain a childlike simplicity even to the end. To your latest hour you need to be reminded of that counsel given to the Christians at Rome, “Be not wise in your own conceits [Note: Romans 12:16.].” You need to be guarded against “thinking that you know any thing” perfectly; for, whilst you are under such an impression, “you know nothing yet as you ought to know [Note: 1 Corinthians 8:2.].” “If you will be truly wise, it is by becoming fools in your own estimation, that you are to be made wise [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:18.].” — — — If you will not follow this counsel, “God will take you in your own craftiness [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:19-20.]” — — —

I must then, as God’s ambassador to you, call your attention to the warning which he has given you by the prophet Isaiah: “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight [Note: Isaiah 5:21.]!” And to all I must recommend those petitions of God’s most favoured saints, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law [Note: Psalms 119:18.]:” and, “What I see not, Teach thou me [Note: Job 34:32.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 26:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/proverbs-26.html. 1832.

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